Tiger And Bunny: The Rising, playing now through the 17th at Seattle’s Grand Illusion, takes place in a multiverse much like ours. Okay, the mutants—excuse me, NEXTS—romp through Tokyo, but they wear the same obligatory advertising across their chests that any Seattle Sounders fan absorbed long ago. The big corporations push the heroes around behind the scenes, and sometimes even in front of it. Tokyo gets busted up, Tokyo gets fixed (far more quietly), business as usual.
The Tiger & Bunny franchise, of which this is one film, doesn’t exhort against this state of affairs much at first. It takes place in a world where, for the most part, those battles — if they ever were battles — have been fought and lost; conceded. Only Wild Tiger (voiced in Japanese by Hiroaki Hirata) holds out some idea that a hero should be a hero for the sake of heroism. He’s older and the other heroes like him, but they always sigh when he talks like that.
Wild Tiger’s been paired by the Powers That Be with the similarly-powered Barnaby Brooks Jr. (Masakazu Morita), who — with his blonde wavy hair, designer prescription lenses and smooth talk — quickly becomes the darling of the set. He gets ratings, and that’s about all that matters. At first glance, he seems to care for nothing else.
One disgruntled veteran and one hotshot rookie. Classic formula. Throw in a bit of high-class snobbery from the rookie and you’ve got salsa. Further throw in superheroes such as a fire master flaming in more than ways than one; an ice queen attired in next to nothing; a bison man built like a tank who can’t seem revive flagging ratings–and Tokyo suddenly looks good while it’s falling apart. Did I mention the enormous mechanical thingy made out of random junk that kidnaps the media mogul?
I loved the banter, the hidden alliances, the subjugated crushes, and of course, the destruction. An odd but poignant subplot involves the gay superhero hypnotized into a coma, fighting an internal battle with his self-identity, doomed to remain a prisoner inside his own head until he accepts himself for who he is. I wasn’t expecting such. But then, Wild Tiger has to fight his own battle to accept who he really is, and who he really believes in. Meanwhile, Barnaby (nicknamed “Bunny” by Wild Tiger) has to decide which side of the agenda he’s on.
Fun candy-colored stuff. But as Bill Cosby once warned, you may learn something before it’s done.