What it’s about: Kotetsu “Wild Tiger” Kaburagi is a superhero. Since the emergence of superpowered individuals some years ago, corporations have begun to sponsor heroes; they pay for the damages their crime-stopping tends to accrue in exchange for prominently display of corporate logos and participation in an ongoing televised reality show. With his ratings dwindling and the acquisition of his sponsors by a larger group, Kotetsu is partnered with the upcoming hero Barnaby Brooks, who views the whole endeavour of saving civilians and being a hero as nothing more than a job.
Why you should watch it: Tiger and Bunny is an oddball anime. It combines elements of Super Sentai shows with Western comic books, drawing a lot of inspiration from animated adaptations such as **Batman: The Animated Series**. At its heart, it’s a buddy cop action show with superpowers. It does a good job of contextualising superheroes within a wider society, the different views and approaches to the idea of vigilante justice and the way that the job impacts on the daily lives of those caught up in it. Each character starts as a stereotype, an eccentrically dressed superman who stops crime and saves lives, but still needs to pose handsomely at the cameras lest their public image suffer. But by the end of the run, they all have their own quirks and personalities firmly established. The plot itself is not overly deep, but it’s entertaining, charming, and most importantly just plain fun. It’s an excellent show for younger viewers, though there’s enough there to keep any anime fan absorbed.
Caveats: The character development is there, but it’s mostly for flavour. The same is true of a lot of the ideas and themes of the show – they’re hooks to dangle the flashy action scenes off of, rather than elements to be explored in depth. Which is fine – not every superhero story has to be Watchmen – but do go into it with the right expectations. The show also uses CGI for a lot of the fighting and moving about. I think they pull it off pretty well, but we’ll have to see how well it ages a few years down the line. There are two movies attached to the franchise. The first (The Beginning) is half-recap, half-standalone. The second (The Rising) continues on from the main story.
Themes: Trust is a common thread throughout many of the storylines and the character development. The show touches upon some ideas about crafted identities – of how images are created through marketing, commercialism, and public expectations that people then have to live up to. It also deals with the issues surrounding being a middle-aged single father, struggling with maintaining relevance in the changing values and attitudes of a younger generation.