Home > Episode Reviews, Tiger & Bunny > Tiger & Bunny Episode 23 – Planned Obsolescence

Tiger & Bunny Episode 23 – Planned Obsolescence

Tiger & Bunny continues to give with one hand while it takes away with the other. Most glaringly, it doesn’t give us the action scene I craved between robo Tiger (actually called H-01) and the assorted heroes it confronted last episode. Instead, all six heroes are defeated off screen and wake up in a classic comic book death trap. Likewise, Wild Tiger breaking through to Barnaby doesn’t happen in the dramatic way I had hoped for; instead it feels like dumb luck.

That said, and while it does feel this episode dragged on a bit, just like the last one did, I’m still pleased by the overall direction of the story. Mostly, that’s because the elements of the show feel “classic” rather than cliched. But it also has to do with how, as I’ve noted several times before, Tiger & Bunny is careful only to introduce standard comic book elements after setting them up properly within the context of the story.

Tiger's early attempts to restore Barnaby's memory all seem custom designed to piss him off, rather than establish their bonds of friendship. Again, Tiger's an idiot

The show needs a serious threat to stand in the way of Tiger and Barnaby as they come for justice against Maverick, and it produces one in the form of H-01, the latest iteration of Rotwang’s android research. Maverick acquired the mad scientist somehow before he was properly incarcerated, and gave the latter the freedom to continue his research. Rotwang’s previous attempt could hold out against two superheroes, so it’s not surprising that the current model can deal with six.

Having an excuse for how all but Tiger and Barnaby are captured, however, isn’t the point of bringing in Rotwang, however. Rather, it’s to show how Maverick’s long-term goals were always self-interested, and his methods increasingly sinister. Even had Kriem never challenged Barnaby’s false memories, Maverick would have taken Hero TV in an increasingly immoral direction.

Tiger manages to convince his suit designer to defect from Maverick, although perhaps the latter was just upset that he was cut out of the production process

Remember how Barnaby’s new suit seemed ready in a suspiciously fast amount of time? That’s because Maverick had already been planning to replace most if not all the heroes with robots in the near future, the latter being far easier to control and manipulate. I’m guessing he would have liked to keep Barnaby around to put a human face on it all, but he’s willing to ditch that as needed. The point is to have stars who will only drive up ratings, and will never ask awkward questions.

Once Maverick has that, he can frame people at will, manufacture explosive action by collaborating with real or imagined villains, and generally have the non-stop ratings bonanza he always wanted. All it requires is edging out the Next with robots, betraying his own kind. Maverick founded Hero TV in part to dispel prejudice against Next (like himself), but from the beginning he resorted to dirty tricks and dishonest behavior to achieve commercial success. Now that success is the only thing he cares about, and the dirty dealings standard fare.

Both Maverick and particularly Rotwang can monologue like proper villains, but the actions of both feel proper to their characters, and not an imposition of the writers forcing them to carry the villain ball

All this makes his turn to Rotwang predictable, even though Rotwang himself poses a danger to Maverick. Rotwang, as was strongly indicated the last time he had screen time, hates Next, and has always been interested in robots primarily as a way to counter heroes. Like Maverick, he can’t stand the idea of not being in control, so his turn to robotics is, in effect, a way of assuring the dominance of normal humans (who built them).

That’s why the death trap he subjects his captured heroes to makes sense. Sure, it’s a bit of a ripoff from The Dark Knight, but like the Joker delighted in bringing out the worst in human emotions, Rotwang has a vested interest in disproving the heroism of heroes. He wants to kill them outright, with or without Maverick’s approval. But he wants them to prove themselves false first.

The collars on the heroes' necks will detonate if they try anything, but also if one hero decides to sell out the rest. I think the spikes on the walls are just for show

Of course, the heroes will stand strong in the face of his sadistic choice, and find a way out from his trap. (The fact Kaede hasn’t been identified as a threat, and is thus not within Rotwang’s trap, will likely help matters.) And of course Tiger and Barnaby will find some way to hold their own against the supposedily unbeatable battle droid. That’s why they are heroes—and why Tiger & Barnaby is playfully subverting, and not outright deconstructing, its genre.

I’m still not pleased that Tiger hasn’t had to be properly honest with Barnaby yet, but I’m probably sounding like a broken record on that score by now; the same goes with my thought that the current plot needs to get on with it a bit faster. These are quibbles. This episode reminds me of how carefully the plot of this show has been woven together, so that even one off episodes that would have been character fluff or filler in lesser shows take on a greater significance later in the story. It’s the sort of serial story telling that led me to love anime. That this show accomplishes all that with a very geeky subject matter makes it all the better.

Despite knowing (or at least having ample evidence that) Kaede is a Next, Maverick has her guarded by only a couple mooks. Maybe he doesn't realize she can do more than undo his memory ability

You can watch the episode here.

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