Flashman's Sir Kaura is my favorite Sentai villain. (I know, it should be a Yutaka Hirose character, right?) From the moment Kaura debuts to his final, crazy kamikaze exit, the character is just perfect. While credit should of course go to writer Hirohisa Soda, it's the excellent Jouji Nakata that brings him to life, and brings a new kind of villain to Sentai. Nakata restrains from making Kaura too hammy; it's an understated performance, so those moments when Kaura gets pissed and unleashes his wrath, doing that growl...watch out! Hirose has said in interviews that he was really impressed by Nakata, and I think you can see how it changes him as a performer -- Kempu is a lot more subdued than the way he plays Wanda, and his subsequent villains are similar, and not as crazy-wild as Wanda could be.
From the creepy-awesome introduction of Kaura, you know the Flashman's in a world of trouble. That scene was etched into my head when I was a kid -- that chanting music that would go on to accompany a lot of Kaura's entrances, that red sky, the electric shocks of each step he made down his ship's stairs -- even the Mess officers on the scene are terrified. And right away he lets the Flashman know he knows 'em and gets off an insult.
He's a smart villain -- not just physically formidable, but mentally, and an all-around threat to the Flashman. Being the one responsible for kidnapping them, he has the answers to all of their questions. That makes him even more dangerous, having an even further advantage over the heroes -- and the villains, for he's even knowledgeable about all of their secrets and pasts. Being just a hired runner for Mess, he's a colleague of theirs, but still on the outside, so it creates great tension between him and the villains -- both sides get fed up with each other, ultimately leading to him turning on his employers.
As the series goes on, and the heroes become more and more desperate to find their families as they race against the clock against the Anti-Flash, how screwy is it that one of their most brutal of opponents could help them? And here's the thing -- he actually does help one of them. The trend in cynical Hollywood, and in stories in pop-culture nowadays are all about "being realistic" and having characters be "flawed" and "gray," but that often just means that the people who are supposed to be the "good" characters in a show or movie are downright despicable or amoral. But in their quest to have "gray" and "flawed" characters, it seems that they never really apply that to the actual villains. Depending on how it's done, I think it makes a villain more interesting and dimensional when the writers show glimpses of decency or even honor in them -- when villains stick to their word. Isn't it more predictable to have a villain say they'll do one thing, but renege and go "Ha-ha!"?
And Kaura has dimension like that. When he's worried about his right-hand man, Gardan, being turned into a monster, and he's seriously wounded, he kidnaps Sara for help, with the promise he'll tell her who her birth parents are. Most shows would have Kaura be bullshitting and cackling when revealing he had no intention of helping her, but, no, despite being mortally wounded, he still drops her off at her old home where she finally discovers who her parents are, delivering on his promise. That doesn't make him any less threatening of a villain, because he in turn used his knowledge against the heroes, as seen when Dai was reverted into a child, desperate to find his mother, finding comfort in believing Setsuko Tokimura was his mother, only to have Kaura appear and brutally crush his hope. Another thing: How many times have you seen a villain turn on their closest allies? But Kaura is shown to really care for Gardan and his Alien Hunter accomplices, their mistreatment by Mess being the catalyst for his rebelling against them. Nakata plays Kaura with a samurai-esque authority and is almost as honorable as one, but Kaura's no chump.
Certain episodes highlighting Kaura I'd like to focus on:
Episode 15: Kaura's debut. Not only the great entrance he makes that I talked about above, but he and his Alien Hunter allies just brutally beat the Flashman team down, and the episode ends with Kaura's causing the destruction of Flash King which, believe it or not, was a HUGE deal, a completely new idea at the time. What are they going to do without their mecha?!?
Episode 40: Jin gets captured and teleported to a mysterious city that Mess is developing. He's aided by a woman named Shibelle, who was also once captured by Kaura, only she didn't have the luxury of being saved by Flash aliens (or anyone else) -- raised as Kaura's daughter, she ends up being turned into a cyborg, and is a major component of Mess' "City XX" plan. When she was growing up, her one comfort was a children's book that belonged to Jin, which was amongst Kaura's possessions (since Jin was reading it when he was abducted), so she finds Jin and decides to aid him. At one point, the Mess decide to eliminate a mutual thorn in their sides -- they bind Jin and Kaura together and banish them to a location where they hope they'll kill each other. (It's a cool duel in the rain between the two.)
Episode 43: Shit hits the fan! Disgusted by the Mess trying to capture his Alien Hunter allies and experiment on them, Kaura unleashes his fury against everyone in his path, officially breaking away from Mess and beating the bejesus out of their lieutenants. And if that isn't enough, his right-hand man Gardan arrives, and since he's played by the awesome Yoshinori Okamoto, you know what's in store for the Flashman AND the Mess: pain.
Episode 48: Gardan and Kaura storm the Lab ship, cutting their way through a ton of Zoro and brutally murdering La Deus. High on his triumph, he takes on Red Flash, who's panicked over the kidnapped Sara, in one last duel. Kaura puts up a good fight, and basks in what a gloriously bloody sunset battle it is, but he's ultimately given a mortal wound by Red Flash's Prism Seiken. He keeps his word to Sara before going off on a suicidal kamikaze run against the Lab ship in the following episode.
Nakata's so good in the role, he ends up playing the main villain in Liveman two years later, and is so good there, I didn't know for the longest time that they were the same actor! I think he just puts so much into the role, and gives Kaura such additional shading. (I remember reading an interview with Nakata where he talked about coming up with his own backstory for the character, which if I remember correctly, involved Kaura being a military leader turned mercenary, where he went around the universe rounding up those who would be in his crew.) I just have to laugh whenever I see people say someone like Juuzo or Basco are such great villains -- are you kidding? They'd piss their britches if they saw Kaura approaching!
And what's sad is...Kaura never had an action figure at the time. Not a soft-vinyl, not an eraser figure. And while there's companies like Medicom and S.H. Figuarts that have released a lot of villains, Sentai villains -- and especially old characters like Kaura -- are always overlooked. So, a friend made me a custom Kaura!