Friday, March 14, 2014

Tiger & Bunny: The Rising, Brought to You by the Sponsors of the Future

In the future, superheroes will be a lot like NASCAR drivers. They will fight crime in colorful costumes bedecked in their sponsors’ logos and earn points fighting crime in the televised hero leagues. Our dynamic duo is genuinely committed to doing good, but their prior misadventures have kept them in the second league. However, events will temporarily split up the partners in Yoshitomo Yonetani’s Tiger & Bunny: the Rising (trailer here), a feature follow-up to the hit anime series, which screens this Saturday and Monday in New York.

Kotetsu T. Kaburagi is an aging but still idealistic superhero, known professionally as Wild Tiger. His younger partner, Barnaby Brooks, Jr. fights crime under his real name, but Kaburagi dubbed him “Bunny” because of the ear-shaped thingies on his uniform. They bicker constantly, but they have been through quite a bit together. Yet, even though Kaburagi helped Brooks solve the murder of his parents, most hero-watchers think he is holding the younger superhero back.  The new boss decides to fix that, promoting Brooks to the first league and partnering him up with Golden Ryan, a preening new superhero with the power to control gravity.

Naturally, just as Wild Tiger returns to civilian life, a wave of super-powered chaos sweeps across the New York-ish Sternbild City, apparently inspired by the ancient legend of an angry goddess who once laid waste to the city ages ago. At least it is good for their ratings.

Viewers walking into Rising completely cold will have little hope of keeping straight the large cast of supporting superheroes, aside from Fire Emblem, their GLBT colleague. Nonetheless, Kaburagi, the widower single father, is an appealing working class protagonist. Arguably, T&B celebrates virtues like courage and loyalty just as much or more than it critiques consumerism. Still, Rising’s most treacherous characters are all media types. In contrast, the actual super villains are kind of cool looking, but are not well developed in terms of who and what they are.

Obviously, Rising was produced specifically with fans in mind, but it is relatively easy to pick up the gist of the Sternbild City world on the fly. It essentially plays like an extended episode, but it is entirely self-contained and moves along pretty briskly. In fact, there are a number of clever bits sprinkled throughout the action. Recommended for the pre-existing fanbase and superhero enthusiasts in need of a quick fix, Tiger & Bunny: The Rising opens today (3/14) in Los Angeles at the Downtown Independent and also screens this Saturday (3/15) and Monday (3/17) in New York at the Village East, with further screenings scheduled in select cities over the coming weeks.