May 162012
The whole “will you show us your full potential” aspect of Zetman ain’t doing much for me. It’s all a little too Dragonball Z for me with its power levels and unlocking of new forms. So Zetman himself isn’t really keeping my attention all that much. What’s really caught my attention these past few episodes is the way his buddy is being groomed while in his ALPHAS mode.

It all goes back to that moment in the burning building. The buddy wants to save those that can be guaranteed survival while Zetman wants to save everyone. They’re both making decisions based on their internal logic– their actions make sense to them. It turns out that Kouga made a decision that weighed on his heart a bit. He saw that leaving behind the mother was a bit of a heartless move, especially since Zetman was able to save the whole family, and now that’s coming back to bite him in the ass.

Now that he’s gone full ALPHAS, he’s faced with having to own up to the ideas of his superiors. He may be a rich kid with a family fortune to play with, but he has to answer to the guys that authorize the spending of said fortune. In a way, ALPHAS has to answer to his shareholders since he doesn’t own all the stock in his heroic business.

He’s basically a corporate hero.

Tiger & Bunny kinda hit on this last year. The heroes had to make sure their showed off their corporate sponsors, kinda like glorified NASCAR drivers. Make sure you mug that camera while punching out the bad guy and saving the old lady from a runaway train or whatever. But what’s going down with ALPHAS is on an entirely different level. He isn’t trying to make his sponsors look good, he’s trying to satisfy the bottom line. He’s in beta testing mode right now, and while ALPHAS is all about being a hero, what’s most important to his backers is maintaining the safety of the test subject and gathering data.

So ALPHAS can be a hero, but he has to do so within reason and within the perceived budget. I get the feeling that what’s important is the image of the hero. If you save your sister from some derelict scum, you make your daddy’s company look good and you show that his technology has the potential for all sorts of applications. And on top of all of that you’ve created the perfect spokesman for the product: a hero of justice straight out of the comic books and TV shows the kids love.

All that said, you’re in the black. Yeah, you might lose your sister’s best friend and some other teenager in the process, but it’s a net gain for Justice and a net gain for the company. No need to self-sacrifice and take unnecessary risks when guaranteed growth and guaranteed crime-fighting is staring you right in the face.

The heroes in Tiger & Bunny still had that selflessness about them. They may have been shilling products, but they put their lives on the line. The backers behind ALPHAS aren’t looking for that sort of hero. They want to remake the image of the hero in the corporate image, and that’s a pretty fascinating take on the concept. We’ve seen the selfless do-gooder. We’ve seen the at-all-costs vigilante. And while this concept isn’t exactly new (Pretty sure Booster Gold from the DC universe has been interpreted in this manner before.) it’s cool to see it in Zetman. And it’s cool to see Kouga struggling with this proposition when it’s in line with the way he viewed things as a kid. His ideals are in conflict here. Can he maintain his dream of being a hero without “selling out” in the truest sense?

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