I often get asked why I like Battle Fever J so much. I just do. So, there! I've got a fever and the only prescription is more Battle Fever! Gotta have more Battle Fever, baby.
"But their costumes are ugly!" Says you, who likes the Boukenger designs. "They dance, that's dumb!" Says you, who likes Kyoryuger.
I love the Battle Fever suit designs. They look like no other Sentai team and no other Sentai team looks like them. (You can even make up as many extra characters as you can think of.) I can remember when I was a kid, seeing pictures of Battle Fever J in retrospective books, and just taking a liking to their designs. Basing a hero's design off of a flag could be uninspired and bland, but these suits were just so damned original and creative. Yes, Miss America's wig is weird, but...so is putting lips on helmets, but everybody loves those, right? I also really, really dig the realistic-looking weapons they each have -- Cossack's sai and America's throwing knives, for example.
Battle Fever J -- for better or worse -- really reflects its point in the decade, the current trends, and embraces them. I feel that it does moreso than any of the other '70s or early '80s Sentais -- these characters were 1979 and they didn't let you forget it! They name-check popular singers, hang out at dance clubs, play video games! And because of that the heroes seem to me like they're supposed to come across as being hipper than your average hero. They're supposed to be up-to-date, cool, in-the-know. Maybe it hasn't aged well, but it makes them a heck of a lot more distinctive and lively than some of their contemporaries. You never get much of a sense of what the Goranger or JAKQ are like outside of the job, but the liveliness of the Battle Fever's heroes creep through even on their missions -- not to say that they don't take their job seriously or aren't good at their job, but BFJ just has a looser vibe to it, trying to be COOL. (The way Dekaranger are supposed to be cool cops or the Shinkenger cool samurai -- this show has cool spies.) It's not "cheesy" or some nudge-wink attempt at being kitsch for kitsch's sake or whatever -- the show was genuine in its attempt at seeming cool, and is just one of those '70s things that young'uns and newbs look back on and laugh, but I take it for what it is. (Your Wizard and Kyoryuger shows won't age well at all, either, kids.)
Also something I wanted to point out -- some people complain that, say, Battle Japan does a kung-fu dance, when it should be karate, or don't understand why Battle France does a Spanish dance. In a lot of the Sentai encyclopedia books, they explain that Battle Japan is actually supposed to represent all of Asia; Battle France all of Europe; Battle Cossack all of Eurasia; Miss America is supposed to represent America and Oceania. Is this an explanation by Toei after the fact? Maybe, but I think it's interesting to note.
Something that always disappointed me about Goranger was the villains. They start off spooky enough, even if they are initially a really watered down mock-Shocker. (Mocker?) But they became more and more absurd as the show went on, down to the spooky-awesome Mitsuo Ando being replaced as the Black Cross Fuhrer by the mugging Nobuo Yana and his oddly comedic take on the role. JAKQ's Crime was one villain, a wasted Masashi Ishibashi in a bad design. But Battle Fever's Egos? They're some creepy creeps. I like how eerie they make the Egos lair look; the cult-likeness of their secrety society, whose reach is far -- they often show how they have ordinary people from all walks of life following them or, at the very least, one of the Cutman grunts or monsters masquerading as someone with influence who the Egos have pull with. A lot of Egos plans are also not like the ordinary plans -- some are a bit more small scale, like infiltration for secrets or just setting out to get revenge on people who left them and/or won't follow them. Egos manages to be creepy, and come across like more of a covert, wide-spreading threat. But just as Egos has members everywhere, the Battle Fever also have their own undercover people. Also appreciated? You have episodes with the likes of Machiko Soga, Kin Omae and Shinji Toudou as the human forms of monsters of the week. And the regulars are tough-ass pro-wrestler Maki Ueda as bone-breakin' Salome, with Kenji Ushio -- wait, no -- Masashi Ishibashi? -- wait, are there two Hedders?
The Hedder situation. The show originally started with awesome character actor Kenji Ushio in the role of Hedder. Kenji Ushio, offbeat villain actor extraordinaire! He's such a creepy, perfect fit for the role of Hedder, the devoted commander of the eerie Egos cult. Ushio, best known for his role as Ambassador Hell in the original Kamen Rider! Well, Ushio supposedly got busted shortly into filming, so he was replaced by Masashi Ishibashi. Ishibashi's a good replacement, he has a blast with Hedder, and it certainly makes up for what happened with his JAKQ role. But Ushio was just such a great fit, in my opinion. His quirkiness and giddy wickedness in the part could have led to a really memorable Sentai villain. Ishibashi does make for a more physically formidable villain, however, and makes Hedder feel more like the right-hand man he's supposed to be. Since it was still early into the show, Toei tried to refilm Ushio's stuff using Ishibashi to match for later broadcasts, but they couldn't quite redo it all, so there will be some odd moments where Ushio will be seen or Hedder will just plain morph from Ishibashi into Ushio sometimes. Every rebroadcast and release since the original airing has used the refilmed Ishibashi stuff, but here's something fun -- go download those Hawaiian subs of Battle Fever J. It's not the greatest video quality you'll ever see, but it's the only chance to see all of the Ushio footage -- I assume they had early prints. Whatever the case, it's neat to see. (So, a big thanks goes out to Justin Goo for putting those up for people.)
And maybe it's superficial, but I just like the way the show is filmed, by the reliable likes of Koichi Takemoto and Minoru Yamada -- while there can be some odd transitions and dizzying edits, it doesn't seem like any of the other '70s tokus to me, which gives it its own feel. And BFJ features cool, creative action from the underrated Kazutoshi Takahashi and Osamu Kaneda -- especially when Kaneda takes over, he lets things rip. The show just has a certain vibe to it that I think makes it stand out from the pack, it has a very lovable, great mix of a cast, and it's just a super entertaining, fun ride. Goranger's rough at 84 episodes, JAKQ is short but frustrating with its tonal shifts; while it takes the best of those shows, Battle Fever has its own clear identity, and makes for a worthy (first?) installment of the franchise.
Oh, and Battle Fever Robo ROCKS. (You know it's an awesome mecha if Shougo likes it. You know it's an awesome mecha if it still manages to be awesome despite the fact that the team enters it by flying into its pee-hole.)
Now, where's my Battle Japan Figuarts!?!!?