Tiger & Bunny Episode 25 – Fighting to the End
Well, I shouldn’t have been surprised that Tiger & Bunny pulled in the one loose plot thread from last episode and did something useful with it. After the heroes gather around the fallen Wild Tiger, Maverick and Rotwang show up and unleash a squad of H-01s on the heroes. The safety feature mentioned last episode, activiated at the last minute, is the only thing that saves the lives of the heroes.
Do I mind another obvious attempt at padding through an artificial threat resolved by an artificial solution? Not in the slightest, at least this time, as the animators blew what remained of their budget in a glorious hero on android brawl. Note to studios: If you’re going to stall for time, do it with enough style and we won’t mind.
Once that is done with, all that’s left is the obvious. Maverick betrays and kills Rotwang, is cornered trying to get his robots working again, and has his lies caught on tape, broadcasted to the entire city. When it becomes obvious that he won’t be able to escape, he turns his memory power on himself. Through self-lobotomization, he can’t give up any information on his links to Ouroboros.
Meanwhile, Tiger reveals that he didn’t die, he gets to act cool saving his daughter one more time, and Agnes gets her best ratings day ever. It’s the sort of thing that seems schmaltzy, but it’s toned down by a few things. Both Tiger and Barnaby officially retire, for example, Tiger for power weakness and Barnaby because he just doesn’t know what to do with his raison d’etre for being a hero taken from him. It’s a happy ending, but one which doesn’t just preserve the status quo.
Ok, it does preserve it a bit more than it should. Tiger eventually comes back to heroing in the “junior league” even as his power becomes limited to one minute intervals. And Barnaby, reflecting on the dreams and legacy of his parents, decides to take up the role of a hero to honor their wishes for a better future. But unless they were going to rename the sequel, they couldn’t have the show without Tiger and Barnaby together.
I said last time that I was afraid that the show wouldn’t come to a properly satisfying ending, at least from a moral perspective. That is, I didn’t think that Tiger would every have to pay a price for his deception about his power loss. And in fact, he doesn’t; but the way in which he openly accepts his declining powers after that, and presses on regardless of his weakness, is an effective atonement. It’s the sort of thing that even seems to please Lunatic, whose own father was far too weak to admit weakness. Tiger will continue to fight because, as the show has taken the time to point out before, heroism is about what you do, not about how useful your powers might be.
With the two united in the end, it looks like next season will carry on in much the same way as the first, even regarding the ultimate villains. Lunatic is still at large, after all, and Maverick makes it clear that just because he dealt with Ouroboros didn’t mean he was a controlling factor. That means the basic external conflicts of next season are likely to be remarkably close to this one.
I for one was hoping and praying for Lunatic to make it to next season, though, and Ouroboros as an organization likely has other personalities at work than the megalomaniac Jake Martinez. As far as major tensions the show can have, the line between heroism and vigilantism, between justice and vengeance, is a good one; also solid is the tension between humans and Next and how anti-Next prejudice is still at work in society.
Thus, I’m hopeful overall that whatever Sunrise has planned for the next season will be something worth waiting for. How will the increasingly powerless (and aging) Tiger work his way back into the hero A-tier? How will Barnaby support him? What new heroes, villains, and side characters will step up to liven the mix? Will Kaede become more involved?
The show offers little hints to that—although it makes it clear that Ouroboros will have plenty of prime time next season—so I suppose the only way to answer those questions is to stick around for next time. And unless the second season completely erases all of Tiger and Barnaby’s character development and restores the buddy cop antics that marred the opening arc of the series, I’ll be doing just that.
Series Review: I don’t think I have much to say on Tiger & Bunny that hasn’t already been said. At its heart, the show is about classic comic book superheroes, only seen through distinctly modern lenses. It’s not as cynical and brutal a deconstruction as Watchmen, or as good at its character studies as Astro City, but particularly when you consider it’s a Japanese take on a quintessentially American form of media, it’s remarkably on target.
The focus on the crass commercialism of the hero industry, and inbuilt tension between saving lives and making ratings, also played out to good effect, particularly as Maverick’s various misdeeds cast a shadow over the entire business. The show stops short of openly rejecting the model, though Tiger’s persistence at being a hero even when he can’t do prime time anymore perhaps shows a way to simply ignore it. Perhaps the best way to look at it is to say the show acknowledges certain ethical issues with the practice just have to be accepted for success, while still drawing the lines at outright corruption.
That, I think, is ultimately where the heart of the show lies. Tiger & Bunny might play with conventions, but it also wants to preserve them. This is a show where heroes don’t kill, where villains get their comeuppance, and where truth, justice and the Stern Bild way always prevail.
I can’t say for certain that I’ll blog the next season of Tiger & Bunny when it comes out, I picked up this one at the time due to a lack of better alternatives, even though there were series I already knew would be better even then (just not better from a blogging perspective). This isn’t a perfect show, or even a great one, and I don’t expect the next one to be either. But while Tiger & Bunny is not perfect, or even great, it is good: solidly entertaining, worth watching, and something utterly unlike 95% of all anime that has ever existed. That’s not a bad list of accomplishments.
If you haven’t started yet, you can watch the series here.