TIGER & BUNNY 2 is set to release very soon on Netflix on the 8th of this month, and I, for one, can’t wait. Today is not the first time I’ve heaped praise on the original anime, nor will it be the last — for reasons I dug deep into last year. Its return is long overdue, though — and in celebrating that I found it pretty tough to pick just one husbando to highlight from the endearing cast.
Kotetsu is one of the greatest older male leads in an anime ever simply because of his humble, well-intentioned and infectiously positive, heartwarming nature; his core fatherly attributes make him well worth crushing on. Barnaby, meanwhile, is more obviously charming in his own mysterious, reliable and misunderstood ways. But they’re all far too obvious choices. So in typical fashion, I’m going to focus on a supporting character instead. He’s best known as Origami Cyclone, but more affectionately referred to by his real name — and in possession of a real self who deserves more love — Ivan Karelin.
Who is Ivan Karelin?
Ivan Karelin is the true identity of Origami Cyclone, the cool-looking samurai-crossed-with-a-cyborg hero who can often be vaguely seen in the background during the airing of HERO TV. He initially only shows up to please his sponsors, which is usually done by him creeping up into shots; his sneaky, ninja-esque superhero skills make him particularly skilled at pulling off impressive photobombs.
He does everything he possibly can to avoid any length of spotlight and airtime other than these small chances because he has no confidence in his Noted Entities with eXtraordinary Talents (NEXT) power: shapeshifting into either objects or people.
His issues arise in the latter case, since although he can make an exact replica of an individual’s appearance and voice, he is unable to copy their powers and physical attributes. This gives him a poor opinion of himself and a feeling of negativity and inferiority about his status as a hero; he feels unable to protect others. His feelings in this regard are explored in more detail in episode 8 of the show’s first season — like most of the rest of the supporting cast, he gets his own designated episode to explore his character further.
His vulnerability and room for blooming into his powers and accepting his potential makes him a cinnamon bun worth protecting. You’ll want to cheer for him as he learns to take responsibility, improve his power, and as we see his self-worth increase as time goes by.
Why we love Ivan Karelin
First things first, let’s address the obvious reason we all take a fancy to the troubled teen. If we’re talking about shallow reasons, then Masakazu Katsura, TIGER & BUNNY’s character designer, deserves props for delivering perfectly on the design brief “hot guy who looks like a lead character”. Ivan is a pretty boy whose personality and baggage makes him all the more appealing, topped off by being voiced by none other than Nobuhiko Okamoto.
For anyone else whose favourite characters are influenced by certain voice actors portraying them, Okamoto is best known for portraying Bakugo from My Hero Academia, Rin from Blue Exorcist and Accelerator from A Certain Magical Index. For all the otome fans, you may also have heard him as a variety of love interests including Yang from Piofiore: Fated Memories, Taiga from Variable Barricade and Hiroya from Period Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~.
Contextually, for a show all about showcasing adult struggles with a superhero motif, Ivan’s conflict and personal need for improvement stems from a past failure in protecting a friend, and a feeling that he is unable to fulfil his role as a superhero. Ivan attends a school for superheroes, but an incident occurred in the past that left a companion of his unable to pursue a career as a fellow superhero.
Consequently, Ivan feels eternally remorseful for taking the position he feels his friend rightfully deserved. And his self-deprecation is further exacerbated by how he believes his power is of no help to anyone.
Luckily, Kotetsu, acting as the greatest role model and the best unintentional life mentor steers Ivan in the right direction in his life, and makes him realise that despite having made a mistake in his past, the takeaway should be to rise up above it, learn from it, and go to greater heights from there.
It’s ultimately satisfying to see him take Kotetsu’s advice to heart, as we see Ivan show up in the show’s finale by confronting the big bad on his own to prevent him from making an escape. He can be seen helping his fellow superheroes in the series’ movies too, and the way in which he utilises his powers unlike ever before truly shows his improvement and acceptance of his potential and worthiness.
Why you will love Ivan Karelin
We see little of Ivan in TIGER & BUNNY, but that’s what makes each scene with him such a cherished moment. His entire deal as a character is carrying around a little bit of angst in a cute package, and both extremes are effectively capitalised on.
His character writing and narrative themes give him origins that are easy to relate to, and his unintentionally deceptive superhero character undermines his true personality and feelings. His internal conflict is masked away from others, making it tricky for others to notice it and help him; this struggle provides an emotional starting point to what ends up being subtle and well-intentioned character development.
Ivan is a great character who serves two contrasting purposes. He poses as comic relief when he really gets into character as a samurai cyborg — right down to his speech being a lot more formal and traditional — and his on-screen antics get the airtime he needs to please his sponsors.
But he also carries a lot of heart beneath the act he’s obliged to maintain. Being one of the youngest of the cast, he goes through similar feelings of anguish and inadequacy that audience members close to his age may well be feeling during their own time in education.
Ultimately, what makes his storyline all the more impactful despite its limited duration is the way in which he is quite literally used as a hero, being deemed worthy of being nothing more than a walking sign for sponsorships. He deserves so much more – a hug for starters, and getting support and praise on the daily. In fact, due to his little airtime, he’s not a popular hero in the rankings and among his co-stars, nor is he really seen in a positive or favourable light by the public.
But the show as a whole makes us want to see him succeed every step of the way, because he tries his best, wants to please and help others, and deserves to be loved and celebrated for simply being himelf. In the end, even if you couldn’t care less about this sweet darling, I’m begging you to still binge-watch TIGER & BUNNY if you haven’t already — and especially before the second season hits this Friday. It’s easily accessible on Netflix, and it’s worth every second of your time.
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