action series Tiger and Bunny only
ran one season, but it remains a popular property, as the second theatrical feature
The Rising (2014) attests. Although it continues the action, excitement
and comedy of the broadcast series, the film also presents a strong
Things aren’t going
well in Stern Bild City, a metropolis where humans called “NeXTs”
(Noted Entities with eXtraordinary Talents)
use their supernatural abilities to fight crime and become flashily
costumed Heroes in the not-too-distant future. These crime-fighters compete for
points, titles, endorsements and air time on the Hero TV channel.
Kotetsu “Wild Tiger” Kaburagi and Barnaby “Bunny”
Brooks, Jr., have been demoted to the “second league,” training a new crop of up
and coming heroes, while their old colleagues fight crime without them. Ominous
events start occuring as people prepare for the Justice Festival, honoring the goddess
they believe founded Stern Bild. When nasty capitalist Mark Schneider buys the Appolon
Corporation, which owns Hero TV, everyone’s problems quickly multiply.
Schneider fires Kotetsu and pairs Barnaby with Golden Ryan, a powerful but obnoxious
glory hog, more concerned with promoting himself than helping citizens in
And a lot of citizens are in trouble. Three
powerful NeXTs attack the city: A masked boxer who stuns people and shatters
things with his deafening voice; a murderous dancer who creates illusory
multiple images of herself; an old man who renders his victims unconscious. They’re
formidable foes, fighting the regular group of Heroes to a standstill. As the
battles continue, Barnaby struggles to deal with his egotistical new partner.
He also discovers how much Kotetsu’s idealistic dedication to helping anyone in
need has influenced his approach to his job and his outlook on life.
During a violent confrontation, the old man lashes
out at the extravagant Flame Emblem, putting him into a coma. Emblem’s dreams are
haunted by recollections of the torments and mistreatment he received growing
up Black and gay. But the old man overplays his hand, mocking Emblem to the
other Heroes. When his friends rally to his defense, Flame Emblem reawakens and
attacks with more devastating force than ever.
But the formidable trio are only foils for master
villain Virgil, who strikes at Schneider in a complex, insect-like mecha that’s a walking nightmare of
metal legs, saws, guns and pincers. At the height of the battle, Kotetsu, who’s
been following the action from the sidelines, rushes in to join Barnaby in a
new mecha suit from Doc Saito. It’s a
hardly a spoiler to note that no robot vehicle—or villainous master—can stand
up to Tiger and Bunny when they fight together, and the sinister Virgil is no
The quarreling, comic interaction between Kotetsu
and Barnaby is as entertaining as ever, and Yoshitomo Yonetani directs the
action sequences with appropriate panache. But what sets The Rising apart is its powerful message of self-acceptance and gay
pride. All the Heroes rally to Flame Emblem’s defense. Their love and respect
enable him to proclaim who and what he is—and strike at his foe with renewed
strength and conviction.
Animation has come a long way since the kerfuffle
over crackpot conservatives’ complaints about the allegedly gay relationship between
Pumba and Timon in The Lion King. The
Rising may become the first animated film to be honored by GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation)
at its annual awards.
Viz: $29.99 (Blue-ray/DVD combo pack; 2 discs)