「All’s well that ends well. 終わりよければすべてよし」 (Owari Yokereba Subete Yoshi)
All the letdowns I had from the promotional video for Sunrise’s company superhero anime were quickly washed away after seeing it in action. With a story centering around Kaburagi T. Kotetsu (Hirata Hiroaki), a veteran hero who’s deemed past his prime, the series doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously and works well because of it. The premise with evolved humans known as NEXT working as full-time superheroes for large corporations is outlandish enough, so putting a comedic spin on is often one of the best ways to make it all work. Most of the humor actually comes from Kotetsu when he takes up his superhero alter-ego Wild Tiger, who embodies the sense of justice one would expect from a superhero but without the tactful grace of one. The premiere provided a good glimpse into his complete disregard for personal property, as well as the other superheros of Sternbild that the Hero TV program provides live coverage of and awards seasonal ranking points to.
Much like how SHAFT attempted to redefine the magical girl genre with Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica, Sunrise seems to be trying to do the same with the superhero one. Rather than having a reason to fight against crime in a flashy outfit, this is nothing more than a job to most of the characters. A quick look at the hero lineup speaks for itself, as we have the seemingly gay Nathan Seymour/Fire Emblem (Tsuda Kenjirou), the lazy and indifferent samurai-like Ivan Karelin/Origami Cyclone (Okamoto Nobuhiko), the young martial artist Pao-Lin Huang/Dragon Kid (Ise Mariya), the big yet considerate Antonio Lopez/Rock Bison (Kusunoki Taiten), the popular and always appreciative Keith Goodman/Sky High (Inoue Gou), and the pop idol Karina Lyle/Blue Rose (Kotobuki Minako). Kotetsu is one of the rare exceptions being the veteran he is, but soon finds himself working with a new generation hero, Barnaby Brooks Jr. (Masakazu Morita), after his company Top Mag is bought out by Apollon Media. From their first encounter, it was pretty easy to see that their clashing senses of justice will lead to interesting scenarios now that they’ve been paired up, starting with Barnaby’s view that secret identities are so old school. Unlike those before him, he’s the only hero who goes by his real name, and is the least bit interested in helping kids who may look up to him.
On paper it seems like we just have a bunch of off individuals with special abilities who probably have no business being a superhero; however, it’s how they all come to together that has me very curious about the direction that Sunrise plans to take this original anime. Story-wise, I love how we follow the supposedly washed up and past his prime Wild Tiger, who has to do whatever he can to stay in a line of business that the younger generation is taking over. From this episode alone, I could already get a good sense of the dynamic between characters that goes well beyond the terrible mismatch of “Tiger & Bunny” (as suggested by the ear-like extensions on Barnaby’s power suit). What really won me over were the visuals though, where the CG animation was integrated much more seamlessly than the low quality promo video indicated. The end result is more in line with what I’ve come to expect from Sunrise, which combined with the seemingly unorthodox plot, has me pretty set on following this potential surprise hit all the way through. Insert songs by Kotobuki Minako are always a plus too.
* It’s worth noting that the characters have sponsor logos of real companies, including SoftBank, Bandai, Pepsi, USTREAM, and Calbee, because Sunrise put a real spin on the premise and sold them as advertisement space.