Monday, May 8, 2017

Super Sentai What-if -- The Seventh Zyuranger

As much as I like Burai, the last time I re-watched Zyuranger, I started to think his storyline was a little murky. So, he and Geki are brothers, the offspring of the lower Black Knight of the Yamato Kingdom. The Yamato King wants the Black Knight's newborn, Geki, to raise as his own, presumably to take over the kingdom. The Black Knight goes along with this...and then changes his mind? He starts a rebellion, reneging on the arrangement he seemed happy to make, getting his fool ass killed in the process. Little Burai witnesses his dad, the Black Knight, being killed, with the Black Knight screwing the kid up by making him vow to avenge him. OK, that's an understandable motivation for Burai, and he ends up shifting that hatred onto Geki, but what always puzzled me was...Burai declaring himself the Yamato Prince over Geki.

Buuba's the Yamato King...and he stole Icarus' outfit.

Huh, wha, how? How does he figure -- does he just think he should have been the one to have been adopted, instead of Geki? He literally has no claim. It's not like the Yamato King overthrew the Black Knight -- the Black Knight was a nobody. And it's not like anyone in their right mind would have wanted to adopt 8 year old Burai, especially when he was played by Dairanger's Kou! (The casting here is funny all around; the Yamato King is Yoshinori Okamoto, the Black Knight is Toshimichi Takahashi -- two JAC guys who mostly play villains. And then the evil Kiba Ranger as young Burai!) Burai thinking he was owed the title of Yamato Prince is one of the things that makes this story murky...

Death Giller is Burai's pops. No wonder he's an a-hole.

And there's something else. Something bigger. Something that proves Burai was never planned to be in the damn show. In episode 2, Geki gives viewers who missed the first episode a quick rundown of the show's backstory; the way that there was a human civilization in the time of dinosaurs, the way they were divided into kingdoms who worshiped a certain dinosaur. That it was a time of peace...until Bandora launched her war, slaughtering tons of people and dinosaurs. Among the victims, according to Geki? His father, the Yamato King, his mother, and...HIS TEN-YEAR OLD SISTER! While it's something the writers didn't seem to think was important enough to remember, my mind kind of ran off with this idea...

If Geki had a younger sister, she was probably the Yamato King and Queen's actual offspring. I imagine the Yamato King took Geki off of the Black Knight, and shortly after the Yamato Queen got pregnant and it was like "Oops!" But then the Queen gave birth to a girl, and the Yamato King was probably like "Whew! Dodged a bullet there. I want me a boy to inherit my kingdom, so I didn't risk a war with that insane Black Knight for nothin'." So, I thought...what if Geki's sister was still out there? What if she grew up, watching from a distance, shaking her head at Burai's insistence that he was the Yamato Prince, while also kind of disregarding Geki, since he was adopted? She'd have royal blood and more claim to the Yamato Kingdom than either of them. What if she had survived, what if she showed up with her own powers and threw her crown onto the battlefield? Here's where I get a little fan-fic'y...

Zyuranger is incredibly vague with its background details. (For good reason, otherwise they couldn't shoehorn something like Dragon Ranger in there.) The show's not clear on how long the war with Bandora lasted in the old days. Geki's said to be 24 in the show. So, that obviously means that's the age he was put in stasis. Now, I'm assuming Bandora's attack lasted a few years. I kind of picture a big war, with Geki helping to fight, maybe as young as 18 years old. They'd have to have been at war for a while, it wasn't like Bandora showed up, the Shugozyu immediately came to save the day. No...Bandora was a destructive force, and caused a lot of harm and damage to the crazy prehistoric society of Zyuranger. Maybe early in the battle, a few years before Geki was chosen to be put on ice, his family perished in an attack. But maybe his 10 year old sister was just critically wounded, finding herself in the care of another tribe...? Maybe, as she healed, she watched over Geki and the battle with Bandora, knowing Geki and the other Zyuranger were being frozen for if the world ever needed them again. Maybe she spent years training herself and studying and eventually had herself frozen, as well, just in case. (Hey, maybe she knew about Burai and was like "That guy's going to be a pain in the ass. We need a plan B.") This is all my way of saying: if I'm bringing Geki's sister back into the mix, I don't want her to be a tween. I want her to spend some time growing and learning and becoming a Zyuranger. She's watching from the sidelines, the Zyuranger are already frozen. She grows into a young woman before deciding to follow Geki's Encino Man play.

The backstory I picture is basically that she's seriously wounded, taking time to recover. She's found by a lesser known, kind of discredited tribe in the Dinosaur Kingdom. They worship the goddess Chelys Reina, one of the oldest known Shugozyu, who was kind of pushed out once Shugozyu Tyrannosaurus proved his might. She bonds with the tribe, but also with Chelys Reina, and eventually comes to share the Shugozyu's feeling of being overlooked. Unlike Burai, she's not coming from a hateful place, but a place of hurt, feeling undervalued, unappreciated. She's a fighter, so she'll fight, but she's not antagonistic. She shares Chelys Reina's feeling of peace and harmony. At age 23, having trained as a warrior and having developed her own Zyuranger powers derived from Chelys Reina, she enters stasis. In 1992, amidst the new war with Bandora and a game of thrones over the Yamato Kingdom thanks to Burai, she emerges onto the battlefield as...


                           CHELYS RANGER!

I went through a bunch of dinosaurs to find one to base her on. I didn't really like any of the options. I remembered, when MMPR and Jurassic Park were both huge, when kids in school would draw their own Power Rangers based off of dinosaurs not seen in the show, and the popular one (of course) was a raptor. I thought of using that just for that connection, but I didn't like it. (At that time, I drew a Power Ranger based off of the dilophosaurus. Imagine my disappointment when I found out Jurassic Park lied about the poison spit and the neck frill. So, to base a Zyuranger off of a dilophosaurus, it would basically just look like a T. rex with a mohawk. C'mon.) The person who helped me with this project, who drew that design, wanted to go with something really nutty -- a pentaceratops. I liked the crazy look, but basically didn't like the association with triceratops (and therefore Dan).

I wanted something that out T. rex'd a T. rex, man. The popular dinosaur to pit against a T. rex, due to its size and viciousness, is the spinosaurus. While I think it's interesting that the spinosaurus hunted on both land and in water, it basically looks like a giant alligator, so I didn't think it would make that unique of a helmet. And then it hit me -- prehistoric turtles. There's a wide variety of prehistoric turtles, and I liked the look of a few of them, so there's a kind of blending of a few, Chelys Ranger isn't based on just one. (The biggest influence being proganochelys.) I wanted Chelys Ranger to be regal, to really show-off that she's the one true royal. I knew she had to be purple, the color of royalty. I wanted her to stand out alongside Burai, so I wanted her to have some gold-colored, shell-based armor, the way Dragon Ranger has his shield. The illustrator decided to color the tips of the horns of the helmet gold to evoke a crown.

"Chelys" is Latin for tortoise.

I needed a name for the character who becomes Chelys Ranger. I considered a weird mix of names that sounded appropriate to the show -- short little names like Geki, Boi, Mei, etc. -- but I decided on something else instead. Back in the '90s, a fan named Akemi Kishita ran an English Zyuranger fan-site. It was comprehensive, it was one of the few of its kind. So I decided to try to pay tribute to her by rearranging her first name and calling Chelys Ranger Mikea, soldier of honor. And I've cast the role, too! I put too much thought into it. Too many of the people I wanted were in the wrong age group. I wanted someone who was the right age, but would also seem like they'd be a cast member of Zyuranger, like someone Toei would cast at the time. I eventually came up with Yuko Moriyama. She had a big following after Zeiram, I think if she had played a traditional toku hero, it would have blown fanboy minds. She can play stoic, reserved, cool and tough.


From the era of dinosaurs, a new senshi revives! MIKEA, CHELYS RANGER, KOUEI NO SENSHI!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Random Warriors and Other Weirdos

Those who weren't enough to cover, plus a couple of updated ones. Here's we go...

Kensaku Shiraishi/Battle Cossack

As I said before, I definitely like actor Yukio Itou here more than in Goranger; he's older, more mature and confident as a performer. It's always weird to me that Cossack is credited second, but Battle France is considered the second in command. While Shiraishi has a temper and is quick to fly off the handle, France is a bit too comical. Kensaku's a dedicated and loyal warrior who, in one of my favorite moments early on, isn't afraid to kick the shit out of Battle Japan when signs point towards Japan being a traitor.

The most we know about Shiraishi's background is that he was an orphan, taken care of by Tetsuzan. This makes Kensaku's murder tragic in hindsight; would he have never joined Battle Fever if it hadn't been for Tetsuzan? Would he have lived without meeting Tetsuzan?

I'm not sure I like Kensaku's death, though. On one hand, I like the idea that, after seeing the priest who ran the orphanage where he grew up murdered in front of him, Kensaku's sensitive about violence; when a girl who sees her dad shot to death in front of her shuts out Kensaku, it affects him. He meets with her to cheer her up, leaving behind his ability to become Cossack as proof that he's not the violent guy or fighter she accuses him of being. Unfortunately, Egos targets the girl, and Kensaku is shot to death before her...

To me, it's about as senseless as Gai's death in Jetman. Gai could have easily gotten himself to a hospital, and as I've always said, his survival would have been a better wedding day present to Ryu and Kaori than his showing up and dying on the spot. Kensaku wants to cheer up this girl, trying to get over seeing her dad gunned down by Egos...by putting himself in a situation in which he gets gunned down by Egos, right in front of her. I doubt Battle Fever's paying for that girl's therapist. A better way to write him out would have been for him to just retire as Cossack and adopt the girl, but...they chose to kill him for whatever reason. Makes no sense.

It's also kind of dumb that Kensaku is kinda lectured by Masao when he's leaving the base without his Battle Cossack uniform, the way Kensaku just jokingly dismisses all of the warnings. "I'll be careful!" Then he's cornered by Egos and is like "Shit! I don't have my suit!" Well, double-dumbass on you, Kensaku.

Makoto Jin/Battle Cossack

I'm glad toku legend Daisuke Ban finally got to play a Sentai character, even though the replacement Battle Cossack is a tad bit of a step down after headlining, what, four toku series already? I like Ban, and think he's a good actor, but he's always seemed like an unlikely choice for an action-oriented henshin hero to me -- he seems professorial or like a banker or something.

I always got the impression that Toei was maybe hoping for a guy like Hiroshi Miyauchi for Jin. The cool cowboy who's the thinker and precise and a strong, bad-ass ass kicker. An older, experienced loner who's just playing on a completely different level than the others. I still like Ban in the role, but I don't feel like he fits in with the rest of the cast. If I had to pick a former toku hero actor as Jin, I'd pick someone like Akira Yamaguchi -- I think he would have blended with the cast better.

Jin's a cool character, but I would have liked for his transition into becoming the new Cossack to go smoother. We're told he's a friendly rival of Kensaku, but it's kind of hard to buy because Jin is obviously so much older than Kensaku. I like that Jin shows most life and happiness when Kensaku's near, making their friendship seem believable, before we see him coldly shutting out everyone else on the team. And I like the way he silently picks up Cossack's suit to carry on the battle for his friend. But the show needed to let it breathe a little. Kensaku dies right there, the team doesn't bat an eye, and two seconds later Jin's the new Cossack, the team accepts it, and Kensaku's almost immediately forgotten. They make a bigger deal about Diane stepping down as Miss America, and all she was doing was moving to America after doing jack shit for 24 episodes!

And I know it's a nitpick and that the show was late in the game, but I kinda think they should have given Jin a different outfit or modified the Cossack suit. I know the Japanese see cowboy getup as simply foreign to them, but a cowboy being the hero who's meant to represent Eurasia...huh?

Shouta Yamamori/Magnet Senshi

The role that I think locked Seiki Kurosaki in for the following year's Juspion. Kurosaki's hilarious, and really ahead of his time in the way he can act like a live-action cartoon. (Only Kurosaki is skilled at this, unlike most of the modern day performers.) Shouta was a big hit with my family and me in the '80s -- we always did his "Peace, peace!" bit.

The two episodes with him just seem kind of bittersweet when I watch it now; it was where he met his future wife, the late Yuko Asuka (Farrah) and Magnet Senshi was played in-suit by Kurosaki's friend Masato Akada, who is now disabled as a result of a serious injury he received while doing stunts on Exceedraft.

Ryou Asuka/X1 Mask

A really interesting way to work in the idea of a new hero, while putting to use the actual rejected Maskman designs. The episode should have been a two-parter. It's interesting, of course, the way his episode is the prototype for Gai's beginning in the early Jetman episodes, but more importantly, I like the way that Ryou is a mirror of Takeru. He's a cautionary tale of what could have happened to Takeru if Takeru hadn't been surrounded by the right people and weren't so disciplined and centered, and unable to silence the rage he felt at losing his love.

Ninjaman/Samuraiman

I like Ninjaman, and he's a better version of Shurikenger (the only thing Shurikenger has over him is the 20 Faces of Past Sentai Actors gimmick), but...he's kinda unnecessary to the show, isn't he? He's fun, but you can take him out and have the exact same show. And maybe even shorter -- I always thought Kakuranger had five or so episodes too many.

Signalman

He's hilarious. A myopic dunce who doesn't know when his job ends and sanity begins. Great voice actor and suit actor combo.

About the suit actor...once upon a time, it was a mystery who O-BITOH was. It wasn't until a 2003 interview with Toei Hero Max, where Yoshinori Okamoto revealed it was him. (He thought it would be funny to be credited as O-BITOH, which is an alternate reading of a few of the kanji in his name.)

Swan Shiratori/Deka Swan

I grew to like Swan, even though I initially thought actress Mako Ishino was kind of odd. (I always make fun of the way she calls Doggie "Doogie.") I don't like her as much as Gekiranger's Miki, the character more deserving of getting to transform, but whatever. I don't like her as much as Oboro, either. She's basically just the new Oboro, always there with the right Bandai gadget when the heroes need it. Her romance with Doogie is still some strange shit, though.

Isamu Ozu/Wolzard/Wolzard Fire

Wolzard always bothered me. I'm not a fan of villains who pretend to be honorable, but they're really just excusing shit writing for a shit writer not knowing how to get their characters out of a jam. For example: Wolzard would show up and kick the shit out of Magi Red. Instead of just finishing the job, or dare show the hero bail out of the fight (which toku *used* to show, which made the heroes seem sensible and human), there would be some arbitrary bullshit of Magi Red looking aside for a second and Wolzard would be like, "You're distracted! I'll come back to fight you when you're stronger and your head's in the fight!" Get outta with that shit.

Everyone knew from the start that Wolzard was going to be Papa Ozu, and I remember hoping for a cool actor, a Shirou Izumi type, to play the part. We just got the dude who voiced him, who looked too tired and old to be the guy he was supposed to be playing. By the time Wolzard turned good, Magiranger took some stupider turns (hard to believe, I know), becoming a repetitive Saint Seiya-kind of bore, and I just wanted the show to end, so I didn't care.

Gou Fukami/Geki Violet

A big savior of Gekiranger for me. I like the show and all, but he brought it up another level. Gou brought more of a traditional hero feel, and gave the show some serious and needed history and backstory. I'm a horror fan, the Wolf Man is my favorite Universal Monster, so I loved the part of his storyline about his being a werewolf. I thought it was interesting the way they tied that into what happened to the Kenseis. (Gou sacrificed his humanity in an attempt to defeat Rio the way the Kensei did to be rid of a past villain.) I like the episode where Gou and the Wolf are having an internal slug-fest, in which Gou finally conquers the wolf side.

It's kinda sad that he gets put on the back burner in the final episodes to make room for spotlight-hogging Jan to deal with Rio, when Gou and Rio's fight was much more personal, but that's the breaks when you're a Sentai member not in Red. Gou tried, at least.

And, again, the story of Gou, Miki and Rio as the original triangle training under Dan and Sha-fu was the Gekiranger show I wanted to watch.

Gou's character song is also one of the only character songs in the history of tokusatsu that's cool. There's worse actor-singers than Riki Miura, it's composed by Hideaki Takatori and Denjiman's Ken Narita is the one playing harmonica. Awesome.

Masato Jin/Beet Buster

The savior of Go-busters. Only, unlike Geki, I hadn't been enjoying Go-busters. He was the savior we needed and deserved, man. And I had zero hopes for him based on how bad I thought actor Hiroya Matsumoto was in Magiranger. But Jin was a lot of fun, a prankster goofball who brought actual comedy and life into a show that thought freezing at the mention of a chicken was comedy. It's amazing the way a single character and performer was able to make the show more tolerable and actually emotional at the end.

Beet J Stag/Stag Buster

Poor man's Deneb. I can't stand Beet J Stag. He's the avatar of Go-busters' mostly shitty sense of humor. I *never* found him funny. He's the one who should have died.

Ramires/Kyoryu Cyan

Fat. White. Kyoryu Cyan.

Yuko Fukui/Kyoryu Cyan

Deka Yellow. Becomes Kyoryu Cyan (for a split-second in the finale). Whoopee.

Tessai/Kyoryu Gray

Bouken Silver. Actually kind of entertaining here.

Shinya Tsugouchi (Yuu Aoyaki)/Kyoryu Gray

I have no idea who this is.

Doctor Ulshade/Kyoryu Violet

Never a fan of Shigeru Chiba's screeching everything. Didn't need him to be a hero.

Yayoi Ulshade/Kyoryu Violet

Instantly forgettable.

Torin/Kyoryu Silver

Torin's a tool, I've covered this.

Dantetsu Kiryu/Kyoryu Silver

Dantetsu's a bigger tool.

Akira Nijino/ToQ 6

Akira was a bright spot in the show. He and Zet made ToQ watchable, and both deserved a better show. Akira's actor was a little stiff, but I thought his character was a fun take-down of the sixth hero stereotype of being a death-obsessed loner.

Kinji Kitagawa/Star Ninger

He was so damned obnoxious when he joined the show, I have no idea why he was supposed to be so endearing to the teammates that they accepted him and argued for his place on the team. Oh, that's right, they were morons. Seriously though, Kinji deserved to be murdered. He eventually moves on from his stupid, stupid, stupid trying to kill the other Ninninger shtick, and then just slips into the background for most of the remaining episodes. The actor is so generic, that if he didn't have the stupid hat on, I didn't know who he was. Seriously!

And was he meant to be an homage to Jiraiya/Ninja Black? If so, Kane Kosugi should sue.

Kyuemon's voice-actress/Mido Ninger

I didn't watch the Ninninger Returns thing.

Yamato Kazakiri/Zyuoh Eagle

He doesn't have much going for him. I guess he's meant to be a Godai/Shouichi/Ryouga kind of empathetic and big-hearted hippie, but there's just not much there on the page for him. And the actor doesn't play it well, he just seems really phony and insincere to me, like a serial killer pretending to be a nice, ordinary guy.

Sela/Zyuoh Shark

She's supposed to be "serious" and yet kind, but bottles up her emotions, but the actress translates this as "look snobby while smelling a sour fart" and thinks that gets the job done. She just kind of looks like an a-hole.

Leo/Zyuoh Lion

Loud and boisterous lion dude should be funny, but he's always overdoing it to the point where it means nothin'. He's Shinkenger's Ryunosuke, if Ryunosuke hadn't toned down his obnoxious freak-outs.

Tusk/Zyuoh Elephant

Stiffest, most awkward actor in history. It's a ToQ 4 situation, where it's laughable that he's supposed to be the serious, cool, brains of the group. Ever notice how the guy can't move his neck? He's always doing this weird move with his shoulders thing.

Amu/Zyuoh Tiger

Eh? Really, I get no reading from her.

Misao Mondo/Zyuoh the World

Annoying character "gimmick." Pipsqueak actor who reminds me too much of the guy who played Kamen Rider Mayo. Actually, this guy might be the most awkward actor in the history of actors. He doesn't act like a person. I get some Vul Panther-y vibes from him, so...keep on eye on him, Japan!

What really sucks is, Misao could be interesting. A sixth hero who doesn't feel like he fits in, one who has guilt for being villainous and using some Zyumen for evil -- but the show doesn't take it seriously, and the actor is weak, so none of it is ever convincing. I had a similar problem with Akira, when he was conflicted about his past with the Shadow Line. Nothing's treated seriously anymore. I don't know why toku is so afraid to play it straight and be genuine and dramatic anymore. When they try to, it's just disingenuous. Everything's so winky and self-conscious and remote now. Toku doesn't try to ever do anything meaningful anymore.

And is it just me, or is The World the stupidest name for a hero? Kamen Rider Scissors, you're off the hook.

Bud/Zyuoh Bird

It's Kaixa! I don't care who he plays, how well he does it, or what amazing feats of charity the actor does in real life -- he ain't living down playing one of the biggest shitheads in toku history. You want to know why Bird Flu is back in the news? Kaixa as Zyuoh Bird.

Mario Mori

Sad, sad waste of the awesome, awesome Susumu Terajima. I'll like Mario in his few moments of sanity, when he's offering the team some actually good advice, or standing up to and slapping Naria, but that's such a small portion of what he does -- the remaining 99.5% of his screentime is that dumb bad animal cosplay stuff. I don't get why Toei thinks it's funny to hire a veteran actor and just have them do embarrassing stuff for a year.

------

Since this post was an afterthought and doesn't count, I ain't picking any of these assholes for my team. (Is that everybody? Do you really want me to cover Doubutsu Sentai Go-busters? I hated that freakin' movie!)

White Warriors


Soukichi Banba/Big One

My first exposure to Banba was in Gaoranger VS Super Sentai, where he was fucking awesome and kicked ass and I loved him. So, imagine my surprise when I got around to watching JAKQ and...he's not quite the same. In Gaoranger, he was funny and enjoyed toying with villains and waltzing around in his disguises, but by Gao VS SS Hiroshi Miyauchi had reached that point where he matured and just essentially started playing himself, which is just a representative of a cool, competent, bad-ass motherfucker of a superhero...

In the show, he's younger. Banba's brought in to brighten up the show, so he's put in some silly situations. (Impersonating Hitler, disguising himself as a snake charmer or goofy vagrant.) I happened to really like those darker, screwed up early episodes of JAKQ, so I initially really hated what Banba represented to the show, and just how much he domineered it all while NOT seeming like the cool dude he was in Gaoranger. Like, I really couldn't stand how the show made the four regulars -- who had been tough and cool and gotten themselves out of many jams with their own smarts or strength -- easily captured damsels for Big One to bail out.

It wasn't until I rewatched JAKQ a couple of times that I let up on the guy and like him. (My bro bought me the awesome Medicom of Banba for Xmas a couple of years ago.) Banba's the commander, sixth hero and Red all rolled into one, and if you're going to have a guy who's going to hog all of the glory, at least make it King of Heroes Miyauchi.

I do have to say, though...while it makes sense, considering his penchant for disguises, I still think it's VERY strange that Banba is given the "shichi henge" episode, when that pretty much usually always goes to a heroine. That's not the strange part, though, the strangeness is that the episode is a disguise-off between Banba and Iron Claw, with Iron Claw transforming himself into purdy ladies that Banba flirts with. Just...kinda weird picturing Miyauchi flirting with Masashi Ishibashi. Go rewatch the episode with that in mind. You're welcome!


Sayaka Nagisa/Change Mermaid

Smart, courageous, great soldier. What's great, though, is that she IS super intelligent, and Miss Manners, and skilled at pretty much everything, but she's not perfect. She's not condescending about her smarts -- she uses her noggin to the team's benefit -- and she only likes to tease others about manners. But she's flawed. An invention of hers severely hurts her teammates. She thinks she'll have a plan perfectly mapped out -- like luring out Shiima by posing as the mother of a couple of orphans -- only to have it blow up in her face.

She's wise, and there to offer support for her teammates. She's an all around good person who the Changeman would have struggled without.


Kaori Rokumeikan/White Swan

I feel like one of Kaori's only defenders. I like her a lot, and think she's a pretty interesting character -- I don't like what Inoue does with her in the final couple of episodes, but I'll get to that -- but, man, does Kaori rub a lot of viewers the wrong way.

Along with Gai, she's a good embodiment of Jetman's theme -- unlikely people thrown together to save the world. Jetman being a show with such different priorities from the toku norm, it opened up the door for a character like Kaori -- who wouldn't typically be in a superhero story -- as well as an actress like Rika Kishida, who wouldn't typically be cast as a superheroine. (I think Kishida's great in the role, and one of the show's most underrated performers. Sue me...no, please don't.)

Kaori's rich and privileged, and she initially sees Jetman as a way to escape her routine and dull life, but what really drives her to succeed as a Jetman is a chance to prove her own self worth and do something on her own, something that wasn't handed to her just by birthright, and a chance to do something actually valuable, and not empty. She's not supposed to be snobby or elitist or entitled or whatever negative connotation you associate with a wealthy character like this.

She has a rigid formality to her, but as a person, she's pretty cool and down to earth and selfless. She never looks down on her teammates, she wants to help. She's not stingy, she uses her money and connections when it benefits the team or a mission. She wants to do her best as a Jetman, even when that puts her in uncomfortable spots like learning to use weapons, pilot mecha or put up with Luke and Laura fighting over her.

People like to malign her as a cold person who strings Ryu and Gai along, and...watch the show. That ain't there. She's transparent how she feels about Ryu, and Ryu ignores HER for most of the show. Gai can't get it through his thick head she likes Ryu, but when Ryu ain't paying attention, she gives Gai a chance. A couple of times, even. He turns her down.

And when Gai's risking his life for her and declares his love for her, she's kind of caught up in the moment, and that's when she decides to really give Gai a shot -- this is when the two quit the team and go off on their own. She keeps an open mind, even having Gai meet her judgmental parents -- which couldn't have been easy for Kaori to do. And guess what? Gai's the one who finally calls it quits, realizing he can't make it in her world. She wasn't some calculating manipulator. She was constantly ignored by the one who really filled her heart, but kept an open mind and tried to give it a go with the Gai who was...pretty obsessed with her. (I've joked that Kaori is to Ryu what Gai is to Kaori in their blinders-on stalking, but it's a JOKE!)

(I should have brought up in the Blacks post what fans hate about Gai; his "stalking" of Kaori. People like to chalk him up as some creepy loser, but what they don't understand is that Gai's initial interest in Kaori is pretty much bravado, but he actually starts to love her for who she is. She was initially just a treasure to obtain, a woman who was out of his league -- but he'd get her! -- but he started to see how he had her all wrong. She starts to impress him as a person. Not a timid woman made soft by diving into vaults of money all day, but a strong, competent, brave woman who gives it her all to be a hero.)

OK, now the part I don't like about Kaori. I thought Toshiki Inoue handled the final episodes clumsily in more matters than the senseless killing of Gai. The way Gai came to realize that he wasn't meant for Kaori, I think Kaori should have realized she wasn't meant for Ryu. Ryu takes Rie's death hard -- even developing a death wish in senselessly taking Radeige on on his own -- and I think Kaori's ultimate growth should have been setting aside what she wanted and just be there to help Ryu. Instead, she takes the opportunity to be like "Enough, Ryu! You're whining about a ghost and I'm here, so finally date me, you fucker!" And Ryu's just like "Duh, duh, OK. How about we get married in the finale? A Sentai hasn't done that, and it would be ADULT and EPIC! Even though it's forced and stupid!"

So, Kaori goes from being the character proving you wrong about your assumptions -- she's actually a kind, compassionate, strong, generous person -- to actually proving your initial size-up right. She whined her way into marriage with Ryu and got what she wanted. It just didn't jibe with the rest of the character's trajectory. It would have been like Gai ending the series being the one who stole the woman's purse and a cop shot him for it. It's a flushing of the character and their growth you've invested the year in.

Tsuruhime/Ninja White

My problem with Tsuruhime -- and it's not much of a problem, it's not a show-breaker -- is that they fairly quickly discard the serious, trained, honest-to-goodness ninja she's supposed to be. The team needed the level-headed pro she was, but it's like the guys' dumbness instantly rubs off on her and she's right there clowning it up with them.

For the first show where the Red wasn't supposed to be the leader and -- even more groundbreaking, it was a female -- they go out of their way to quickly just set up the usual status quo and shove her into the background while propping up Sasuke...

The worst thing for me though is the forced Shushutorian reunion. It's probably cool if you're one of the four people who saw and liked that show, but it's dopey to me, and double the dopiness that it comes in the middle of the story of Tsuruhime and her dad, one of the show's only attempts at a long-term dramatic storyline.

Tsuruhime's cool, but she needed to retain the seriousness. That doesn't mean she needs to be void of humor; just know that there's times to be serious and times to make goofy faces at youkai.


Rajieta Fanbelt/White Racer

She's a funny addition to the series that you didn't know the show needed, but you're glad that someone had the flash of brilliance to include. A Carranger fan who pretty much is cosplaying and self-appointed. (Sure, she actually has some powers, but they still pale in comparison to what the Carranger's working with.)

I prefer Saki Hamamatsu in the role. She got the character, she was in on the joke in that Rajieta had no business being there, but there she was, and she made her just happy to be in on the action and gave her a bit of a mischievous feeling. Saki's White Racer had a certain attitude that made it more believable that she was Zonette's little sister. Hamamatsu unfortunately only made one appearance as White Racer -- the character's debut episode, her best episode; replacement Misaki Sudou is just too idoly generic, losing the character's spunk.


Sae Taiga/Gao White

Sae's a rather young character, but she comes across as being more mature. It's probably a combination of the goofs surrounding her, her serious martial-arts upbringing or just the serious demeanor actress Mio Takeuchi has. Gaoranger is a team of boisterous, often cartoonish heroes, but Sae's the one that seems most like a real person. You really feel like she just has her hands full with these characters, but it's not like she's a downer of a character, and she doesn't sink to their level like Tsuruhime, either. She's disciplined and serious, but also just pretty big-hearted.

One of my favorite Sae bits? When the Gaoranger were cloned. Shishi was trying to sort out which of the two Saes was the genuine one, and based his entire case on the evidence that one Sae stepped on a flower, something the real Sae and a member of Hippie-juu Sentai Gaoranger would NEVER, EVER do, like EVER! The fake Sae then revealed herself, while the real Sae was like "Red?" and pointing down in embarrassment to a flower beneath her shoe, crushed accidentally.

Mikoto Nakadai/Abare Killer

I did a post on him before. In short: an interesting character idea, a villainous threat Abaranger desperately needed, but poor execution, the casting of a too young actor and slow plotting led to a severely disappointing character.

Miyuki Ozu/Magi Mother

She was a cool idea (bad Mr. Freeze pun intended), just sorely underused. But look at her crazy story -- married to a Sky Saint, having demigod kids, having knowledge of magic and the war with Infelshia. She was powerful and smart, making you wonder why most of her kids were so dumb. And she could grow giant sized! It was a mistake of the show to "kill" her and leave her out until the final dozen episodes.

Ken Hisatsu/Geki Chopper

Ken's not bad, I just think he's a pretty unnecessary character to the series. He's there because Bandai told him to be, so he's basically an additional mecha in human form. When I think of the Geki heroes, I tend to just leave him out. I like that he's kind of an average guy, from a working class family, and that he's karate-themed, but...he just needed a better reason to be in the damn show, man.

Fuuka Igasaki/Shiro Ninger

I've seen a lot of hate for Fuuka out there, but she's fairly inoffensive to me. Yeah, a tad on the ditzy side, but compared to brother Takaharu, she's Mensa material. Yuuka Yano brings a sweetness and enthusiasm to the part that I think makes her one of the more tolerable cast members of the show.

But there's that one episode where she was kinda annoying, though -- when she decided it was, like, so darned hard to be a Ninninger. So she whined her way into getting a vacation, where they took her to an amusement park. The characters bent over backwards to give her a good time, and she whined when the slightest little thing didn't go her way. That episode made her look really, really bad. But then there's an episode when the others are running past a monster to get to a dimensional door or whatever, and she casually kicks the monster of the week in the ass as she runs by. One of the few times Ninninger was actually funny. I'd like to know if that was improvised.
____

It was hard to come up with a White I want on my team. Before I wrote all of these, I mentally had picked out who I thought I'd want on my team, and always assumed I'd pick Sayaka/Change Mermaid, but since I wanted Griffin, I couldn't pick her. There's not many Whites, and most of them are too damn young. It's tempting to pick Big One -- look how much power he'd give your team! But then you think about how you'd have to put up with his disguise dress-up shenanigans AND his need for the spotlight. Tsuruhime's out, I have a cooler ninja on my team. I was about to choose Kaori, but I thought she'd be a headache combined with Sanjou/Abare Blue, and you'd have to hear constantly about Ryu... This is a tough one! Despite her age, I was strongly leaning towards Sae, since she's a karate ass-kicker...

And then I thought about Magi Mother. I was like "Magi Mother, yeah! She'd be kinda rad." She's older, has a lot of experience dealing with craziness, she knows magic and spells and stuff -- and she can grow giant!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Green Warriors

Kenji Asuka/Mido Ranger

Poor guy's majorly overshadowed by the rest of the hero cast. When you've got two cool talents like Naoya Makoto and Risa Komaki and two big personalities like Hiroshi Miyauchi and Baku Hatakeyama, and you're playing the kid of the team, you've gotta make a big effort to let us know you're there. Kenji does not. (At least not that I remember.) I can't even remember much about him, other than having a bit of a complex about his young age, but that's something that many later Sentai put to better use.

Weird thing is, actor Yukio Itou goes on to play Kensaku, the first Battle Cossack, and I like him in that show -- he's more mature, confident, a bigger presence. Hard to believe he improved so much in just a few years. (I'm not bothering doing a post on Oranges, so that's my brief coverage of the first Battle Cossack!)

Bunta Daichi/Clover King

Has the distinction of starring in the first terrible, horrible-glimpse-of-goofy-things-to-come episode of JAKQ in which he investigates a fashion designer's murder (by a mannequin) by infiltrating a fashion show in drag. When caught, he's put in a loincloth and made to fight the robot of the week. Goofy, goofy episode...

At the other end, he's the focus of a pretty screwed up early episode, in which he befriends a girl who reminds him of his dead kid sister, and this girl goes on to be killed when Crime blows up the plane she's on. Early JAKQ, man. You youngsters who think Gaim is so great have no idea what toku that's actually dark and serious looks like, because you ain't willing to watch anything prior to 2006.

Overall, I like Bunta. He doesn't get a whole hell of a lot to do to make an impression, and the revamp of the show forces him into the peg of "the funny kid" character, but I still like him. I'd love JAKQ's cast if not for Yoshitaka Roboto as Goro. Damn, they needed someone better as Ace.


Tatsuya Midorikawa/Denji Green

Tatsuya's one of my favorite characters of the first few Sentai shows. He's the depressed, brooding guy, the quiet cool type. He uses the abilities he honed as a cop to benefit the team in their pursuit of Vader attackers. Actor Naoya Uchida is just awesome and does a great job. (He also contributes a couple of cool, mellow songs to the soundtrack.)

I also like that they bring in the Chieko character, a comedic character who knew him from work and brings out a different side to him so he's not ALWAYS such a downer.

Shingo Takasugi/Green Two (aka Gudeen Zuuuu)

I don't mind Shingo, but actor Takahiko Ohta isn't the greatest and he makes such strange choices that he makes Takasugi seem like a big weirdo, and not the capable second in command he's supposed to be. (They should have basically swapped Green and Blue's actors, IMO.)


Dai/Green Flash

As I've said plenty of times, Flashman kind of Xeroxes Changeman's heroes, but brightens them up. Dai's pretty close to Hayate -- the cool guy, the stand-up second in command, the fighter, the guy with the eye for the ladies -- but the main difference is that Dai seems kind of more innocent and sweeter, for lack of a better word. I attribute that to the Flashman heroes being kind of stunted, and because actor Kihachiro Uemura has a more easygoing nature.

In Yutaka Izubuchi's sketches for the Flashman's wardrobe, Dai's depicted as being a scowling Condor Joe looking type. It's easy to imagine Dai possibly being that kind of character, but the casting of Uemura changed that. That's not a negative, because the Flashman side of the show didn't need the angst, and Dai is good the way he turned out. Uemura's an action guy, so he makes Dai a convincing ass-kicker, but he's also just naturally likable, and a hero who you can have complete confidence in.

Fun story -- a few years ago, Kihachiro Uemura saved a guy who collapsed in Akihabara. As Akibaranger was still freshly aired at the time, and because Akagi's actor, Masato Wada, had been doing a lot of live events with people like Uemura, he saw the news item and dubbed Uemura "Akiba Green."

Jun'ichi Aikawa/Green Sai

C'mon. You know I like this guy as much as I do Black Bison. Jun'ichi himself...the kid of the team, so he just whines a lot. There's many reasons why Bison and Sai don't end up working in the show -- their bad actors just one of the reasons.

Daigo/Shishi Ranger

Ah, Daigo. Where to start with this guy. I ordinarily like the cranky, brooding characters, but Daigo never worked well for me. I don't hate him, and he doesn't break the show for me or anything, but he's just really unconvincing, and I think it's probably because actor Tatsuya Noumi seems like he's a jokester in real life, and probably better suited for a more comedic role. I think they basically cast him for his looks -- he looks like he should be a serious and tough dude, but he couldn't act like it.

Daigo's probably given the best of the recurring storylines with Kujaku, though. Yeah, I'd rank that over Ryou's storyline with Jin. While I think the Jin episodes are some of Dairanger's best...they make up a small amount of the series. Daigo and Kujaku are given more episodes and, more importantly, Kujaku has ties to the Gorma and the past conflict and so on.

Shouhei Yokkaichi/Oh Green

More than any other character, poor Shouhei's caught in the middle of Ohranger's tug-o-war identity crisis. He starts out as being the team elder, a strong brawler, but quickly becomes the goofball of the team. It's pretty much all up to actor Kunio Masaoka to make it work, and he does his best. He's good when he's serious -- and it's a shame he wasn't given more serious stuff to do -- but he also pulls of the comedy, with a style that harkens back to some traditional Japanese comedy.

And why wasn't he given the boxer mecha? Still a mystery.


Minoru Uesugi/Green Racer

The dude's insane, but you gotta love him. Major credit goes to actor Yoshihiro Fukuda, who brings so much comic frenzy and quirkiness to the role. (Thank goodness Carranger was so nutty and was able to cast someone like Fukuda, who probably ordinarily wouldn't get cast in a hero role.) Being from Osaka himself, I think he probably brought Minoru's comedically tinged Osaka origins to the role on his own, as well as influencing the writing. (Fukuda worships the Hanshin Tigers? Well, then, so does Minoru.)

The way Ohranger's Kunio Masaoka harkens back to an old style of Japanese comedy, Fukuda is really reminiscent to me of a very particular type of Japanese stand-up comedian. (I was surprised to find out Fukuda WASN'T a stand-up.)

Minoru's my favorite Carranger member, and is part of many of my favorite bits in the show. (A couple of which include: losing the Accel Changer while practicing victory poses, accidentally shipping the bazooka to an elderly woman who mistakes it for a toy she gives her grandson (where he and Signalman perform a comedy set to distract the kid from blowing the place up!) Good ol' Minoru.


Hayate/Ginga Green

Hayate's meant to be as cool of a breeze as the Earth power he possesses. Hayate's a good second in command...actually, he always seemed to me like he should actually be the leader of the team. He's certainly more experienced than Ryouma, but he even seems more qualified than Hyuuga to me. He's the stern guy who wants everything to run smoothly, but he's not stiff or without humor.

I liked his storyline of his love being lost to him, and his rivalry with Shelinda, but I thought both could have been expanded upon.

Shou Tatsumi/Go Green

I've always said Shou's my least favorite of the Tatsumi siblings. Some people think that means I hate Shou -- I don't hate Shou. I like a lot about him as a character, and I certainly like that he's the one Tatsumi sibling who doesn't let Mondo immediately off the hook for the crap he's pulled.

I think a lot of my problem with Shou is actor Atsushi Harada. He's not a bad actor, but he just kind of is always playing the same note. And it certainly doesn't help that he goes on to play the obnoxious, cowardly and useless Mihara in Faiz.

Shion/Time Green

Funny -- for all of my complaining about Timeranger, I never had much of a problem with Shion. The character has such a sad past, and he gets hung up about it, but he never seems as much of a joyless turd as the others can. He and actor Masahiro Kuranuki are just really sympathetic. Shion has a sadness to him in his isolation, while he's also extremely intelligent, but he's not closed off or snobby -- he's warm, he has a sense of wonder about pretty much everything. He's a nice character.

Sen'ichi "Sen-chan" Enari/Deka Green

Sen's a weirdo. I don't know if the actor's a weirdo himself or he's really trying to play up an eccentric genius and taking it too far, but Sen's almost Vul-Panthery in his weirdness. I would have liked Sen to be a little more serious, like he can't believe he's surrounded by such unprofessional idiots, but Dekaranger steered into the skid of comedy, so Sen becomes a quirky guy who's just constantly amused by his surroundings.

But I like Sen. I like a number of his episodes, like the one with the Most Dangerous Game criminals (where he pulls a Columbo "just one more thing" act), the one where he reveals his claustrophobia, the one where he reveals his feelings for Umeko by beating the shit out of that clown from Sailor Moon...

Makito Ozu/Magi Green

When Magiranger was on the air, I couldn't stand Makito and his rubber face mugging. I guess, in a toku world that's been destroyed by Den-O, that something like Yuuki Itou's performance starts to seem more subdued, because when I've tried to rewatch Magiranger lately, he doesn't bother me.

I'm disappointed that he's the eldest brother and such a goofball that nobody takes seriously. I don't know if that was the plan, considering he's the eldest and Red suit actor Hirofumi Fukuzawa was traded over to Green for the year, but that's where they went with the character. Kind of strange that Houka, the eldest daughter, is also such an idiot screw-up, while youngest Kai -- a hot head who doesn't know what he's doing -- is the golden child.

Mele

Ha-ha, joke's on you, sucker. She don't count. Nice try, those of you who try to argue this. "But Jan said she and Rio were like Geki Black and Geki Green!" Yeah, Jan's an idiot, and he was joking. He's probably also the one who started the whole "Gorenger" thing.

Hanto "Dokidoki Dipshit" Jou/Go-on Green

I don't understand the point of this character. The actor's awful -- probably the worst one in the show, and that's saying something. He's about 11 years old, he's pretty girly, but he's supposed to be some kind of chick magnet. He gains about 50 pounds when he transforms. His mecha's the most annoying one in the show, and that's saying something.

Chiaki Tani/Shinken Green

At the start of Shinkenger, I really liked Chiaki. I liked that he refused to brownnose Tono, he questioned everything, he was lackadaisical. He was the modern guy in a stuffy, outdated surrounding. And when Chiaki's dad showed up, he was pretty much the same, so the Tanis did things their way, which mixed things up. You get the sense they were ordinary folks when Takeru was pampered and someone like Ryunosuke seemed to have a privileged life...

When Chiaki mentioned early on that he wanted to surpass Takeru, I got bad flashbacks to Masumi/Bouken Black. The show never really remembered this motivation of Chiaki's -- thankfully -- but it did fall into the trap of having pretty much every Chiaki episode be about what a screw-up he was until his screw-upness narrowly saved the day and he learned his lesson to be better only until the next time it happened again. This repetition locked actor Shogo Suzuki into one note, and I started to get tired of Chiaki. But, as I've said, I came to like Shinkenger more once it was over and I could look over it as a whole and kinda ignore the lulls it had. They could have handled Chiaki better, but I liked him for the most part.

Magis/Gosei Green

What can you say about him? He's played by Deka Green. That's about it. You see Gosei Green's legs, you see Sen get killed. That's about it.


Don "Hakase" Doggoiya/Gokai Green

We all know that it's suit actor Yasuhiro Takeuchi who makes this guy great. Takeuchi makes hilarious and at times bizarre comedic choices that make Gokai Green stand-out. Actor Kazuki Shimizu could have studied Takeuchi and done more to match up with him. But Takeuchi was constantly making little additions to the scene as the character that stood out -- one that comes to mind is when the Gokaiger change into Turboranger, and they're in the pyramid pose and Green's (or Black Turbo's) knees are buckling.

But I like Don regardless. He's timid, practically cowardly. It takes him a while to find his inner hero, but it's in there. His reluctance isn't from a place of malice, but because he's weak and afraid -- and like the other Gokaiger, he's had a rough life trying to survive in a universe that the Zangyaku are constantly pwning. He's a brainy nerd, he doesn't have the guts of a Marvelous or Luka or the military training of a Joe -- he's had to get by in his own way.

I liked that Marvelous recognized what Don had to offer and his strength in areas that didn't include fighting, and recruited him on his team. And I like that Don was behind doing the team's repairs and a couple of the weapons. Gokaiger didn't perfectly explain everything, most importantly just how they came to use the Ranger Keys, but I like to think that Don looked into it and discovered the way to use the powers of the Keys and invented the Mobirates.

It's kind of silly of Aka Red to be like "Here's a trunk filled with some Keys, Marvelous. I'm about to go die Fist of Fury style. Bye-bye!" And that's it! He didn't explain shit to Marvelous. How did they realize the Keys had powers they could use? Doc Doggoiya, that's how.

Souji Rippuukan/Kyoryu Green

He's the only male character of the Kyoryuger team who didn't jump out of a loud, obnoxious anime, but I still don't like him. The actor's pretty weak and Souji wasn't given many episodes, IIRC. He certainly wasn't cool enough to have Dyna Black and Dyna Pink as his parents, I tell ya.

Hikari/ToQ 4

It was really hard to take Hikari seriously as the quiet, serious, smart guy when his character was supposed to be a kid. And ToQger was such a lazily written show, most of the characters didn't even have character. (I'm still astounded that this is a Yasuko Kobayashi show. She usually favors character over plot, and this show has neither.)

And if you're not going to bother writing anything, at least get performers who can carry the thing, and that's certainly not ToQ 4's actor. He's not horrible, but he's just not memorable. When it comes down to it, I'm pretty indifferent to the ToQ heroes (except for Tokkachi, who I hate, and Akira, who I like).
_____________________________________

And for the Green I'd pick to be on my team...

Are you ready?

You might be surprised...

Shion/Time Green! I really wanted to pick Dai, but if I ruled out Sara and the other Flashman because of the Anti-Flash, I ruled out Dai, too. I was going to pick Denji Green, but that's too close to the "Sentai Dream Team" I usually pick. (The "Dream Team" being the team you'd want to see in a special or movie, the characters you'd like to see interact; this game being forming a Seven Samurai-esque team of people you'd actually want to work with, whose skills you value, being the team you'd want to BE a part of and go on missions with.)

Shion's young, and while I ruled out a lot of characters -- like anyone from Megaranger -- for being too young, I don't think it applies to Shion since he's an alien, and obviously advanced. I wanted somebody super smart on my team, and figure he'd be a great asset since he has future knowledge AND alien knowledge. I considered Sen/Deka Green, since he, too, is smart, but I thought maybe his quirkiness could be irritating.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Black Warriors


Shirou Akebono/Battle Kenya

Kenji Ohba is awesome. Everybody knows that. I'm an animal lover, so I like characters like Akebono who take animals seriously and talk to 'em and stuff. Ohba, who's such a big personality, is capable of taking a character like this and making it work. Akebono's a wild animal man, he's funny, but Ohba doesn't turn him into an obnoxious cartoon. And I still think it was kind of genius of Gekiranger to cast Ohba as Jan's dad. (Not only for being the crazy jungle boy of Sentai's past, the way Jan was the current iteration, but also since Ohba was Aka Ranger's suit actor in the later portion of Goranger, so he's kind of a Red, too. Also: that Ohba's an action guy playing an elite martial arts master.)

Kanpei Kuroda/Goggle Black

Jun'ichi Haruta -- don't bet against the JAC guys. He's like Ohba, you know you're guaranteed results when you cast someone like him. I like how professorial Kuroda is. He's the one member of Goggle V who I think you can really rely on and never doubt. Kuroda's super intelligent and about strategy -- teaching the shogi class at school -- but he's not unflappable.

It's an interesting combo that he's the scientific guy, the brains on the team, but also the physical and action guy.

I also like that he uses shogi pieces as shuriken. *laugh*


Ryuu Hoshikawa/Dyna Black

Haruta returns, and with a character completely unlike Kuroda. Hoshikawa's not exactly an idiot -- he's a scientist after all -- but since he's more comedic and not buttoned down like Kuroda, it's easy to dismiss him as a simpleton. (Comedic does not equal stupid.)

I, of course, love that Hoshikawa is a descendant of ninjas and is a practicing ninja, and JAC performers excel at ninja action. Haruta provides some damn awesome action scenes in this show de gozaru.


Shou Hayate/Change Griffin

The man. He was popular at the time the show was airing, but I feel like he doesn't get the respect he deserves. Gai Yuuki eclipsed him, but Hayate was the first cool Black, and without any of the social and mental disorders Gai has. Take that!

Shou joined the military to impress the ladies, and while he puts up a cool front, he's a decent, caring guy, an honorable guy. A good soldier in his own right, he has your back and will follow you into any hellish battle. Shou can be light, he can goof around, but he still keeps a cool image and maturity, and actor Kazuoki plays both sides perfectly. There's a lot of times a character in toku will be cool, but they'll like to make him goofy, but it sucks away the cool factor, but Kazuoki's one of the rare ones to make it all work. I think he's the one who gives additional coolness to Hayate.

I think Hayate could take on Gai, and I say that as Gai's number one fan. I imagine Hayate just kind of coolly deflecting any kind of punch or attack of Gai's, the way Ryu/Red Hawk should have. (Hey, Kazuoki as Red Hawk, there's an idea.)

Another cool thing about Hayate is the way actor Kazuoki reaches a point where he likes to do a lot of the action scenes on his own, which is something he continued to do in subsequent shows he appeared in (Metalder, Janperson). Kazuoki became buds with a lot of the JAC guys on Changeman's staff and went on to do a lot of plays with the JAC in the '80s -- I think it speaks to how impressively he handled action scenes that he impressed the JAC. I spent a lot of time just assuming he was a JAC actor, like Jun'ichi Haruta.


Kenta/Black Mask

Supposedly, Toei originally wanted Changeman's Kazuoki to play Kenta. I feel like that would have kind of been a step down after Hayate. Kenta's Hayate-like, but at that point Kazuoki was too mature for the role. Kazuoki was more suited for someone like Gai Yuuki at this point (hey, there's an idea).

Kenta has a more youthful vibe, he's lighter and can be a big a bit of a goof. I think actor Kouichi Kusakari is a better fit with the Maskman cast, and aces those sides of Kenta. Kenta's cool and laidback, but he'll be there for you when shit's falling apart.

A moment of Kenta awesomeness -- when the Mio ice-cube has been stolen by Kiros, and Takeru's feeling pretty hopeless about finding her, with Sugata being like "Tough luck," Kenta's like "It's OK, bud -- let's take my Masky Drill and go drilling all over Japan until we find her!" Kenta's just a good dude and friend to have on your side.

I also have to point out Kusakari's voiceovers. The dude goes NUTS, and it's great. He's yelling, he's shrieking. He sounds like he might hack up blood by the end of the day. (Sometimes, I'd love to see footage of toku actors recording their suit voiceovers.) It really fits well with just what a powerhouse they try to depict Kenta as as a fighter -- in suit and out, they always try to convey just what force is behind his hits.

Tetsuya Yano/Black Bison

This sonuva. As I've said before, I love the concept of Takuji and Mari's siblings stepping in as the new heroes. I like that Tetsuya is the hothead who has revenge on the mind and just wants to lay a beatdown on any Volt asshole he can get his hands on. But the show never really does anything interesting with him or Jun'ichi, which might be because the casting for the two knuckleheads is horrendous. Actor Seirou Yamaguchi is real stinkowiff, barking out his lines. By the time Tetsuya loosens up and even forgives Gou -- you know, that could have been a big moment, really touching, but Yamaguchi can't deliver.

HUGE missed opportunity.

Daiichi Yamagata/Black Turbo

I like Daiichi as a character, I think he has that strong second-in-command quality about him, and that he wants the best for his friends. He's supposed to be kind of like Kouichiro/Mega Black in that he's physically and mentally fit and just wants to do good and be the best person he can. And while actor Yoshiaki Ganaha is far from the worst actor the franchise has seen, there's just something off about him that doesn't make the character completely soar. Ganaha always look like he'd rather be ANY place but on the set.

I still like Daiichi, but would have liked an actor who might have WANTED TO BE THERE! It totally makes Daiichi NOT the smart, calm and collected one of the team when he looks like he wants a Turbo Laser to catch him in the head during the next battle.

And it doesn't help that he looks like Donnie Osmond.

Fumiya Hoshikawa/Five Black

Fumiya's OK as a character, but actor Ryouhei Kobayashi has a weird acting style where he's always just cringing throughout his lines, no matter what the character's mood. What the hell's that about? I can't explain it, but I reallllly can't picture this dude headlining his own Kamen Rider show like he was supposed to -- he barely cuts it as third banana in freaking Fiveman.

Even though it's crazy unbelievable, I always liked when the show put Fumiya's linguistics knowledge to use -- he has a surprising amount of knowledge of alien languages and can whip things together, like Hoshi Sato from Enterprise.

But I basically kind of feel like he and Ken are interchangeable, though, at once meant to be strong cool guys, yet often yukking it up. They cancel each other out, and are the weakest ones in the cast, so...I kinda think Fiveman would be cooler if it was just Gaku, Kazumi and Remi. (Shubarie proved that "Threeman" doesn't have a good ring to it.)


Gai "Forever 27" Yuuki/Black Condor

He's a legend. He's rock 'n roll. There's a reason why he's so popular, and that's because he's awesome. Jetman was coming along at a time when the mainstream was starting to take superheroes more seriously, taking a more "adult" approach -- thanks to Tim Burton's Batman -- and I feel like this was THE moment for Jetman writer Toshiki Inoue, as that falls completely in line with his style.

Jetman wanted to emphasize a Sentai team of truly random people being brought together. It's Sentai's core theme -- the strangers putting aside their differences and uniting as one. There were teams before Jetman who would butt heads, but would pretty much come to an understanding by an episode's end. Jetman wanted to be realistic, Jetman wanted to have heroes who weren't meant to be heroes, who didn't necessarily want to be heroes, and that included basically a criminal, Gai.

On the surface, you're immediately drawn to Gai because you haven't seen a Sentai hero like him before. He's rude! He's a cheat! He smokes! He drinks! He womanizes! He's a lone wolf who doesn't play well with others! He's a super pessimist. Even without Vyram, he thinks the world is fucked, so he wants a good reason why he should risk himself to save it. Initially sticking around just for Kaori, he eventually finds he's good at this hero thing, he finds a purpose, and begins down a road of redemption and ends the series as a genuine hero and not an antihero.

It's a great arc, it's a fresh character, a genuinely cool character, and it's the reason he's the breakout star of the show, and a fan favorite character to this day. Gai would not work out if not for actor Toshihide Wakamatsu, who's talented, who gets the character. We've seen Inoue try to recreate the Gai type in other shows, but bad casting ruined it. Gai would probably be as obnoxious and hateful of a character as Faiz's Kusaka if not for a performer with the talent, charm and presence of Wakamatsu.

Goushi/Mammoth Ranger

I want to like Goushi, but I think actor Seiju Umon is a freak. He sticks out like a sore thumb, not really meshing with the cast. His acting's odd, he sounds like he eats razor-filled pineapples whole, he's ten feet tall, he seems about twice the age of everybody else in the show. How'd he get cast?!

The aging helps when it comes time for Goushi to be the bookworm and answer man, but I get the impression Goushi is supposed to be the cool guy, too, and he's not that. (You don't get Naoki Oofuji for your suit actor right after Jetman if you ain't supposed to be the cool guy. It's weird to see Oofuji do Gai-esque mannerisms as guys like Five Black and Mammoth Ranger, indicating they're supposed to be tougher and cooler than they are. Also: Oofuji's a dwarf compared to Umon. You don't buy for a second it's Goushi in suit. It's a reverse Jiro Okamoto situation.)

Goushi ain't bad or nothing -- he's a likable dude, and his focus episode towards the end of the series was one of the only episodes of Zyuranger I really liked. But he's an oddball -- a genuine freak in a show that tried way too hard to be freaky.

And, for some reason, Umon reminds me of Judge Reinhold. That don't help. "Hope you had a hell of a piss, Geki!"

Jiraiya/Ninja Black

Remember when Kakuranger was new and it was so fun and cool to see a Sentai hero who was American and spoke English?

It's kind of amazing Jiraiya works at all -- I think he's one of those characters that's good at being cool and serious AND being a goofball -- when you take into account that Kane Kosugi wasn't accustomed to acting in Japanese. And when you consider how insane the world of Kakuranger is on top of that.

But Jiraiya IS cool, and I think the closest Kakuranger has to a traditional, serious hero. (Some would say Tsuruhime; yeah, initially. But it always seemed to me like the goofy knuckleheadedness of guys like Sasuke and Saizo eventually rubbed off on her.) Kane Kosugi, being son of martial arts movie star Sho Kosugi, was a neat get for the series -- actually American, but from a Japanese showbiz family, an action star at that. The show kinda lucked out with his casting.


Kouichirou Endou/Mega Black

Kouichirou's the appointed leader of Megaranger, and you most likely don't ask why. For being one of the accidental picks of the team -- he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time along with Shun, Chisato and Miku -- he was the one who most belonged on the team, and INET was extremely fortunate to get him.

Kouichirou's a bright guy, responsible, and a dedicated student -- he's supposed to be a stickler for rules and a total do-gooder nerd, but I never found him to be all that bad. He's pretty open-minded and puts up with a lot of bull from someone like Kenta. He wants to do his best as a student, person, citizen, superhero, and he's coolheaded about it. He's such a good guy that, when the Megaranger thought they were dying, he devoted what he thought was his final hours alive looking for a cure. (With help from Chisato, Megaranger's other ass-kicker.)

I'm always surprised to remember that actor Atsushi Ehara wasn't an actor at all. His background is in sports, but he tried to break into acting and Megaranger was about the only thing he did. But he does such a good job in the role, completely believable as Kouichirou.

Soutarou Ushigome/Gao Black

He's funny. I think it's funny that he's a wannabe sumo, I think it's funny the way he's babied by the younger Blue. He's supposed to be about the contrast, a big guy who's physically strong, but on the inside is a softy, but I don't think it's done here as well as in Gingaman with Gouki.

NEVER GIVE UP!

Asuka/Abare Black

I have to admit, I had some reservations about Asuka when Abaranger first started, because I like cool Blacks, and Asuka was completely different. He's depicted as being emotional and a softy. He's not afraid to just openly cry. So I was like "Man, what happened to Blacks?" But Asuka, as his story unfolded, eventually won me over.

Asuka's a softy, but he's not weak. His backstory is tragic, in that he's pretty much been a soldier his entire life. All he really had was Mahoro and her brother Mizuho, and they get turned against him. Asuka has his own child used against him. AND, in a moment of total desperation, he donned the Cursed Armor and unwittingly killed a lot of his allies. He's a guy who's been shit on, witnessed a lot of atrocities, but he never gave in and never gave up hope or his belief in people.

And, like I've often said and people have caught on to -- Asuka's relationship with Mahoro beats the Ryu and Rie storyline in Jetman. Sorry, Inoue, sorry Jetman worshippers -- you're deluding yourselves.


Masumi Inou/Bouken Black

The worst. Absolutely the worst. Another in a long line of failures for Boukenger, they wanted Masumi to be the second Gai Yuuki -- dark, mysterious, cool, dangerous,  possibly criminal -- but it's an absolute laugh how far off target they are. If Gai Yuuki is Frank Sinatra, then Masumi Inou is Michael Bublé.

Where to start with this twerp? First off, he's about 12 years old, but supposedly has a reputation as some dangerous tomb raider. He joins Boukenger mainly to try and compete with Akashi, who himself is unbelievable as a supposedly awesome, treasure hunting genius. Their rivalry is meant to recall Hawk and Condor's, but these two have nothing behind it, nothing going for them. Indiana Jones and Belloq they're not. They're two colossal dorks.

Such a doofus is Masumi that 1) he forgets he hates Akashi until he reminds himself one day when rereading his own journal and 2) Yami no Yaiba convinces him he's evil because, when he was a kid, he chose to hide from a Dark Shadow attack. And the dumb-dumb falls for it.

He's not close to being cool or threatening. He sucks, he's a dweeb. And the sad thing is, actor Yasuka Saito is a big Sentai fan. Saito seems like a likable guy in real life, and I could see him being better in another show, but Boukenger -- and Masumi in particular -- wasn't a good match. But the writing stinks and didn't help him.


Gunpei Ishihara/Go-on Black

One of the only things I like about Go-onger. The show was stupid and made every mistake possible, but somehow had the good sense to alter the character once they realized actor Kenji Ebisawa wasn't able to pull off the cool guy Gunpei was initially meant to be. And rather than just make him an idiot without explanation, they chose the funny route of having Gunpei not realize he's not as cool and mature and knowledgeable as he thinks he is. Ebisawa was more at home playing a goof, and at the same time, we got kind of a spoof of the serious, cool Black stereotype.

Aguri/Gosei Black

Probably the most generic, forgettable thing in a Sentai show full of generic, forgettable things. Really...I can't tell you a damn thing about Aguri, except that his actor looks just like Kamen Rider Wizard, only Wizard somehow has more personality, when he and his show are the Kamen Rider equivalent of Goseiger.

Ian Yorkland/Kyoryu Black

More like Ian Dorkland, amirite? He's like Go-on Black, if everyone involved with the show never realized how bad Ebisawa was at being cool. Kyoryuger seriously thinks Ian is cool! And he's, like...so far from cool that there isn't even a humorous comparison to make here.

And the Black I choose to be on my team...

Change Griffin. Once again -- he's Black Condor without any of the mental or social disorders. Meaning: he's cool and bad-ass, but won't be a pain in the ass.


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Grown Folks in Spandex Fake-Fighting


If you're reading this blog post, you might be a superhero nerd. I'm a superhero nerd. I'm a nerd of a lot of things; horror, sci-fi -- for better or worse, the Nerd Bug bit me quite a few times. Despite the absolutely hostile takeover of all things superhero or "geeky" in Hollywood and pop culture, society, journalist snobs and even Hollywood, as it pickpockets us, still feel the need to make you feel ashamed of your hobby, your passion. Some people embrace what they like; some feel the need to keep it at arm's length; some feel the need to "like" it in an ironic way, not wanting to admit they DO like this stuff on a genuine level. But I'm sure we've all felt that tinge of shame or embarrassment, when...why should we?

Society says you're immature or a loser or a nerd if you like superheroes. We've all heard our favorite heroes reduced to the obnoxious "people in spandex" or "guys in rubber suits punching other guys in rubber suits" description. Superheroes are "juvenile," comic books "for stupid people." Meanwhile, society expects -- demands, accepts -- that every man worship at the altar of professional sports. Sports, which are grown men in spandex. Sports, in which society pays these spandexmen millions to play a game played by kindergarteners. Sports, in which millions is made from merchandise that is A-OKacceptable to wear, to display. To show your team pride is admirable; a man of any age can wear a t-shirt of their favorite sports team and nobody will say anything, that person's personal life or worth will never be questioned. A man above a certain age wear a Superman shirt? Every third person will glare and every person will probably judge that man.

In a relationship, an adult is expected to discard "juvenile" hobbies -- like comic book reading or memorabilia collecting -- to "put away childish things" for the sake of their significant other. But a spouse will allow their partner to build shrines in their home to their favorite sports teams. Many people will force themselves to like sports for the sake of their SO, but will have a hard time tolerating a superhero or sci-fi fan. (I never understood this. Superhero stories, sci-fi stories, other genre works have a dramatic structure and narrative and offer multiple things to a viewer. Some people have such zero tolerance accepting a "geeky" thing, yet will feign enthusiasm and interest in sports when a lot of people know damn well the fact that nobody wants to admit: sports are mind-numbingly boring. Fun to play, yes. But if you're not a drinker, how in the FLYING fuck are you expected to watch four-hour games and not want to jump through a window?)

"[Sports] is a physical journey, a spiritual journey. It's the meaning of life." You're allowed to say this kind of shit about sports, with a straight face, and not get yourself laughed at by "normal" society.

So it's not really sports/physical versus nerd/cerebral. Because sports worship is a spectator, well, sport. Unless you count tailgating and screaming at referees.

A sports fan knows every minute statistic about each player; they can tell you who won the winning touchdown in the 1973 Super Bowl. These are "normal" members of society. If you know Green Lantern's oath? BURN THE NERD! So for every article that claims "the geeks have inherited the earth," there's many, many examples to show you that that's not the case, and we're still a looked-down-upon fringe.

And quite frankly, I just don't get why it's "OK" and "normal" to follow sports like a Deadhead will follow the ghost of Cherry Garcia, but it's "weird" to be geeky about nerd stuff. Is it a holdover from jock- and cheer leader-worship in high school? Now who's being childish?

Monday, January 23, 2017

Pinhead VS Power Rangers



I've said many a time before that I'm a big horror fan, and one of my favorite horror franchises is  Hellraiser. If you're not familiar with the Hellraiser franchise, here's a brief description of its craziness: they're movies about damaged, lost, broken, corrupt, depraved or just plain deviant people who, for varying reasons, seek out a mysterious puzzle box. The puzzle box, when solved, is said to open doors to other realms, with promises of pleasure. What it really opens is a door to Hell, in which monsters appear and torture the one who solved the puzzle box and opened the door. (Some are masochists who know very well what they'll get when they solve the box, which is why these monsters -- the Cenobites -- refer to themselves as "angels to some, demons to others.") The main villain of these movies is the character Pinhead...

So, Hellraiser: Inferno is the fifth movie in the franchise. Now, Hellraiser, like every other horror franchise, has some very terrible sequels, and Inferno is considered by fans to be one of the worst. (Franchise creator Clive Barker loathes it.) The movie is flawed beyond belief, but I like what it tries to do. (Spoilers ahead.) It's about a corrupt cop who finds and opens the box -- not knowing the consequences -- and his life turns into one unending nightmare of a case. He's racing the clock to find a child killer, and the suspected culprit is almost a myth in his means, his envasiveness and how well-guarded he is; known simply as "The Engineer," he's practically an urban legend amongst cops and the criminal world. The main character finds himself desperately trying to solve this unsolvable, supernatural case, one in which he's implicated, and one in which he betrays or loses everyone close to him. The Cenobites are about inflicting pain on people, and this movie emphasizes the psychological pain they cause the main character in damning him to relive this case.

Now, Hellraiser 5 isn't great, but it TRIES to have a serious, dark tone to it. It wants to be neo-noir, and I think it has a good idea in the Cenobites punishing this corrupt cop by making him relive this nightmarish case. Things are going along nicely and then, randomly, the movie gets stupid. More stupid than the time Pinhead goes to space, more stupid than the time a disc jockey was turned into a Cenobite and killed people by throwing CDs at them; the cop character goes to a remote, backwoods bar populated by hillbillies in order to get info about the killer he's after.

You know how this scenario goes: the bar's filled with people who won't talk to him, he says one too many things that rouses suspicion, and then he leaves. Shortly afterward, at the behest of a criminal at the bar, the cop is cornered and roughed up by goons. But not just any goons... He's roughed up by TWO KARATEKA ASIAN COWBOYS. Asian cowboys. Who do karate. Karate kicking Asian cowboys. In a goddamn Hellraiser movie. So long, noirish atmosphere, so long, gory Hellraiser murder mystery. It's an incredibly stupid scene, really horrible and goofy looking. It's so dumb, it's so random, so out of place! How in the...who the heck decided to have the movie make such a stupid detour!?! Who was behind this scene of shittiness?!?!



Oh. That explains a lot. And: whaaaaaaaa? How'd this happen? Who thought this was a good idea? The how and why this came about is a mystery worthy of Poirot. "Hmmm...say, you know this Hellraiser could use a little action. Let's get the guy that does all of that twirly, slow-mo dance-y crap on Power Rangers!"

It's like this brief scene captures what I don't like about Sakamoto: not only do I just dislike his style, but he just does what he pleases and forces his style onto the work, even if it doesn't fit. And, sure, in this case, it was up to the Hellraiser producers and director to look at his footage and nix it, but it doesn't change that Sakamoto just breezes in and does his usual thing when it doesn't belong. He doesn't take things seriously, he ignores his surroundings, and just pulls out his bag of same old same old tricks. He could be given a boxing movie to choreograph, and he'd turn it from being about fist-fighting into "Cirque du Soleil Presents: Bootleg HK Action With Slo-Mo Explosions!"

Your weekly reminder that I'm not a Koichi Sakamoto fan!