Friday, August 31, 2012

Pet Peeves and Complaints, Part Uno

Maybe it doesn't make sense to other people, but I prefer when a Sentai team is referred to as just what's plain old ordinarily there in the title. "Goranger." "Maskman." "Carranger." "Go-onger." NOT "Gorangers," "Maskmen," "Carrangers," "Go-ongers."

I just think of it like band names. Some bands have a plural, like The Rolling Stones, but then there's Aerosmith. Go-busters is the only Sentai thus far with a pluralized name. You wouldn't say "Aerosmiths," so why say "Gingamen?" The team name's what they're called. Green Flash is a Flashman, a member of the team known as Flashman, not one of the "Flashmen."

And I know people think it's weird that a team with one or more women is called "____MAN," but there it is, that's their team name. (The X-Men are still referred to as the X-Men, right?) So, they need to bring back "___MAN" names, too, dammit!

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Killer Bored Game

When Abaranger was about to debut in 2003, I was fairly skeptical about it. Dinosaurs? Ugh. TALKING dinosaurs? Get outta here. And after initially being disappointed by Gaoranger and seriously despising Hurricanger, I was really skeptical of this new approach they were taking with the Sentai franchise.

However, from its very first episode, I was drawn to Abaranger. The night setting of the pilot, the way it establishes all of the key players. Hey, the dinosaurs weren't even bad, they had some spot-on casting of voice-actors. At the time of its airing, I had just recently finished Kamen Rider Kuuga and was really into it, and I recognized writer Naruhisa Arakawa's name and, while Abaranger may not have taken that realistic, police-procedural approach to a henshin hero program, Arakawa's wit and skill are clearly evident in Abaranger. (Some coincidences between the two shows led Toei to sorta jokingly refer to Abaranger as "Kuuga 2," encouraging fans of Kuuga to check out Abaranger. Yeah, I don't think that worked, judging by how polarizing Abaranger remains to be.)

The show kept my interest, and I liked it more and more with each episode. To keep it short -- I was a massive Abare Nut in 2003. However, I felt like the Abaranger needed a stronger rival. While I like the Evorian as characters -- the seemingly innocent Rije, the eccentric artists Voffa and Mikera -- the only real threat was Mahoro/Jannu, who gets sidelined early on in a plot to find the Bakuryu that was lost through the portal from Dino Earth to Another Earth. A bit of a mistake, in my opinion, just as it was to kill off her brother, Mizuho/Gileton so early. I was a little leery of just a bad Abaranger coming in -- I thought the recent shows at the time went to that Sentai VS Sentai, Rider VS Rider well a little often (HA!), especially Kamen Rider -- but Mikoto Nakadai/Abare Killer was definitely the rival the show needed.

Now, my problem is in how they handled him. The show always chickened out from the way they attempted to pass him off. Initially? He's supposed to be like Ryuki's Takeshi Asakura/Kamen Rider Ouja, but even more dangerous, because Nakadai is a man in control of himself and a man in power. He's the same level of nuts, but Asakura was a stray dog -- Nakadai can function in society. Nakadai is a complete sociopath, who really just wants to succeed as Abare Killer to a) have yet another accomplishment and b) it's such an out-there thing that it will have to fill that void, right? It's an interesting character, especially in how completely opposite he is from Ryouga, there's the real classic Red VS new villain rivalry there, but...

The show just doesn't have the Dino Guts to stick it out. First off, while Koutarou Tanaka is a decent actor, I just think he's way too young for this role. (He was 21 at the time.) Tanaka plays the character as a bored preppy kid, straight out of Gossip Girl, who's trying to find fun OMOSHIROI in any danger. It's a style of "cool," "bad-ass," and disconnected in Japanese entertainment that I personally don't care for, but your take may vary. Tanaka's very sing-songy. Very eyebrow-twitchy. Very uncool and unthreatening, IMO. (Sidenote: Ultraman Nexus' Mitsutoshi Shundo auditioned for the role of Nakadai. A good heavy, Shundo would have been 29 at the time and would have killed, bad pun partially intended.) The Nakadai as written really needed to be someone more mature...he's written in a way that makes me think of a cross between Ryuki's Asakura and Takamizawa/Verde. But the show instead gives us Kamen Rider Gai.

Secondly, because it seemed like a trend at the time, they give Nakadai these speeches of how everything is a "game," which not only quickly gets repetitive for the character, but dredges up bad memories of, yes, Kamen Rider Gai. (Take a drink each time Nakadai says "omoshiroi," "game," or "omoshiroi game." Actually, don't, because you'll really hurt yourself.) Repetitive acting from Tanaka times repetitive dialogue, and Killer becomes a little tiresome and irritating to watch when, hey, he's supposed to be the guy giving this show a boost!

The best thing about the character, as is, for me is how the heroes react to him. Like I said, he brings an interesting conflict for Ryouga, and comes off quite nasty in the episodes where Asuka is presumed dead. A highlight for me is when Nakadai, with pretty much a death-wish, is summoning an asteroid to collide with Earth, and Ryouga just has it with him. Ryouga realizes there's nothing good in the man, at all, that there's nothing to save, and he just lets Nakadai have it. He becomes Abare Max, takes Killer into the Max Field, and beats the ever living snot out of him...

And then, shortly after that...things are all good with Nakadai. The heroes learn of Dezumozoria's one half residing within him, so they give him quite a large benefit of doubt and pardon him for all of his crimes. What. The. Huh? Just two episodes ago, Ryouga pretty much beat him up and left him for dead. He was beyond saving, remember? But, then, suddenly, Ryouga's spouting stuff like "If I fail to save Nakadai, I've failed as an Abaranger! If I can't save him, I can't save Earth!" Is Ryouga the schizo one, or the writers? Even the usually more realistic one, Yukito, literally came around and joined Ryouga's Save Nakadai movement within two seconds of a scene.  Nakadai's last arc is where they really wuss out and are inconsistent with the character...

They try to really blur just how bad Nakadai is, and basically retcon Nakadai's behavior as being (mostly) influenced by Dezumozoria. But one of Nakadai's last acts is to take full responsibility for his actions, so...he might have still been a pud of his own volition? Maybe, maybe not. Sorry, Mario -- we writers didn't have the balls to decide!

W...T...F? When did this show become Full House?

I just never felt like his "redemption" was honest to the character or worked. And what's even worse is how every other character in the show starts to canonize him after his death. Yeah, name your kid after him, Asuka -- the guy who caused pain for your teammates the whole show and seduced your kid when they were both evil. Yeah, I didn't even mention the whole creepy thing he had with Rije. Ugh. The guy makes Kamen Rider Blade's Hajime look wholesome. (It's twisted, it's inappropriate, and the Abaranger didn't need Abare Max as much as they needed Abare Chris Hansen to fight Nakadai.) So much of the final stretch of episodes is devoted to Nakadai at the expense of the others, but then, A LOT of the show is devoted to him.

What really bothers me is how most of the fandom thinks Killer is the only thing that makes Abaranger worthwhile, when...I'm sorry, he's not. Abaranger has a lot of other things going for it, a great cast of heroes, a quirky, self-aware sense of humor, and a love story between a hero and villainess that works better than Jetman's. Nakadai could've been awesome, but the show was just too afraid. I mean, you obviously don't need Nakadai running around and slitting people's throats in his spare time, but...stick to what you're claiming this character is, and don't be afraid to shake him up a bit. They introduce him as this terrifying idea of a psychopath with transforming capabilities, one who there's no way he'll "turn good" and end up joining the team...and he does just that. It's like the show was just catering to the fans who worshipped the character, and discarding what was best for the story. I always found it interesting that head writer Naruhisa Arakawa wasn't the one responsible for the arc where Nakadai "turns good," it was instead secondary writers Shou Aikawa and Atsushi Maekawa. Makes me wonder if Arakawa realized how dishonest it was to the story and wasn't interested in writing it. Imagine if Kuuga ended with Godai and Dagaba shaking hands and making snowmen, that's practically what Abaranger does.

"Did you find the place OK? Oh, you just came over for sandwiches? Well, let's see what you said in your chat transcript..."

And I know what the typical response to this is. "ZMOG, it's a kidz show, how psychotic did you want Nakadai to be?" How's about as psychotic as the writers claimed he was until they pussed out?

Bottom line: Abaranger was in desperate need of a serious, threatening villain like Nakadai, but his execution was all off, and they hired too young of an actor. The show devotes far too much time to him for the way the writers are too cowardly to stick to their guns.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

In Defense of Changeman's Criticized Episodes

I've made 20 posts without talking about Changeman. How the heck did that happen!?! So here I wanted to talk about the episodes that people commonly criticize, because, frankly, I don't understand what people think is so bad about them.

One of the early episodes just trying to establish the players, this episode is about Hayate's promise to a young girl that he'll find her lost kitten, just as the Gozma's latest plan involves capturing strays to turn them into humanoid soldiers in their service. The criticism of this episode is really just based around juvenile jokes about Hayate. It's not the deepest episode, and I do think it's the weakest of the five I'm talking about, but it lets you know that there's more to Hayate, and it gives some creepy and important background to Shiima, helping you get some clues why she's the way she is. It also shows the Changeman fully realizing just how vast the universe is and what they're up against, so I also don't think it should quickly be dismissed as "filler," just a simple establishing episode. My main problem with the episode is how they depicted the dog-humans and cat-humans -- rather cheaply, with masks that look recycled from another production -- but, hey, at least one of them was Yutaka Hirose (pictured above on the right).

Of all of the fanciful and weird things that have been done in tokusatsu, I don't understand why the idea of the team needing Tsurugi's precise targeting (which he displays with his old baseball moves) is just sooooooooooooo "ridiculous." Again, this episode fills in some history for Tsurugi, works in actor Haruki Hamada's past as a champion high-school ball player (it's certainly worked in better than Goseiger worked in Mikiho Niwa's cheerleading past), AND it features an homage to the early Sentai's sports-ball finishing attacks with the Bomball invented by Oozora.

I think this is seriously one of the funniest Sentai episodes out there. Gozma employs a singer whose sound-waves cause destruction -- his one weakness? Oozora's terrible singing. That first scene where the Earth Force is having a karaoke night with's gold. Shirou Izumi is frickin' hilarious in that scene, as Yuuma first pigs out in the background before dodging his turn at the mic -- he's eventually found and proceeds to let rip a terrible cover of a pop song which happened to be a hit at the time. (I miss when tokusatsu would sometimes use actual songs, and not just the stuff recorded for the show.) Izumi switches gears in an instant from making you laugh to making you feel sorry for him as he gradually is reduced to tears by the other Earth Force members laughing at his performance. Then you have Pegasus fighting the monster of the week -- who's perfectly singing the pop song Yuuma bungled on karaoke night -- by singing the Changeman opening and, later, the Change Robo theme, but it's done in a way that's not super obvious.

I've seen this episode take a lot of flak, and I just don't know why. Maybe you need to be an animal lover, but I think it's really one of the saddest Sentai episodes I've seen. It's tragic how Yuuma saves this horse from being put down and grows attached to the horse to the point where they share Earth Force, the power of the pegasus invigorating the horse Yuuma named Pegasus, and the horse helps save the day and dies in the process. Cripes, Gozma's plot was to basically hit Japan (the world?) with an EMP -- the Change Suits were effected, and Pegasus saved the day by destroying the device. That put to Tatsumi Yano's awesome and urgent and dramatic music, I mean...crikey, how cold-hearted are ya?

The second of two baseball episodes people complain about. Once Ahames takes over Gozma, a lot of her plans are more focused on attacking the Changeman directly, and this one is about getting Tsurugi by summoning ghosts of teenage baseball players who had a beef with him and died before they may have gotten to take him on in a championship game. Maybe it is a little weird that so many people knew of Tsurugi, with his just being an ordinary high-school player, and the way there were so many mysterious teen deaths, but...oh, well. That sort of thing just falls under "Toku Logic" to me. The focus is on just one ball player who leads the team of ghosts Tsurugi eventually challenges to a game in order to send them back to a peaceful grave. The player's surviving younger brother cheers him on in the game and, thanks in no small part to an instrumental of the song "We Can Change," I find the scene does work in an emotional way. I don't know, I don't see why people have such problems with Changeman's two baseball episodes. People have called this episode things like "goofy" and "schizo," but how's this ghostly game of ball any different than Field of Dreams? Is that movie or its source novel "goofy" or "schizo"? No, it's considered a classic and a tearjerker. Plus, this episode's the debut of Ghost Guiluke, which ends up working out nicely with the episode's premise and theme.

Monday, August 13, 2012

(By Request): Tsuchiya as Ryou and Wada as Kazu

The shot from the trailer for the Dairanger movie where Keisuke Tsuchiya is seen as Ryou and Keiichi Wada as Kazu. Now, I used to have this preview on my YouTube page before the companies had a field day removing stuff (leading to the deletion of my account), and I didn't save that video to reupload it anywhere, so I just wanted to point out that I saved the picture above from a Japanese site and it's not from my own video or screengrab.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Shougo Recommends: The Legend of the Red Dragon (2006)

HJU member Forever Knight once talked about this movie and I myself only got around to checking it out recently. (Called The Legend of the Red Dragon in the US release, its original title was the lengthy "Lovers & Killers -- The Red Dragon Woman.") It's a run of the mill revenge B-Movie that won't win any awards, but I've seen crummier Japanese movies. The highlight of this movie for me is getting to see three toku guys in substantial roles outside of toku -- Kakuranger's Kenichi Endo, Kenji Ohba and suit actor (and Kenji Ohba pupil) Kenji Takechi, who's biggest toku face role was as the head gangster in Den-O's Climax Deka movie.

The plot involves a young woman named Yui (played by Yuu Misaki) who's out for revenge against the yakuza clan who slaughtered her family. Endo's character, Aramaki, is a high-ranking lieutenant of that clan, and the man responsible for the murders -- Yui's father was also a member of the clan, an honorable man who was rising in the ranks of the group, surpassing Endo's character. Endo -- one of my favorite actors -- plays the character with pain in his eyes, disappointed to always be denied by his yakuza family (despite his seniority, he currently answers to an idiot twenty-something, more interested in living the life of a bad hip-hop video), and having the knowledge that a brutal storm of revenge is headed his way. He's seen the damage its caused -- some of the mobsters even suspect the killer is supernatural -- and knows he's unlikely to survive it. Kenji Takechi plays Kunimoto, a young and naive member of the group, who falls for Yui, not knowing she's the one offing all of his gangster "family."

The action in the movie is a tad sloppy, except when it comes to -- not surprising -- anything involving Kenji Ohba, whose character Katagiri (a.k.a. the "Brown Dog," a legendary former hit-man) is the one who took in the orphaned Yui, raising and training her so she can take her revenge. If you were sad to see Ohba so ripped off in Kill Bill at the time, this makes up for it, where he's basically playing an extended version of Sonny Chiba's character from that. Typical for Ohba, he adds A LOT to the thin character, and a lot of surprising warmth to a movie of this type.

So, I'd recommend it basically for the cast. Like I said, I'm a fan of Endo's, and he's usually always given supporting roles, so it's great to see him in a main role, and interesting to see Ohba as a grayer character than we usually see him as.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

"Just one more thing..." about Dekaranger

I know I talked about accepting Dekaranger, faults and all, but I think we can all agree a big weakness of the show is its villains. Yes, yes, it's obvious that Dekaranger's sticking closely to the well-worn format of a typical cop show -- the episodic following of the heroes going from case to case -- but the show could have still done that and had a decent set of recurring villains.

I liked what they tried to do with Aburera, but he just wasn't enough. (Like Doggy Kruger, I think suit actor Yoshinori Okamoto and voice actor Ryuusei Nakao do a pretty good job with him, though, and make him stand out more than he should have.) But what was wrong with keeping Mayu Gamou and the Hell's Siblings around for at least a cour? But the one opportunity that they really blew, in my opinion, the one that really pisses me off -- the show needed a group of mobsters or a gang, and the villain group in the movie Full-Blast Action came close to fitting the bill, and they were used sparingly in JUST that movie! Oh, how much they would have added to the show if they were regulars...

Mayu Gamou, torturing Jasmine as the Hell's Sibling Succubus, actually auditioned for the role of Jasmine.

The movie's villains, called the Gas Drinkers, gives most face-time to Vodgar, whose human form is played by the super cool Kenichi Endo. Endo's major previous toku experience was as Junior/Gasha Skull in Kakuranger, the first thing I saw him in that caught my attention. Endo's really great at shaking up his performances, and he can do stuff in even the smallest of roles, and delivers in even the lowest of yakuza B-movies. (I'm reminded of how character-actor Lance Henriksen has said that he's done a lot of B-Movies, but has never given a B-performance.) Vodgar's nothing like Junior, and has a handful of screen-time in the movie, but Endo's so slick and threatening in the role -- he makes an impression, and is definitely the type of villain the show itself needed.

What makes the others in his group so special, though? Blink and you miss them, but they're all played by other Sentai vets. Brandel is played by Maroshi Tamura, who played Zaidos in Dairanger; the woman, Giin, was Akiko Amamatsuri, a.k.a. Liveman's Mazenda, Dairanger's Gara and Ohranger's Keris; the third, Vinskey, was played by super-awesome Yoshinori Okamoto (Buuba, Gardan, Ashura). All three were used so sparingly, it was wasteful. Good to see them,, imagine them as semi-regulars in the show! (The Gas Drinkers are all named after boozes, the way the Dekaranger team names references types of tea. So, I guess the Gas Drinkers are the Anti-Dekaranger or somethin'.)

Endo, Tamura, Amamatsuri and Okamoto as the Gas Drinkers gang.

I think Dekaranger could have easily allowed for Janperson/Boukenger-styled multiple groups of recurring villains, and yet still had Aburera be the supplier with ulterior motives and a common link between the villains.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Judgment Time: Dekaranger

Anybody who was around at Japan Hero in '04 or HJU in early '05 is most likely aware of how I felt about Dekaranger at the time. Why was it so goofy? Why in the frick did they cast Ryuji Sainei, and why can't he stop screaming? Why's Umeko such an idiot? Where are the villains!?! What's with that cartoony "swoosh!" whenever they jump? Why do they go "Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!?!?" all the time? Why the hell does Swan say "Doogie" instead of "Doggy," like everyone else!?! (I guess she was in another show where he wasn't SPD, but Doogie Kruger, MD.)

In early '04, I clearly remember receiving the first volume of Dekaranger. Coming off of Abaranger, which I really enjoyed and had quickly become one of my favorites, I had expected big things from Dekaranger -- having enjoyed Abaranger and Kuuga, I was pretty excited that main writer Naruhisa Arakawa was doing Dekaranger. And even though I thought Sainei's voice was awful, I really enjoyed that first volume -- it seemed kind of retro, and I liked the alien/police/sci-fi setting. So, after eagerly anticipating the second volume, I was disappointed to find the show was taking a cartoony, comedic turn. How could it flip so far around after that fun and cool first volume!?! Well, that was the voice the show chose, and it remained that way, and I felt letdown and disappointed and unhappy and frustrated by it, and that leads to nitpicks.

The first four episodes had comedy, but I thought still had a kind of seriousness about them. Think of Another Agito's actor playing that fugitive who killed the kid who idolized the Special Police; think of the way they used that one cop actor from Kuuga; showed regular cops and the inner workings of SPD; think of the way Deka Red destroyed that mecha-guy instead of gathering evidence. And then you get episodes like the Buddy Murphy one or the giant baby Umeko raises. And then Tetsu was introduced and, already having a thing against most sixth heroes, it didn't help when he was supposed to be "elite," but ended up being a cross-dressing moron. (One poster at Japan Hero at the time described Tetsu as having to be "babysat by the Dekaranger," and that's true. How's he go from being better than them to being four times as dumb as Umeko?)

Basically, I've long wanted a serious cop Sentai. Timeranger is called the "first" cop Sentai series, and...really? Half the team's not even supposed to be a Timeranger, and the show liked to show them as janitors more than anything cop-like. And even something like the Space Sheriff shows -- space cops sound cool, right? They have lieutenants and stuff, but they are never given cases in those shows! How many goddamn episodes does Retsu/Den/Dai overhear some kid have a problem (that turns out to be Maku/Mado/Fuuma related plan) and THAT is what gets him involved? Just about every episode. Changerion came close to being the show I pictured, where main hero Akira Suzumura just so happens to have a private detective agency that only starts getting work once that show's villains become active -- they work the detective angle in with traditional villain/monster agendas. But, still, that show was mostly comedic, and not a cop Sentai, and the way fans had always wanted a samurai Sentai, I wanted a cool cop Sentai. And here's Dekaranger, and it's just taking things lightly. Where's a Sentai version of the G3 Unit, dammit!?! (The MPD portions of Agito are probably the most satisfying cop-themed toku, although they weren't so much about investigation, or at least investigating bad guy schemes. And while I'm a sucker for noir stuff and private detectives and whatnot, Kamen Rider W again was all about the lulz. Give Skull his own show and then it would be another story.)

But Dekaranger ended, and I finished episodes I dropped, rewatched it, reevaluated it, and realized was basically a send-up of cop shows, putting cop show tropes and cliches in a sci-fi and superhero setting. (BTW, I think it's funny that, for as inspired by the Space Sheriffs as it is, Dekaranger is actually WAY more cop-like than those shows.) I do have a theory that the show WAS originally meant to be a tad more serious, and that the cops were supposed to be SO, SO cool ("five cops who fight coolly with burning hearts") that it was meant to be kind of winking at cop conventions rather than outright spoofing 'em, but it was the mostly the casting choices that led the show to shift into that more outright comedic tone. Basically, I feel like Arakawa wanted the show to be "hip" cops like 21 Jump Street, and Toei went casting for Police Academy instead. Some the show's mocking was good -- I liked episodes that sent-up Stake Out (Stake Out Trouble), Die Hard III (Running Hero) and Speed (Cycling Bomb), and things like having a wacky take on hostage negotiation plots, but some things missed the mark (Tetsu in drag). Sometimes, the show would go back to playing it straight, but its big and bright monster designs, which would often work well in the comedic episodes, would detract from its efforts. (Why did the show forget to give the monsters a human looking form? I think that can help out big time, and would have made, for example, a character such as the Hannibal Lecter-ish Alienizer who killed Tetsu's parents more interesting.)

I still can't stand Ryuji Sainei, though. He takes what's supposed to be the renegade hot-head and turns him into a psychotic, whiny, loudmouth brat. He has moments where he tones it down and it's like "Wow! Too bad he couldn't behave like that the entire time." (The yelling only works for me when he's supposed to be pissed, but when he's just in an ordinary situation and doing it...) I've come to like Umeko more -- Mika Kikuchi plays the character well, and she's just supposed to be the young, naive kid. (Also: heroines who I thought were stupider like Houka Ozu and Saki Koyama came along.) Toku fan Tsuyoshi Hayashi is OK when he's just supposed to be stiff and on-the-job and is likable enough, but he gets in trouble when handed dramatic stuff. Yousuke Itou's probably the best of the cast, working well as the quirky and eccentric Sen. Ayumi Kinoshita's Jasmine is supposed to be similarly kooky -- speaking in an old timer's dialect, and possibly alien -- but she doesn't quite have the tools to pull it off, and the show completely drops the idea that she might be an Alienizer. Tomokazu Yoshida? I'm not a fan of his, and he is so unable to pull off being cool and elite that they had to bring in Deka Bright to make up for how he was supposed to be. Doggy? Too bad ass for a puppet, but suit actor Hideaki Kusaka and voice actor Tetsu Inada really make the character work, and he's actually awesome. (He was the one character who helped get me through the show back when I still had problems with it. At the time, I mostly thought it was sad that the puppet was the show's coolest character.)

All in all, I started to appreciate Dekaranger for what it is, not what I wanted it to be, and actually like it now, so...apologies to those on HJU who at the time insisted it was something, but I kept bitching about it!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Akiyo Hayasaka -- The Woman Who Was Goggle Pink

It's one of those behind the scenes curiosities in the Sentai franchise's history -- 20 year old actress Akiyo Hayasaka was originally cast in the role of Miki/Goggle Pink, not only going as far as getting fitted for wardrobe and taking publicity stills with the rest of the cast, but she also filmed at least three (three!) episodes. (That's a lot of reshooting for these tightly scheduled shows to do just because you didn't like who you cast in the part.)

Hayasaka and Jun'ichi Haruta in a scene from the third episode.

She was replaced by Megumi Ogawa, who proved to be really popular, remaining so well-liked by fans that Bandai released two (two!) figurines of her in their Girls in Uniform line. It's unknown why Hayasaka was replaced, but I suspect they wanted a more "idol-y" type. There couldn't be many hard feelings between Hayasaka and Toei, however, since she went on to guest star in an episode of Sharivan a year later.

Goggle V as we know them, with Ogawa.

No offense to either Hayasaka or Ogawa, but I don't really think the casting swap made much of a difference -- it certainly wouldn't make-or-break the series the way Dairanger would have been FLAT OUT DEAD on arrival had the super blank Keisuke Tsuchiya remained playing Ryou rather than the cool, charismatic Keiichi Wada, whose talents would have really been wasted as Kazu.