There’s almost too much happening in Tiger & Bunny lately, though most of it is certainly compelling. If I’m to find fault with this episode, it’s that Kotetsu’s inability to actually follow through on his promise to quit was eminently predictable. I really feel for the guy – he’s on the horns of a real dilemma here. Barnaby is his best friend and he really wants to help him, and he truly does love being a hero. But his daughter needs him desperately, and he made a promise to her. There are no easy answers, but I really hope T & B doesn’t drag this out endlessly with more tortured scenes where Kotetsu is making the “speech”, only to be interrupted before he can finish. Seen it a thousand times before.
But other than that, this was another rock-solid episode. If there’s anything that’s been done to death in anime these last few years it’s tsundere, but Blue Rose’s tsundere reaction to Tiger’s absence and return was one of the best I’ve seen. This anime has always been great about capturing the little awkward mannerisms and gestures that make up human communication (Kotetsu slipping into his mask when Barnaby was on the video phone with Samantha is a great example) but Rose’s were spot-on. It’s certainly no secret that she’s got a thing for Kotetsu, but it was pretty hilarious watching the others sell her out completely when she tried to act all cool. And she didn’t flip and start the screaming and denials – she just blushed and mumbled a “welcome back” to (oblivious) Kotetsu.
Of course there were two major storylines playing out in direct competition with each other here, with Kotetsu caught in between them. Kriem has awoken from her coma, and spills a pretty compelling backstory about how she came to be with Jake that paints him in a considerably more sympathetic light than before. Before she yanks her tubes and expires, she tells Barnaby that Jake couldn’t have killed his parents because he was busy kidnapping her that day – a fact that appears to be proven out by the fact that Jake had no Ouroboros tattoo on his hand. Of course Jake was no hero and his ideology was deeply flawed in a Makoto Shishio sort of way – as Kotetsu was correct in pointing out. But still, Jake was the only one who showed the young Kriem any kindness at all.
This new revelation sends Bunny into a bit of a tailspin, at first refusing to believe his memory is flawed. But then, in Jake’s place he starts to see other faces in his mind from that terrible day – his housekeeper/nanny, Kotetsu, Lunatic, even himself. This has led some to believe his memories have intentionally been tampered with, which is a notion that makes a lot of sense. I don’t quite by the implication that he’s some sort of cyborg, but it does seem feasible that someone has found a way to manipulate his memories, which in my mind implicated Maverick. He seems to have been manipulating Barnaby generally since he was a kid. Of course, Barnaby’s existential crisis throws a wrench into Kotetsu’s plan to tell Bunny he’s quitting – a good excuse, though I’m not convinced he had the balls to tell him anyway (and Kaede isn’t buying it). This was one of the few times I’ve really felt disappointed in Kotetsu – this conflict-avoidance thing isn’t something to be proud of, and his first duty is to his daughter.
Speaking of Kaede, the mystery surrounding her powers deepens. Kotetsu’s Mom tells him that she’s been struggling to control her hundred power, inadvertently breaking things left and right. But then she seems to develop a second power – magnetism. Puzzling enough, but then Kotetsu’s brother tells her that she has one power, but it’s the ability to copy other powers from any NEXT she touches. Well, that leads to a few obvious questions, not least of which is – who did she touch that has the magnetism power? Was it her Uncle? And has it occurred to her to wonder who she touched that has the hundred power? If Kaede hasn’t put the pieces together and ID’d her father as Tiger, I suspect she will soon. I’m not confident in saying just what her NEXT powers are or that Kotetsu’s brother is a NEXT, but it’s an interesting idea.
So T & B is at something of a crossroads here. These two storylines are nowhere close to resolution, and it seems impossible for Kotetsu to be able to deal with both of them at once. Barnaby’s mystery is worse than ever, and he’s even talking about quitting as a hero over his confused state. According to Kriem Ouroboros is alive and well, and sure to be a problem as the series moves forward. But Kaede is in a real crisis, and it seems like only Kotetsu can help her get through it. Can he possibly leave her high and dry again? His mother has basically said she won’t cover for him anymore, and I don’t blame her. It seems to be that Kotetsu’s duty is to be at Kaede’s side – Barnaby is a grown man and she’s a ten year-old child, his child at that. But the show has done a great job misdirecting so far, and I don’t have any confidence in predicting how it will deal with this dilemma. Whatever happens next figures to be great fun to watch.