Tiger & Bunny Ep. 23: Man vs. Robot

I always knew we couldn’t trust robots. But let’s not jump the gun. We still have last week’s cliffhanger to resolve.

Tiger vs. Bunny
I can see how many might’ve been rather disappointed by Kotetsu and Barnaby’s ultimate showdown. First, the heavy reliance on action lines, even when we’re in the heroes’ suits, sort of cheapens the fight. The characters are well-animated for this particular episode, which makes sense considering how crucial the scene is narrative-wise. As a result, the action lines feel like a cop out. Even when we could get a good look at the fight, however, it felt kind of clunky and slow. After all, Barnaby’s at his peak and Kotetsu shouldn’t be far off. I’ve nevertheless seen better, far more thrilling choreography in older series. Most importantly, however, we have all these pent-up emotions — from Barnaby’s rage to Kotetsu’s desperation — but there’s no exhilarating release. The action doesn’t sweep us off our feet and that’s a shame. The fight seems a little too short.

Still, we should keep in mind that Kotetsu doesn’t want to fight Barnaby. These two have been such close partners ever since they defeated Mister Jake together. Sure, Kotetsu’ll put on a show, but only to get Barnaby to recover his memories. So yeah, my mind can understand why the fight was cut so short and abruptly, even if my heart desired otherwise.

The man-made salaryman
Remember how the fights played out in Dragon Ball Z? Oh, don’t play dumb — most of us watched it as kids. So anyway, Goku first went up against the strongest of his kind (Vegeta), then the strongest being in the universe (Frieza), then the strongest creation in the universe (Cell), and finally… well, I don’t know what the fuck Majin Buu was. But anyway, you can see that there’s a clear progression. There’s no space-faring in T&B though, so after the two best heroes fought each other, we just skipped right to the android fight.

But y’know, let’s take a look at the android fight from a sociological angle again. After all, I’ve been told that T&B is advertised in Japan as a salaryman anime. Throughout the history of modernization, workers have been losing their jobs to machines. It seems that the only jobs that are safe from the encroaching threat of technology are perhaps white-collar jobs… well, what if robots could one day replace the salaryman too? Gosh, that would be disasterous.

Naturally, the heroes protest:

Heroes: “You’ve got to be kidding me! That thing could never replace us! … No matter how strong that thing is, androids are just weapons that only move on command! … Listen, you… Don’t underestimate Heroes. We listen to the cries of the people…”

Imagine a crafter making a similar argument. An assembly line might be able to churn out ten times the product (and thus profit), but you just can’t come close to the attention to detail and care you can get in something hand-made. In Japan, even something as simple as a bento box is actually a complicated, multi-step process where every little feature is considered carefully. The choice of wood and lacquer alone is specific in preventing moisture from collecting and thus ruining the food’s taste and texture.

And that’s just a bento box. Heroes save lives. Do we really want to assign such an important task to machines operating on a strict set of algorithms? Of course, you could always argue that humans too just run on a set of ingrained “algorithms” instilled in us since birth… but let’s not be so cold and disheartening. In any case, my point is that the robot showdown isn’t just cool; it makes thematic sense. As technology continues to make outrageous strides, are we ready to accept the consequences?

Everything else
• Well, we all knew Kaede was going to end up being a hostage. It’s a shame, however, that we didn’t even get to see the new robot, H-01, take down the heroes minus Kotetsu and Barnaby. Wouldn’t this have been prime material to anime?

• I know the villain’s lair is always ridiculous-looking in video games, anime, etc., but prison cells full of spikes? How did that go with the architect(s)?

“Oh by the way, could you design me a few cartoonishly evil rooms for me? It’s for this pet project I have… why? ‘Cause we’re in a cartoon, damn it! Now do it!”

• The final scenario feels incredibly reminiscent of the Joker’s gambit in The Dark Knight. Imitation is the purest form of flattery, I guess. The thing here, however, is that Nolan pitted civilians against criminals. We all know how much Americans despise prisoners; we just assume that anyone who has been incarcerated deserves everything that happens to them in those shit holes. Anyway, T&B pits heroes against heroes, i.e. friends against friends. How could there be any tension? We all know the heroes won’t betray each other.

• I love that the scientist dude has strapped a megaphone to his head.

Oops, I don’t know his name. Gosh, lemme go find a drama CD.

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8 Replies to “Tiger & Bunny Ep. 23: Man vs. Robot”

  1. >How could there be any tension?
    Obviously the tension will be “OMG they will betray each other!!!1!” but suddenly power of friendship “we are heroes nakama etc” and everything is solved.

  2. Wow a room of spikes. Megaman’s worst nightmare. I must say the anime takes a popular concept in the states and twists it to work over there. But hey, Mr Tezuka made a lot of superheroes himself, mainly robots. Astro boy, Pluto, Blue knight and they had a lot of issues. The story is really coming together. I’m glad you are enjoying this anime. I Hope you like the ending.

  3. I felt a little bit underwhelmed by this episode. So Barnaby is brought back from his vengeful, beffudled state by Tiger simply insulting him? As well as that strange new non-Saito-approved helmet? I suppose Barnaby might have grown slightly immune to Maverick’s powers over the years, so said memory-manipulations need to be reinforced? :/

    Also… I had to laugh at the other heroes being shoved into those torture rooms. I definitely got vibes of Megaman, Battle Royale and Deadman Wonderland (the collars!).

    Dr. Rotwang also strikes me as a wee bit of a hypocrite. He’s insecure about NEXTs taking over good old-fashioned human capacities, so he develops androids, which are in an even higher tier than NEXTs? Strange way of preservation, I say…

    1. I don’t think it’s so much Kotetsu insulting Barnaby but rather that he just threw everything at the wall until something stuck. Somewhere deep in the recesses of Barnaby’s mind, their friendship still exists and Kotetsu feels that he just has to dig it out. Basically, it’s your typical “friendship prevails” trope. I wouldn’t put too much stock into it. I mean, it could have been much more poignant or dramatic, but we’re also talking about a TV series.

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