Superpowered humans known as Next appeared in the world 45 years ago. Today, some of them fight crime in the city of Stern Bild while promoting their corporate sponsors on the hit show HERO TV—but not all Next use their powers for good. Veteran hero Wild Tiger has years of fighting experience but has been slipping in the ratings. Under orders from his new employer, he is forced to team up with rookie Barnaby Brooks Jr. Getting off on the wrong foot right from the start, these two will have to overcome their differences and start working as a team if they want to catch the superpowered bad guys.
YALSA GGNT Top Ten Manga: Tiger and Bunny Volume 1-2
Adapted by Mizuki Sakakibara
Viz Media, April – July 2013. ISBN: 978-1421555614, 978-1421555621
192 pgs., $9.99USD
At the 2014 American Library Association Midwinter convention, YALSA, the Young Adult Library Services Association announced their Great Graphic Novels for Teens list for 2014. Of the 78 titles listed, 10 of them were manga. Tiger and Bunny is the manga adaptation of the anime series of the same name. It follows the adventures of two superheroes who must work together despite differing motives and ideas of what it means to be a hero.
Kotetsu Kaburagi, aka Wild Tiger, is a NEXT who when powered up can increase his strength 100 times for 5 minutes. His sense of justice is stronger than this sense of presentation, making him less than popular among the other superheroes of Stern Bild City. Enter newcomer Barnaby Brooks Jr., a NEXT with the same power as Kotetsu, who is more interested in playing to the camera and gaining points that stopping the bad guy. These two end up working for the same company and get paired together as the first superhero duo. Neither hero is happy about it, especially Kotetsu, who despite his greater age and experience is demoted to assistant to the younger and more amiable Barnaby. While the pair don’t like each other, they do start to find ways to work together.
I’m not a big superhero fan, and I had my doubts about a series that made superheroes into corporate flunkies meant to show off the company’s logo rather than save the day, but Tiger and Bunny surprised me. Just as the title says, the story focuses on Barnaby and Kotetsu. It’s like a buddy cop TV show or movie where the partners are complete opposites. Kotetsu is very old school in his view of what a hero should be. He was inspired by the first superhero, Mr. Legend, to use his power to save people. He puts this aspect of being a hero above all else, including playing up for the camera for HeroTV. He wants to jump right in and save the day rather than make points or spout catchphrases from the corporate higher-ups.
Barnaby takes a different view of being a hero. He isn’t motivated by some lofty ideal of saving the day. He saves people and stops bad guys for the points he gains and increases to his popularity and standing. His good looks has gained him a big fanbase quickly, including Kotetsu’s daughter, much to Kotetsu’s chagrin, and he is happy to play up to them and the camera when it’s on him. Barnaby has his own motivations for joining the corporate hero world, and we only get glimpses of them in these first two volumes. He appears to have had a tragic past that he hopes being a superhero will help him solve.
Tiger and Bunny plays up the misfit duo with Barnaby being the cool and more capable one, while Kotetsu is the hot-headed bumbler. Kotetsu’s jumping in without thinking has spoiled Barnaby’s plans more than once, but of the two, Kotetsu is the one really making the effort to make the partnership work. Barnaby remains outwardly aloof, but inwardly, he seems to appreciate Kotetsu; except for the nickname Kotetsu gives him, “Bunny” that really sticks with the other heroes. I really liked the dynamic this creates between the pair. It makes up a lot of the comedy in these two volumes.
The chapters in these two volumes make up about two stories each, serving to establish the relationship between Kotetsu and Barnaby and set up Barnaby’s longer personal arc. Along with the two titular heroes, there are several others: Fire Emblem, Blue Rose, Rock Bison, Sky High, Dragon Kid, and Origami Cyclone. Each has their own reasons for being heroes as well, some more practical than others, such as Blue Rose, who is a superhero only because her company demanded it before she could debut as an idol. Origami Cyclone is the strangest of them all, as he never seems to participate in fights and only appears in the background of other heroes’ achievements. They are all friends despite also being competitors, and when the chips are down, they are all ready to work together to solve the problem at hand.
Tiger and Bunny is a fun series with just the right balance of humor, action and drama. It balances what it means to be a hero with working a job. Its main theme of finding a way to work together despite differences in age or thinking is presented without being obvious. Kotetsu does start to make dents in Barnaby’s armor with the way he helps Tony in the second story and his attempts to find a birthday present for him in the fourth.
Sakakibara’s art not only captures the look of the characters in the anime but goes further in letting their personalities really show through. He portrays the characters with long limbs, a style I really like. They are all very different in appearance, both in costume and out. And while I know Barnaby is supposed to be the cute one, I do like Kotetsu more.
Tiger and Bunny is a great series for teens and there is plenty in it for them to love whether they like superheroes or not.
Review copies provided by publisher.