It’s not an exaggeration to say there’s very little that hasn’t been done in the superhero genre. I think they ran out of original straight-up stories a couple decades ago, and at this point there have been so many reboots and parodies and satires that the satires themselves are starting to be satirized. In short – if you can imagine it, it’s probably been done.
So I don’t really hold it against Tiger & Bunny that it isn’t exactly the freshest flower in the vase. Fact is, this feels pretty fresh. The reason, I think, is that Sunrise is really fully committed to the idea of a superhero slice-of-life series. Yes, we get our little action sequences every week – but they’re really like little “Afterschool Specials”, designed to illustrate the larger point being told in the episode. As Sackett over at Animesuki said, this is kind of a “buddy cop” show as much as anything – the grizzled, fading veteran and the clever, naive rookie teamed up against their will. And any good buddy-cop series is really about the lives of the cops.
This week was nominally about Karina, the “Blue Rose” of the heroes guild and famous for her Pepsi commercials. She’s a high-schooler who really wants to be a singer, and is only doing the hero gig because the agency she works for demanded it as part of the deal. She’s a likable enough addition, but this is really about Wild Tiger – to show us that Kotetsu never really stops being a Dad. He’s the last idealist, Tiger – he saves people because it’s the right thing to do. Naturally this attitude rubs off on the cynical but impressionable Karina, just in the nick of time for her to save everyone at the burning oil rig (whoops) in the middle of the bay.
A simple message, even sappy – but that’s Tiger & Bunny. On the one hand it takes great pains to show us that even the seemingly exotic and spectacular is really mostly mundane and distasteful underneath. But it also takes pains to show that Kotetsu represents a kind of triumph of the spirit – a guy who isn’t the best at what he does but always manages to keep smiling and doing the best he can for those he cares about. And in his case, that’s just about everybody – even the bad guys, sometimes. We’ve seen the glorification of the mediocre in superhero comics before, but this is a pleasant and heartfelt take on it. So far, it’s been a winning formula.