Tiger & Bunny Volume One by Mizuki Sakakibara and Masakazu Katsura
Published: April 9th, 2013
Publisher: Viz Media LLC
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Superpowered humans known as NEXT appeared in the world 45 years ago. Some of them fight crime in the city of Stern Bild while promoting their corporate sponsors on the hit show “HERO TV.” The people love their superheroes, even if they don’t completely understand them, and not all of the NEXT use their powers for good. Veteran hero Wild Tiger has years of experience fighting crime, but his ratings have been slipping. Under orders from his new employer, Wild Tiger finds himself forced to team up with Barnaby Brooks Jr., a rookie with an attitude. Overcoming their differences will be at least as difficult for this mismatched duo as taking down superpowered bad guys!
The first time I encountered Tiger & Bunny was when the anime was beginning to air. I eventually delegated it to the sideline to wait for the show to finish, but I never felt compelled to return to the story until now. I recently decided that I would start tackling my back-list of books pilling around or unhaul them, so I picked up volume one of Tiger & Bunny. After binge-watching the episodes of My Hero Academia on Crunchyroll, I wanted more superheroes and I wanted them now. The team of writers and artists behind Tiger & Bunny establish a nice repertoire of characters, though the NEXTs are not deeply developed at this point. I distinguished them mostly by their extravagant costumes or particular abilities, so I’d love to see a focus on different heroes in the future. The setting is Stern Bild; a city that has built a consumerism culture around their superpowered humans. There is an implicit understanding that heroes are expected to sell themselves to the public while catching criminals if they want to stay in the industry. Kotetsu, who has been in the business for a long time, is seeing a downturn in popularity while newcomers rise. As Wild Tiger, Kotetsu places emphasis on tradition heroism — selflessness, bravery, and sacrifice. His values are an oddity in the wake of a commercialized society where every crime is broadcasted across the city and heroes are scored on a point system based on arrival time, rescue success, or criminals captured.
“Tiger, can you hear me? Get started once the 30-second commercial is over!” […] “Hey! Listen to me! Things will be more exciting my way!” “I don’t care about that. We heroes only care about…keeping the peace!” (19-20)
Kotetsu’s words are nice in theory, but they don’t resonate with fans who stop in the middle of the street to watch the Hero T.V. broadcast. As a result, Wild Tiger’s ratings suck. Volume one kicks off immediately in the midst of an armed robbery. It was interesting to see that Stern City, with the widespread popularity of their live rescue entertainment program, still has a responsive police presence. Readers can expect Tiger & Bunny‘s share of troubled pasts and deep dark secrets to run its course as the story starts to flesh itself out. For now, the attention is focused on establishing a foundation for the series to rest on. It’s apparent from the beginning that not every hero on the crime scene is there to make an arrest. Sponsors looking to exploit Hero T.V. can turn to Origami Cyclone because he constantly places himself in prominent background positions
without doing anything. Blue Rose has one of my favorite abilities (I’m predisposed to love all ice superpowers), but she doesn’t seem to love being a NEXT crimefighter. She has a good grasp on how to use her powers creatively. However when she is attacked, Blue Rose seems to be bound by contract to use her catchphrase “cutie escape” instead of going on the offensive (that name is so embarrassing just to type, it’s no wonder she complains to her president).
“Head on over there, Karina! I let you sing your new song because of that broadcast issue…But you’ll have to finish the day with you-know-what.”
I’m hoping that this series will turn away from the direction of normalizing sexual objectification. The readers can clearly see that Blue Rose is dissatisfied with her current situation, and her passions seem to lie in stage performance. Perhaps being a hero is the easiest way for her to be on television, but I would definitely like to delve deeper into her psyche. It’s a little unfortunate that there are only two female superheroes in a sea of males. Dragon Kid is one of my favorite characters though, because she came down from the freaking sky to make her captures. Due to their shared ability to temporary amplify their power, Barnaby and Kotetsu are thrown together by Apollon Media as a marketing strategy. Reluctant allies at best, our dynamic pair clash at almost every opportunity. Still, in a world like this one, there really isn’t a hero that can stand alone against all odds. It’s easy to see how the whole cast can slowly grow together, even though all our superheroes are little more than friendly acquaintances now.
“But that just means you’re not human, right?! Of course it creeps us out! Oh! H-heroes are different! You guys are cool! And you help people!” “We’re the same.” (140)
Volume one wraps up one of the first antagonists, a boy with the ability to make statues move at will, when the heroes successfully quell his rampage through the city. Though his revenge was a bit lackluster in purpose, there’s a resounding heartfelt conclusion that inspires the child to change for the better. I might prefer the hard hitting impact of gruesome battles and morally ambiguous characters, but a reminder that there’s always hope and people willing to defend it still warms my heart. The contributors of Tiger & Bunny had a clever hand in blending western costume designs with the heart of Japanese storytelling. It’ll be an interesting character journey to follow to the end to see if Barnaby’s heart is secretly ridden with Sasuke-level anger or if he’ll reluctantly allows his friends to temper some of his rage. If nothing else, Barnaby certainly prides himself of a level of rational thinking I connect with. On a final note, I want to throw in that if an ice rink is falling from high up and you’re in the vicinity, please don’t stop running for safety just to cheer or watch it happen. It seems that civilians have close to absolute trust in their heroes, so I wonder where these NEXTs first received their training. Do we have a hero academy?
Tiger & Bunny Volume Two by Mizuki Sakakibara and Masakazu Katsura
Published: July 9th, 2013
Publisher: Viz Media LLC
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The official manga tie-in to the international smash-hit animated series! Superpowered humans known as NEXT appeared in the world 45 years ago. Some of them fight crime in the city of Stern Bild while promoting their corporate sponsors on the hit show “HERO TV.” The people love their superheroes, even if they don’t completely understand them, and not all of the NEXT use their powers for good. Kotetsu and Barnaby are the first NEXT superhero duo, but they’ve got a few differences to overcome if they’re going to learn to work together. A reality TV show intruding into their daily lives doesn’t help, but a bomb threat just might get them to cooperate. Then a misguided surprise party leads to a NEXT-involved diamond heist!
A typical single volume sized manga is small and generally costs the same retail as a paperback book. Whether it’s by a desire to get my money’s worth of entertainment or by the simple reality that I’ve become a ridiculously slow reader, it takes me forever to finish a manga volume. I finished Tiger & Bunny volume two in less than an hour. The outset of the second installment begins with a flashback, and cue my reaction: oh, oh, OH THAT’S MR. CEO GUY ISN’T IT??
also all the flames and destruction makes me sad
As usual, Kotetsu and Barnaby are still a far cry away from being friends.
“No, go right.” “It doesn’t matter which way we go!” “Then let’s go right.” “…Hey, Li’l Bunny, you should follow your elders’ lead.”
Their viewpoints can’t seem to cross the age divide, their values diverge, and their inability to coordinate hinder their effectiveness in battle. Yet when Kotetsu gets word that Barnaby’s birthday is fast approaching, he decides that a good partner should prepare a surprise…right?
Character & Plot Development
Although Barnaby and Kotetsu mix as well as oil and water, Barnaby’s charisma has earned wide spread attention. Volume two progresses through small-scale threats, and most of them are resolved in a chapter or two. The fast pace change from one problem to another was more than enough to keep me entertained. Measuring these events against the scope of this series as a whole could make this volume feel like filler in retrospect, but there are crucial moments in here that mark a shift in Kotetsu and Barnaby’s relationship. It is not quite respect, nor is it acceptance, but camaraderie has a way of gradually sneaking up on people who go through dangerous situations together.
The Actual Characters
I really appreciated chapter seven because it was an unexpected but candid way to see our characters without their masks. The way that our heroes train isn’t flashy with one-on-one duals. Instead, their gym seems like a place where heroes from every company can come together to release their stress through exercise.
“I don’t even know why I’m a hero anymore.” (79)
I liked the acknowledgement that superpowers, no matter how powerful or beneficial to society, might lead some down a path they didn’t want to pursue. The nature that drives Wild Tiger to protect people is commendable, but its not universal. If being a hero also means you have to keep everything a secret from the people you’re close with, is it always worth the trade in the end? Reading both volumes one and two in close succession meant that I still had a fairly clear memory. Mr. Maverick is introduced as the CEO of Apollon Media in the first volume, which is not so coincidentally where Barnaby works after being approved by the Justice Bureau. One of the first characters, who I never suspected had any significance to the plot, Barnaby saves is revealed to be Kotetsu’s daughter. It looks like Kaede doesn’t know about her father’s double life, but she has definitely become enamored with his new partner. It’s cute, but at the same time it’s a little sad to see that she’s so unimpressed with Wild Tiger. I wonder what she thinks her father is doing away from home then?
Happy Birthday, Barnaby
The highlight of the second volume is the culmination of Barnaby’s “surprise” party. Though Barnaby seems like he has no interest in celebrating, Kotetsu rounds up almost all our heroes to take part in a capture the evil thieves that are actually our kinda friends oh hey happy birthday bunny game. What starts out with good intentions leads our team into the middle of a heist. Stopping the theft takes us right to the end of the volume, and it’s unfortunate that I don’t have volume three because I really enjoyed the story so far.
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