Third Time’s The Charm, Eh?

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).

Screenshot of Tiger&Bunny The Live stage play with Masakazu Morita playing Barnaby and Hiroaki Hirata playing Wild Tiger. Also in the picture are the hero suit actors for Barnaby and Tiger, and the actors for Dragon Kid and Blue Rose in hero suits.
When Tiger&Bunny The Live stage play was running back in 2012, they cast the original voice actors Hiroaki Hirata and Masakazu Morita to play Tiger and Barnaby on stage because no one else would have felt right. That’s the level of association they’re going to be up against in this project.

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.

2 comments on “Third Time’s The Charm, Eh?

  1. Was I the only one who actually liked the live action Cowboy Bebop? Ok, so it didn’t quite match the coolness and style of the original but I thought it was pretty good for substance. Maybe that’s because I always thought the original was more style over substance. Standalone episode plots were ok but the overarching plot was a little confusing.

    So yeah, I remain hopeful. Maybe we should keep our expectations low, so it isn’t a disappointment, if the live action T&B is made.

    • I watched I think half of live action Bebop, I thought it was okay and perfectly watchable, but sadly a bit forgettable. It’s been over 10 years since I last saw the original Bebop so I can’t really compare. But if fans have high expectations it’s probably impossible to meet them, no matter the franchise.

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