Original title: Tiger mask
Characters: Naoto Date, Daigo Daimon, Kentaro Takaoka, Mister X, Big Tiger, King of Tigers, Big Tiger, Black Tiger, Giant Baba, Antonio Inoki, Saka
Author: Ikki Kajiwara
Directed by: Takeshi Tamiya
Year: 2 October 1969
Broadcast in Italy: 1982
Episodes: 105 mm
Duration: 22 minutes
Recommended age: Teenagers aged 13 to 19
The Tiger Man cartoons were broadcast for the first time in Italy on Rete 4 in 1982 and later on several regional private broadcasters. The first series began in Japan in 1969 and was produced by Toei Animation. Based on the manga by Ikki Kajiwara (story) and Naoki Tsuji (drawings), the Tiger Man cartoons are divided into 105 episodes scripted by Massaki Tsuji, directed by Takeshi Tamiya and drawings by Keiichiro Kimura. To remember the Italian theme song "L'Uomo Tigre" sung by Riccardo Zara and I Cavalieri del Re.
For the violence of the images, this cartoon certainly is
not recommended for children, even if there is a strong appeal to universal values such as solidarity with the marginalized, friendship and sporting loyalty.
The story of the Tiger Man is that of Naoto Date, an orphan who grew up in the "Chibikko House" institute, who is deceived by a criminal organization called "La Tana delle Tigri". Their purpose is to train the boys in wrestling and wrestling, with cruel and cynical methods in order to make them so ferocious that they can earn on their victories in various fights. The workouts are real torture, with fights to the death and fights against ferocious animals, so that the true champion can emerge, by "natural selection". Naoto Date manages to overcome all the tremendous tests and becomes the first fighter of the "Lair of the Tigers". To hide his true identity during the fighting he hides his face with a Tiger mask and calls himself "Tigerman", The Tiger Man.
Initially the Tiger Man is very cruel in his fights and in the violence he pours out all his anger and frustrations related to his past, to the point of being nicknamed "the yellow devil" by the public who detest him, but soon there will be a episode that will change his attitudes. One day he goes to the orphanage where he grew up and meets little Kenta, a surly and rebellious child, his admirer who reminds him of his sad childhood and sees himself at his age. So he decides to deny the Tana delle Tigri and donate the winnings to the orphanage, in order to make a more dignified life for the children of the institute and in this he is also supported by Ruriko, a childhood friend who runs the orphan house together with Wakatsuki. The wrestlers of the Tigers' Den, considered him a traitor, want his death so he will have to face them in the ring during the various episodes. The fighters will be selected and trained by the terrible Mister X, a despicable and cowardly individual. The adversaries that Tiger Man will encounter will be one more terrible than the other as Gorilla Man, a man raised in the wild as a beast and endowed with monstrous strength. Golden Mask, equipped with a mask that emits radiation that can blind his opponents. Dracula who, like the well-known vampire, sucked the blood of his opponents with terrible bites. Lion King the strongest fighter, Kamikaze the martial arts expert, Yeti the snowman and many others. After eliminating all these opponents, the Tiger Man will have to contend with the same leaders and masters of the Tiger's Den, such as Big Tiger, Black Tiger and King Tiger and finally against Black Mystery, the most powerful of all, against which he will give vent to all his anger. Within the organization of the Lair of the Tigers, Naoto will also meet loyal and sincere people such as the fighter Daigo Daimon nicknamed Mister Fudo, who will be willing to do anything to help his friend, but unfortunately will die in combat against the Black Tiger. Ken Takaoka, the Yellow Demon will also become a close friend of the Tiger Man, not before he hated him as he was accused by Mister X of being the murderer of his mother. Understood the deception Ken takes the side of Naoto.
Given the great success in 1981, the second series was also made, divided into 33 episodes in which there will be several changes starting from the drawings, more accurate and much less stylized than the previous version. In place of the Tigers' Lair we find another criminal organization called the "Space Federation" led by the rich Arab oilman Hassan, whose aim is to destroy the NJPW (New Japan Pro Wrestling Federation, a real-life federation, founded by Antonio Inoki in 1972). Wearing the Tiger Man's clothes this time is no longer Naoto Date, but Tommy Haku (Tatsuo Aku in the Japanese original) a journalist who also grew up in the same orphanage as his predecessor and also trained at the Tigers' Den. Tommy will do anything to hide his true identity from his fellow journalists. Among the various opponents that the new Tiger Man will face are the Sparrowhawks, who fight with trained raptors, as well as the British Bulldogs who fight with dogs. The thing that characterizes this series is the appearance of athletes from wrestling and other real sports such as Hulk Hogan, The Butcher, Andrè The Giant, Tatsumi Fujinami and Antonio Inoki himself. In the last episodes there will also be female figures to fight, such as Rita inspired by Japanese wrestling figures like those of Madusa, Leilani Kai, Fabolous Moolah and Mae Young.
Even in real wrestling there were several athletes who were inspired by the figure of the Tiger Man, first of all Satoru Sayama, better known as Tiger Musk, who decided to wear this mask after winning the fight against the champion Dynamite Kid.
by Gianluigi Piludu
Tiger Man and all names, images and registered trademarks are copyright 1969 Toei Animation - Play World Film - ITB - Italian TV Broadcasting and of the entitled persons and are used here for cognitive and informative purposes.