"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).
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.