Two young wrestlers face each other in a recently revived underground wrestling organization, the Tiger's Lair, which destroyed the wrestling dojo they grew up in. One took over the training facilities of Naoto Date at the foot of Mount Fuji, as well as the mask he left behind. The other dared to enter the Tiger's Lair and won a fierce competition, receiving a jet-black tiger mask. One tiger walks the path of light, while the other walks the path of shadows. Neither one knows the other's face. On the ring, they are natural enemies, but they have the same purpose—destroy the Tiger's Lair!
Wrestling and anime have a lot in common. They are both hobbies looked down upon by society as a large and have most of their fanbase communicate online. They are also full of idiots and elitists hating on “normies” and “casuals”.
As far as I could find out, this anime is a sequel to the original Tiger Mask, but ignores other sequels to it. Since the original is solely available in Japanese, I have no idea how this one correlates with it, so let’s just judge it as a show on its own. A young guy named Naoto picks up the moniker of Tiger Mask to
make it big in the wrestling business and find the man responsible for crippling his mentor and make him pay. At the same time, his former training partner Takuma has the same intentions, but joins the evil organization to destroy them from within. The whole plot isn’t much to write home about, but a simple story well executed can still be a good one. Tiger Mask is pretty straight forward, which is definitely for the better, as the writing doesn’t feel like it could handle big twists or a deeper storytelling. Almost everything that happens is easily predictable, but the show never tries to pretend that it’s going to surprise you. A very nice addition to the cast are the stars of real life promotion New Japan. They give the whole story a more realistic feeling, showing us that this isn’t a fantasy world with made-up guys doing impossible moves, but a show about somebody wrestling. Of course the Tigers still have impossible finishers, but you get the idea.
Tiger Mask looks very reminiscent of old 80s sports shounen and doesn’t really try to be more eye-pleasing than absolutely necessary. The animation is kept very simple, which isn’t a bad thing in itself, but here it comes across as rather lazy. Like “the kids won’t notice” kinda lazy. It’s certainly not a budget issue, as the last three episodes DID look spectacular and it makes it all the more jarring to know what maybe could have been.
The opening song is a newer version of the classic Tiger Mask theme, which, even though it’s pretty cheesy as you would expect from a 60s cartoon, still works fine today. I don’t know if the ending theme is a rehash too, but I thought it was pretty cool. The rest of the soundtrack is basically just some stock music. I somewhat missed entrance themes, but that’s just me being a wrestling nerd. In terms of voice acting I didn’t notice anything remarkably good or bad, it was a solid performance. Just a shame that the New Japan guys weren’t voiced by themselves (except for the final episode cameo).
Naoto is a good main character, he’s serious when fighting, he can be a bit goofy when outside the ring and he has some flaws that almost prevent him from reaching his goal. Takuma is a good anti-hero, with noble motives but behaving like a bad guy. However, I found the villains to be weak. Even The Third didn’t have much more going on than just being that one incredibly strong guy who likes to injure people. The side characters were a lot of fun though. Furukawa Mask was hilarious, Haruna and Wakamatsu were fun too. I especially enjoyed the many cameos by New Japan heels, like Naito or Kenny Omega. In total, the cast was fine by me.
Tiger Mask had a few lengths when it looked like this is going nowhere or might even end up becoming a long-runner. Thankfully, the stronger parts made up for it and ended up making it a quite entertaining show. However, as with probably most other sports shows, if you are not interested in the subject of wrestling, there will be little for you to enjoy about this anime. It isn’t really able to stand on its own as a compelling story and could easily bore you to death. IF you enjoy wrestling however (especially Japanese), I’d say it’s at least worth giving a shot. A solid sports anime, nothing more, nothing less.
Two men fighting. A setup that drives countless fictional stories, and one which Tiger Mask W delivers in spades.
If you are browsing this and ordinarily enjoy a good battle shonen, just go watch Tiger Mask W, you need read no further. Pro wrestling - at least as it's portrayed here - is basically the same thing with more spandex. They still have attacks with cool names and take implausibly large hits, but there are no gruesome deaths or spirit bombs on display, just an occasional "they'll never fight again" killer move to raise the stakes. It's a Toei series, so the quality is typically choppy
and relies a lot on "classic" compositions with a static camera against dynamic still poses, but it's well-directed and sustains a feeling of movement for an extended period. Pretty much every fight is easy to follow, flows well, and engrosses the emotions.
OK, you say. The fighting is pretty good. What else is there? The other important part of a series about fighting, of course: giving the characters good reasons to fight. The main plot of Tiger Mask W is a straightforward revenge story, and many of the subplots are roughly as predictable. But like the fighting, it manages to juggle a fairly large cast and develop them at a steady, easy-to-follow pacing. Everything ties together in a neat, by-the-book fashion, which is in keeping with the "throwback" feel of the visuals. You've seen it all before, but rarely with execution this strong. It's not a twisty, meta, or philosophical type of show, it just delivers the goods on satisfying setups and resolution, over and over. Most seasonal anime could stand to learn from this example.
I actually started watching Tiger Mask W with its final episode, which was a chance happy accident: the conclusion to the main plot was in the previous episode, and this was more like an OVA-style epilogue that acts as a teaser for a possible new season or spinoff, with a focus on side characters and stage-setting for new plot arcs. I really hope they go through with producing more of this series, because it's like comfort food to me.
Alright, as a wrestling and anime fan, i feel the need to review this show. (First review ever, so dont judge too harshly. or dont. who cares.)
So, Tiger Mask W. Whoof. This series had some massive ups and downs. As a wrestling fan (particularly NJPW) it had a lot of good fanservice, but that's almost it's downfall. I feel like one of the selling points of TMW is that it has so many references to real-life wrestlers, but if you're not at least tangentially aware of who these people are (Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi) you're gonna miss a lot of content. Okada's first appearance in
the series is treated as a big deal, but if you're not aware he's the current longest-reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion, it's going to mean nothing to you. There's even a joke later on in the series involving Tanahashi that you wont get unless you're in the know. But i digress.
Being a Toei production, the animation is all over the place. At the least, it's good when it counts in the fights, and that's all we can really ask for. Even so, it means that we dont have a fully fantastic animation quality, and that's sad.
The Story, while cliche, is a fun story to follow. Naoto fights to get revenge for his father figure, while his childhood friend does the same, with different means. It was a fun story, but nothing inherently special. The characters are probably the best thing about the series, even if they are also nothing inherently special. Haruna was probably the best part to me, her energy and sense of humor was the best thing that kept the series fun to watch at any given time. The rivalry between Naoto and Takuma was engrossing, if a bit cliche. Obviously there was also the frequent cameos of real-life NJPW wrestlers, which was a great source of making the series feel grounded, even in the impossibilities of the wrestling shown.
Overall, if you're a wrestling fan (especially a NJPW fan) you'll likely get a good amount of enjoyment out of Tiger Mask W. It's DEFINITELY cliche by anime standards, it's story being a very old-school style of storytelling. But even so, it has heart. It may have gotten a 6/10 from me, but it kept me enjoying it, if only for it's over-the-top style and it's fanservice. Give it a try if you're a wrestling fan, but i'd probably stay away if you're not, or are into shounen that try new things.
As a pro-wrestling fan, I started watching for Okada and Tanahashi's appearances - not even knowing there would be so much more, with a lot of the NJPW roster showing up, and even some non-japanese ones.
I stayed because, in the first episode, Tiger Mask trained by fighting and eating a bear. There's also semi-naked mountain climbing. With bare hands. In the freezing cold. There's a room for training full of old school robots, because of course it has. There's a mysterious evil corporation bent on conquering the world of pro-wrestling, and a fair, preternaturally gifted protagonist looking to avenge his master - and a long
lost friend on the same tortuous journey, but he's stoic, got long hair and wears a black mask, so he's cooler. It would be my favorite anime if I was growing up, now I find it so cheesy - but cheese is also the best food, so that's fine.
Shonen anime is a great medium for a pro-wrestling history as both are build around big, outrageous characters (I love Tanahashi having trouble securing his identity behind a mask because his personality is just too big), impossible stunts and muscle-bound physiques. In both mediums, the fights are part of the dramaturgy, a form of narrative and also how connections are made: respect for a fighter turning to friendship, or a rivality deepening. Every in-ring confrontation is when Tiger Mask W is at its best.
The stop-start nature of a wrestling match, with emphasis on facial expression and psychology/narrative, lends itself well to this more economic (i.e. cheaper) animation style. The fights are really fun, but the upscalling of the animation at Tiger Mask's great first fight with Yellow Devil, for instance, or during the War Games episodes, shows the heights this could achieve with a more dedicated focus on the occasional seriousness of the emotions, and how real are the risks of really great wrestling and storytelling.
- There's a tendency, in wrestling related work, to be 'realistic'. I really like that the whole story here is in kayfabe: the fights, the relationships, everything is real. (Which of course it would be. It's anime. But it is really rare.)
- Being in keyfabe, Tiger Mask's heel turn packs a pretty strong emotional punch, having a corruptive effect on his fans and friends. Rather than a change of character (as in real pro-wrestling), it's a big change of trust. It also works as critique of revenge as a source of action.
- Pro-wrestling is used as a spectacle capable of reinvigorating public and civil spaces, something that has at its (visceral and violent) heart a populist power. A modern day coliseum.
- There's a blood feud started over Makabe's favorite sweets, with Kenny Omega heelish eating a strawberry, his face full of sugar.
- An Undertaker-like Terminator as the big boss of a Hell in a Hole (which is a crazy fight gimmick which would be amazing live - without all the death, I mean).
- Naito is just the best.
- What's with the homage to Kota Ibushi at the end? Is it because he was the real-life Tiger Mask W? Or just there is a huge group of Ibushi marks in the production? But also, I mean, who isn't a Ibushi mark?
- The very end makes me excited for a joshi anime now!