In the city of Sternbild, heroes are a part of everyday life. In fact, the superpowered beings called NEXT are reality TV superstars, wearing sponsor logos and competing for points as they carry out their work. Kotetsu T. Kaburagi, AKA Wild Tiger, is one such hero. Now considered “past his prime,” his career takes a turn when he’s paired with the haughty rookie Barnaby Brooks Jr.—a young man dead set on finding his parents’ killer.
Tiger & Bunny is a special show. Its head writer is a man whose previous work was almost exclusively in live action dramas and film, resulting in scripts that feel distinctively un-anime, particularly in their focus on body language and the unspoken. The director and producer’s intent to market specifically to older audiences and international audiences resulted in a multinational cast, a protagonist nearing middle age, and Japanese DVDs that already came with English subtitles available.
T&B’s offbeat approach and steadfast sincerity earned it an extremely dedicated fanbase that consistently broke merch websites and flooded conventions; they are the hardcore few that would still tell you about this show at the slightest prompting during the long, long, seven-years-long wait between the end of the initial 25 episodes and the announcement of season 2 in early 2018. I was one of those people in 2011, catching up to the series just before the airing of the finale, and I’m one of them now, ready to take you by the hand through one of my anime top 5.
As always, this introduction post is meant to lay out what you can expect from these episode-by-episode recaps. If you’re interested in watching along, you can catch the series on Hulu or Netflix in the US. You can check because.moe for a full list of regional availabilities. It’s worth noting that the Netflix version, presumably for licensing reasons, removes the (real-world) sponsor logos from the heroes’ suits. While this doesn’t impair one’s ability to understand the narrative of the show, it does remove a certain visual dynamic that was clearly integral to how the show was made, and I recommend a non-Netflix version if you can get it.
As far as language tracks, my personal recommendation is subbed all the way. The Japanese vocal track is stupendous, particularly Hiroaki Hirata in what would become a career-defining role. While the English dub does have some really standout performers (particularly Kari Wahlgren and Liam O’Brien), it suffers from a hideously janky adaptive script.
Naturalizing dialogue is an important part of the dubbing process, but the scripts here play fast-and-loose in a careless way that sometimes downright undercuts some of the subtler writing (I have an anecdote about this later), and also has an irritating tendency to add BRO FRIEND BUDDY PAL no-homo additives to Kotetsu and Barnaby’s dialogue. For those interested in hearing the (genuinely good for the most part) English vocals, I HIGHLY recommend putting on the original Japanese subtitle track for comparison.
There are also a few general notes you should be aware of going in:
First, like Revolutionary Girl Utena and The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, this is a show that changes significantly upon a second viewing. Therefore, these recaps will proceed under the assumption that you’ve seen the show at least once or don’t mind the big twists being spoiled from the get-go.
Second, I’ll be screencapping from the TV version of the series (i.e. the streaming version). Viz’s Blu-ray release unfortunately didn’t follow the now-industry-standard of making the higher-cost release a combo pack, so while I own the series I have no way to play it on my laptop. However, I will make notes regarding significant changes, since T&B’s home release was around the time that cleaning up the animation and fixing production mistakes for Blu-ray was becoming a thing.
Third, it was famously stated (by producer Masayuki Ozaki, if I’m remembering correctly; the video of this panel seems to have been lost, though I recall seeing it back in the day), that Kotetsu and Barnaby’s relationship was deliberately written to be up to viewer interpretation—in other words, viewing it as a romance is equally valid to viewing it as platonic.
That might sound like a cop-out to a modern reader, but the anime industry is notoriously reticent about including overt queer content in mainstream anime (as recently as Yuri!!! On ICE, Sayo Yamamoto had to put her foot down to have the famous kiss included at all). YOI was a landmark series by a director known for writing queer elements into her shows. T&B was a product of Sunrise (The Gundam Company) and marketed primarily toward an older male audience. It’s frustrating, absolutely, but it is also a goddamn miracle that we received a statement that straightforward.
In light of that fact, these recaps will proceed under the assumption that this series is a love story and discuss the progression of the characters’ relationship accordingly.
These will be the recurring or semi-recurring segments:
Character Spotlight: T&B is a very character-focused series, and much of the first half (and parts of the second) focus in on specific members of the ensemble. Sometimes this works extremely well, sometimes it is about a female character. But it’s always interesting to dial in, because T&B is a series with a LOT of thought put into its cast.
Fandom Past: This show has quite the cult following to this day (we waited nearly SEVEN YEARS for the announcement of a sequel season, after all) but when the show was airing it was nothing short of a phenomenon. I was more observer than participant, but I want to highlight the experience of being an old schoole T&Bro when I can.
Background Details: Nobody loves easter eggs like T&B. Whether it’s the show’s onscreen text (all written in English), recurring background characters (Scarf-tan!), or ominous bits of foreshadowing, there’s probably something you missed on screen.
Production Quotes: The crew, from voice actors to writers and directors, clearly had huge amounts of love for this show. And they were quite chatty—interviews and supplemental material provides a lot of neat worldbuilding info and additional details about character relationships that can add depth to the viewing experience. I want to give a shout-out to This is Sternbild, which was the major fandom blog back in the day and has become an incredible archival source. The site’s former mods are still keeping up with the series on Tumblr, and if you’re a fan you should definitely thank them for doing so much for the fandom (and these posts!).
That’s all for now, readers! I can’t wait to start this journey with you. In the meantime, check out this AMV—it’s pretty great (spoilers though; like a lot).
Over and out.