Sunday, May 08, 2011

Tiger & Bunny: Not just for Japanese audiences?

Tiger and Bunny, in that order
I was a little miffed when I re-read a couple of the reviews the ANN critics do for their quarterly anime reviews about the new offering for spring from Sunrise, Tiger & Bunny - while it is mostly well-liked, two of the reviewers chose to assume that this is being marketed to Western audiences.  I don't know if Europeans do this, but American anime viewers have a hard time comprehending that not every animation that comes across their tables is going to be made especially for them.  Now, I've been guilty of this myself in the past, but it's mostly my personal store of ego that causes me to think that certain animes are made just for me.  With westerners it's just a given that a foreign animation is somehow being marketed to them.

Wild Tiger gets the SoftBank logo.  Fail!
Tiger & Bunny is apparently one of these, because it focuses on Western-style superheroes.  In Sternbild, a massive, two (three?) story metropolis in the not-to-distant future, some humans have been born with a mutation that gives them superpowers.  Called Nex, these mutants have been co-opted by multi-national conglomerates and their crime-fighting has become prime entertainment for the denizens of Sternbild in the form of HeroTV, a reality program/game show where superheroes vie for points to see who comes out as the top superhero by the end of the season.  Name brands pasted on their battle suits and uniforms like Nascar drivers, the heroes are largely rivals for top place, except for the newly-formed team, Wild Tiger and Barnaby Brooks, Jr., who Tiger immediately nicknames "Bunny."

Bunny gets the Bandai acct., obvs.
The first of its kind on HeroTV, the team is a novelty; in reality, Tiger and Bunny do not get along and Barnaby is continuously embarrassed by his team mate, Wild Tiger, an Over-the-Traditional-Age superhero who has been dropped by his former sponsors because he causes too much collateral damage to buildings and state vehicles in his pursuit of bad guys.  Tiger wants to save the citizens of Sternbild at all costs; Barnaby just wants the fame and recognition of being a super hero.  Reduced to side-kick status, Wild Tiger continues to believe that being a super hero is more than just getting points for arresting the bad guy first.  Barnaby is so focused on status that he will not even hide his real identity, something of a taboo for traditionally-minded superheroes; Bunny distinguishes himself as part of a new breed of super hero, more idol than citizen-saver.
Blue Rose: Idol AND superhero, tough combo!

How these two misfit team members begin to find a middle ground is part of the formulaic fun of Tiger & Bunny, but there are so many character stories yet to be told of the other heroes in this animation and that, too, is also the fun of seeing how this anime will develop.  Episode 5, where most of the screen shots for this post originate, begins to build on the central theme of the relationship between Tiger and Bunny, but we also begin to see glimpses of the other characters, such as Blue Rose, who is torn between a singing career and using her superpowers for good.  As at least one of the reviewers on ANN noted, Fire Emblem is the token gay character - and why the gay character in Japanese animes has to be both a drag queen and black is still somewhat beyond me, although I have a couple of theories.  The fact that he owns his own company and therefore is a free agent in the superhero game is a nice touch, however.

One last thing I'll note that the reviewers didn't is the weird gleam in everyone's eyes - it's distinctive but makes everyone look glassy-eyed like they're sick, or something.