Reviewby Theron Martin,
Tiger & Bunny
Blu-Ray - Set 2
Months have passed since the incident with Jake and Stern Bild City has pretty much returned to normal. Barnaby finished the season at the top of the hero chart, with Tiger in an improved 4th place, and is dominating the new season, but he is still unable to satisfactorily get to the bottom of what Ouroboros might have had to do with his parents' deaths and a surprising revelation from Jake's right-hand-girl Kriem, when she finally comes out of her coma, causes him to question the accuracy of his memories. Kotetsu, meanwhile, is troubled by an apparent decline in his powers that has him contemplating quitting so he can live with his daughter, who is showing signs of being a NEXT herself. Sky High and Blue Rose both find themselves troubled by matters of the heart instead: while the former becomes smitten with a girl he meets in the park, the latter struggles with falling in love with someone much closer and more familiar, much to her initial dismay. A big and well-hidden villain lurks in the shadows, though, one who could be a threat not just to the heroes but to their presence in the limelight, and he has some devious machinations in store for the heroes, especially Wild Tiger.
With such a major climax in episode 13 and a minor time jump following it, the second half of Tiger and Bunny largely plays out as a separate second season rather than just a continuation of the first. The biggest sign of this is a change in the dynamic between the two title characters: whereas the first half focused on them learning how to work together and respect each other, the second half pretty much takes for granted that they have worked the basics out. In fact, the problems that arise between them in the second half result more from the fact that they do care about and respect each other, which leads Tiger to be reluctant to burden Barnaby with his own problems – like the fact that his power is on the decline and that he is considering quitting the hero business – when Barnaby is clearly still struggling with the whole matter involving his parents' murder and how one key revelation shows that the matter is nowhere near as resolved as Barnaby had thought. The respect that exists is even more evident once the series pulls its big gimmick about halfway through this set.
Before that point, though, the third quarter plays out more like the less plot-driven parts of the first half, though elements which play into the main end plot pop up in virtually every episode. Sky High, one of the few Heroes who didn't get a feature episode in the first half, finally gets one here in a story of misplaced love, and Kotetsu's relationship with his daughter Kaede is finally delved into more in an episode where Kotetsu returns home for a vacation. The growing feelings that Karina (aka Blue Rose) has for Kotetsu also are explored further in what may be the series' most interesting character development twist; this is, after all, a teenage girl pursuing a 30-something single father despite her better judgment, though the first half did lay a firm groundwork for why she might find someone she regards as a professional screw-up to nonetheless be appealing. We even get a feature episode on Lunatic, although the startling revelation which comes out of his background has disappointingly little impact on the story going forward. In fact, that the series never even attempts to resolve Lunatic's story thread, and basically ignores his existence when convenient, is the series' biggest failing, though it does leave a nice hook on which to base further adventures. Compensating for this is that the series still has Kotetsu as one of the central characters, and his antics make it easy to understand why he is such a popular character. (Barnaby, contrarily, is still rather dull unless one favors angst-ridden young men.)
Some may also take issue with a certain big plot twist which happens about three-quarters of the way through, which sets the stage for the action of the final half-dozen episodes. While some might accuse it of being a cheap gimmick, this is a series heavily styled off of American super hero comics, and that gimmick fits well with the spirit of said comics. It also gives the story an excuse to focus primarily on Wild Tiger and once again put him (and later Barnaby) at the forefront of the action. Heroes are often at their most interesting when they have to work their way out of a disadvantage, and boy, does the story put Kotetsu in a tight spot as part of this scenario. One does have to wonder at the villain in question acting so seemingly reckless after so carefully covering his tracks for so many years, as there would seem to be too many variables that he cannot account for (and one seems a little too obvious to be missed), but slipping up after years or even decades of covering one's tracks is the bane of many a criminal in real life, so it is not wholly unbelievable that the villain might occasionally miss something important.
Part of the series' predilection towards putting characters in clothing styles seemingly out of the '70s is explained by the revelation that the modern day of the series is, in fact, set in 1978. This date is completely at odds with some of the technology shown in use in the series, but American super-hero stories have always implied that the mere existence of super-heroes and super-villains also inherently results in anachronistic technological advancements. On the whole the artistry is generally up to the same sharp standards seen in the first half, especially in its CG use and fantastic city design and despite occasional quality control slips, although the animation actually improves a little due to being a little cleaner. The dramatic soundtrack is likewise just as effective as for the first half, although neither the new opener nor the new closer make much of an impression.
As with the first half, the English script takes great liberties with rewording scenes, sometimes to the point of having characters say entirely different (though not usually out of place) things in English compared to Japanese. English dub performance maintain standards set in the first half, with Eden Riegel, who has limited prior anime dubbing experience, acquitting herself well in an expanded role as the spunky Kaede.
Ordinary Extras on the second of two disks include production art, Japanese trailers, clean opener and closer, and an art gallery by original character designer Masakazu Katsura. The feature Extra is a 13 minute interview with Katsura and one of the producers apparently recorded during New York Comic Con 2012, which discusses in-depth how the eight main Heroes were designed. This is a more interesting view than one might initially expect. The Blu-Ray print beautifully brings out the sharp lines and spectacular color scheme of the series; in a purely visual sense, few series are more deserving of the Blu-Ray treatement. The DTS Master Audio 2.0 soundtracks are very good for what they are, although this one could have fared even better with a more involved audio mix.
Tiger & Bunny does turn mostly serious for a while in its second half, but it never forgets that it cannot – and should not – be taken completely seriously, as too much of the whole situation is just too absurd if one starts looking closely at the details. But that's fine, as it allows the content to play loose, fun, and occasionally hammy. While some may find the late plot twist to be irksome, that doesn't stop the series from being entertaining, and average Japanese Blu-Ray sales of around 26,000 indicate that it was a solid hit. Hopefully that will lead to a continuation of the story, as there are certainly still enough loose ends to play with here.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B
Animation : A-
Art : A-
Music : B
+ Sharp artistry, animation, and especially coloring, some interesting plot and characterization twists.
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