I have a hard time coming up with anything negative to say about this penultimate episode of Tiger & Bunny. It had just about everything I wanted – great action, drama, heartbreak, suspense, Lunatic, and it didn’t ignore the issue of Tiger losing his powers. Sure, the “push the button?” monologues among the heroes lacked a certain drama knowing none of them would do it, and in a perfect world I would have liked the series to approach the climax with a somewhat less conventional treatment. But if you’re going to go the conventional route, you may as well do a great job of it.
It looks like the Ben issue from last week may have been a false alarm, as there was no further indication that he might be working for the enemy. Still, he and Saito performed no useful function at all and I’m still left to wonder why he’s been on screen so often these last two weeks. Meanwhile, we see that Lunatic got winged by Robo-Tiger in their last encounter, and he pledged to unmask Maverick – who he was staring daggers at during the council meeting. I suspect that will be part of the story in the finale, with the other heroes consumed with the Kotetsu drama as Yuri/Lunatic takes the fight to Maverick now that Rotwang and his pit bull have been incapacitated.
But of course, most of the focus this time was on the roof on Justice Tower. As the heroes debated whether to press the button as Rotwang mocked them, Tiger & Bunny were doing battle with Robo-Tiger. Kaede took care of the first – Blue Rose having been the last NEXT to touch her, she uses her powers to free herself and to freeze Rotwang (even giving us a classic hero pose in the process). But the battle wasn’t going so well, and Kotetsu and Barnaby had to resort to using Robo-Tiger’s own weapon – in a fashion that Kotetsu surely knew would take him down as collateral damage. It was a classic self-sacrifice, even as Kotetsu tried to convince Barnaby he’d be fine. The best part of all that was the aftermath, as Kotetsu lay – apparently (I’ve been using that word a lot this weekend) – dying. Sure, it was fujoshi-bait of the highest order, but it was well done. It was fitting that it was his powers running out that caused Kotetsu to fall, and only at the end was he forced to admit the problem to Barnaby. I’d been worried, frankly, that the entire issue would be glossed over.
So this is the time for the “are they really dead?” debate in anime – first Shouma (guessing no) then Ayaka (50-50%) and finally and most heart-wrenchingly Kotetsu. Of course this is going to consume the discussion for the next week, and full points to Sunrise for not spoiling the answer in the preview. Sunrise being legendary for killing off major characters, this was always a possibility. And there’s supplemental evidence that Kotetsu could really be dead. His arc could be argued to have run its course – he saved the city, he made peace with his daughter, his time as a hero was coming to an end anyway. But another part of me refuses to believe that even Sunrise would kill off a character this well-loved, especially with a second season a near-certainty. I feel as if part of the message of this story is that there’s more to life than being a hero, that other things are more important – and that doesn’t jibe well with Kotetsu dying at this point. His life is really just starting, and he has a daughter with whom he has a lifetime (for her) of missed time to make up.
So I guess it really boils down to which impulse wins out, Sunrise’s normal nature vs. poetic justice vs. crass commercialism. If there is to be a second season, I suppose the case could be made that Kotetsu dying would make sense as it would end this chapter with an exclamation point and clear the stage for a new drama. It could also be argued that with his powers fading he has no easily reconcilable role to play in the second season, though I personally disagree with that view. On the other hand, do you really want to start off a second season without the singular character of the franchise, easily the most beloved character in the story? You certainly couldn’t call it “Tiger & Bunny” without Tiger, and I refuse to accept anyone else – even Kaede – being blithely inserted into the role. At this point I’m going to say 60-40% in favor of Kotetsu being alive, and it would have been 75-25% with a different studio. Sure, maybe that’s my heart talking – but I don’t mind admitting it, I love Kotetsu. When the time comes for “Male Character of the Year” it’s going to be difficult to vote for anyone else (even Okabe) based on what I’ve seen so far. Kotetsu is just a flat-out fantastic character and utterly loveable, and I hate the idea that he might actually be dead. It’s gonna be a long week…