Despite its trappings as an action-buddy anime, Tiger and Bunny offers an ample barrage of fujoshi fodder between its title characters that has fueled countless volumes of doujinshi and sustained the series since its 2011 debut. Debates on the Internet still continuing between the merits and demerits of Kotetsu/Barnaby or Barnaby/Kotetsu, and with a Hollywood film in the works, these conversations are likely to continue for many years to come.
For the uninitiated to this anime, Tiger and Bunny is not the typical good-versus-bad hero show as a series that questions our notions of justice in a world dominated by multi-million dollar corporations and the media. In this show’s universe, certain people called NEXT are born with super powers. A handful of these NEXT become “Heroes,” or in other words, fighters of justice sponsored by corporations and filmed for national television. Yet, dark secrets shroud this mediated justice, secrets soon to be discovered by the new Hero combo, Wild Tiger, aka Kaburagi T. Kotetsu, and Barnaby Brooks Jr., aka Bunny.
In this lull before the Tiger and Bunny’s Hollywood film, what’s a fujoshi leaning fan to do but ship the heck out of existing television series and build new fantasies from the existing fan service-y framework. The following is a short list of the top five shippable moments from Tiger and Bunny. Rather than a comprehensive exploration on the intimate relationship between Kotetsu and Barnaby, this list will be more of a sampler platter to entice those who have yet to partake in this delightful series. As a fair warning though, there will be spoilers.
Now, let’s jump right into the top five BL/Yaoi moments in Tiger and Bunny.
1st Moment: The Infamous Princess Carry
- Episodes: 1
Starting off with episode 1, we have the “infamous princess carry,” or in other words the scene that kicks off the potential romance between Kotetsu and Barnaby. We witness this scene in a critical moment in Kotetsu’s life. As a hero just a little past his prime, Kotetsu has had more than his fair share of close calls; episode one best showcases this as Kotetsu, after haphazardly fulfilling his role as a hero, falls mid-air when his five-minute long “Hundred Power” expires. Covering his eyes in fear of the expected impact, Kotetsu suddenly finds himself cradled in the arms of a yet unidentified rookie hero, Barnaby.
Though only brief, this first “princess carry” cements what will become a motif that bookends the series with elements suggestive of boys love. For those with fujoshi glasses, this foreshadows Kotetsu falling for Barnaby and vice versa. Despite the odd couple bickering that shortly ensues after their first encounter, from the very start Kotetsu and Barnaby’s relationship appears to portend more than that typical co-workers.
2nd Moment: “Why do you bother with me,” aka The Turning Point
- Episodes: 8
Moving on from their first encounter, we have the key point that signifies Barnaby’s heart softening to Kotetsu’s constant attention. From the first episode, differences in personality create tension between Barnaby and Kotetsu as they work together as a hero team. Yet, despite these tensions, Kotetsu slowly begins to warm towards Barnaby, attempting to “guide” him as a veteran hero. Barnaby, however, does not take well to Kotetsu’s concern, which brings us to episode 8. In this episode, Kotetsu goes out of his way to protect Barnaby from harm, injuring himself in the process. Upon returning home after witnessing Kotetsu’s sacrifice, Barnaby begins wondering why Kotetsu even bothers with him despite their constant fighting.
Why indeed. For those watching Tiger and Bunny, Barnaby’s sudden realization of Kotetsu’s care represents what can be interpreted as the beginning of reciprocated feelings between the title characters. Barnaby’s awareness and Kotetsu’s injury starts the ball rolling for the man-to-man bonding that develops in the following episodes.
3rd Moment: The Kotetsu and Barnaby heart to heart…or something more(?)
- Episodes: 9
Building off of the last episode, episode 9 acts more as a filler episode that mixes a shirtless Kotetsu, a sympathetic and concerned Barnaby, an ample supply of alcohol, and a well-timed scene cut to stimulate plenty of fan service titillation. In this episode, hero duties forces Kotetsu (along with Dragon Kid and the NEXT son of Stern Bild’s mayor) to stay overnight at Barnaby’s apartment. While Dragon Kid actually does work, Kotetsu and Barnaby share a heart to heart moment over a couple of drinks that, in the following scene cut, leads the two sprawled suggestively in the living room the next morning.
What exactly occurs that night leaves much to the (romantic or perhaps erotic) imagination. For those familiar with Tiger and Bunny doujinshi and fan art, you’ve probably seen your fair share of this scene; for the uninitiated, be prepared to relive this memorable and shippable scene.
4th Moment: “I believed you would trust me”
- Episodes: 13
Shippable moments in Tiger and Bunny do not only appear in filler episodes. They are permeate critical plot points in the series, as can be seen in episode 13, the climax of the first cour. Right up until this point, Kotetsu and Barnaby’s relationship slightly sours as Stern Bild faces potential destruction with the sudden appearance of Jake Martinez, a serial killer who appears to be responsible for the death of Barnaby’s parents. The source of the trouble between Kotetsu and Barnaby resides in an issue of trust: Barnaby begins to think Kotetsu does not believe in him. As such, Barnaby turns his back on Kotetsu.
But, even with his back against Kotetsu, Kotetsu is still there to catch his fall, as in the key scene in which Kotetsu, despite having life threatening injuries, runs to Barnaby to tell him how to defeat Jake Martinez during a fate deciding battle between the two. To understand the full impact of this scene, one truly has to see it. However, to best summarize it, this scene and episode 13 as a whole illustrates how BL/yaoi moments rely not only on blatant fan service, but also on small emotional moments and the exchange of trust.
5th Moment: And the award for most memorable “dying” words goes to…
- Episodes: 24
Last but not least, we have the Kotetsu’s “dying” scene in episode 24. Here, in this moment of distress, we see the pinnacle the intimacy between Kotetsu and Barnaby. While it is not sealed with a kiss, it is reinforced with an admission from Barnaby that he has been learning to cook fried rice for Kotetsu. Paired with heart wrenching music and a tearful Barnaby, it would be difficult to not view this scene romantic for those with fujoshi vision.
Again, like the admission of trust in episode 13, we find that BL/yaoi stimulating scenes depend not only on (erotic) representations of the male body, but also that of more human, heartfelt elements such as trust, friendship, and (at times interpreted) love.
With hopes, this list has highlighted the best shippable moments in Tiger and Bunny. Through Kotetsu and Barnaby’s bond, we can see that what can be viewed as boys love scenes in anime relies not so much on the representation of the “boy,” but rather on that of love.
As this is only a brief list of highlights in Tiger and Bunny, many other shippable scenes have been neglected. Please feel free to list your favorite scenes from Tiger and Bunny in the comment section below!