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Saturday, 5 of December of 2020

Tiger & Bunny – “Many a True Word is Spoken in Jest”

For a rabbit, you’re not very cute.

Access to television shows from all over the world is becoming easier-ish, legally speaking anyway. Sure, you can torrent or stream a show from another country as soon as someone has been kind enough to translate the dialog, if such an activity is necessary. If you don’t torrent or stream, you’re left waiting for months or longer to see a show from elsewhere in the world, if it’s licensed at all.

Attempting to stop the illegal downloading and streaming of their content, anime production committees and their networks have been licensing shows for next-day streaming, same-day streaming, and sometimes even simulcast streaming on sites like Hulu (content viewable U.S. only) or Crunchyroll (content viewable worldwide; also streams Asian live-action dramas, an increasingly popular commodity) complete with subtitles, and, of course, advertisements.

With this in mind, and since I enjoy anime, I thought I would check in on some of the spring season offerings. Coverage of these shows may be sporadic, but we’ll see how long I stay dedicated to this idea. First up: Tiger & Bunny which is streaming on Hulu and Anime News Network

“Many a True Word is Spoken in Jest” is actually the third episode of the series, but you don’t have to see the previous episodes to fully engage what’s going on in the show (so far anyway). Basic premise is this: Some humans are categorized as NEXTs, meaning that they have particular abilities (think of them as mutants). Many of these folks have become heroes, protecting Sternbild City for various dangers and rogue NEXTs. Pretty standard superhero fare thus far.

The twists to the formula are these: The most popular heroes are sponsored by corporations, including Pepsi (an actual sponsor of the show), Bandai, SoftBank, and many others, with the sponsorships branded onto their costumes. So, kind of like Mystery Men. Adding a layer to the mix is that the heroes are all apart of a reality show called “Hero TV”, in which they gain points for saving people, stopping crimes, arresting bad guys, etc.

And the first episode plays these aspect up as the first half of the episode is done largely through the lens of the reality show, cutting back and forth between the show’s directors, live feed, chyrons telling us about points and standings, and the heroes interacting with one another. It’s all very well-executed and primed me for the series to continue along these lines. By the end of the first episode, main character and aging hero Kotetsu Kaburagi (aka Wild Tiger) finds that his previous sponsor has been bought out by a larger corporation and that he is to be paired with Barnaby Brooks, Jr., a brand new hero who doesn’t bother to hide his identity, if he wants to keep his job.

Sadly, the show, since then, hasn’t done much to satirize the issues of product placement in/and reality television, like I was hoping it would. The second episode barely acknowledges “Heroes TV” as Kotetsu and Barnaby begin to feel one another out as partners. It’s a pretty standard odd couple pairing: Kotetsu’s instinctive and has a great sense of justice, Barnaby’s analytical and seems to be in the hero business only for the money (larger issues are, of course, at play for Barnaby). We get some backstory for Kotetsu, mainly where his sense of being a hero comes from, and Barnaby gets his nickname Bunny because of the long ears on his armor (seen in the link above; Kotetsu is in the green, Barnaby in the red), as the two battle a young NEXT who can control inanimate objects by touching them.

This episode, “Many a True Word…” brings the reality show back into the fold as the director, Agnes, a buxom blonde, does a documentary on the new duo (a first for the show, and a major selling point for Kotetsu and Barnaby’s parent company).  The two are in a recently completed skyscraper that is the target of a bomb, and thus must diffuse it by working together.

The stories thus far, have been fairly cliché, carried largely by Kotetsu, a likable main character with solid voicework from Hiroaki Hirata (who has been dubbing for Johnny Depp in Japan for years, to give an idea of Hirata’s voice quality and style). Barnaby’s stoic demeanor hides a dark past in which his parents were assassinated by unknown forces, but as a foil for Kotetsu, he’s serviceable.

The animation from Sunrise is sharp, particularly the cityscape. Barnaby and Kotetsu’s suits are rendered in CGI but they don’t come off as too stilted, and the show wisely allows the suits to be played for laughs (Kotetsu’s more frantic nature still comes through in the CGI, which is very nice) instead of being a distraction from the hand-drawn environments.

I’d like to see the show play more to the satire of heroes being commodities, and hopefully that will come through more. As it stands, Kotetsu and Barnaby feel more like unwilling/disinterested mercenaries than heroes, and that distracts from the idea that this is a reality program they’re all on. But I do applaud the show for doing this episode without armor as the duo most work largely on their own, and the preview for the next episode hints at more personal drama than action antics, which could be compelling.

I’ll probably be checking with Steins;Gate next week. If you want to see the first episode, you can by heading over to Crunchyroll.

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • Really love that the names stick with the superhero norm of names being alliterative.
  • Would love an episode that is a day in the life of some of the characters.

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