So far this is surely the season for retro concepts dressed in brand new clothes. Dororon Enma-kun is already a delight after its premiere, and I’m more convinced than ever that Tiger & Bunny is a winner too – the second episode was even better than the first.
The first thing I want to say is that Wild Tiger is one of the best characters we’ve seen in anime for a good while. You just don’t see too many heroes like him – a guy in his 40’s, clearly not what he used to be, wrestling with troubles at work and trying to be a good father to a teenage daughter. For all that he’s not a buffoon or a joke – not a loser, or an oversexed parody of middle-age. He’s a smart, competent and kind fellow who just happens to be fallible.
And the complication, of course, is that his job just happens to be as a superhero. We’ve seen the superhero parody done to death inside anime and out, but this series really does have an interesting take on it. There are elements of self-parody in using product placement in the anime as product placement – it says a lot about the world on both sides of the fourth wall here. The crass commercialism of the superhero industry is really well-portrayed – and it makes Tiger’s idealism stand out all the more. The dynamics of the situation aren’t subtle here – this is a comic-book homage after all – and we’re dealing with pretty broad themes. But they work. The flashback to Tiger’s “awakening” as a hero was effective in giving context to the events of the present.
I like Bunny, too. There’s growing evidence that he’s going to be more than an insufferable fop – it looks like we’re going to get his backstory next week. He makes a good foil for Tiger. Yes, it’s predictable that they’ll grow to see each others good side and trust each and be true partners – but so what? With likeable and interesting characters that should be fun to watch. I’m genuinely interested to see what the personal lives of these guys are like, especially Tiger – the scenes with Kaede and pleasantly understated and I enjoy the fact that she doesn’t judge or petulantly lash out at him – she’s just disappointed.
Needless to say with a Sunrise series, this looks great and features a terrific soundtrack. It’s big, broad and well-produced anime that relies on classic themes and structures, but at the same time packs a pretty current and sophisticated slant on those themes. I like this a lot, and I think it has a chance to become something really special.