I commented before about how excellent a job this series does of balancing its plot progression with action and character development, and episode 8 is another fine example. It is the first of two consecutive episodes in this trio which features one of the other heroes, and it does so while also looking in more detail at who Lunatic might be and what motivates him.
In this case the featured character is Ivan, aka Origami Cyclone, who comes into play when he accompanies Kotetsu and Barnaby on their visit to an academy designed to develop heroes–one that both Barnaby and Ivan are graduates of. From a broader perspective, this is the first clear indication that there is some kind of feeder program for developing heroes, and it clearly is not meant just for school-aged kids. Significantly, at least some of the students Kotetsu meets are his age or older. The joke here is that many of them are, just as clearly, not cut out to be heroes despite having NEXT powers, but that’s also part of the episode’s point: Ivan wasn’t, either, and yet he still made it. This is also the first time that we see what he can actually do: perfectly mimic another person’s appearance. While that may not be useful in a pitched battle scenario, he would be a star in infiltration missions. As with Karina a couple of episodes back, Kotetsu shows how much of a reassuring figure he can be.
Some of that continues into episode 9’s focus on Huang Pao-Lin, aka Dragon Kid. Whether in hero costume or not, Huang has barely had any lines prior to this episode even though she’s usually present in hero group shots and action scenes, and we have previously learned nothing about her. Here she’s shown as apparently living with her manager/guardian while her parents are still in China. She also has a boyish disposition; in Japanese, she uses masculine pronouns for herself, but that does not translate well. However, the baby that Kotetsu has been assigned to protect still takes to her better than anyone else. Here, Kotetsu’s reassurance helps Huang realize that she can accept a gift from her parents for its symbolic meaning even if she doesn’t care much for how “girly” it looks. One significant background detail that can easily be overlooked in all of the hubbub about the telekinetic baby and the kidnappers is that the mayor and his wife are a mixed-race couple.
Episode 8 has overall plot relevance for also bringing Lunatic into the picture again and establishing that he seems to be an independent operator rather than an agent of Ouroboros. Kotetsu taking a blow from Lunatic meant for Barnaby also clearly makes an impression on Barnaby, one which lingers through the next two episodes. That in part leads to Barnaby showing more trust in Kotetsu during episode 9, enough so that he does not hide the details about his search for his parents’ killer from Kotetsu anymore, whereas before he would have told Kotetsu to butt out. The real plot mover in this span, however, is episode 10. There, Barnaby finally pins down the identity of his parents’ killer, and Ouroboros finally makes its move by holding all of Stern Bild City hostage in an attempt to free the very imprisoned man that Barnaby is seeking himself. Lunatic aside, this also represents the first incident that the heroes are not able to fully resolve in a single episode. This represents a dramatic escalation of the action and threat levels involved.
All of this feels like the beginning of the setup for a seasonal climax, while the scenes with Kotetsu talking to Kaede probably portending further problematic developments on that front as well. (And man, the series cannot stop taking digs at Kotetsu, can it?) While the artistic efforts seemed quite erratic on episodes 9 and 10, it seemed to stabilize in episode 10. Hopefully that also portends a trend for upcoming episodes.
Tiger & Bunny is currently streaming on
Viz.com and Hulu.