Yeah, given the Zodiac order, and given who was mentioned in the next episode preview last week, you’d think this is a Rabbit episode. Nope. That psychopathic asshole bunny dude doesn’t get a backstory. In the book, his intro page is totally blank save for one line:
Rabbit is the villain of the story, and has been since the beginning. In a story where the vast majority of the cast is made of unscrupulous murderer, criminals, and all around nasty people, Rabbit is the lone unifying force. When he kills, he also creates, and those creations are under his thrall. Rabbit isn’t just an immediate threat to one’s life, he’s also an existential threat to the very nature of the Taisen world. He isn’t just the competition and he isn’t just someone capable of killing you, his very nature, and the way his powers escalate exponentially, could possibly change the way the world of assassins and mercenaries functions. When he kills the competition, it isn’t a matter of new blood rising to the challenge. He controls the previous competition as well, making such new blood incapable of rising. And given his “unstable” outlook on life and such, he’s also a loose cannon who won’t play by the rules for long.
So it’s fitting that he doesn’t get any sort of backstory. As I’ve said in previous posts, he’s far from anything we’d call human. He talks of the need for friends, but shows no real ability to comprehend the feelings and desires of others. It isn’t simple adolescent solipsism or anything like that, because that requires some understanding of the self in relation to others. I’m not even sure Rabbit has that sort of self-awareness, since awareness of self-harm, etc, lends itself to some rudimentary awareness of others. Solipsism is usually the disregard of those instincts, rather than the lack of awareness. Rabbit is beyond our comprehension, and any attempt to express that beyond the attempt would be missing the point.
So that leads to Tiger getting part of her story told in this episode.
She’s an interesting juxtaposition with Monkey. While they’re both from warrior “families,” it appears that their lifestyles before venturing out into the world of mercenary work were “cloistered” in their own ways. They’re both martial artists of different traditions. Monkey is of that mystical monk tradition, living in the mountains and learning the philosophical and metaphysical traditions as much as the martial ones. Tiger is decidedly more modern, being raised in a dojo and going to school and the like. Of anyone in this show, save for maybe Rat (more about him when we get to his episode), Tiger is the closest we have to a traditional anime protagonist. At least in terms of background. She could easily be Akane Tendo or someone like that– that tomboyish girl who likes martial arts and enjoys being able to take care of herself and do her own thing. She’s totally into the discipline and the abstract concept of being a “fighter,” what with the brief spiel on the concepts of bu and michi.
I’d make a crack about her being the Ken to Monkey’s Ryu, but Tiger’s more like someone who started off like Ryu, gave in to the Dark Hadou and became Akuma, before turning back around and “maturing” into Ken. Monkey’s more like Dhalsim, just with a different belief system/move set.
Seeing how she’s something of a traditional anime heroine, that makes her fall all the more tragic. This isn’t like Boar’s case, where she’s someone who fully embraces the lifestyle and then falls by becoming someone worse. This is a case of someone who breaks because the simple nature of being a Taisen is hell. Tiger is a fighter by nature, something that’s neither inherently good nor bad. It’s just a state of being which you can choose to utilize either way. Tiger isn’t a killer, and in order to become what’s expected of her she has to cease being herself. She looses herself in booze and bloodlust, to the point where she starts to forget who she is. In a lot of ways, she’s already died, and what we see before us is little more than another necromantic husk shuffling about in an undead haze.
Unlike Rabbit’s slaves, who no longer have the capacity for free will, Tiger has that sliver of humanity. The Tiger we see in the Juni Taisen has clearly found some solace and found something resembling the michi she once followed. Her story isn’t so much about winning the Taisen as it is reclaiming that michi so that she can be the person she wants to be.
That should be what happens next episode, and given how the book goes, she’ll do just that. And thus she’ll be Juni Taisen’s real hero, regardless of who actually wins (which should be obvious by now).