Tiger & Bunny Episode 16 – Falling in Stature
After a couple character-building episodes, Tiger & Bunny returns to focus on Wild Tiger, and not in the way I was expecting. I mean, I was expecting that Tiger’s growing power irregularity, signalling a future burnout and the end of his hero career entirely, would rear its ugly head as a serious conflict. The new opening for the show signaled that Lunatic would have a strong presence in the second half, becoming the primary antagonist for at least a major portion of it. Both of those play out as expected here.
What I didn’t predict was that the two stories would be so integrally tied together. In fact, the stage is being set for Tiger and Lunatic to have a very personal confrontation in the future, as each struggles with their particular inheritance from one man, the foremost hero in Stern Bild’s lore, Mr. Legend himself. This episode drops a series of revelations about him, each more damning than the last.
Ben Jackson, Tiger’s former manager, went to the trouble of checking into other examples of heroes whose powers burnt out, and by digging into the right files he learns that Mr. Legend himself faced just such a problem. At the time the other heroes and the press machine around them worked to hide the problem, with Mr. Legend getting credit for criminals he didn’t capture in order to maintain his records, and the facade that nothing was wrong. It’s likely for this reason, he suggests, that they didn’t have accurate records on Jake Martinez’s capture: Mr. Legend wasn’t really the one who caught him.
For Tiger, this is sort of like an athlete learning that his idol and mentor was doping in a desperate attempt to prolong his career. But, like Mr. Legend, Tiger faces a choice: either admit his time is up, or continue to serve as a hero counting on his friends and colleagues (including the increasingly mellow Barnaby) to cover for him. And doing the latter might put everyone at risk.
That’s on display clearly this episode, as Tiger’s power limit drops below the four minute mark, and a mundane criminal manages to get the best of him as a result. Tiger saves a woman’s life, but is nearly killed himself. And next time, it may well be the hostage, or his partner, who takes the fall. Tiger, I hope, has a strong enough moral center to do the right thing. I suspect, however, that the show will keep him active long enough to defeat Lunatic, if only because Lunatic represents another aspect of Mr. Legend’s failure.
Mr. Legend, when faced with a similar choice, kept on as a hero, but the stress and the loss of control ate away at him all the same. Much like a washed out athlete or rock star, he turned to alcohol, which in turn only led him to grow increasingly violent toward his wife. This lasts only until his son Yuri, having internalized his father’s pep talks on heroism from an early age, intervenes, only to have his own Next abilities flare up just in time to kill his father.
Thus Lunatic and Tiger draw inspiration from the same source: a hero pep talk (several, in Yuri’s case) from Mr. Legend. But where Tiger had only the ideal of Mr. Legend to live up to, Yuri had a much different set of experiences. Much of his motivation as Lunatic is fueled by a desire to justify his act of patricide. If it’s not right to slay criminals, than Yuri has been on the wrong side for a long, long time.
With this set of revelations, the plotting of Tiger & Bunny suddenly seems much more deliberate. The show’s first half was primarily about Barnaby and his investigation into Ouroboros. We learned about his personal demons and what drove him to become a hero. With that challenge gone, Barnaby has moved on from being motivated by revenge to being motivated by gratitude; now he wants to be as good a hero as he can to repay Albert Maverick for all the latter has given him over the years.
The second half of the show, or at least the first part of it, has changed the focus to Tiger. The fears that Tiger always had of being seen as increasingly old or irreverent now take on a deeper meaning, and the legacy of heroism that served as his guiding light is now tarnished and crumbling. And just as the first half ‘s climax centered around a figure intimately tied to Barnaby’s past history, the second leaves Tiger in conflict with a man who took the same ideals of heroism is a markedly different direction.
Ultimately, it’s up to Tiger to be different from his mentor, to admit when he needs help, accept his limits, and know when to leave with grace. And he’s going to do just that: Tiger & Bunny might like deconstructing hero tropes, but it still is willing to let its good guys be good guys. The drama will come from the struggle, as Tiger finds something else to guide his life.
You can watch the episode here.