Grim_Noir Watches Tiger & Bunny Triumphantly Rising Again

Tiger and Bunny The Rising BD

Title: Tiger & Bunny: The Rising (movie)

Script: Masafumi Nishida

Original Creator: Hajime Yatate

Chief Animation Directors: Kenji Hayama, Mika Yamamoto, Tokuhiro Itagaki

Art Director: Kinichi Okubo

Music: Yoshihiro Ike

Produced by SUNRISE and T&B Movie Partners

Published in North America by VIZ Media, LLC

Reviewed by Grim_Noir

Funny how things come full circle. It was four years ago, to the month, that I started writing for PopTards Go and my first review was for the Tiger & Bunny TV series. At the time, I really enjoyed how the show mixed the tropes of anime into the superhero genre, but with the fresh twist of corporate sponsorship.

Two and a half years later VIZ Media finally delivered a bang-up English dub. It would be their flagship when they launched their “Neon Alley” internet service. From Hulu to Crunchyroll to DVD/Blu-Ray to Neon Alley, the franchise gained followers every step of the way.

Then, in February 2014, Japanese studio SUNRISE released the follow-up movie Tiger & Bunny: The Rising in Japan. At the time, VIZ Media signed a contract to release the flick in the United States. VIZ scheduled a release date of December 2014. I planned on doing a review for Christmas. Then the U.S. release date slipped, and the DVD recently landed on my desk; coinciding with my fourth anniversary writing for PopTards.

The timing could not have been more perfect. Tiger & Bunny: The Rising reminded me of everything that made me fall in love with the original series and superhero comics, in general.

Tiger and Bunny The Rising heroes

We return to the COPS-meets-NASCAR-like world of Stern Bild city superheroes (called NEXTs): These defenders of justice are still simultaneously competing for “Capture” and “Rescue” points from Hero TV. Hero TV tallies the points live on the air, as the action happens, and awards an MVP (“King of Heroes”) at the end of their season. However, the events of the previous television series HAVE changed how our heroes approach this competition.

From the opening notes of the theme, it is clear that this story is focused on ALL the Hero TV heroes, not just the title characters of Kotetsu T. Kaburagi (a.k.a. “Wild Tiger”) and his teammate, Barnaby Brooks, Jr. (who Kotetsu nicknamed “Bunny”). After the events of the television series, Kotetsu has been left slightly depowered and publically exposed. While he and Barnaby have been demoted to the “Second League,” his heroic principles live on in his fellow First League superheroes: The flamboyant Fire Emblem, the trying-too-hard Rock Bison, the electric, yet still girlish Dragon Kid, the stealthy Origami Cyclone, the wind master Sky High, and the not-so-frosty Blue Rose

Ironically, understanding what they what to be ON camera has left our heroes grappling with who they are as people OFF camera. Sky High hates that people laugh at his sincerity, Rock Bison struggles to make any sort of public statement without putting his foot in his mouth, and Origami Cyclone wonders if preventing a murder by sneaking up behind a bad guy makes him a coward.

Floundering hardest of all is Wild Tiger: Apollon Media’s new owner has promoted Barnaby back up to the First League and teamed him with a new hero, Golden Ryan. Ryan is a braggart, albeit one with the powers and skills that support his grandiose claims. Meanwhile, the Second League has been laid off and Kotetsu finds himself driving a cab. Can he still be a hero if his super suit has been repossessed by the company? And using his powers without government sanction would make him a vigilante, no different in the public’s eyes than the murderous Lunatik.

T_B-Golden Ryan

But, there’s no time for existential angst (although our heroes’ self-examination will catch up with each of them before this narrative is over). In this latest chapter, not one, but three Big Bads have come to destroy Stern Bild. They are re-enacting an ancient legend about the original city collapsing into the ground. Is this just about super-powered psychos enamored with an apocryphal fairy tale…? Or is something more going on here…?

Series scriptwriter Masafumi Nishida returns to continue his Tiger & Bunny legacy. Although the action set pieces are spectacular (and the movie budget makes the animation INCREDIBLY fluid), Nishida places his emphasis on the emotional triumphs and psychological breakthroughs of his NEXTs. It makes you invest in their struggles, feel their victories all the more intensely and find the movie’s finale satisfying in a completely Whedonesque way.

His protagonist Kotetsu T. Kaburagi (a.k.a. “Wild Tiger”) has always been the “heroism-for-heroism’s-sake-and-forget-the-points” superhero. Even to fans of Shazam, Superman or The Tick, this attitude could come off very naive and unrealistic. But, Kotetsu has his eyes wide-open to his cynical and capitalistic world. He sees how things work and resolutely refuses to give into it. Starting out, he had his own “Golden Age” mentor for defending the downtrodden and now he’s “paying it forward” with his own circle of friendly rivals. He inspires by example, no matter how many setbacks he faces. And that attitude is infectious, for both the viewers IN the movie and the viewers OF the movie.

tiger-bunny-villains

Additionally, composer Yoshihiro Ike should be given a supporting player credit for his music. Both his returning series music and his new pieces for Tiger & Bunny: The Rising throb, pulse and soar in ways that enhance the entire viewing experience. For fans of the series, when Hero-TV producer Agnes Joubert says, “Hello, Heroes!” and the theme flares up, it has the same adrenaline explosion in your brain that the James Bond theme does.

A quick word of warning: This is not a flick for n00bs: The character arcs of these superheroes began in the first episode of the series and some threads pay off by the end of this movie. If you are not familiar with these characters, you will be deaf to three-quarters of the highs and lows of the story. Now, there was a two hour compilation movie released (Tiger & Bunny: The Beginning), but to get all the nuances, treat yourself to the entire 25 episode series.

In a perfect world, I could just say, “Hey, that great Tiger & Bunny anime just got a theatrical movie sequel!” And, everyone would just run to check it out, like a DC animated movie or a Marvel motion picture. But it isn’t a perfect world and, in the case of Tiger and Bunny, that makes me sad because a good deal of this franchise’s target audience in the U.S. (comic book readers)┬áhas yet to find this amazing property. (Hint: The time between Free Comic Book Day and the opening of The Avengers 2: The Age of Ultron would be an IDEAL time to discover Tiger & Bunny, the series and, then The Rising.)

Maybe that thought makes me an idealist, like Kotetsu. Full circle, my friends; full circle…

Tiger_Bunny

 


* GRIM_NOIR is convinced that the internet is a figment of his imagination. Please comment below and/or follow @Grim_Noir on Twitter or “Friend” on Facebook or Good Reads to end his self-delusions.

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