Analysis

Tiger & Bunny: A Good Beginning Makes a Good Ending (The Consulting Analyst)

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Intro / Previous

A Good Beginning Makes a Good Ending

“Being well-prepared and focused at the start of something often leads to success.”

Origin: Middle English, from the South English Legendary, a manuscript about the lives of saints. In modern usage, the second half of this proverb is often the more somber “all good things must come to an end.”

I suspect this one of being tongue-in-cheek: Barnaby is very prepared for the mission but it still goes awry; meanwhile, he and Kotetsu get off to an abysmal start but are destined to wind up inseparable.

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In Short: Kotetsu and Barnaby’s first mission together gets off to a rough start, and they’re only saved from being crushed when the statue attacking the city for an unknown reason. The attacks resume just in time to keep Kotetsu from going to his daughter’s skating exhibition, but he’s able to convince the young boy behind the crimes that he should use his powers for good—just as Kotetsu was encouraged long ago.

There’s that Incredibles reference! It’s spectacularly charming how many homages to western superhero stories crop up (something the recent shared-universe series Double Decker! seems keen to continue in its own genre, with its gut-bustingly funny Terminator riff), usually in ways that are subtle enough not to get in the way of the overall story—from the Booster Gold influence in the premise to Kotetsu’s web-slinging wires (which he even has trouble getting to work).

This episode contains some of the show’s most meme’d lines, particularly the bestowing of Barnaby’s nickname, but the most emotionally crucial line is the quieter “I don’t trust you.” Barnaby’s such an icy jerk in this episode that it can be easy, on first watch, to lump that line in with the rest of his dismissive dialogue, but it is in fact a statement of purpose: this boy doesn’t trust easily (of course not, he’s a basket case of neuroses, trauma, and grooming), and if he doesn’t trust someone he’s going to do the bare minimum when interacting with them.

By contrast, when he does trust someone he goes all in on them, even if he should’ve held on to some of that distance for his own preservation. He questions everything Kotetsu says, even when some of it is good advice; and he takes Maverik’s advice with only the slightest of protest, even when it’s the worst thing he could possibly do.

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Production Quotes

Morita (39): Personally, I honestly love his enthusiasm and the way he just kinda plays dumb, and how broad-minded he is, and how tolerant he is… If we look at Kotetsu age-wise, I’m not that different from him – I can really feel his determination towards heroes resounding in my chest. But my role-wise, I can’t just accept that, so from the side of my very own feelings, it’s kinda difficult. Barnaby is embracing his sad past, the way he thinks about the criminals, for example, is slightly different from Kotetsu’s way of thinking – that’s the way he was brought up. So it’s easy to understand why he seems to have a cool, cold personality, but at the very core, he’s different. I love that about him.

Hirata: Our director said “I want to shout out to all the tired, middle-aged men”, so we create our roles trying to be aware of that. We have a guy who fails at pretty much everything, and a guy who’s almost perfect at everything, but I really don’t think the latter leads a satisfying life just because of that. It’s easy to see when you watch the series, so maybe it could even make you think about your life in the society again.

Hirata: Also, there’s a whole lot of seiyuus with different, interesting personalities in this show. Normally when I read the scenario, I seriously can’t wait for the recording time. I always laugh a whole lot.

Morita: Fire Emblem’s Tsuda-san (Tsuda Kenjirou) is especially “dangerous”, since he tends to say different things during the main recording from the ones we rehearsed.

(I’ll be honest readers, I see Kotetsu as more being 33-34—older than Barnaby but still young enough that the connection across the gap makes sense; the production team has deliberately never given an exact age, so it’s basically anyone’s guess)

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Fandom Past

Blu-ray changes begin here! This is actually a minor one, but it shows the team’s dedication to continuity: a glow was added to Barnaby’s eyes in the aftermath of the rescue, because he had more time left than Kotetsu did.

Say, did you know that the Japanese releases of Tiger & Bunny come with English subtitles already on them? Because there was quite a gap before the US physical release came out (the series finished airing in September 2011, and the first half of the series was released on Blu-Ray in February 2013), lots of fans just skipped the middle man and ordered the series straight from Japan.

….If you could get it, anyway. But that’s a story for another day.

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Background Detail

There is probably a hero out there who’s been able to zoom in, clean, and read the information available on Kotetsu and Barnaby’s HUD displays (which include several bios for the heroes as well as our young guest star), but I am not that person. Meanwhile, the news crawl is pretty blank this week—doubtlessly getting those accurate translations is a lot of work, and this episode has a lot of visual particulars already (including all those posters).

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Character Spotlight

It would be more fair to talk about Barnaby here, since the production quote is about him and last week we covered the basics of Kotetsu; but it’s going to have to wait one more episode, because I can’t let that bank flashback go by without comment.

The concept of “heroism” is obviously core to the show, and mostly in a fairly feel-good way. Even when the series eventually touches on darker stories with Mr. Legend, it’s still an uplifting show that believes good ol’ fashioned gumption can make the world a better place. Which I can’t be too mad at, despite the fact that it kind of falls down when dealing with characters more marginalized than Kotetsu’s ageism difficulties; that sincerity is the story’s beating heart.

Still, one of the most complex ideas presented but not too deeply interrogated begins here: does the good influence someone has outweigh the bad? Kotetsu never learns that Legend was a monster, not in a way that really sinks in; his memories are haloed in a glow of that one important interaction, when someone finally told him he wasn’t a monster or a freak.

In turn, he was able to understand how transformative those words were and pass them on to Tony once he was in a position of authority; at the same time, Kaede is always going to have complicated memories of her father, even once she knows he was a hero. Even if you understand why something had to happen, hurt feelings don’t just go away, especially for a kid.

Kotetsu chooses hero work, which is dangerous but also only requires quick bursts of connection with others when you save their lives (which are in some ways as shallow as Barnaby’s interactions with his fans; both impersonal and catered to an audience, even if Kotetsu would never phrase it that way), over the often messy and unglamorous work of parenting his daughter day-to-day—the person he made a commitment to by bringing her into the world.

So, is there a “greater good?” I want to save the question of Legend’s legacy for discussion in a later episode, but suffice it to say this subplot is a lot more loaded in the era of #MeToo than it was when the show debuted.  But the question, “can there be heroism without sacrifice, often sacrifice that isn’t readily apparent” lurks constantly in the background—in fact, it’s materialized beautifully in a shot near the end of the episode, with Maverick lurking ominously behind Barnaby as he continues to manufacture him, while Apollon Media’s ideals are emblazoned gaudily on the wall.

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