Tiger & Bunny – 16

Well, along with some popular fan theories, that “thud” you heard was all pretense of Tiger & Bunny being a light-hearted and upbeat series (or was it Kotetsu hitting the dumpster?) Episode 16 was epic and tragic, but it certainly wasn’t happy. It took the series to darker places than any it’s gone before.

Fundamentally this is a story about Kotetsu, and his character arc is the spine that runs through the entire series. There were huge developments there this week, but the biggest shockers of all surrounded Yuri aka Lunatic and the man we knew as Mr. Legend. The cowl was pulled from over our eyes in a beautifully-executed two-stage reveal, starting with some background on Judge Dredd Lunatic. We see how he got the way he was – the anger he felt at watching his alcoholic father beating up his mother. And the awakening of his NEXT powers his anger brought forth, and the moment he became a patricidal killer.

Yuri’s back-story lent a new element of tragedy to his life, and elevated him to a level of interest above that of conventional villain he was. But expertly hidden inside that major reveal was an even bigger bombshell – the man who was Yuri’s father was Mr. Legend. And it was a drunken, bitter Mr. Legend who turned into a serial abuser with man-boobs and gave birth to a dark vigilante terrorist. Yuri’s life is a pathetic and pitiable disaster now, his mother having lost her marbles and blaming Yuri for killing the man she loved, even as he turned into a vicious animal. It’s no wonder he toasts criminals like marshmallows in his spare time – it really just boils down to an opportunity to vent his hatred under the cover of secrecy, and a sham “justice”.

Not satisfied with that expositional coup, the writers now artfully weave all this into the central dilemma of the story, Kotetsu’s slowly declining powers. Old manager Ben calls Tiger out for a drink and drops the bombshell that his problem happened to none other than Mr. Legend himself, which Kotetsu desperately wants not to believe. Legend resorted to fixed crime scenes as his powers declined, taking credit for captures his younger counterparts had already set up for him. It was the anger at this ignominious decline that drove Legend to drink and abuse – and Ben warns Tiger to start thinking about what he wants to do with his life, or risk following Legend’s lead.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of the story of the twilight of Joe DiMaggio’s baseball career. Towards the end, he was so enfeebled that he could barely play the outfield – but he refused to give up his cherished center-field position. So the Yankees put a young phenom named Micky Mantle in right-field and told him to use his blazing speed to cover two positions to make the old man look good. I adore Kotetsu as a character, and the dark place he seems to be heading towards is painful to watch. He’s manhandled by a two-bit serial killer called “Lady Killer”, who harvests strippers from pole-dance clubs and murders them. It’s left to Lunatic to fry the Lady Killer as Tiger lies in a dumpster, unconscious. His fall to the depths could hardly have been displayed more graphically.

This blows the theory that Mr. Maverick is actually Legend completely out of the water. But Maverick is part of this new web, too, as Barnaby reveals that it was he who took the boy in after the death of his parents, with whom he was a close friend. “Uncle Maverick” is the one who fed and clothed and schooled and made it possible for Barnaby to become a hero, but forgive me if I’m suspicious of this heart-warming tale. His involvement in Barnaby’s life – and proximity to him at the time his parents died – arouses great suspicion in me.

Next week, looks like we finally find out what happened to Kotetsu’s wife. I don’t know where this series is going with Kotetsu’s story, but I sincerely hope there’s no magical defiance of time, and he miraculously reverses the loss of his NEXT powers. What makes Kotetsu a great man isn’t his superpowers, and I think it’s a much more interesting story to show us how he adapts to dealing with this new reality. He doesn’t have to follow Legend’s dark path – he’s a kind, funny and honorable man with a daughter who loves him and that should give him plenty of reason to get out of bed in the morning. There’s no sin in turning center-field over to the younger man and getting on with your life.



  1. T

    I usually agree with you, but not here.

    I think it does a disservice to the very much established mood of Tiger and Bunny prior to this episode to claim that its lighthearted and upbeat nature for over half the show was merely a pretense. No, the first two episodes of Madoka Magica are a legitimate pretense… but when you keep that "pretense" up for over half of your series (like Tiger and Bunny did), it's a bit more than merely a pretense. It becomes the show's established identity, in my view, and rapidly changing that identity more than half-way through can leave a very bad taste in my mouth.

    That being said, I'm fine with the idea of Tiger having to adjust to losing his NEXT powers. That much is fine. But I get the sense that this anime wants to put Tiger and Bunny through the angst ringer, by destroying the men who helped inspire and shape them into the heroes they are today (presuming that the suddenly rampant speculation that Mr. Maverick will turn out to be a bad guy is true).

    This isn't what I wanted out of this particular anime show.

  2. I think you're assuming more than I am, to be honest. This was a very, very dark episode – but that doesn't mean every episode for the rest of the series is going to be this dark. If it was, I would have a problem with it.

    Rather, what I hope will happen – and has happened – is that the show takes a more serious turn. Many shows of two cour become more serious in the second. The issue with Kotetsu losing his powers is a terrific development IMO, and doesn't have to be a dark path. I think Kotetsu is a remarkable guy and he can transcend it and that storyline will ultimately be uplifting. The younger heroes can fight on and he can become a father again and look for love.

    If you think about it this has been a pretty cynical series all along – it's just had a lot of humor. I still think you'll get humor – I just think it'll be in the context of the show dealing with more serious issues. I don't have a problem with a very dark and depressing ep of an otherwise bright series if it's done well, and this was. As I said, if the entire rest of the cour were just as downbeat I'd take issue with it.

    We shall see!

  3. T

    Well, I also actually like the "Tiger losing his powers" development. For one, it helps to explain why you don't seem to have any heroes in their 40s or 50s (Tiger himself I assume is in his 30s). I also like the practical lessons and themes that can arise from it (Kotetsu representing how the aging process gradually wears away at certain natural talents, forcing older generations to give way to younger ones).

    I'll also say that if most of the remaining episodes are less dark than this one, then I'll likely be happy with this anime series.

    However, I disagree that this has been a pretty cynical series all along. Tiger and Bunny's victory over Jake Martinez was very uplifting, and anything but cynical. It presented the effectiveness of friendship and teamwork in an upbeat light, if not an idealistic one. We've also seen how close Tiger and Bunny have come to be as friends and teammates after loads and loads of bickering early on. Again, that's anything but cynical.

    Blue Rose has gone from being a person that scoffs at Tiger to being a girl that admires him, and has a crush on him. She's gone from being a faux hero that just wants to be a pop star to someone who takes the hero role a bit more seriously, all thanks to Tiger.

    So I really don't see much cynicism in this anime. Until now, that is.

    Let me also say that I dislike cynicism. I think its overused in entertainment today, and frankly, I disagree with it philosophically too.

    Still, as you wrote, we shall see.

  4. L

    Baseball in my T&B? Well, it fits this time. That last sentence extended your DiMaggio metaphor well. ^_^

    Yuri's daddy problems… hehehe

    I'm with Triple on the cynicism part. The series has some dark moments, but they all had some sort of uplifting resolution that will probably lock the next few episodes into a similar route. Triple listed most of the uplifting results of Kotetsu's grief counseling, which does point out that this series was never a Madoka-like depressing show. But dark or light…

    …we shall see.

  5. S

    Wow, a lot of back story this week and I must say, I really like the latest development. I'm very interested to see how things will unravel on Lunatic's end. Will Kotetsu be able to bring him down knowing what he's been through?
    I guess Maverick could very well be the final boss but I'm also finding it a bit odd that Bunny has moved on from revenge. I know he's taken down Jake Martinez (as we've been led to believe) but there's still the Ouroboros crime syndicate to pursue right?

  6. K

    I can't help but get the vibe that Mr. Maverick had that dude kill Bunny's family. Maybe I have watched too much anime over the years but I have that feeling and can't shake it. We will see as the series plays out.

  7. Maverick had something to do with the murder of Bunny's parents, I'm pretty certain. I'll be very surprised if that's not the case.

    Let me clarify what I mean by cynicism. I'm not arguing that T & B glorifies cynicism – but to some extent, it's a story of the triumph over it. Let's be honest – the entire hero system as presented is an incredibly crass, callous and cynical (how's that for alliteration) system. It's a corporate driven sham that glorifies ratings above actually protecting the public. The heroes themselves – especially Tiger – try to rise above that most of the time. But it's there.

    So my point is that this darkness is not new – it's been present all along. This was the darkest ep, but they won't all be that way. And just because a show presents dark themes, doesn't mean the show can't still ultimately redeem idealism.

  8. A

    i also thought it was dark and loved every minute of it best episode yet XD

  9. S

    An older episode but I have to comment.

    Tiger and Bunny established from the very beginning that Tiger has passed his prime. The first half of the series was almost a way of setting up his brief second wind and legacy. The fact that his direct crime fighting may be over but he's impressed upon all of the youngsters – Bunny, Origami, Rose and Dragon Kids some of his principles.

    I think that's one of the main threads in this series is how a biological parent and also father figures influence a younger generation. And for once we see it from the perspective of the old dude.

    Personally I never got the impression Tiger and Bunny truly deserved the light hearted pigeon hole. You have a 35 year old single father who's almost washed out. . . that alone sets a different vibe than most. It certainly didn't have a morbid and dark premise. But I always saw and felt a more mature undercurrent in the show that up until now hadn't reached the forefront.

  10. Synkronized, I very much agree with your comment and I appreciate you posting – please do so more often!

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