Jul 172011

I didn’t think Tiger and Bunny would go Watchmen on us. Or Watchmen-light at least. It makes sense that it’d go this route since everything else has played like a tour of the superhero genre, but I wasn’t expecting it. You usually don’t see an anime start down the constructive route and then swing around and become deconstructive.

Mr. Legend’s a wife-beating, drunken bastard, and it’s all due to his impotency/waning super powers. He suffered from the same problem Tiger’s currently dealing with, but unlike Tiger he’s turning to booze and violence to fill the void. It’s hardly a new concept for the superhero genre, since we’ve been dealing with “flawed” heroes that purposely shatter our preconceived idealistic notions since the 70′s and 80′s, but you don’t see that sort of thing along side the sort of legend creation we’ve seen thus far.

So the first half of Tiger and Bunny was dedicated to creating its own superhero mythos. We see the sorts of people that become heroes, the rules they operate under, their personal lives, and then it all climaxes with a traditional villain showdown. I may not have liked the tourney format of said finale, but everything played out as a condensed version of the myth-making that’s trademark of a lot of the early superhero stories.

And now the second half is pulling a U-Turn on all of that. We’re seeing the fall of the very icons that the series has taken a great deal of effort to construct. Tiger’s powers are on the decline, coinciding with his own dip in physical prowess and lack of edge that the new generation possesses. And now we’re getting a one-two punch in seeing Lunatic’s origin and the hidden past of Mr. Legend.

Lunatic isn’t just your typical Punisher type. As far as we’ve seen, he isn’t out for revenge. His situation isn’t just a matter of revenge taken to the next level.  He has firsthand experience of the failure of the very hero system that’s held with such high esteem by the public. He’s seen his father, Mr. Justice, succumb to the pressures of the public and the frustration of his failing powers. Lunatic doesn’t just feel that the system is flawed, he feels that it creates just as many horrors as the criminals they struggle against. If the greatest of heroes– this world’s equivalent of Superman– is little more than a broken man whose crimes are hidden from the public, then how can lesser heroes trying to stand up for the same sense of justice do a better job?

Given his experiences, he’s come to what he sees as the only logical conclusion: the outright elimination of the criminal element. Perhaps he sees the constant cycle of arrest-release/escape-arrest as something that puts far too much pressure on the heroes of the world. Why force a hero to worry about having to stop a supervillain again and again and again in some sort of futile struggle? He’s seen the results of such pressure. Why not put an end to that cycle by killing those that break the law? It halts that cycle and it might stop some other kid from seeing one of his parents turn into the very monsters they fight.

It’s these sorts of scenarios that have been at the heart of so-called deconstructionist superhero stories. People that are familiar with the genre see how the same villains are defeated, arrested, and jailed only to escape when the writers want to reuse said villain. It makes for a seemingly ineffective justice system. What good is such a progressive reform-based society when it seems to help the criminal element moreso than the betterment of the public.

I’ve heard theories that Batman’s Wayne Enterprises benefits far more from the endless cycle of Arkham Asylum breakouts than it would if Batman’s foes were killed or sent away to more conventional prison systems. The criminals create a constant cycle of destruction that Wayne Enterprises profits from (Who else is gonna rebuild Gotham?), and it’s Batman that helps create this cycle by having his rogue’s gallery treated as mentally ill patients in need of care and reform rather than punishment. It’s just like The Joker says: he and Batman are two sides of the coin, and some people think that Batman is fully aware of this and benefits from it.

And it’s these sorts of “revelations” that has led to a trend in comic books towards characters like Lunatic. The very flaws that the fans and writers see in traditional comics are written into the stories, and the characters react to these revelations. Watchmen did the same sort of thing, as well as many other comics sense, and now we’re seeing it in the second half of Tiger and Bunny.

The catch being that Tiger and Bunny doesn’t have decades worth of lore to utilize and destroy, and that makes it fairly unique. Watchmen took altered versions of old 40′s heroes, played upon trends fans had seen in DC comics all of their lives, and turned them on their head. Tiger and Bunny doesn’t have all of this history. It isn’t like Madoka or Sunred, which both play off of Japanese-styled superhero shows (Seriously, sentai and magical girl shows are superhero genres.), and it isn’t like Evangelion and the like which do the same sort of things with the mecha genre. And since the Japanese audience doesn’t have the same sort of intimate knowledge of the western-styled superhero story, it has to do both sides of the equation to have everything work out.

It’s pretty fascinating to see both sides play out within the same 20-something episode series.

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