Tiger & Bunny: The Rising is the newest film in the Tiger & Bunny series, which features a world where superheroes and reality TV have come together to make fighting crime a popular game show. And while the series was unique and enjoyable from start to finish, this theatrical adventure is only marginally above average.
Good — An Original Story
While the first Tiger & Bunny movie was simply a remake of the first few episodes of the series, The Rising serves as a brand new epilogue (and even has a short recap episode at the beginning to remind you of the events of the series).
[Skip to the next section to avoid spoilers from the series]
At the end of the series, Tiger has become a B-grade hero/mentor to a group of young heroes, with Barnaby eventually electing to join him. Over time, as Tiger's powers have decreased and he has become more and more of a has-been, he has started to feel he is holding his friend back. So, when given the chance to get Barnaby back into the big leagues, Tiger takes it and ends their partnership.
When it comes to Tiger's storyline, it is one of "what now?" At a transitional road, he must consider if it is time to retire and spend more time with his daughter or continue his superhero career. While this story has been done many times before, it is nonetheless done acceptably well in this movie.
Barnaby and the rest of the heroes, on the other hand, are dealing with the problems of Hero TV's new management — and the arrival of a new superhero to the mix. When a trio of mysterious villains arrive in the city, seeming to bring with them heavenly vengeance against the sinners of the city, the heroes must work to overcome this new threat.
Good — A Look at Being Different
So often in anime, gay and/or transgendered characters are treated as mere comic relief by playing on the "flamboyantly gay" stereotype. The Rising, instead, chooses to focus on the hardships of identifying as the gender opposite to your sex. In the film we learn much about superhero Fire Emblem. We see his first crush on another boy, his first time trying on jewelry, and his first time walking down the street cross-dressed. We also see the fearful, homophobic reactions of his friends, family, and society in general.
As a superhero, surrounded by people with strange fantastical powers and adored by thousands of fans, he has been able to act freely and be accepted. But it is clear the shame he felt growing up still weighs on him and makes him feel unsure of himself even years later. I fear it is an all-too-common story for many gay and transgendered people out there.
Mixed — Mixing Two Kinds of Animation
In The Rising, there are two kinds of animation used. When in costume, 3D animation is used — except in the case of heroes Dragon Kid and Blue Rose). However, when out of costume, transitional 2D animation is used. For the most part, this works well enough — except for Fire Emblem whose lower face is visible while in costume and looks quite odd in 3D.
Moreover, when both types of animation appear together in the same frame — i.e., whenever Tiger or Barnaby opens his faceplate — the clash in animations styles is striking and more than a little distracting. It's not enough to ruin the movie or anything, but it does pull you out of the film.
Bad — Forgettable Movie Villains
This movie has terrible villains — to the point where they are entirely forgettable. To quote the amazing Naruto the Abridged Comedy Fandub Spoof Series Show Motion Picture Film regarding this type of villain: "You've never heard of them, and after you finish fighting them you won't remember it even happened, but for the next 90 minutes you'll think they're the biggest threat you've faced in your entire life."
The entire existence of the four villains in this film is to split up the heroes so they each have a moment to shine. They are not compelling, captivating, or particularly interesting in any way. Even the main villain has only the simplest of motives: revenge. Compared to the villains seen in the series proper, these prove to be a huge let-down.
If you like Tiger & Bunny and have seen the series, Tiger & Bunny: The Rising is definitely worth a watch if for no other reason than as an epilogue to the series. That said, other than the character development for Tiger and Fire Emblem, the movie is largely forgettable.
It doesn't ruin the series by existing, but it doesn't really do much to add to the story either. And as this is an epilogue, this is obviously not the place to start watching Tiger & Bunny if you are new to the series — for that, the first movie, however, is the perfect place to start.
Tiger & Bunny: The Rising was released on February 8, 2013, in Japan. The film will be shown in select theatres from March 22, 2014.