New York Comic-Con 2012
Tiger & Bunny panel

by David Cabrera,

The speakers on this panel were Viz' Jason Lopez, manga author and Tiger and Bunny character designer Masakazu Katsura, and Kazuhiko Tamura, Sunrise producer on TnB and many other titles.

The panel took the format of a heavily scripted Q&A (the odd specificity of the slides gave it away) before going briefly to selected audience questions and the obligatory giveaways. The emphasis of the hour was decidedly on the old-guy comedy stylings of Katsura and Tamura, however.

The first question was for Katsura, asking where he starts on a character design. “It's usually the face, right?” When Katsura started out on the designs he wanted to do so because he felt he had a grasp on the characters already, but he wound up making a rough sketch of the whole outline and then worked on the details.

The character design concept-- “I don't know if I should go into this-- was simply a very vague “can you draw eight heroes?” from Sunrise. Tamura added that the project really started once Katsura's designs were in; it was only then that the staff got going on the script and the settings.

With regards to TnB's international popularity, Tamura cited influence from US TV dramas, and pointed out that the series was specifically intended to be an international hit. The simultaneous streaming release with Japan was instrumental, and clearly the plan had been a success.

The next question was for Katsura: where did he draw inspiration for art and for manga? Katsura was self-effacing here, saying that he was an old man whose mind doesn't soak up ideas like it used to, but that as a child he was influenced by everything he saw around him, including movies and television.

When asked if there was any character he'd like to go back and work on to further perfect, Katsura was not quite so humble. He said that he put all his focus into designing those characters, and that as a result they had already been tuned to perfection. On the other hand, when he thinks of his old manga, there's all kinds of things Katsura would like to go back and change.

Later Katsura would go on a tangent on Lunatic's design: he didn't want the character's distinctive hand-print design to be too visually obvious, and went to great pains working over the design so that it wouldn't be. In the show as aired, one of the first things anybody says to Lunatic is a taunt about the design on his face. Katsura was a little sad about this.

Tamura next received a burning question on many fans' minds: when is the next Tiger and Bunny anime coming? The next movie The Rising is due for next autumn, and will revolve around the events after episode 25 of the TV series. Tamura wants to explore the relationship between the Koutetsu and Barnaby further while still, of course, using the rest of the cast. As for TnB works after the movie, Tamura can't talk but urged fans to let them know they wanted it. The ensuing scream was quite loud.

Katsura commented, “I might not be around for it”, which horrified the fans right out of their reverie. The silence was deathly as the crowd came to a full stop. He didn't sound like he was joking... but he insisted, after the pause, that he had been. Tamura implored, “We can't do it without you!”

Next Tamura was asked if anything funny had happened in production. He said that since there were a lot of staff members on this show who were considered superstars in their own right, that there was a lot of infighting between them over who would get to do what, and what should happen next in the show. It was that passion, however, that powered the show.

Hearing this, Katsura became a little jealous, as his role was simply to sit in a room alone doing character designs. There was then some old-guy banter about being the lead-off hitter in a baseball lineup.

The next question was an anime convention classic: does Katsura have any advice for up-and-coming artists. He told them to draw, and draw, and draw more.

When asked about superpowers, Katsura said he'd like to fly like Sky High, but then he looked at the character in the show and realized he was really just floating. He was disillusioned by this, so he decided perhaps Origami would be good: not so much to take on the appearance of others but to hide out and sink into the background.

Tamura chose the villain Maverick, to boos from the crowd.

When asked what character they'd like to be like, Katsura and Tamura both fought over the right to be Nathan. Tamura insisted that Katsura was a tsundere type like Blue Rose, to laughs.

Katsura drew Tiger's hat and beads as accessories that he himself enjoyed wearing, but now that the show's gotten so big, he would feel really weird about dressing up as his own character, so he's put those accessories away.

Tamura and Katsura both threw around fantasy ideas for TnB spinoffs that would be nice to make one day: the adventures of Lunatic as a Batman knockoff, Agnes' everyday life, a high school comedy about Blue Rose and so on.

The big treat of the panel was that Katsura was asked to sketch a character right then and there. He took some time, and eventually produced a beautiful sketch of.... Batman. Told to go back and do it over, Katsura again took his sweet time... drawing young Goku. Finally, Katsura went ahead and drew Tiger to the adulation of the crowd.

After this, there was a very brief audience Q&A: in short, Tiger's powers have a time limit because otherwise it would be boring, and Keith Goodman is a lovable guy who you can forgive because he's him. After this there were some giveaways, some promotion for the TnB dub on Neon Alley (no sample footage) and the panel ended.

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