Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Black Warriors

Shirou Akebono/Battle Kenya

Kenji Ohba is awesome. Everybody knows that. I'm an animal lover, so I like characters like Akebono who take animals seriously and talk to 'em and stuff. Ohba, who's such a big personality, is capable of taking a character like this and making it work. Akebono's a wild animal man, he's funny, but Ohba doesn't turn him into an obnoxious cartoon. And I still think it was kind of genius of Gekiranger to cast Ohba as Jan's dad. (Not only for being the crazy jungle boy of Sentai's past, the way Jan was the current iteration, but also since Ohba was Aka Ranger's suit actor in the later portion of Goranger, so he's kind of a Red, too. Also: that Ohba's an action guy playing an elite martial arts master.)

Kanpei Kuroda/Goggle Black

Jun'ichi Haruta -- don't bet against the JAC guys. He's like Ohba, you know you're guaranteed results when you cast someone like him. I like how professorial Kuroda is. He's the one member of Goggle V who I think you can really rely on and never doubt. Kuroda's super intelligent and about strategy -- teaching the shogi class at school -- but he's not unflappable.

It's an interesting combo that he's the scientific guy, the brains on the team, but also the physical and action guy.

I also like that he uses shogi pieces as shuriken. *laugh*

Ryuu Hoshikawa/Dyna Black

Haruta returns, and with a character completely unlike Kuroda. Hoshikawa's not exactly an idiot -- he's a scientist after all -- but since he's more comedic and not buttoned down like Kuroda, it's easy to dismiss him as a simpleton. (Comedic does not equal stupid.)

I, of course, love that Hoshikawa is a descendant of ninjas and is a practicing ninja, and JAC performers excel at ninja action. Haruta provides some damn awesome action scenes in this show de gozaru.

Shou Hayate/Change Griffin

The man. He was popular at the time the show was airing, but I feel like he doesn't get the respect he deserves. Gai Yuuki eclipsed him, but Hayate was the first cool Black, and without any of the social and mental disorders Gai has. Take that!

Shou joined the military to impress the ladies, and while he puts up a cool front, he's a decent, caring guy, an honorable guy. A good soldier in his own right, he has your back and will follow you into any hellish battle. Shou can be light, he can goof around, but he still keeps a cool image and maturity, and actor Kazuoki plays both sides perfectly. There's a lot of times a character in toku will be cool, but they'll like to make him goofy, but it sucks away the cool factor, but Kazuoki's one of the rare ones to make it all work. I think he's the one who gives additional coolness to Hayate.

I think Hayate could take on Gai, and I say that as Gai's number one fan. I imagine Hayate just kind of coolly deflecting any kind of punch or attack of Gai's, the way Ryu/Red Hawk should have. (Hey, Kazuoki as Red Hawk, there's an idea.)

Another cool thing about Hayate is the way actor Kazuoki reaches a point where he likes to do a lot of the action scenes on his own, which is something he continued to do in subsequent shows he appeared in (Metalder, Janperson). Kazuoki became buds with a lot of the JAC guys on Changeman's staff and went on to do a lot of plays with the JAC in the '80s -- I think it speaks to how impressively he handled action scenes that he impressed the JAC. I spent a lot of time just assuming he was a JAC actor, like Jun'ichi Haruta.

Kenta/Black Mask

Supposedly, Toei originally wanted Changeman's Kazuoki to play Kenta. I feel like that would have kind of been a step down after Hayate. Kenta's Hayate-like, but at that point Kazuoki was too mature for the role. Kazuoki was more suited for someone like Gai Yuuki at this point (hey, there's an idea).

Kenta has a more youthful vibe, he's lighter and can be a big a bit of a goof. I think actor Kouichi Kusakari is a better fit with the Maskman cast, and aces those sides of Kenta. Kenta's cool and laidback, but he'll be there for you when shit's falling apart.

A moment of Kenta awesomeness -- when the Mio ice-cube has been stolen by Kiros, and Takeru's feeling pretty hopeless about finding her, with Sugata being like "Tough luck," Kenta's like "It's OK, bud -- let's take my Masky Drill and go drilling all over Japan until we find her!" Kenta's just a good dude and friend to have on your side.

I also have to point out Kusakari's voiceovers. The dude goes NUTS, and it's great. He's yelling, he's shrieking. He sounds like he might hack up blood by the end of the day. (Sometimes, I'd love to see footage of toku actors recording their suit voiceovers.) It really fits well with just what a powerhouse they try to depict Kenta as as a fighter -- in suit and out, they always try to convey just what force is behind his hits.

Tetsuya Yano/Black Bison

This sonuva. As I've said before, I love the concept of Takuji and Mari's siblings stepping in as the new heroes. I like that Tetsuya is the hothead who has revenge on the mind and just wants to lay a beatdown on any Volt asshole he can get his hands on. But the show never really does anything interesting with him or Jun'ichi, which might be because the casting for the two knuckleheads is horrendous. Actor Seirou Yamaguchi is real stinkowiff, barking out his lines. By the time Tetsuya loosens up and even forgives Gou -- you know, that could have been a big moment, really touching, but Yamaguchi can't deliver.

HUGE missed opportunity.

Daiichi Yamagata/Black Turbo

I like Daiichi as a character, I think he has that strong second-in-command quality about him, and that he wants the best for his friends. He's supposed to be kind of like Kouichiro/Mega Black in that he's physically and mentally fit and just wants to do good and be the best person he can. And while actor Yoshiaki Ganaha is far from the worst actor the franchise has seen, there's just something off about him that doesn't make the character completely soar. Ganaha always look like he'd rather be ANY place but on the set.

I still like Daiichi, but would have liked an actor who might have WANTED TO BE THERE! It totally makes Daiichi NOT the smart, calm and collected one of the team when he looks like he wants a Turbo Laser to catch him in the head during the next battle.

And it doesn't help that he looks like Donnie Osmond.

Fumiya Hoshikawa/Five Black

Fumiya's OK as a character, but actor Ryouhei Kobayashi has a weird acting style where he's always just cringing throughout his lines, no matter what the character's mood. What the hell's that about? I can't explain it, but I reallllly can't picture this dude headlining his own Kamen Rider show like he was supposed to -- he barely cuts it as third banana in freaking Fiveman.

Even though it's crazy unbelievable, I always liked when the show put Fumiya's linguistics knowledge to use -- he has a surprising amount of knowledge of alien languages and can whip things together, like Hoshi Sato from Enterprise.

But I basically kind of feel like he and Ken are interchangeable, though, at once meant to be strong cool guys, yet often yukking it up. They cancel each other out, and are the weakest ones in the cast, so...I kinda think Fiveman would be cooler if it was just Gaku, Kazumi and Remi. (Shubarie proved that "Threeman" doesn't have a good ring to it.)

Gai "Forever 27" Yuuki/Black Condor

He's a legend. He's rock 'n roll. There's a reason why he's so popular, and that's because he's awesome. Jetman was coming along at a time when the mainstream was starting to take superheroes more seriously, taking a more "adult" approach -- thanks to Tim Burton's Batman -- and I feel like this was THE moment for Jetman writer Toshiki Inoue, as that falls completely in line with his style.

Jetman wanted to emphasize a Sentai team of truly random people being brought together. It's Sentai's core theme -- the strangers putting aside their differences and uniting as one. There were teams before Jetman who would butt heads, but would pretty much come to an understanding by an episode's end. Jetman wanted to be realistic, Jetman wanted to have heroes who weren't meant to be heroes, who didn't necessarily want to be heroes, and that included basically a criminal, Gai.

On the surface, you're immediately drawn to Gai because you haven't seen a Sentai hero like him before. He's rude! He's a cheat! He smokes! He drinks! He womanizes! He's a lone wolf who doesn't play well with others! He's a super pessimist. Even without Vyram, he thinks the world is fucked, so he wants a good reason why he should risk himself to save it. Initially sticking around just for Kaori, he eventually finds he's good at this hero thing, he finds a purpose, and begins down a road of redemption and ends the series as a genuine hero and not an antihero.

It's a great arc, it's a fresh character, a genuinely cool character, and it's the reason he's the breakout star of the show, and a fan favorite character to this day. Gai would not work out if not for actor Toshihide Wakamatsu, who's talented, who gets the character. We've seen Inoue try to recreate the Gai type in other shows, but bad casting ruined it. Gai would probably be as obnoxious and hateful of a character as Faiz's Kusaka if not for a performer with the talent, charm and presence of Wakamatsu.

Goushi/Mammoth Ranger

I want to like Goushi, but I think actor Seiju Umon is a freak. He sticks out like a sore thumb, not really meshing with the cast. His acting's odd, he sounds like he eats razor-filled pineapples whole, he's ten feet tall, he seems about twice the age of everybody else in the show. How'd he get cast?!

The aging helps when it comes time for Goushi to be the bookworm and answer man, but I get the impression Goushi is supposed to be the cool guy, too, and he's not that. (You don't get Naoki Oofuji for your suit actor right after Jetman if you ain't supposed to be the cool guy. It's weird to see Oofuji do Gai-esque mannerisms as guys like Five Black and Mammoth Ranger, indicating they're supposed to be tougher and cooler than they are. Also: Oofuji's a dwarf compared to Umon. You don't buy for a second it's Goushi in suit. It's a reverse Jiro Okamoto situation.)

Goushi ain't bad or nothing -- he's a likable dude, and his focus episode towards the end of the series was one of the only episodes of Zyuranger I really liked. But he's an oddball -- a genuine freak in a show that tried way too hard to be freaky.

And, for some reason, Umon reminds me of Judge Reinhold. That don't help. "Hope you had a hell of a piss, Geki!"

Jiraiya/Ninja Black

Remember when Kakuranger was new and it was so fun and cool to see a Sentai hero who was American and spoke English?

It's kind of amazing Jiraiya works at all -- I think he's one of those characters that's good at being cool and serious AND being a goofball -- when you take into account that Kane Kosugi wasn't accustomed to acting in Japanese. And when you consider how insane the world of Kakuranger is on top of that.

But Jiraiya IS cool, and I think the closest Kakuranger has to a traditional, serious hero. (Some would say Tsuruhime; yeah, initially. But it always seemed to me like the goofy knuckleheadedness of guys like Sasuke and Saizo eventually rubbed off on her.) Kane Kosugi, being son of martial arts movie star Sho Kosugi, was a neat get for the series -- actually American, but from a Japanese showbiz family, an action star at that. The show kinda lucked out with his casting.

Kouichirou Endou/Mega Black

Kouichirou's the appointed leader of Megaranger, and you most likely don't ask why. For being one of the accidental picks of the team -- he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time along with Shun, Chisato and Miku -- he was the one who most belonged on the team, and INET was extremely fortunate to get him.

Kouichirou's a bright guy, responsible, and a dedicated student -- he's supposed to be a stickler for rules and a total do-gooder nerd, but I never found him to be all that bad. He's pretty open-minded and puts up with a lot of bull from someone like Kenta. He wants to do his best as a student, person, citizen, superhero, and he's coolheaded about it. He's such a good guy that, when the Megaranger thought they were dying, he devoted what he thought was his final hours alive looking for a cure. (With help from Chisato, Megaranger's other ass-kicker.)

I'm always surprised to remember that actor Atsushi Ehara wasn't an actor at all. His background is in sports, but he tried to break into acting and Megaranger was about the only thing he did. But he does such a good job in the role, completely believable as Kouichirou.

Soutarou Ushigome/Gao Black

He's funny. I think it's funny that he's a wannabe sumo, I think it's funny the way he's babied by the younger Blue. He's supposed to be about the contrast, a big guy who's physically strong, but on the inside is a softy, but I don't think it's done here as well as in Gingaman with Gouki.


Asuka/Abare Black

I have to admit, I had some reservations about Asuka when Abaranger first started, because I like cool Blacks, and Asuka was completely different. He's depicted as being emotional and a softy. He's not afraid to just openly cry. So I was like "Man, what happened to Blacks?" But Asuka, as his story unfolded, eventually won me over.

Asuka's a softy, but he's not weak. His backstory is tragic, in that he's pretty much been a soldier his entire life. All he really had was Mahoro and her brother Mizuho, and they get turned against him. Asuka has his own child used against him. AND, in a moment of total desperation, he donned the Cursed Armor and unwittingly killed a lot of his allies. He's a guy who's been shit on, witnessed a lot of atrocities, but he never gave in and never gave up hope or his belief in people.

And, like I've often said and people have caught on to -- Asuka's relationship with Mahoro beats the Ryu and Rie storyline in Jetman. Sorry, Inoue, sorry Jetman worshippers -- you're deluding yourselves.

Masumi Inou/Bouken Black

The worst. Absolutely the worst. Another in a long line of failures for Boukenger, they wanted Masumi to be the second Gai Yuuki -- dark, mysterious, cool, dangerous,  possibly criminal -- but it's an absolute laugh how far off target they are. If Gai Yuuki is Frank Sinatra, then Masumi Inou is Michael BublĂ©.

Where to start with this twerp? First off, he's about 12 years old, but supposedly has a reputation as some dangerous tomb raider. He joins Boukenger mainly to try and compete with Akashi, who himself is unbelievable as a supposedly awesome, treasure hunting genius. Their rivalry is meant to recall Hawk and Condor's, but these two have nothing behind it, nothing going for them. Indiana Jones and Belloq they're not. They're two colossal dorks.

Such a doofus is Masumi that 1) he forgets he hates Akashi until he reminds himself one day when rereading his own journal and 2) Yami no Yaiba convinces him he's evil because, when he was a kid, he chose to hide from a Dark Shadow attack. And the dumb-dumb falls for it.

He's not close to being cool or threatening. He sucks, he's a dweeb. And the sad thing is, actor Yasuka Saito is a big Sentai fan. Saito seems like a likable guy in real life, and I could see him being better in another show, but Boukenger -- and Masumi in particular -- wasn't a good match. But the writing stinks and didn't help him.

Gunpei Ishihara/Go-on Black

One of the only things I like about Go-onger. The show was stupid and made every mistake possible, but somehow had the good sense to alter the character once they realized actor Kenji Ebisawa wasn't able to pull off the cool guy Gunpei was initially meant to be. And rather than just make him an idiot without explanation, they chose the funny route of having Gunpei not realize he's not as cool and mature and knowledgeable as he thinks he is. Ebisawa was more at home playing a goof, and at the same time, we got kind of a spoof of the serious, cool Black stereotype.

Aguri/Gosei Black

Probably the most generic, forgettable thing in a Sentai show full of generic, forgettable things. Really...I can't tell you a damn thing about Aguri, except that his actor looks just like Kamen Rider Wizard, only Wizard somehow has more personality, when he and his show are the Kamen Rider equivalent of Goseiger.

Ian Yorkland/Kyoryu Black

More like Ian Dorkland, amirite? He's like Go-on Black, if everyone involved with the show never realized how bad Ebisawa was at being cool. Kyoryuger seriously thinks Ian is cool! And he's, like...so far from cool that there isn't even a humorous comparison to make here.

And the Black I choose to be on my team...

Change Griffin. Once again -- he's Black Condor without any of the mental or social disorders. Meaning: he's cool and bad-ass, but won't be a pain in the ass.


  1. "I can't explain it, but I reallllly can't picture this dude headlining his own Kamen Rider show like he was supposed to -- he barely cuts it as third banana in freaking Fiveman."

    Say what? How did I never hear this? Ugh...this guy and those endless rows of teeth he has. Did you ever see the Super Fiverobo Video that Bandai included in the DX Set? ...yikes...

    My pick is Goushi...pretty much for all of the reasons I mentioned in my Zyuranger posts. Even Bandora targeted him specifically for being the backbone of the team. His teaching Geki a lesson dressed as the Black Knight was pretty awesome too.

    Oh, and yeah...I agree about the badly mismatched suit actors. That can be said about pretty much the entire cast, though. Where the Dairanger cast was able to pull off their moves pretty flawlessly out of suit, can you imagine a single one of the Zyurangers in their suit doing the moves (save for Burai). The closest would be Boi...but he would have to hit and all-you-can-eat buffet first.

    1. The story supposedly goes that Five Black's actor, Ryouhei Kobayashi, had been picked by producer Susumu Yoshikawa to star in what would have been the Rider series following RX, before he decided against doing another show.

      I haven't seen that Five Robo video, but I can imagine. Kobayashi's speaking style is pretty weird. I had a picture and a sentence making fun of the way he's always talking out of just one corner of his mouth. But then I thought maybe he has a medical condition, like Sly Stallone, so I removed the references to that. It still makes for a weird mix, with his one note style of just kind of saying everything in a worried, whiny manner.

      I think Geki is the only Zyuranger I can buy being in suit. (And it's not like Hiroshi Maeda was doing stellar work -- Maeda's said he cares more about looking cool than coming across as the character.) Geki and Tyranno just both seem tall and slim. Maybe it's having seen him and associated him so much with suit actor Tsutomu Kitagawa as Change Pegasus, but I never even really thought Burai was a good match. The choice for suit actors in Zyuranger always puzzled me.

    2. Interesting. I always thought they were going to plod along with the empty husk of Kotaro for the following series. To have that firm of an idea on who they wanted to cast for the Rider seems a little strange considering they have little to show for actual planning of the follow-up series. Then again...Kobayashi did end up having a part in Jiban, so I guess they plopped him into that show instead.

      Ahhh, this is where I disagree. Mochizuki has way too notchy of a fighting style to be on par with the slick Maeda style. The body type is closer than the others, but their fighting styles couldn't be further apart.

  2. Really loved your bit on Kenta Shougo! He's a dude I feel tends to get unfairly overlooked a lot. And I think you managed to point out some good pointers over why Kenta is worthwhile~

    This might sound crazy, but honestly, it feels so refreshing for me to actually see a post which says great things about Gai. I dunno, maybe I've just been surrounded by Jetman haters and Inoue haters too much lately. I always keep hearing people complaining about how horrible Gai is and how he's the single "worst" character in Sentai for not being heroic (funny thing is, people seem to keep forgetting that Gai does become heroic... you know, character development. Isn't character development the thing which all dem Kobayashi fanatics keep on demanding in their toku? But apparently Gai's womanizing ways are viewed as an unforgivable sin which can NEVER be atoned.... guess this is what happens in an era of SJWs who can't handle Gai's awesomeness. xP ). But yeah, really loved your bit on Gai. Gai FTW!~ =D

    My pick for a Sentai Black for my team... I almost went with either Hayate or Jiraiya. But in the end, I decided I'd go with Kenta! He's the kinda awesome dorky dude you'd love to be around with, lol

    My team so far: Matoi, Shouji, Ranru, Miku, Kenta

    1. The Jetman hate -- specifically the Gai hate -- is just a bunch of bullshit to me. It's people who think it's cool to put down the popular thing. That's just tryhard and a childish mentality to me, like the people who go out of their way to dislike anything their parents like.

      I can understand people, at this point of time, thinking Jetman's a little overrated -- but it made a splash and was so popular for a reason, and that's because of it doing things differently. I think it's hard for someone who got into toku with a barely-superhero melodrama like Faiz to see it, but Jetman and Toshiki Inoue at that time was introducing a lot of new styles and taking a new approach to a toku show. Later shows went crazy with wanting to be DORAMAS, and Jetman looks like an ordinary show in retrospect, but at the time, it was doing something a little different, and paving the road for a lot of shows that came along and stole its thunder.

  3. I always felt Kenta was Hayate without the personality, to be honest. But of course only Takeru and Akira really got fleshed out and had much to do in Maskman, in my view.

    1. I guess we now know why Kenta seems so Hayate-like, if they wanted Kazuoki to play him. It's always surprising to rewatch Maskman and see how many episodes Kenta's given early on -- I don't know if that's a holdover from when they were thinking Kazuoki would play him, or if they were pushing him to be popular. If the latter, the poor guy gets pushed aside once Akira's actor became popular with teenyboppers and hijacked the show.

      I don't think Kenta's without personality, though. It's true that Takeru and Akira are given more focus, and it's a shame that characters like Haruka and Momoko aren't given more, but I always thought you get a good enough feel of who the other team members are. I feel like people are too quick to dismiss the Maskman characters. There are heroes in Sentai who have less going for them. Hell, I think Ryou/X1 is given more personality in his one episode than some characters receive in their entire show.

  4. Another great post. My comments about some characters ( I considered only of series that I watched all episodes. Because of that, Mega Black wasn´t evaluated)

    Goggle Black / Dyna Black – Junichi Haruta is the real Men in Black – he wore this color in Juspion, Jiraiya and Cybercop, too. I like more Kuroda´s character, but it was in Dynaman that Haruta did the best action scenes of his career.

    Change Griffon -
    In 2015 I watched Changeman for the first time with Japanese audio, and my admiration for actor Kazuoki Takahashi has increased even more. He was a charismatic actor, who played heroes, villains and normal people very well. I think he deserved more recognition. Hayate was such a great character, funny and capable.

    Black Condor -
    I have the theory that Toshiki Inoue was influenced by the work of Chris Claremont in Marvel. The coexistence plot in Faiz was like to that of the mutants in the comics. And I always thought the triangle Ryu / Kaori / Gai was similar to Cyclops / Jean Gray / Wolverine. Like Logan, Gai was the unlikely hero, the irascible guy who slowly builds his trajectory as the greatest warrior on the team. The relationship with the authority figure (Ryu or Cyclops) gradually changes, reaching mutual admiration in the end.

    Mamooth Ranger
    Goushi is probably the most different sentai senshi from his American counterpart. I like the episodes in which he is the protagonist.

    Ninja Black.

    I'm not a huge fan of this Jiraiya, but I have to highlight episodes 28 and 29 of Kakuranger, which features one of the most brutal fights of the franchise.

    Abare Black

    I like all of Abaranger's characters, and I think Asuka has one of the best dramatic arcs of all Sentals. Even having a tragic past, he is a soft guy. A pacifist who knows the horrors of war, forced to fight against his beloved Mahoro. Great character!

    My choice to integrate my team is Yuuki Gai. He can be a jerk, but has a great potencial
    I think Tsurugi would earn Gai´s respect faster than Ryu, since there is no component of the love triangle.

    My Team until now:

    Hiryuu Tsurugi / Change Dragon
    Daigoro Oume / Denzi Blue
    Ranru Itsuki / Abare Yellow
    Mako Shiraishi / Shinken Pink
    Yuuki Gai / Black Condor

    Kaku Doushi

    1. I agree with you completely about Kazuoki Takahashi. He's also one of the rare actors who has appeared in just about every toku franchise. I would have really liked for him to have had a role that really cemented him in the minds of viewers. (Sure, Hayate was popular, but he needed to be the lead in something. I've often thought that Zyuranger chose the wrong Changeman actor, and that Kazuoki would have been a better Burai. That would have given him Legendary status!)

      It's funny you mention Inoue seeming to be influenced by X-Men, because I remembering thinking that, especially about Faiz. And I was incredibly disappointed that Inoue ended up writing the anime version of Iron Man (which was soooooooo boring) when an Inoue X-Men anime would be pretty awesome.

      Are you sure about Gai and Tsurugi not coming into conflict, considering that Tsurugi is always falling for (alien) women?

      I'm still liking the variety of the team you're assembling. It's a good, interesting mix.