Tiger & Bunny 17: The Perspective of the Absent Parent

Parents are a tricky thing in Japanese animation. How often is it that one finds the main protagonist alone with nary a parent in sight? There’s a certain measure of narrative sense in this, since the presence of either or both the parents could hinder the premise and progress of certain series aimed at an older teen/young adult demographic right from the outset. But like with a lot of other things, Tiger & Bunny approaches this well-worn trope with a measure of sophistication and nuance.

I first began thinking about this as I watched this episode with my partner and Shinmaru last night over Skype, and I saw that Kotetsu’s daughter Kaede was sitting in the Protagonist’s Seat. The idea of a middle school child coming to terms with her nascent powers, along with a father who isn’t present to add a measure of angst to her development, sounded like a much more common premise to me in anime. The story was fleshing itself out in my mind as I watched the episode, which in truth only made me appreciate what was actually happening all the more. Tiger & Bunny seemed to be doing what I don’t often see in anime, and that is giving weight and reason to a situation that I’d written off as a peculiarity to the medium: the absence of the parent.

Kotetsu Kaburagi is a Hero. He is on-call 24/7, has a certain skill-set that is specific to his job, and is a widower. Having his daughter live with him would mean exposing her to a certain amount of danger with his divulging of his profession, in addition to leaving her in isolation whenever the citizens of Sternbild would be in danger. What would make more sense for Kaede from Kotetsu’s perspective? Bringing her and her grandmother to live in the city in a crowded condo, having them there susceptible to the risk of having his identity exposed? Or keeping them in the countryside where his mother can raise a few crops and his brother can check on them with regularity? Better yet, his brother can live with them and these issues of Kaede being left alone will become moot. The choice is obvious to Kotetsu, even if this means not being witness to the growth of his own daughter.

But you can't continue this work forever.

The pathos becomes apparent as the episode highlights how Kotetsu sacrificed time with his daughter in order to ensure her financial security, only to return to see her become resentful of him in his absence. In my mind, I can easily see how this translates to the tribulations of the working parent who spends hours a day away from their child to ensure their future. Each generation anew is shocked at the pace with which their children grow, if only because they may not be present for it as it occurs. How disheartening must it be, to see your child resent you for not being there, when everything you do is for their sake? If I were a parent, I don’t know if I’d have the fortitude to endure that.

But this show has made the statement that Kotetsu’s life is not over yet, and neither has his daughter completely grown. We avoid the trappings of tragedy as he makes an important life decision, to forgo his life as a hero as his powers decline, and to instead become a more involved father in his daughter’s life. It’s a poignant and optimistic ending to an episode of a show that has dabbled in the tragic for a while.

"I'm not going back on our promise, right?"

No Tiger, no you’re not.

10 Comments

Filed under Editorials, Tiger & Bunny

10 responses to “Tiger & Bunny 17: The Perspective of the Absent Parent

  1. The way they developed this whole thread, with Kotetsu losing his powers, and culminating in his awareness that his life can still have meaning if he devotes himself to his daughter … excellent. This is the sort of thing that is going to make the series one that is truly worth watching.

    • The show has done a remarkable job of characterizing Kotetsu from the first episode, and to know that they don’t waste a moment of the characterization in order to present the payoff of a poignant storyline such as this one speaks to a confidence in the writing that I feel may be absent in a lot of modern anime.

      It’s very surely earning a spot on my shelf when it’s brought over here.

  2. Didn’t expect to find my tweets here, if you put them here because you think I’m affected by this episode because I have a very young daughter… then you’d be right.

    Furuichi’s dad in Beelzebub dissolved to tears watching Aleindon’s daughter demonstrate heroic acts of filial piety to her father. It’s a stupid scene played for laughs in an incredibly stupid show, but it points towards the same father-daughter dynamic, nay, mythology that Tiger & Bunny manipulates us with. And yes, I was affected by that scene in Beelzebub in not too different a way than I was by this show’s episode.

    I can’t wait for my daughter to grow up.

    I can’t bear to imagine my daughter growing up.

    Either way, I need to be a big part of it. I just do.

    • After discussing it with my partner and our own conversation on g+, we decided that removing the tweets would be the best.

      Your use of the word mythology is interesting, since that word speaks to the idea that the relationship between parent and child transcends the idea and constraints of storytelling, and that especially for parents, these ideas are powerful no matter the medium.

      Parenthood is daunting. I think it’s the single largest endeavor anyone can partake in, in their lifetimes.

  3. krizzlybear

    I think she’ll turn out alright. Given her powers as a Next, I really would love to see it in action, especially considering that her upbringing has a very interesting parallel to that of Lunatic’s, in the episode prior to this one. While both have parents who were Next, Lunatic’s childhood was a case of It Got Worse, compared to Kaede’s It Got Better. I would also like to point out that Lunatic was taught by Legend to live by justice, which was skewed due to Legend’s alcoholism and his discovery of Lunatic’s Next powers, whereas Kaede wasn’t really raised all that much by Tiger, but seems to be set up to learn his true identity and truly grow and benefit from it. Both cases are a bit of reverse of each other, and I find the contrast to be very interesting, and a case of excellent writing. These two episodes alone have definitely brought the second half back on par with the first in my mind.

    • I definitely saw the contrast between the storylines and was intrigued by it as well. I’ve seen pretty early on that Tiger & Bunny likes to play with contrasting themes and ideas and mashes them together to make them work. Like Agnes’ dual roles of TV producer and mission coordinator, the idea of law enforcement and capitalism, or even the contrasting personalities of Tiger & Barnaby. It’s even extended to the storytelling method of the show with the 1st cour being relatively light-hearted and the 2nd cour being much more somber in comparison. Or as Landon at Mecha Guignol might say, constructive vs. deconstructive.

      But about seeing Kaede in action, the show still has to resolve some of the threads it introduced recently with Barnaby’s caretaker, since it’s heavily implying that there’s more to him than we see. So as for the girl, I don’t know if there’s enough time to see her thrust into the main storyline without everything feeling incredibly rushed.

      But man, an OVA about Kaede “A Day in the Life of” would be super sweet.

  4. Have to say this is easily one of the most interesting episodes just to see this side of Kotetsu was a nice change of pace, you can really tell he is feeling terrible about leaving Kaede with her grandma. It was also great to see the two of them being somewhat happy together near the end, and the big shock of Kaede’s powers being revealed very nice touch maybe she will follow in her fathers footsteps.

    Agreed with Krizzly the last two episodes have been great ;)

    • Yeah this show, along with Steins;Gate, is becoming one of my favorites from the Spring. It does a very good job of knowing when to ramp up the comedy in one episode, the action in another, then hit you really hard with the drama in still another episode. It’s because we care about the characters that it all works so well.

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  6. What would make more sense for Kaede from Kotetsu’s perspective… The choice is obvious to Kotetsu, even if this means not being witness to the growth of his own daughter

    I just can’t help thinking that Kaede should’ve been told something, especially in light of Kotestsu’s brother’s words about not hiding things/ trying to handle everything alone. It was just heartbreaking seeing how hurt both of them were due to Kotestsu’s absence and Kaede’s resentment. Though, I guess she’ll find out soon enough, now…

    Also, the series as a whole seems to be doing a great job of highlighting the theme of sacrifice and how that’s an integral, if less glamorous, part of being a ‘hero’. As others above have emphasized, we’ve seen this embodied mainly by Kotestsu, and it’s yet another sign of the great characterization in this show; take away the superpowers, the action sequences and the comedy, and you’d still have plenty of drama and focus on character development and relationships.

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