TIGER & BUNNY has always been one of my most cherished anime shows ever since I first enjoyed it as a teenager, mostly for its unabashedly optimistic and feel-good characters that left me feeling inspired and comforted.
It’s been 11 years since then, and Netflix have made what is, so far as I’m concerned, one of the most commendable moves in their history by bringing us a second season of the show for streaming. It’s something to truly marvel at; most of us never thought it would happen, and yet here we are in 2022 with that new season ready for us to watch after such a long break.
There have been a few changes from the original season worth taking note of before we go any further. For one, Keiichi Sato, who directed both the first season and the series’ two movies, has not returned. Instead, Mitsuko Kase has taken over the director’s position; they’re best known for directing a number of Mobile Suit Gundam series.
However, TIGER & BUNNY’s first season story writer Masafumi Nishida has returned for the second season, and the production studio is Bandai Namco Pictures, a spinoff studio that absorbed Sunrise’s shows and acquired some of their staff. So while there have been a few changes behind the scenes, the quality of the new season is impressively consistent.
It’s also worth noting that at the time of writing we don’t yet have the full season. 13 episodes are ready to view on Netflix right now, with the other half of the season being expected to drop sometime later this year, making for a total of 25 episodes.
You should make sure you’ve already watched the first season before going into this one, or at least watched the first movie, as it acts as a condensed recap of the first season’s events. The second movie isn’t a must-watch by any means, but it does feature a few events that unfold between the first and second seasons, plus it introduces a new threat that follows on from the first season’s finale, plus a number of other key characters who show up in the second season.
With all that out of the way, if you’re still debating whether or not you should watch TIGER & BUNNY, consider this a simple, polite and encouraging push from myself to do so. But if you happen to need any more details on the new season in particular, here’s a few spoiler-free thoughts to convince you further.
Familiar faces and new favourites
TIGER & BUNNY 2 remains set in Sternbild City, a futuristic New York City-style setting where some individuals are born with superpowers. These individuals, referred to as NEXTs, are usually separated into two categories: superheroes, who keep the peace; or evildoers, who wreak havoc in society by using their powers for their own gain.
Criminals who may or may not be NEXTs themselves are more often than not named, shamed and caught red-handed not by the police, but on live broadcast by Hero TV’s superheroes, the most well-known and best-marketed superheroes in all of the city.
The superheroes involved in this TV show, overseen by Apollon Media, are participating for various reasons. They might be after simple exposure or an attempt to fulfil their expectations as a superhero, while some seek to make a name for themselves and rack up the points that could see them crowned King of Heroes on the show.
This time around, the second season has its superheroes working together in pairs for constant support and back-up for one another. The pairings are shown in the show’s opening, and there are a number of new faces bulking up the already quite extensive cast.
Kotetsu T. Kaburagi (Wild Tiger) and Barnaby Brooks Jr. make up the team we’re already well and truly familiar with, since TIGER & BUNNY’s first season explored how their relationship developed from strangers to trusted and caring partners. Professionally speaking, I mean… though that said, one might say “life partners” isn’t too far off with these two in terms of how close they are. The very first episode of the new show works quickly to remind us of their typical, delightful quarrelling in the style of an old married couple; I really missed this.
Barnaby behaves in his usual tsundere way by never really saying what he means, but instead he quietly shows it through his actions. Kotetsu couldn’t look more proud of him when he contemplates how far he’s come as his partner, and how he’s become a warm voice of reason and wisdom for his colleagues.
Both Kotetsu and Barnaby spend the majority of the first half of this season mentoring the newly paired-up heroes, with most of them not having worked alongside someone else in their line of duty as superheroes before.
This opens up a number of conflicts to develop from, which have a tendency to either explore new ground for established characters, or set up newly introduced characters to be much deeper and nuanced than they might initially come across as.
A great example of this is seen in the partnership between Ryan Goldsmith (Golden Ryan) and Karina Lyle (Blue Rose), the latter of which has been in the show since the very beginning, and the former introduced in the second movie. Both get their own moments to show new sides to themselves, with Ryan — who had previously come across as a basic, egotistical Jojo-looking wannabe — turning out to be unexpectedly sensitive.
He’s quite the overthinker, and pairing up with Karina, who still tends to take things at face value, allows the two of them to understand one another better when communicating more patiently with each other to uncover their true feelings, intentions and concerns. They both still have growing and maturing to do, and the pair complement one another well, making for my second favourite ship of the show.
Then there’s the veteran superheroes Nathan Seymour (Fire Emblem) and Keith Goodman (Sky High), who make up a stupendous unit together. These two are second only to Kotetsu and Barnaby in terms of how they clearly show a deep sense of understanding, trust and respect towards one another as heroes, and they have just as long a history together thanks to appearing in the original show. They still get their moment in the limelight in a specific episode, though, this time highlighting the importance of being open and honest with one another to better improve their relationship.
Pao-Lin Huang (Dragon Kid) and Lara Tchaikoskaya (Magical Cat) are also a great pairing, furthering Pao-Lin’s character development into being more of a mentor to Lara. The two share similarities in their backgrounds, with them both being young heroes with familial issues; in both cases, their family members are forcing their own hopes and dreams onto them despite their tender ages. They have a lot of pressure on them, which is downright unfair, but at least they have each other to lean on in order to develop and go to greater heights.
Comparatively, Ivan Karelin (Origami Cyclone) and Antonio Lopez (Rock Bison) have the funniest and possibly most bizarre conflict of the bunch, featuring the origins of Ivan’s superhero name coming to light. They have the biggest age gap of the pairings, making it especially humorous when we see Antonio struggling to put his thoughts into words with Ivan, whose feelings he accidently hurts because of this barrier.
It’s entertaining and interesting to see Ivan’s superhero name be a major element addressed between these pre-existing characters here. A particular highlight is Ivan’s suggestion that “Toilet Paper Soft Breeze” would be a better superhero name for himself after the public says he does not live up to his name; he feels like Antonio is undermining its origins and not taking it seriously.
While this was quite funny to see unfold and conclude, the same cannot be said for the pair up of Subaru Sengoku (Mr. Black) and Thomas Taurus (He Is Thomas), two new additions to the cast, and the only all-new pairing. This makes them immediately one of the most intriguing of the match-ups for the sheer uncertainty that surrounds their relationship. They couldn’t be less similar to one another, and indeed the duo has the worst time trying to accept one another over the course of the 13 episodes to date.
Their temperaments are entirely incompatible, and the two outwardly appear to want different things from their roles as superheroes. Subaru is a loud, head-strong imbecile (himbo alert!), while Thomas is level-headed, stoic and quite detached emotionally, essentially being a younger version of Barnaby.
Naturally, this comes as the result of a traumatic past, with this being the biggest mental block for Thomas improving himself as a superhero. He needs to move past being distrustful of others — especially with Subaru, who would absolutely have his back. He’s a passionate, good boy — let him know that, Thomas! The pair absolutely mirror Kotetsu and Barnaby in many ways, so I’m especially keen to see how they will develop individually and as a unit as the series continues.
As you can probably tell, the storyline of TIGER & BUNNY’s second season focuses on these side characters and their pairings for Hero TV, and explores how these slowly developing bonds affect the superheroes.
It’s understandable if you might think this is a shame as a veteran viewer, since “main” characters Kotetsu and Barnaby take a bit more of a supporting role on the whole. The former imparts his wisdom as we’re accustomed to, and the latter truly blossoms into a person his colleagues can come to for guidance and support.
The early episodes set up the pairings, exploring the heroes’ personal issues and internal conflicts with a nice amount of variation. Returning characters also get a good amount of screen time and dialogue, with Hero TV’s producer, Agnes Joubert, single-handedly acting as a convincing symbol of the time that has passed between the seasons through her realistically aging self.
Elsewhere, Saito, Apollon Media’s inventor and engineer, continues to depend on speaking in a hushed tone, and this never fails to get a chuckle out of me. Yuri Petrov, leading director of Hero TV, can also be seen in all his quiet and edgy glory, and we’re all impatiently waiting to see what his next move will be. For those who already know about his previous shenanigans, of course.
The final character worth commenting on is Kaede, Kotetsu’s daughter, who also gets a bit of time in the spotlight by showing signs of wanting to become a superhero herself. This puts a mental roadblock in Kotetsu’s mind; he’ll have to accept her life goal and shared passion, but this also means understanding and accepting that it will involve her putting her own life on the line in the future.
It’s nice to see her get her own push as an individual character, though, despite it presenting a new challenge for Kotetsu. And there’s plenty of scope for drama there, since this potential conflict provides the opportunity for two characters to develop and build from!
Great villains with an even greater promise of something bigger to come
The heavy lifting of TIGER & BUNNY’s second season is done by the character dynamics and the personal conflicts that arise from their pair-ups. These are almost always due to misunderstandings or characters not seeing eye-to-eye, and often lead to humorous outcomes or silly but relatable dialogue that helps make everyone all the more endearing — plus it often plants the seeds for subtle character growth.
The main, underlying conflict, meanwhile, ends up being genuinely high in its stakes, and a nice juxtaposition with the interpersonal conflicts between the buddies. The twin villains of the series do not make their move until the latter section of the 13 episodes, and the setup here is nothing new.
I’ll give you a vague idea: well-intentioned characters create a drug that the baddies capitalise on to increase their power output instead. Corporations being greedy and exhibiting ill-intentioned motives aren’t a surprise, although it is exciting to witness a certain organisation reappearing as the master puppeteers in the background — fans of the first season will doubtless take particular note of this.
Refreshingly, the sheer gap in power between the heroes and villains makes for a genuine sense of threat to the superheroes. They are absolutely the strongest foes Kotetsu and Barnaby have ever been up against, and their synergy with one another is pulled off well here to make them a powerhouse of a threat while also giving them sympathetic, emotional backgrounds.
They’re as annoying as they are strong, with the two arguing and even telling one another to not involve themselves in a fight because they’re angry at each other — which comes across as them undermining their opponents. But it’s genuinely because they have butted heads, and one of them inevitably has to accept missing out on a fight because of it.
They’re also villains who are actually intelligent for once, demonstrating some intense, well-thought out and well-executed strategies, and their eventual surprise attack was also unexpectedly impressive.
While the show does bring the arc for these twin villains to a close in these first 13 episodes, we’re also set up for something bigger to come. Another villain arises from the situation with the drug production — and there seems to be a link to Ryan’s background too. Overall, the villains here aren’t quite up to the standard of season 1’s offerings, but their sympathetic origins make them memorable enough to feel something for.
Everything we loved before, but better
The way in which TIGER & BUNNY’s second season has progressed into leaving Kotetsu and Barnaby’s conflicts behind was a good move, since they’ve both moved on from their personal struggles. It’s a shame that this means they’re more in the background as a result of this, but their development as a unit means their confrontation with the antagonists of the hour is extremely memorable. Their sense of camaraderie and care for one another allows Barnaby to desperately vocalise his concern for his comrades during the climactic fight — it’s a really telling sign of how far he’s come as a character. Emotional Barnaby is best Barnaby!
The whole show has a pleasantly nostalgic feel to it too, with the existing character designs remaining exactly the same, and the new ones complimenting their style perfectly. The opening number is from UNISON SQUARE GARDEN once again. And existing characters like Ivan and Pao-Lin show subtle and pleasing development from their origin stories. For example, we see Ivan appearing much more often during fights on Hero TV, and he willingly volunteers to approach evildoers in an attempt to determine a confrontation’s success; it’s a sign that he’s much more confident in his abilities overall.
Likewise, Pao-Lin’s struggles with her identity are shown to be considerably lessened here, with her confidently speaking using male inflections, dressing in a masculine style but still embracing her feminine sensibilities as a guardian figure to Lara. It beautifully balances both sides of her personality to make for an amazing role model and icon.
While CGI appears to have been used much more in this new season than in the original, it’s easily forgivable for how well executed the main fights are, and the show certainly looks consistent as a follow-up to the original season. Seriously, if you happen to be watching both seasons back-to-back, you wouldn’t be able to tell that there’s been an 11-year gap between the two. This, I feel, is a massive compliment to the new season.
But can we please be put out of our misery and finally see Kotetsu and Barnaby manage to have that dinner together — the one that they keep trying to organise across all the episodes? Either way, seeing Barnaby married to his home-life of being an indoors gardener is a wonderful sight to see. And while I’m being cheeky in mentioning my wants for the rest of the season, then I hope we have more Lunatic screen-time to look forward to. (At this point Lilia trailed off with a far-away look in her eyes – Ed.)
If you like what you’ve heard (and I hope that you do), the two seasons of TIGER & BUNNY are available on Netflix. Just remember that the current episodes of the second season are not the full run — there’s more to come later in the year!
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