Sternbild City is home to people called Next, who use their special abilities to protect the people as superheroes. These heroes solve cases and save lives so they can wear sponsor logos or acquire "hero points." Their activities are documented on the popular program Hero TV, which picks the King of Heroes in a yearly ranking. The veteran hero Wild Tiger has always preferred to work alone, but now he's been assigned the rookie Barnaby Brooks Jr., who has a different perspective on being a superhero.
There are some aspects to Tiger & Bunny that make it distinctive from other anime, it could possibly be its overtly Western comic book influence. Costumed crimefighters are not exactly a rare breed in anime, but the premise of a tightly-knitted pact of distincively different superheroes is. Think Justice League, X-Men, Teen Titans, The Avengers ala anime-style.
That could possibly be the reason for Tiger & Bunny's overnight success. The series starts as a fresh and unique one, which although clearly influenced by comicbook superheroes, is by its own merit - good.
Sternbild City is a city where inhabitants are protected by the superhero group NEXT – their powers can come in the form of having ice at their fingertips, possibly fire, superhuman strength or super speed. Tiger (Kotetsu), the main protagonist is a tired superhero veteran who is begrudingly paired up with a young, but talented hero known as Bunny (Barnaby). The two fight crime in hope of being crowned ‘King of Heroes’ on a reality show, coined as Hero TV. The concept of a reality show focused on the activities of super-heroes in a setting where gifted individuals exist is a clear nod to our generation obsession with "celebrity". The whole series is a parody on modern culture. These heroes do not just want your appreciation, they also want your admiration. For the T.V studio what could possibly be more dramatic than filming superheroes beating the bad-guys and saving innocents?
The heroes are corporate-sponsored, have ludicrous costumes, (some barely covering up important parts) and cheesy catch phrases carefully thought out by support teams. Not only do they advertise logos on their suits, but the shamelessly promote products just like Britney Spears sponsoring Pepsi. Heroes sign fruitful money-making deals and why not? If talentless singers and washed-up actors can; surely heroes should be able to?
Just like their Western counterparts, the heroes hide their faces, they don’t always win: most of the time they lose and spectacularly. Plus, just like Batman in Gotham there always seems to be a never-ending supply of people who need rescuing.
Since the beginning, the roles of the heroes (Sky High, Blue Rose, Fire Emblem, Origami Cyclone, Dragon Kid, Wild Tiger, Barnaby Brooks Jr, Rock Bison) were obvious to the viewer, each hero got points which then meant more fans. Kotetsu is the lovable hero and he does have moments of sheer brilliance, but is not the main star in the Hero show. He tends to brush the line of being respected and ridiculed. Unfortunately for the series, the creator made the choice to make Barnaby almost opposite to Kotetsu in personality and status, making him the ying to Kotetsu's yang, which only results in a rather boring two-dimensional character. As we find out later in the series, Barnaby is seeking revenge for his dead parents, thus this makes him a loner; this angle come straight almost out from an issue of The Amazing Spiderman. Other characters in the final volume withdraw into the background, leaving the last five episodes very Kotetsu and Barnaby-centric. Saying this, Fire Emblem has the funniest lines, but is still little more than a double entendre - flaming flamboyant.
At the end of volume 3, Kotetsu was hiding a secret from Barnaby, not only was he getting on a bit in age, but his ability to maintain his so-called "Hundred" power was dying. Barnaby also found fresh evidence to support the fact that the murderer of his parents was someone much closer to him, exasperated breath, possibly Mr Maverick himself?
This is when the plot starts to bewilder me slightly, Mr Maverick (media mogul) obviously spent years building up his empire, destroying lives and crushing those beneath him, so when he is on the verge of getting caught; why does he prolong the process by erasing everyone's memories-why doesn't he straight up off all of the heroes when he has several chances to? Kotetsu then finds himself as a wanted criminal for a crime that he didn't commit, but for a crime he was trying to solve. So now he is a wanted man with almost zero super powers, being attacked by his former allies, and sadly Barnabyless. Kotetus's relationship with his daughter is fully explored in this volume, giving way for some character development for Kotetsu. Kaede's role and how she fits into his hero-lifestyle is one of the main driving plots of the finale. Kaede decides it's time for her to save her father, and leaves her home on a rescue-mission despite knowing she'll probably just get in the way.
Tiger & Bunny starts as purely a parody of all those superhero cliches, but over time it evolves into a story about a has-been superhero and his determination to do right by his family and friends. Although the cliché evil organisation Oroburos served as a incentive for the heroes to fight a force more prominent than run-of-the-mill street criminals, we never get a real grip on their true intents instead the series focuses on history of the characters. This decision is possibly deliberate, the creators probably want a recognisable antagonist for the next series.
What I personally love about Tiger & Bunny is how it's managed to exploit the current superhero trend in Hollywood, without demeaning the series or Hollywood, it's accessible perhaps due to this trait. The series is one of the less Japan-esque anime out there, having its own sense of self, unlike some of the comic-book turned anime collaborations such as the X-Men anime. For those not so familar with anime, this could be a good entry mainly due to its outstanding English voice acting and writing, although the animation does seem to falter in some scenes, especially when the protagonists are out of shot. The English script does at times takes some liberties with the original Japanese dialogue, but doesn't affect the atmosphere of the series at all, if anything it almost adds a new flare.
The series is aimed at a slightly older male audience, Blue Rose's revealing attire is mostly fanservice fodder, but that's as far it goes. There are a few anime troupes thrown in for good measure: a heroic death scene, prolonged fight-scenes, everyone being captured and being able to do nothing about it, and of course an "epic" revelation; this could be due to lazy writing, or simply the writers running out ideas. I lean more to the latter, but the series has a broader appeal for any anime title especially for those not so familiar with the style (and the troupes). Let's just hope the second series has the same pulling power as the first, and stays to its roots -the ultimate superhero satire.