Tuesday, May 2, 2017

White Warriors

Soukichi Banba/Big One

My first exposure to Banba was in Gaoranger VS Super Sentai, where he was fucking awesome and kicked ass and I loved him. So, imagine my surprise when I got around to watching JAKQ and...he's not quite the same. In Gaoranger, he was funny and enjoyed toying with villains and waltzing around in his disguises, but by Gao VS SS Hiroshi Miyauchi had reached that point where he matured and just essentially started playing himself, which is just a representative of a cool, competent, bad-ass motherfucker of a superhero...

In the show, he's younger. Banba's brought in to brighten up the show, so he's put in some silly situations. (Impersonating Hitler, disguising himself as a snake charmer or goofy vagrant.) I happened to really like those darker, screwed up early episodes of JAKQ, so I initially really hated what Banba represented to the show, and just how much he domineered it all while NOT seeming like the cool dude he was in Gaoranger. Like, I really couldn't stand how the show made the four regulars -- who had been tough and cool and gotten themselves out of many jams with their own smarts or strength -- easily captured damsels for Big One to bail out.

It wasn't until I rewatched JAKQ a couple of times that I let up on the guy and like him. (My bro bought me the awesome Medicom of Banba for Xmas a couple of years ago.) Banba's the commander, sixth hero and Red all rolled into one, and if you're going to have a guy who's going to hog all of the glory, at least make it King of Heroes Miyauchi.

I do have to say, though...while it makes sense, considering his penchant for disguises, I still think it's VERY strange that Banba is given the "shichi henge" episode, when that pretty much usually always goes to a heroine. That's not the strange part, though, the strangeness is that the episode is a disguise-off between Banba and Iron Claw, with Iron Claw transforming himself into purdy ladies that Banba flirts with. Just...kinda weird picturing Miyauchi flirting with Masashi Ishibashi. Go rewatch the episode with that in mind. You're welcome!

Sayaka Nagisa/Change Mermaid

Smart, courageous, great soldier. What's great, though, is that she IS super intelligent, and Miss Manners, and skilled at pretty much everything, but she's not perfect. She's not condescending about her smarts -- she uses her noggin to the team's benefit -- and she only likes to tease others about manners. But she's flawed. An invention of hers severely hurts her teammates. She thinks she'll have a plan perfectly mapped out -- like luring out Shiima by posing as the mother of a couple of orphans -- only to have it blow up in her face.

She's wise, and there to offer support for her teammates. She's an all around good person who the Changeman would have struggled without.

Kaori Rokumeikan/White Swan

I feel like one of Kaori's only defenders. I like her a lot, and think she's a pretty interesting character -- I don't like what Inoue does with her in the final couple of episodes, but I'll get to that -- but, man, does Kaori rub a lot of viewers the wrong way.

Along with Gai, she's a good embodiment of Jetman's theme -- unlikely people thrown together to save the world. Jetman being a show with such different priorities from the toku norm, it opened up the door for a character like Kaori -- who wouldn't typically be in a superhero story -- as well as an actress like Rika Kishida, who wouldn't typically be cast as a superheroine. (I think Kishida's great in the role, and one of the show's most underrated performers. Sue me...no, please don't.)

Kaori's rich and privileged, and she initially sees Jetman as a way to escape her routine and dull life, but what really drives her to succeed as a Jetman is a chance to prove her own self worth and do something on her own, something that wasn't handed to her just by birthright, and a chance to do something actually valuable, and not empty. She's not supposed to be snobby or elitist or entitled or whatever negative connotation you associate with a wealthy character like this.

She has a rigid formality to her, but as a person, she's pretty cool and down to earth and selfless. She never looks down on her teammates, she wants to help. She's not stingy, she uses her money and connections when it benefits the team or a mission. She wants to do her best as a Jetman, even when that puts her in uncomfortable spots like learning to use weapons, pilot mecha or put up with Luke and Laura fighting over her.

People like to malign her as a cold person who strings Ryu and Gai along, and...watch the show. That ain't there. She's transparent how she feels about Ryu, and Ryu ignores HER for most of the show. Gai can't get it through his thick head she likes Ryu, but when Ryu ain't paying attention, she gives Gai a chance. A couple of times, even. He turns her down.

And when Gai's risking his life for her and declares his love for her, she's kind of caught up in the moment, and that's when she decides to really give Gai a shot -- this is when the two quit the team and go off on their own. She keeps an open mind, even having Gai meet her judgmental parents -- which couldn't have been easy for Kaori to do. And guess what? Gai's the one who finally calls it quits, realizing he can't make it in her world. She wasn't some calculating manipulator. She was constantly ignored by the one who really filled her heart, but kept an open mind and tried to give it a go with the Gai who was...pretty obsessed with her. (I've joked that Kaori is to Ryu what Gai is to Kaori in their blinders-on stalking, but it's a JOKE!)

(I should have brought up in the Blacks post what fans hate about Gai; his "stalking" of Kaori. People like to chalk him up as some creepy loser, but what they don't understand is that Gai's initial interest in Kaori is pretty much bravado, but he actually starts to love her for who she is. She was initially just a treasure to obtain, a woman who was out of his league -- but he'd get her! -- but he started to see how he had her all wrong. She starts to impress him as a person. Not a timid woman made soft by diving into vaults of money all day, but a strong, competent, brave woman who gives it her all to be a hero.)

OK, now the part I don't like about Kaori. I thought Toshiki Inoue handled the final episodes clumsily in more matters than the senseless killing of Gai. The way Gai came to realize that he wasn't meant for Kaori, I think Kaori should have realized she wasn't meant for Ryu. Ryu takes Rie's death hard -- even developing a death wish in senselessly taking Radeige on on his own -- and I think Kaori's ultimate growth should have been setting aside what she wanted and just be there to help Ryu. Instead, she takes the opportunity to be like "Enough, Ryu! You're whining about a ghost and I'm here, so finally date me, you fucker!" And Ryu's just like "Duh, duh, OK. How about we get married in the finale? A Sentai hasn't done that, and it would be ADULT and EPIC! Even though it's forced and stupid!"

So, Kaori goes from being the character proving you wrong about your assumptions -- she's actually a kind, compassionate, strong, generous person -- to actually proving your initial size-up right. She whined her way into marriage with Ryu and got what she wanted. It just didn't jibe with the rest of the character's trajectory. It would have been like Gai ending the series being the one who stole the woman's purse and a cop shot him for it. It's a flushing of the character and their growth you've invested the year in.

Tsuruhime/Ninja White

My problem with Tsuruhime -- and it's not much of a problem, it's not a show-breaker -- is that they fairly quickly discard the serious, trained, honest-to-goodness ninja she's supposed to be. The team needed the level-headed pro she was, but it's like the guys' dumbness instantly rubs off on her and she's right there clowning it up with them.

For the first show where the Red wasn't supposed to be the leader and -- even more groundbreaking, it was a female -- they go out of their way to quickly just set up the usual status quo and shove her into the background while propping up Sasuke...

The worst thing for me though is the forced Shushutorian reunion. It's probably cool if you're one of the four people who saw and liked that show, but it's dopey to me, and double the dopiness that it comes in the middle of the story of Tsuruhime and her dad, one of the show's only attempts at a long-term dramatic storyline.

Tsuruhime's cool, but she needed to retain the seriousness. That doesn't mean she needs to be void of humor; just know that there's times to be serious and times to make goofy faces at youkai.

Rajieta Fanbelt/White Racer

She's a funny addition to the series that you didn't know the show needed, but you're glad that someone had the flash of brilliance to include. A Carranger fan who pretty much is cosplaying and self-appointed. (Sure, she actually has some powers, but they still pale in comparison to what the Carranger's working with.)

I prefer Saki Hamamatsu in the role. She got the character, she was in on the joke in that Rajieta had no business being there, but there she was, and she made her just happy to be in on the action and gave her a bit of a mischievous feeling. Saki's White Racer had a certain attitude that made it more believable that she was Zonette's little sister. Hamamatsu unfortunately only made one appearance as White Racer -- the character's debut episode, her best episode; replacement Misaki Sudou is just too idoly generic, losing the character's spunk.

Sae Taiga/Gao White

Sae's a rather young character, but she comes across as being more mature. It's probably a combination of the goofs surrounding her, her serious martial-arts upbringing or just the serious demeanor actress Mio Takeuchi has. Gaoranger is a team of boisterous, often cartoonish heroes, but Sae's the one that seems most like a real person. You really feel like she just has her hands full with these characters, but it's not like she's a downer of a character, and she doesn't sink to their level like Tsuruhime, either. She's disciplined and serious, but also just pretty big-hearted.

One of my favorite Sae bits? When the Gaoranger were cloned. Shishi was trying to sort out which of the two Saes was the genuine one, and based his entire case on the evidence that one Sae stepped on a flower, something the real Sae and a member of Hippie-juu Sentai Gaoranger would NEVER, EVER do, like EVER! The fake Sae then revealed herself, while the real Sae was like "Red?" and pointing down in embarrassment to a flower beneath her shoe, crushed accidentally.

Mikoto Nakadai/Abare Killer

I did a post on him before. In short: an interesting character idea, a villainous threat Abaranger desperately needed, but poor execution, the casting of a too young actor and slow plotting led to a severely disappointing character.

Miyuki Ozu/Magi Mother

She was a cool idea (bad Mr. Freeze pun intended), just sorely underused. But look at her crazy story -- married to a Sky Saint, having demigod kids, having knowledge of magic and the war with Infelshia. She was powerful and smart, making you wonder why most of her kids were so dumb. And she could grow giant sized! It was a mistake of the show to "kill" her and leave her out until the final dozen episodes.

Ken Hisatsu/Geki Chopper

Ken's not bad, I just think he's a pretty unnecessary character to the series. He's there because Bandai told him to be, so he's basically an additional mecha in human form. When I think of the Geki heroes, I tend to just leave him out. I like that he's kind of an average guy, from a working class family, and that he's karate-themed, but...he just needed a better reason to be in the damn show, man.

Fuuka Igasaki/Shiro Ninger

I've seen a lot of hate for Fuuka out there, but she's fairly inoffensive to me. Yeah, a tad on the ditzy side, but compared to brother Takaharu, she's Mensa material. Yuuka Yano brings a sweetness and enthusiasm to the part that I think makes her one of the more tolerable cast members of the show.

But there's that one episode where she was kinda annoying, though -- when she decided it was, like, so darned hard to be a Ninninger. So she whined her way into getting a vacation, where they took her to an amusement park. The characters bent over backwards to give her a good time, and she whined when the slightest little thing didn't go her way. That episode made her look really, really bad. But then there's an episode when the others are running past a monster to get to a dimensional door or whatever, and she casually kicks the monster of the week in the ass as she runs by. One of the few times Ninninger was actually funny. I'd like to know if that was improvised.

It was hard to come up with a White I want on my team. Before I wrote all of these, I mentally had picked out who I thought I'd want on my team, and always assumed I'd pick Sayaka/Change Mermaid, but since I wanted Griffin, I couldn't pick her. There's not many Whites, and most of them are too damn young. It's tempting to pick Big One -- look how much power he'd give your team! But then you think about how you'd have to put up with his disguise dress-up shenanigans AND his need for the spotlight. Tsuruhime's out, I have a cooler ninja on my team. I was about to choose Kaori, but I thought she'd be a headache combined with Sanjou/Abare Blue, and you'd have to hear constantly about Ryu... This is a tough one! Despite her age, I was strongly leaning towards Sae, since she's a karate ass-kicker...

And then I thought about Magi Mother. I was like "Magi Mother, yeah! She'd be kinda rad." She's older, has a lot of experience dealing with craziness, she knows magic and spells and stuff -- and she can grow giant!


  1. I had to double back and try to remember what I said about the whole Kaori/Gai thing. Take it away, me...

    "I like him as a Jetman...but he was terribly obnoxious as a character. He had the demeanor of a date-rapist toward Kaori most of the time and when he finally won her over...he had no idea what to do with her. He was a man who was all about the chase when it came to women. Everytime he is seen flirting with a woman, he is determined and passionate. Once he actually lands a woman, Kaori or any of the random skanks he seems to fancy, he pretty much becomes a lethargic lump of clay."

    Harsh, but I stand by it since I wrote it immediately after the last time I watched the series 3+ years ago. I agree that Kaori never lead him on and that he thought more of her as time went on, but his almost complete lack of interest in her once they started dating kinda spoke for itself. We'd never seen him in a real relationship...he'd probably never been in a real relationship. Dude just didn't seem built for them--too boring and no freedom. I kinda understand that...and I'm friggin married (to someone who pretend yaks if I compliment her...I guess two wrong make a right...?).

    It kinda felt like there was a long stretch where there was at least one actor in a show that wouldn't have been hired if they weren't looking for a specific character. Kane Kosugi has to be up there. Imagine what would've been if the dude never tried working in Japan and they went ahead with Jiraiya's character as written. Since Toei was known to cast Sentai and Metal Hero shows in a batch back then, he could've just as easily ended up on Blue SWAT. Heh.

    Oh yeah, this post was about white characters. I really am not particularly tied to any of them so... Gekichopper. Because Saiblade and he had that sweet Akira Kushida theme song. That's pretty much it. Can we just marvel at how great the Gekiranger song collection was? The last hurrah for the old-timers and finally bringing MIO/MIQ to tokusatsu.

    1. The show never seemed to follow through with any of his other romances, though, to get a really good impression of how he treated the other women he'd be with. It was mostly just a "Heh-heh, here we see Gai with another woman. Isn't he cool?!?"

      It always seemed to me that Gai's initial interest in Kaori was just so he could land someone out of his league, but he did grow to care for her. But look at the way she gave him a shot -- it was in the heat of the moment, panicked, and when she thought Gai was about to die for her. She kind of still isn't interested in him, and it's out of pity, and Gai probably could tell right away. I like how it all went to hell after he met her parents, and that smiling look they give each other in the next episode, like "Well, we tried. We had to be crazy."

  2. I think I would've been more lenient on Fuuka if I didn't tire of that whole anime-ish "Mou, Oniichan!" dealio. That's less a gripe on the actress and more the scripting though .

    Sae's one came to like but, I probably wouldn't have liked her as much if they had casted anyone other than Mio Takeuchi. I mean, can you imagine anyone else as Sae during that bit where she's having a tantrum? Probably would've been grating as all get out, haha. I do also still like her first focus ep. with her dad, that one I went in expecting good and I got great!

    Hmm, would Nakadai's plot have been better if it was faster? If it just ended the same way, then it probably would've been just as awful whether 5 eps. sooner or later, heh. I suppose speeding it up would've given more time to the Evolian though and that would've been a plus.

    I think I'll go with Magi Mother. I'm not the biggest Magi fan either but I seem to remember her having a good head on her shoulders, so that'd be good. More smart people to balance the crazies! haha

    1. You're right about Mio Takeuchi. Kinda rare to have a performer so young, but actually be what makes the character good.

      I have a whole big problem with Nakadai. Casting for starters. The pacing never seemed like an issue to me, but the way they forced a redemption with him seemed really out of place. Maybe the way they went about it. They could have had him turn on the Evorian without becoming "good." It's like...watch those first few episodes with him, and then picture him posing with the team. It ain't right!

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Excellent post Shougo!

    Man, I wasn't expecting the length you gave for Banba, lol. You've reminded me of some things about him which I.... forgot about.... for better or for worse. xP

    Loved your bit on Kaori. I find it kinda sad how she's like, one of Sentai's most hated characters in the fandom (people got too much Heisei Rider soaking up their brains). Your defense on her speaks everything I feel is admirable about Kaori. She's awesome and a lovable character.~

    I know Tsuruhime was intended to be a more serious character, and ended up not really being that at all. But strangely, I ended up enjoying the character for other reasons. I actually quite like how she's got this blunt and sarcastic attitude to her, while also being very cheerful, playful, mischievous, and responsible at the same time. She kinda feels like this younger yet older sibling at the same time, who can always make you laugh in the way she rolls her eyes at things. I always found that enjoyable. And I guess that's part of what added to me rooting for her when it came to the Hakumenrou plot. I'd say the one ep of her's I was always a bit weirded out on was her Scroll ep. Wasn't sure whether to find it cool or kinda wtf.

    I was really not expecting to see Rajieta on here! Really glad you included her! She was great!

    Funny how you compared Sae to Tsuruhime. I always kinda saw Gaoranger as a kind of "2000s version of Kakuranger"

    Y'know, lately whenever I think about Abaranger, I find myself completely ignoring Mikoto altogether. I dunno why, but... I just find him to be incredibly boring? Even on paper that is. Like, I appreciate that he raises some stakes for the heroes here and there (like the Jupiter ep). But aside from that, I'm just not sure if a character like Mikoto was ever really needed? I'm just not sure how to get myself interested in the guy. Maybe cause he just so feels like the blatant "evil Heisei Rider" archetype to me. He doesn't really seem to add to the quirky self-aware style of Abaranger, which all the other characters had nailed down. I dunno if I'd have included AbareKiller at all in my ideal version of Abaranger.

    I know Jun Hikasa has always had a thing with "evil hero counterparts." Like Black Beet, TimeFire, Rouki, Gouraigers, AbareKiller, Chalice. I do appreciate that Arakawa tries to make Mikoto work. But I can't help but feel like Hikasa was insisting for Abaranger to try and feel more "Heisei Ridery" with Mikoto.

    Reading your bit on Miyuki kinda reminds me of how much I really wanted to enjoy Magiranger... and has now left me once again pondering what exactly went wrong with that show....

    Had no idea Fuuka was so hated. Well then again, I wasn't always paying too much attention to the fans when Ninninger was airing (couldn't feel too arsed to do so, lol). All I remember was people screaming about how Kasumi was apparently "best girl" (lol as if). But yeah, she was probably the ONLY Ninninger I was okay with. Her actress actually seemed really happy to be on the show. Plus, I feel her characterization was the most consistent out of everyone there. A younger character who was frustrated to always be with her idiot brother.

    My pick for white.... I almost went with Kaori myself, but ultimately decided to go with Tsuruhime. She just brings with her that blunt levity I really like.~
    My team: Matoi, Shouji, Ranru, Miku, Kenta (Black Mask), Hayate (GingaGreen), Tsuruhime

  4. We're almost done, let's go:

    Big One:
    Just like you, I liked Big One more in Gaoranger Vs. Super Sentai than in JAKQ. Just like you, I liked Big One more in Gaoranger Vs. Super Sentai than in JAKQ. I dont like his interaction with the other JAKQ´S members, but it's always good to see Miyauchi in action.

    Change Mermaid:
    Sayaka can combine a intellectual side with a maternal aspect (I´m not thinking only in the obvious episode 12, but in little scenes during the series, like the last in the episode 26, when Sayaka comforts May). Good character and competent actress.

    In the first ten, twelve episodes Tsuruhime was forced to behave like someone older, since she was the most experienced ninja and the leader of the team. But with the evolution of her companions, she could afford to show her weaknesses and insecurity of a 15-year-old girl.
    I just regret that the plot with her father has not been better developed. I think Hakumenrou should have been introduced earlier in the series.

    Abare Killer
    I think Sentais needed a character as Abare Killer, an independent and dangerous player in the game. I think was interesting how Dr. Nakadai was willing to reach the last consequences to break Hyoga´s ingenuous convictions about the humans (the perfect example was in the episodes 22 and 23).

    Shiro Ninger
    I´m actually watching Ninninger (the last episode I saw was the 36th). I like how the series
    portrays the younger ones Nagi and Fuuka.
    They are clearly the most inexperienced in ninjutsu, but they seek to perfect themselves and reach the level of others. Yuuka Yano is cute, but unfortunately her episodes are not among the best.

    White Swan, Gao White and Magi Mother are ok.

    Well, I already have a Changeman and a Abaranger in my team - Sayaka and Nakadai are out.

    Big One is great because is Miyauchi, but my team already has a strong leader (Tsurugi) and a rigorous mentor (Kaku).

    Tsuruhime is more skilled and experienced than Fuuka, so I choose Hakumenrou´s daughter.

    My team until now:
    Hiryuu Tsurugi / Change Dragon
    Daigoro Oume / Denzi Blue
    Ranru Itsuki / Abare Yellow
    Mako Shiraishi / Shinken Pink
    Yuuki Gai / Black Condor
    Sen-Chan / Deka Green
    Tsuruhime / Ninja White

    Kaku Doushi