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.
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.
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.
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.