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The Tiger Mask ("Taiga Masuku")

North American Premiere
  • Japan
  • 2013
  • 91 mins
  • HD
  • Japanese
  • English (subtitles)
Hosted by Co-Writer/Director Ken Ochiai

Naoto Date is a teenager living at an orphanage with his friends and the owner's daughter, Ruriko. Bad news has arrived: the orphanage must close down because of financial problems. On a final visit together to their local zoo, Naoto promise Ruriko that he will one day become as strong as a tiger. Those are portentous words — Naoto later meets the mysterious Mister X, who offers to train him as a wrestler. Naoto is brought to a parallel dimension called the Tiger Pit, where he meets two other trainees, the friendly Dan and bad-ass Joe.

After years of training, Mister X presents the young men with three Tiger Masks, which enhance the wearer’s physical abilities (with one major downside: they are quickly exhausted). Dan receives the Golden Tiger Mask, Joe gets the White Tiger Mask, and the Black Tiger Mask is given to Naoto, who is considered the best fighter. Their training is complete — but a fantastic tale of loyalty, treachery and wrestling-ring excitement has just begun!

In 1968, manga writer/artist Naoki Tsuji created Tiger Mask, an orphan who becomes a wrestler to fight villains and give children a positive role model. The comic’s wild popularity led to an anime series in 1971, followed by an animated feature film and another TV series. In the ’80s, Tiger Mask came to life as a flesh-and-blood, supremely acrobatic wrestler portrayed by Satoru Sayama. He was followed by other wrestlers taking up the mantle and namesake — right to this day, the real-world Tiger Mask fights on! In 2010, a child-care facility in Tokyo received an anonymous Christmas donation, which led to a flood of further gifts, all in the name of Naoto Date. Called the Tiger Mask Movement, this collective moment of good deeds reignited the character's popularity and sparked the production of this feature-film debut by Ken Ochiai, an award-winning director of short films. Enlisting Eiji Wentz (KITARO) and Sho Aikawa (Takashi Miike's ZEBRAMAN) to head his cast, Ochiai has revamped Tiger Mask, replacing the spandex leotards with latex action suits like the Marvel movie superheroes and injecting the battles with Hong-Kong-style choreographic thrills. Shochiku has initiated a new Japanese superhero franchise with THE TIGER MASK — be sure to get a ringside seat for its dynamic debut!

— André Dubois