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.