Tiger & Bunny may sound like a fantastic new Saturday morning cartoon, but think again as it’s actually an anime rife with adult themes. You might not want to get caught dead watching a movie with this title, but once you give it a chance you’ll realize most programs for children do not include transexual characters or swearing.
Wait did he say transgender!? Is it good?
Tiger & Bunny: The Rising (Viz Media)
This movie is a sequel to the first movie which was a remake of the first two episodes of the popular series. I however, approached this without seeing a second of this series and had no idea what to expect. The fact I came away from this film enjoying it for a variety of reasons make this an anime well worth watching no matter your exposure to this series.
The movie opens with a brief intro for those of us who know nothing about the series, which is helpful but not all that important to enjoying the full picture. The basic story so far is focused on two heroes, Kotetsu “Wild Tiger” Kaburagi and Barnaby “Bunny” Brooks, Jr. who wear mech like suits that make them superheroes. Essentially they are buddy cops with power-suits. The suits remind me a little bit of the protagonist’s suit in the popular Vanquish videogame.
They are on a second tier superhero team due to their lack of being the best heroes around (Tiger’s powers only last a single minute!) in a world where NeXTs (Noted Entities with eXtraordinary Talents) use their supernatural abilities to fight crime. They also brandish corporate sponsors on their costumes (Pepsi and Bandai get top billing in this movie) and are featured on the Hero TV channel. The concept of heroes as TV icons is not so far fetched when you consider the popularity of NASCAR and celebrity reality TV and it’s an easy science fiction reality to relate to. Tiger’s limited power is holding Bunny back though and he is fired. Bunny teams up with a gravity controlling hero named Golden Ryan and so begins the main premise of the book. Tiger is on his own living as a non hero and Bunny must deal with an egotistical and lazy teammate.
The friendship between Tiger and Bunny is strained of course, and Bunny’s new teammate plays around with the fish out of water theme. These are the threads that propel the story forward, but there’s a subplot focused on the hero Flame Emblem that makes this movie reputable and strong. Overall there’s great character development and interesting character interactions that keep you interested in its story.
Flame Emblem’s story of a transvestite hero is quite fascinating and it’s incredible to see the anime medium embracing a character like this. He’s a strong character that’s open about his sexuality and his teammates embrace him. When his identity is thrown into crisis (and themes of his bullying come up) due to the actions of the villains the heroes band around him which is heartwarming and a strong story thread. Obviously this is an adult theme, but I imagine many teens will be watching and be positively influenced by this story. I do think the character is a bit of a gay stereotype as he has a feminine voice, he has flame in his name and drops a jaw dropping line about “getting some dick,” but overall the message is a positive one.
The animation is fantastic with plenty of interesting CGI effects thrown in to make the characters and scenes stand out. The 3D models kick in when the heroes go full hero mode, and it helps distinguish them from the traditionally drawn backgrounds. I particularly like the glowing effects used in the costumes as well as minor details like glass breaking which makes everything pop nicely. The production values never look cheap which goes a long way in keeping our suspensions of disbelief in their right place.
The villains are a bit weak.
The villains our heroes go up against don’t stand out all that much, although their powers are interesting. The final villain is some kind of spider robot thing made up of left over concrete and metal, and while he’s about as flat as the other villains it’s very cool to look at. Overall the villains aren’t that important to the overall enjoyment of the story and are there to give our heroes something to do.
The only thing that threw me off in this movie was the prevalence of adult language. Characters swear and drop lines like, “I’m tired of being dicked over. Quite frankly I’d like to be the one dicking” but at the same time the message of friendship and never giving up are used as if this were a kids’ movie. There were moments I wasn’t sure if I was watching material for young adults, kids, or full fledged adults. Blending content for all ages is fine and good, but when characters drop lines like the one above one questions if it should even have younger themes within.
What’s the deal with those wings?
This is a fun action packed anime that contains meaningful characters and well paced action sequences. The buddy cop genre is heightened by the superpowers and you’ll be hard pressed in finding any weaknesses in its story.