Heroism and the Corporation: Tiger & Bunny, Sacred SeveN & Dai-Guard (& Patlabor)

[Commie] Tiger & Bunny - 25 [A35E6DBC].mkv_snapshot_08.30_[2011.09.19_08.13.57]

Two shows just completed: Tiger & Bunny, and Sacred SeveN – Sunrise Studio’s contributions to the hero sub-genre of anime. Both finales are let-downs, this is my sentiment. Overall however, both shows were both interesting and entertaining viewings over the course of their runs. Part of what makes both interesting is how pervasive money and the organization are in the operations of the “heroic enterprise.”

Neither show can be called mecha anime, though each has major elements that are relevant to the interests of a robot anime fan such as myself. This also lets me cross-reference both with a robot anime that is remarkable for its focus on the subject matter of the corporation running the defense of humanity against alien threat, and the lives of the (salary)menpersons that provide such a service: Dai-Guard.

Let’s talk about money.

[Commie] Tiger & Bunny - 25 [A35E6DBC].mkv_snapshot_24.00_[2011.09.19_07.58.19]

The Set-ups:

The setting of Sternbild City of Tiger & Bunny provides an interesting case wherein the crime-fighting element is in part outsourced to a group of for-profit organizations that provide super-powered quasi-legal enforcement agents. While a good number of activities involve petty crimes and small-time heists, there are also super-powered threats that theoretically, at least, are matched by the “super heroes” working on the side of the law.

This is quite similar to the justification of the Patlabor set-up wherein giant robots are part of the police force to counter crimes involving giant robots. Why Patlabor isn’t as relevant to this discussion is that the unit that uses the Patrol Labors are part of the Police, and not some private contractor.

Tiger & Bunny Kotetsu shadow closure notice

It is unclear to me how the money flows into the Tiger & Bunny companies. It would seem that Hero TV is the media arm of the umbrella group/confederation and its revenue model is via the sale of advertising spots. The individual companies that employ each hero have their own licensing, merchandising, and other (e.g. Blue Rose’s pop music) streams. I can only imagine that Hero TV has to have some kind of share in such income, and/or the individual companies also have a share in Hero TV’s ad revenue.

In Sacred SeveN the operations of the hero (Tandoji Alma) is wholly sponsored by the Aiba Foundation. Being named such suggests it is a not-for-profit organization, albeit perhaps dependent on a for-profit investment company, or simply has managed funds that keep the foundation endowed. The primary use of the foundation funds is to provide the means and measures for the hero to combat darkstones, and related operations.

[gg]_Sacred_Seven_-_01_[03F50447].mkv_snapshot_15.34_[2011.07.05_11.34.41]

Part of these expenditures include the acquisition of qualified gemstones that are required to release the hero’s powers in a controlled manner, the acquisition of a high school so as to provide a seamless transition for the hero from socially problematic high school student to a trained fighting/protection agent. Lastly, the deployment of the fighting force includes highly able combat maids and a butler, armed with bleeding-edge technology and weapons including land and air transport, as well as a variable land assault robot.

In Dai-Guard you have a private but publicly traded corporation owning and operating a really, really, huge robot. The purpose of the Dai-Guard initially was to defend Japan against the giant alien monsters that show up to destroy it, only that these threats stopped appearing for 12 years and the giant robot was a great white elephant assigned to the public relations department to get any pitiful return on the investment on it. Of course the monsters reappear, and the reality is, that amateurs from the PR department are piloting and operating Japan’s only hope against the monsters.

dai guard cast

The feel of the show is indeed very corporate with its hierarchies and busywork and protocols. The slices of life of the employees involved are presented humorously but with obvious seriousness. It is at times very critical of the corporate system, with its directors and coups and conflicts, but at the same time it’s very positive towards how the individual must both find onself and be successful as a contributor in a group enterprise.

The show is very vocal about how expensive the operation of the robot is, and almost everything about it lends to the portrayal of a complex venture involving multiple departments, various conflicting interests, including those of external investors – the military being major stockholders of the corporation.

The Dynamics:

Tiger & Bunny Wild Tiger & Origami Cyclone

In Tiger & Bunny we see that the corporate enterprise is very much tied into the political activity of governance of Sternbild City. We see the workings of the organization mostly through the committee run by the Mayor which happens to involve private citizens who are owners of private enterprises (e.g. Maverick).

The portrayal of these individuals is predictably unflattering. They are weak, easily manipulated – the Mayor in particular is more concerned with PR than with actual governance. It’s interesting how both the anti-hero (Lunatic), and the arch-villain (Maverick) are both part of the committee. It’s a cheap way to show a weak government filled with problematic characters.

And yet, they have tremendous power over the operation of the “heroic enterprise,” thus they are obstacles as much as they are enablers.

Sacred SeveN meido commando

In Sacred SeveN there are no real, practical workings of the Aiba Foundation that lends itself to resembling any actual business enterprise. It’s more like how people like Bruce Wayne, Lex Luthor, Tony Stark were in comics back in the 80s/90s where they happen to have such profitable businesses/conglomerates where they are the working executives and yet have so much free time fighting crime/trying to take over the world.

It’s a cute fantasy, to an extent… partly justified by how they inherited very successful and profitable enterprises that supposedly scarcely require their direct intervention. Having never been a scion of incredible corporate wealth, I can’t rule this as outright impossible. It’s part two of the American Dream – after you make all the wealth, your kids inherit both your company and your principles (that somehow remained intact despite your success) that they also fight crime on top of building on your wealth.

Dai-Guard.13.(Dual.Audio).H264.[AM].mkv_snapshot_20.58_[2011.09.19_08.11.56]

In Dai-Guard we see the self-serving executives, directors, managers on both the private corporation’s side and the government/military side. Management is a source of much of the conflict in the show. It’s also interesting (to me at least) in how they set up a “maverick” executive who has to fight and politick his way around a hostile management committee, board of directors, and the military being his former employer and the largest stockholder of his film.

We have the ‘pure’ workers, labor who maybe at times lazy and unqualified to do a number of things, but have a lot of heart that gives the kind of character to an organization that they like to slap on annual stockholder reports, motivational posters, and corporate advertising. It’s a contrived portrayal, but reality does give a veneer of that. It’s the kind of thing you get to see when you eat with the proles in the cafeteria, and then sit with the management committee in the conference room power-meetings. There is condescension from both sides.

Tiger & Bunny Sacred SeveN Dai-Guard
Staff-level Employee Characterization Talents who really want to be heroes Serfs* who really love their master Grunts just trying to get by
Management Characterization Goofy, or Evil (very little in between) Patrons, Feudal Lords, Nobility Self-serving and corrupt
Organizational Dynamics Talent Agency Patronage, serfdom Wage-slavery
Organizational Health Okay Idealized Terrible
Investment Prospectus Hold Sell Short-sell

*Tandoji Alma is not a serf, but is a talent being acquired into the family by eventual marriage.

Whatever you do, regarding these shows, be wary of the advice of management consultants, stock-tippers, and the like; especially those who spend way too much time talking about anime.

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.
This entry was posted in analysis, comparative, Tiger and Bunny and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Heroism and the Corporation: Tiger & Bunny, Sacred SeveN & Dai-Guard (& Patlabor)

  1. ectholion says:

    i am now more sure then ever that sunrise is a organization of high level trolls…

  2. Reid says:

    Knowing that tonight was the “last” episode of “Sacred SeveN”, I thought, let me check out if Ghostlightning had anything to say about it. I’m on my way to check it out as soon as I get done with this comment. I’m sorry to hear you weren’t that impressed with it – that’s news that doesn’t exactly fill me with anticipation…

    I really like your comparison of how “hero services” are provided in “Dai-Guard”, “Sacred SeveN” and “Tiger & Bunny”. It’s something that I myself thought was interesting from the first few episodes I saw of both, especially considering how both are Sunrise productions airing at the same time. Maybe this “duality” is something we can come to expect from Sunrise in the future. Say, for example, how we’ll be seeing the conclusion to “Gundam Unicorn” and the start of “Gundam the Origin” close to the same time (ultimate telling of the “end” of the Zeon conflict vs. the ultimate telling of its beginning), not to mention how “Gundam Age” will soon begin as well (introducing/reintroducing hardcore fans to the gritty UC timeline vs. intruducing new [and younger] fans to a more kid-friendly timeline that hopefully opens up all new money-making merchandising opportunities).

    • Of course it’s also worth mentioning The King of Braves Gao Gai Gar with its rather corporate structure, though I haven’t seen the TV series so I can’t really comment much. I can’t really say much about this idea about Sunrise, but I’m glad that they would consider covering their bases this way, giving different fans of the same sub-genre/franchise their own bones to chew on — which should at least have a fundamental counterargument to all the stupid whiny fans that’ll raise a shitstorm anyway.

      • Matt Wells says:

        The Gutsy Galaxy Guard isn’t quite THAT corporate. They’re a special pseudo-military/scientific detatchment funded initially by the Japanese government, and backed by the UN. When they go global, they widen their employment recruitment program. They’re mostly scientific reserachers and maintenance staff who are responsible for the upkeep of the Braves Squad and investigating all possible means to combatting the Zonder threat. Their leaders are all ex-military, and the Braves themselves are all tactically trained to combat specs. Specialist personel are recruited on a necessary basis, entirely with the cooperation of their sovereign nations.

        In return they are granted access to the most cutting edge technology, which they in turn contribute to their own military and GGG. China and France both built their own sof Ryu twins, and America built the Mike Sounders squad. When Zonder hostilities ceased, these robots were returned to their principal countries. They occasionaly have to answer to budget reviews, and supreme authority over them is designated by the UN high command. Otherwise, they’re failry autonomous, and given precedence in all extraterrestrial threats to the Earth sphere.

  3. Reid says:

    Well, that was…something. I can’t say I was expecting the dumb (and very ugly) costume changes at the last friggin’ minute (at least in the heroes’ cases, the villain looked pretty cool) or the easily resolved (really with almost no effort at all, it seems) “I will become a god” plot Kenmi had going on. “Sacred SeveN” is a show that definitely would have benefited from more episodes that actually did something instead of just showing off Arma’s “powers as the plot requires them.” I’m really sort of put off by the whole thing, especially considering how much I enjoyed the show up until THE LAST EPISODE. If I consider the real possibility that there won’t be a continuation to the story, then I don’t see much chance for “Sacred SeveN” to regain the place it held, if ever so fleetingly, in my heart (sad face, indeed). We didn’t even get to see the Engagement Suit take on an opponent it could actually stand toe to toe with and win(something Ghostlightning hoped would happen, if I remember the detail from his first post on the series). Overall, I’d say there were a lot of missed opportunities for some truly awesome stuff in “Sacred SeveN”, but it failed big time, to my notion.

    Maybe this counts as my “Gundam 00″ moment? Well…maybe it would if “Gundam 00″ wasn’t already my “Gundam 00″ moment…what’s with all these new shows failing to live up to their potential?!

    • I didn’t expect much, I just wanted cool action, but sadly the action in the finale wasn’t cool enough. The Engagement Suit battle wasn’t conclusive, which sucks. This can’t be a Gundam 00 moment because it’s too short. It takes 50 episodes to truly betray you.

      • Reid says:

        I agree with the last part…partially. As I’m sure I’ll never let you forget, it only took 25 episodes and a movie for “Eva” to betray me :)

        But seriously, didn’t you think those new suits they gave to Arma and Knight (and especially to Fei all of a sudden!) were really, really dumb and ugly?Ho

        Particularly lol-worthy was the whole “Hon-niisan! I’ve saved you with this magic bullet-serum-gun-thing. Yay! Oh wow. Now you’re dead and your heart crystal (WTH? Sailor Moon?) got used by the villain because…he now wants to be a god…like the…Aztecs…said would happen?” hahaha I lost it there. Dang, this show let me down.

  4. I tend to look at things more simplistic. Tiger & Bunny I liked, had some interesting characters, dark conspiracies and good character development at least for the protagonist pair. Some of the rest had episodes dedicated to them but I don’t think that’s enough.

    Sacred SeveN just disappoints, most of the time we see the cute loli being saved from the superhero, character development and backgrounds kept at minimum, the fights and superpowers follow all the classic cliche.

    Dai Guard was not great in the mecha aspect or the fights, but was better than the other two in emphasizing the inner workings of how the organizational structure works, along with the strengths and weaknesses of the piloting crew. Portrays a more realistic corporate environment with all it’s problems, and that’s why it wins in my list.

    Maybe it’s my cynical self, but between the three I would select Dai-Guard any time. I omitted Patlabor simply because I never watched it, can’t have an opinion.

    • What were you expecting from Sacred SeveN? It did exactly what it wanted to do, but didn’t do enough of it.

      All this talk about Character Development is something I address from time to time. Development of characters isn’t necessary for a show to be good. If that’s what you want out of every show, then you go look for shows that do that for you. Tiger & Bunny is less of an ensemble show than it is Kotetsu & Barnaby’s story. The others are side shows used to flesh out the world. Origami Cyclone was used to flesh out the setting by introducing the NEXT school and its weirdos, as well as to underscore how ruthless Lunatic was.

      Sky High is a device to introduce the androids and the Brooks.

      Dragon Kid is a device to flesh out low-level crime and how Kotetsu sucks as a parent — but he’s trying! LOL, also general underscoring of the parental theme.

      Blue Rose is a fanservice character through and through, servicing the December-May fantasies of a subset of viewers.

      The rest are bit players. Any characterization the side characters have are in service of moving the plot.

      This is no great tragedy. I can look at a show like Redline which has even less of the kind of “development” people complain about and love the film for its characters? How is this possible? It’s because development is less relevant than people make out of it.

      Dai-Guard is boring, mostly because the presentation is lighthearted but the comedy isn’t strong, as are the action and animation.

      Patlabor is great stuff. You’d love all the “development” there — I suppose start with the OVA.

  5. SquareSphere says:

    Interesting write up. Think you hit it right on the nose about company making money aspect.

    T/B I think the Hero’s are actually employed by certain media agencies that actually pool funds into Hero TV that provides maintenance training (their hero work out place), central communication (their notification bracelets), and dispatch of crimes. Hero TV makes their money based on viewer ratings (combination of commercials and direct ad placement on heros which is probably split with the media agencies). The Agencies make money based on ad placement, product sponsorships, and appearances (some side income like Blue Rose’s music deals)

    Dia Guard, specifically the PR division after the monster showed up, made their money based on insurance. Genius really, which is why there were some eps where there’s tons of damage done to clients and the one board guy is crying about how much they’re going to have to pay out in claims. Course 21st Defense Security also does other things like personal security devices down to providing renta cops for malls.

    Sacred Seven… I dropped after 2 eps. It’s more of the “We’re rich, lolz.”

    Obviously T/B is going to get a lot more fleshed out money wise cause obviously the crimes ares still going on regularly enough to keep Hero TV in business.

    • I think your interpretation of the T & B business models are more accurate.

      You’ll have to explain this insurance business to me in Dai-Guard. Who’s providing the insurance? Insurers make their money by charging premiums and not paying claims. If there are a lot of valid claims, they’re screwed.

      • SquareSphere says:

        You have the basic concept, “Insurers make their money by charging premiums and not paying claims.”

        Now think about what 21st Century Security has that other insurance providers don’t…. :D it’s the quake monitoring facilities and the most accurate Heterodyne prediction models. The only other people that have access to this tech is the Military… who is a majority stake holder in 21st. This allows them to do “best in industry” risk assessments and can model their insurance plans based on the percentage of a Heterodyne appearances.

        From a sales perspective they can actively target “low heterodyne risk” areas but charge a “Dai Guard Protection Guarantee” premium, maximizing payments with low risk of actually having to pay out. Obviously, they can also sell in high Heterodyne risk areas, but know that they will charge out the butt for coverage.

        It’s like what Domeki (Head of the Tech Division) said, No one really knows what the “purpose” of the Heterodynes are, but she’s given up on that question. In doing so, it allows her to focus on dealing with them in the here and now. Like with questions of, are the quakes that allow Heterodynes to come through regular? Do they follow a “season” model like Typhoons. Hence, you’ll see stuff like, Quake Percentage being used like someone following the weather.

        I worked in the financial/insurance/risk industries so when the show had hints of it, I was completely fascinated and found they actually had a sound business model there.

        • Brilliant! I love it. I almost want to see the actuarial stuff they actually used.

        • schneider says:

          Holy shit, that explains a lot about that side of the show, thanks for sharing your knowledge!

        • Matt Wells says:

          Brilliant assessment, its a shame the show itself never went into such details about 21st Century Security’s business model. One of the thing’s I love about Dai-Guard is how they normalise giant monster attacks: Heterodyne attacks are just another natural disaster that Japan has to deal with, like earthquakes or tsunamis. The monsters aren’t here to conquer the fourth dimension, they’re just as natural and morally neutral as a hurricane. Ingenious twist on the whole tradtional Kaiju formula.

          • SquareSphere says:

            I know right, the fact that the monsters are just there so they have to deal with it as a natural disaster, ie Life goes on, is FANTASTIC. It’s as close to a decent slice of life + kaiju anime I’ve seen. The only thing the show as kinda of missing was how “normal” people reacted during these occurrences.

            There were little blurbs here and there, like how (in the english dub) 3 school girls were talking like normal when one brings up the fact that she knows where the next heterodyne attack will be based on the subway lay out. Drunk guy on the same train says that’s a stupid theory when the attack occurs.

            It’s these little things, and actions of the normal office and Dai Guard maintenance workers that really still cement Dai Guard as one of my favorite animes of all time.

  6. Vendredi says:

    The language used in Tiger and Bunny feels very reminiscent of the way idols and similar pop stars tend to be handled in Japan – as salaried workers employed by a talent agency (rather than actor-entrepreneurs hiring a manager to represent themselves). The various talent agencies coordinate among themselves via informal agreements in order to share screentime, movie roles, etc. between their pool of workers – the ultimate goal not being so much as to keep landing acting/singing jobs for their workers, but to start out with them, get famous, and then land lucrative endorsing deals.
    Certainly Kotetsu is very much at the mercy of his boss, and there’s definitely a lot of pressure on Heroes to maximize their visibility, which leads me to conclude there are plenty of endorsement deals that happen off-camera. It also explains Origami’s continued employment as well, despite his consistently low standing.

  7. sadakups says:

    I’ve yet to finish both T&B and S7, but damn, Daiguard is something that makes me smirk every time I see it. It’s like I can relate how shitty corporate life is and having to operate a super robot is something that can make my work interesting. Sorta.

  8. Kaioshin Sama says:

    Tiger and Bunny I loved pretty much all throughout. Can’t say I was disappointed in much other than the noticeable animation quality drop during the lead up to the climax of the show that reached a peak in the episode where Bunny gets brainwashed by Maverick for the first time. Also I think it’s important to mention that the probable reason the finale leaves a bit of a lukewarm (perhaps the better word is inconclusive) impression is because it’s likely not really the finale and is more of a transition into what is looking to be a for sure second season. It’s not over yet, but the show has so far stayed very true to itself and the core values it espoused from the beginning (ones that hit all the right buttons with me) so again I have very little in the way of regrets about anything to do with the show save the above bits and it’s almost overwhelmingly a positive experience and a kind of show I don’t get to see all that often anymore.

    As such Tiger and Bunny Is probably my favorite show of the year or at least tied closely with Steins;Gate in terms of keeping things engaging and keeping me coming back every single week.

    Sacred Seven I can’t really say too many good things about nor really too many bad things about. I came in expecting a mostly action romp with a bit of a Brave Saga feel that doesn’t take itself too seriously most of the time and that’s exactly what I got so expectations essentially met. It doesn’t make for the worlds greatest anime watching experience nor did I ever for a second expect such a thing going in, but I enjoyed watching it, had some laughs along the way, and cheered for some gar action sequences so I guess that’s what matters in the end.

    You should have used Daitarn 3 and Trider G7 as an example too. Perhaps you haven’t seen them, but they are available now and both feature a rich protaganist character that is the head of a company and uses it to fund giant robots to fight monsters.

    • It’s a solid show and I’m glad it exists. At some point it got so good that my expectations got raised and got the better of me.

      Yeah, Sacred SeveN is just fine if you approach it that way, and I enjoyed it pretty much because I didn’t really expect much from it.

      You’re right about Daitarn 3, but I can’t bring myself to watch beyond the crazy first episode, same with Trider G7.

  9. Had not heard of Dai-Guard before reading this, but it sounds awesome. I love it when common genre tropes are played out to their logical conclusions, such as the nuts and bolts of financing and operating a giant robot, so I think I’ll check it out.

    I shared your complaints about the shortcomings of the Tiger vs. Barnaby showdown, but overall I enjoyed the series and remain hopeful for the second season. Now that they have a fairly well established audience (consisting of 95% yaoi fangirls…), maybe they’ll get the budget they need to pull off some more satisfying action sequences. I think I read a comment on here earlier that said that T&B was done by the second string animation team, and with any luck the things they were able to do with the resources they were given will allow the second season to leverage more funding.

    If they can finally give the show the fight scenes it deserves, Kotetsu can go ahead and propose to Barnaby for all I care. I hope they have a happy life together. Hell, with the way they were cranking up the Bromance dial during the last few episodes, that may not even be so farfetched. Let’s hear it for the power of gayness to keep shows afloat!

    • If they can finally give the show the fight scenes it deserves, Kotetsu can go ahead and propose to Barnaby for all I care. I hope they have a happy life together. Hell, with the way they were cranking up the Bromance dial during the last few episodes, that may not even be so farfetched. Let’s hear it for the power of gayness to keep shows afloat!

      A viewer after my own heart. W..will you marry me?

      • Well, I have been learning how to cook fried rice. If I comment on how long your eyelashes are, I think that constitutes a legally binding marriage, as far as fangirls are concerned.

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