The Sentai mentors come in many shapes and sizes. Some shows remember Sentai's link to the military, and have them be basically army commanders. Sometimes, they're goofy robots who annoy you. Growing up, I had the likes of Changeman's Ibuki and Maskman's Sugata, who I consider to be two of the best commanders. I never saw Magu or Koron or Peebo as commanders, but just allies or helpers -- the Reds of those shows seemed more in charge. To me, the commander is a stern older dude. (My family misheard and didn't know the phrase when we watched these shows -- so instead of "chokan," we called these characters "joekans." Hey, that's not bad for a bunch of honkeys who didn't know Japanese.) A good joekan is crucial to a show. Here's my thoughts on 'em. (And they're annoying robot stand-ins, too.)
Honestly? Never really liked the guy. The whole "pretends to be a dunce, but is secretly the commander" thing kind of hurts the character, but it's also the actor -- the guy just acts like he's really, really tired or something. He makes him seem like a lazy boss from a sitcom, not a dependable military commander. How did the Goranger survive 84 episodes with this guy's leadership?
Daisuke Kujirai (Joker)
I like actor Hiroshi Tanaka, even though I've seen him play a ton of villains, so it's weird to see him be head of the heroes here. He's not given much to do, sadly, but is pretty cool in his last episode before being replaced by Big One -- infiltrating the bad guys' lair by dressing like one of the grunts. It's like what Big One ends up doing frequently, so it's sad they waited so long to give Joker something to do.
The Shogun. This guy's awesome. No-nonsense, stern, without a doubt in charge, knows his shit. He's the classic Sentai mentor, but actually does seem like a Shogun of old, so it's awesome that they got chambara star Chiyonosuke Azuma to play him. And it's awesome that they gave him a nice, big, epic sword fight showdown with Masashi Ishibashi's villain at the end of the series. (It's also a funny coincidence that, in such a pro-Japan show, that Azuma looks like one of the dudes on a yen bill.)
IC the Denji Dog
I'm an animal lover, so I think this is cute and all, but...what the hell, man? It doesn't make sense to me for Denjiman to have a (talking, robot) dog commander. (Is it an homage to Satomi Hakkenden?) You'd think that belongs more to an animal team. Whatever.
|I want YOU for Taiyou Sentai!|
I like actor Shin Kishida a lot, he's awesome. But Arashiyama is probably one of two of the most overrated Sentai mentor/commanders of the franchise. If not for Kishida, I think he'd be kind of forgettable. Kishida deserved better.
Hideki "Who?" Hongou
Seriously, like, the most forgettable and useless of the commanders. He's there for the first two episodes and splits until the final episodes. Like "Here's your powers, I entrust you to the Comboy, see ya!"
I love Dynaman, but Yumeno's always been weird to me. I like the character, how he embodies the show's dream theme. I like that they try to give him some importance by the end, in the villains trying to exploit one of his scientific discoveries. The problem for me is actor Junshi Shimada. The guy's just kind of bland and he always seems hammered to me -- look at that pink face. This was the character Shin Kishida should have played (had he not passed away shortly after Sunvulcan).
I don't usually like counting the robot mentors. They're all mostly goofy to me, seeming more like assistants rather than mentors, guides or commanders. Peebo always bothered me as a kid, and I still have some of that feeling towards him. You watch the show and he's not exactly cutesy or overly offensive, but...eh, maybe it's the design or the voice.
Ibuki, the Chokan of Chokans
The best. He takes the best things about mentors past and is given such a strong arc and motivation that he beats what the shows do with most mentors. None of it would work as well without actor Jun Fujimaki, who was a real get for the show and took the role seriously, and with such an experience in the entertainment industry brought the character a professionalism, experience and wisdom.
We meet Ibuki and he's a hard-ass drill sargeant from hell. Move over, R. Lee Ermey, because your schtick is kinda comedic, anyway. Ibuki's the army instructor you don't want to piss off. Nobody escapes his wrath, and he wants nothing less than better than the best from you. So, his soldiers are pushed to the brink and kinda hate him for it, but there's a reason to his method and madness. (And I like that Changeman flips what was a Sentai cliche at that point; beginning with Goranger, they liked to have the commander/mentor feign this persona of incompetence, only to reveal that they're the hard-ass in charge, to everyone's surprise. Well, in Changeman, it's flipped so Ibuki is the hard-ass, but reveals himself to actually be thoughtful, considerate, kind, humane...much to everyone's surprise.)
Ibuki's so hard on the Changeman -- and so knowledgeable about space and aliens -- because he himself is secretly an alien, one whose planet was destroyed by Gozma, one who has seen countless planets conquered by Gozma. So, he knows what the Earth is facing, and isn't playing around in preparing his soldiers and getting them to harness and use the best offense they have against the Gozma, which is the Earth Force. I love those final episodes, when things are looking so bad for all of the characters, when Gozma is just on an all-out attack, that Ibuki steps in, fighting alongside the Changeman in his alien form. Ibuki brought Sentai commanders onto a new level, and was the prototype for the likes of Kaku and Doggy Kruger.
I like that Magu's a security guard robot of the Flash planet, and that the Flash aliens program him to help the team, but...again, he's just kind of cutesy, and Jin always seemed to me more of the head honcho. Jin's the mature one, the one with the answers, the team's guide. Magu's basically a secretary relaying info he Googles back at the Round Base. Sara could have whipped up the technology to have that transmitted directly to the Prism Flash. Was Magu needed?
It's funny about Sugata. For a while there, he was my favorite commander. He has just such a presence and knowledge and really embodies all that you expect from a mentor. Hayato Tani's awesome...but, you watch the show, and Sugata's not in much, due to Tani's busy schedule. It's a shame, because you can sense they wanted Sugata to be more involved, but there's stretches of episodes he's barely in, and he's confined to base a lot, which just seems to me like they brought Tani in to shoot and got him out as fast as possible.
Sugata whips the team into shape, he guides them without holding their hands or seeming excessively harsh. I like when he bails them out of a jam by lending his own Aura Power to an attack of theirs, that he's spiritual -- the yang to Zeba's yin -- and anticipated the Tube. I kinda don't like that his background was saving a girl from being pulled into the ground in the exact same way as Mio was -- something revealed just an episode or two after X1 Mask had a similar background story -- but what can you do?
And, to be honest, I always thought the Sugata Racing cover was just about the strangest choice the writers could make for his cover. Just...wha? Don't be cutesy and make his cover, like, a yoga class or meditation temple, but...racing? And force Takeru to become a racer to maintain that cover, when it's Kenta who dreamt about being a racer? Further weirdness!
Naming him Sanjurou kind of makes me think of what Toshiro Mifune as a commander would be like...if Sentai could have afforded him, and if he would have done it. Maybe it was a pipe-dream of the Maskman staff to have Mifune as Sugata?
One of the few robot helpers that I like. While a nice combination of good suit acting, voice acting and design helps, Koron's just written better than Peebo or Magu. They give her a couple of those classic robot staple stories of trying to humanize her, best represented by the episode when Yuusuke coldly dismisses her advice and expertise, only to come around to realizing she's right. In that eipsode, she also places herself in danger for him, taking a severe hit from Kemp, making Yuusuke realize that, hey, maybe Koron does have feelings and a life, and that he does care for her as much as his human teammates.
Dazai, like the show he's in, often falls through the cracks, is misunderstood and under-appreciated. While I feel like he was kind of inspired by Doc Brown, I don't think Dazai is as weird and flaky-seeming as Doc could be. He's supposed to be somewhat eccentric, but actor Fujita Okamoto never makes him too weird or unreliable. He's solid back-up for the Turboranger. He's not stern, but not a pushover. He's smart and you could count on him to help out with advice or a new weapon. The show didn't use him as much as it could have, but I think that's because he's basically co-leader along with Shiron. (And Yamaguchi-sensei plays an important role, too! The show has three bosses.)
And here's where I have to go on a mini-rant. Dazai is shown and said to be a car nut. He loves cars, collects them, and is shown to make model cars. He has cars on the brain, so he designs the Turboranger suits, weapons and mechas around cars. That's more of an explanation than a lot of toku does for its aesthetic theme, yet Turboranger -- still, all these years later -- is always singled out. "Why are they cars? What sense does that make? How do you get cars out of fairies?" Well, why the fuck does samurai and warrior based Riders in Gaim wear fucking fruit? You're OK with that, you spent thousands on the Figuarts for all of those ugly fuckers, but Turboranger being cars is too much for you?
Turboranger's suits are a mixture of magic and technology -- not the first time Sentai's done it, certainly not the last. It's the fairy magic powering Dazai's suits, which he just happened to make resemble cars. You know what's weirder to me? The government in JAKQ deciding to have their dead cyborg spies dress like trading cards. And I know Carranger is often intentionally stupid, but...c'mon, they could have done better than car constellations. You're OK with Kurumagic, people? What the hell, man? Don't always give that show a pass just because it's goofy. Gingaman also has wonkier powers and themes.
And I have no idea if this is intentional -- I don't think it's the same in Japan, but whatever -- but I like to look at the car theme as just going along with the teenage theme of the show. Learning to drive, getting a car, represents growing up and freedom, it's an important thing for a teen. Maybe there's also some meaning behind these car and machine-armed youths versus ancient demons, kind of an industrialization versus the supernatural theme at work. *shrugs*
Turboranger being car-themed made sense to me. I never had a problem with it. But that's me, someone who took a liking to Turboranger from the first moment I saw it. It's just me and Kenta Sato out there waving the Turboranger banner.
Anyway, I like Dazai, so it's always a bummer to see actor the likable Fujita Okamoto, after playing the kindhearted Dazai, return to Sentai as Tatsuya's asshole dad in Timeranger.
A character who could have been cloying -- although people act like she was -- but is really just such a sweet, good-natured, pure character, played perfectly by an immensely likable actress. (Mayumi Ohmura was pretty young at the time, too, which could have easily meant a weak performance, but she's perfect for the part.)
With Shiron being the last of her kind, doubled with Ohmura's performance, you can't help but just like Shiron and worry about her. Forget clapping for Tinker Bell, Tinker Bell was kind of a little shit -- but when Shiron put herself in harm's way to protect a powerless Turboranger, THAT had me worried.
I like Shiron, she's the heart of the show. If people didn't charge $400 for her doll, I'd probably buy it. (Don't laugh at me, you have Sailor Moon merchandise!)
|Wait, it's EARTHER G6...? Get ready to edit Wikipedia, all you guys who insist it's GORENGER just because Toei spells it that way.|
I don't mind Arthur. I like voice-actress Rika Matsumoto, I like the design, and Arthur is actually important in that he protected the Hoshikawa siblings on that terrible day Zone broke up their family and was responsible for raising them at least until Gaku and Kazumi became old enough to start caring for the others. It makes Arthur seem like part of the family, and you care more about him than you do most other robots.
I never liked her as much as most Jetman fans do. I don't DISLIKE her. I think the actress is too young to pull the character off. (It would probably surprise most people to learn that Mikio Maki was only 29 -- just a few years older than Hawk's or Condor's actors.) She tried a little too hard to convey a strong sense of authority and no-nonsenseness, and it just came across as forced to me because of the actress's young age. She seemed like she was an accidental commander the way four out of five of the Jetman were accidental senshi. They just definitely needed an older actress.
Barza's kind of useless, isn't he? He doesn't do much to help the team that Geki or Goushi doesn't already do, he's not the greatest magician, but worst of all...can be a complete asshole. The way he and Gnome act when that kid's trying to awaken Burai is something out of a latter-day Inoue script, behavior expected by a psychotic like Kusaka.
I don't mean to speak ill of the dead, but I never liked actor Jun Tatara's schtick of always seeming super weak and decrepit. And there's something about his acting style that makes him seem like a non-actor, so he's kinda weird, and Zyuranger already had too much off-putting weirdness.
Barza's best moment? When Power Rangers used a brief shot of him pretending like it was a pre-decapitated Zordon.
(CCLemon99, skip to the next entry.)
The other overrated mentor I was talking about. It's like...the Japanese fans overrate Arashiyama, but everyone else overrates Kaku. I always thought he was a Sugata knockoff, but without the charm and presence of Hayato Tani. Kaku also comes across as more of a know-it-all prick. He treats the Dairanger horribly, and then there's his harebrained idea of joining the Gorma, which predictably blows up in his face and we're supposed to feel bad for him, but we don't. He also looks like he smells like stale crab meat wonton farts (if you've had crab meat wontons, you know how that smells) and acts like those farts don't smell.
Sandayuu? The Three Deus Ex Machina?
Kakuranger's kind of mentorless, isn't it? Sandayuu is too flighty for most of the show, and missing for a large chunk of it. The retconning of the mecha, where they're made to be Daizyujin Jr., kind of takes the role of mentor. I kind of don't like that, you know? They just totally made up at the last minute that the mecha were deities.
I love that it's Miyauchi playing the mentor here. It's a homecoming, he's more at home here than he was in the Metal Heroes he was mentor of. While the rumor that the part was written for Akiji Kobayashi fascinates me, you can't go wrong with Miyauchi. Miura, as written, feels like an afterthought for the most part, with Miyauchi doing all of the heavy lifting, but Miyauchi is good at that. If taking an underwritten part and making it awesome were an Olympic event, Miyauchi would have Gold Medals flying out of his ass like pachinko balls.
Like the Ohranger heroes, he's an actor who was deserving of a better, more serious show. (But of all of the Ohranger performers, Miyauchi is the best when it comes to bouncing back and forth between Ohranger's seriousness and goofiness. You know Miyauchi has a blast playing comedy.)
Miura's stand-out moment for me, though, is in Carranger VS Ohranger. The movie's perfect in having Miura playing it straight training the goofball Carranger team, but you can tell Miyauchi is having a lot of fun.
Another cutesy character with the potential to be annoying, but Dappu is just fun and likable, dappu. Dappu has that tragic backstory which doesn't bring Dappu down, and you gotta love Dappu's spoofing a mentor character dying to spur on the team in the first episode, dappu.
Eikichi Kubota (aka Jouji Costanza)
Can'tstandya! No, really. I can't stand Kubota. A lot of that is actor Satoru Saitou, who I hate in just about everything. (The Ohranger episodes he's in are already pretty heinous, so throw him into the mix, and maybe you'll see why I think Ohranger is an atrocity.) I know Kubota's supposed to be kind of frustrated with who he has to work with as Megaranger, but Saitou plays it as being a judgmental, condescending ass. And I don't buy he ever comes to accept them or that he cares about his former friend being the villain. I just don't like this George Costanza-looking motherfucker (and I like the actual George Costanza!). He's a weak link in a show whose cast I happen to really like.
Back in the day, people poked fun at Mohku. But he makes sense, with Gingaman's hippy, nature-loving spirit. A magical tree that keeps tabs on things by communicating with other trees...shut up, I like it! And voice-actor Rokurou Naya is perfect, giving the character such a soothing calmness and wisdom. My main complaint is...Toei, you could have done a better prop. You know you could. Mohku's not all that detailed, and he looks like something a kid made in art class and got a C on. (OK, D+.) It's a really cheap-looking and primitive set piece. Thank goodness the character and actor come through and save it all, though.
Maybe the worst father in toku history? And I'm keeping in mind Shin Kamen Rider's dad, who secretly used him as a guinea pig, and the Gouraiger's dad, who was INSANE. Who else? Yellow Mask's mean dad who didn't let her have toys. White Swan's parents who were classist, condescending assholes. Burai's dad, who was a crazy reneger. (Here, you can have my son, Yamoto Prince Yoshinori Okamoto. Wait, how dare you take my son! Give him back and make my family, who has no claim, the Yamato royalty! WTF?) Ryu Ranger's dad, who was an HK knock-off of Darth Vader. Time Red's dad, an elitist, selfish prick. Abare Blue's dad, an elitist, selfish prick. Aka Ninger's dad's dad, an insufferable asshat. Emperor Aton, who openly wished his son dead. Doctor Man, whose son denounced him as a demon. Shadam, sadistic spouse and child beater. Jin Keisuke's dad, who was a distant, manipulative, judgmental, absentee jerk. The nutsack who sold Koutarou and Nobuhiko to Golgom. Otoya Kurenai, obnoxious idiot deluxe.
Just a whole list of terrible fathers in not only toku, but superhero stories in general. And Mondo's really up there. He walks out on his family and comes back one day and thinks THEY'RE the assholes for not jumping right on board with his insane GoGoFive plans. And he's never apologetic, he's always just smirking and self-satisfied and never feels like he's in the wrong. "Hey, kids! You haven't seen me in a decade. Well, that's because I've been building you all this stuff to use to fight against these dangerous demon dudes. Oh, yeah! One more thing -- I'm expecting you to fight against these dangerous demon dudes. I haven't seen you in a decade, but I assume you're well-adjusted and happy enough with life having two asshole parents who walked out on you that you won't mind risking your lives. Toodles!"
That's Mondo if you look at him logically and realistically. I don't know how, but actor Mike Maki makes him likable, and a kook, so you're kind of like "Oh, Mondo, you scamp."
Asshole extraordinaire. People like to pretend like Ryuuya is this deep character, realistic in his flawed shades of grey, but I think he's just a sloppy, nonsensical mess of a bad writing complimentary of master of sloppy, nonsensical messes of bad writing Yasuko Kobayashi.
Ooh, Ryuuya, this shady guy who we're going to be cheap and just use the awful guy playing Time Red. He's in the shadows for most of the show while we think up what to do with him. Ooh, he's a descendant of the Red, and is coming to take back the powers! Ooh, he's pulling strings and is up to shady shit to ensure his safety. Ooh, one of our heroes kills him. Just...screw this guy. He made no sense. We're told he's so cold-hearted that he rewrites history in order to have people die in his place*, but he's just such a softy that he feels bad for the Timeranger and repeatedly saves them by sending their mecha, even though they need to die to further his agenda? What? Kobayashi Bullshit. Stupid.
(*I think that's an interesting sounding, villainous character, but Kobayashi sure couldn't pull it off.)
I used to be hard on Tetom, because she's not exactly the strongest commander, she's not what you picture when you're thinking of a Sentai commander, but she's not supposed to be. She's supposed to be ethereal, and a hippy. She guides the team in her own way, she's not the military commander you expect. And the actress does a great job conveying all of that. I just kind of feel like...Tetom was meant to do and be more, but the show kind of lost itself in shenanigans and Silver trying and failing to be cool and brooding.
A cool hard-ass when he's himself, kind of a joke when he's a hamster. (What's that about anyway -- a kind of nod to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?) I like him, but not the team he's in charge of, so that sucks.
She's the tech-head to Mugensai's more traditional style leader. But I always thought she was really funny and amusing and that actress Shoko Takada was pretty good. I liked that Oboro was smart and played by her own rules and always bailed the team out with a new invention. Sucky Bandai promotion, maybe, and it made the Hurricaneger look even more incompetent than they already did, but, hey, it made Oboro look good.
Stay tuned for a post about the Black Warriors...maybe.
|This one's for all the ladies.|
Doggy Kruger/Deka Master
I still feel kind of torn about Doggy. I like him, I think he's awesome, but...I still kinda wish he was played by an actor in prosthetics or something. It's a bit of a shame that the coolest character on the show is a fuzzy piece of blue felt. Says a lot about the Dekaranger cast, eh? (And, no, Power Rangers fans, stop pretending like SPD's Doggy looked better. He didn't. He looked like an alligator and sounded like Dave Coulier's terrible impression of Jack Nicholson.)
Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Haaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Haaaaaaaaaaaaaa-haaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Haaaaaaaaaaaaaa-haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAA! Ho...ho...hooo...whew...HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA-HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!
Stupid. Useless. A waste. And then to top it all off...Mr. Voice is secretly Alex Mack or something? Wha? Heh -- you just suck all around, don't you, Boukenger? Do you have a single redeeming quality?
Sha-fu's OK, and I'm an animal lover and all, but...I don't know if it's the design or the voice-acting, but something puts me off of him. I don't dislike him, but he's not near the top of my list of awesome mentors or anything. A kung-fu cat mentor should be cooler than a dog cop, but Sha-fu ain't no Doggy Kruger. I've always preferred...
Kind of a return of an Oboro, but more serious (Oboro's sarcastic) and more kick-ass (Oboro's a techie, not a fighter). I like actress Kazue Itou and think she just brings such a cool presence to the character.
Another thing for if Shougo Ran Things: Sentai shows would be exploited in novel or comic form the way franchises like Star Wars or Star Trek is. The best shows have these little pockets and roads not traveled that would fit a novel perfectly. For Miki, it would be her past as one of Sha-fu's previous pupils alongside Gou and Rio. There's cool stories that could be told about that original triangle of Sha-fu's.
Not really a mentor. Is he the first human who's basically the Peebo? Tono's in charge. Jii's the hand of the king. (The king shits, the hand wipes.) I like Jii a lot, though. Goro Ibuki's cool, and a veteran of a bunch of jidaigeki stuff. I like that he's the voice of reason for Tono and the disciplinarian for the others. I like his loyalty to Tono once he and Takeru are ousted as the kagemushas. Jii could have been given more. I would have liked to see him in the final battle or something like that.
Typical Goseiger -- guy just seemed like an afterthought. Like "Oh, yeah, we need a mentor guy, that's what the other shows do. How about a giant one of their ugly, ugly henshin devices? OK, what can we name him? Gosei God? Nah. How about something that sounds like a mansion's commode?"
"Jiro, I gotta take a piss."
"Go down the hall, take a left -- you'll find the master head. Have a good piss, buddy!"
I never liked Hideyo Sakaki in the stuff I saw him in prior to Go-busters, and I didn't like Kuroki. They wanted SO BAD for him to be a cool, throwback bad-ass, and he just wasn't. He was such a flop, man. It takes more than just forcefully whispering commands to seem like a cool, in-control commander. It was great when Jin came along and put a kick-me sign on Kuroki.
As with everything else in Kyoryuger, Torin's design put the "fucking ugly" in fugly. He was a dick. He wasn't cool. He was a wannabe Kaku, and didn't come close. (And look what I thought about Kaku!) Voice-actor was weak and tried too hard.
Painfully unfunny. This actor acts like he never acted before. He's just terrible, really reeking of "This is a kids' show and I don't have to make any effort." Wrong! And that's why you suck. You're no Owner, man.
This character could be more sympathetic with a performer who was decent and likable. He's been overlooked, underestimated, treated like crap, but still does his best to guide the team. Instead you have a guy you hate because the actor is really silent film-like, and he looks like that Michael Gelman turdball.
HATE this guy. Seriously hate him. I couldn't stand him on B-Fighter, either, but at least there he's just boring. Here, he's the most obnoxious character imaginable, a sociopath who just likes fucking with the minds and lives of his family and followers. He's supposed to be funny, quirky and endearing, but is far from it. Where's a shogun to command him to commit seppuku when you need one?
[If you're inspired by this post to write a similar one of your own and/or to paraphrase/quote any parts of it, first off thanks for liking it so much! But also please credit my blog and link back to this post.]