Tiger&Bunny and the Short History of Sponsors and Product Placement

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.

An advertisement in a newspaper in November 2010, seeking sponsors for the heroes.

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.

Sacred Seven was the other Sunrise show airing at the same time as Tiger&Bunny,
and it was the one that was expected to succeed.

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!

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