Moral Authenticity & The Hero (Tiger & Bunny 16)

[Commie] Tiger & Bunny - 16 [273F368B].mkv_snapshot_16.08_[2011.07.17_22.01.07]

It’s too early to be any conclusive, but I find it impossible not to talk about this episode of Tiger & Bunny. I’ve started rewatching it from the first episode, having convinced my wife who is a comic book hero fan (mostly Wonder Woman and the Justice League) to watch it with me. She’s enjoyed the first few episodes a lot, much to my glee. This afforded me to the Wild Tiger origin story, and how much Mr. Legend figures in his life.

As naïve Kotetsu is, his life is a textbook example of hero worship for Mr. Legend, who pretty much turned his childhood around, and became the template for his heroic aspirations. In the second episode, Wild Tiger paid the favor forward by letting the young super villain do the right thing and set a course for his life to use his powers to protect others; exactly what Mr. Legend did for him.

Episode 16 introduced a bitter twist to all this. We get to know how Wild Tiger’s regard, and worship for Mr. Legend may well be misplaced, and that his own life is following a dangerous, if less luminous trajectory.

[Commie] Tiger & Bunny - 16 [273F368B].mkv_snapshot_11.48_[2011.07.17_21.23.53]

The cruel twist here is that the narrative’s dark anti-hero, Lunatic, is actually the son of Mr. Legend himself. Even more, Mr. Legend had also faced a psychologically damaging loss of his super powers. The monumental crime-fighting records he’s held were manipulated – the heroes of his era were party to juking the stats. Worse, he’s become alcoholic and physically abusive. Lastly, his demise is a dark secret: while beating his wife, Lunatic stepped in and killed him with fire.

Incredible darkness, and far more interesting and dramatic than Barnaby Brooks’ Batman-esque origin story. Lunatic’s mother is still alive, if demented and in full denial of her late husband’s abuse of her, and bears little love for her son who she resents for murdering her husband.

Wild Tiger never reached Mr. Legend’s status. His best days involved this renaissance as Barnaby Brooks, Jr.’s sidekick. This rapid depreciation of his power, combined with the modesty of his “dream” (to be someone who his daughter would consider cool), and the aggregate lack of success in his career lends a delicious pathos to his story. The knife is further twisted because he remains the moral standard for the show, a truly “good” man, and upstanding hero.

[Commie] Tiger & Bunny - 16 [273F368B].mkv_snapshot_20.03_[2011.07.17_22.04.05]

He is authentic, for he lacks the intensity of the vanity that haunted gave Mr. Legend his bitterness. His rage was driven by this vanity. He had to live up to his legendary stature, while his abilities decline. I see this play out in sports. My beloved NBA, my heroes most notably Shaquille O’Neal formerly of the Los Angeles Lakers could not handle the fact that he had not taken care of his fitness, yet thought himself as the star of the team and the centerpiece of the offence by the end of 2004. He had his own Barnaby Brooks, Jr. in the form of Kobe Bryant, who himself was just as vain if not more egotistical. Kobe had the fortune of having having just entered the prime of his playing career.

Shaq had one more championship with the Miami Heat but otherwise played dismally as his abilities rapidly declined. He bounced from team to team, alienating his former coaches and team mates every step of the way. In multiple ways he is Mr. Legend in sports hero form. The difference between professional athletes and professional super heroes is that the moral expectations for the latter are both higher and more explicit. But while humans are highly moral creatures, they are also incredibly morally inconsistent. It is absurd, in fact, to expect people to adhere to incredibly strict moral bounds for their whole lives. Priests and nuns hear confession, and some of them get involved in very unsavory scandals. Mr. Legend has very long odds of staying on top of his game, and he failed as he must fail, as he was doomed to fail. His vanity already dug his grave for him. It was just a matter of time before biology took care of the rest.

image

Superheroes who lose their super powers must retire from active crime-fighting. Their experience must be put to use in other forms of service. Public service as a bureaucrat demands no less moral scruples as it does direct crime fighting. It’s just not as show business-like the way it’s done in Sternbild City. But the moral track record of public servants (who mostly win their positions via political methods) is not very encouraging (that Maverick guy seems very creepy to me), I don’t care what country you come from. Further trouble is, Kotetsu isn’t really qualified to do anything except be Wild Tiger. I suppose he can still be a detective or some kind of law enforcement officer, but that requires a lot more skill than I give him credit for having.

I don’t think Kotetsu will exhibit the kind of self-destructiveness Mr. Legend did. I think what he’ll end up doing is to put himself and others in danger by betting wildly on his delusion that his powers will be there when everybody needs it.

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
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22 Responses to Moral Authenticity & The Hero (Tiger & Bunny 16)

  1. Emperor J says:

    I’m glad I wasn’t the only one seeing similarities to sports here. I tend to see it more like baseball in the 1960s and 70s. Basically everything bad was kept under wraps from above as the players themselves were drinking, using amphetamines to get through a seemingly never ending season and just to stay in the big leagues.

    • Sports personalities are indeed treated as heroes… the gold standard being featured on a Wheaties box, signifying one’s wholesome rightness that’s worth emulation by children. This is why we’re supposed to care who Tiger Woods is fucking.

      I am unfamiliar with Baseball in general and have mostly gotten the swing of it through Hollywood (and Kevin Costner LOL), but I am not shocked by what you’re saying… because maybe I know people are weak, and the more gratifying their lives become, the more indulgent they become as well. Not every athlete can be so consumed by the athletic pursuit itself e.g. Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, etc.

  2. Myssa says:

    P.S. If you freeze a particular frame in the after-episode section of episode 8, you’ll see that Koutetsu/Wild Tiger WAS at one point the King of Heroes. So he HAS been at the top before being partnered with Barnaby.

  3. foshizzel says:

    New arc unlocked awesome stuff so far! I was happy to see more on Lunatic very shocking of course, I did not see the whole Mr Legend was his dad and his very dark past. As bad as that was I think most people have been curious about his past anyway I know I have been for a while.

    Damn I feel bad for Koutetsu dude needs a hug! Well I am sure he will snap out of his funk and return to kick butt, or give it a good try ;D

    • Yeah I didn’t see this coming, but I’m not that sharp perhaps to anticipate such twists, especially if I’m enjoying something this much.

      The ‘good try’ part is such good melodrama. Koutetsu as a ‘fool’ kind of character works so well because he is so good-hearted.

      • Vucub Caquix says:

        You know, I was just saying something similar to Emily about how when I’m wrapped up in the narrative of a show, I tend to more easily dismiss faults and have a harder time thinking critically about it in general.

        I wonder what that phenomenon could be called… is that suspension of disbelief?

        • Nah, when you like something, you end up liking a lot more of it. Things you think you dislike become likable, whether as things you tolerate or as things that add “character” to the whole.

          It’s basically moe. Nobody really likes retards who can barely function as human beings and yet we have Hirasawa Yui who is very popular. Uh, something like that.

  4. bonehimer says:

    Like a lot of retire athletes, Kotetsu could just go directly into advertising or selling Wild Tiger Grills. Maybe crappy children movies? It’d be fairly fitting given how heroes operate. Either way, there needs to be a retirement plan for heroes.

    • LMAO Shaq wasn’t any close to retirement when he made all those shitty movies (and rap albums for that matter).

      Wild Tiger is already a shill, as is every hero. They don’t have that option of endorsement as retirement because endorsement contracts are for those who are in their heroic primes. Unless, it would be for products for the elderly, etc.

  5. Turambar says:

    I find it rather interesting that this is happening with 10 episodes left in the series, meaning a finale with Tiger finally burning out in a moment of heroic glory is pretty much off the table, barring any extreme change to the pacing of the show or some deus ex machina moment.

    A final confrontation of ideology between Tiger and Lunatic has always been expected in the show, but this makes just when and how that confrontation plays out a lot less predictable.

    • TBH I would be happy with a shipper’s finale with you know who ending up with ZOMG you know who!

      Pacing notwithstanding I think 10 episodes is plenty, unless it’s wasteful like Star Driver was with its empty, flashy, and unsatisfying finale.

  6. SquareSphere says:

    I love the parallels of the fading powers to “losing the glory of youth”. Ie the super hero mid life crisis.
    Seeing him visit his family will be interesting, having his daughter ridicule him could send him spiraling even more into depression. I wonder if he’ll finally come clean and tell her about his powers and being wild tiger. THEN telling her he’s losing his powers.

  7. Vucub Caquix says:

    Wow, it’s kind of amazing how many people drew the comparison to sports, myself included even though I’m not a huge sports fan. I’m actually thinking of writing up a post comparing Kotetsu’s situation to retired NFL players, which is a very sad one indeed.

  8. MarigoldRan says:

    Shaq went and got that championship with the Heat. That redeems much. A better example would be Favre of the Green Bay Packers who sucked upon leaving them. But that’s American football.

    For super-hero mid-life crisis, do you know about Watchmen?

    • No doubt about Shaq’s championship w/ the Heat, and then he fulfills the narrative that all who love him feared: losing athleticism, faulty fitness, unmanageable ego, burning bridges, etc.

  9. Marcomax says:

    The sports allegory seems to be at the core of the show. In a Sunrise studio tour, they say the idea for the show was based on conflict between an Olympic swim team and their sponsors
    Here is the link: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/video/17634/
    First part is on Tiger and Bunny, Second part is on Gundam

    • Very cool. Thanks for the link. As I’ve mentioned to an earlier commenter — athletes are the easiest heroes to ‘market’ — they are apolitical, and the narratives and the history they make are apolitical. This makes for an interesting parallel with ‘pro’ superheroes.

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