Tiger & Bunny, Vol. 1

By Mizuki Sasakibara, based on the franchise created by Sunrise, Masafumi Nishida, and Masakazu Katsura. Released in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten, serialized in the magazine Newtype Ace. Released in North America by Viz.

I will admit up front that I haven’t seen the anime series this is based on, which Viz is obviously selling hard. I am familiar with Katsura’s work via Video Girl Ai, DNA^2, etc., but aside from Blue Rose looking a bit like Karin Aoi (naming her Karina doesn’t help), there’s not really much influence here. As a result, for once I can ignore all the other variations and alternate continuities I’m familiar with and enjoy this for what it is – a goofy Japanese take on superheroes and mass media, with a very compelling lead duo.


The artist for this manga seems to have worked for Marvel Comics before, and it shows – this is a Japanese take on American superheroes that knows what it’s doing, and can get behind the ridiculousness of people in spandex running around as well as the awesomeness. But as much as it’s a take on superheroes, it’s also examining the state of mass media and marketing in the modern age, with the superheroes being sent out at precisely the right time to grab ratings, and having to work together in pre-scripted ways… while still actually trying to capture the bad guys, who aren’t (so far) pre-scripted. The fact that they’re actually trying to do good helps this title avoid the cynicism of, say, a Max Headroom, but it’s still all a bit false.

Naturally, Tiger, aka Kotetsu Kaburagi, is an old-school hero who doesn’t hold with all this televised ratings crap. Not that he doesn’t actually go along with it… after all, a hero’s gotta work. His working-class superhero attitude not only contrasts with the rest of the superheroes we see, but also with his new partner, Barnaby Brooks, Jr. Barnaby looks to be the classic insufferable genius, who regards ‘teamwork’ as a dirty word and fights crime with a sneer on his face. Actually, this doesn’t seem to be the case, as when he’s in action he seems to be quite friendly and smiling to those he rescues. He just dislikes Tiger. I have no doubt he will have a horribly tragic past.

I was rather surprised that both Tiger and Bunny have the same power – an unusual thing for a superhero team-up, but one that helps to show why they don’t get along at first. As for the other superheroes, we don’t see much of them here, but they have moments where it seems they’re chafing against the script as well. The sooner we get away from heroes-as-wrestling and into serious character drama, the better. As for the fights, they looked fine. The action was easy to follow and exciting, and definitely showed some Marvel influence.

This is a very good first volume, leaving you wanting to go hunt down the anime to find out more. Even the character bios intrigue me – Tiger having a daughter means his tragic past can war with Bunny’s. (How sad is it that my first thought on seeing “guy with daughter” is “how did his wife die in the backstory”? Heck, maybe he’s just divorced. But I doubt it.) I’ll admit I was expecting this to be just another tie-in, but it’s quite worthy on its own. Recommend it to friends who want to try manga but have never ventured beyond the X-Men.