I’m surprised Kotetsu even had enough strength to hold H-01 down all by himself. The penultimate episode unfolds as one might expect. The heroes are pushed to their physical and mental limits. Kotetsu and Barnaby are desperate to find just any weakness in H-01. The rest of the heroes must decide whether or not to sacrifice each other. Meanwhile, the villains cackle with glee. So was this episode effective? Mostly yes, but it’s disappointing to see that Tiger & Bunny just can’t avoid its genre’s typical trappings.
Oh shut up, Rotwang
I must confess that I’m not really a fan of superheroes. I don’t really care for comics either. T&B is a bit of an exception if only because Kotetsu is such a charismatic character, i.e. a bro’s bro. If there’s going to be a sequel, however — and it appears as if there will be one — I wonder whether or not another lead could really be as effective as Kotetsu has been. Anyway, if I do root for anyone in superhero stories, it’s usually the villain. Alas, Rotwang does not measure up.
We have a bit of a reversal here, I guess. I actually think the protagonist is cool as hell, but the villain just aggravates me. Unfortunately, Rotwang has a rather large role in this episode. And he should — don’t get me wrong; since H-01 is a mute robot, it’s all up to Rotwang to deliver on the evil front. His running commentary on the heroes’ plight, however, is just really dull and flat. He doesn’t captivate my attention. One of the most interesting things a story could do is to make the audience root for the bad guys. You know the bad guys are wrong, but they’re just too sexy not to root for. That’s how evil gets us all riled up. We become blind to the moral content of our actions; we just want to go with the flow.
Well, damn, I don’t think anyone’s going to mistake Rotwang for sexy. He’s not going to push any of our emotional buttons. He’s just this clownish-looking dude with a goofy voice, but it’s not like he’s the Joker by any means. The Joker is chaos personified. Just the idea of such a person makes you sit up and wonder, “What does that even mean?” Then the devilish cadence of his voice enraptures your attention. Rotwang on the other hand?
Ugh. So yeah, if T&B dropped the ball anywhere, it’s that the show’s villains have plain sucked. From Lunatic (he was the show’s villain for a short time) to Jake to Rotwang, these guys do not inspire. And c’mon, let’s face it: evil is scary because it can inspire.
Oh, they won’t betray each other!
A good chunk of the episode is also devoted to whether or not one of the imprisoned heroes will fall for Rotwang’s trick and sacrifice his or her friends. Of course, this isn’t going to happen. The heroes have gotten along too well over the course of the series for such a scene to work. I mean, in order for there to be any tension here, you would have to believe that one of the heroes would actually betray his or her friends. So this is where T&B dropped the ball. The writers should have included in the story that one loner character who would get on everyone’s nerves.
Technically, this was kind of Barnaby’s role, but he only got on Kotetsu’s nerve. Plus, he’s not in this scene anyway so it doesn’t really matter. The point is that one of the six imprisoned heroes should have been sort of a self-interested jerk for the last twenty episodes. This way, we could actually doubt whether or not he or she wouldn’t sacrifice the others. In fact, this would have been a good role for Mad Bull. Maybe he could’ve been the cranky veteran who doesn’t see eye-to-eye with his younger colleagues. In any case, the real heroes are too pure, too good and believe too much in the the power of friendship to give this subplot the effectiveness it needs. Without tension, it just feels as though the anime is buying time.
Just a quick note, isn’t Sky High a clod? You know the bad guys are listening in on you. Why would you ever think aloud?
How do you defeat those stronger than you?
Duh, use their strength against them! Wait a minute… a man and his friend go looking for the man’s kidnapped kid. The man is made to fight a stronger version of himself — a brother, if you will. Neither the man nor the partner can take down this villain. The man decides that they have only one chance: he must sacrifice himself in order for them to defeat his brother.
No, no, not Dragon Ball Z. I’m talking about Tiger & B-…
Well, shit. Okay, okay, is this a flaw in the anime? I’ll leave that up to you to decide. I’m more amused than anything. We even have Kaede freeing herself from her “prison” and utilizing her raw, undeveloped powers to overcome her predicament. On the one hand, the two anime aren’t exactly carbon copies of one another, but on the other hand, it’s just really goddamn funny how closely certain events played out. I’m not sure Goku ever complimented Piccolo on his eyelashes though, and I guess we’ll have to see whether or not Kotetsu survives next week. After all, I doubt he’ll be training in heaven somewhere, biding his return for the second season of T&B.
So what’s good?
I liked the ending exchange between Kotetsu and Barnaby. Like the rest of the episode, it doesn’t break new grounds either. I mean, it’s a tearful goodbye from one partner to another. How original could it be? But why do I find this scene effective as opposed to all of the other cliched moments in the episode? Because it bothered to make us feel.
And let’s face it, this is the whole point of storytelling. We want to make an emotional connection with the characters we see onscreen. Rotwang isn’t a good villain because he doesn’t get us to feel anything; his evil doesn’t inspire. The lesser heroes’ plight doesn’t have enough tension; we know they won’t betray each other. So while Kotetsu’s tearful speech isn’t any more original than the two previous examples, it works by actually getting us to feel anything. And if you didn’t think it was sad that Kotetsu is dying, maybe you should buddy up with H-01.