Review: ‘Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Rising’ could begin anime wave

A scene from the movie "Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Rising."
A scene from the movie “Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Rising.”

“Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Rising” puts such a radical spin on superhero comics that it almost reads as satire. The film boasts a Justice League of its own, but one reminiscent of a professional sports league complete with stars, duds, corporate sponsors, a farm system and even an ancillary television network that literally keeps score on these avengers.

To recap for the “Tiger & Bunny” uninitiated, the film follows a short-lived anime television series and a 2012 movie (“The Beginning”) that bypassed American theatrical distribution. “The Rising” has proven a smash in its native Japan and will play in more than 20 U.S. cities.

Upon acquiring the superhero league, a Steve Jobs-esque tech Svengali, Mark Schneider (voiced by Houchu Ohtsuka), proceeds to reorganize and implement cost-cutting measures. He sacks underperforming Wild Tiger (Hiroaki Hirata) and then forces his longtime partner, Bunny (Masakazu Morita), to pair with rising star Golden Ryan (Yuichi Nakamura).

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The socially progressive anime franchise assembles superheroes of just about every classification: gays, blacks, gay blacks. The gay and black Fire Emblem (Kenjiro Tsuda) goes beyond stereotypes to flesh out the bullying and familial rejection that he endured as a child and that remain in his subconscious.

The mash-up of the superhero and buddy-cop genres turns out fresh and vital, offering glimpses of a future where reality television and drones proliferate and where conglomerates with bottom lines underwrite crime fighters. The film may herald a political wave for anime.

“Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Rising.” No MPAA rating; in Japanese with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 48 minutes. At Downtown Independent in Los Angeles.