It’s novel for anime, a spin on the Captain Amazing character from the Mystery Men (1999) film. I don’t love that film, though I found it novel and funny in places. So, there’s no nostalgia for me here. That said, I can only hope that this show will have lines like:
I need a compass to show me which way the wind shines.
–Mr. Furious (a super hero whose “power” is to get very, very angry)
If I’m writing about how this show is for old men, what do I mean? I mean that the ironies and satire the show brings into play benefit most from a more experienced perspective on life. Something beyond a university education, perhaps beyond working for a living, and right there with raising children. More on this later.
One thing I noticed is that the first episode is rather devoid of popular contemporary come-ons from anime. This show doesn’t meta the otaku database (wow, what a sentence). In this sense it’s actually more accessible, imagine that!
The CMs invoked are easy to understand, as even Sesame Street acknowledges that CMs are ideal formats for communicating ideas to children. But going back to the otaku database, there is a great dearth of female characters. Just two girls among the ‘heroes,’ though they skew quite young, only one can be considered having the predominantly loli appeal that works for many otaku. And they are rather minor characters in the episode.
Kotetsu T. Kaburagi (Tiger) and Barnaby Brooks Jr. (Bunny) are both adults (and look like adults – though Barnaby could be a teenager¹), the former already being a father of a school age daughter. Kotetsu is a super hero past his prime, perhaps in his 30s (positively geriatric in anime age value systems). His concerns involve livelihood, career, and fatherhood. These are decidedly mundane compared to your average teenage protagonist’s. From other Sunrise shows, a sample of such concerns would include:
- Uniting the natural born and enhanced humans of the world.
- Creating a world wherein a younger sister would never have to cry.
- Fighting wars to establish peace.
- Bring the key to unlock the box that will undo the Federation and right the Universal Century.
While it is obvious that shows featuring younger characters will have them come of age, but often they become the kind of adults that are downright saintly, nay, Jesus-like at age 15? 17? 19? Far wiser than anyone else in their respective shows. It is far less of a fantasy to imagine some mid-20s dude to figure out what he really wants to do with his life, as well as a 30something discover that he doesn’t know shit about the world despite his certainty.
After all, if this is indeed anime then Kotetsu must’ve turned into Jesus at age 19 or something and kept saving the world since. But the great thing about adult characters in narratives is that they’re old enough to have regrets, to care about mistakes of their youth. The thing about teenage heroes is that being underage, they’re ‘heroic’ because they take on responsibility that’s not theirs to begin with. They pilot the Gundams in the battles to come because they piloted the Gundams in a few small skirmishes. It’s their responsibility now.
They’re kind of like victims, so their responsibility taking becomes heroic. But they can’t be blamed if they really fold. We’re supposed to feel sympathetic when older (LOL 20something) characters mutter surprisedly under their breath “he’s just a kid.” It’s a cheap way to generate powerful feelings, but for experienced viewers who don’t particularly care for the conventions of the genres (unlike myself who gets why Gundam shows will have kiddy male protagonists), it gets old pretty quick.
So Kotetsu is old, he’s probably carrying a few regrets, a few unresolved things in his past. When his face is upset, there’s a weight behind it. There are things at stake that I want to find out about, that are deep-seated and personal as opposed to world-shifting and universal.
Right now, that regret is having become a hero that needs rescuing, ten years into his career.
But I’ve made this show seem so serious, wherein its seriousness is only worth noting because of how silly it is. I loved the cocktail party wherein the heroes are in their cocktail attire: wearing their costumes under their tuxedos. Kotetsu’s firm gets bought out, and he’s part of a new company who has (implausibly) come up with a revolutionary new idea: a superhero team. Tiger and Bunny would be that team, and this show can play out as a buddy show all about being a hero.
I think this is a great idea. I’m definitely not too old for hero shows like this.