Tuesday, May 2, 2017
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.
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!