Sunday, December 16, 2012

Gaoranger VS Super Sentai is Awesome -- Screw the Haters!

It's the middle of 2001, and I'm checking out Yahoo! Japan Auctions for Sentai stuff. Suddenly, I see an image -- a poster -- featuring an awesome illustration of Gao Red and all of the previous Sentai Reds. The bottom of the poster reads: "Hyaku-juu Sentai Gaoranger VS Super Sentai." I immediately search the net for what this could be -- are they bringing back every Red!?! How many old actors are going to do this movie!?! Jill's Sentai Page eventually got the info from all of those TV Magazine scans -- it's a special mid-year versus movie, with older Sentai characters, like...that '70s dude, Miku from Megaranger, the Gingaman guy, the crackhead from GoGoFive, yeah, yeah, newbies to appeal to the kids, where's someone super cool...wait, is that... HOLY SHIT! RED FALCON! Red freaking Falcon! Daisuke Shima, back in his Miami Vice knock-off look and all! It was official: this movie would be my movie-event obsession until its release.

It hit rental in August, but wasn't easy to find until it was released for sale a month later. It felt like a long wait, and you have to remember -- in 2001, downloads weren't so easy to come by. There were still more people on dial-up than high-speed, so even IF the movie was up somewhere, it was difficult to download stuff when not only would it take a while to load, but you could easily be bounced offline. You had to wait for one of the toku VHS sellers to get in the new stuff, and those guys take too damn long, especially when you're impatient and anticipating a movie like this.

In 2000 and 2001, I wasn't in much of a toku frame of mind. I couldn't get into Timeranger, I wasn't into Kamen Rider at the time, I didn't like Gaoranger when it started, so I didn't do much toku watching then. But Gaoranger VS Super Sentai got me back into it, head-on. At the time, I hadn't ventured too far out of my toku comfort zone -- more specifically, I hadn't watched much of the older stuff. The first toku I saw was Changeman, so anything that came before '85 seemed pretty different and weird to me. I hadn't seen any of the Sentai shows from the '70s, period. But not only did the clips in the movie get me more interested in checking out the older Sentai, but Hiroshi Miyauchi got me interested in checking out a lot more than just Sentai...

Miyauchi in this movie is gold. He's charismatic and FUN as Banba/Big One, and I still have no idea who plays Big One in-suit, but they really make him larger-than-life and kick-ass in order to match Miyauchi. Other than seeing some Ohranger, I didn't really know Miyauchi, but I enjoyed him so much in this movie that it got me to check out not only V3, which started to open the Kamen Rider door for me, but (more importantly) Zubat. If I thought Banba was fun in this movie, Hayakawa is twelve times better. Which is good, because as I've said before, Banba's kind of a bummer in his actual series -- he hogs the show and isn't quite the same way as he is in this movie. In JAKQ, he's a sore-thumb goofball who represents the severe lightening of the show's tone; by Gaoranger VS Super Sentai, the man Miyauchi had pretty much become the legend Miyauchi, who wasn't unlike Hayakawa (Miyauchi's favorite role), and the Banba here is more of a melting of his roles.

The entertaining Hiroshi Miyauchi, who obviously had a blast in this movie.

The most common complaint about this movie is the heavy use of old clips. It's important to keep in mind when this movie came out: Toei Channel didn't exist yet, so reruns were rare, and Toei only started releasing DVDs with Gaoranger. (Also, like I said, downloading episodes wasn't really a thing at the time.) Some of the older shows from the '70s and early '80s had an official release on VHS or Laserdisc, but it usually wasn't the entire series, but an assortment of key episodes or fan favorites. And the entire Bioman through Liveman run had NO official VHS or Laserdisc release..! So, seeing some of these older clips was a little more special at the time, because a lot of these shows hadn't been seen for a while, or in as nice of quality. Also special was how the movie made use of a variety of old background music tracks and insert songs. (I still love the segment set to Kenta Satou's Turboranger song "Kokoro yo Shinayaka ni Mae!") You gotta love Toshihiko Sahashi's excellent Gingaman BGM being used in scenes such as the big old Red pose-a-thon at the end.

Does the movie's script leave something to be desired? Sure. I find the movie's main villain to be pretty dull -- although it's cool they brought back longtime villain voice actor Shozo Iizuka -- and it's cheap to have the Dream Team facing off against some of Gaoranger's poorer monsters of the week. But, dammit, this movie was treading new ground. Kamen Riders or Ultramen may have teamed up in previous shows, but it was expected, because a lot of those shows shared the same universe and were sequels. Gaoranger VS Super Sentai was the first to flip the bird to continuity and series logic and just wanted to have fun and bring in multi-generational characters who had no business being together, but, dammit, wasn't it fun to see them together? Liveman never had its own theatrical movie, there weren't versus movies at the time -- who would have thought you'd ever see Red Falcon kicking ass again outside of his series?

They're here to kick ass and chew Fujiya Milky -- and they're all out of Milky.

I thought the idea of the movie was decent enough -- three of the five Gaoranger lose their courage and are taught by three older heroes to regain it. There's something a lot more satisfying about Kai/Gao Blue learning Daimon/Go Yellow's milk tornado attack and doing it himself than it is having the Gokaiger just ace every older Sentai heroes' moves because they have the Keys. (How DID the Gokaiger know how to use those powers, man? They didn't need Gai, they apparently knew everything about Sentai already!) It's nice how they try to incorporate certain things into the movie -- Banba's speech, using his love for the rose as a metaphor for how the other colors make the Red what they are; doing things like matching up the "strong guy" or "sword fighter" heroes -- but moments like these are kind of brief, the movie instead choosing to focus on lengthy scenes of Kakeru/Gao Red defeating monsters he's already defeated, who later go on to be defeated ONCE MORE by the Dream Team. The movie's heart is in the right place, the ideas are there, the ambition is there, but you can sense that Toei's still just a little too scared to let loose, and that Gaoranger was just too cheap of a production; so it falls into familiar Versus movie traps.

But then there are bits in the movie that are just fantastic, like all of Yuusuke's bits. I was so into Liveman in the late '90s, when I got back into toku, that had this movie been released then? I probably would have considered swimming to Japan to see it. But they really put care into the Liveman scenes in this movie, using old locations, digging out the awesome Tatsumi Yano background music, and even getting little details like the dates Kenji and Senda were supposed to have died correct (1989, as the Liveman series was wrapping up). We see Yuusuke paying his respects to his friends, flipping out when Yabaiba steps on a grave. My first reaction to seeing Red Falcon fight Yabaiba was "Wow! This suit actor really studied Liveman, because he's moving just like how Falcon did in the show." So, imagine my surprise when the credits come up and I saw Kazuo Niibori's name. I had no idea he would have come out of ten years of retirement to do a movie like this, and it was AWESOME, and added so much and was just as big of a deal and important as Daisuke Shima returning to the Yuusuke role, in my opinion. Also, the movie solves something I had wondered about Liveman -- in the final episodes, Gou Omura is gunned down by Guardnoid Gash, but they never answer whether he lived or died. (He was in pretty bad shape.) Well, since he doesn't have a gravestone here, Gou apparently lived. (Good thing, dammit!) And I love that they play the Liveman opening theme during the Dream Team's fight.

Daisuke Shima and original suit-actor Kazuo Niibori return to the role of Falcon.

The movie's not perfect, but I think its flaws should be forgiven, considering just what a new idea it was. Toei still hasn't made the perfect crossover in my opinion, but this tried its damnedest, and has one of the better mixes of old and new heroes. (If this was done in the Superhero Taisen way, Big One and Red Falcon would just be voice-actors and it would only focus on Gaoranger.) It's a light and fun movie courtesy of nostalgist director Noboru Takemoto and writer Masanao Akahoshi, who would later go on to greater acclaim for being the main writer of Ultraman Mebius, the anniversary entry for that franchise. Not only do I like it for its entertainment, but it's an important movie to me for getting me interested in all sorts of shows. (It's also the first R2 DVD I owned -- I received it as a Christmas present, in addition to the poster I mentioned above.) And it's still a damn sight better than Boukenger VS Super Sentai.


  1. I always loved this movie a lot myself. Easily one of the best crossover films out there!

  2. When I first watched the movie two or three years ago, the first problem that I had is the amount of stock footage. During that time, my love for Super Sentai is not yet revitalized. Watching the movie again made me appreciate the clip show aspect of the movie more.

    To be honest, I wish the movie lasted for at least 30 more minutes just to add sometime more special for the fans. Like having the Timeranger at some point in the movie perhaps?

  3. I loved everything about the movie except the gaorangers.

    I don't agree on the grave thing.
    In the film, you see the grave of Takuji, Mari, Rui (mazenda)and Kenji (kemp).
    I can't see a grave for Arashi, Hanako (the robot) or Dr. Hoshi. So, I don't think that not seeing Go's grave doesn't mean anything.

    But I don't think Go died.

    Something that I really missed in Liveman was a background story for Dr. Bias. We never got to know a lot about his past, what his real name was, and from whom those brains were, or how/when he created Gush.

    1. It seems to me like that's a special place reserved for the close Academia friends. They never showed Hoshi's grave in the series, and Arashi belonged alongside Takuji and Mari no more than Gon or Hanako did. I mean, the Liveman of course Arashi turns good and the Liveman come to like and respect him, but he's not really up there with their Academia pals.

      Yeah, it would have been cool to know a little bit more about the pre-series Bias. That was a bit of a misstep, but maybe the mystery makes him better?