Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Time For Lovestruck Rangers


Toshiki Inoue's OTHER episode of Timeranger? Back to back? That's kinda weird, especially since they were pretty spread apart in Timeranger. (And both were pre-Naoto.)

I've never really liked the Timeranger episode. The Timeranger cast thought they were so cool and serious that they don't play comedy well, except for maybe Izumi. (Well, Masaru Nagai THINKS he does. He really thinks he can do it all, that he's Kamisama's gift to entertainment.) The episode also has that creepy backstory driving the plot, that Yuuri basically moves in with a middle-aged guy to take care of him after he's duped by a woman. I don't know why Tomorrow Research thought this assignment was acceptable, but I guess it just means they're stupid.

But the worst part of the episode to me was always how it basically degraded Yuuri to snap the guys out of their trance. Even though I don't think they ever succeeded in making Yuuri seem as cool and strong as they wanted her to be, it's still a big betrayal to what they were trying to do with the character, all for the sake of a laugh that wasn't worth it. It's supposed to be funny to see her out of her comfort zone, but that's just their excuse for the sake of the creep factor in having her glam out to appeal to her colleagues.

The only thing the Timeranger has going for it is that Changerion's Chika Kochihira plays the heartbreaker, a femme fatale monster of the week who brainwashes men and ruins them. She's the best part of the episode, and a good femme fatale appropriate for a cop show. Time Force doesn't quite go with the femme fatale angle, but has the woman-disguised monster taking the appearance of each of the Time Force guys' type. (A WB -- that was what the CW used to be called, kids -- starlet look for Lucas; a super-nerd for Trip; a preppy tennis player for Wes.)

This episode beats the Timeranger episode overall, though, by wisely getting rid of that Yuuri becomes an old dude's wife subplot, wisely getting rid of her degrading herself, and replacing it with actual character stuff that goes into building the Wes-Jen romance. Jen being upset and bothered by seeing Wes so head-over-heels in love with someone else is a scenario that could have been played lightly and made Jen look stupid, but it's not and it doesn't, and Erin Cahill's performance here is good as Jen feels hurt. Wes has liked her for a while, but this is the first time where she's realized she's on the same page. This show's already wiped the floor with Timeranger's pitiful attempt at forcing a romance out of nowhere.

You know something I found really funny about this episode, though? When the monster's disguised as the nerdy girl to pick up Trip, she's testing out a stupid robot she built. That robot is...Time Roboter from Timeranger. Time Roboter is a stupid addition to Timeranger, kinda the Butchy of Timeranger, where it just reeks of some higher-up being like "The show's a drag and toys aren't selling! Put a cute robot thing in there, that will turn things around!" So they write in that tech-maniac Shion creates this stupid robot that does nothing but squeak things in an obnoxious anime voice. (It COULD have been cute, having an alarm-clock robot in a show about time, but Timeranger screws that up, too.) Time Roboter is just stupid and pointless, and it's hilarious that Time Force turns this unnecessary thing from Timeranger into...an unnecessary thing.

Time For The Last Race


Toshiki Inoue's ho-hum episode of Timeranger, in which he tries to make Ayase "cool." Plot is the same, with the latest monster -- Dash -- being an ex-buddy racer of Ayase/Lucas'. (Dash dresses and talks just like Mr. Furious.) Lucas testified against him and got him put away after the monster's carelessness led to a huge vague accident. The one thing that the Time Force episode has in its favor is that Lucas' whole racing stuff sounds more like Fast & the Furious-style X-Treme Hardcore Mountain Dew Rock 'n Roll Street Racing -- which would be "cooler" for a "cool" character -- instead of Ayase's old-fashioned, lame-o Speed Racer NASCAR stuff. So, I imagine the police putting Lucas' racing skills to use for assignments, and that he'd go undercover on the street-racing scene of 3000.

This episode features a bit of deja-vu in that Lucas takes a driver's exam where bad guy action causes him to tank the test and take the examiner on a crazy ride. This was in the original Timeranger, but Time Force also lifted it for a previous episode, which is weird. I guess maybe they were like "Yeah, we're not adapting that stupid racer-buddy-of-Blue's episode. Wait, we're an episode short? Aw, shit."

And I have to say, Nadira is SO DAMN OBNOXIOUS in this episode. She gets a lot of screen-time, being driven around on shopping sprees by Dash, and she's constantly giggling and squealing in a high pitch. She never lets up. I know, on some level, she's supposed to be getting on Dash's nerves, but that doesn't mean she has to get on our nerves. It's such irritating overkill that when she pops up for one scene in the next episode and lets out her usual high-pitched chuckle, it's just, like...too soon, show.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Time For Quantum Secrets


I like this episode, and I like the Timeranger it's based on, too. Eric/Naoto is off-duty, just at home, taking care of his pet birds, trying to warm up to a neighborhood little girl who takes a liking to his birds...it's a nice, relaxing day for our serious hero. And then it all comes crashing down... The bad guys show up and kidnap him, with the latest monster's specialty being vocal mimicry, so he's trying to take control of the voice-activated V-Rex/Q-Rex. Eric/Naoto takes quite the beating in this episode, trying to protect his mecha and reclaim control.

As is the case in Timeranger, this is the first time Eric discovers that the Ranger powers -- therefore, Wes's buddies -- are from the future. So, this episode is more or less the Timeranger episode, except for...the butt-ugly power-up Quantum Ranger gets. After being beat up for the entire episode, he's not in great shape when he finally transforms, so Alex e-mails him from the future the way to unlock the strangely named Mega Battle mode. I like the idea of Sentai/Rangers having armor, and it's something Power Rangers went crazy with at the time, but the armor here is just terrible looking. And if its fugness wasn't enough, Quantum Ranger is. Now. On. ROLLERBLADES! Stupid. How the bad guys don't die from laughter is a mystery.

Time For Trip Takes a Stand


More or less the same scenario as Timeranger's episode -- an "innocent" monster is befriended by Green and they're on the run from both the villains and the Guardians. I have to say, though...the voice actress for the monster is pretty irritating. I don't understand why there's only two types of voice-actors on Power Rangers for monsters -- it's either a dumb Beavis-sounding voice or a voice-actor trying to sound like a kid. Here, it's the latter. It's one of the things I can't stand about Circuit, too -- the voice actress is trying to sound like a 10 year old boy, like she thinks she's Rika Matsumoto or something. A very strange choice, especially if you're used to Yuusuke Numata's performance in Timeranger, where he gives Tock a wisdom which suits the robotic owl. (Sorta related: I saw on a toy that Circuit was going to be named Digit. Wonder why they changed that. Is it 'cause of the circuits of time, dude?)

There's an air of mystery about Naoto; you can't quite peg him the way Kasahara plays him. For how competitive Naoto can be, the show never holds back from telling you "No! He's a good guy deep down." Eric, on the other hand, is a guy who's been hardened by the circumstances of his life, the road he's put himself on to gain power and acceptance. He's kind of having to rediscover his heart.

Even though Time Fire spends a good portion of the episode beating up the Timeranger for getting in his way of fighting the good-natured monster Shion's befriended, you're not all that surprised when Naoto/Time Fire "misses" his target and just lets the Timeranger deal with him. Again, it's the difference in the way Kasahara plays him. He can be intense, combative, but he still conveys a heroic image. Kasahara's kind of a goofy, quirky guy in real life, and I think some of that seeps into the character; from the start, Naoto is shown to have a bit of dark humor to him. Eric doesn't care if you like him, he has a job to do. And while he reaches the same point as Naoto's footage, er, decision of "missing" the target, the way Eric's been depicted has it take on a different meaning.

While you get the sense that maybe Naoto was kind of convinced by the Timeranger's pleas to not just kill the monster, it doesn't seem like Eric cared about sparing the monster. (He reveals himself to be a hardcore mutant bigot in this episode; he even says "the only good mutant is a destroyed mutant." Remember, Power Rangers isn't allowed to say the D-word. Nobody d's in the Power Rangers universe. The only time the show has actually said the D-word is an earlier episode when Jen says she won't let "Alex's death be in vain." And they were only allowed to say that because Alex ain't dead, spoiler alert.)

So, I think what mostly changed Eric's mind was Trip stepping up and admitting that he was an alien. For someone who respects strength and courage, I think Eric respected Trip in that moment and let him have his victory. When Eric later warns them that this was a one-time thing, and the others flat-out say what a mean dude he is, Trip comes to the conclusion that Eric's a good guy deep down, just lonely. So I think that plays into the idea that the path Eric's put himself on has really cut himself off from not only happiness, but even just emotion.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Time For Trust and Triumph


Pretty smart to consolidate this Timeranger two-parter into one; it keeps the core of what makes those episodes, but excises a lot of the repetition and makes for a nicely paced, full episode.

The episode deals with the trust issues between Red and Pink; both here and in Timeranger, I feel like this episode is probably several episodes too late to be believable. Especially with Time Force, Wes has proven himself again and again, they've all accepted him and realize his strength. Timeranger makes Tatsuya look like an idiot, rushing in guns blazing during a drill and pretty much getting everyone killed, and he just laughs it off. Thankfully, Wes isn't made to look so stupid -- when the Silver Guardians arrive on the scene of a Time Force operation, Wes is concerned they'll blow it, so he breaks away from Jen's plan to tell Eric to buzz off. He was distracted from her plan -- especially her Plan B once she realized the Silver Guardians arrived and might mess things up -- but it wasn't out of stupidity or to show off. So Jen's anger and Wes' frustrated reaction at her attitude works for me more here. This episode falls in the mid-20s of Timeranger -- Tatsuya knew better, but was still an idiot, one of a dozen reasons I hate him.

And wouldn't you know? The other Time Force Rangers are trapped in a dimension and Jen and Wes must work past their arguing to work together and get them out. Now, the one thing I like about the Timeranger episode is Yuuri's confession scene to Tatsuya. She admits she's so cold and distant because of her job and never having anyone to go home to. Jen's confession is that she really lacked confidence as a cop when she started; she didn't like the job and was on the verge of quitting until she met supercop Alex, who took her under his wing, trained her, became her partner and boyfriend.

Both backstories accomplish the same thing, but I like the implication that Yuuri was a cop for so long and has seen so much that it took a toll on her and it crushed her soul to return to an empty home at the end of each hard day. Jen, a lot of her coldness is the sense of professionalism learned from Alex, not wanting to disappoint him, having her personal feelings wrapped up in the professional ones. You could say that maybe, on some level, she feels a bit of a shame to get involved with Alex, that that act itself was unprofessional, so she takes it out on other officers she works with by shutting them out.

She was always headstrong, but it got even worse once she lost Alex, especially since she was involved in Ransik's escaping, and that she might blame herself. Add to that that Wes looks just like Alex, but is so different from him. How could this guy who looked just like the man she loved and respected be so unprofessional and disregard her? While I like Yuuri's story, Katsumura's not believable as some jaded cop, and it was one of the only times Timeranger even remembered she was a cop and that the show was meant to be cop-themed. Time Force has let the cop theme creep in again and again and tying it to the Alex side gives it more importance and resonance.

Bottom line: Time Force's episode wins on the basis that it doesn't include the characters playing the moodiest game of leapfrog you'll ever see.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Time For Bodyguard in Blue


The Timeranger original had some nice moments, mostly wasted on Yuuji Kido. The purpose of that episode was to get Ayase to show a lighter side. The purpose of this is to try to give Lucas something more than checking out his own reflection.

Since Lucas is the cool womanizer, and is given this episode in which he's put in frustrating and uncool situations as a result of being the bodyguard of the little girl, it KINDA reminds me of Changeman episode 4. In that episode, the other Changeman members get angry and judge womanizer Hayate for shirking duty to help a girl, not realizing he's not looking out for himself, but doing a kindness for a kid, not a potential date.

Some of the sentiment from the Timeranger episode is mirrored here -- the girl's attachment to her teddy bear which the monster "kills" is cute and understandable, but doesn't have the punch of the family "treasure" the girl hands over to save the day in Timeranger.

One great touch Time Force makes is having the girl's kidnapped dad tie into the Ranger action -- he's hired by Bio-Lab to analyze everything there is about Quantum Ranger, so he's targeted by Ransik, who's still interested in the Quantum power. (This character actually goes on to be recurring.) This leads to the Time Force Rangers doing most of the work to save the guy, while the Silver Guardians show up at the last minute and steal the glory. When Mr. Collins shows a complete lack of interest in whether or not the kidnapped scientist was uninjured, it gives Eric pause. For what a pain Eric has been, for how fixated he is on getting power and besting everyone, he's not soulless or unfeeling, and this is something that makes him begin to ask questions about just who he's allying himself with.

One other thing in the Time Force's favor is that the little girl is tolerable. In Timeranger, they go way overboard trying to make her this "adorably" mischievous brat, and she really comes across as a hellspawn.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Time For Clash For Control


Part one's an original story that, again, bests Timeranger by including more time-travel. Ransik sends a monster back to prehistoric times to find the V-Rex, er, Q-Rex, which is actually in the past and not just conveniently in the Rangers' time for them to find. (So many times I've typed "V-Rex" in these posts.) Eric follows him through the portal, as Wes tags along, a three-way race to find the Q-Rex. While I find Eric and Wes just a little too calm considering they're SURROUNDED BY DINOSAURS, it's a mostly fun, action-oriented episode. Special effects aren't the greatest, but they're at least done in a genuine way, which puts it above any Syfy schlock. They're trying hard with the little they have to just make an entertaining, crazy adventure.

Eric's a colossal asshole in this episode, being so combative with Wes and actually initially abandoning him in the past, once the time portal opens back up. He swings back to save Wes, and we don't get any sort of Black Condor "we see Eric's guilty conscience surface that makes him swing back and do the right thing." Naoto's antagonistic, an obstacle for our heroes, but there's something of a desperation in the way Kasahara plays him. He's rough, he has attitude, but I don't think of him as being unlikable or villainous. Eric is a shocking departure for Power Rangers, because he's a guy who's really hardened himself, so he's really harsh and aggressive. What's so un-PR about him is that that's who he is -- back in the day, he'd be brainwashed or whatever. But, nope, that's all Eric.

So while Naoto/Time Fire is just another thing for our heroes to do with, Eric/Quantum Ranger feels almost like a rival, almost like having another villain to deal with. Southworth's performance, the attitude he plays, pushes the character into an almost dastardly "character you love to hate" rather than just a frustrating hindrance the Timeranger have to contend with. Time Fire is basically like...the Timeranger is Batman and Time Fire's the law, they have to navigate around the professional who's official and sanctioned, an overachiever who wants to get the job done, but just kind of pesky. Quantum Ranger is out to prove something, and he doesn't want to settle for being another Ranger, but the best one. (He has a line to Wes in Part 2 that he thinks Wes just can't stand that Eric has more power than he does, which I interpret as a further filling in of the class conflict the two are meant to represent.)

I don't want to call Eric a villain, but he comes closer to that villain-seeming antihero than I think Naoto does. Although pretty much the same character, the difference is in the performers. Kasahara mostly plays Naoto as laser-focused and professional, so he can seem sort of oblivious to the situation or what the Timeranger are out to do. There's kind of a desperation to Naoto, especially in how hard to he tries to be victorious. Eric has issues, and being Quantum feeds into those issues, and he seems much more outwardly cruel than Naoto. He's like one of those pain-in-the-ass Heisei Rider rivals. He's the character Kamen Rider Banana wishes he was.

Too bad they didn't keep the "unmorphed" fight between Tatsuya and Naoto for Wes and Eric; that would have been pretty cool, especially considering what a good fighter Southworth is. But while Wes and Eric are confronting each other, Wes' dad shows up at Nick of Time, trying to buy the four others, recruiting them to the Silver Guardians. For some reason, Eric thinks this has a chance -- that they'll want Mr. Collins' money and resources backing them to help capture Ransik quicker. (The guy doesn't know how superheroes work. And this is before he finds out they're from 3000, otherwise he'd probably try to tempt them with getting back quicker. Although, the Time Force being back in 2001 doesn't seem to have the same importance as in Timeranger; in Timeranger, Kobayashi was trying to repeat what she did with Gingaman, having the heroes being torn away from their home. Time Force Rangers miss their era, but it doesn't hold the same importance as in Timeranger. Maybe because the Time Force are more professional?)

Mr. Collins (does this dude have a first name? geez*) showing up at Nick of Time brings up something I've wondered all series long, and will continue to do so. He owns the building. He hates Wes turning his back on him, what he's doing with his life. He seems like the type of person who would have no problem throwing everyone out and leveling the place, just to make a point, but he continues to let them all stay there? Oh, well, I guess it's more believable than Smart Brain letting those dangerous renegade Orphenoch that they hate and want to murder just stay at that apartment they got for Yuuji. Yeah, you guys have so much trouble getting back the Faiz belt, but you know where those sonsuvbitches live. At least with Mr. Collins, you could go "Oh, well, maybe by letting Wes and his buddies stay there, he's showing he DOES care deep down." What's your excuse, Smart Brain!?

*(Notation: I'm writing this notation after having finished the series and the subsequent reviews; while later episodes show a plaque on his desk saying "A. Collins," the DVD booklet says his name is Albert Collins, but...I don't know where they got that, when it wasn't anywhere in the actual show. Is this an after-the-fact addition, like Uhura and Sulu's first names in Star Trek?)

Monday, April 16, 2018

Time For The Quantum Quest


More or less the same premise as the Timeranger version, doing nothing better or worse about that episode. (One thing I like in the Time Force version? That awful overcast sky when Eric's fighting off grunts on the tower. It gives the scene an ominous touch.) But there's one other touch that I kinda like. Maybe not important, but to me it's cool that they had the Quantum Ranger doohickey kit unearthed by an archaeology expedition. Something thought to be from the past is actually from the future. A neat idea, an item from the future that was sent and lost so far in the past, it turns up as an ancient artifact. That's the kind of time-y stuff Timeranger could have stood to play with more. It's interesting that Ransik witnesses the dig on television and recognizes it as Time Force equipment, specifically the Quantum Ranger powers. So he shows some interest in obtaining some of that power, and it becomes a three-way race.

Time For Worlds Apart


The episode introducing Eric, Naoto/Time Fire's counterpart. It sticks mostly to the Timeranger storyline -- a little too much, given how many times you can actually spot the Japanese actors in the footage of the City Guardian scenes. What I mainly have to say is that I've been kinda unfair towards actor Daniel Southworth over the years. Shinji Kasahara and his Naoto/Time Fire is one of the only things I really liked about Timeranger. I thought a lot of Naoto's motivations were interesting and, unlike the rest of the cast, Kasahara seemed to really take the part seriously and went for it with a real intensity.

So I always kind of dismissed Eric and Southworth for not being Naoto or Kasahara. Because Southworth does a great acting job here and his fight scenes are awesome. (Southworth is a decade too young; I could easily imagine him headlining his own action flicks if he had been young enough to do so in, like, the late '80s when they were popular.) I've made some silly comments about how high I find his voice to be, but that's mainly in comparison to Naoto -- when you're used to Kasahara shredding his voice like he's Christian Bale's Batman, Southworth's tone and voiceover delivery is as much of a jolt as first hearing Goushi in Zyuranger after being used to hearing Walter Jones' Zack come from that mastodon helmet.

One of the things that didn't help me is that Southworth almost makes the same character seem even angrier, and Kasahara could really push it. He makes the character a little too aggro, a little too harsh. (Kasahara would often react to things with an amusement.) But I kinda admire that, because he's at least not pulling his punches and looking down on the material by half-assing it; he's committing to it and going hog-wild.

The thing about Eric/Naoto is -- and both shows are scared to dwell on it -- that they're obviously meant to be from the wrong side of the tracks; of a lower class; poor. They've fought their way from nothing while seeing a lot of their peers skate by on the luck of who their parents are. (I suppose one of the reasons I like Naoto so much is that you can really understand his dislike of Tatsuya; not because he sees Tatsuya as every other rich kid who's worry-free and has a free ride, but mainly because Masaru Nagai really lays on the nice guy act, his performance making Tatsuya come off as seeming VERY fake and superficial in showing care for Naoto. He's not meant to be insincere, but Nagai sure makes him seem that way, and you can really understand why Naoto has no patience with him in their school scenes.) With Time Force, you have the genuine, good-natured and likable Jason Faunt as Wes, so Eric comes across looking more like the ass, but the character is meant to be a little more complicated than that.

Last time I watched Timeranger, it hit me what a strange addition to the show Naoto is. He comes into it SO late and has such a strange motivation and doesn't mesh well with the heroes. I kinda realized that maybe it would have worked more if Naoto had been Tatsuya's brother; maybe he could have been the hard-working Asami who worshipped everything about his father, but for some infuriating reason, all the father focused on was the screw-up disappointment Tatsuya. So Naoto fights his way into earning his dad's respect, through becoming the doomed Time Fire.

It's strange and sad, in a way, that Eric/Naoto -- who have fought their way through life, looking for acceptance, looking for validation, being overly ambitious -- tries so hard to impress Mr. Collins/Mr. Asami and get on his good side, when it's the type of person Eric/Naoto typically disdains. (Actually, worse than the type of person he disdains.)

Time For Uniquely Trip


The old familiar "the young one of the team feels inadequate" episode of a superhero story. Focused on Trip, who's likable enough, and they handle this story well. (All while making use out of one of the more absolutely boring Timeranger episodes.)

One of the things I like about Shion in Timeranger is that he's the last survivor of his people and grew up isolated as a scientific display. So he's sad and isolated and his whole becoming part of a family with the Timeranger -- and having nothing in 3000 like a home or family waiting for him -- is a great character journey, making him sympathetic and sorrowful. But despite all of that, he's pretty upbeat.

They ditch that tragic element of Shion for Trip, but retain his feeling like an outsider as a result of being an alien seer, being so young and small and feeling like he doesn't measure up to the others. They keep Shion's bright optimism and curiosity, but I liked that Shion managed to remain so bright and optimistic despite his sad past; that was a strong component of the character. But Trip remains likable and, although Kevin Kleinberg goes a little overboard with the gee-whiz, sunny wonder the character possesses, he still manages to make Trip really likable and you root for him.

There's also a bit of a GoGoFive plot in this episode -- remember when Daimon lost confidence because he heard kids smack-talking Go Yellow for being a klutz?

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Time For Future Unknown


Again sticks closely to the Timeranger plot, in that the mecha made by the city seen in the previous episode never existed in 3000's events of history, meaning that Ransik and the Time Force Rangers are causing history to change. This causes the four from the future -- mostly just Katie -- to kind of question what it is they're doing, if there's a possibility they'll return to a future that's changed or unrecognizable to them. Katie began the episode already missing her family, so hearing this possibility crushes her.

The episode doesn't really hit the dramatic notes it needs to, I find something about it lacking. While Katie and actress Deborah Phillips are both a hell of a lot more likable and sympathetic than Shuuhei Izumi or Domon*, the scene of each character abandoning Katie/Domon to go resume the fight is just filmed better in Timeranger. (It also has the benefit of using good, appropriate music, the song "Mirai no Yukue" by Motoyoshi Iwasaki.) The scene in Time Force just doesn't have the same impact. And while I think the dialogue of the scene is actually stronger and more heartfelt than in Timeranger, I guess what it all comes down to is...this is an episode that might have benefited if it came later in the series, when all of the actors have fallen into a better rhythm and the show isn't afraid to embrace more serious stories. (By the time Eric/Quantum Ranger shows up, there's not much time for punch-pulling.)

*"Unlikable" is too harsh to describe Izumi or Domon, because it's not really that he's unlikable, but maybe just a little too aggressive. He's so boastful and in your face and abrasive about it, it's a little hard to buy sometimes those emotional moments, like his losing it at seeing a sunset. There's always two big things that stick out for me about Domon that bug me about him. One, of course, is how he ends the series as the ultimate deadbeat dad. Second is that episode when he's hospitalized and he elbows Tatsuya in the face for no good reason after Tatsuya spent the entire episode trying to help him. I mean, I don't like Tatsuya, either, but it was unnecessary.

Anyway, this all makes me kinda wonder if they should have just made Lucas Yellow and Katie Blue. But Saban, still not quite over his love for runaway bride Bioman, just refused to have any female combination other than Yellow and Pink, didn't he? Then again, I kinda like the bizarre choice of making the hulking Time Yellow female, and it gives Katie one of her character quirks that's awesome -- unexplained super-strength. One wonders if Yasuko Kobayashi once checked out Time Force to see what they did to her show and subconsciously ripped off of it with OOO.

Saban's always forcing one-female Sentai teams to become two in the '90s often made me wonder why Sentai couldn't have a two-female member team where only one of the two wears a skirt. It would be an interesting choice to have one of the two not have a skirt, because not all ladies wear a skirt, yo.

Not just Bioman, but I think someone working on Power Rangers never got over letting Dairanger get away. It's kinda weird how things from that show creep up in later PR works. You have Magna Defender using the Aura Changer. You have Titanium Ranger afflicted with what's basically that spider curse Jin puts on Ryou. You have Ransik rockin' the Gorma Trio's wannabe Cenobite look. And then you have Master Org stealing Gorma the 16th's outfit. Weird.

Time For The Time Shadow


It's so weird to be hitting the Time Shadow episodes this early, when Timeranger with its slow, crawling, leisurely pace takes so long to get to it. But I guess that's what happens when you don't waste time on stupid episodes like Domon learning to make ramen.

This episode sticks pretty closely to the Timeranger episodes. The biggest differences are that Frax's motivations is that he's becoming a robot supremacist, and that Alex sends back the Time Shadow out of concern and not for some convoluted, nefarious plan.

Gien...I liked the idea behind the character, but not the execution. That he was a simpleton who showed Dolnero kindness and was critically wounded, saved by being turned into a robot, but having that same technology warp him and cause him to lose his mind. I thought Gien growing more and more insane and unstable was enough to drive the character, and make him threatening. But then it's revealed that most of his big plans are orchestrated by Ryuuya, who's out to manipulate the flow of time, so Gien ends up just seeming like one of the faceless mooks instead of what he's meant to be, which is the show's final villain.

With Frax, you have something more, like with Ransik's hypocrisy -- Ransik became the person he did by society rejecting him, and he turns around and treats the robots who surround and help him the very same way he feels humans treat him. That fuels Frax, Frax's advice being ignored fuels him, ALL of the villains pretty much mistreat him. So, while it's nothing new, the robot setting out to get revenge against those who mistreat him at least makes the character feel like he's his own master, has his own will.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Time For The Legend of the Clock Tower


I imagine this episode finds itself on "Worst Of" lists. The superhero action is reserved for the final minute of the episode, and half of that is Timeranger footage that's already been used in episode 5.

I'll give this episode credit, at least, for utilizing the time travel theme. It's Quantum Leap meets Back to the Future meets Somewhere in Time as Katie, upon feeling strong emotions after hearing Wes' downer of a story regarding the original owner of the clock tower, finds herself transported back to the owner's time. She meets the man, a timid guy who's always bullied and stepped on, and helps him find his confidence to stand up to his abusers and finally admit his love to the girl he likes. When Katie sets these things right, she awakens back in the present. When she's later talking to Wes about the man, Wes' account is now changed to reflect the changes Katie made in the past. So was it a dream? A spiritual journey? Did she somehow transport back in time? It's a mystery.

I see what the episode was going for, but it just doesn't work, and it just feels disconnected from everything else. While Katie's likable and cool and needed her own focus episode, she mostly takes a backseat to the guests we don't know or care to invest in. With Katie so moved by hearing what a sad life the guy led, didn't it seem like a more romantic scenario was being set up? Did they chicken out of that? I'll commend them for avoiding an easy and predictable romance angle, and with Katie being the good-hearted strongwoman of the group, it's easy to believe she feels so strongly and is so adamant about protecting and looking out for the little folks. But a romance would have given her more emotional attachment, made this episode seem a little more important as Katie's first focus.

And maybe the episode should have somehow tied into the Time Force's mission? Like, maybe Jen and Katie, in 2001, were going through case files and discovered that some mutant once slipped into the past, and Katie was sent to bring him in, only to discover he's not a bad mutant, and he's just laying low and trying to live his life? She could have sympathized with him and tried to improve his life and all that and it wouldn't feel so damn disconnected from everything else. This episode is basically like that Agito episode Yasuko Kobayashi wrote -- the one that's shot on video and at a full-frame ratio, and it's just about Ryou hanging out with some kid. It's not the worst episode in the world, but it doesn't really tie into anything and is just a big ol' sore thumb.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Time For Jen's Revenge


A good episode that I think outdoes its Sentai counterpart completely, but is marred by a few misplaced moments of comedy...

In Timeranger, the monster Mad Blast is an assassin hired by Dolnero to kill Yuuri's police chief dad; her whole family ends up being killed. So when she sees Mad Blast is this week's latest defrosted criminal, she loses it and goes on a rampage that concerns her teammates.

Problem #1 -- Mad Blast is renamed Fat Catfish. I know Mad Blast is no great Engrishy shakes, but Fat Catfish...that's a dumb MMPR season 4 name.

The monster is now a bounty hunter, thawed by the Ransik crew to round up the Time Force Rangers. He also happens to be a notorious criminal that Jen and Alex busted in the future, so that stirs up memories of Alex. (She already had Alex on the mind to begin with.) But then the monster goes and keeps insulting Alex while he's at it, and that begins Jen's rampage. She sees the monster as making the late Alex's work seem pointless; if Alex devoted his life and sacrificed his life locking up scum like this, only for them to be freed, what was it all for?

And then tie into this that Frax has begun to show signs of rebellion, pitting the monster against Ransik, and then orchestrating a meeting between the two, giving the location to Jen so she can interfere and further implicate the M.O.W., making it look like he's working with Jen and ratted out Ransik. This is the first time in a while that Jen's laid eyes on Alex's murderer, Ransik, so she goes berserker rage here...but gets her ass royally handed to her by Ransik. He's mopping the place with her. Characters aren't allowed to die on Power Rangers, and they're never really allowed to bleed, either, but they give Jen what is probably the closest they can come to making her look like a bloody pulp. The others arrive in time to bail her out and she's like a rag doll. All she needs is a night's rest and she's off again to go murderize Fat Catfish, and then maybe go murder the writer who came up with that name.

We get the same showdown, with a lot of the same dialogue, as we get from Time Pink's final showdown in Timeranger, where the four guys (three guys and a gal in Time Force's case) pleading with Pink to not blow the monster's head off with her bazooka, lest she become a criminal, too. The difference is crucial; in Timeranger, Yuuri's in control of the situation (unbeknownst to the others), going further and further until she gets a confession. In Time Force, it's actually more interesting and raw and human; there's no psych-out, Jen's actually overtaken by her emotions, and just as she's about to pull the trigger, Wes asks her what Alex would do. After a moment to control herself, she answers that he would do it by the book. Alex was a good cop, I like that Time Force ties it back to the police theme. In Timeranger, it's tragic and brutal the way Yuuri's family dies, and that she's there to witness it as a kid, but Power Rangers didn't pull any punches, either, by tying this episode together with Alex. We know he's not dead, but Jen doesn't, so the feelings remain. And the entire situation involves not just her loss of Alex, but her seeing all of this as an insult to Alex's accomplishments, maybe her own weaknesses as a cop, maybe even Alex's weaknesses as a cop.

And while there's been hints here and there, this is the episode that first fully introduces the idea of a Wes-Jen romance in the works, in that he stays by her bed throughout the night after she's beat up. While I think their romance is better established here than in Timeranger -- being set up and made clear early on, rather than pulled out at the last minute to forcibly heighten the drama -- it's something that works on different levels. There's some ambiguity in that, sure, Jen thinks Alex is dead, but is she moving on too fast? Is Wes pushing her to get over Alex too soon? But Wes' strong resemblance to him stirs up conflicting emotions in Jen -- this guy who has Alex's face is far more carefree and frivolous -- but being the spitting image of Alex probably plays a big part in her liking him, too. Making the romance a triangle, having the third party being the lost doppelganger brings to mind something like 1932's The Mummy or 1992's Bram Stoker's Dracula. Those were stories of loves lost in time, people finding love with descendants or reincarnations of their lost loves. It not only puts the time-travel premise to further use than Timeranger cared to, but it gives another layer and moral murkiness and tension to the Red-Pink romance, which fell completely flat in Timeranger.

It's a pretty strong episode, establishing one of the show's important relationships, but it's shortchanged by a few missteps. The episode ends by making light of the growing romance between Wes and Jen by having Katie and Trip tease them like they're fifth graders, but there's misplaced, stale comedy throughout the episode. Why couldn't the writers be content with having a completely serious episode? No, they're too afraid, so they include some of their crusty, lame-o Squatt and Baboo dialogue for the monsters. To get out of a fight, the monster -- who, remember, is named Fat Catfish -- goes, "I think I hear my ma callin'!" To get out of a later fight, Frax says, "I think I left the teapot on!" Why? Why do they like this stupid level of humor? It really holds this franchise back. If you want to play these things light, you can come up with about a 100 better things to have the characters say. Frax could have said, "Smell ya later!" before he ran away and it would have been stupid and out of character, but still better than "I left the teapot on!"

Maybe those are minor problems for some, but to me, it's really out of place in an episode with this tone. You can have (and need) lighter moments to ease the tension, but they needed to find different ways; mocking the blooming romance and having the villains say stupid stuff undercuts everything else the episode is trying to accomplish. Power Rangers is its own enemy, too afraid to ever take itself completely seriously.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Time For Short-Circuited


It's funny that this episode turns an episode that was about Domon/Time Yellow into an episode about Trip/Green. Well, actually this is a Trip + Circuit focus episode. Yeah. Exactly my reaction, too. This episode is mostly action-driven; Trip's down in the dumps and feeling isolated because his clairvoyant ability is alienating his teammates, but it's up to him to save the day once Circuit is kidnapped, learning to use his powers responsibly. Not a bad idea for an episode, but not explored to its fullest potential, and most of the dilemmas of Trip using his powers "badly" are played for laughs, when they needed to come up with something a little more serious.

The best part of this episode is that it again shows that Nadira is more of a threat than Lila. Sure, her primary concern is money and shopping, but we've seen her involved in coming up with more of the villain plans -- in this episode, she's the once who targets Circuit so he can no longer call upon the robots from the future. We've seen Nadira capable of cruelty (attempted murder!) and in this episode she really beats the crap out of Green. I think Kate Sheldon's pretty good in the role, it's just sad she gets stuck with so much of the "princess" part of the character, that whiny, spoiled act. She reaches a point where she delivers everything in a loud tantrum and it gets irritating, when variation would be nice. Because when she drops that and gets pissed, she works. There obviously comes a point when the production tells her and Wells "Don't be too scary for the little kiddies!"

Although I don't like Lila, Asami Kuru was able to switch it up -- she had the annoying, spoiled side, where she said every line in a kind of irritating sing-song, but when she'd get pissed, she'd try to use a kind of bully punk, rough voice. Timeranger didn't use her well.

Time For A Parting of Ways


I can't help but keep comparing Time Force to Timeranger. While I'll often prefer Time Force's take or change in direction to what Timeranger did, sometimes I'll still see what I'll call the cowardice of the Power Rangers production seep through. The PR Cowards are afraid to take things too seriously, too afraid to upset censors or little kids with their little brains. A lot of the time, I feel like the PR staff is just lazy and will excuse that lazy work with a "Screw it, it's for kids" rationalization. A better example of this will be made in a couple of upcoming episodes.

But a few episodes back, Ransik's plan was "Well, let's announce that I'm here. Send out a monster!" and a monster is sent to just generically destroy the city. Meanwhile, I'm thinking of the original Timeranger episode, where the monster's M.O. was to plant an explosive at a building and extort money, and the focus of the episode is Tatsuya trying to convince his dad to help and trying to prove a point about himself. My reaction was like "Well, it's sad to lose that subplot in favor of 'Bad monster smash city!' But Power Rangers is going to Power Rangers."

But then along comes this episode, which is basically the same scenario as that Timeranger, but actually greatly improved upon. Here we have Nadira hatch the plan of kidnapping people to ransom off, and the monster selects a busload of kids. Wes recognizes one of the kids and tries hard to get the ransom money from his dad, who declines, but is happy to immediately turn around and invest in some shitty-sounding company. Wes then intercepts that check to get it cashed and used as the ransom money! He just ripped off his dad! Even if it's for the greater good, we've come far from the let's help Mrs. Applebee remodel her house over the weekend goody-goodies.

And even after Wes robs his dad, things take an uglier turn when Nadira gets the money and orders for the kids to be killed, anyway! Not only does Nadira out-evil anything Lila did for the entirety of Timeranger in this one episode, but again it's something unheard of for a PR villain. And them kids would have been dead if Jen hadn't managed to find their location just in time. Wes gets the money back from Nadira and returns it, and here's where he finds out his father is truly a snake...

It was bad enough he's seen his dad be nothing but self-centered and greedy and blackhearted throughout his life, but one of the final straws was his dad turning down helping the kids. And the breaking point is when reporters get wind that he put up the money to save the kids and he has the gall to slap on a smile and take credit for it. Mister Collins is a real piece of work, and it's here that I have to praise the late Edward Laurence Albert, who gives a real, grounded performance, the likes of which had never really been seen in a Power Ranger prior to Time Force. He's not hammy, he's not looking down on the show, but focusing on making Wes' dad credible as this selfish, despicable, money-corrupted man. (Timeranger missed out on the opportunity to compare Wataru to a Londarz, something Time Force would have probably picked up on had Ransik's gang been as money-obsessed as the Londarz.) Albert's not given much material when you look at it, but he does A LOT with it. I don't know how the production ended up with him, but they lucked out.

Wes gets the last insult in by declaring to the press that the returned ransom money will be donated to a kids' charity by his father, before telling his dad that he's moving out and on. (He moves to the clock tower with the other four, the building owned by his dad. So, he's not exactly sending the big message to his dad he wants to, is he? But Tatsuya did pretty much the same thing.) While this more or less comes from Timeranger, the difference is more felt in Time Force. In Timeranger, his dad did come around to help by coughing up the ransom -- which he would have done twice (!), if something had happened to the case he gave to Tatsuya -- which was surprising and unbelievable for a character so cold. Tatsuya then ends up moving just to make his point that HE'S in control of his future, blah-blah-blah. Wes breaks away because he's pretty much genuinely disgusted by his dad and the life he leads, and wants to be a better person leading a purer life. There's always just a vagueness to Tatsuya's attempts at grand speeches about destiny, this sense of a hollow teenage rebellion without much behind it; Wes seems more believable and human and mature.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Time For A Blue Streak


Not much of an episode; an excuse for a car chase and to debut the Time Force motorcycles. (As an '80s Sentai fan who is used to the Sentai members having motorcycles, I love the Time Force motorcycles, and the way that Power Rangers kept motorcycles a thing even in a time when Sentai didn't.) A light-on-plot, big-on-action episode like this doesn't bother me early on, and it goes to give Time Force more of a superhero feel than Timeranger often had. Timeranger's priority was definitely on the "drama" side, and all of the superhero and sci-fi stuff took a backseat. But Time Force ain't perfect. Like, in relation to this episode, we need to talk about Lucas...

He's the weakest part of the heroes, IMO. Take away Ayase's illness and what are you left with? Absolutely nothing. How do I know this? Lucas. All we have left is that he's a racer (yawn) and a "cool" guy. His being a racer is not interesting, that's the kind of lame-o stuff they'd write for superheroes in the '50s when they thought their only readers were little boys they had to pander to. And his "coolness" is really only reflected by his constantly checking himself out in the mirror, making the character so impressed with himself he could very well have been in Timeranger.

I don't know why Timeranger pretended to be so character driven, yet did nothing with any of the characters that mattered. (Please, let's have more episodes with that idiot Honami, though.) Ayase's meant to be symbolic of the entire premise: as a dying man, he's the man from the future with no future. He's kinda screwed in that he's stuck in the past, so far from his own time, when he himself might not have much time. He's stuck doing a dangerous job that he had no intention of doing. And while he's initially kind of self-centered and depressed about his problem, he's inspired by Tatsuya's outlook and his growing friendship with the others to enjoy the time he has. He goes from isolating himself out of depression to keeping quiet so as to not worry others. He gets away with this with a cool act, but he's really just quiet, introspective, just hanging back and taking it all in. His potentially limited time gives him a pragmatic levelheadedness. This story is completely wasted because actor Yuuji Kido is a...well, I was going to say reanimated corpse, but that suggests that he's animated at all.

So, Time Force should have had the courage to lift this story and try to improve on it -- I don't think Copon's a bad actor, but he needed SOMEthing to work with -- but they don't, so we end up with Lucas, the most uninteresting character of the heroes. (I guess you can say they transplanted the dying Ayase plot over to Ransik, but that's not as interesting as having it be a hero.) If they were too afraid of upsetting the little kiddies by having a dying hero, then they should have at least kept the Honami story. (Ditch the triangle which was born of Honami's stupidity, just focus on Lucas -- who was supposed to be a ladies' man -- falling completely in love with a present-era girl, knowing he'd have to leave her when his mission succeeds. Every other Time Force Ranger has a bit of dramatic baggage BUT Lucas.)

On a random note, this episode sets up what will be Frax's growing rebellion with Ransik. As he's trying to actually offer up a villainous plan, he's overruled by Nadira, wanting to keep taking a play out of the Londarz playbook by just robbing some joints and spending it on stuff. One of the benefits of having a year of Timeranger's stories ahead of you: you can pick what's good and maybe actually have it pay off. Here, it's Frax's eventual rebellion.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Time For Ransik Lives


Can I just say that I find "Nick of Time" the better name for an all-purpose company than "Tomorrow Research?" I know you're not supposed to make fun of Engrish-y names and all, but you know they knew better than that, c'mon. What the hell "research" is being done, anyway? Shouldn't it be "Today Research," as in our four time-displaced heroes are learning the ropes of everyday 2000 life? Bah!

The big point of this episode is Wes being captured and he (and the audience) learns of Ransik's history. Ransik is basically Jiban's Dr. Giba, except you can invest yourself more in Ransik since he's not an awkward, over-enunciating honky being dubbed by a Japanese seiyuu. Ransik's a freak accident in genetics -- born of broken genetic material mutating with the grime of the city. He's one mutated son of a bitch, and he's an ugly reminder to the falsely made "utopia" of 3000 that happiness is an illusion. Being shunned by society and forced to rough it on the streets, Ransik turns to crime, becoming THE crime lord, rounding up other mutants and outcasts to terrorize society.

The funny thing is, Wes actually feels sorry for Ransik. And Jen nearly rips his head off hearing this, because she knows and has witnessed what Ransik's capable of. She claims Ransik was offered help by scientists in the future, but turned it down, telling Wes to never forget that Ransik's a monster. I know we're supposed to believe the info coming from one of our heroes instead of the villains, but even Wes keeps his doubt. And this is a different take for Power Rangers. Most of the time, PR villains are treated like moronic nuisances. They're monsters, and while PR doesn't have the balls to kill villains, the bad guys are good enough to at least beat up and laugh at. Ransik's not exactly the most shaded, most evil villain seen in a superhero story, but he's different for PR. We know he's capable of more danger than Rita, Zedd, Vile or Mondo ever were. But there's the question mark over whether his side holds truth or if Jen's right, if society made the monster or if he was wicked from "birth." Having our main hero sympathize with a villain rather than just mock him or treat him like a joke was also different for PR, and shows the size of Wes' heart.

I'd like to take this time to talk about Ransik some more, though. I like his backstory, his overall design, that he reminds me of Giba from Jiban -- another cop-centered toku. Actor Vernon Wells can be good in the role -- he starts the show as mostly pissed, just a growling and grumpy bastard. I think Ransik's a stronger representation of a futuristic criminal leader than what Timeranger offered us. They give him a story that he's on borrowed time, which I'll go into more. Wells is, like, eight feet tall, so he makes Ransik feel like an imposing opponent. Also? Ransik has this little quirk where he can pull bone-handled swords from his body! I don't know how that got past tight-assed censors. I also don't know how his design flew past them -- he's basically like a burned-up and cyborg Cenobite from Hellraiser. Then he's got those burns, which are never really explained, but I guess come from a rough life on the streets. (You can also assume all of his cybernetics are results of injuries; you can imagine some cool, gritty cyberpunk past for him.)

Anyway, as the show goes on, Wells settles into a kind of hammy mode where he yells everything like a WWF wrestler, and there's a few too many moments where they put Ransik in lighter situations. (They actually go on to redeem the character in the Wild Force crossover! That's wrong.) Ransik loses some cool, but I still think what was there initially, what you can imagine the character truly being, is better than the norm for Power Rangers. And it's nice to have a main villain who's a face when the Sentai didn't.

Time For Something to Fight For


Wes becomes a permanent team member and begins to prove himself. What sets him apart from Tatsuya is that Tatsuya, through the writing and Masaru Nagai's smug satisfaction, is depicted as pretty saintlike. He's grown up and benefited from a rich life, but he wants to rebel and make his own name. I get what the show's going for, but it all comes across as so empty and self-centered to me. He comes across to me like a whiny brat. Wes, he's shown to be frivolous and care-free, but he has a good heart. He's a good person, just trapped in his life, cordoned off from others, stuck in his own world. There's just something more heroic about Wes and the way Jason Faunt plays him.

Jen calls him out on never having to worry about anything or anyone other than himself, and it hits him, because he knows that's mostly true. That paints him in a kind of negative light, giving him a flaw -- he knows he's more, he knows he has more to offer, he's not just some spoiled partyboy, but he's never seen an opening that allows him to aspire to be more. He cares and wants to do good. He's always been underestimated. Tatsuya is very much a whiny Anakin Christensen sort of "He's holding me back!" brat. He's supposed to be sympathetic, but he really isn't. Overall, Wes's place on the team actually feels earned, he proves himself again and again, compared to Tatsuya. The Time Force officers not only accept Wes for being good in a fight, but out of necessity. There's just something more dramatically satisfying the way Time Force handles it. Timeranger's priority was just in getting the show started, screw logic. They're basically like "Eh, we need a Red. OK, you're in charge, nobody!"

The tension between Jen, Wes and the other Rangers also brings something different to the Power Ranger franchise -- friction amongst the heroes. Never before has the franchise really shown characters to butt heads and argue so much. So many times in the shows prior to Time Force, misunderstandings would be microscopic and end in a hug or be the result of brainwashing. Not Time Force, where it's often a clash of personalities.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Time For Force From the Future


They try to cover a surprising amount of ground in these two episodes -- and don't entirely rely on Timeranger as you'd expect. I honestly like a lot of Time Force's tweaks to this premiere concept. I know Timeranger fans or Yasuko Kobayashi fans would gripe that Time Force is "simplifying" her work, but the truth is a lot of Kobayashi's work is sloppy. She feigns depth or intricacy, but is more often just messy or inconsistent. She doesn't really care if something makes sense within the story, as long as it makes a good scene or is cool; this is the cause of all of the problems with the Captain Ryuuya character. Kobayashi is one of those writers who employs time-travel without adhering to any of the rules; its use is just for the sake of "cool" twists or dancing around plotholes. (If you're a Star Trek fan, I compare her to Brannon Braga. She's capable of doing good work, but she'll trip herself up trying to go for high-concepts or coolness.) She leaves mysteries to fester series-long, and then forgets the point or changes her mind when it's time to wrap things up.

Time Force jettisons a lot of the unnecessary stuff. Timeranger's first episode is muddled and rushed; we're introduced to the idea of Red's doppelganger, Captain Ryuuya, who purposely selects newb recruits to go back in time and stop the Londarz. (Undercover Yuuri volunteers, resulting in being the only pro on the team.) But...the Londarz are counting on the time-traveling Timeranger to help bump their ship through the Stargate. If they haven't gone back yet, what's the panic? What are the Timeranger moving out for? Yeah, yeah, it's all a ploy of the Londarz -- Lila's disguised as Ryuuya, and from what we learn later in the show, Ryuuya's a shady bastard willing to alter history at his own whim. But we don't know that yet, and it's unnecessary confusion, and I think it's this muddled introduction to the character that colors where the writers go. (And, whoo-wee, is Ryuuya a mess.)

In Time Force, the Red doppelganger, Alex, exists, and is an elite member of the patrol. Confident, good at his job. Not a slimeball. He's a higher rank than the others, but not the leader of it all. The other four are official members, too -- young, maybe inexperienced, but not the lazy, rookie newbs that the Timeranger were. They all answer to another guy, a Captain Logan. Time Force depicts a more well-organized, functional, believable police force than Timeranger. When they're transporting head villain Ransik, his cronies help break him out, and the four Time Force go rogue attempting to bring him back. Alex ends up critically injured -- presumed to be killed in action, actually -- before Ransik makes his escape into the past, and he gives the four the go ahead to pursue him. (They're still rogue; the higher-ups warn them to not go in the past, but they do so, anyway. I like this motivation and set up far more than Lila's meant-to-be-random-selection-of-newbs-yet-they're-later-revealed-to-be-important-to-history.)

I also like that we're not shown the four of them instantly downloading 20th century information before they travel the way they do in Timeranger. This leaves open the fish-out-of-water possibilities and gives our one 20th century hero, Wes/Red, another function in the series. The Time Force are a police force who guard time, yes, but they also use technology to create a crime-free society. In Timeranger, their force seems to be hilariously incompetent. "We take pride in protecting time!" Cut to: letting the bad guys travel back in time & making the head of the entire thing a guy with no qualms about rewriting history. What we're shown in Time Force almost reminds me more of Dekaranger -- a proto Space Police -- than the useless fools we're shown in Timeranger.

The Time Force feels more like a fully formed organization than in Timeranger. With Timeranger, you basically get no sense that they're law enforcement; with the rookie heroes and corrupt Ryuya, it just feels more like he's a mad scientist and they're in an experiment of his. Timeranger wasn't interested in getting the backbone of their premise -- time traveling cops -- to work. Timeranger had no interest at all in the superhero side of the story. It pretended to devote itself to the characters but didn't even bother to focus on what made the characters unique, which was the situation they were in. So Timeranger just kind of flutters around, and when it does come time to remember its premise or that it's a superhero show, it's for tedious "big event" episodes revolving around mecha.

Not only does the Time Force seem more competent, but they show that it's a fully functional organization. While Jen-tachi went rogue by following Ransik in the past after they were dismissed, we're shown that their superior -- thankfully not just the Red doppelganger as in Timeranger -- comes around and sanctions what they're doing to stop Ransik. They're reinstated and their battle becomes official. What I'm trying to say is: I feel like Time Force better conveys cops after robbers, and that Timeranger plays things so fast, loose and unofficially that even a lawyer as shitty as Jerry Horne could get all of the Londarz off. There's no way anything the Timeranger do can hold up in court. (No wonder things get so bonkers by Dekaranger that the courts just rule to execute everyone they come across.)

As for the villains, their motivations are not all *that* different from the Londarz, at least initially, at least in this premiere. But for me, it works slightly more than the Londarz. All the Londarz cared about was money. Ransik talks about actually wanting to rule the world, seeing the past as an easy opportunity (especially since there's not a Time Force in that era). He's just a plain old criminal. Maybe the big difference is in Ransik being played by a face actor and Don Dolnero being a rubber suit. (And an ugly one. I hate to admit, but I kinda like the character of Don Dolnero and the way voice-actor Ryusaburo Ohtomo plays him. But the design is offensive in its stupidity. He looks like one of Bowser's idiot sons from Mario 3 and not some cool monstrous mobster. I find it hilarious that Time Force turns Dornero into a dumb sidekick; that goofball voice he's given fits that design.) The Lila Xerox, Nadira, is the one who stays truest to the Londarz -- she's all about vanity and greed. Her being Ransik's spoiled daughter is also more believable than Lila being Dolnero's moll.

Time Force's first two episodes adhere closely to the format of Timeranger's first, but it takes its time, makes better story choices and actually feels bigger than Timeranger. Like, I love how Ransik's arrest and subsequent escape is all presented; night shoots, with his escape being one of those classic prisoner-escapes-while-being-transported scenarios.

I have to say this about the costumes, though -- the material of the Ranger suits in the American footage just can't be the same that the Japanese use. The Timeranger suits all look shiny, the suit actors look slim. In the American footage, the colors are muted, they really cling to the stunt guys and make 'em all look kind of chubby.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Time For Time Force (intro)


When news of Timeranger hit, it sounded like it could be cool -- time traveling cops. Cops from the future, teaming up with a modern guy to chase criminals from the future who might contaminate the timeline. Sounds awesome, right?! Well, it wasn't. That is, when you finally found out by watching the show. Nowadays, a new toku episode airs and you're probably getting to download and watch it that same day. Back in the time of Timeranger, you had to wait for some dude to get enough episodes to fill a VHS tape and then they'd sell it to you for an absurd price and MAYBE take a month or two to get it to you on top of it...

Didn't matter how long it took, but when I finally saw Timeranger, I didn't care for it. It was complete false-advertising. Not very cop-y, the villain designs were atrocious, its attempts at being Matrix-like a laugh. I hated the cast, the background music. That a premise so cool is wasted on a show that had ZERO interest in utilizing it, wanting to instead be a sub-Degrassi sobfest with a bunch of unlikable people skulking for half an hour each week in an uninspired apartment set. Whoopee!

Not entirely Timeranger's fault, but I spent the majority of 2000 and 2001 kinda out of tokusatsu. (Before Timeranger came along, GoGoFive's final episodes had disappointed me. I thought Kuuga was unappealing and looked homemade. There was a blip in early 2001 when I checked out the Timeranger special and the first few Gao; the special was underwhelming and I HATED what I saw of Gao, so the toku freeze-out continued. I've wrote before that it was Gaoranger VS Super Sentai, in late '01, that began to reignite my toku spirit.) Since I liked GoGoFive so much, I didn't really want to see what Power Rangers did to it, so didn't bother checking out much of any Lightspeed Rescue in 2000, and skipped Time Force in 2001 entirely...

But then in early 2002, ABC Family (or whatever they were calling themselves that week -- that channel has had more name changes than I did as a kid joining Columbia House for free CDs) started to rerun Time Force from the beginning. For some reason, I decided to check it out. I've made it clear plenty of times that I've always looked down on PR; I'm what the PR fans call a Sentai Snob. So, while I was surprised to enjoy Time Force's premiere and the way they set the story in motion, I didn't think it would last. I figured it would slip into standard PR goofery. I never usually stuck with a PR show for too long, just enough to see what it did with the Sentai. But I stuck with Time Force for a few more episodes and found myself...enjoying it? Yeah, I disappoint me, too. But it did a lot of things I expected Timeranger to and I liked the cast and set-up more and I found myself taping episodes and then...well, my superhero focus in '02 ended up being devoted to Ryuki, which I'm now ashamed to admit I was a bit obsessed with. I didn't end up finishing Time Force for a while.

But, still, I enjoyed what I saw. It played around with time travel a little more. It felt more cop-like. The heroes were more believable as cops, and the cop theme was put to more use. The heroes were more likable than their Japanese counterparts, and the actors were better and making more of an effort than the Power Rangers actors usually do. Time Force makes an improvement to the whole Red doppelganger thing. Time Force has a face lead villain!

It's not all perfect; there's still plenty of the negatives associated with Power Rangers. While the actors are better than usual, there's still some cringe-y moments. Voiceovers are spotty, line deliveries can be stilted. Typical of PR, it's afraid to take itself completely seriously; they fall back on humor that even kids roll their eyes at. The show could use a wee bit more money. The music is atrocious, but then again, Koichiro Kameyama's Timeranger music mostly drives me up the wall. (It's as ugly to me as Eric Serra's GoldenEye soundtrack.) What helps Time Force is having game performers who are making an effort and using so many of the Timeranger concepts -- concepts which had potential, but for a variety of reasons never reached or attempted to reach those potentials. Time Force uses A LOT of Timeranger's material -- to the point where Yasuko Kobayashi and the rest should have received credits -- but often tweaking a scenario, often for the better.

It's strange... I'm not going to pretend to know everything about Power Rangers, but it seems to me like the most popular entries are the In Space through Time Force run. And that's when PR started to adapt the Sentai storylines more and more. My memories of In Space and Lost Galaxy are pretty fuzzy, but I remember those shows excising things that wouldn't work from their Sentai originals for production's sake or logistics. With Time Force -- and it could just be my dislike of Timeranger making it look like this -- it seems to me like the PR staff saw opportunities for improvement and tried to take them. I mean, the show is still very much indebted to Timeranger, it's nearly a Xerox, but...through some of the changes, through a more likable cast, the same material begins to take on a different form of life. (I like how the Japanese Wikipedia describes Time Force as "not as tragic as the original...[but] goes against the happy ending that's typical of American stories.")

Not that Time Force is the perfect version of that show I imagined Timeranger would be when the news first hit. It isn't and it can't be, not when it's building so much from Timeranger's bones. But it tries, it tries to make its premise and world feel a little bigger. (Timeranger's pretty insular; add to that self-centered characters, and the show doesn't seem heroic, it doesn't feel like there's a lot at stake.) The Time Force Rangers definitely feel more superheroic, while still all having their own personal problems. (That means they're not all so self-involved as the Timeranger. Well, maybe Lucas. Lucas would fit in with the Timeranger.) It's a Power Rangers show with more ambition than the norm. And I think it's kind of sad that, starting with In Space but really kicking into gear with Time Force, it was looking like maybe Power Rangers -- through sticking more closely with the Sentai material, but building from it and making their own tweaks -- was improving itself for the better and trying to aim higher. (Think of those early seasons that completely disregarded the Sentai material and did whatever bonkers, goofy, inconsequential stuff it wanted to -- forcing its square peg through Sentai's round hole.) It's funny to me, because most of pop-culture in the mid-to-late '90s was all about ironic detachment and irreverence and being pleased with itself and not taking anything seriously, but it's the Disney entries from the mid-00s that have a tone more like that; Power Rangers was actually in the midst of change, attempting to try to gain a little more substance by the late '90s...

But then Saban sells off the franchise and it ends up with freaking Kid Gloves Disney who set the whole thing back again -- and set it back even further by selling it back to Saban, and Saban's missing the good old days, so the new shows are now stuck in that unambitious, goofy Ninjetti-era style. (I haven't watched many of the Neo-Saban adventures on Nick, but it really does give off the stink of when MMPR was past its super-mega-popularity and it got stale and boring and dumb, but Saban didn't care about quality, as long as the piggy banks of America were still crapping major green on him. Sorry, I just read an interview with Austin St. John, and he confirms the suspicion that Saban is really Don Dolnero.) Who knows where the franchise could be or what it could have accomplished if it stayed on the path it was on in the days of Time Force?

And, hey, I know that Time Force is kinda the Jetman or Kuuga of the Power Rangers franchise -- the one that's always praised to the point where people are tired of hearing about it or have flat out turned on it. So why even talk about it? Well, it's coming from me, a Sentai Snob who actually enjoys it and maybe, just maybe prefers it to the Sentai original, which is shameful and traitorous now that I've typed it out. Oh, well. It's like...enjoying Timeranger's ideas, but with less emo-ness and zero Honami. (That alone sounds good, right?) Timeranger's a fan favorite with Sentai fans, and I feel like that me -- the Sentai Guy, the Sentai Snob, the one who ridicules Power Rangers and complains about Saban -- saying I like Time Force or prefer it to Timeranger puzzles them. So I've always wanted to talk about Time Force, really get into what I like (and, of course, don't like) about it, and maybe even shockingly there's some moments where I'll prefer Timeranger's take on something. Let's get going with this already. It's Morphin' Time! (I still don't understand how they passed up bringing that back.)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Rider Warriors (Version Heisei)


Yuusuke Godai/Kamen Rider Kuuga

Godai was a modern, sensitive character that suited the new times that Kuuga -- as a show, as a character -- was meant to present. Selfless, competent, able, he threw himself into the unknown for the sake of other people, risking his body and health, and managed to accomplish what no ancient warrior before him had due to his strength of character and soul. So, again the classic Rider element of "Will this power change him, corrupt him, ruin him," but spun in a new way. You have a dangerous, mysterious power, but it's given to a character who's so genuinely good, could it possibly corrupt him?

I liked early on when they showed the power taking a toll on Godai. He'd put on a smile, but hunch over in pain in private. The power required him to sleep an ungodly amount. He's a genuinely good person, but on the outside, he looks a little irresponsible, acting before thinking, looking like a lazy slacker. But his intentions are so good, he's such a well-meaning guy that nobody could stay mad at him...

But it was nice when they did. Kuuga wanted to be realistic, and I feel it was successful in many ways -- taking a crazy concept like henshin heroes, but applying realism to it in the style and action and consequences and how friends, family, citizens, communities, cities would respond to monster attacks, giving the monsters their own language and code of conduct -- Kuuga accomplished it well. For me, the show gets a little too soft on Godai, though. For all of its attempts at realism, Godai starts to slip and they depict him as being just a bit too perfect. Somebody like Godai would rub a lot of people the wrong way in real life. Sure, some would warm to him, but not EVERYONE. And the show had no problem showing people kind of doubt or distrust or get bothered by Godai's super easygoingness early on, but after a while he wins over everyone with a simple thumbs up.

The moment which perfectly captures this is later on, when Godai's with the cops in a meeting and everyone is all grim and serious and Godai just bursts in with a "daijobu!" and a thumbs-up and a silly face and everyone just laughs and starts to worship Godai. There reaches a point in the show where Godai starts to come off like a kid or a simpleton, and that's not how he's supposed to be, and I always felt like it was basically Odagiri getting a little tired of the role and overcompensating by playing up the goofier aspect of the character more. And what's worse is, when he really lays it on, it makes the character seem insincere. There's a lot of things I like about Godai, but the seemingly dim-witted side isn't one of them. The unrealistic way everyone falls in love with him is another, which is one of the many reasons I say...


Shouichi Tsugami/Kamen Rider Agito

...is Godai done right. He's the peace-loving hippie, he's the guy who's so apparently pure and decent that he's able to control Ozawa's unwieldy G3-X A.I., he's the guy who marches to his own beat, has his own unique outlook on life and is someone seen as being care-free and chill. Only, Shouichi does manage to rub people the wrong way. While his unique take on things does sway some characters over time -- Ashihara initially dislikes him, but takes on his philosophy to the improvement of his life -- most people think he's an oddball. The people he lives with like to mock him. The only person immediately on his side is the quirky Ozawa.

I feel like the characters of Agito react to the Godai/Shouichi type in a realer way. And while Godai certainly wasn't unflappable -- I raved about the Porcupine Grongi episodes before it was cool -- Shouichi is shown more having moments of doubt or fear or anger or pain. There's the added dilemma and pressure over his amnesia. He's struggling with strange powers that are changing him, but he doesn't have the answers to them all the way Godai did with Sakurako's help.


Shinji Kido/Kamen Rider Ryuki

I was super into Ryuki when it aired. Even though I think a lot of the problems the franchise currently faces can be traced back to Ryuki, I thought at the time it was a breath of fresh air. One of the things that made it initially difficult for me to get into a lot of the '70s Rider sequels was how same-y a lot of them were -- that happens with sequels. But Black broke free of that, and I liked that show as an update of the classic Rider setting. Kuuga and Agito proved that you can do something completely different, but still find creative ways to retain Kamen Rider's core concepts and identity.

Ryuki went crazier and farther, but I do think it kept true to Rider, in a way, especially with Shinji. (For the most part.) He was the first outright comedic Kamen Rider lead. He was the first to be a buffoon, after a long line of scientist and student Riders. But Shinji was all heart. The Showa Riders' biggest fight wasn't just against the various forms of Shocker, but a fight within themselves -- to retain their humanity, to not become the monster Shocker turned them into. Ryuki put a new spin on that by having Shinji thrown into this crazy battle with a bunch of anti-social and/or amoral and/or outright criminal people, where his beliefs would be tested, and he had to hold on to his humanity and soul not as literally as Showa Riders, but metaphorically. He was going to take this power, which was created by Shiro Kanzaki for selfish purposes and used for harm, to protect people.

Shinji's the show's big hero, the one who wants to use his ability not for his own gain, but to save people, and to save everyone influenced by one-man Shocker organization Shiro Kanzaki. (The show didn't succeed at getting Kanzaki to work as well as they wanted, but that's another topic. But I do think he was meant to be a timely commentary on the lone agent who causes mass destruction.) So, Shinji being the one true hero of the show, I loved that Ryuki was the only one who had the classic Rider red bug eyes, I thought that was clever.

The problem with Shinji was the show getting too big for its britches and never having the guts to stick to its guns. Other characters got popular and started to take over the show, so Shinji would just flap around his own show like a headless chicken. He zipped and zapped between characters and beliefs and would easily be swayed into bad decisions you know was against the character's beliefs, but...hey, what's it matter, Shinji's so stupid, right? Ugh.

And the show not having the guts to stick to its guns leads to that awful, stupid terrible reset button finale, which FURTHER ruins its characters. Like, Shinji was a dolt, but he was supposed to mature. He became braver. He had a positive impact on some of the people surrounding him, especially Ren. When the events of the entire series are undone, he's back to being the stupid Shinji, who just makes everything miserable for everyone at the ORE Journal.


Takumi Inui/Kamen Rider 555

I like Takumi a lot on paper, but the execution's a little wonky. I'll say I certainly like him in the earlier parts of the show. Around the time he's revealed as Wolf Orphenoch, he seems like someone else. And while Kento Handa's gone up in my estimation -- I still think the guy might have cracked time travel and went and redid his performance -- a better actor would have really hit the character out of Tokyo Dome.

But Takumi's the first Rider who's anti-social because he's a grouchy bastard. That's yet another different spin on the guy who's keeping his distance from loved ones. While he's a genuinely grouchy guy, and fairly cynical, a lot of it is armor -- he admits that he lacks confidence and that he doesn't want to run the risk of hurting or betraying anyone he cares about, so he keeps to himself and is mostly a wanderer, just drifting aimlessly in his life. Despite his demeanor, he does have a heart and cares for others, and you can tell he hates himself in his more jerkier moments. His revelation as an Orphenoch is meant to give this more layers, and bring in the classic Rider dilemma of the monster-trying-to-live-amongst-humanity, but Faiz is so off-the-rails sloppy, chasing its ass in repetition by that point that the show doesn't successfully make that storyline land with the impact they think it does.

Honestly, even though it's pretty much revealed by episode two that only Orphenochs can transform using the Faiz Gear, I don't really feel like the whole Wolf Orphenoch thing -- and certainly the way it was depicted in the show -- was planned. There was obviously going to be a mystery of who Takumi was, but I'm not convinced Takumi was meant to be an Orphenoch. (I think it's a plothole. Mari couldn't transform, despite having the same Orphenoch cells that Kusaka has, and he's able to transform. I think Inoue strayed from what he might have originally been planning.)

Takumi's most important role in the show is as Orphenoch supporter. The show's at its best when it's the three dry-cleaning buddies and their relationships with the three renegade Orphenoch buddies. I like how kind of organically all of their relationships unfold, with Takumi and Kiba initially kind of not getting along, but then they become friends and then Takumi's confronted with the fact that Kiba and Osada are Orphenoch, and he's conflicted. But he sees the good in them, he sees that they're even better people than some of the humans he's met, so he fights for them. Making Takumi an Orphenoch robs this story of its power.

Takumi's a better hero than you realize, though. He puts his ass on the line for his pals. He puts himself in harm's way when he thinks something stinks. Despite how terribly Kusaka treats him, he genuinely feels bad for the guy and sees how damaged he is when he lays out all of his problems to him. He's a guy who'd LIKE to just turn his back and ride away, but even when he tries, he can't. He's a true Inoue character.

Kazuma Kenzaki/Kamen Rider Blade

Blade's a mess. That always comes out when Kamen Rider Blade is brought up around me. If someone's naming the Heisei Riders, and they go "Kuuga, Agito, Ryuki, Faiz, Blade --" I'll just reflexively cut them off with a "Blade's a mess!"

They wanted Kenzaki to be the young, bright optimistic hero, and yet at the same time he was supposed to have baggage and be haunted and paranoid and overwhelmed and a bit untrusting, because BOARD was so incompetently put together that it felt like a new betrayal every day to him. Actor Takayuki Tsubaki's a likable enough guy, but not a great actor, and Kenzaki is (under)written and so inconsistently that he doesn't make enough of an impression. (Even Seiji Takaiwa's stumped on how to play Blade in suit. Seriously, there is nothing to mark his performance. He had just had three back-to-back-to-back memorable in-suit performances, and Blade seems like it could be anybody.)

And that's made even worse by the show becoming Kamen Rider Chalice. So, Kenzaki majorly takes a back seat, and foolishly takes a liking to Hajime/Chalice -- at the risk of himself, his friends, friends of Hajime -- just because the script says to. So his ultimate sacrifice in the finale doesn't land, it doesn't feel genuine. Kenzaki puts so much on the line for a character he or we have absolutely no reason to care about. (Hajime is completely unlikable for most of the series, and actor Ryoji Morimoto's limited ability as an actor makes him even worse.) He ignores good advice of others for the sake of his foolish plan and he just ends up looking dumb in the long run.


Hitoshi "Hibiki-san!" Hidaka/Kamen Rider Hibiki

The Heisei era's first and last time at trying a true Showa-styled larger than life hero. For as unconventional as Hibiki was, Shigeki Hosokawa was perfect casting, and with his age came a maturity that made Hibiki the extremely dependable pro he was meant to be and that you and Asumu were meant to look up to. He's a kind, sage, easygoing dude. (Sadly, in the Inoue-penned second half of the series, Hibiki begins to seem strangely condescending to Asumu. It's like Inoue recognizes what a cool guy Hibiki is supposed to be and tries to start writing him as a stereotypical "cool" guy, in which he gives off a kind of jerkish air.) Hibiki just acts weird in those later episodes, it's sad -- but he's still one of my favorite Heisei Riders.

What's odd about Hibiki is that the set-up has the possibility of being classic Rider; these are ordinary guys who decided to sacrifice their humanity in order to become onis and fight evil. But treating this as their official job, and trying to be sort of Zen and spiritual leads to the characters all seeming so jolly, the show barely explores the meaning that their sacrifice holds. Only once Inoue takes over do they get into that a bit. (The movie makes the most of it with Kabuki's bitterness and what outcasts the others are; it's one of the reasons that movie is so good.)

Souji Tendou/Kamen Rider Kabuto

I think they wanted Tendou to be a modern update on what I just described Hibiki as -- a larger than life hero who's confident and knows what he's doing -- but it really just didn't work with the wackily inconsistent style of the series and Hiro Mizushima's smug performance. Tendou mostly comes off as a self-centered ass who's out to prove how much better he is than everyone at everything and how much more he knows. He's a real pest, he doesn't seem like he cares about anyone who's not Souji and I'm surprised nobody in the show tried to murder him in his sleep.

I always likened Tendou to those nasty dog owners who beat their dog after it shits on the carpet, shoving their face into its mess.

Ryoutarou Nogami/Kamen Rider Den-O

I think there was potential with the Ryoutarou character to hit a couple of classic Rider motifs -- earlier in the series, his letting the Imagin take control over him caused damage to his body, so you could have had a "he's risking his body/humanity" -- but the show gets far, far too wrapped up in the Imagin shenanigans to have any kind of consistent, good, serious Kamen Rider story. The show's a sitcom, Ryoutarou's the straight man mugging in the background at the hijinks of the colorful characters with their stupid catchphrases.

What I can't stand about Ryoutarou, though, is the way Takeru Satou plays him. There's playing a meek guy and then there's whatever the hell Satou's doing, like that Michael Jackson impersonator voice he puts on.

If Ryuki was the beginning of the end in terms of incorporating anime gimmicks into live action, Den-O's certainly the beginning of the end in terms of incorporating anime behavior. Characters go from attempting to seem flesh and blood to 1D characters only capable of repeating catchphrases.


Wataru Kurenai/Kamen Rider Kiva

I like Wataru for the most part. But I always got the impression that Koji Seto was really checked out by the time the show ends, he just seems over the show. Wataru, for me, is at his best when he's a freak to society. That he's conflicted about his Fangire half, but at the same time kind of grossed out and afraid of the human world is yet another twist on the Classic Rider Dilemma. I love how bizarre they make him, wearing masks and gloves in public, not wanting to speak, having to have Shizuka interpret for him. He's just a weird dude in a weird house with the weird job of repairing violins. I love the nickname given to him by his rude-ass neighbors, "Obaketarou."

All of that really just brings to mind the depictions of the more benevolent vampires who keep to themselves and are hermits, and some of the obsessive-compulsive depictions, as well.

Tsukasa Kadoya/Kamen Rider Decade

He's basically the second Tendou. But whereas Kabuto was a show that only cared about the surface, and how cool everything -- especially Tendou -- was supposed to be, Decade wants you to feel for Tsukasa and care about his journey and whether he finds where he belongs. Well, you don't, because Decade was horribly written, Masahiro Inoue is an incredibly bad actor and Tsukasa's a tool. Oh, he was secretly the leader of Shocker? What a shocker.


Shoutarou Hidari & Philip/Kamen Rider W

Shoutarou's one of my favorites. He's a character who could have easily been obnoxious, like Kiva's Otoya, but he's written better and played by a better actor. Ren Kiriyama carries so much of this show, it's insane to me he's not given more attention or doesn't have the career or popularity that the incredibly weaker Masaki Suda does.

Shoutarou could have easily been just a joke character who was all bluster, but Kiriyama brings a strength and honest to the character. No, he might not be the hardboiled bad-ass he wishes he was, but he's as iron-willed, strong and dedicated as the best hardboiled guys. (A LOT of the protagonists in hardboiled cop stories are usually pretty soft, sensitive guys who bury their feelings and pain deep in order to keep functioning and keep at their job.) Shoutarou can get lost in that wannabe hardboiled act, but when the going gets tough, his real personality comes through, and he's a better hero and detective than he gets credit for, and better than the phony persona he wants to conjure. Without Kiriyama, I probably wouldn't like W much at all.

As for Philip, I can take him when he's the quirky guy who can get wrapped up in minutiae. But when they gave Suda anything dramatic to play, when they got too far into the Sonozaki storyline, I lost interest in Philip, and Suda's performance would really waver.

Eiji Hino/Kamen Rider OOO

I can't make it far in OOO. I forget where I left off. But I thought Eiji and his "gimmick" (it's not even detailed enough to qualify as a "gimmick") was some of the stupidest things thought, written, approved, filmed, and put on television. He's an absent-minded bum who doesn't care about anything other than having tomorrow's underwear! Just...what is that shit? Does Kobayashi think that makes her like David Lynch? Let me tell you something, that's too stupid for David Lynch, and he's written some stupid shit.

And then I find out Eiji was some rich whiny Tatsuya Asami kind of guy who got some people killed and this wandering bum thing is some kind of PTSD-caused creation and...I'm laughing really hard right now, I can't convey that with typing. That makes him even worse! Add on to all of that that the dude who plays him, whose name I don't even want to bother looking up, is just obnoxious. Obnoxious when he's not even doing anything. Just standing there, he'll be making a dopey face.

OOO is one show that I don't think I could watch. It's the first Rider series where I really felt like I just couldn't watch the thing, the first Rider series I felt like it was OK to let go of Rider and not watch them all. I don't even know if I could be convinced to watch the whole show and its movies for a million dollars, and I'm a greedy bastard.

Gentaro Kisaragi/Kamen Rider Fourze

He's not a character, he's a walking gimmick. A stupid gimmick. "I want to be friends with everyone at this school that is constantly under mysterious attack yet we don't know where the attack is coming from!" Fourze's the first Rider show that feels put together by committee -- it was Bandai and parents and teachers and nerds. "Let's have a really lame guy who's just happy all the time, plays with robot burgers and is all about making friends!" And they think it's real cute to have him dressed like a hoodlum delinquent, only for him to have such a My Little Pony message. Jesse Katsopolis is more of a Kamen Rider than this guy.


Haruto Souma/Kamen Rider Wizard

Haruto has the personality of a wet sock. He's got a couple of dead parents he has a hang-up about maybe. That's about all we know about him, other than he was able to beat his despair. How? Why? His love of doughnuts? Who knows! Why deal with that when we can have funny scenes of Haruto using his rings to make fart smells and have Kamen Rider Mayo, like, totally grossing everybody out by putting mayo on everything!

That's another thing -- Haruto never feels like a wizard or magician to me. You really don't get the impression he's magical, that he trained with the White Wizard. All of the powers and abilities come from the rings and the belt and the Bandai gimmicks. So he's no different than any other asshole from the Heisei shows. So, he has no powers AND no personality.

Thing is, I don't even hate Wizard like most of the fandom does. It was very, very formulaic, but it had a lot of ideas I liked. I enjoyed watching the show, for the most part, and think back to it with a fondness. The cast was mostly likable and provided some laughs, including Shunya Shiraishi. The problem with Shiraishi was he was likable, yes -- but he didn't have much of a presence. If you're going to have a role as under-written as Haruto, and so much of the show focus on him, you better get somebody who can make magic out of nothing like a Hiroshi Miyauchi or Kenji Ohba or Jun'ichi Haruta or Tetsuo Kurata.

Kouta Kazuraba/Kamen Rider Gaim

Gaim's pretty messy, too. Not as haphazard of a mess like Blade, but really all over the place.

I liked Kouta earlier in the series, when he was returning to his friends and helping them out. He was optimistic, he wanted to be fair, he tried to help everyone he could at his own risk. He was pretty much the only hero of the show for a long while. But he gets kind of Shinji'd where he gets tugged around by the assholes surrounding him and makes stupid decisions and looks bad. I feel like Gaim is basically just Ryuki 2 -- it's like all of the bad episodes of Ryuki after being filtered through Katy Perry's brain.

Gaku Sano's not a great actor, but there reaches a point where he gets very one-note in his performance, where he just shouts everything in a worried panic. I got tired of that. And then I'll think of that ridiculous get-up Kouta gets when he becomes god of M-78 or whatever.

Yeah, Gaim was a big middle finger. It got you kind of interested and invested and took such dumb turns that you felt so stupid for watching it by the end that you could literally hear the showrunners laughing at you.

Shinnosuke Tomari/Kamen Rider Drive

Agent Cody Banks. Not an interesting character. He liked milk candies and was an expert at solving really obvious cases once he straightened his tie. Whoopie! I couldn't stand it once the show reached a point where it was basically Part 1: Shinnosuke gets his ass kicked by monster. Part 2: "I gotta get stronger!" Shinnosuke gets new toy to beat monster. Repeat until you hit an episode that was supposed to be "story driven," but wasn't.

Man, how stupid was the arc of him solving his dad's murder? "I caught the culprit!" "Sorry, Shinnosuke. I was just standing in the back of the bank that day. But I saw who really killed him! It was the bank teller!" Shinnosuke catches the bank teller. "Sorry, Shinnosuke. It looked like I fired the gun, but it was a reflection from the metallic counter. But I saw who shot the gun! It was the third guy in line." Shinnosuke catches the third guy in line. "Sorry, Shinnosuke! I was just there on business and the real culprit bumped into me and dropped the gun into my hands, so...wasn't me! But I know who it was! It was the guy who delivers those sandwiches from that place!" Shinnosuke catches the sandwich guy. "Sorry, Shinnosuke! It wasn't me! I was set up by that one guy. You know that guy who works at the police station, who is really suspicious and played by a really bad actor who couldn't possibly be more out of place? The guy you originally suspected, but we needed to prolong this shit? Yeah, it's not him, but I thought I'd remind you of him!"

Ugh. I enjoyed Drive for a second and then it got real insufferably stupid.

Takeru Tenkuuji/Kamen Rider Ghost

I didn't make it far into Ghost, just several episodes. I like its set-up, I think the cast would be good in a better made show, but it's such a safe, fluffy show, literally about nothing but collecting the toys, like some shitty sub-Pokemon anime. Takeru's actor seemed likable enough, but I thought the character came across not as selfless or courageous as he was supposed to seem.

I haven't watched a single episode of Ex-Aid or Build, so I'll leave them off.