Among the things we didn’t see happening this week was the press release announcing that the Tiger&Bunny English language live action project is back.
As detailed in the press release (link in Japanese) and the article in Variety, this time they’re planning to adapt it as a series instead of a movie. The timing of the announcement makes sense, season 2 has brought back attention to the series, but at the same time it also raises the worry that it’s just riding on the popularity to make some money. Add to this the fact that anime adaptations in the West haven’t exactly been successful, and we aren’t holding our breath for a good reimagining.
The reception on Twitter has been mixed to negative – and that’s saying it nicely. Of course in our own Twittersphere we’re mostly interacting with fans, and many of them have been following Tiger&Bunny since the original 2011 release. The crowd is going to be tough, and we long time fans are fiercely loyal.
You can easily pick a couple of guys, slap them in costumes in front of the camera and make them fight a few bad guys. And that’s where we fear the adaptation will completely miss its mark. In its core Tiger&Bunny isn’t about superheroes catching bad guys. It’s about the characters, their interactions, relationships and personalities, which all happens to have the superhero gig as a backdrop. The showrunner has to understand the charm points of the source material, and it has to reflect in the script and casting. The original script of the series sets a pretty high bar, and we don’t expect the adaptation to get anywhere near it. The best we can hope for is that they respect the source material, and don’t just treat it as inferior because it’s animation.
Casting is going to be challenging and it could potentially make or break the adaptation. The actors need to look the part (unless they go the Netflix Death Note route and change a character’s appearance completely – but we really don’t want to talk about that adaptation and drag our spirits down even more).
They also need to have chemistry. You can’t wing chemistry, you either have it or you don’t. Is it a better option to choose actors that look right for the part, but don’t feel right when you put them together in the scene – or pick actors that feel right, but may not look like what the people watching the finished product will expect? How will the fans respond to the latter option? Often anime adaptations go more for the appearance in everything. Deviations from the appearance do cause backlash, as was the case with Ghost in the Shell – but going on about that would open an entirely different can of worms and we’re not here to discuss Scarlett Johansson (unless they cast her as Blue Rose).
On the other hand working in favor of the project is that the setting of Tiger&Bunny should make it easy to adapt to a Western version. Stern Bild is already based on New York and the characters have a variety of ethnicities among them. The overall design should translate well to live action, the hero suits are no different than what MCU has been putting out for the past decade. Another point in favor of the adaptation is that Masayuki Ozaki, the producer of the original anime is on board with the project. At the same time there’s no guarantee, he was also the producer on Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop and that wasn’t well received. Though Cowboy Bebop gave us more music by Yoko Kanno so maybe we’ll get a new soundtrack by Yoshihiro Ike?
In the end, we would like to remain hopeful that against all odds Tiger&Bunny will get a good Western adaptation. The change of format is a welcome one, if made for streaming it will make it more approachable for a new audience than trying to compete in the box office.
We love the series, we love the characters, and after all you want to see the thing you love do well. Time will tell.
Text and editing by derpchan. Opinions by This is Sternbild team. Art by Tania.
Or as the version in my language goes, “a beloved person has many names”. And Barnaby’s seiyuu Masakazu Morita certainly lives up to this saying, judging by Tiger’s seiyuu Hiroaki Hirata’s ever growing list of nicknames for him. Twitter user @i14015 has been keeping track of these nicknames for years, and I thought it’d be fun to romanize it for everyone’s enjoyment and so we could appreciate Hirata’s ability to come up with a new one so often.
Here’s the romanized list (TL note: usagi means rabbit):
Morita-san: Morita-kun Banikazu Banii Usa-chan Usausa Morita-kun (with different spelling for the suffix) Banibani Banira-chan & Banisuke Fushigi no kuni no arisu no shirousagi (White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland) Baniyan Bani. Baniraian (Bunnyryan) Banin Banipon Baniiita Banipyon Banita Masakazu-san & Morita Banikazu-san Banicchi Baniratte (Bunnylatte) Banikko Baniko Usagi-chan Usada Usakazu-kun Banichin Morita Usakazu-san Banita Usakazu-san Buddy Baninko Baanishu
We’ll update the list when another nickname pops up, doesn’t look like Hirata’s done coming up with new ones yet!
If you’re a new fan who watched the whole series on Netflix, moving on from S1 to the movies and S2 may feel jarring. Netflix version of S1 in the west has scrubbed the sponsor logos that were in the original, leaving just blank spots, but the movies and S2 have them intact. The original concept was that the sponsor logos could be replaced, adjusting the show to whatever region it aired in. To our knowledge that never came to be, so the only versions are the original and the logoless.
Without the sponsors Tiger&Bunny may never have come to be. It is a very American style show, something that was niche in Japan, so making it was risky. Superheroes are a popular genre in tokusatsu shows but they’re different from American superheroes. The ensemble cast of heroes was also ahead of its time, which may not be apparent to new fans watching it now. We’re used to MCU’s steady release schedule of new movies and series, but when it aired in 2011, Marvel was still getting on with their first phase. Iron Man came out in 2008 and it wasn’t a guaranteed hit, and its success jump started the larger MCU. In 2011, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger were just released and The Avengers would hit the box office the following year in 2012. (DCU hadn’t even gotten started yet, but who’s counting…) The long wait for S2 may have caused Tiger&Bunny to slip under the radar, but coming back to it now it feels like it hasn’t aged at all.
Tiger&Bunny can be seen as a commentary on reality TV and the commercialization of superheroes, with the heroes being employed by in-universe corporations and sporting real world sponsor logos while capturing criminals and saving people during a live TV broadcast. This point is further enhanced by the differences in Tiger and Barnaby’s views on the job at the start of the series. Despite this, the fans love the sponsors and are eager to see the new announcements. The real world brands sponsoring the on-screen heroes have themed campaigns running, though most of them are Japan exclusive. There were far more sponsors applying for S2 than they had placements available – and this is even with the hilarious amount of logos on the Double Chaser bike. (Sadly, Tenga still hasn’t reached their dream of sponsoring Barnaby, but maybe it’s for the best because that collaboration campaign wouldn’t be PG rated.) Back in the Summer of 2011 when the second part of S1 started, Origami Cyclone had amassed the most sponsor logos, and even on S2 he’s the most sponsored hero with eight different brands on his hero suit.
We don’t have information on how the sponsorship deals work, but we can assume that they were a key part in Tiger&Bunny even being made, because the studio at the time had no faith in its success. The popularity took off unexpectedly and it caught Sunrise and Bandai off guard. There was very little merchandise available to begin with, and the clear files and keychains that were available were sold out instantly. So the fans turned to alternate merchandise in their hunger to buy something. The show featured a lot of vague product placement and references to real world items, so for example a specific Kenzo perfume shot up in popularity.
When more merchandise was finally released, getting a figure of your favorite hero was a real struggle. The SOLD OUT is still a real thing with S2 if you dally with placing your pre-orders. Those who have been fans since 2011 will undoubtedly have their war stories of trying and failing to get a piece of merchandise. I know we do… Does this make us slaves to commercialized superheroes?
If you’re a new fan, what do you think of the sponsor logos or the lack of them? How does Tiger&Bunny compare to other media in the superhero genre? Leave a comment here or on Twitter, or join the discussion on our Discord. Links are in the sidebar!
The first half of S2 has been out for a few weeks and we’ve had some time to arrange our thoughts and engage in light speculation. There’s still much we don’t know about, but nothing’s going to stop the conspiracy theories when they get going. It’s time to grab a tinfoil hat and talk about our favorite secret society…
There are spoilers for everything, so if you haven’t seen the new episodes yet maybe hop over to Netflix and come back in about 6 hours. Sound good?