Traditional superheroes, and by extension crime-fighting heroes in general, tend to be depicted as a fun, clean career where some attractive people with cool powers beat up bad guys to save the day. And “clean” as in at the end of the day, no one gets hurt and the good guys don’t have to do any killing, because killing is bad. In reality though crime-fighting is going to get you involved with the sordid underworld of crime, and at that point even with superpowers it’s going to be difficult to keep your hands clean while upholding justice. This is what Tokyo ESP has started to explore with this episode.
Since the start of the story (chronologically speaking,) Azuma has espoused that him and Urushiba have a duty to become “allies of justice,” and use their powers for good. And maybe he’s right; with great power comes great responsibility since, if nothing else, it’d just be a waste to not use it to make the world a better place. And so between catching a burglar at an art museum and saving a girl and penguin from kidnappers, they’re job is relatively easy since they can solve each conflict with wholly good means, and keeping the bad guys from getting hurt too much. They put they’re lives in danger and whatnot, but it’s much like the comic-book sort of heroes that Azuma seems to idealize.
Although at first Azuma does just seems like some starry-eyed kid who idealizes comic book heroes, it turns out there’s more to his wish to be a “hero” than that. Midway through the episode we see a brief flashback of him as a younger kid, watching his friend die amidst a town full of broken-down buildings and a bunch of thugs who murder each other mindlessly. Apparently somewhere in Latin America. So Azuma isn’t just a kid who wants to become a comicbook hero, but he fully realizes just sordid and awful the actual underworld of crime is like. He wants to become like a comicbook hero, but as we see clearly towards the end of the episode, he’s also prepared to use less admirable methods for the sake of justice, such as shooting a thug in the leg to find out where the kidnapped Murasaki is.
Urushiba is at first surprised to see Azuma using a gun, insisting that “That’s not like you at all. You don’t use stuff like that to force your way!” To which Azuma simply replies “Depends on who I’m up against. Murasaki-chan’s life is on the line.” There’s a clash in morals here between comic-book heroism and the slightly more morally ambiguous vigilantism that Asuma displays. Which is ironic since Urushiba is just repeating the more friendly version of Azuma’s ideals that he showed us prior to getting mixed up with the yakuza. The thing is though, is that even with superpowers not all conflicts can be solved neatly with both the hero and villains unharmed. Often conflict will just inevitably involve some violence and bullets into the leg, especially when you’re dealing with a superpowered yakuza.
Honestly, I was just expecting this to be a more laid back and “fun” show, but the sudden level of seriousness in this episode shows that there’s more to Tokyo ESP than that. (“Fun” in spite of the super serious first episode, but I’m already starting to forget that even existed.)