Analysis

Tiger & Bunny: Many a True Word is Spoken in Jest (The Consulting Analyst)

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Intro / Previous

Many a True Word is Spoken in Jest

“A humorous remark not intended to be taken seriously may turn out to be accurate after all.”

Origin: Middle-English. While not in this exact phrasing, the sentiment appears in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.  (“Ful ofte in game a sooth I have herd saye!“)

Or, to put it in a more modern context, that thing where someone makes a joke (or a statement, followed by “just kidding!”) that is quite obviously an actual complaint.

While Kotetsu and Barnaby spend this episode having to pretend to be harmonious partners for the camera, they truly do wind up being a good team when the moment of truth comes. On a character level, while Barnaby is coldly blunt about his distrust and dislike for things (and people), Kotetsu is more likely to couch his complaints in sarcasm or otherwise play off real concerns as a joke.

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In Short: Kotetsu and Barnaby still can’t get along, but are forced to play nice so HeroTV can shoot a documentary about their dashing new hero. When a bomb threat gets called in to a fancy new high-rise, they find that when they put their differences aside for the sake of an emergency, they actually make a pretty good team.

This is an episode of pleasing small details: Barnaby’s confusion when told to “act natural” in front of the cameras, Kotetsu’s childlike delight at seeing the newly unveiled Mr. Legend statue, Lloyds dismissively using “Kotetsu-kun” for his senior employee, and the shot of the elevator worker’s gloves and pants that offers the audience a chance to figure out the “tell” of the bad guy before Kotetsu does. The show excels at small visual tells like this, which has often been put down to Nishida’s prior work in live action—while anime often has to be a little broad in case there’s not enough budget for microexpressions, T&B tries its best to include those small show-don’t-tell moments at every opportunity.

Alongside that, it also flashes some of the well-meaning ignorance the show can fall into, despite its attempt to depict a multicultural society—no matter how many times I watch it, there’s always just a little cringe when Kotetsu refers to the (Black) villain of the week as looking like “a typical bad guy.”

The confrontation with Agnes doesn’t sell so hot either.

While the script tries to frame it as a general rebuke of the sensationalizing of hero work above the safety of the people, what it comes down to is Kotetsu putting his female superior “in her place” only for her to be impressed by it. It’s the kind of low-level, irritating sexism that acts as the double-edged sword to the series putting Kotetsu forth as a wish-fulfillment character. We’ll get a lot more into that next time, trust me.

While the show’s gender issues might be its biggest oversight, it deserves credit for the fact that Kotetsu isn’t a purely all-powerful figure who’s always right (either as acknowledged in-universe or implicitly by the narrative). He’s an out-and-out hypocrite in this episode, mocking Barnaby for saying he “can’t go all out unless it’s the real thing” when he said the same words himself minutes before. And the climax hints toward both needing to meet one another in the middle for mutual growth (AND LOVE).

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Production Quotes

Q: Give us comments or your impressions on every character!

Kotetsu T. Kaburagi: Straightforward.

Barnaby Brooks Jr: Still cute.

Karina Lyle: Like a daughter.

Antonio Lopez: His failiness is good! Especially when Agnes is around.

Keith Goodman: Hero elite you can’t hate.

Huang Pao Lin: She’s cute too, like a daughter.

Ivan Karelin: A refreshing type of a hero.

Nathan Seymour: He’s the most mature one. I like him. (… Oh, please don’t misinterpret this!)

Yuri Petrov: … He’s just creepy.

Q: Any messages for the fans?

Hirata: The staff and cast were all surprised by the great response we got from the fans. Please, keep enjoying this show, because I’m sure it will soon surprise you all even more!

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Fandom Past

It’s worth noting, since this is the first time we’ve focused much on Bunny, that he was considerably less popular than his partner. In fact, once the second cour came around, there was a sizable portion of the fanbase that out-and-out hated him. The phrase “whiny crybaby” might have been applied to the man having debilitating PTSD panic attacks more than once (meanwhile, the charming but decidedly fallible Kotetsu could do no wrong).

Which is a very long way of saying that I developed something of a protective fondness for the character in response, and you might notice that crop up now and again in these posts.

On a cheerier note, Certain Messageboards in their smidgen less toxic, pre-gator days, took to calling English fans of the series “T&Bros,” and that’s cute.

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Background Detail

To come back around to the sponsors on the characters’ costumes, This is Sternbild provided a helpful rundown of the major companies that appear on each suit. One prospective sponsor for Nathan/Fire Emblem ended up withdrawing early in the process when they found out he was gay; they’ve never been officially named, which is a shame because I would enjoy throwing eggs at their building.

I suspect this is part of why Nathan is a CEO/his own sponsor in-universe, though he would get two sponsors over the course of the show. He even got a third for the movies, which led to some rather bizarre tie-ins. We’ll come back to that.

This episode is also a good reminder to pause and take a look at the background text. While it’s not overtly nodded to until episode nine, and not explicitly discussed until the second cour, the fact that Barnaby’s parents worked in robotics is actually revealed here in the article about their murder (the actual article text is blurry lorem ipsum, but that’s not always the case either).

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Character Spotlight

So. Barnaby. Wanna make yourself sad about Barnaby? Start keeping track of all the times Maverick is pictured somehow looming over or being reflected on to him—here, for example, the image of Maverick from the TV is reflected on Barnaby’s glasses, obscuring his eyes, as he wonders what he should do next. Just. Roll around in that pain for a minute.

Now feel better about yourself, because that twist totally took me by surprise the first time I watched the show. No, I am not sure why I didn’t suspect the man with the ominously large Wart of Externalized Evil on his head.

Still, in retrospect it’s hard not to feel for Barnaby’s coldness and uncertainty in these early episodes. When the cameras tell him to act natural, he seems confused—because what is natural, for someone whose entire personality, whose every response, is a cipher essentially built to garner maximum ratings and never actually find his real target?

Before getting closer to Kotetsu, Barnaby is “on” for the cameras, and then “off” while at home, contemplating his dead parents. His house shows no other signs of hobbies (he likes opera, allegedly; perhaps he can just hear his own soundtrack), because unless it’s something for HeroTV it’s not something useful to Maverick.

Being irritated by Kotetsu is, arguably, the first spontaneous emotional reaction Barnaby’s had in years. Maybe since the death of his parents. There’s a lot of room for headcanons (of various levels of upsetting) regarding what Barnaby’s forgotten over the years, how much his brain’s been scrambled, and what long term effects that kind of manipulation will have on his memory, particularly as natural degeneration begins with old age (guess how many depressing fanfics there are, team).

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