[Review] Tiger Mask W – episode 1

Three years after watching their master defeated by his opponent playing dirty, Takuma and Naoto are looking for the wrestler who beat him, Yellow Devil, so they can to take revenge. They work independently, Takuma seeking to enter the Yellow Devil’s sponsoring organisation while Naoto continues training in private, but their paths are about to cross again.

This anime knows exactly what it is, and how much you enjoy it will depend on how well that works for you. Men fight bears while tied upside down to some ruins, scale mountains with their bare hands in very few clothes and televisions only broadcast wrestling news and matches. It’s deliberately over-the-top macho men being manly at each other, good people versus bad people with no hint of depth or layers of meaning. What you see is what you get… and I loved it.

There are a few female characters, and given the context it’s not surprising that the villain is a big-breasted blonde woman in sexy clothes. Miss X is pretty in your face as a character, but she’s also not shot from extreme underbutt angles or wearing clothes that look like they’d need the magic of Hogwarts to stay in place. She could be a real person making real clothing choices, and those choices are low cut and/or skin tight.

Her body is in proportion too; her breasts are bigger but so are her hips and shoulders, and she is taller than the other characters. Her breasts aren’t leading every shot either, and there’s certainly no Gainaxing – they barely move, as is normal for breasts in a bra on a slow/non-moving person. If Tiger Mask W were adapted for live action they could get a real person with more or less the same figure to wear exactly these clothes, shot in exactly the same way, and it wouldn’t look weird or require visual effects. Seriously, this is all I actually ask of anime, but so few shows manage it with characters like Miss X.

There is also a cheerful cousin and a gentle nurse. Both are in appropriate clothes with the kinds of figures you might expect for their respective demographics. All three women seem to have agency, none of them are groped or leered at or even have their appearance commented on, and they all look, dress and act differently in accordance with their ages, occupations and personalities. In other words, an anime designed to exaggerate a very traditional type of 1980s action hero masculinity has managed to do so without undermining, overlooking or objectifying women. Can we just take a moment and acknowledge how rare this is? And how easy it would have been to claim that dragging down or cutting out the female characters was necessary to play up the exaggerated male characters?

I also love that rough 1970s aesthetic, though I know plenty of people will hate it. 1970s animation is probably my favourite aesthetically; everything feels heavier and more solid, a perfect choice for an anime about wrestling. But that’s personal preference, and if you want to skip this one on that basis I understand. But if you’re worried that an anime about super-manly men doing manly things must involve diminishing the women around them, this episode would suggest that is not the case at all.

Read the ANN Preview Guide review.

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