Tiger & Bunny crises

Andrew Osmond faces the deadly dilemmas of Tiger & Bunny 4

Tiger & Bunny

It’s eyes down for the fourth and last (for now) instalment of Tiger & Bunny, speeding to its climax. Spoilers start… now! Previously, Barnaby finally learned the true identity of his parent’s killer – only, in thriller fashion, to be mindwiped by the baddie. The villain, in fact, has a flair for mindwiping, and decides to make Kotetsu a fall-guy in his schemes. Our hapless hero finds former friends and colleagues forgetting he’s Wild Tiger, and chasing him round Sternbild City for murder.

Luckily the villain doesn’t fool everyone. Kotetsu’s daughter Kaede, who’s now got powers herself, may think her dad’s a fool, but she knows he’s not a killer. And Barnaby gets help from a very unexpected quarter, which you’ll have to guess.

These last episodes raise compare-and-contrasts between the Japanese heroes and their American inspirations. For example, at one point, several of the Tiger & Bunny heroes are trapped by baddies, and given a fiendish dilemma. The first to flip a switch will save him or herself, but blow up everyone else. If no-one presses their switch within a time limit, then everyone dies. It’s possible this was inspired by the Batman film The Dark Knight, in which two boatloads of convicts and civilians were given a similar choice.

The interesting thing, though, is that it’s superheroes put into the situation, rather than lesser mortals. In most American comic-books, it would be a no-brainer; the heroes would choose death over betrayal. In Tiger & Bunny, the characters act like regular humans. They don’t trust their “allies” (who have always been rivals), and they can’t face death with aplomb. Of course, it makes the scene far more suspenseful. Another suspense highlight involves a poisoned coffee cup; we suspect the writers knew their Hitchcock.

It’s also hard to watch these episodes and think the writers didn’t have a certain audience in mind. The show’s producer Masayuki Ozaki was on a panel at the 2011 Otakon convention in America, and was asked about so-called “fujioshi” fans (female fans of male-male romances). His answer: “Frankly speaking I didn’t care much about so-called ‘fujoshi.’ I’m so surprised at this situation.”

You can judge for yourself when you watch the episodes, which bring Kotetsu and Barnaby into a succession of crises, with much manly crying. There’s a particularly pivotal use of “Bunny-chan” in the midst of battle that will make some viewers go “A-ha!,” and we don’t mean in an Alan Partridge way. In contrast to the seeming teases involving ostensibly hetero characters, the show seems to have lost interest in the openly gay Fire Enblem – which is good, given how thinly he was stereotyped.

Of course, Tiger/Kotetsu is the star to the end. He does a bit of rope-swinging in these episodes, which highlights his closeness to Peter Parker – shambolic, a bit of a goof, given to nervous wisecracks when the joke’s on him. He’s also driven by decency, responsibility and guilt over loved ones (though far less guilty than Parker on that front!) Whereas humourless heroes create fake identies as masks – Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne – Kotetsu is the real deal. His biggest triumph is he’d be just as much fun in a non-superhero show.

Tiger and Bunny, part four, is out 2nd September in the UK through Manga Entertainment.

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