90′s Antihero

 Anime, Tiger & Bunny  Comments Off on 90′s Antihero
May 172011
 

Being the only person in the known universe who genuinely liked Heroman, I’m pretty sure I wrote the only blog post in existence that actually kinda took it seriously and tried to make heads or tails out of it. The gist of that post was that Heroman was like a tour of comic book history, going from the idealistic days of the “Golden Age” right on up to the ridiculous mess that has been the past ~20 years of superheroics.

Tiger and Bunny’s doing something similar to that, except its mashing all of these eras together into a cohesive whole. And it’s a hell of a lot better than Heroman.

Despite the show having a big cast of heroes, it looks like things are gonna boil down to three primary protagonists: Wild Tiger, Barnaby, and Lunatic.

Yeah. I’m listing Lunatic as a protagonist rather than an antagonist.

With these three dudes we get the general spectrum of superhero archetypes.

Tiger’s your classic Superman/Captain America/Spiderman type. He’s an earnest, optimistic (for the most part), true blue hero. He wants to do good for the sake of doing good. He’s something of an artifact in the “modern age,” but he’s also a type that’s sorely needed to act as a counterpoint for everything else.

Barnaby’s the middle ground. He’s your Batman or Wolverine type. He’s a good guy that’s all for righting wrongs, but he has personal issues as well. It’s said personal issues that define his character rather than his do-gooder nature. He plays along with the crowd, goes along with the Hero TV game and all, but it’s all to further his vendetta against the syndicate that murdered his family. You get the feeling he’ll probably keep being a hero after he manages to fulfill his goal, but he’s in it for personal motives first and idealism second.

Then there’s Lunatic. The average anime fan might view him as a villain, what with all the burning of peeps and such, but he represents the most recent heroic ideology. He’s The Punisher. He wants to remove criminal elements from society just as much as the other two, but at the same time he feels that society’s primary means of “justice” has utterly failed. So, instead of giving criminals due process, something he feels is ineffective, he just puts a proverbial cap in their ass. And with that justice is served.

In the comic book tradition, Lunatic is every bit as much a protagonist archetype as Barnaby and Tiger. The Punisher’s had ongoing comic series since the 1980′s, and the 90′s saw a massive boom in these sorts of characters. And while said style worked at times (I loved the early issues of Ghost Rider’s comic, for instance.), for the most part it pretty much stagnated the industry. But I’ve already talked about that shit before, so we won’t drone on about it here.

So what we have in Tiger and Bunny is something of a cultural clash. We see this sort of thing a lot in Marvel and DC’s stuff, where characters of varying ideologies clash. Batman and Superman argue about the best way to deal with criminals all the time. Punisher and Spiderman started off at odds and have never really seen eye to eye. And comics tend to handle it reasonably well. Sometimes. Again, it doesn’t always work, but when it works it’s good stuff.

We see this sort of thing often in anime as well, but the problem is that said series often takes the side of one of the characters. That’s my main beef with Ruroni Kenshin and Trigun: The series weights in and judges one viewpoint, rather than having both sides presented and allowing the viewer to decide for himself. But again, I’ve droned about that before as well.

While it looks like Tiger and Bunny has already sided against Lunatic (And I can’t blame it. How in the hell can you root for vaguely bishounen Joker? That’s just creepy!), I’m hoping it doesn’t go down the moralizing path that we see all too often in anime. Let them all duke it out, let them join forces to tackle a greater foe, and let them live in ever-arguing harmony. If Captain America, Wolverine, and Punisher can all get along relatively well, so can Tiger, Barnaby, and Lunatic.

That’s real Love and Peace.

The Conspiracy Eats Itself

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Apr 242011
 

Why in the hell would you still go around robbing shit when there’s a gaggle of super heroes on call who’ll humiliate you on national TV for the amusement of drunk assholes and unappreciative housewives? Doesn’t really make that much sense on the surface, does it? I’m sure that’s everyone’s initial impression when it comes to Tiger and Bunny, and I get how peeps’d feel that way.

But y’all know me. Y’all know I’m gonna don my conspiracy theorist hat. So let’s get to it and expose what I think is Tiger and Bunny’s inner conspiracy.

We’ve seen Mr. Barnaby Jones (Not his actual full name, but in keeping with the Frisky Dingo connection I’ve rechristened him as such.) brooding over some Ouroboros-related things. What better symbol for a villainous SPECTRE-like conspiracy than the World Serpent from mythology? If I was running my own global conspiracy bent on taking over the world and I”m having a meeting with my marketing dudes to determine our conspiracy’s branding, I’m sure I’d give consideration to the serpent that’s eating itself–, a symbol that represents balance in the world. After all, most Illuminati-like schemes are all about bringing about order in the world. It just so happens that said conspirators happen to get a whole lot of cool shit in the process of bringing about said order. Sure, you step over the rights of a few innocent peons, but you gotta break a few wills to make a world omelet.

So I’m willing to bet on Ouroboros being the overarching villain of the anime. They’re this world’s COBRA or Legion or Doom or whatever. At the moment they’re likely underground– the sort of group that few know about and fewer live to investigate after discovering. Barnaby’s parents were likely assassinated by this group for reasons to be explained later, and he’s become a hero so he can go Bruce Wayne on their asses.

And my partner-in-crime Updatedude had a nice little theory of his own about Barnaby. Barnaby’s bucking the trend of heroes having secret identities. He’s going full Tony Stark by having his identity be out in the open. Updatedude’s theory, which I gotta agree with, is that Barnaby’s doing this as a way to flush out Ouroboros. He’s making it public that the son of one of their former targets is in the hero business, and he wants them to know that he knows something’s up. When he gets pissed at Tiger for trying to rush into fights and ignore the whole public image thing, he isn’t doing so because he’s trying to be some celebrity, he’s doing so because he wants his face out there so that his enemies see him. All the better to force them into some mistake that allows him to expose them and take them down, I bet.

And Ouroboros may be in charge of all of the criminals that are running amok despite super heroes infesting the world. It could be this organization’s way of saying “Yeah, you might have these heroes to save the day, but we’re still in power here and there’s nothing much you can do about it.” And maybe this conspiracy’s behind the TV show as well, using it to help neuter the heroes and make them less effective by having them obey arbitrary rules. Or the show could just be the natural byproduct of corporate sponsorship. Either way works for the scope of the series.

Heroic Demon-Robot X

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Apr 092011
 

First thing: The word “impression” is lame. Peeps should say “assumptions” or “biases” or “super mega guessing games” or “I have no idea what I’m saying but I’m gonna say it anyway.” So yeah, here’s some shit about the new season where I say things despite having no real basis for feeling that way outside of my own assumptions, biases, and guesses. Because that’s what you do at the beginning of a season.

Ridiculously bold and likely incorrect (but I don’t give a damn) prediction of the season:

Tiger and Bunny will be this season’s best anime. Like, nothing will even come close. Not even my much-anticipated Azazel-san. At least so long as Azazel doesn’t get subbed.

I’ve heard some peeps complaining about Tiger and Bunny being “too western” and stuff like that. Anyone that makes that complaint has never, like, read a super hero comic or watched a super hero movie, because the only thing about this show that even remotely resembles a super hero story is the costumes. And even then, Japan has plenty of super hero-esque types of its own, and these Tiger and Bunny dudes mirror those tropes just as much as they mirror your typical Marve and DC stuff. So yeah, if you’re whining about this show being “too western,” you’re as wrong as someone that thinks any anime that isn’t about shit blowing up is “slice of life.”

If you wanna play the “evil imperialist influence” game, the gaijin devil show Tiger and Bunny best resembles is Frisky Dingo. Both shows do the whole “heroics as corporate whoring” angle, and both play it up for laughs. Dingo’s humor is decidedly more snarky and mean-spirited, while Tiger goes for a more goofy style of humor, but that’s what you’d expect from an anime.

And I gotta give it props for being a hero/action show that isn’t about some prepubescent typical-otaku audience stand-in. Instead we get what I have to assume is a dude in his late 20s or so who can be an audience stand-in for us “older” fans. After all, our opinions are of more value than the kiddies, so we should get more anime about peeps close to our age. But yeah, cool to see a show where it’s about a dude dealing with issues beyond “growing up.”

As for the other shit airing this season, I’d love to rave about Azazel-san, but I wasn’t able to gleam that much from the unsubbed episode I watched. It still has that grotesque edge that I liked from the OAV episode that aired last year, but I’ll have to wait for some subs before I can tell if it has the same nasty wit about it. More on this shit when some fansubber finally decides to be cool, pulls himself away from the latest abhorrent “girls doing absolutely nothing” anime, and subs it. Pretty please, sub dudes?

The X-Men anime is looking pretty decent. It has some awkward pacing and editing issues (Some scene transitions suck, for instance), so it’s something of a jarring watch, but the rest of the show reeks of X-Menness. And that’s a good thing in my book. I’m loving Beast’s “Ron Perlman from the 80s Beauty and the Beast” look, and I love how they juxtapose that Beastier-than-Beast look with bow ties and fancy clothing. The action scenes are decent, if nothing special. I don’t care much for how the second episode made Storm look like a lightweight (Really? She nearly passes out from using her powers? She has more balls than Scott and Hank (Beast) combined.), but I’m hoping that was just a matter of them trying to create some faux tension in this episode. Surprised they’re using the U-Men in this, if only because they’re a fairly new villain group that came along long after I quit reading the comic, but I guess they went with them because they figured their techno-cyborg look’d appeal to the typical anime fan.

I also rather like how Wolverine looks different in this series compared to his slicker, “prettier” look in his solo series. Anyone that’s actually read a comic book will know that character designs fluctuate greatly depending on who is the artist in a particular series, so having Logan go from athletic but somewhat slender to buff and gruff fits the comic book mold quite awesomely. It ain’t an inconsistency, it’s an appropriate quirk.

Nichijou and Dororun Enma-kun? Yeah, they’re about the same. Sure, one is a low-key cute girl anime and the other is a grotesque Go Nagai monster show, but seriously, they’re pretty much the same damn thing. Despite their extremes, they’re both inoffensive but mildly interesting comedies about weird shit going down. The only significant difference between them is which fetishes they want to appease. Do high schoolers that look like they’re barely out of diapers appeal to you? Watch Nichijou. Do kappa and witches and monsters with sword dicks appeal to you? Watch Enma-kun. Other than that, they’re the same old shit, if a bit more interesting since they actually have something resembling a decent sense of humor.

Preliminary rankings:

Tiger and Bunny > Azazel-san > X-Men >>Nichijou = Enma-kun >>> All that shit that’s already aired that I intentionally avoided because my kneejerk assumptions are always right

Dec 312010
 

Yep. Obligatory “Best of the Year” post. Hell, I churned out ten of these damn things last year so I could catch up on everything I hadn’t written about in the millions of years I spent not blogging, so I may as well churn out one for this year, right?

So yeah, Let’s Listage!

 

 

 

13. Heroman

I think I may be the only person that thinks Heroman is a legitimately good super hero story. It has an old school vibe to it, like the sort of stuff Marvel and DC used to churn out when they were marketing their shit mainly at kids. There’s an earnestness to it all that’s missing from most of today’s metatextual superhero stuff– modern stuff is superhero comics about superhero comics while Heroman is a superhero story. It isn’t quite as brilliant as Tiger and Bunny, but it’s definitely worthy of people’s attention. Y’know, so long as they don’t have some irrational bias against superhero shit.

12. Dance in the Vampire Bund

It was a mess. A ridiculously absurd mess that never really explained much of what was going on. And the whole “naked girl cavorting about while claiming she’s super-duper old” was kinda creepy. But damn, this series was a beautiful mess. I blame my digging of this series on my old World of Darkness fanboy tendencies, since Bund aped so many tropes from that RPG and other vampire shit. I also blame my love of plot hole ridden old school OAVs that forced you to fill in the holes with your own convoluted ideas. It’s trash, but it’s the sort of trash I like.

11. Shinryaku! Ika Musume!

10. Working!!

The problem with anime comedies isn’t that they tend to take place in schools or focus around harems or shit like that. What’s wrong with them is that they’re usually pretty shitty. Squid Girl and Working take the usual formulas and remember that comedies are supposed to be funny. They acknowledge current trends without forgetting that the most important things are comedic timing and the way characters play off of each other. Working does it a little better, since it’s more character-driven and less gimmick-driven, but there isn’t much differentiating these two series besides that.

9. Trigun: Badlands Rumble

I didn’t see the Trigun movie until after I made this list, but I did write a post about it here. It accentuates everything that was good about the TV series and cuts down on all the stuff that annoyed me. It’s the ideal anime TV-to-movie transition– the sort of thing all such movies should strive to be like. Not unlike, say, the Cowboy Bebop movie.

 

 

8. Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt

Panty and Stocking is the bastard lovechild of Gainax’s hyperkinetic styling and 90′s western cartoons like Dexter’s Laboratory and Ren & Stimpy. It didn’t always work, or else it’d likely be in one of the top two or three slots, but when it was working it was damn brilliant stuff. And fucking funny. Fatherfucking funny shit. And the Chuck to the Future shorts were some of the best post-Looney Tunes cartoon shorts I’ve ever seen.