It was perhaps written somewhere that I would be unable to go until October without voicing myself about Tiger & Bunny again. Well, I was bored and I watched episode 19 three times, okay?
Reading fandom reaction, and being consumed in my very thoughts, has led me to write a few considerations about what changed between my first impression of Tiger & Bunny all the way back in May, and what happens now that the show has turned a new leaf for itself. Be warned that this post contains spoilers for the latest episodes, so if you aren’t caught up, don’t go blaming me.
One of the things I like in the recent events is how painfully young Barnaby seems when compared to Kotetsu now. With the entirety of his life put in jeopardy by the confusion of a single memory, crumbling his world down, rendering him a pile of tears and angst, it is clear that Barnaby hasn’t really lived yet. Next to him, Kotetsu is trying to decide what will become of his future, as a result of all the years he has spent as a hero, as a husband, as a father. The weight of his responsibility before his daughter, her future, her feelings, has finally weighted upon his shoulders. The declining of the Hundred Power must have its relevant plot reasons (at one point, I suppose), but it is also the only way Kotetsu would look away from his job at all. The only way he could realize where all the broken promises have led him. Next to these life-changing choices, Barnaby’s problems seem blown out of proportion, a melodrama. Except it’s not. The audience has been merely rendered tired and numb to Barnaby’s pain, all with the cliché opera music, the fire, the usual picture. Perhaps Sunrise’s biggest mistake in the first half of the story, which focused primarily on Barnaby, was to not give us much of Kotetsu. Right now, in the second half, we were expecting more about him, and it has been delivered, but still we have to sustain the truth about Barnaby’s past – one that hasn’t been shocking or unexpected, and we feel like we’re going through the same things again and again.
But perhaps this is Kotetsu’s greatest moment. That he is not here to assist anymore, and in order to do that, we have to take down the King of Heroes, throw him on his knees into a pile of uselessness. Up until now, Kotetsu has been used as a device to boost Barnaby, he has been his contrast, and it is only through him that Barnaby could get to the peace of mind we saw on episode 14. Now we have the same situation again, but it’s through Barnaby’s weaknesses that we can see Tiger shine.
Both characters are clearly flawed, with Barnaby all but throwing elegant temper tantrums in public places, Kotetsu keeping his problems locked in and blocking everyone out, both failing tragically at communication and, of course, trust (and it is amusing that it’s mostly from Kotetsu’s side, when one would have expected it to be the other way around), each episode is a new step in their development. And although most of us, watchers, are tired of the same old tropes, I fail to see the disconnected plot I have seen people complain about. To uncover the plot, layer by layer, is a good thing, not a bad one, as opposed to hitting the audience with exposure from the get-go, overwhelming them with information they are likely to not care about the next minute.
Basically, I can understand the fandom frustration about the Barnaby focus, and I believe the two halves of the show created false expectations (Barnaby arc, Kotetsu arc); however, to connect the two halves also provides a better view of the progress we have seen in each character. From the Barnaby who saw Kotetsu as a meddler to the Barnaby who tells Kotetsu his problems first, and his guardian later; from the Kotetsu who had but superficial relationships with everybody, who took so much for granted in a carefree life, but who is now willing to delay important plans for the sake of another, not because he is a good person, but because he cares. At first they appeared so different, but there are intersections between them, between their personalities: human contact. Barnaby has never had to care for another, Kotetsu has cared for all, and in the end, no one. I believe this is ultimately a step to what the show actually advertises – partnership.
What I fail to understand, however, is the need to further dwell in Karina’s crush, but not dedicate an episode to Antonio and his long friendship with Kotetsu, or to perhaps Nathan, the sharpest of all heroes. No, not so much that I fail to understand, but that I can’t agree with; not because I have anything against Blue Rose herself, but each hero has shown us a piece of themselves, some more vaguely than others. However, Karina is here to cater to an audience, and it would be weird for her to not take the spotlight. At the pace we are going, is there hope for Bison and Fire Emblem? Unlikely. Antonio may have his chance, as Kotetsu’s confidant, but Fire Emblem might have been doomed to support character from the beginning. And the support provided by him, with his all-knowing eyes, doesn’t go unnoticed by us.
The show may be called Tiger & Bunny, and it is obviously on them that it focuses, but it’s so easy to connect to the other characters as well. And what, in the end, shall be Lunatic’s role in all of this? Maybe, Sunrise, this is hope you’re installing in me? That there is more stories to tell? Who knows. But I will definitely keep watching eagerly.