What began as a distinctly Japanese take on the superhero formula quickly developed into a smart and stylish dissection of celebrity culture and reality TV. Set in the futuristic city NC 1978 (a fictionalised, re-imagined New York) where justice and hero antics have been outsourced to media conglomerates, with the background bureaucratic machinations offering a grim and realistic spin on the idea. Decades before, Noted Entities with Extraordinary Talents (NEXTs) take on superhero mantels. The most famous wind up working for sponsor companies and have corporate logos festooned on their suits. All the while their good deeds are broadcast on Hero TV where they bag points for every action. It was a great idea that resulted in the stonking success of the 2011 anime.
The first film may have only recapped the first few episodes, but the follow up is a completely new work. The end of the series saw the old fashioned hero Kotetsu T. Kaburagi/Wild Tiger dropped to B-grade status, mentoring a bunch of incompetent up-and-coming heroes. The film follows directly on, where Barnaby Brooks Jr/Bunny is forced to take on a new partner in the cocksure Ryan Goldsmith, thrusting Barnaby back into the first league limelight. With his ever diminishing power, Tiger opts out, deciding to spend more time with his daughter and awkwardly adjusts to civilian life in a tender portrayal of a displaced super. But the encroaching threat forces him back into action.
Masafumi Nishida’s well written exploration of super life and depth of character is the stock and trade of the series and it’s more of the same here. High schooler Karina Lyle/Blue Rose, for example, uses her super hero status to supplement and boost her singing career. Then there’s Nathan Seymour/Fire Emblem. A character who’s both black and gay is something to be celebrated, and his rocky past struggling with his sexuality and gender identity is a rare and earnest exploration of LGBT issues in anime. But his sexuality so frequently is his character; despite the showrunners claims he’s ‘gender free’, the bright make-up, hot pink hair, mincing movements and groping hands speak volumes. But in The Rising he’s left comatose and forced to confront his troubled adolescence, and the conclusion is empowering and moving.
The CGI-tinged animation, tremendous direction and jazzy score are up to the high standard set by the series, even if the story isn’t. The Rising is a sweet sign off that allows room for infinite new entries; it’s well worth your time if only to remind you just how good the original series was.
Special Features: Opening and closing animation / TV series special digest / Art gallery / Trailers
INFO: TIGER & BUNNY MOVIE 2: THE RISING / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: YOSHITOMO YONETANI / SCREENPLAY: MASAFUMI NISHIDA / STARRING: HENRY DITTMAN, YURI LOWENTHAL, YUUICHI NAKAMURA, HIROAKI HIRATA / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW