The annual Justice Day festival is about to take place in Stern Bild City, commemorating the legend of the city’s origins and the terrible punishment meted out to the first inhabitants by the goddess of justice. Now, it’s just one big celebration with a parade and floats, so, with the Heroes to protect the city – what could possibly go wrong? Well, there’s been a massive power shift in the running of Hero TV; they’ve been taken over by ruthless tycoon Mark Schneider and veteran Hero Kotetsu T. Kaburagi – Wild Tiger – finds himself replaced as young Bunny/Barnaby Brooks Jr.’s partner by insouciant newcomer, Golden Ryan. Poor old Tiger, with his Next superpowers lasting for only one minute instead of five these days, is just not able to fulfil his role any longer in the eyes of Schneider, so he’s sacked, along with the second team of Heroes that he’s been training. The famous partnership is split up and Kotetsu takes up driving a yellow cab. So when three sinister villains appear in the run-up to the festival, threatening the safety of the city, the Heroes will cope just fine without Wild Tiger, right? Or is there still a role to play for the ‘old man’? With Fire Emblem taken down, is the goddess’s vengeance about to be visited upon the city again? Or is someone else behind these brutal attacks on the Heroes?
The Rising is the second feature film based on the justly popular TV series Tiger & Bunny that takes a slightly different view of the role of the superhero from that of its American cousins promoted by Marvel and DC Comics. (Although there’s a certain irony in having a series about super-powered heroes whose suits blaze the logos of their sponsors, such as Pepsi and Amazon.co.jp.) One of the strengths of the original series was the development of the relationship between the two ill-matched partners: the easy-going, good-hearted old pro, Wild Tiger, and the serious-minded and keen youngster, Bunny – not to mention the other Heroes as well. Luckily, this strength – the balance between the ‘heart’ of the show and the eye-catching action sequences, enhanced with 3D – is preserved and further developed in this film. Which is not an easy task to pull off, especially as it entails involving all the Heroes in a believable way, re-introducing the wild card Next, Lunatic (who has his own punitive idea of ‘justice’) and convincing the bosses that everyone has a vital part to play in saving the city. Another interesting aspect is the glimpse afforded of Fire Emblem’s troubled past when he’s put into a trance-like state by one of the three sinister newcomers, and bathed in a ring of fire, constantly relives the trauma of growing up while trying to conform to a heterosexual ‘norm’ that goes against his true nature. It’s not done with the greatest of subtlety but it’s good to see an attempt at adding depth to the characterization.
The US dub script – as in the TV series – works especially well, given the fact that the setting and concept was inspired by American superhero series. The US voice actors (like the Japanese cast) reprise their roles, joined by Henry Dittman (Kabuto in Naruto) who captures perfectly the blasé self-confidence of new Hero Golden Ryan, and by Sam Riegel as tycoon Mark Schneider and Crispin Freeman as Virgil.
Warning: don’t skip those final credits! It’s – as ever – a convenient place to give a brief glimpse of ‘what happened next’ in stills to the big, brash and catchy ending theme “harmonized finale” by UNISON SQUARE GARDEN. (And you’ve got to love a show that names all the orchestral musicians playing Yoshihiro Ike’s score as well as the usual animator credits.) The Opening Theme also uses a band from the TV series; ”Nemesis” by NOVELS accompanies an eye-catching piece of animation that is reminiscent of a child’s pop-up version of the heroes and their city, later echoed in the storybook version of the Goddess legend that Barnaby shares with the children at the orphanage.
Anime Limited’s Blu-ray delivers excellent image and sound quality and there are plenty of Extras: Theatre Manners; TV Series Special Digest; Weekly Movie (Weekly Hero Countdown); Art Gallery; Theatrical Trailer; Pilot Trailer; Commercial Collection and Clean Opening and Ending title sequences. For anyone who’s not seen the original series (or needs reminding what happened) the Special Digest is genuinely useful, giving a brief but informative overview.
Spin-off films from anime series can so often prove a disappointment but Tiger & Bunny – The Rising is very much the opposite, providing an entertaining, exciting and colourful new full-length chapter in the likable Hero TV saga.