Thursday, June 18, 2015
After the Owari
It seems like there's a consensus amongst Rider worshippers that Kamen Riders are "more heroic" than other heroes, specifically Sentai. Like, Gaim got a lot of praise for its "realistic" handling of toku heroes and their ideologies; the way that main hero Kouta is criticized by other characters for having a "loose" motive of wanting to win the Rider battle in order to protect everyone rather than a more personal, selfish one, for example. Gaim's writing and mostly assholeish, self-centered characters were also praised for acknowledging that the world will still be in peril long after this year's Kamen Rider saves the day. Gaim wasn't treading new ground, a couple of other shows have brought this up. Heck, even something really TV-Y7 like Dekaranger did, when the Dekaranger were ready to execute Aburera in the finale, and he said something like "Killing me won't rid the world of its problems; as long as there's still greed, there will be someone like me." I thought that was kind of an...interesting and cynical thing for something brighthearted like Dekaranger to bring up, addressing the fact that stopping these crazy villains in the year their show is allotted to run won't solve the world's problems. So it's certainly not something only the "amazing" Kamen Rider has covered, or the immediately overrated Gaim. (GARO, after a nearly ten-year reign, was finally dethroned as most overrated tokusatsu. Gaim now wears the crown...which isn't a real crown, just a Burger King one.)
I've always felt like the unspoken rule in tokusatsu is that the powers exist to fight against the specific threat of the show's supervillains -- the heroes aren't meant to take on ALL of the world's problems. Like, the Magiranger powers weren't created to go start beating up yakuza when they were done with Infelshia. To me, it makes sense that a Showa Kamen Rider would dedicate the rest of his life to fighting monsters -- the shows repeatedly established the idea of Shocker and its kind setting up shop in numerous locations around the world. The Kamen Rider is a product of that organization, genetically modified, a freak; he'll isolate himself and hit the road to take down the different branches of bad guys. And the shows were sequelized, so they were just following what each one did. So, it's understandable to me that Kamen Rider V3 doesn't end with Shirou Kazami celebrating Destron's defeat, deciding to then pursue his original dream and become the world's number one rugby player. Continuing the battle makes sense for a Showa Rider like that. But...there's a lot of anti-Sentaiites who like to imply that Sentai heroes are somehow less heroic because they decide to resume normal lives after their war.
A lot of Sentai is based on the idea of teams being formed for specific threats or strangers being pulled together to fight specific threats. There's a couple of shows, like Dekaranger or Boukenger, where the teams and powers existed prior to the series and continue to be employed AFTER the series-long battle. Some powers are created by the survivors of a destroyed civilization who recognize a new emerging threat similar to the one that caused their planet's demise. (For example: Peebo and Bio Robo sensing that Gear would bring a similar destruction to Earth that befell the Bio planet.) But most Sentai finales are dedicated to showing the heroes moving on with their lives after the battle we've watched for a year as an audience. I look at Sentai as the military (which is appropriate, duh, considering the origin of the term) -- they're the army, going to war with a specific group, a specific threat. There are soldiers, after a brutal war and serving their country, who will have this outlook of "I've done my fighting for my people, I've fought my battles. It's time for the new soldiers to step up." I think this is the thinking in Sentai when they resume their normal lives in the finale.
When these shows talk about "restoring peace to the world," the writers and the shows know well enough that they're not talking about real world problems, but the way that everyday life is disrupted by kooky invaders and renegade ex-Nazi monsters. No show pretends like everything in the world is hunky-dory after they wipe out some alien force. The Bioman powers were meant to fight off threats like Gear, not every Silicon Valley knucklehead who tries to come up with the next stupid Candy Crush type of game. The Liveman powers were created to prepare for whatever nasty shit they knew Kenji and the others were getting up to with Volt; the Liveman may speechify about life, but those powers weren't meant to stop muggings or go fight in wars. There's police and armies for that, but police and armies are supposed to be pretty much no match for supervillains, hence their lack of involvement in most shows.
Most Sentai members put their lives and dreams on hold when becoming a hero, and try to just resume their lives after the battle. It's not like they turn their time as a hero into fame, charging for autographs at events and creating merchandise. How many Sentai heroes are youths, and probably resume studies? How many Sentai heroes are athletes aspiring for the Olympics, who probably had their dreams crushed by abandoning their sport to devote the time to protecting lives? How many Sentai heroes already had jobs that benefited their communities, like teacher or cop, which they picked up after their Sentai duties?
Sentai heroes make sacrifices and aren't any less heroic than other toku heroes.