Tiger & Bunny Episode 8 – The Will to Act
Recently, Tiger & Bunny hasn’t given us much of its post-modern take on a city of superheroes. Barnaby’s inner demons, whatever else they are, are classic fodder for such stories. The last such attempt at such a story was Blue Rose/Karina’s episode, perhaps indicating that the show has tapped out on ways to creatively utilize its leads.
This episode follows in that pattern, providing us with a closer look at the infrastructure behind the making of a hero at the same time it reveals the backstory of Origami Cyclone, the weakest and least respected hero of them all. The show walks a fine line between the serious and silly aspects of its premise, but does so better than it has since the premiere.
Faced with Lunatic’s killing spree, there is a serious concern among the heroes’ sponsoring companies about the implications of a maniac more powerful than any currently serving hero killing whomever he pleases—but there’s also a concern about public relations. With some in the city’s population preferring Lunatic’s approach to crime-fighting, the execs are serious about retaining their market share.
In response, the suits decide that having a public service day will remind the city about the innate goodness of their costumed protectors, and Tiger and Barnaby are paired with Cyclone, a.k.a. Ivan Karelin, to give pep talks and serve as instructors at Hero Academy. A school for those with Next abilities, the academy does not seem to restrict its student clientele by their age, sex, or usefulness of their powers—which perhaps explains why there are dozens of students but only a handful of active heroes.
Ivan himself has something of a useless power: The ability to shapechange into anyone else would actually be quite useful for criminal activities, but it doesn’t help much with capturing bad guys. It’s not for nothing that Ivan lists the most important duty of being a hero as properly showing off the logos of sponsoring companies; it’s about the only thing he’s ever done.
Returning to his home stomping grounds only reinforces his own sense of inadequacy, and of guilt. Ivan still believes his hero spot should have gone to his classmate and best friend Edward, who had a useful ability. When the student Edward tried to interfere with a crime in progress and rescue a hostage, Ivan held back out of fear. In the ensuing scuffle, Edward accidentally kills the hostage himself, and gets serious jail time for it.
Of course, Edward has just broken out of prison with the intention to kill Ivan; this show is perfectly happy to let the coincidences pile up if it serves the plot. As another example of this, Lunatic shows up immediately after Edward, to kill the latter for not serving his full sentence as a murderer. This gives Ivan a chance to step in and save his old friend with the courage that he lacked years before.
The show handles the situation in a smarter fashion than I would have expected. Ivan tries to use his powers as a distraction, but Lunatic sees through the deception (which is fairly obvious). So Ivan uses himself as a human shield instead. The point isn’t stated outright, but the message is clear: Heroism is not about having the right power, but about having the courage to do the right thing.
This plays back into Tiger’s continued insistence on putting saving people over any other concern a hero might have. (Although Tiger seems rather gleeful at the prospect of destroying property in the pursuit of that goal.) Given he later takes a hit for Barnaby as the two take on Lunatic and has to be hospitalized as a result, it’s easy to see that he practices what he preaches.
Barnaby, also, seems to be warming toward his partner a little; I suppose having a guy take a shot for you will do that. Barnaby by nature is a lone wolf, disinclined to trust anyone, but he’s slowly learning that his partner, foolish and headstrong though he may be, can be trusted. I expect to see that relationship continue to evolve.
I don’t want to imply this is a perfect episode: Tiger and Barnaby still start off this episode confused about Lunatic’s motivations, and only by the end are they convinced that the guy isn’t an Ouroboros agent. Given how obvious this was from the last episode, it feels a bit like an insult to the intelligence of the audience to have the characters state it so explicitly. The chain of coincidences needs to make the plot work also strains credulity a little, particularly given how good this show has been, comparatively, of dropping plot hooks that don’t come to fruition for episodes later.
This episode leaves plenty of examples of this, both in further developing Lunatic’s methods and appeal even while keeping him in play as a recurring villain. That it slips this in the a great character development episode and manages to include multiple jabs at traditional comic book tropes (like: superpowers are always useful) at the same time only raises it in my estimation.
You can watch the episode here. Given that it’s the best episode since the premiere, I recommend that you do.