Thursday, April 25, 2013

Dance Party BFJ

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, 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.)

To reflect Battle Fever's Marvel connection, Toei hired comic book artists like Shuuhou Itahashi and Yuuji Kaida to design the heroes. The top picture is of early Battle Fever design concepts, the bottom picture is of the suits before a few final alterations. Changes made for the best, I'd say -- those yellow eyes really don't work.

Since Battle Fever J for a while was considered the "first" Super Sentai series, people have made comparisons between it and Goranger, thinking of BFJ as a sort-of remake. For me, Battle Fever J is improved upon Goranger. I know that's blasphemous to some Sentai fans, but that's the way I feel. Goranger, besides being too set in its ways, had a really wonky consistency to it. Look at that first episode, and then randomly select an episode just several ones down the line. Whiplash, right? Like, they couldn't possibly be from the same show? Battle Fever J can be goofy -- evil escargot, anyone? -- but I think there's just more a sense of cohesion about it. It can work as comedy, it can work serious. I think it has a little more fun with its spy premise -- I love the secret messages the team receives and passageways they use to get to their headquarters; the team going undercover and utilizing disguises. This being a Susumu Takaku-written show, I like the flair of "Japanese-ness" to it. (How awesome is their Shogun, man? Takes out a main villain on his own! As played by jidaigeki superstar Chiyonosuke Azuma, Kurama is easily one of the top mentors, keeping the team on their toes and often helping sell even some of the villains' more goofier plans by treating each threat seriously and with urgency. Like Changeman's Ibuki, he's one team commander that the heroes AND the villains should be afraid to cross.)

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?

Ushio, Ishibashi.

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!?!!?


  1. Awesome post Shougo! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! Very interesting analysis on why you love this show. I definitely understand a lot of where you're coming from with Battle Fever. I too enjoyed it for very similar reasons.~

    Those early Battle Fever concept designs look interesting.

    The Battle Fever designs are indeed very unique and well designed. People should shut up about hating them. xP Then again, most people think the Zyuranger suits are what the ideal sentai suits should look like, considering where most people started watching sentai. People really need to open their minds more about the creativeness that sentai suits can bring and how there was a time where suits had their own creative styles prior to Zyuranger.

    I think another cool thing about Battle Fever's designs is that unlike all the other sentai seasons which have either black or white as their secondary color, Battle Fever gives almost all of their members a different secondary color, creating an awesome variety!

    Japan and France both got white. Cossack got those black accents. Kenya got green. And America got cyan.

    I think Hedder is Ishibashi's best role. I like him as Kar, but I feel like Kar doesn't quite do nearly as much as Hedder does. I really love Leyda too. But we know Leyda goes out halfway through Turboranger.

    Yeah, Goranger has good eps, but it's wildly inconsistent. Flips between good eps and bad eps a lot. =/ At least it has a good chunk of good eps. xD

    Battle Fever's cast is a lot of fun. Even when it gets two members replaced (something that a lot of fans would be iffy on. Some fans actually are. Depends on who you ask). Like you said, we really get to see them just have fun in this cool show and it all ties around great in the episodes. And while the whole "making up as many extra characters as you can think of" thing was a joke, I definitely think that's true and really adds on to the creativity of Battle Fever's concepts and even Battle Fever's world in general. Even the whole two members getting replaced bits can really add on to the world building! It's very imaginative.

    I feel like a good cast is something that was missing in Denziman, Sun Vulcan, and Goggle-V. The heroes in those three shows just seem so much weaker compared to the casts of Battle Fever and Dynaman.

    Denziman's cast is likable at least. But I feel like Denziman's scripts didn't quite have the same level of ambition that Battle Fever's had. It also doesn't help when the villains aren't quite as competent as Hedder and Salome are imo. And I feel like Denziman started to run out of steam during the second half. It felt like the heroes got less and less "important" if that makes sense. I think Tatsuya (DenziGreen) is really the only one that seems to hold things up throughout the show. Overall, Denzi was fine, but not as cool as Battle Fever.

    Sun Vulcan was just... well, it's first like 10 eps seemed pretty cool. Another spy show like Battle Fever (then again, all these pre-Dynaman shows felt like spy shows). But after like ep 10, the scripts turn into these huge ridiculous messy globs of garbage. It's like the Go-onger of the 80s. -__- The heroes are unmemorable, as are the villains (which is a shame considering there are some good actors here). It's like, the messy scripts were of higher priority than the characters themselves (like a worse version of Zyuranger). At least Junji Yamaoka does a good job with the action. I also find Sun Vulcan's music to be some of the worst in the franchise. Makes my ears bleed. Though I do like the OP song and the second ED song. Maybe it's not quite as bad as Go-onger, but it's almost there. =/

    Goggle-V is fun. Even if it was mostly an experiment. hehehe. Some good Soda experimentation that is. Cast is okay, but nothing special (though Junichi Haruta is awesome). Again, not as cool as Battle Fever's cast.

  2. I think the way Battle Fever is filmed is impressive and not something that's superficial to like at all. The show has a lot of really good shots! And it even shows in the action! It somewhat reminds me of Junji Yamaoka (was he involved in this show?). The fights feel very gritty.

    I love how you described this show as like the cool show of it's time, and how you used Deka and Shinken as comparisons. Very good job there man! =D This show is like a representation of the 70s, like Liveman to the 80s, Kakuranger to the 90s, and Gaoranger to the 2000s.

    I think Battle Fever has aged very well. It was a good show then, and it's still an excellent show today! I think it's obvious that some of these more recent shows won't be aging too well. A bad show now will continue to age as a bad show!

    And yes, Battle Fever Robo is excellent! The design is so wonderful! I also love how stiff and robotic it moves. Something you don't get normally from mecha fights. And how all five Battle Fever members are crazily working the controls to the robot, like they truly are struggling to get the robot to move and fight properly so that they won't lose! Battle Fever has so much grittiness in it's execution, I love it so much!

    This show overall had a lot of heart put into it. =D

    1. I wasn't really joking when I said you could come up with any design -- I added the link to Battle Nazi as an afterthought. But when I was thinking about BFJ's designs, I had the idea that the show could have easily done something a little like Takaku's Sekai Ninja Sen Jiraiya, and had a ton of extra characters from around the world, good or bad.

    2. That would've been pretty sweet. Especially with a fun cast like Battle Fever's~

  3. I love BFJ. It's lively, I love the unique designs of the suits, and it's like looking at a time capsule of the 70s. I love the fact they are spies, and I like seeing them out of suits carrying out the missions. Plus, it has one of the saddest deaths ever. I started writing this AU fic where EGOS didn't strike until now, and the original members of the team are too old to fight, and have families, so they choose five new fighters. Battle Japan is Masao's son, Battle Cossack is a female liberal activist/underground fighter with Eastern Eurpoean roots, Battle France is French-Canandian hairdresser/Olympic fencer, Battle Kenya is white and has spent his whole life in Africa with his parents on animal reserves, and Miss America is a an extremely masculine CIA agent, Diane Martin's son, whose sister was supposed to be Miss America, but was killed by EGOS.

    I really wish more of the episodes were subbed, because I have to guess with most of the un-subbed episodes.

    1. Nice to see some Battle Fever love!

      Your story sounds depressing, with the real Battle Fever being too old. :-D Is Masao at least the new Shogun? Please say that the male Miss America has a different outfit. :P (Does he become Mr. America? Maybe Mr. Universe?)

      If you can tolerate the low quality video, the fan site I linked to has the complete series subbed.

    2. has direct download links for those episodes, just in case the torrent lack any seeders.

  4. Great post. I never knew about Toei's slapdash explanation for the incorrect dancing. If they really thought that 'Japan could represent all of Asia then no wonder Bandai Korea replaced him with Gokaigreen in RK Set 4. In fact...I just realized they replaced Battle Japan with the sissiest sissy of the Gokaiger cast. Them's fightin' words right there.

    I saw that pre-production photo in the past but never really *looked* at it. France looks like a weird cousin of Inazuman, but I kinda like Japan's eyes. He looks like fire. They went with the better choice in the end. Otherwise it's all there. Kinda like the pre-production pic of Gatezone from BLACK RX (originally the lighter blue parts of his helmet were white). I love pre-production stuff.

    I *really* hope you own the Soul of Chogokin Battle Fever Robo. It's my second favorite toy mecha behind Super Liverobo. In terms of likeness, it's the best.

    1. Thanks! I saw that Korean set on eBay and thought Gokai Green was an odd replacement. You may be on to something! They left in Hurricane Red, though -- that's a little weird, isn't it? Usually ninja stuff gets the boot, too.

      That Battle Fever Robo release looks awesome, and even though I just said I like the thing, I've never really been interested in buying a deluxe (read: pricey) mecha. I mean, not even Change Robo. I think it must stem from how much I hated the mecha toys when I was a kid. I hated assembling them, and then you did, and it was like...well, what next? Were you supposed to have Change Robo fight Bio Robo? There was nothing to do with it!

    2. Simple. They're supposed to fight the cat. :p Even better if they have missiles.

  5. BFJ is a great show... the cast is the strong point of the series (Kenji Ohba and Daisuke Ban!). But I think Denziman is the best Uehara´s Sentai.

    Susumu Takaku is usually credited as the main writer of the show, but Shozo Uehara wrote more episodes (24 x 12), including the death of first Cossack (33) and the final arc (50-52).

    I think is fair to say Battle Fever is a Takaku/Uehara show.

    1. I also really like Kouki Tanioka as a Red. I think he's one of the stronger earlier Reds. (One of my problems with JAKQ is that I think Tamba is such a weak Red. Maybe it sounds silly, but I think if you have a weak Red, that really hurts the show.)

      I knew Uehara wrote more than Takaku, which I used to think was odd, but I just assumed that Takaku probably had a lot of input since he was the main writer. I still look at it as Takaku's show, because I think there's a lot more recognizably Takaku things about it.

      To be honest, I don't feel strongly enough about Uehara's Sentai shows to name a "best." Sunvulcan's probably my least favorite of his works, though. I do like Denjiman the most of his shows (and I think Machiko Soga's better in Denjiman than Sunvulcan), but something always seemed missing from it for me. Probably just that I think Bioman is basically Denjiman and Sunvulcan combined, and I think that's a better version of either show.

  6. I STILL want to know more about Diane Martin. I mean where is she? Is she ok? (Diana are you ok, are you ok Diana) What were her feelings about the show? Anyways, as it is, you always present some great reading material for the older tokusatsu fan that didn't start watching in the 2000's :)

    1. Funny you say that -- I was going to post an additional thing about Diane Martin. I'm curious to find out more about her, too. There's quite a few Sentai actors who vanish and I'll just be like Well, what's so hard about doing an interview? In the age of social media, just put up something to let the fans know you're alright.

      Anyway, I appreciate the kind words!