Tiger & Bunny has been avoiding the subject of Kotetsu and Kaede’s relationship for 16 episodes – and I suppose you could say Kotetsu has been avoiding it for 16 episodes. There have been teases and false starts, but both the series and the man have been putting off the hard choices about what kind of father he wants to be. Thankfully, this was no false alarm – the entire episode was dedicated to that answer, with the promise of more to come.
It’s surprising, given what a great surrogate father he is to his younger cohorts, but Kotetsu is an awkward parent (I guess it’s always easier when it’s someone else’s kid). He talks down to Kaede, talks at Kaede, and has a hard time understanding her feelings. While she sleeps in his old room, he’s a remote presence in her life, which revolves around Kotetsu’s mother. Having lost her own mother at four, Grandma is the lifeline Kaede clings to for security and Kotetsu just can’t grasp that fact. This, and the fact that he treats her like the toddler she was when he seemingly last spent any real time with her, provokes a resentment that not even a signed picture book of her hero Barnaby can overcome.
This ep did a lot to paint a picture of who Kotestsu is by filling in the blanks in the background of the portrait. The devoted, widowed mother, the stern older brother, the small-town environment he fled for the big city. Most importantly, the wife and mother who died, Tomoe (seiyuu legend Sakamoto Maaya) who died in her hospital bed when Kotetsu left for heroing duties – left with the promise that he’d always be a hero.
The one element of the episode that didn’t thrill me was the deux ex machina of the convenient typhoon coming along and creating the crisis that brought Kotetsu and Kaede together. I would have rather than had come in a more realistic fashion, rather than having her be trapped in a shrine building probably hundreds of years old about to be destroyed in a collapse of trees and a mudslide. That said, it did serve the larger purpose of getting Kotetsu to the realization he’s needed to find for the entire series – his responsibility to his daughter exceeds his responsibility to Bunny, Sternbild or anyone else.
A lot of folks are bemoaning the fact that Kotetsu may leave the Hero game, but not me. Selfishly, the ending I hope for is the one suggested here – that Kotetsu leaves his Hero gig to become a full-time Dad. And the fact that Kaede is developing NEXT powers makes his presence in her life even more crucial. Rather than sad, I think that’s uplifting – especially as a contrast to Mr. Legend. He’s behaved with honor and in addition to saving lives, he’s been a mentor to many younger Heroes. There’s no shame in turning that responsibility over to the next generation and becoming a hero and mentor to his own daughter. Hasn’t his mother done enough?
Of course, we have eight episodes left and lots of unanswered questions looming, so there’s no way things can be that simple. Will it simply be a case of Tiger staying in the game to see things through to a good end – help Bunny unravel Ouroboros, and deal with Yuri/Lunatic – before going home? Or will things go in a completely different direction? For my money, the cards have been played with this episode – if Kotetsu doesn’t follow through on the insight he gained here that being a full-time Dad is his noble destiny, that would feel like a betrayal to me. I don’t mind waiting for it, but I sure hope that’s where things end up.