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Tiger & Bunny DVD Volume #01 UK Anime DVD Review

10 min read
Tiger & Bunny Part 1
Tiger & Bunny Part 1

Bunny is looking increasingly like a less gruff Batman.

What They Say:
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.

The Review:
Audio/Video:
The audio and visual quality of the DVD release is pretty standard with no visible issues or errors throughout the series. The audio is well balanced and comes across clearly with no distortion or muffling, whilst the visuals play smoothly. Subtitles are easy to read and don’t have any noticeable errors, typos or other visual problems.

Menu:
Tiger & Bunny’s menu design has the same sense of style that the show exudes, the overall layout of the screen being themed around Hero TV, down to the Hero TV logo in the top corner and each of the mini-menus having a similar border to the points and hero introduction popups that appear during the show. The background of the menu features clips from the chase sequence in the first episode playing on a loop along with a snippet of the ending theme, whilst the menu along the bottom of the screen features the Tiger & Bunny logo, a play all option, buttons for each episode and options for either English or Japanese language. The second disc is identical, but also features options for the textless opening, ending and the Making Of feature as a separate menu above the language menu. Everything is easily recognizable when it is selected and all options function properly and at a reasonable speed. The only complaint I have is that the language options don’t state whether it is 2.0 or 5.1 surround where most menus I’ve seen in the past have it clearly labelled, even if there’s only one option available for each language. It’s also nice to see that unlike some releases (Puella Magi Madoka Magica comes to mind here) that the clip loop in the background doesn’t reveal any plot developments. Overall the menu design is appealing to look at and easy to navigate and, aside from the audio description discrepancy, is fully functional and suited to the themes of the show.

Extras:
Tiger & Bunny volume one features a small selection of extras, including textless opening and ending and a Making Of feature. The opening and ending are self-explanatory, but the Making Of feature is worth a watch for anyone who’s a fan of the show or is interested in how anime is made. The feature starts out with a series of dialogue asking what kind of anime adults are likely to watch in this day and age, when many people stop being interested in anime around the age of 20 and stating that the idea behind Tiger & Bunny was to specifically aim at those members of society who have otherwise stopped watching such shows. Following this is a series of quick comments from various important members of staff on the show (complete with dramatic music and sound effects) before what appears to be a short PV introducing all of the characters and the main idea behind the show. Following this is a speech from the director about how he wanted to create a new type of show, an anime aimed at an adult audience, something which they could watch to keep them energised regardless of their working life.

After this and a few scenes from the show concludes, another member of the team (I don’t know who, the introduction panel isn’t subtitled for some reason, I’d assume a concept designer of some variety) describes how he wanted Tiger & Bunny to be a show aimed not just at a Japanese audience but also for American and European audiences and explains how one of the easiest ways to do this would be to create a setting which can be identified around the world and isn’t skewed towards any particular culture. He goes through the ideas of creating a somewhat futuristic metropolitan city, looking for inspiration from multiple places but, most of all, Manhattan, a source which is very much visible in the show.

Up after this is an introduction to the creation process for an episode, starting from concept sketches, up to computer animation, storyboarding and voice and music addition, giving an interesting insight into the way each episode is made and how much effort is put in to each scene. The voice actors for each of the superheroes then introduce themselves and give a quick word on what they think of their characters and how they decided to portray them, adding in their own reasons behind voicing their particular character in a certain way, an interesting little insight into how much control a voice actor has over how to portray their characters. A couple of other members then state what they thought was the most important part of the show, one of whom outright says that, without a doubt, the most important part of the entire thing is Blue Rose’s breasts. He didn’t even appear to be joking either. After showing pretty much the entire crime fighting sequence from the first episode, the feature concludes with an epilogue by the director about his ideals for the show and his hopes for how people react. Overall it’s an interesting feature and worth watching, plus it’s nice to have a bonus for a series that’s actually substantial for once.

Content:
Tiger & Bunny uses a relatively unique concept to get people’s attention; taking classic Western superheroes and combining them with Eastern styling and a plot somewhere in-between. As the first volume of four, this collection focusses on introducing the setup and main ideas of the series and establishing the main characters, the titular Tiger and ‘Bunny’, and a few other superhero comrades/competitors which receive further development as the plot goes along. Also introduced is Agnes Joubert, the reporter who follows the main characters as they perform their crime-fighting duties live as entertainment in the form of Hero TV. Hero TV is an extremely successful broadcast in which live criminals are captured by the city’s superheroes, who rack up points over time for performing heroic acts such as rescuing endangered civilians, performing arrests etc., not only entertaining the public but also giving an incentive for the heroes to perform their duties to the best of their ability, to be crowned as the best superhero over a ‘season’ of the show. To provide the incentive to support such a TV show, the superheroes have specially designed outfits which feature company logos as a form of advertisement, many of which are actual companies and likely provided some of the budget for the anime. They aren’t small companies either; both Pepsi and Bandai make appearances on major characters here amongst others.

The series starts out with a bang, the first episode mostly follows a series of criminals who’ve performed a bank heist and are being chased down, showing off each of the hero characters as they do what they do best, before showing the titular Wild Tiger performing less than adequately, causing collateral damage and letting the villains escape. Just as things are about to get really bad for Wild Tiger, he’s saved by a new face: Barnaby Brooks Jr., who later gains the nickname Bunny due to name similarity and the fact that his superhero suit has long, bunny-like ears, a nickname which he isn’t particularly fond of.

The rest of the volume progresses in mostly episodic forms, with each episode focussing around individual crimes and the heroes’ efforts to stop them. There are a couple of episodes dedicated to individual heroes aside from the main pairing, allowing a better look into some of the secondary characters and expanding upon their personalities. Not only is it nice to know more about these characters as they seem interesting, but it’s entirely possible that the traits revealed in these episodes could be important to the central plot later on. Now and then throughout the episodes there’s a glimpse into Bunny’s backstory, a tragic occurrence which has lead him to constantly search for an organisation known as Ouroboros. A few of the events link together towards the end of the volume, upon which a potential lead towards finding Ouroboros gets killed off by the untimely arrival of a super-powered antagonist dealing out his own form of justice, killing criminals without any reasoning or hesitation. The introduction of this character, which goes by the name of Lunatic, is a good way to finish off the volume and entice people into buying the next part of the series, leaving many questions unanswered and an obvious opening into the next arc of the story.

The overall presentation of the series is absolutely lovely, each superhero has their own unique flair and personality and equally exuberant outfit and powers. Each design looks like it’s had a lot of thought put into it, matching their abilities with the super suits and full of little details and over the top flashiness that a lot of superheroes are known for. The whole idea and concept of having superhero crime fighting as daytime television is unique and despite that seems such a logical idea in a world where superheroes are common occurrence, it’s a surprise it hasn’t been expanded on before (forgive me if it has, I haven’t seen or heard of it aside from T&B). The aesthetics of the TV show have had a lot of thought put into them, making them equally as flashy and over the top as the characters themselves with tacky animations whenever a hero gets special points, ridiculous camera zooms and other such cinematic mechanics. The animation is generally very fluid and has obviously had a lot of budget put into it, although that’s not surprising due to the product placement and advertising cleverly tied into the plot of the show. Liberal use of CGI during some scenes for the superhero suits and vehicles manages to avoid the cheap, tacky look that CGI combined with animation usually gives off, which is a little ironic considering the theme of the show but otherwise very welcome. Music doesn’t particularly stand out but does a good job in providing the right kind of background noise necessary for the scenes at hand, whilst the sound effects provide the expected over the top style action ideals, whilst not quite to a ridiculous level like some Marvel or DC cartoons or films (a few cringe worthy Batman films come to mind).

Another noteworthy thing to mention is the voice acting. Now, I don’t know anything about the Japanese language but those involved with voicing the characters seem to have done a fantastic job, especially those for the titular pairing. Arguably worth noting even more is that the English dub is actually really good. Unlike some fans, I’m not adverse to watching anime in an English dub, but I can agree that a lot of dubs aren’t very good and tend to grate on the ears a little, especially if the voices used for certain characters don’t seem to fit. However, Tiger & Bunny seems to have chosen well, giving the right voices to the right characters. Having seen some of the series in Japanese and some in English, both versions are quite similar in regards to tone and pitch. Most importantly, the English actors have performed their lines well, keeping in character with a slight hint of cheesiness that comes with the subject matter. Tiger’s somewhat gruff, older voice seems just perfect for him, whilst Fire Emblem’s flamboyant tendencies come across in just the right way whilst avoiding the potential for offensiveness considering his character archetype.

Overall, Tiger & Bunny is worth a look just because it’s so different to most anime out there, especially those available in English. However, that isn’t all its got going for it. Not only is it different, but it’s also starting out to be really quite promising in regards to plot and characterisation, plus the aesthetics are top-notch throughout. This particular volume also ends just as a major overarching plot is coming into play, giving the idea that despite how good it is already, it’s only going to get better from here on in. Recommended for those who enjoyed anime such as Darker Than Black and Zetman or Western comics and cartoons such as X-Men or Iron Man.

In Summary:
A very promising start for a type of anime not often seen, complete with interesting concepts, a likeable cast of characters and an enticing cliffhanger to encourage further watching beyond this volume. Not only aesthetically pleasing in regards to both visuals and audio, but also backed up by solid voice acting for both the English and Japanese dubs. Recommended for both anime and Western comic fans alike and has high potential for use as a gateway for those interested in starting to watch anime without most of the usual stereotypical stigmata that a lot of series contain. Personally I can’t wait to see more of this series and I reckon a lot of others will be in the same situation.

Features:
Japanese 2.0, English 2.0, English Subtitles, Textless openings and endings, Making Of featurette.

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: 4th February 2013
Running Time:  168 (Series) 28 (Extras)
Price: £23.99 (BD + DVD Combo)

Review Equipment:
23” Samsung HDTV, Creative speakers and Sub, Laptop via HDMI port

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