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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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|
*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.