I’ve been on board with Tiger and Bunny since the first episode. I’m still digging the show as a whole. But damn, that latest episode was kinda lame. So let the complaining begin.
Let’s start with Jake Martinez. He ain’t all that great of a villain. He’s likely a decent excuse for a mid-tier super-lackey or something, since there’s no way in hell I buy him as the head of Ouroboros, but he isn’t making for a particularly impressive feature antagonist.
I’ll give him this: While his powers at first seemed ill-defined and ultra-twinked out, they make a hell of a lot more sense now after this episode. He’s basically Invisible Woman without the invisible part. Sue Richards not only turns invisible, she can create “force bubbles” that can act as force fields and can be used offensively. Jake here seems to emphasize the offensive part, honing these “barriers” to laser like precision to use them as attacks. So yeah, as far as super hero powers go, his make sense now. He fits into the dynamics we’ve seen thus far.
Personality-wise, though, he’s a bit lame. He wants to be some sort of amalgam of The Joker and Magneto, doing the whole “I’ll put you into morally compromising positions” thing while preaching about the superiority of mutants the NEXT, but he’s doing it all half-assedly. His grand scheme to hold the city hostage is kinda cool, but he isn’t putting the heroes into a situation that compromises their believes to the full extent. He’s just a glorified terrorist, and not the dark messiah-like figure it seems like he should be. And if he wants to go the “join me and the NEXT side” routine, he should be reaching out to the heroes and trying to convert them to his ideology rather than outright assaulting them. They coulda taken Jake in so many different, interesting directions, but the end result is some tatooed loser with a Harley Quinn wannabe at his side. He just ain’t all that.
Unfortunately that ain’t the only bit that’s annoying me about the recent developments in this series. We’re 12 episodes into this series. The bulk of the character development has been devoted to Tiger and Barnaby’s buddy cop shit. I like that shit, but we’ve also reached several points where it seems like they’ve come to grips with one another and trust one another. At least it seemed like there was enough trust between them that any future tension would be played for laughs. You know, like Danny Glover and Mel Gibson in the latest Lethal Weapon movies or something like that.
Nope. Tiger makes yet another dumbass assumption about Barnaby’s actions and interferes in the whole “rescue Origami Cyclone” bit. Letting Jake get away wasn’t the sucky part about that scene (Although we’ll get to the end results of that in a bit). It’s seeing their relationship revert to square one after 12 episodes of forward movement just so a poorly thought out plot point could be executed. They needed Jake to get away, so instead of having Jake show how super awesome badass he’s supposed to be by kicking some hero tail, they have Tiger fuck things up for everyone. Way to compromise some decent development for a major cop-out, dudes.
But all of that wouldn’t bother me so much if it wasn’t for how the second half of this episode played out. Right when things should have reached their peak tension-wise, rather than following through with Jake making good with his promise to blow up the city or something else exciting, Tiger and Bunny resorts to the anime equivalent of stock footage by having everything boil down to a goddamn fucking tournament.
Now I’m down with tournaments as a concept. I’ve already gone on about how the best part of Naruto is the Chunin exam/tourney, and some of the best martial arts movies revolve around tournaments. The catch there is that the tournament acts as a narrative device to allow other things to happen around it. Not only do you have dudes fighting against each other in single elimination format, you have people sneaking about trying to figure out what’s the true purpose of the tournament and romances growing between characters involved in the whole thing and shit like that.
That’s not what Tiger and Bunny is doing here. It’s playing things out the way they do in your typical shounen fighting series. Rather than having the tournament be a narrative device to act as the centerpiece of the story, the tournament is being used as a convenient way to keep the heroes from ganging up on the main villain and solving the damn thing with greater ease. It’s that Cell Games shit from DBZ all over again or something similar. Sure, it allows Jake to taunt each hero individually in front of a televised audience, but it reeks of the sort of contrivance that we haven’t seen thus far in Tiger and Bunny. We’ve seen some nods to anime conventions, like the whole hairpin/Dragon Kid episode, but we haven’t seen this sort of stuff on this level thus far in the series. I thought Tiger and Bunny was better than this. Whatever.
And to make things worse, the tournament ruins what could have been an awesomely dramatic moment. Sky High was the first hero to be chosen. Since we’ve yet to “get to know” Sky High the way we have with all of the other heroes, he seemed to be primed as the sacrificial lamb to show off Jake’s shit. If the second half of the episode had been devoted to their prolonged fight, resulting in Sky High’s death (Or conversion to Jake’s pro-NEXT ways.), this could have been a brilliant way to lead into the next episode’s showdown between Jake and Barnaby. Instead, Sky High just gets roughed up, followed by Rock Bison being defeated off-screen (LAAAAAAAME!). Tiger gets his ass kicked again, but seriously, does anyone think that he’s not gonna make it? Having Tiger be the one seriously hurt has absolutely no tension to it. He’s gonna be fine after an episode or two and the status quo will be reestablished.
The series not only pulled its punches by refusing to cause any serious harm to the other, expendable heroes, its move was even safer than that by jeopardizing one of the lead characters. Since there’s no way in hell Tiger’s gonna bite it or be severely crippled, there’s no consequences to what’s going down. Jake’s plan will be stopped, all of the heroes will be hunky dory, and Tiger will be back at it after this storyline gets resolved.
None of this is a dealbreaker, since I’m still digging this series quite a bit, but it’s hard to stand back and see all of the different directions things could have gone only to see things play out in the safest manner possible. That sucks, dudes. Hopefully the resolution to all of this will redeem this lack of tension and escalation.