Reviewby Theron Martin, Oct 29th 2013
Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning
In an alternate version of the 1970s, Stern Bild City is an elaborate, multilevel city which is home to numerous NEXT, individuals who have inherent super-powers. For decades the city has had a tradition of being protected by costumed NEXT, who battle both ordinary and NEXT villains and protect/rescue civilians as part of a point-based endeavor broadcast by reality channel Hero TV. The heroes compete with each other for the annual title of King of Heroes under the sponsorship of a major company and brazenly display corporate advertisements on their uniforms. Kotetsu Kaburagi, aka Wild Tiger is the longest-tenured of the current batch of heroes, a NEXT gifted with the Hundred Power (the ability to temporarily increase his physical capabilities a hundred fold), but his prioritizing of duty over flashiness and recklessness in being heroic have left him both unpopular and out of a job. To rescue his career, he must work for a new company and do something that has never been done before: work with a partner. Upstart Barnaby Brooks has the same power, is more competent with it, and is younger and more handsome, so friction quickly grows, especially with Kotetsu insisting on nicknaming him Bunny. The standoffish Barnaby also doesn't play nice with the other heroes despite Kotetsu's efforts to try to welcome him into the fold and to the consternation of some of the other heroes. That starts to change a bit when the heroes must go after Robin Baxter, a NEXT who is a notorious thief with an irksome power which makes him particularly hard to capture.
The Beginning is the first of a pair of movies intended as complements to the Tiger & Bunny TV series. Whereas the second one, which is due out in 2014, will feature all-new material, this one is partly a recap of the first two episodes with a few new scenes and partly a new mission against a new foe (the aforementioned Robin Baxter). Because the content from the first two episodes fully establishes the premise for the franchise, seeing the TV series first is not at all necessary for making sense of this entry. In fact, it almost might play better for newcomers, as about half of the content is fully redundant for established fans.
That redundancy takes up most of the first 46 minutes, which consist primarily of big chunks of content that were lifted directly from the equivalent TV series episodes. That part of the movie is not a complete rehash, though, as it does add in a few new scenes or rearrange the timing of certain revelations. For instance, Barnaby's past comes up much earlier this time around, as does the backstory involving Kotetsu and his deceased wife. A brief, largely innocuous scene where Barnaby meets Yuri is also added in early on, albeit awkwardly. Contrarily, the scene where Kotetsu daydreams about his wife fits perfectly, as it lays a firmer and more emotional foundation for his motivations, explains the wedding ring that was prominently shown in the first third of the series without explanation, and is referred to again later on to help cap the movie. (It also makes Kotetsu an even more sympathetic and likable figure than he already was.) A few other minor scenes are also slipped into the first half in less conspicuous fashion, such as one showing Roc Bison being launched at a giant moving statue or Blue Rose doing a Pepsi Nex commercial.
The 46 minute mark is the point where things flip-flop, with most of the content from that point on being original fare only occasionally scattered with snippets from the TV series; one of the few hold-overs past that point is Kotetsu's post-ice rink phone conversation with his daughter, a scene which originally marked the end of episode 2. About 60% of this new content focuses on the efforts to pin down and capture Robin Baxter, which allows the series to display its action chops in full glory. Most of the remaining time focuses on the social interactions between the heroes, something which was not heavily emphasized until later in the TV series. The biggest beneficiary of this is Ivan (aka Origami Cyclone), whose character gets broadened as a result of those scenes (albeit not necessarily in a flattering way).
On the whole the new content does an excellent job of capturing the spirit of the series and its cast, as it reinforces the notion that these heroes are flawed enough to not be above embarrassing missteps even when on duty. Some of the omissions and insertions make the storytelling a little rough in places, but in a meta sense the results are rarely disappointing. The addition of an intro at the beginning and a conclusion at the end round the content out nicely, resulting in a successful conversion of the episode content into a movie format. In fact, this is one of the best efforts of its type to come along in quite some time.
Sunrise is back doing the production work on this movie, but series director Keiichi Satou had been replaced by Yoshitomo Yonetari, who is doubtlessly best-known for helming the Betterman and GaoGaiGar franchises. Yonetari resists any urge to change things up, however, resulting in new content which fully maintains the visual style and quality of the original. The setting is every bit as spectacular and visually dynamic as the original content, the animation every bit as good, and the blending of CG and 2D visuals every bit as sharp. The only noticeable balance change is that the new content does stress a bit more how the heroes are used in advertisements. Musical themes also remain consistent with what was heard in the TV series: steady but unspectacular. The one exception here is the addition of great new insert song “Promise” by Japanese-Korean recording artist Rihwa, which helps gives Kotetsu's flashback about his wife some emotional pull but also seems just a little out of place in a franchise that does not otherwise use purely background insert songs.
The cast for the English dub returns everyone from what was a pretty strong effort and adds to it a spot-on performance by Jason Spisak as the new villain. While the English script still plays loose with some of the dialogue in the new content, it is still tighter than the original series was.
Viz Media's Blu-Ray release comes with two disks. The first one contains the movie, a collection of promos and trailers, clean versions of the opener and closer, and a ranking of the franchise's heroes based on a fan popularity poll in Japan. The second disk is entirely devoted to special features. The bulkiest one is a full recording of the World Premiere Event for the movie in Maihaima in September of 2012, which clocks in at over two hours and includes live musical performances of all of the series' main themes and insert songs and extensive commentary by Japanese cast members. The second major entry is a 39 minute Ustream special which, among other things, discusses the process for live simulcasting the series in the U.S. and Japanese fan reactions to running American commentary on the series. Much briefer features include abbreviated looks at the U.S. premiere of the movie, clips from Anime Expo 2012, and a set of production art focusing on main cast members.
Despite some minor rough points and the lack of bold new developments, The Beginning nonetheless represents a solid and enjoyable addition to the franchise, one that can easily stand on its own or flesh out the original story a bit more, depending one's prior experience (or lack thereof) with the franchise. The substantial Extras also help make the cost more palatable.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : A-
Art : A-
Music : B
+ Some new content is handled very well, accessible to newcomers, strong technical merits, good English voice work.
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