Reviewby Andrew Osmond, Dec 24th 2012
Gekijō-ban Tiger & Bunny -The Beginning-
The metropolis of Sternbild is protected by a range of superheroes, competing on live TV for the title of King of Heroes. The oldest and least cool of them is the middle-aged widower Wild Tiger, who leads his non-hero life as Kotetsu Kaburagi. During a battle with gangsters, a new hero shows up; this is the handsome Barnaby Brooks, who has the same powers as Kotetsu but far more star presence.
To Kotetsu's dismay, his commercial sponsor is bought out and his new boss insists he becomes Barnaby's sidekick. Burning with resentment, Kotetsu gives Barnaby the unflattering nickname of “Bunny.” Can this quarrelling pair work together?
A year after Tiger & Bunny ended on Japanese TV, the superheroes of Sternbild City return for a new adventure. Well, new-ish… As “The Beginning” subtitle warns, this feature film recaps the crimefighters' difficult early days together. The first half of the film is a special edition remix of the first two TV episodes, with extra bits of action that we missed on the small screen. The film's second half is a previously untold story, taking place between the second and third TV episodes. It highlights Barnaby's prickly introduction to his fellow heroes, and Kotetsu reaching out to the angry young man.
Judged as a spinoff for fans of the show, like an OAV or a TV film, Tiger & Bunny: The Beginning is a fair enough “special,” even if fans themselves would have preferred something 100% new. Judged as a stand-alone film – and director Yoshitomo Yonetani says he wants Tiger & Bunny: The Beginning to be enjoyable to new viewers – it has the problems associated with films edited from TV series. It's episodic and disjointed, without any sturdy arc or momentum. It's effective as an advert for the ten-hour series, but that's not much consolation.
The Beginning's first half follows the story through Kotetsu and Barnaby's hostile introduction, their forcible pairing by a sponsor who wants an odd-couple teamup, and their early battles with gangsters and giant statues. New bits include more comic business for Kotetsu, more fighting by the other heroes and frequent cuts to different viewpoints. For example, the TV version had Barnaby getting stuck in a giant statue's hand, leaving us to imagine how he got free. The Beginning shows Fire Emblem freeing him, only for the Flame Queen to complain loudly that Barnaby won't let him touch his butt. (No, Emblem hasn't mellowed on the big screen, and any viewers who found him more offensive than funny won't change their minds now.)
There are also several new non-action scenes. Some show off the big-screen backdrops, as when Kotstsu travels home through the massive metropolis. There's more eye-candy in an enlarged version of Blue Rose's Pepsi Next commercial spot. In passing, we get a first meeting between Barnaby and the creepy judge Yuri Petrov, who encourages Barnaby to follow his own code of justice. As with a later glimpse of the “Ouroboros” crime symbol, it's only really meaningful if you've seen the TV show and know what's coming.
Despite its origins, Tiger & Bunny seemed admirably suited to movie treatment. The series was always colourful and spectacular, dominated by its exuberant hero designs by Masakazu Katsura (I''s, Video Girl Ai). At first, the combination of a big screen (if you're watching in the cinema) and the new bits to spot makes The Beginning highly enjoyable, even if you remember the source episodes. It falters when TV pacing takes over; halfway through an exciting battle, suddenly the action breaks off and we're into the middle of a talky post-mortem in a boardroom. It's acceptable in TV anime, but feels much more of a cheat in film.
Moreover, the adversaries in the film aren't connected – it's one enemy after another after another. The middle battle – the one with the statues - turns into a treacly moral lesson with painfully obvious TV origins. The script draws an implicit comparison between how Tiger handles the battle and how he handles another character later, but it doesn't make the story any smoother, and the later scenes have problems of their own.
In the new story making up the film's second half, Kotetsu tries to get Barnaby to loosen up and socialise with his fellow heroes. Barnaby, though, is such a jerk that it's a relief when the team get another crook to catch. This story is most entertaining as a series of character moments. Rock Bison reveals his physique to the world, we get a surprise revelation about Sky High's flying powers, and Dragon Kid and Blue Rose have a brief girls' chat. We also see how the heroes get suited up in double time, which looks painful in Tiger and Bunny's case.
Unfortunately, their enemy is a washout – another anonymous crook with a not so striking gimmick for evading his pursuers, and evading is all he does. There's no threat or danger, and the chase rambles like a below-par TV episode. It ends up in an amusement park, which makes you miss other supervillains; if only we could switch the lame baddie for Mark Hamill's Joker from the Batman cartoons, who would have charged up things no end! A mild twist at the end tries to say something new about Kotetsu and Barnaby's relationship. With subtle storytelling it might have worked, but it's so broad and sentimental that it feels like cheap emotional fanservice. (A yaoi gag where Kotetsu and Barnaby are seen holding hands is just as cheap, but more fun.)
In the style of the Evangelion films, the film ends with a teaser for next year's sequel, Tiger & Bunny: The Rising. By the look of it, this might be the film that fans really wanted; a continuation of the TV show with a real fight to test our heroes. But it'll be another long wait.
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B-
Animation : B+
Art : A
Music : B+
+ A perfectly decent special edition of the TV show, retaining the fun of the original, with plenty of new fan-pleasing moments.
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