The Life of an Undignified Hero

5% saving citizens, 95% endorsing Pepsi

Welcome to my monthly musing~ (from now on they’ll be monthly…) Last time I talked about villains, and this time I’m talking about superheroes! No, I’m not going to discuss what makes a good hero like I did for my villain post. The heroes I’m talking about are people with special powers that normal humans don’t. (Sorry about that, heroes without powers. You’ll have to sit in the sidelines for now.)  They risk their lives in order to keep the city peaceful and the citizens safe. They ask for nothing in return, not even recognition – they’re just here to protect you for their sheer love of helping people.

Hahaha, if only life was like that.

Tiger & Bunny has some very cynical glimpses at what a superhero would go through if they existed in our society today. Oh how the majestic image of a hero is tarnished. In T&B, superheroes aren’t glorious figures of hope as much as they’re a brand, a label, or a celebrity. Since good old Taigs and Buns aims for more laughs than real critiques dissecting the issue, I thought I’d dive in a little deeper myself. Let’s see just how far from glory heroes are when they’re plucked from their perfect world and thrown into reality.

Hero as a Job

First, let’s talk about what Tiger & Bunny is getting right. Anyone with a special power is called a NEXT and these people almost always end up working as a hero. That’s right, working. Instead of depicting superheroes as glorious saviors fighting for the sake of others, a hero is just an occupation. They do it for money. Heroes are stripped of their pure love for justice and instead given a job where the only real pre-requisite is being able to use super powers and being willing to chase after criminals.

They’re still using their powers to save people, and that’s still a great thing, don’t get me wrong. I would appreciate having someone turned into an iceberg if they stole my wallet (and I didn’t get a chance to break their shin in time) thank you very much. Although they’re doing the same thing as any typical, crime-fighting hero, their actions are cast in a very different light. A light that’s a lot more realistic, since everyone’s main goal is fending for themselves first and helping others second. Kotetsu is the odd one of the bunch who does his job earning money as a hero, but still believes in the traditional ideals. Fighting for justice and all that. Of course some people will retain this ideal, but it’s not necessary to be a “hero.” So much for hero and justice almost being synonymous, hmm?

Hero as a Product

In Tiger & Bunny, NEXT are still respected for their heroic efforts, but at the expense of their pride. Leave it to the crazy guys in advertising to think up a way to abuse heroes for money. T&B depicts heroes as a new industry first and foremost. They are more like billboards who just happen to also save people. I find it completely plausible that people in 2011 would see superheroes and someone would realize “hey, we could make money with this!” and change the whole thing into a vehicle for profit. The heroes save people, and companies get money in return. The reason they get money is because the heroes work as a sponsor for a specific company, logo emblazoned on their costume as proudly as Superman would that giant S on his chest. The media films every crime they can to further advertise the heroes and the company they represent, turning the heroes into celebrities.

Most of the time heroes are admired as celebrities in movies and anime – that’s not new, because of course you’d think someone was frickin awesome if they could shoot fire from their palm. The real novel idea Tiger & Bunny brings to the table is the idea of a company paying a hero as long as they fight crime in their name (and wear their costume).  Just look at Barnaby: TV shows covering his life, photoshoots, interviews. He’s like a famous actor or athlete and there’s no mysterious identities, keeping to the shadows, and staying humble.

I’m sure you’re thinking “Well this is all lovely, but is glitzing it up for the camera really such a bad change from the humble hero? As long as they protect us, it’s all good.” A cheesy hero is still a hero…but not if the whole Hero TV rat race gets in the way of things. As for the wellbeing of the heroes, companies treat their heroes like products. How many points they accumulate on Hero TV comes first, and their safety second. Who the hell knows where “happiness” ranks on their agenda. This issue was touched on a little bit in Karina Lyle’s episode, where her boss told her that her only duty was to make the company popular and screw anything like becoming a singer or actually helping people. Even the main duo Kotetsu and Barnaby spent an entire episode ignoring calls to help civilians because their company said they was too busy doing a swimsuit photoshoot/interview. Saving lives? Pffft, it’s all about the fame.

This is bad for the civilians in need of saving. With this sort of corrupt way of thinking, heroes stop saving civilians because they garner less points than nabbing the actual villain. Barnaby is very guilty of this, ignoring every crime unless a television camera is near and rolling, and I predict he might get worse in time. What’s the point of saving someone if he doesn’t get paid, right? And for the filmed crimes, heroes are going to start ignoring things such as evacuating civilians or protecting small children if they could just get more points for landing the first hit. This sort of mindset turns saving people into more of a game. Broadcasting it on television is even worse, and treats the lives of all the NEXT and the victims as disposable and existing solely for everyone’s entertainment.

Hero as a Test Subject

Alright, let’s get down and dirty with some “what-ifs” that we didn’t really see explored in the (usually) light-hearted Taigs and Buns. Some extra food for thought about heroes if they were in our world. Kotetsu, Barnaby, Fire Emblem, Sky High and all the heroes are treated rather nicely in Tiger & Bunny, as if they were celebrities. But think about what a hero is in the context of this show. A human with special powers who uses those powers to save people. Being a hero and being a mutant differ only in intent. Most of the villains in Tiger & Bunny have just been average criminals, but there was one NEXT who dared to use his powers to steal priceless artifacts. Heck, there was even that kid who started controlling statues and running amok because he was teased. NEXT are dangerous things, and as with any new phenomenon, scientists are going to want to know how NEXT are created.

Human experimentation is forbidden, but they could be subjected to a whole gambit of medical tests. If the government passes some specific laws to accommodate heroes and their abilities, they might make health check-ups every week or so a mandatory occurrence. Imagine if they found the cause for their special abilities through something like a blood test (because we’re not dissecting them Toshio Ozaki style…I would hope. But who knows, in our crazy world…). Now imagine if they developed a cure for their abilities. I think we all know the outrage that usually ensues when a group of people are implied to be “abnormal” and in need of a “cure.” Riots! Rebellions! Protests! Division between those who want to live normal lives and get the cure and NEXT who want to stay as they are! Let’s not even think what would happen if they found the specific genetic sequence that caused people to become NEXT…Genetic enhancements and designer fetuses in order to turn humans into mutants. Science can do some scary things.

 

Sometimes, the lulzy pictures I use for my editorials scare even MYSELF

Now it’s your turn

First of all, if you missed out on Tiger & Bunny or didn’t like the first episode, I really suggest giving it a second chance. It’s one of my favourites of the season, and a master of balancing comedy and action. Also, Seto Kaiba’s seiyuu plays a flaming homosexual who parades around in pink heels. Secondly, it really is an interesting look at how unglamorous the lives of heroes would be in real life.

We’re at the end, so I leave the floor to you once again! Remember, the point of this is less for me to rant and more for me to hear your thoughts. It’s all about the discussion, so gather round! Some questions to get you started: how do they think heroes would be treated in real life? Anything to add, agree on, or dispute? Think Tiger & Bunny has the whole sponsor thing down pat or think it’s a totally bogus prediction? Feel free to bring up anything else Tiger & Bunny or hero related. Don’t forget your mini fanart spam on the way out.

Bonus Tiger & Bunny Mini Spam:Show ▼

About

A neuroscience graduate, black belt, and all-around nerd. You'll either find me in my lab or curled up in my rilakkuma kigurumi watching anime.
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21 Responses to “The Life of an Undignified Hero”

  1. Anonomyous says:

    I’ll just say it now.

    Kotetsu will lose his powers but he will show that being a hero does not mean you have special powers but rather you just need to be willing to stand up when needed.

    • baka_girl says:

      I hope the show didn’t go to that very simple way of thinking..

    • Overcooled says:

      Interesting idea. I wouldn’t mind that sort of ending, but I’d be a little sad to see Kotetsu not involved in an epic, final tag team battle in the last episode. I think they might go that route and then just give him back his powers anyway so they can continue with the action.

  2. baka_girl says:

    Awesome editorial post! *thumbs up*
    Good thing that this post was out when I already finished my marathon until eps 15, and I agree with you that T&B is really interesting, hilarious and full of action 😀 (though I do admit that I didn’t really like it in Spring Preview)

    As for your opinion on Heroes, I agree with most of it. Thanks to your post, I even had a wild imagination where the Heroes will participate in political field, they can run as a governor or even president! (It’s a very weird imagination, I know :p)

    • Overcooled says:

      Thank you, thank you~ Technically you don’t NEED to have seen the show to get the editorial, but it helps. Sky High for president, DO WANT!

  3. jGLZa says:

    I always love editorial posts, mainly because they inspire me to someday do one and who doesn’t love villains? Villains often make or break the show.

    And lasty where do you find all your fanart, mega lulz.

    • Overcooled says:

      I’m glad you like them, I tend to spend more time on these than normal posts, ehehe. The hardest part is just picking a topic. Once you have an idea, you’ll probably end up just naturally writing the whole thing all at once :3

      All my fanart is from pixiv and massive amounts of Tumblr stalking ;D

  4. Foshizzel says:

    Awesome read here OC! Nice work and yes I love this series too! At first I hated the lame ass CGI, but giving it another shot made things better after episode one.

    As for the hero thing if there were any in the real world, I think it would be mixed emotions over it. As in some would be happy the world is safe thanks to the hero, Where some would be afraid of them.

    But I do wonder if we would try to label them and try to make money off of them, I am sure scientists all over would want to study them and try to mimic the powers.

    I do remember Railgun touched that subject near the end, when the scientists experimenting on the children trying to extract their powers. Then again that series is more about students with powers that train to use them, not sure if they are ever trained to be superheros or not.

    Interesting post wish I could offer a bit more detailed comment xD

    • Overcooled says:

      Thanks! The CGI really grows on you. It’s a lot better than some attempts *cough*C*cough*

      If we ever found out how to make heroes, we’d probably go the Railgun method and start training people to have powers. I’m probably just cynical, but I can see heroes being exploited like crazy. Poor things.

      • Foshizzel says:

        Yeah I can see that happening after all look at the next live action marvel movie, in Captain America they are basically creating their own super hero.

        So I could see that happening where we make a hero put them to work and yeah do the Railgun thing were we train future
        heroes and what not xD

    • Sebz says:

      same sentiment with the CGI…however, the BL overrode it all…xD

      while I’m basically watching this show for the BL (fuck you Karina), I do agree with the heroes-becoming-commodities part. Heroes are pretty much Hollywood dudes. We just don’t realize it at once because superheroes don’t exist in our dimension xDDD

  5. Alynn says:

    This editorial is awesome! Enlightened me a little more about the themes behind T&B.

    When I saw the first episode of this, I didn’t like it at all. I’m glad I kept watching though.

    This is one of the reasons why I really like the series; a more realistic and modern take on superheroes. They do it differently with it being a job and all.

    That one picture of Hulk -esque Barnaby… I’m dying.

    • Overcooled says:

      Thanks! I’m spreading the joy of T&B to everyone! It’s a concept you really need to see in action to get. The sponsor thing just sounds dumb until you watch it and realize the message it’s trying to get across.

      Yeah, I try to scroll b that picture as quickly as I can…lol

  6. Kyokai says:

    You should have added Ichigo’s seiyuu Masakazu Morita as Barnaby to get most of the crowd in for this one. I love the sponsorship concept of Taiga & Buns, being a marketing pro, it all just makes sense (like how we have branded the hell out of cricket in Asia), all promotional campaigns hit home and seem quite realistic.

    The only thing that bothers me is that Kotetsu’s daughter doesn’t know how awesome he is. He should have told her just because.

    • Overcooled says:

      That might have been a little out of place since this has nothing to do with seiyuu lol.

      See? Even someone in marketing sees the potential to make money off of heroes. Man, if people start developing mutant abilities, it’s gonna be rough.

      I really wish he could tell her too. I know heroes try to keep their identity under wraps but….come on. Would it kill him to tell her? I’d say the pros outweigh the cons.

  7. Mina says:

    TAIGA ANDO BARNABY! *loves this show*
    I startet the first episode when it came out, and dropped it after that.
    last week I thought about it. ‘Why is this so popular?’ So I told myself, there must be a reason. I watched it and then episode 2 already gave me the answer. Now I am so hooked up with it xD I really love this show now, reaaally!!
    I don’t know how, or why, but the story is not just comedy and so on, it is serious, it kinda was serious from the start. Also gthe flow is different from other animes. Having seen many anime, I somethimes think about ‘typical outcomes’ of a series. But I always feel refreshed, when there are series which are not ‘typical’, and I must say, Tiger and Bunny is one of these shows

    • Overcooled says:

      It takes a while to grow on you, so people only really get into it after the 2nd episode. I know a lot of people who dropped it (until I yelled at them to try again) and then became obsessed after watching more XD Tiger & Bunny has quite a lot of originality going for it, that’s for sure~

  8. Snowley says:

    *_____* *stares @ fanarts*

    Nice article; T&B is twisted – it was meant to be something like experiment on product placement, a creation which sole purpose was commercialisation, and yet it kinda sorta mocks capitalism, although it’s not commenting on anything. T&B just show how things are, you can decide if it’s good or bad.
    I’d even say that society taking part in this big game against the villians… it just striked me it resembles some recent war that is probalby ending soon *ekhem* ppl watch it in the tv, cheer for “their heroes” and continue to scratch their butt, not really caring deep down. But that’s kinda off-topic ;0.

    • Overcooled says:

      The sponsorship isn’t the main topic of the show, it’s just sort of there to think about if you want to go deep. It’s entirely what you make of it.

      That’s actually pretty true and not all that off-topic. Imagine wars fought with heroes instead of soldiers. …and televised…with ads….now isn’t that creepy?

  9. Renn says:

    I’m so glad your article promotes Tiger & Bunny, one of my favorite shows to have aired this year! 😀 Great analysis of the role of heroes on the show. :) It’s really easy to take the system for granted, so it’s nice to see it brought to the spotlight.

    I love your question, too. To be honest, I feel like T&B downplays the social implications of NEXT powers for a critique of capitalism. Similarly to you, I don’t think heroes would be loved like celebrities so easily irl. I feel like the most accurate response to NEXT powers would be like that in X-Men: fear and apprehension. I also agree that heroes would certainly be used as test subjects however illegal that may be. That said, I think T&B is spot-on in saying that private companies will risk the safety of civilians for sensationalist media (and cash).

    Also great picspam! 😀 Most of it ain’t exactly to my taste (Karina pics >>> Kotetsu/Barnaby honeymoon pics), but all are hilarious or well-drawn or both. 😉

    Can’t wait to see what you do next month!

    • Overcooled says:

      Of course! Have to spread the T&B love!

      Ah, you’re right. Heroes are going to be shunned and hassled for their abilities. Wherever they went, they’d just be tools for someone. Experiments, advertising, stuff like that. X-men is probably the best comparison. If X-men had Wolverine selling cigars or something, you’d have the T&B message right there XD

      Thanks, I have a big collection of T&B pics. It’s amazing how few pics of the girls there are thanks to Kotetsu and Barnaby’s..erm..antics XD I think I have a grand total of like 10. Hopefully I keep everyone entertained next month too!

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