Monday, 4 April 2011

Tiger & Bunny - Episode 1

Being a superhero ain't what it used to be... at least, it isn't if you're a hero on duty in Stern Bild, a city with a rather unique way of putting its mutant super-powered heroes (known as NEXT) to use.

Rather than simply letting these heroes go about their business in the shadows, Tiger & Bunny's world posits a scenario where these individuals make their living in the name of good old-fashioned capitalist entertainment... oh, and catching bad guys in the process of course.  Thus, the first half of this opening episode follows the break-neck TV coverage of some robbers on the loose as a number of superheroes try to put a stop to their escape with varying degrees of success, all under the watchful eye of an enraptured populace as the heroes are granted points for their efforts and even asked to delay apprehending a criminal in the name of a commercial break.  If that isn't bad enough, all of these heroes have sponsors to please (rather ironically, Sunrise sold real-life sponsorship deals with actual companies for the show's heroes), which makes saving lives and fighting crime very much a business rather than a public duty.

All of this is a bit much for the show's titular "tiger", aka the veteran hero Wild Tiger who finds himself looking increasingly washed up compared to his more youthful, professional counterparts - he's unpopular with the fans, has a tendency to rack up big damage bills with his exuberant behaviour, and as this first episode's big chance comes to a close he even finds himself usurped by an initially unnamed wannabe hero who appears out of nowhere and happens to boast the exact same skill set as Wild Tiger himself.  When the company that employs our Tiger goes out of business, he finds himself with a new employer, a new outfit, and a new partner in what is being billed as Stern City's first ever hero team - a team which nicely sets up the chalk and cheese crime-fighting duo that is Tiger and Bunny for the remainder of the series.

As first episodes go, you can't really do much better than Tiger & Bunny - its very western aesthetic and concept makes it an easy sell to the US and beyond, but never mind that, let's talk about that rip-roaring first half to the episode.  It's action packed, it has no qualms with brushing against the ridiculous in the name of entertainment and feeding that action, and it knows exactly when and where to dispense nuggets of humour to great effect.  Put simply, you won't find a better ten minutes or so of anime this season.  After all that things have to slow down somewhat to reveal what could prove to be an interesting plot (helped along by an eminently likeable lead character), provided it doesn't fall into the trap of becoming some kind of tired old action-comedy superhero show.  From what we've seen here however there's plenty of room for scope beyond simply crime fighting and "bad guy of the week" stuff, so personally I'm well and truly sold on the series up to this point.  Fingers crossed it can continue to deliver.

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