Thursday, January 18, 2018

Jetman 48-49


EPISODES 48 & 49

If, in early 1991, you had polled 50 Jetman fans and asked them where they thought the Maria story would end up, not a single one of them -- not even if you were asking Toshiki Inoue himself -- would ever guess "B-Movie vampire schlock." And if anyone did guess it, they were either insane or a prototype for the internet troll.

I talked about these episodes in a previous post of most disappointing Sentai villain demises. I think the evidence is clear that Inoue never had an idea of how to handle Maria/Rie. Maria's the only Vyram member whose send-off isn't given a touch of grandness or uniqueness; she accepts Radeige's offer to give her power, and he turns her into a vampire in the hope of her going full monster and becoming his.

OK, here's about a hundred problems with this scenario. It makes Maria look stupid to accept Radeige's help. Remember how competitive the Vyram are with each other? Remember how nasty Radeige is, the levels he'll stoop? None of these guys liked each other. Here's another problem: I take it we're to assume Radeige has feelings for Maria -- the Kaori of the Vyram side, just everybody loves her -- and wants to turn her into a creature like him, so she has no choice but to be with Radeige. (I sadly never really realized Radeige's a vampiric creature, but the evidence is there; from the usage of his blood to the dime-store plastic vampire teeth he dons when monstering out.)

THE SHOW HAS NEVER INDICATED THAT RADEIGE CARED FOR MARIA! Radeige gave Grey a dirty look 70 episodes ago, and THAT'S IT. Radeige obviously only cares about Radeige. Other than when Torazna was around, he treated his cohorts with disdain. I know Inoue likes to leave some things up in the air, to make them mysterious, so maybe you're meant to question if there's more to Radeige (especially if you consider how different he was when he lost his memory), but...it's such an important detail to the character, such an important component of the storyline, that I think it needed to be MUCH clearer and definitively stated.

I've always read people say Radeige loved Maria, creating a love triangle within the Vyram that mirrored the one within the Jetman team, but I thought those people were crazy and really reading into it something that wasn't there. While I think a lot of those people are just shippers, something IS supposed to be there. It's just extremely vague and poorly done. If Radeige is a vampire, you could have made this some kind of sick, Gothic love story. But there's nothing there. In fact, with the way Radeige despises humans, it never made sense to me he even grabbed Rie in order to turn her into Maria. So, it makes even less sense that he'd love her. Inoue probably thinks this makes Radeige seem complicated, but it's really just sloppy writing.

The whole thing with Maria being a vampire, stumbling around and sucking the blood of a bunch of random dudes is the weakest part of this two-parter. She eventually turns Ryu into a vampire, and it's just kinda silly to me. It's meant to be shocking to see the reliable Red of our show turned into a monster, only being freed by Kaori's love and devotion to him, but it all just seems like padding. Like a way to avoid a genuine final confrontation with her.

The best parts of these two-parters is the sliver of episode remaining after the vampire nonsense. A healed Ryu confronts Maria, in one last attempt to reach out to Rie, and kisses her. While this was probably pretty shocking at the time -- I can't recall any toku show prior to Jetman showing an on-the-lips kiss that wasn't comedic -- it's marred and made laughable by the fact that Kotaro Tanaka can barely make contact with Maho Maruyama because all of the vampire make-up and prosthetics.

Maria reverts to Rie, but we know it's not going to be a happy ending here. For the entire series, Ryu has vowed to save Rie, but we know Toshiki Inoue better. Rie feels too burdened by her sins, so she makes a the decision to attack Radeige, guaranteeing her death. (She feigns that she's still on Radeige's side and then stabs him in the back -- literally, too.) Radeige cuts her down, and in her final moments, she tries to cut Ryu loose, before being whisked away by Grey. This pretty much destroys Ryu, in a display of raw emotion so upsetting that Gai commands the other Jetman to leave him be and not even witness it. Can our Red, our trustworthy leader, be dumped on any more? This is the good stuff. Why we couldn't have more of this instead of silly shit with vampires...I dunno. Tanaka does a good job here, and Maruyama's at her best as Rie, rather than Maria.

Rie's final words to Ryu are a request that he forget her and move on. She tells him to erase all traces of her in his heart; this is pretty damn close to the phrasing Kaori uses in episode 22, but I'll talk more about this in the next episode.

Rie dies in Grey's arms and he cries, his tears transferring and scattering her into the sea. An interesting stylistic choice. It's a little sad that, outside of Toranza, Grey's stuff with Maria is the strongest portion of the Vyram side -- considering he's, you know, a robot, and that Rie's presence as Maria DOESN'T EVEN MAKE SENSE! Grey has a couple of good moments in these episodes; one when he approaches Maria to let her know Radeige's just using her. (She doesn't care. Why?!?!) Another when he approaches the Jetman and asks them to help Maria.

The episode ends with a scene, a vision of a cheerful Rie in a park, running towards the camera in joy, her image fading in and out before finally settling on a fade out. A nice, stylish choice by director Masao Minowa in his last Jetman outing.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Jetman 46-47


EPISODE 46

Ugh, this one. I know it's the typical lighthearted-one-before-the-heavy-wrap-up installments, but it's just really out of place with the episodes surrounding it. Or maybe it's the choice to center it on Raita. It's a ridiculous episode, but not as bad as a Megumi-befriends-Butchy lighthearted-one-before-the-heavy-wrap-up installment.

It's a great idea to have a monster that plucks a childhood fear from the hero to terrorize him, but Toranza's finding the Tomato King plan so amusing is what's worst. Toranza's been nothing but cruel. The Tomato King plan is so absurd, it's even worse than the ant-people plan -- you know, the one that Toran was mocked for, the one that led to his ousting?

The episode has at least one laugh, which is when the Tomato King is stalking and mirroring Raita's movements. I wonder who the suit actor is. The Tomato King design, by the way, is as dumb as this episode, looking like something from Goranger. (Pumpkin Kamen.)

On the bright side, Ako's featured a lot in this episode, deciding to try to inspire Raita by making him believe an unwell plant of his is actually beginning to grow tomatoes. (She tied a tomato to it, but it's a nice sentiment. If it had genuinely been growing, that would have been a stirring moment, especially for a dedicated farmer like Raita -- who, like all good farmers, sees what he grows as his children -- but it's a mood that Jetman's just too damn cynical for.)

Raita overcomes his fear of the Tomato King with Ako's inspiration, and by pigging out on tomatoes in a segment that goes on far too long. All in all, it's an episode memorable only to Naruhisa Arakawa, who eventually pretty much steals it for Gingaman's 21st episode.

Random note: As someone who's not a tomato fan, the scenes of Raita chomping into tomato after tomato -- and washing it down with glasses of tomato juice -- really grosses me out.

EPISODE 47

They're writing Toranza off already?! Well, I guess that's what happens after you come up with the Tomato King plan. This episode is mainly Toranza stalking each Jetman member, attempting to turn them into a framed stone carving of their helmets for him to display. (Remember when MMPR was a juggernaut, so it had every type of merchandise you could think of? Well, remember the smelly soap that was shaped like the Zyuranger helmets? That's what Toranza's little trophies remind me of.)

The most important part of this episode is supposed to be the disguised Radeige saving Ryu and assisting him in fighting Toranza. My problem with this is...they don't explain what's happened to Radeige that he's in human form, which works in favor of his plan. After the Veronica incident, he was seen weakly stumbling around city streets. In the previous episode, he cringes while giving off lightning and turns into a human form. We're not told why. I guess we're to assume his powers are a little haywire after absorbing Veronica's energy to escape, but...shouldn't that give him MORE power? And he seems to be in control of his power just fine when it comes time to dramatically reveal who he is to Red Hawk and Toranza as they battle.

This episode basically makes you choose whether you're Team Radeige or Team Toranza. When Radeige's getting his final revenge on Toranza -- trapping him when he's down, after he's received critical wounds in battle with Red Hawk, Radeige stabbing him through the hand and then reversing the "say my name" routine Toranza pulled on him in 37 -- you're obviously meant to feel a bit of glee on Radeige's behalf. But this is Radeige we're talking about! Remember what he's done throughout the show.

I'm Team Toranza, not only because he's Hirose, but because he stirred up the Vyram side of the show. The Vyram Trio became more united against him, he brought a clear and tangible bitter history between the villains, he brought the sense of leadership and a formidable factor of a main villain, with the means and agenda that the Vyram often felt lacking. It's always shocking to realize Hirose/Toranza is in only ten episodes of the show.

And, of course, the battle with Radeige and Red Hawk leaves Toranza in a shattered mental state. Like what Juuza once did to him, Radeige finds the biggest way to insult Toranza, the proud warrior with extrasensory powers, is to leave him losing his mind, letting him live out his life as a power-less human. A Sentai villain ending up a drooling, catatonic mental patient was certainly a different way to write off a character. It's like Jason Voorhees, though -- I feel like Toranza's still out there. He was so powerful, I always thought there was a chance he'd recover over time. Gokaiger missed an opportunity to bring him and Hirose out of retirement. (I know, I know -- the manga brings back Toranza. More on that later!)

I feel like I should call attention to Hirose's performance in this episode: from his casually taunting Ryu at Rie's (and Ryu's!) grave; to the wicked glee of his pursuing the Jetman individually; to the absolute rage he shows Red Hawk once Hawk strikes him with Bringer Sword; to the pathetic, frantic and pained reaction during his final meeting with Radeige and, finally, the catatonic Toranza. Hirose runs the gamut here, and it's a great final performance seeing off his last, true Sentai villain.

Random note: Gotta love Radeige's line to Toranza; "You're like a shooting star; no matter how brightly you shine, you're destined to fall."

Random note 2: It's quick, but the final battle between Red Hawk and Toranza's pretty cool. (It's Hirose's revenge for not getting a good send-off in Liveman!) Hawk's flying around blasting him, he's stabbing him through the gut, he uses Toranza as a human body shield. At one point he's fending off Radeige and Toranza at the same time. (And people think that sword fight between Shinken Red, Juzo and that random monster is cool. Pfffffffft.)

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Jetman 44-45



EPISODES 44 & 45

Episodes mainly about mecha. You know what a mecha fan I am. I'm guessing the reason these episodes were even made was because of the nefarious scheme they talked about in Akibaranger, of having a couple of mecha-heavy episodes in December to try one last time to sell the toys for Christmas. (Side note here: Akibaranger jokingly talks about a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff. People take the show seriously, but...it's a comedy, so take the things heard there with a big ol' grain of salt.)

It's funny to think, in his quest to build the best robot, that Toranza made G2 as a contender. How do you go from G2 to what he finally ends up with, Veronica? Veronica is the one design Keita Amemiya contributes to the series, so it's one of the rare good designs Vyram sees. While the show doesn't exactly say how Toranza came upon creating it, it's obviously bio-mechanical and more of a monster than a robot, so it doesn't quite feel like "Ooh, the Vyram have their own mecha!" Veronica has organic parts, most notably the living interior where Toranza evilly places humans to feed the robot their life energy. A well-designed monster cyborg. Whatever, the show don't explain its origins, but it's neat.

The character bits in the first part take a back seat to the mecha action, but what we get is pretty crucial: Kaori reveals to Ako that her recent dates with Gai have been duds, while Gai is seen with two women at a pool, his thoughts far away and on Kaori, before he declares aloud that he just can't change who he is. (The scene with Gai features a very cool, alternate instrumental of his theme song, Honoo no Condor, which sounds like something from Thunderball-era Bond.) Later when they meet at Skycamp, they give each other a smiling acknowledgement...

It's pretty clear that they've decided, off screen, to break up. Things had been looking bad these past few episodes. I feel like the look they give each other says "Well, we gave it a shot. Can't ask for more than that. And let's not let it be weird." Would it have been nice for the show to do something a little more, something more concrete? Possibly. But I think it's interesting they chose to avoid a prolonged dramatic scene of a break-up. Here is just a simple look, you can gather where they're at with their feelings, and they need to just keep moving. It's extremely subtle, especially considering the explosive way things have played out on the show.

Part 2 has Raita, Kaori and Ako captured by Toranza, to be used as human batteries in Veronica. It ends up being a nice parallel to episode 14, when it was left to Ryu and Gai to save the three of them when they were captured by Camera Jigen. We see just how much Gai has grown, and how far he and Ryu have come. They're working well together on their own, with Gai even willing to be injured to try and fix a part on Jet Icarus mid-battle, as long as it ensured staying in the fight. He's come a long way from the stubborn guy who couldn't let go of his own priorities and who was zero help whatsoever back in 14 in terms of helping Ryu build Fire Bazooka. There's a bond between them now, they're friends, equals, brothers in arms, culminating in them buying each other a drink after their victory. (The series could have ended like this and made a lot of people happier.)

On the villain side, Radeige's arrogance gets in the way of Toranza's plan, and he sabotages Veronica by placing an explosive in the driver's seat. (The explosive is a repaint of the left-hand side of Liveman's Twin Brace!) When Toranza beats the crap out of Radeige as a result, he then places Radeige in one of the power slots to provide Veronica energy. Radeige eventually pulls a move where he vanishes -- leaving only his armor -- draining all of Veronica's power, before returning, freeing himself, and then freeing Raita.

The freeing Raita part bugs me. "I won't let Toranza kill you, Jetman -- I wanna kill you one day!" is one of those lame, Wolzard School of Wussy G-Rated Villain Cop-outs. Would it have been so hard for Radeige's motivation in freeing the Jetman to just be the ruining of Toranza's plan? It accomplishes the same thing, but doesn't make Radeige seem dumb for the sake of a silly plot contrivance. If he had just freed them, silently, before going on his way, it leaves something to the imagination and packs more of punch -- and would certainly confuse the hell out of our heroes.

That said, feast your eyes on the miniature work in this episode! Obviously Amemiya's contribution, his eye to detail. He wanted to show off his creation, Veronica, and do it in style.


Friday, January 12, 2018

Jetman 42-43


EPISODE 42

Inoue returns with an episode as unconventional as 22. This one doesn't have a monster of the week, or a monster attack, and it's focused on Grey. Toranza's attempting to build an amazing robot, somehow building G2, the most pathetic and sad-sack robot you've ever seen. It's a robotic version of Trash Jigen. Toranza's disappointed with his creation, discarding it as a robot that the Grinham grunts can train on. G2 escapes the Vyram one day, after too many beatings...

What I find strange about this episode is that there's no real reason why Grey decides to pop up at Kaori's house and attack her and Gai. The Vyram three were like "We gotta get the Jetman before Toranza does," but it's not like they made any plans. It's just so random and strange to see Grey pop up and attack the two as they leave the house. This leads to a chase, where Maria jumps in and assists Grey, before being severely injured.

Despite this wonky set-up to get Maria injured, Grey pulls her to safety within a cave, and from there the rest of the episode is pretty good. While it's clearly a soundstage, director Masao Minowa makes good use of the set, creating atmosphere with dark lighting and a nice heavy rainfall the characters are caught in.

When the wounded and cold Maria rejects Grey -- he's a machine that can't provide her warmth -- it's here when it hits Grey just what is he, and what he can't be to Maria. So when Ryu finds the both of them, he's willing to let his opponent stay behind to offer Maria the comfort he can't. To make matters worse for Grey, the cutesy, pathetic G2 is stalking him, desperately seeking his friendship, acting as a constant reminder of what Grey is -- a machine. And no matter how advanced a machine can be -- and Grey's fairly advanced -- machines are just used. So, he's unnecessarily cruel to G2 in an unknowingly hypocritical way.

G2 puts itself in danger to save Grey from a Jetman attack, eventually being pinned by boulders before shutting down and exploding. (Grey hears G2's playing of a leaf; mimicking what it witnessed Maria doing, to Grey's satisfaction. He pretends to not know what the sound is.) A sad end for a sad character. The episode ends on a freeze frame of G2 exploding; not quite as strong as Inoue's Ohranger episode with Bara Revenger falling into pieces, but close.

The design of G2's pretty good in conveying how pitiful it is, but the suit acting is good (making G2 seem extremely small) and voice-actress Akiko Muta gives the character some sweetness. She also voiced the similarly sorrowful Bega Baby in Liveman. Sad that she's so sympathetic in these small one-off roles, but so damned annoying as Dairanger's recurring Denwa Sensei.

On another note: in this episode, there's a brief scene of Kaori and Gai having dinner at her house, with her futile efforts to get him to use proper table manners. It's the first crack in their relationship...one that's kind of an easy fix, if Gai wasn't such a stubborn bastard. C'mon, Gai. Kaori's putting in all of the effort so far.

EPISODE 43

Come along and ride on a Fantastic Voyage...

I think this is basically Inoue's attempt at doing a "light" episode before the finale. (Which obviously wasn't good enough for Toei, since we have that terrible, hideous Tomato King episode coming up which truly meets that criteria.) I think his thinking behind this episode was basically just let's give Odagiri something to do, and let's do something with mecha that's never been done before in a Sentai...

Which would be have Jet Icarus shrink down and enter Odagiri's body to combat the Jigen-Juu which invades her. And, yeah, that's something that hasn't been done with a mecha in a Sentai before...

UNLESS you count the Change Robo diving into Star King Bazuu/Gozma Star's body in the Changeman finale. First you stole the Earth Defense Force commander, actor Asao Wakamatsu, in the first episode; then you stole the idea of the Senshi Dan backing up the power-less heroes with the Neo-Jetman; now you're taking from Changeman's finale, Jetman! I see you! You're caught!

Once Odagiri's infected, she begins acting crazy, but nobody cares to question why she wants to take their weapons all of a sudden or why she's smacking Gai and Kaori for being late (when it wasn't the first time Gai was late) or why she's going to crazy methods to "train" them. They really don't question her until Radeige shows up during the "training." I think a lot of Odagiri's actions here are supposed to be amusing, even funny, but it doesn't quite work for me.

Once the Jetman learn of their problem, they decide to solve it by pulling a Fantastic Voyage. The show's depiction of Jet Icarus within Odagiri is...strange. I won't knock the show for its lava-lamp-as-the-bloodstream effects, or the bubble-wrap tissue lining, or the weird-green-Scope-for-digestive-acid effect. I could make fun of those really obvious, money-saving effects, but I won't.

The Jetman manage to grab ahold of the monster in the nick of time (oh, yeah, they're on a time limit) and exit through Odagiri's tears. Odagiri shows up in Jet Garuda to exact her revenge, in a moment that's meant to be simultaneously bad-ass and funny, but again doesn't work either way for me. But again, I think this episode IS meant to be seriocomic -- the episode begins with Raita ribbing Odagiri for not having a boyfriend, with the episode's threat being introduced via an anonymously-sent bouquet of flowers -- and it's a choice of tone I find baffling.

On another note: This episode features a brief scene of Gai having dinner with Kaori and her parents. You know he's ready to bail as soon as they ask him about his education. But then they proceed to ask him what he does, who his parents are, trying to guess at what high-ranking position he holds (read: how much money he has) to have won over Kaori. Her father scolds him for how he guzzles his wine instead of savoring it. He eventually does excuse himself, ditching the whole thing in what Wakamatsu plays as rage and insult.

It's at once sad and naive that Kaori thinks her parents will come around to be understanding -- especially, she thinks, if they know the unique circumstances in which the two met. You know the type of judgmental, materialistic, unchanging, elitist, snobby people they are. Gai knows. So he splits. More cracks in their relationship, ones that WON'T be able to be smoothed over. (I don't really picture her parents being thrilled with someone like Ryu, either. Their ideal would be that annoying and vile Nobuhiko Akizuki-looking sonuva from episode 4 -- which would be a loveless union in which only bank accounts and image would benefit.)

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Jetman 40-41


EPISODE 40

In this one, Radeige reads some Superman comics and takes a gambit on there being some space rock that acts as the Jetman's Kryptonite. Since the others hate Toranza, they back Radeige on his mission. He succeeds in finding this mysterious, never-really-explained Anti-Birdonic Birdonite, making an ugly monster-of-the-week from it. The monster proceeds to really kick the Jetman's ass, and they have to be bailed out by...the Neo-Jetman!

One-upping the Dimensians two-parter by Inoue, sub-writer Araki brings us this two-parter with the Neo-Jetman, a really cool concept that FINALLY makes the Sky Force seem like an organization and not just Odagiri operating on her own in an office like a lone nutter. Really, thus far, the Sky Force has seemed like Blue Swat. Remember how the entire Blue Swat organization was wiped out in the first episode, so the remaining few started up their own, independent organization? That's not what was supposed to happen to the Sky Force, but that's how it's felt. (Only the Sky Ship was destroyed. Which, yes, was a big deal, in that it watched over the Earth. But that wasn't the entire organization.)

The Neo-Jetman show up and instantly upstage the Jetman, since the Birdonite doesn't work on them. They're cocky bastards, commanded by an even cockier commander, and it's their hubris that does them in. (Gotta love when the by-the-book, straight-laced Ryu eventually has enough of the commander and decks him.)

BTW, a good name for the Neo-Jetman would have been JAC Dengeki Tai, since all five of them are played by Japan Action Club actors. We have Geki (Yuuta Mochizuki) in the leader role, of course; Blue Swat's Mr. J (Ryuji Kasahara) as the Condor-ish cool one; Gator/Magu/Kiba Ranger suit-actor Minoru Watanabe as the short one; Ninja Blue suit actor Takeshi Miyazaki as the one you don't remember; and Toku Legend Miyuki Nagato as the bad-ass female member. (In a perfect world, Nagato would have gotten the chance to play a character like Black Condor, or a Kamen Rider.)


EPISODE 41

What I like most about this episode is the way it shows how far the five Jetman have come. Anybody who says they aren't good heroes needs to rewatch this episode. Because they put their necks out there, powerless. They show the Neo-Jetman what true heroism is. It's quite a sight to see Kaori, Raita, Ako and (especially) Gai just dive past the Neo-Jetman to take on the monster that's ready to break into the Skycamp's command center. The timid rich girl, the pacifist farmer, the loner thug, the high-schooler who initially wanted paid for her time -- all showing up professional soldiers.

Ryu's impressive here, too, beginning the episode by fighting unconsciousness in order to get one last attack from Jet Garuda in, successfully defeating the monster before falling to exhaustion. Unfortunately for them, Toranza revives the monster...

But the biggest enemy in the episode isn't exactly Toranza or the monster, but the Neo-Jetman's commander, Ichijou. He's a terrible, terrible man. And he flat out admits that what's driving him is that he's still bitter that Odagiri was chosen to lead the Jetman over him, even though he's clearly insane and should have been discharged years ago. (And actor Hideaki Tezuka plays him to the hilt. You really hate this character.) He not only lies about the Jetman's ability to regain their powers, he's not only a complete asshole to Odagiri, he not only puts his Neo-Jetman team at continuous risk, but he's also a complete hypocrite and coward.

Lucky for everyone, the Neo-Jetman played by Geki is the one who begins to see Ichijo for the person he is, and he drops the Neo-Jetman cockiness in order to mend the relationship between the old team and new. When the monster attacks the base and Odagiri, overriding Ichijo's orders, tells the Neo-Jetman to retreat, Tezuka seals all exits, so the monster doesn't reach him. This is when OUR Jetman team arrive, these "mere civilians" impressing the trained-soldier Neo-Jetman with their courage. The Neo-Jetman end up sacrificing their own power in order to return the Jetman's powers. Our heroes even arrive in the nick of time to save Ichijo as the monster manages to break into the command room, giving us a cool transformation-at-HQ scene. (If Inoue wrote these episodes, he'd probably have Ichijo be killed by the monster.)

These two episodes are packed, and just hit you non-stop, but I think it should have been prolonged for at least another episode. When the Jetman lose their powers, there was a missed opportunity to show the team contemplating their next move -- certainly a return to normalcy would have appealed to characters like Ako or Gai, and that would have been interesting to explore.

Random note: After Ichijo gives the powerless Jetman team the boot, taking the Cross Changers away, Ako saves the day by swiping the Corresponder portion of the brace in order to keep in touch with Odagiri. Without this, the Jetman wouldn't have arrived in time to save Odagiri and the Neo-Jetman in the Skycamp attack. Remember this the next time you call Ako useless.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Jetman 36-39


EPISODE 36

The Jetman seem to think they've done a good enough job of protecting the world that they take a vacation, thus beginning a '90s Sentai trend of vacation episodes at a farm. There's some funny moments of the team enjoying their break, but most of the episode is devoted to Toran's stupid plan of crashing their fun and turning people -- including Kaori -- into human ants.

It's intended to be a stupid plan, one that tickles only Toran, and causes the other Vyram members to ridicule him and single out this plan as being stupid and childish. This leads him to go off and force himself to grow into Yutaka Hirose, but this scenario could have been handled better, and in a less silly way. (They should have written in that Toran had just finished some B-monster movie from the '50s, because that's what this plot is.)

Also, Maria has no right to make fun of anyone's plans after her "make a cockroach monster that gets revenge for all of the cockroaches humans have killed" plan. Grey has no right to make fun of a plan after his whole evil vending machine plan. So who are they to say the human ant plan is shit?

But it IS shit, Austin. EVILE ants controlled by Toran bite people and turn them into hungry, hungry ant-os. (A prototype to Megaranger's Diet Crepe episode, only without the entertainment.) This leads to nutty scenes of people eyeing all manner of edibles -- including live dogs and cattle -- and eating them whole. Kaori falls victim to this and does her fair share of eating questionable things, but once the dilemma of the day is solved and she's healed, it's something just laughed off and joked about. Meanwhile, there really should have been a follow-up episode dealing with the primo dumps the once-Antpeople had as a result of eating everything in sight and EATING COWS WHOLE.

I just feel like it's a writing cheat to come up with a crummy bad guy plan and be like "it's supposed to be crummy." Put a little more effort in it than that; have it be something...not depicted so stupidly?

EPISODE 37

After the Vyram arbitrarily deciding they hate Toran for being a kid, he forces himself to grow up into Yutaka Hirose -- er, Toranza. I remember reading that, when he was offered a spot in Jetman, Hirose said he'd do it if he got to play the head villain. I don't know how true that is, but I guess it makes sense to bring him on in this way -- becoming the self-appointed main villain -- rather than repeat the Juuza situation and have a new character you don't know that comes from nowhere. But, still, it's very weird when I think of Hirose's last big Sentai character being the grown up version of the kid villain who's mocked. That's not in keeping with Hirose's bad-ass image.

But he does make Toranza awesome, and the full-throttle, all-in villain and figure of authority Vyram's been missing. (He brings out the best in the Vyram side of things.) He shows up and one-ups every one of the heroes (save for Kaori and Ako, which is strange) and challenges all heroes and villains. And because Hirose's an action guy, we finally get some cool, swift villain fight scenes, culminating in a death-ring match between Ryu and Toranza. Ryu gets beaten so badly, he's not even able to join the others in the final fight with Radeige's contractually-obligated-to-deliver-a-monster attack.

Toranza finally brings a little more kick to the villain side; Radeige, Maria and Grey finally align a bit in their dislike of Toranza, and Toranza has all of the built-up resentment and hatred for them. (And you know it bugs them deep down to know they're being put in their place by their kid ally.) Hirose brings such a strong, confident, threatening presence to the villain side. (And is finally a Vyram villain with a completely good actor!)

Toranza can't resist rubbing his former cohorts' face in his uprising, attacking Radeige when he doesn't address him properly, until he finally does. (Something that we know will come back to haunt him later on.)

EPISODE 38

A pretty pointless episode that feels like it was made up on the spot, or a script from another show. (It's the first and only episode written by Takahiko Masuda. A little late in the game to bring in a new writer, so...it's totally just a seat filler.)

I could never tell if this was a genuinely mediocre, half-assed episode or if I'm biased because it guest stars Changeman's Haruki Hamada, who I feel is TOTALLY wasted in a forgettable clunker like this. (It's the only toku he's been in other than Changeman, so it really pisses me off that he's so wasted.) But, no, it's just a bland and forgettable episode. The Jetman decide to try to steal and study a Bio Jigen Bug, Ryu's friend (played by Hamada) betrays them, sees the error of his ways, and saves the day with rugby maneuvers to outdo the bad guys. Can't get more generic than that.

It's really weird to me to see Ryu and his buddy try to relive their rugby past by working moves into attacks, or ending the episode with a happy pretend game. This is the type of junk you write for the teenage heroes, not people Ryu and his pal's age. There's no effort in this episode, and it looks like they were trying to save money this week, too. (Most of the monster attacks are invisible, for cryin' out loud.)

Junk.

Random note: Hamada's character is a guy who's always been envious of Ryu, especially when Ryu's admitted into the Sky Force's "Earth Defense Force" and he's not. Hamada's been there, done that, anyway.

EPISODE 39

This is Arakawa's last script for the series, and only the second one of his episodes I like. (Reminder: the other is 19.) It's a pretty goofy concept, but just fun. Gai's been built up as such a cool, James Bond kinda character, and here he is tux'd out and gambling against Grey at a Casino Royale.

Gai's grown and all, but it's a return to his roguish, gamblin' roots. Some people mock how this episode is telling kids that cheating is good, but...Jetman don't give a shit about schooling the kids, c'mon. It's meant to be sort of amusing and surprising that we see our heroes cheat. Grey was cheating! Gai was skeptical of the villains and right to be.

In a way, it shows how far he's come. He was willing to trust Maria to return Kaori in exchange for Ryu's life in the Camera Jigen two-parter, when Ryu tried to tell him she couldn't be trusted. (I have to say, though, that I'm used to and partial to the Hirohisa Soda kinds of villains who almost act on a kind of warrior or samurai code. A lot of his villains TRY to have honor and be true to their word, or let their pride get in the way, and I think that can make a villain more interesting than one who you know is just always full of shit.)

Friday, January 5, 2018

Jetman 32-35


EPISODE 32

One Ryu Over the Cuckoo's Nest!

Amemiya returns to direct this episode. It's a shame he didn't direct the past two episodes, since they're important, and since he would have probably made the scenes with the Majin more horror-like.

After having that brief, sweet reunion with Rie, Ryu just can't handle Maria's appearance again. He sinks into a depression that starts to become outright delusion, leaving the Jetman a two-person team of Raita and Ako. Raita and Ako are good people. He's a pacifistic farmer, she's a materialistic, but well meaning kid. These two are in over their heads, and there's a real sense of "we're screwed!" to this episode. If only they had TETRA BOY!!!!!!!!!!!!! Raita and Ako are so desperate they turn to Gai. And he's a bastard. "Tell Ryu that soldiers set aside their personal life to save the world." Cold! But I think also a way to bury some of the worry he has for Ryu based on this news.

In episode 30, Kaori told Gai she realized he's a good guy underneath it all, that he's not as bad as he'd like people to think he is. And it bugged him. But she's right, and she's right here, when she eventually sees that the Jetman drama -- and hearing how out of it Ryu is -- is bugging Gai. Ryu's been nothing but professional, but if HE is shirking Jetman duties, even Gai knows something is very, very wrong. So Gai is legitimately shocked to see his leader, his rival has fallen so far into a depression, so far into shock that he's imagining Rie's beside him. Gai also knows the only one who can help Ryu heal is Ryu, so after a surprising show of emotion and care for Ryu, Gai's off to join the team again and help the others.

I think Gai's involvement, the shocking hug from Gai, breaks Ryu out of his stupor a bit, because he's alert enough to face an attack by Maria moments later. And his response to Maria is Gai's response to him -- he embraces her. Now that he knows Rie is in there, he imagines she'd want him to keep fighting for good, and he leaves Maria with a promise that he'll help restore her as Rie. And Maria's left behind in a kind of shock by this.

When Ryu joins the four others in battle, there's a cool scene where he walks through blasts and gets the "hidden by humongous explosion, but secretly henshins" treatment, like Ryou gets in the Jin episode of Dairanger. I love when all five do their individual poses -- a rarity in Jetman -- with that low camera angle, looking up at them, with the sky as a frame. Cool choice for our Birdman Sentai.

For as much as Gai started off despising Ryu and what he stood for, and the resentment he built for him, especially the jealousy he felt over Kaori's choosing him, Gai has always admired Ryu as a fighter. Even back in episode 2, he compliments Red Hawk in battle. So even on that level, he had a kernel of respect for Ryu. And Gai grows. Being a Jetman, being with these people, he grows, and he starts to change his ways and his outlooks. (This is something brought to Gai's attention even back in episode 23, when his two usual lady acquaintances ditch him at the bar, telling him he's become boring.) Seeing Ryu at such a low, I think is a big turning point. The episode ends with a cheerful Gai saying he feels like this is a beginning, the first day where the five are truly together, on the same page, as Jetman.

Random note: Remember how I complimented Tanaka for the last episode? He gets an F in this episode, for the scenes as the bonkers Ryu. He plays those scenes like Ryu's stupid or something. It's a shame. It's good material to work with, something a Red like Ryu rarely gets to see. The foundation of the team, the professional, the one who always has it together...loses it. Has a complete breakdown. And instead of being able to play that, to play a guy who's so heartbroken and spirit-crushed that he retreats into silence and delusions, he basically just acts lobotomized.

Again, imagine Hiroshi Watari in the role. Not only is he a better performer, but it would genuinely be a shock to see him act in such a way after seeing him as a kick-ass hero throughout so many shows.

EPISODE 33

I used to refer to this episode as the really, really, really, really, really boring one. And it ranked at the bottom of my list of Jetman episodes. The thing is, the main plot's not bad, but the dilemma of the day is. The Vyram's latest monster is a speedy cockroach that sprays boogers everywhere that wreaks havoc on the Jetman's weapons and ability to battle it. If only Odagiri could finish the latest crappy toy, that would for sure guarantee victory, like, definitely dude!

The plot with the little girl whose asshole dad put the plans for the Jetman's sucky new weapon INTO HER SUBCONSCIOUS seems more like one of Solbrain's pseudo-science plots, but we at least get to see a bit of the Sky Force prior to the Vyram invasion. Also: Daisuke Ban plays her dad. It's always nice to see Ban, and he's a good actor who can do a lot with a little, but this might be the biggest waste of him I've ever seen. (Amemiya directed this ho-hum episode; a big waste of his talent, too.)

I get the sense that writer Kenichi Araki was writing this episode and got a note from Toei saying "Hey! Don't forget, write in that new sucky thing the turds at Bandai gave us." So Araki just sort of gave up on the episode and came up with the lamest villain attack that equally matched the latest, lamest toy. (Seriously, the Beak Smasher is dull and unimpressive, and it's funny in hindsight that Bandai came up with it and expected people to not only want it, but buy it.) I feel like this is proven in the episode's title, the totally imaginative "A Cockroach!"

EPISODE 34

I hate episodes like this, they just don't work and are a waste of time in the end. Ryu pretends to betray the team by taking the Tetra Boy intel and using it as a way to get in Vyram's good graces and get Maria back. Even though nobody on the Jetman team is in on this plan, you know this situation, you know Ryu, so you know it's bullshit and they must know it's bullshit. Everything's even staged to tell you it's bullshit, so why bother?

Also, it makes the bad guys look dumb for falling for it, ESPECIALLY that they're wowed by plans for TETRA BOY. Did Odagiri write this episode? Bandai? Oh, no, it's another winner by Arakawa. Stop trying to make Tetra Boy sound impressive, because it ain't and nobody wants the toy.

An episode like this, played straight, could have been interesting. What if Ryu DID feel like taking a chance on acting on his own to try to get at Maria/Rie? It would have played nicely after episode 32. Ryu could have just not wanted to risk the others on what's a personal mission, but they could have stumbled upon what he was up to and been there for him and had his back. And then he kind of realizes that he knew better than thinking he could negotiate with characters like the Vyram. Missed opportunity, wasted episode.

EPISODE 35

I imagine this episode receives a negative reception, and people probably think it's cheesy, but I like it. I think it's good for what it tries to do. It's a whimsical episode, and the last one focused on Ako.

The episode comes close to being the Captain Planet message that 21 nearly was -- the Vyram make a monster out of industrial waste, so everyone has a speech on the evils of pollution -- but that takes a backseat to the main story. A girl with a lifelong illness is brought to Ako's attention by the girl's pet bird. Well, not exactly pet bird, but it's a bird that came to the window of her hospital room every day -- her illness often keeps her hospitalized -- and she befriended the bird and prayed for it to be her friend. (She claims she can travel with it -- as in, warg style. I think that's an interesting story, a girl who's a dreamer, confined to a hospital or bedrest because of the state of her health, who's able to develop an ability like warging.)

So it's one of the fanciful, heartfelt animal-related episodes that people like to scoff at. But it works here, and the girl is sympathetic, and Ako plays off of her well. The girl is reluctant to even leave the hospital, so when Ako finally convinces her to and they both end up caught in a Vyram attack, it's a bit cruel. When Ako's blinded in an attack, the girl becomes her eyes, even getting into Jet Swallow's cockpit to help guide Ako. That's different! And it wouldn't work as well if the girl's actress wasn't good and likable. (Jetman lucked out in the kid actor area, because there's not one that's grating or awful.)

And if you're going to do an episode with some magical realism, one about a extraordinary bird like this, then where better than in the bird-themed Sentai? I'm surprised it took them 35 episodes to do it.

Random note: I'm sure some people think it's lame that Radeige's taken down by the girl's bird and some of his bird friends, but I don't. I think it's keeping with the episode's emotion and whimsy. What IS lame, though? That Toei decided to animate the birds for most of the attack. They're not as bad as the bats in the first episode of Juspion, but they're close. I also like the goof of Radeige's helmet falling off when he falls into water.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Jetman 27-31


EPISODE 27

A pretty crazy episode, that...doesn't quite necessarily make sense as a Jetman episode. I could see why people would dislike it, or dismiss it as filler. (An overused term, often used wrongly.) It's hard to justify its purpose or deny it's filler-y, but...it's a damned weird episode, and I like it. It basically makes me think of the way a TV show will have a special Halloween episode in October to mark the holiday.

Radeige is seen practicing occult powers, taking a spirit form to kill the Jetman. He quickly succeeds in killing Ako, Gai and Raita. He comes close to killing Ryu, until Ryu is saved by...Super Monk Masashi Ishibashi! A rare good guy role for Ishibashi, and he kicks ass here. Odagiri enlists him to help the Jetman, and he guides Ryu's spirit to the netherworld to help go save the others' souls. It's interesting that, while Ishibashi is performing the ritual that sets up Ryu's journey, Ryu looks absolutely terrified. He's pale, he's sweating, he's breathing hard. They don't outright say it, but it's obvious he's terrified of the supernatural, and kinda doesn't want to be doing this, but as leader, he steps up and performs his duty. Even Gai kind of looks at Ryu like "I hate the dude, but...he really stepped up! I wouldn't have made a trip like this for my favorite Playboy Bunny."

Ryu goes on a journey where he faces off against witches and monsters and youkai and Radeige, making his way to the hellish pit where his comrades' spirits are being tormented by the spirits of dead Jigen Beasts. (They're cornered over a lake of what I assume is boiling blood, but it looks like a Hawaiian Punch/dry-ice combo.) Kaori's left behind in the land of the living, devoting herself to intense prayer, which does manage to give Ryu a boost at a critical moment when things look doomed for him and the other three.

The strangeness isn't limited to the Jetman's supernatural adventure, though. Another strange part of this episode is the ending. When the four have returned to life, they're cheerful, and they partake in that Sentai cliche of playing leapfrog. Bwhat? What show am I watching here? Usually, it's the younger teams that do this. Who made this decision? Like "Damn it, I'm stumped on how to end this episode! What can...hmm, let's think. They just came back to life. Their spirits were tormented in hell. They were saved in just the nick of time. So...they'd be happy to be alive, obviously. How can I best display this? Shit! I've got five minutes to turn this damn script in! Screw it, they're going to go straight into some leap frog. Yeah! That's ballsy of me. This is a team that's at each other's throats every other episode, nobody will expect it. It's a Sentai cliche, but it WON'T be cliche here, because it's so unexpected. It will be novel! Whooooooooo, me! Drinks on me, everyone!"

EPISODE 28

Stupid, awful, terrible episode I loathe. It's not anywhere near as funny as it thinks it is, not anywhere near as amusing. It's forced, it tries too hard, it's DUMB. None of the jokes land. It tries so hard, your TV will drip with flop sweat. (Dry THAT up, Dryer Jigen.)

And it's not because Jetman can't do comedy or be funny, because it can and has been. But it's always worked best with a sarcastic kind of comedy. Not whatever this pseudo absurdist, slapcrapstick this thing is. Hang your head in shame, Arakawa.

EPISODE 29

The second and last episode written by Mami Watanabe (and with a co-writer this time, Naoki Yawatari). This is an episode that...should be really good, and a classic Jetman, but it's never quite worked for me for some reason.

A couple that's survived their dimension being destroyed by Radeige make their way to Earth; the guy wants to live peacefully, the girl wants revenge. One problem is that it's too close in number and too similar in story to the episode with the Dimensians. Another problem is weak casting -- you had the familiar faces as the Dimensians, which by association made you feel like you knew them and you took a quick liking to them. The two actors here are just generic and instantly forgettable. The third thing is, their designs are atrocious -- they look a cross between figure skaters and some low-tier, cheap thing typically found in Fiveman.

The episode contrasts the young couple and their being targeted and torn apart by Vyram with Ryu and Rie, with Ryu being hellbent on saving them and keeping them from being torn apart. It's such a good, strong idea for an episode, and it should have made for something really emotional and epic, but...I just find it lacking. Something's missing! This whole episode just feels like a watered down or abandoned script for something like Changeman, Flashman, Spielban, Maskman or even Fiveman. It's not a bad episode, and certainly not one of Jetman's worst, it just holds back or is incomplete. It feels almost like the writers walked before the script was done, they were shooting with an unfinished script, the director hated everything and all of the cast members were fighting that day. There's just something so off about this one...

Nobody seems to have their heart in it. Much like me, trying to write about this episode.

EPISODE 30

Inoue returns to save us after a string of weird-to-bad-to-ho-hum episodes. This begins a three-parter that tries to cover more ground than an hour possibly should.

When two idiot hikers stumble upon a cave and unleash a demon, it's a mistake the Jetman are going to have to pay for. However brief it is, it's a nice change to have opponents for both the Jetman and the Vyram. (It's just too bad the three Majin are masked characters instead of some cool stunt-casting. The underling one that's first unleashed looks like a Battletoad! I was just going to refer to him as Zitz, but I looked his name up.)

The underling Majin, Zitz...er, Muu, needs to find true warriors to sacrifice and revive his two superiors, Ramon and Gorg. He of course stumbles upon Gai and Kaori fighting Radeige and deems the Jetman a worthy candidate, kidnapping Kaori. This sets the stage for Gai to track her down. As Muu's preparing to drain her blood in ritualistic sacrifice, Gai pulls out a straight razor and slashes his own hand, which the demonic tendrils choose to drink up rather than Kaori's blood. (They're probably going to get alcohol poisoning.) This leads to the big moment, when Kaori's going through all of the times throughout the show Gai's helped her, putting himself in harm's way. He's pale and weakened, on the verge of death, and I feel like emotions are running high when Kaori flat out tells him that she's his. But it's good enough for Gai, and that keeps him going until the rest of the team catches up and saves 'em.

Radeige himself revives the other two Majin with his own blood, in hopes of controlling them. Radeige's actually kinda cool in these three episodes. (He has a great villain line to Gai and Kaori, that if they want to be together, he'll gladly bury them together in the same grave...after he takes their heads.) The episode ends with Gai and Kaori ready to give a relationship a shot. Oh, and Odagiri is building Tetra Boy, the mecha she thinks will win the entire battle with the Vyram. Yeah. If she had watched past Sentai shows, she'd know not to pin her hopes on one of the "Boy" named mechas. She's always like "Damn! If only Tetra Boy was ready!!!!!!!!"

Random note: I hate those two bozo hikers at the start of the episode. They're whiny, they're cowardly...yet they think it's a good idea to go into a weird cave that's not on the map -- a cave that is emitting pink smoke. They're dumber than the pothead prankster in a slasher flick.

EPISODE 31

While Gai tries to finally enjoy time alone with Kaori, they neglect their Jetman duties, leaving the team with the line-up in classic Sunvulcan colors. (Man, what a weird team it is without Gai and Kaori. Imagine that show!) When the two Majin end up kicking everyone's ass, Ryu rips the two slackers a new one. Fed up with hearing Ryu's speech of putting your personal life aside for the sake of saving the world for the umpteenth time, Gai flips and storms out, eventually discarding the Cross Changers and forcing Kaori to leave the team with him.

And it couldn't have come at a greater time, when they have two new enemies who know how to kick their asses! Not wanting Radeige to get all of the glory, Maria enters the battlefield, which ends up being a mistake -- a blast from the two Majin causes her to revert to Rie. Ryu noticed the resemblance way back in episode 5, of course, but here it's confirmed for him. Since I trash Tanaka so much, I'll say that I think he handles his scenes with Rie in this episode nicely, especially when he's trying to console her when she begins to think of the horrible things she's responsible for as Maria. A battle calls him away from her, and in the meantime, she's found by Vyram and reverted back to Maria.

So close and yet so far! The episode ends on a cliffhanger, Maria kicking the crap out of Ryu and putting his noggin out with her foot like she's extinguishing a cigarette. Damn it, if only they had TETRA BOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Random note: Tetra Boy's big contribution is that he becomes a bazooka for the robots. He's Arthur G6 for the mecha. OK, I have to admit that's kinda funny. Also: Tetra Boy doesn't run on fuel or Birdo Guts or Yuuki or whatever -- he's obviously fueled by cocaine, caffeine and Pop Rocks.