TIGER MASK Battles Back in 2013
Shochiku Updates Classic Anime/Manga Hero in New Movie
Source: Shochiku Co., Ltd.
SPOILER WARNING: This article contains plot details and images from an upcoming movie.
The fictional masked professional wrestler and timeless hero, Tiger Mask, is back in a new Marvel superhero-inspired costume for a new generation of movie lovers! The movie TIGER MASK focuses on the untold story of young Naoto Date’s early life leading up to his legend as Tiger Mask. This is how it all begins!
–Shochiku publicity materials for TIGER MASK
Created by manga writer Ikki Kajiwara and artist Naoki Tsuji, the Tiger Mask (タイガーマスク, Taigaa Masuku) manga told the story of Naoto “Tiger Mask” Date, a former orphan who has become star of the Tiger’s Cave, a league of evil wrestlers. But Tiger Mask renounces his ways and fights for good in order to become a better role model for children, earning the enmity of his former teammates who now seek to destroy him both inside and outside the ring. Tiger Mask debuted in Bokura Magazine from publisher Kodansha Ltd. in 1968. The following year the series transferred to Weekly Shonen Magazine, where it ended in 1971.
Toei Co., Ltd. produced the TIGER MASK anime series, which ran for 105 episodes between October 2, 1969 and September 30, 1971. Starting with the compilation mini-movie TIGER MASK on March 17, 1970, select episodes of the anime were also screened theatrically as part of “Toei Manga Festival” series. A second compilation film entitled TIGER MASK: WAR AGAINST THE LEAGUE OF MASKED WRESTLERS (タイガーマスク ふく面リーグ戦, Taigaa Masuku Fukumen Riigu Sen) followed on July 19, 1970, and the episode TIGER MASK: BLACK GENIE (タイガーマスク 黒い魔神, Taigaa Masuku Kuroi Majin) on March 20, 1971. The anime returned to television with the 33 episode sequel series TIGER MASK II (タイガーマスク二世, Taigaa Masuku Nisei), which aired from April 20, 1981 to January 18, 1982.
As a tie-in with the TIGER MASK II anime, professional wrestler Satoru Sayama took on the name and costume of Tiger Mask in bouts for New Japan Pro Wrestling organization. Various other wrestlers have played Tiger Mask for All Japan Pro Wrestling and Michinoku Pro Wrestling up to the current day.
In December 25, 2010, a child care facility in Tokyo received an anonymous donation of 10 leather school backpacks. A note left with the gift was signed “Naoto Date”. The news inspired a flood of anonymous donations — often in the name of fictional heroes — to orphanages, charities and social service groups across Japan which became known as the “Tiger Mask Movement”.
With nationwide attention on Tiger Mask, a theatrical revival from Shochiku was announced in February 2011. The TIGER MASK movie marks the feature debut of Ken Ochiai, an award-winning director of short films. Starring as Naoto Date/Tiger Mask is Eiji Wentz, who had previously played the yokai hero Kitaro in Shochiku’s live action movies KITARO (ゲゲゲの鬼太郎, Gegege no Kitaro, 2007) and KITARO AND THE MILLENNIUM CURSE (ゲゲゲの鬼太郎 千年呪い歌, Gegege no Kitaro: Sennen Noroi Uta, 2008). His credits also include MASKED RIDER: THE FIRST (仮面ライダー THE FIRST, Kamen Raidaa the First, 2005), NODAME CANTABILE: THE MOVIE I のだめカンタービレ 最終楽章 前編, Nodame Kantabire Saishuu Gakushou – Zenpen, 2009) and NODAME CANTABILE: THE MOVIE II (のだめカンタービレ 最終楽章 後編, Nodame Kantabire saishuu Gakushou – Kouhen, 2010).
Naoto’s mentor and arch-nemesis Mister X is played by Sho Aikawa, star of Takashi Miike’s ZEBRAMAN (ゼブラーマン, 2004) and ZEBRAMAN 2: ATTACK ON ZEBRA CITY (ゼブラーマン -ゼブラシティの逆襲-, Zeburaaman -Zeburaa Shiti no Gyakushuu, 2010). He has also appeared in OUT OF THIS WORLD (この世の外へ クラブ進駐軍, Kono yo no Sotoe – Club Shinchugun, 2004), BRASS KNUCKLE BOYS (少年メリケンサック, Shonen Meriken Sakku, 2009) and HELTER SKELTER (ヘルタースケルター, Heruta Sukeruta, 2012).
Love interest Ruriko Wakatsuki is portrayed by actress and model Natsuna. Her credits include the television series DAIMAJIN KANON (大魔神カノン, 2010) and the female lead in the films GANTZ (前編, Gantsu, 2011) and GANTZ: PERFECT ANSWER (前編 PERFECT ANSWER, Gantsu Pafekuto Ansaa, 2011).
Publicity materials from Shochiku state that TIGER MASK will introduce the character to a new generation with a story detailing the origins of the “mysterious masked hero with his hidden identity who selflessly guards and provides for children”. The studio added that the film will expand the Tiger Mask legend while remaining respectful to the original manga story.
Unlike the previous manga and anime incarnations of Tiger Mask, the live action Naoto Date will literally transform into the invincible hero via his Mask. The new Tiger Mask costume has been designed and fabricated in a style reminiscent of the recent film versions of American heroes like Spider-Man and Batman.
Focusing on the message that “any child can be a hero”, the filmmakers expect TIGER MASK to launch a series of hit movies about the action hero.
Naoto Date is a 13-year-old orphan. A frail but smart and caring boy, Naoto lives at an orphanage called the House for Little Rascals with his friends and the owner’s daughter, Ruriko Wakatsuki, who is also 13. One day Naoto learns that the orphanage will be shut down due to an outstanding debt. Before they go their separate ways, the children take one last trip to their local zoo. Naoto and Ruriko stop in front of the tiger enclosure, where Naoto makes a vow that he’ll one day become as strong as a tiger. He is observed by a stranger, the mysterious Mister X, who offers to train him to become a wrestler.
Naoto decides to go with Mister X to a parallel dimension called The Tiger Pit, where he meets the other trainees. Both are boys his age; the friendly Dan and the cold and remote Joe. Reina, the unemotional, cryptic and beautiful trainer keeps a watchful eye on the boys as they endure years of hard training into adulthood.
Mister X presents the young men with three Tiger Masks, one each in gold, white and black. Devised by Mister X, the Masks enhance the wearer’s physical potential, but with one major downside… they also quickly exhaust the wearer, making it impossible for them to fight for an extended length of time. Dan receives the Gold Tiger Mask, while Joe gets the White. The Black Tiger Mask is given to Naoto, who is considered to be the best fighter. Naoto can’t contain his excitement.
Naoto returns to Tokyo and fights in an illegal underground match where bets take place. He wins his first victory with lightning-quick speed and jaw-dropping techniques.
Naoto and his friend Dan visit the orphanage, which has reopened and is now run by Ruriko and her brother Akira, who took charge after their father passed away. After years of training Naoto had almost forgotten the Home for Little Rascals. His rekindled memories inspire him to help Ruriko and the orphans.
Joe has always resented that he didn’t get Naoto’s Black Tiger Mask. So when Dan is about to fight, Joe tells his opponent about the Mask’s weakness. Dan is critically injured in the bout. Mister X has no tolerance for losing and leaves Dan to die.
When he learns of Dan’s death, Naoto is deeply saddened and angered by Joe’s double-crossing. When he goes to Mister X for an explanation, he learns that Mister X is responsible for Dan not receiving medical attention. Naoto decides to leave the Tiger Pit and return to the House of Little Rascals.
At the suggestion of Ruriko, Naoto gets to know the orphans at the impoverished but peaceful orphanage. The pleasant lives they enjoy are a sharp contrast with Naoto’s harsh life at the Tiger Pit. But as Naoto settles down in his new life and growing relationship with Ruriko, there’s a fire at the orphanage. Ruriko can’t figure out how it started, but Naoto suspects that the man who raised him, Mister X, is responsible. Naoto has conflicting emotions about taking on Mister X… but now he must. He grabs the Gold Tiger mask he keeps as a memento of Dan and heads to the Tiger Pit to settle the score.
Naoto fights back to protect the woman he loves, to save the children’s future and to pursue his chosen path. Naoto Date is the Tiger Mask!
World Premiere: November 1, 2012 (American Film Market)
Japanese Theatrical Release: 2013
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Naoto Date: Eiji Wentz
Mister X: Sho Aikawa
Ruriko Wakatsuki: Natsuna
Director: Ken Ochiai
Screenplay: Hidehiro Ito, Itaru Era, Ken Ochiai, Micael. W Schock
Original Story: Ikki Kajiwara, Naoki Tsuji
Producers: Toshiaki Nakazawa, Hidehiro Ito, Yoshihiro Yamamoto
Cinematographer: Chris Freilich
Production: “Tiger Mask” Film Partners
International Sales: Shochiku