Author: Sakakibara Mizuki
Genre: Manga, Superheroes, Comedy
Publication Date: April 9, 2013 (Volume 1), July 9, 2013 (Volume 2 – Viz – North America)
Source: Edelweiss Review Copy
Summary: The official manga tie-in to the international smash-hit animated series!
Volume 1: 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!
Volume 2: 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!
☆: 4/5 stars – a great new series in which everyone will find something to enjoy!
Review: This is going to be a combined review for volumes 1 and 2, so be warned, there may be some spoilers lurking ahead. But I’ll try to keep them to a minimum. After watching the anime series last year, I totally fell in love with the world that is “Tiger and Bunny”. I’ve grown to love anything with superheroes in them, especially ones that are able to make fun of themselves. I think everyone’s going to fall in love with the “Tiger and Bunny” series like I have, and I think everyone will find something to like in it, too. If you’re looking for a great new superhero manga (or anime) with lots of wackiness and fun, definitely choose “Tiger and Bunny”.
The first volume basically introduces us to the world of NEXT and its superheroes, and how the entire competition to be the King of Heroes. We’re introduced to Wild Tiger, Bunny, Blue Rose, Sky High, Fire Emblem, Dragon Kid, Rock Bison, Origami Cyclone, as well as the villains Lunatic, the organization Ouroboros, and others that make for an explosive world where crime becomes a race against time for fame. People don’t get scared, because they know the superheroes are out there, going against each other so they can become the King of Heroes. There’s also the element of “not being cool anymore”, as we see in Tiger’s case in the very first chapter, and how one has to keep one’s image up in order to keep competing in the contest. I thought that all of this was very interesting – that saving the day isn’t about saving people, but about saving one’s image to the media and the fans instead. It’s a clever little social commentary about the world today, even if the NEXT world is a parallel one to ours, and how the drive for fame has eaten our world whole.
I can honestly say that the creators at Sunrise (who originally came up with the concept for the anime, which later turned into this manga) that they’ve done their American-type superhero research, and it really shows. It’s more that slightly critical – at least, in the way I read it – of the drive for fame in our current culture and using superheroes as a vehicle for that. However, Tiger is different, still insisting he’s not about the fame, but about justice, which is where our tale truly begins. There’s also mentions of Free Agents (as in, who do you work for?) and organizations like NEXT, making references to American sports. I thought that was a great way for Tiger and Bunny to initially meet and how the world of superheroes has become twisted, making it all about the money when it should be all about saving the day. Business strategy and ratings, fame and fortune – all of these things have blinded the rest of the superheroes, including the newest of all, Bunny – aka Barnaby, the guy who teams up with Tiger to start taking the bad guys down. And mixing in all of these media phenomena into how these superheroes (and villains) act was a really clever move.
It’s made clear from the first chapter on that Bunny is Tiger’s foil and vice-versa, initially a move used to help boost ratings as NEXT’s first superhero duo to compete. So we have the odd couple, at first really chafing against each other, since both have different objectives. This first volume documents them learning to work together. However, not all is lost with these greedy superheroes – they can and do work together when Tiger and Bunny (with Bunny made as the chief superhero to take care of crime in Stern Bild) can’t quite handle the bigger bad guys alone, and that made me quite happy. At the end of volume one, we’re introduced to the villain organization Ouroboros in a very mysterious cliffhanger – are they the ones behind these criminals that are so strong that Tiger and Bunny need back up to beat them?
Volume 2 goes a little bit more into Tiger and Bunny’s origins, their lives as children, and their decisions to become superheroes that stem from those painful times, as well as their methods of using their superpowers in order to stop criminals. As usual, Tiger and Bunny fight over which is the best method while Bunny rockets to fame as the newest superhero to be declared top cop in Stern Bild, and we get to see a great amount of variation on his personality – his “outside” and “inside” faces (in Japanese, known as “omote” and “ura” – acting one way in public, and another in private) – something that I wasn’t really expecting for Sakakibara to go into detail with Bunny, but I’m glad she did.
We also see more into Tiger’s private life as well – and what’s more interesting? His family (wife and daughter) don’t know he’s Tiger the Hero. Again, a very clever move on Sunrise and Sakakibara’s part in order to keep the tension going, and even though there’s no lack of tension with all of these heroes trying to get on top for fame and fortune, it’s a nice personal touch that further puts the strain on Tiger and Bunny’s new (albeit forced) partnership. We also see some significant character development for Bunny – how his want for fame is starting to melt away and how he’s starting to really share Tiger’s work ethic of saving people. Not that he’d actually admit that aloud.
Admittedly, volume 2 does have some filler material in it made to squash Tiger and Bunny together so that they can get used to each other – not much actual saving going on here. But what we do get is important, and we start to see these two personal journey arcs start to align in intent, which was great in how quick that went. We also get to see them use their powers outside of their superhero suits, and start to bond over their actions together saving lives and fighting crimes. And there’s no shortage of laughs – so much of it is couched in comedy that if you didn’t look beneath that layer you wouldn’t always see what’s really going on – Tiger and Bunny are really becoming one team, and that drive to become the King of Heroes is starting to turn back into what it should be – saving people.
Final verdict? If you’re looking for a fresh new series with some laughs and some rather sobering social commentary lying just beneath the surface, I recommend the “Tiger and Bunny” series. Volume 1 is out now, and Volume 2 will be out July 2, 2013 from Viz in North America – so definitely be sure to check it out when you get the chance!