Continuing from my previous entry...
Jetman's actually one of my top favorite Sentai shows -- although I don't agree that it's the BEST, most LEGENDARY Sentai that Toei paints it to be. There's always been a hole in the show for me, something that held it back from being as good as it should have been -- as good as Toei claims it is...
And I think a huge problem is Koutarou Tanaka as Ryu Tendo/Red Hawk. I think he's just an awkward guy and a pretty bland actor. Toei had just come off a great run of casting Reds -- Reds from Bioman through Fiveman were all strong, stand-out, talented dramatic actors or interesting personalities -- and you get to Jetman, which really demands a strong lead, and Tanaka is just...
I like the Ryu character as written, and he should certainly be one of the franchise's strongest and most memorable Reds, but I think Tanaka is too weak to pull this character off. Ryu is supposed to be a goody two-shoes, but there's supposed to be a lot going on with the character internally -- this guy is supposed to be hurting and masking it with a sense of professionalism. This is a Red who has to deal with the most unprofessional and half-together team in the franchise.
Tanaka's only capable of playing the Dudley Do Right part of it, and he has no presence, and he makes it so much easier for Toshihide Wakamatsu to steal the show. When, if you look at it...Ryu's a bigger bad-ass than Gai. He's always calling Gai on his shit, he's always one-upping him. He's technically the better fighter because he's a professional soldier. But you have the flashily written Gai, shoving in your face the superficial things that's shorthand for "cool," and he's played by a talented, charismatic actor. After casting Gai, they needed to look at Tanaka and realize they made a mistake. (Unless, as I said in my previous entry, they purposely cast someone so blank to stack the deck that much more in Wakamatsu's favor.) They needed someone who could match Wakamatsu, even surpass him. And I think Tanaka is a lot of the reason why the love story is so problematic in the series -- he's never strong enough to have anything going on behind his eyes when it comes to Kaori, and he never really makes you care about Ryu and Rie the way the more talented Ryousuke Kaizu did about Mio in Maskman. Tanaka's not the worst actor to play a Red in the franchise, but just too weak for this particular role.
I think Sharivan/Spielban star Hiroshi Watari would have made an awesome Ryu. He's a good actor, he's multi-talented, he's immensely likable. He wasn't doing much toku at the time, and was only a year older than Tanaka, so not too old. He would have not only brought some cooler fight scenes, that sense of being an experienced fighter, and would have been the character more likable and sincere. He has personality and is a cool guy, so he would definitely be able to match Wakamatsu in his own way. (Ryu's obviously not supposed to be "cool" in the same way as Gai, but I can easily picture him being cool in a way that...he's no nonsense, he knows his shit, and he doesn't have time for Gai being a tool. Think of the way Luke is in Return of the Jedi and compare him to Han Solo. We all loved Han Solo from the start because he's a bad-ass, but Luke ended up being pretty darn cool in his own right.) And, really -- shouldn't have Watari gotten to play a Red? (Or at least be in a Sentai back in the day?)
And while I'm at it, I think Radeige needed better casting, too. He's such a nasty character on paper, but Daisuke Tachi plays him like a cartoonish foil from an old Three Stooges short. Tachi causes the same sort of problems on the villain side that Tanaka causes for the heroes -- he punches holes in a lot of the material. I would replace him with Kenichi Endou (best known to tokusatsu fans as Kakuranger's Junior), a massively talented, critically acclaimed character actor who would have toned Radeige down and made him as menacing and sinister as he was meant to be.
|Kenichi Endo (left) would have made a stronger Radeige.|
Yeah, yeah, I know -- a lot of people like Tanaka, so opinions vary, and why cry over spilt hot milk?
Because I just think the show would have been so much more awesome, dammit!