Sunday, November 17, 2013


Any fan of the '80s shows can tell you -- the merchandise from those shows can be pretty expensive nowadays. When I was after some of the henshin braces, the prices tended to be for a few hundred dollars. Mint-in-box mecha would be near seven hundred dollars. But this...this, man...I think it's a new, disgusting*, ridiculous record.

The elusive Masking Brace, which shows up on auctions about once a year, has been going for some crazy prices, but...12,201 yen! That's $1,200.00 USD! That's more than a lot of the mecha will go for! That's...that's...that's a goddamn home entertainment system! That's a trip somewhere! I know it's rare, I know it's old, but...that's a lot of money for a plastic watch. (Thank goodness the Masking Brace isn't one of the henshin braces I'm interested in -- I remember it seeming pretty unimpressive as a kid, especially after you've had something like the Change Brace. In '87, I wanted one of those Black belts that worked with the TV, dammit.)

I think Bandai Japan's morons for not jumping on this, doing a kind of Sentai equivalent to the Legacy Morphers and doing new version of the old henshin braces. If there are nuts out there willing to drop over a grand on one, then Premium Bandai's crazy pricing shouldn't make them blink an eye. But, no, knowing the way Bandai works, IF they did it, they'd start with the overrated Sunvulcan, nobody would want to buy it, and then the line would die. GET OVER YOUR LOVE FOR SUNVULCAN, TOEI!

*I'd like to clarify that I don't mean disgusting that someone wanted it bad enough to pay that price, but that it's disgusting they have to pay that much to get it.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Soldier Dragon

I don't think I've ever officially declared it, but Changeman is my favorite Sentai series. The characters, the stories, the cast, the scale of it -- there's a lot I love about the show. Hiryuu Tsurugi/Change Dragon is my favorite Red hero, and I give a lot of credit to the actor, Haruki Hamada, who I really admire.

While Changeman was his first television starring role, Hamada was a dramatically trained stage actor whose teacher encouraged him to pursue auditioning for the show because he thought it would be a good experience for him. At the time, Hamada was one of the youngest actors cast as Red -- 23 at the start of filming in late '84 -- and I think this is something that helps shape the way Tsurugi differs from a majority of his predecessors. One of Changeman's big themes is the way the big space war changes the five young soldiers, how it forces them to grow up, and while Tsurugi is a dependable leader to the team, he's not the one with all of the answers, the stoic guy who has it all worked out -- he goes by gut, he can become too emotionally involved in a case, he puts himself out there if he thinks he sees an injustice. From the very first episode, he's the one who speaks up when he thinks Ibuki has gone too far; his leadership is apparent when he's the one who inspires the other four to stand up to Gozma just as they feel like they're finished. (Episode 47 shows he was even this way as a kid, when saving Aira from rock-throwing bullies.) But he's not perfect, the next couple of episodes highlight the way Tsurugi takes a solo approach, having to learn that he'll have to lean on the others and the Earth Defense soldiers when the burden becomes too much.

With Hamada's training, he provides subtleties that make Tsurugi feel like more than just a standard larger than life superhero, but a human. He grounds it all; Tsurugi is compassionate, but can be very intense, and I think he has more going on than most of his predecessors and is a refreshing change. His theater background makes it so he can sell the hell out of those grand superhero speeches, but an adeptness at handling the emotional material, treating the material seriously and never hitting a false note. I like all five Changeman performers and think they're talented and have a good chemistry, but I credit Hamada with a lot of getting the hero cast to unite and bring their A game and reach that point where they have such a good rapport. (I've always given a lot of credit to the dramatic actors in Changeman for getting everyone to up their game; in addition to Hamada, there's the veterans like Ibuki's actor, Jun Fujimaki, and Giuluke's actor, Shouhei Yamamoto, who both treated the material seriously and, in Yamamoto's case, really lifted his role into being a really memorable character. There's a lot to be said for good actors -- great directors can't get much out of bad actors, but there's plenty of examples of good actors doing more than what's on page or even being great in a bad show or movie. In Changeman's case, it's nice that the show had a good, observant staff -- it always seemed to me like they paid attention to what a performer like Hamada or Yamamoto, especially, would do, and would mine their performance for further material. Yamamoto has a track record for playing really nasty villain characters, and he begins Changeman being far more subdued, for example, but the Super Guiluke arc is when the writers let Yamamoto cut loose with just how sinister he can be; there's a vast difference between the old and new Guiluke.)

Tsurugi is responsible for setting into motion some of the series' most pivotal moments; his care for Nana and faith in Shiima led to two of the most important allies in the Great Gozma War. He had a willingness to assist villains, if they seemed to need his help: he took a lot of pain from Super Guiluke that was intended for Gator, to spare Gator so he could be at his wife's side while she was in labor, which in turn led to another ally joining their cause; he was even willing to help out his rival, Buuba, when he saw that Super Guiluke was trying to force him into being a Space Beast Warrior, and trying to get Buuba to rejoin the worried Jiiru. There's times in toku kind of can't buy the way a hero is depicted as being so goody-goody that they're willing to help out a villain on a whim, but the way it's written in Changeman is consistent with the storyline, but again, I think a lot of credit is due to the way Hamada plays it. I chuckled at Sunvulcan when the three of them salute Amazon Killer after killing her, but you can believe that Tsurugi felt sorry enough for and respected Buuba as a warrior enough to bring flowers to his grave.

One of my favorite episodes, which isn't that crucial of an episode, it's a bit of a throwaway after the conclusion of a five-part arc, is the episode where Tsurugi fakes his death in order to launch a sneak attack on the monster of the episode. It shows the lengths Tsurugi will go in order to defeat a monster. Really bum out his friends by faking his death? Sorry, guys, that's part of the job. Don't question Tsurugi!

One of my all-time favorite Sentai episodes, though, is episode 54. In their final battles, the Changeman are really just against the clock and become pretty desperate -- not only does Ahames cripple their efforts by destroying their base and equipment, but there's also the threat of the Gozma Star colliding into the Earth, and Super Guiluke at that point is just crazy powerful with his demonic powers and wreaking all kinds of havoc in the Gozmard mothership. So, Tsurugi makes the call to sneak aboard the Gozmard, on his own, and take Guiluke out. It's not some typically big, over-the-top, glorious samurai-esque final battle they'll have: they're desperate, and it's going to be more like an assassination. It's a bit of an interesting gray area for a Sentai show to present its hero, IMO. Dragon sneaks up on Guiluke, and if it wasn't for Guiluke noticing Dragon's reflection at the last minute, he wouldn't have known what hit him, he would have been a goner. The way Hamada plays the scene when Tsurugi decides to leave for the Gozmard, he knew it was most likely a one way trip. And, if not for Nana, Tsurugi might NOT have made it out alive. Guiluke is still critically injured, though, but goes on to fight after turning HIMSELF into a monster! When things get rough for Gozma, Super Guiluke runs around turning all of the regulars into monsters, and while it seems like a lot of it is out of spite for how they turned on him, it's really that the endgame has been set in motion. You might even think Guiluke is cowardly, but he walks the walk -- when the chips are down, he turns himself into a monster, as well. The old Guiluke had once been treasonous to Star King Bazuu, but Super Guiluke had a confidence and dedication -- he became as dedicated to serving his army as the Changeman serve theirs. And it's the wound that Dragon gave Guiluke that is his undoing.

You just don't fuck with Tsurugi. His bad side's a dangerous place to be.

So, Tsurugi being my favorite and all, for my birthday a few weeks back, a friend made me this:

With the baseball outfit! The baseball outfit! And, shut up, the baseball episodes are awesome! And before anyone says there isn't an actor likeness, well...that's the problem if you don't want to sculpt. Also, there seems to be a real lack of Asian-faced dolls out there. (This doll IS Asian, but it doesn't come across in the photographs.) Besides, other than Medicom, I can't really think of when the official Japanese toys care to capture an actor's likeness. Most of the time, they'll just be vague anime-ish faces. I mean, here's what the official unmasked Dragon toy they did come out with looks like...

Monday, July 15, 2013

Sentai producers: putting a face to the names

By request...

As was the case with the writers post, I'm covering only the chief producers, who are the real brains, anyway, when compared to the sub-producers and assistant producers. (I know there are people out there who like to credit, say, Shirakura for Dairanger, when he was just a sub-producer on that show, or credit Takebe for Megaranger when she was just an assistant producer.)

I didn't realize how awesome this guy was until putting this thing together.

All I'm trying to do is help you understand that Akibaranger is merely a blip on an otherwise uninterrupted downward trajectory.

Here's Mister "Girls are weak, which is why there's only one in my terrible, terrible show."

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sentai writers: putting a face to the names

There's all kinds of behind-the-scenes and making of featurettes on the Sentai DVDs, where they'll talk to various staff members like directors and producers and SFX people and stunt people and the people who choreograph the terrible credits dances and caterers and people who turn off the lights at the end of the day and so on. But they don't usually talk to the writers, which is odd when you're used to the featurettes on American DVDs -- where writers won't just be interviewed, but probably have a commentary track, too. Toku writers do give interviews in magazines and the special books devoted to their show, but since they're ignored in the video featurettes, I feel that makes them somewhat overlooked. Now, fans know which writer is who and will talk about them, but are they just names? Who are these people? What do they look like? Here's a breakdown of each Sentai main writer with a picture, so you can imagine who it was hunched over a typewriter/computer, creating your favorite show. (Or see the person behind your least favorite show and flip them the bird or print it out and place it on a dart board or something.)

If Takaku wasn't important to Battle Fever, they wouldn't have included him in Ohranger, in which the producers enlisted every series main writer to contribute to the series since it was the first big anniversary celebration.

I like a lot of his Metal Hero shows, so why did Hurricane turn out the way it did?

Kamen Rider needs your help again, Arakawa.

Don't be too happy with yourself, Sanjou -- W went limp in its second half and Kyoryuger is horrid.

Now, there's two people missing, you might be saying. Well, I haven't seen a picture of Junki Takegami (main writer of Megaranger, GoGoFive, Gaoranger and Go-onger) and couldn't find one doing a Google search, and there's not a picture of Michiko Yokote (main writer of Gekiranger and Goseiger) because Yokote isn't even a person -- it's a collective pseudonym for three people. That's right, Yokote consists of one person who's just the manager, one person who handles dialogue and one who handles the plots -- which is funny considering that Gekiranger and Goseiger are often harshly criticized for lacking characters and/or plot.

Soda and Inoue are my favorites, but I also really like Takaku. Who are your favorites?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Jiraiya: The Face of Dokusai

I recently finished rewatching Sekai Ninja Sen Jiraiya and hauled out some of my TV Magazines/TV Lands, looking for cool pics from it. (Turns out I don't have as many issues from '88 as I thought.) But in one of the issues there's a plain shot of the main villain, Dokusai, unmasked -- a scene that lasted only a split-second in the series, mostly keeping the actor in shadows.

Oni Ninja Dokusai is one of my favorite Metal Hero villains -- he's got the whole creepy oni design, and AFAIC, this is voice-actor Shozo Iizuka's best toku work; Iizuka just makes him nasty and vicious, and really displays the glee Dokusai can take when tormenting a character. It's unlike most of his other performances, he seems more restrained as Dokusai, more trying to sell that there's a man behind the mask. Dokusai's a character who was a fellow student of the Togakure Ninja style along with Touha/Jiraiya's (adoptive) dad, Tetsuzan. Like many of villains in a ninja/samurai/martial-arts show or movie, Dokusai rebelled and went to the dark side; not only is it hinted that he was jealous of Tetsuzan courting and marrying a woman he liked, Sanae, but his greed got the best of him, wanting to steal the Board leading to the hidden Pako treasure and the secrets it withheld. For most of the series, you're just wondering what's beneath that mask, and the show messes with the viewer, having Jiraiya crack Dokusai's mask a couple of times, where Dokusai disguises himself as Tetsuzan to mess with Jiraiya's head. It ends up revealed in the finale that there's really nothing behind the mask -- whoever Dokusai was became so corrupt, so evil, that he lost his human form. (Which doesn't really explain why you can see his fingers in those finger-less gloves, but...) When Jiraiya breaks his mask in the finale, what's revealed is something that just looks like a blackhole. I always thought it was kind of disappointing that Tetsuzan didn't get to kill Dokusai -- he was the one who knew him, plus Dokusai killed Sanae (Kei and Manabu's mother), so he had more investment. But the show wasn't called Sekai Ninja Sen Tetsuzan, so Jiraiya gets to do it...

Anyway, there's one flashback early on in the series that shows Tetsuzan fighting with Dokusai, where for a split second they show his face. And here in TV Magazine, they have a still...

Any JAC fan can tell you that that dude above is Satoshi Kurihara, probably best known as General Gaira in Sharivan. (He's also made appearances in some of Keita Amemiya's earlier movies.) Kurihara is mostly a face actor with the JAC and not a suit guy (Dokusai's suit-actor was Metal Hero regular Noriaki Kaneda), so it makes me wonder if by casting Kurihara that the show had bigger plans to get into Dokusai's background, but just decided to let it be more of a mystery. The text with the pic above just says "The Past Dokusai," but Kurihara's not even credited as that much in the episode, instead just being listed amongst the JAC names.

I just thought this was sort of neat. (Sorry the scan's not better; not only is it from the crappy, colorless back pages of a TV Magazine, but the picture is placed near the center of the magazine!)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

IMDB -- Inaccurate Movie Database

Look, I know people should know by now not to trust the IMDB, especially when it comes to something niche like tokusatsu, but I have seen people repeat some of the information found there, even recently, so I think some things need to be cleared up.

-Kotaro Tanaka (Ryu/Red Hawk) is not married to Rika Kishida (Kaori/White Swan). This is a rumor started and perpetuated by the American fandom, as you'll find jackcrap if you Google it on the Japanese Google. (The rumor on the Japanese end, strangely enough, is that Tanaka dated Sayuri Uchida, aka Ako, which has also been debunked.) In a 2004 Jetman reunion in Toei Hero Max, it's said that Kishida is married to a businessman and they live in Shanghai due to his job.

-The kid who played Toran is not the kid who played Kai in Zyuranger. Solved by a simple Googling of actor names.

-Kei Mizutani was not in Jetman.
-Ryousuke "Umizu" was not in Jetman.
-Haruna Ikezawa has nothing to do with any toku that's not Voicelugger, yet someone places her name in every toku ever.
-Wakiko Kano (Gavan's Mimi) did not play Maria/Miss America.
-Keita Amemiya had nothing to do with Maskman or Liveman.

-Mitsuko Horie did not play Spielban's mother.
-Mika Katsumura (Yuuri/Time Pink) did not play young Diana.
-Masaru Nagai (Tatsuya/Time Red) did not play young Spielban.
-Rei Sato (Gaoranger's Tsuetsue) did not play young Helen. These last four really irk me, because all you need is your eyes and some brains to know it's BS. (Spielban's mom is a whitey, for starters.)

Where do people come up with this crap?!

And don't trust Wikipedia, either, kids.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Sixth hero follow-up: Jiku & Jiku Jienne

I had included these characters in my previous post, but figured I should remove them since I wasn't going to talk about characters like Ninjaman or Signalman. Because while nobody counts these two, I really like 'em. You know Bandai was obviously shitting bricks when they realized GoGoFive wouldn't be having six heroes ("They'd have to change their name to GoGoSix!"), but I thought the story was a bit crafty in how they approached the idea of a sixth. (I also have to give credit to Power Rangers for creating their own sixth since GoGoFive lacked one -- Titanium Ranger is pretty neat looking.)

I know some people think that Jiku doesn't fit in with GoGoFive, introducing an alien character, but I always preferred to look at Jiku as...not really being an alien from space, but maybe an angel from Heaven. (There also seems to be something angelic about the artwork of Jiku Jienne on the Laserdisc cover, emitting light.)

It's awesome enough that Keiichi Wada plays Jiku (and is reunited with Ryuu Ranger suit actor Naoki Oofuji), but the best part of this movie is that Kyoko's prayers are answered in that she gets to be a hero. Even if briefly, having her transformation be the centerpiece of this one-off movie special made it stand out, and she gets to help the GoGoFive, even getting to deliver the "Sword, show the light" line for Victory Robo. (What a difference an additional hero can make, what an impact they can have when their arrival isn't about selling toys, huh?) It's just too bad that this movie was made at a point when toku movies tended to be stand-alones, with events never affecting the actual series or continuity, so they never really care to match up with the show. I mean, it would have even been nice to show Kyoko in a later episode wearing the necklace made from Jiku's crystal. That's simple enough, why couldn't they even just do that!?

Nevertheless, the GoGoFive movie is one of the best Sentai movies, IMO, and worth checking out. (And worth jumping on the bandwagon of "Jiku is awesome, let's mention him whenever we talk about extra heroes.")

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Phoenix Rises

Neat news for Changeman and JAC fans -- Kazuoki (Hayate/Change Griffin), who has been active on stage for the past several years, has said that he's going to be doing a play next month with Mai Ooishi (Mai/Change Phoenix). It's her first time acting since Changeman! (I was recently wondering why she quit acting after Changeman.) Hopefully this will lead to more roles for her.

It would also be cool if Haruki Hamada (Tsurugi/Change Dragon) attended and someone got a pic with the three of them together -- Changeman reunion!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The funniest thing you'll read all week...

Of Japanese Power Rangers fans (are there any?), someone supposedly said:

"Japanese Power Rangers fans seem to find the show much darker, cooler, and more complex than Super Sentai could ever manage."


Even Go-onger seems like a Shane Carruth work compared to ANY Power Rangers series. C'mon! Who would even think... Evidently, I missed the season where the Power Rangers decided, instead of cleaning up the park on the weekend after doing all of their homework on a Friday night, to go on some sort of Clockwork Orange-styled frenzy.

Whew, that was a nice laugh.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Shougo recommends: CinemaSins YouTube channel

As one of the few moviegoers who just wasn't impressed by The Avengers and thought Skyfall was an asinine insult to the Bond franchise, I'm glad that someone directed me towards these video reviews by CinemaSins on YouTube. While I'm sure some defensive people dismiss their critiques as nitpicking (and some critiques are exaggerated for comedic effect), I think they're right on the nose about why The Avengers was ridiculous and why Skyfail fails from frame one of its hole-ridden, idiot plot screenplay.

Sorry, I'm just irked at reading on a daily basis -- no matter what forum I go to -- what a "masterpiece" The Avengers is, or how Skyfall is the best Bond movie, when it makes every character look like a nimrod in order to get their lame-o, rip-off villain to look good.

I also think J.J. Abrams' Star Trek is wayyyyyyyyyyyyy overrated, but CinemaSins didn't do as good of a job taking that one down.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Sixth Sense

I've never really cared for sixth heroes. A lot of times, the new cast member throws off the balance and rapport of the other cast members, and a lot of times their stories bring the show to a screeching halt. Like the addition of a new mecha, you can smell the formula of a new hero's arrival, and you know the next several episodes will be devoted to trying to get you to like them, trying to get them to fit in, and trying to get you to want to buy all of their toys. So, I just wanted to talk about the sixths hero, which ones I like, which ones I think suck, and which ones whose inclusion makes me scratch my noggin. (I'm going to ignore those ones like Ninjaman, Signalman and Gosei Knight for now. It's weird that Gokaiger counted Gosei Knight as a sixth, as proven by Gokai Silver's Golden Shield of Ugliness pictured above, when he's just a Ninjaman type.)

Even though I like Ryou/X1 Mask, who's not only the prototype sixth hero, but pretty much the prototype for Black Condor, he's not counted as a sixth hero, which is still kinda BS to me. It's kind of weird to imagine how Maskman would have been affected had he been a regular, though. I assume he'd throw things off the way Bison and Sai did in Liveman, but it's something to think about...

We all know the first sixth hero is Burai/Dragon Ranger. He's one of the only few sixth heroes I really like. Zyuranger is one of my least favorite Sentai shows, but it definitely needed an active antagonist -- and Burai was it. Even if he was only villainous for a handful of episodes, he came at a time the show really needed shaken up like that, and he brought pretty much the only interesting shades to the hero side of the show. The Zyuranger heroes always seemed like guests in their own show to me -- they're just there. If not played by a unique group of cast members, I think you'd be unwilling to follow those characters and hard pressed to like them. But Burai had shit going on, he was on borrowed time. He makes Geki more interesting, so he's a helpful addition to the show. And it also helps that he's played by Change Pegasus, but I'll be honest...I still think it's a bit of a bizarre casting choice. The show has such a wonky, comedic vibe to it that you can tell he holds back from being fully villainous, but it's still difficult to see goofy old Yuuma Oozora in this kind of role. Change Griffin? He plays as many villains as he does heroes, so him I could imagine in the role. How'd they come up with Pegasus? I know Izumi was popular, but I still think it's weird, man...

Kou/Kiba Ranger

Hate this kid. He's shrill, he's obnoxious. He's introduced and given, like, 12 straight episodes of focus. They spend these introductory episodes establishing him as an unlikabe little shit, and then try to make you care about him. I don't care about him. Akomaru was more likable, and he was a vicious little bastard. Next.

Riki/King Ranger

I like Riki's storyline, it's neat to have a hero who has previous experience with the villains. But the kid they cast? Oof. He'd have been at home on Power Rangers. Crummy acting, grating voice. When King's introduced, they have Zyuranger's Takumi Hashimoto dubbing him, which just makes you wonder why they just didn't cast Hashimoto as Riki. That would have so much better...

Yuusaku/Mega Silver

I've come to like him a little more over the years, but I still have clinging memories to how much I used to hate him -- I remember being a little pissed off that the hero who was so much older than the others, who was supposed to be so high-ranking at INET, was the stupidest, most goofiest character in the show. What's funny is how much time the show spends with him early on, when he can only be transformed for a brief moment, and then when he solves the problem? The character practically disappears from the show!

Hyuuga/Black Knight

I tend to gloss over Black Knight when I'm thinking of Gingaman. If I say "I like the Gingaman heroes," chances are I'm talking about the core five and not Hyuuga. It's not that he's bad or anything, but he's brought into the show in such a bizarre way -- they make the character both an extra nobody AND a sixth. They establish Bullblack as the sort of Ninjaman sixth, and then turn it into being that Bullblack has absorbed Hyuuga, so they can still have a traditional sixth who's human, just doesn't work for me. At least give him a different design to differentiate from Bullblack, who's an alien who's supposed to look like that fugly design, from Hyuuga, who's...using that alien's body as armor? I remember when Gingaman aired, right at the first episode, people were like "Ninja Red is playing the brother, I guess we know who the sixth hero is," so Toei likely concocted this fake out attempting to avoid predictability which was the fault of their own casting decision, but something about it just never worked for me.

Naoto/Time Fire

I'm tired of complaining about Timeranger, so I'll condense it: I could never really get into the show because I think the five cast members are so cold and unlikable, when they're only initially supposed to be that way, but actually become great, great friends. The five actors have this air of "we're too cool for this shit," and I don't like 'em. Naoto's a good character for a viewer who feels that way. Naoto has a beef with Tatsuya because he just sees a spoiled brat; Naoto wants to prove himself to all of those people who kept him down. He's kind of a sad character in that he comes from nothing and has to earn his way, but he's so driven that he unknowingly plays right into Ryuuya's hands. I think Shinji Kasahara's a good actor who toku should have kept around.

Oogami/Gao Silver

An interesting storyline, the awesome Naoki Oofuji killing it in suit, but it's all for nothing because Tetsuji Tamayama is horrid. Just a total zombie. But it also doesn't help that I really liked the five Gaoranger actors and thought they were easygoing and had good chemistry and were such a fun bunch, that Silver and his mopeyness threw out of whack. I still think Abaranger improved upon the Loki/Silver storyline with Asuka and the Legendary Armor of Darkness, though. Gaoranger is when the sixth's storylines start getting pretty tedious, in my opinion -- they always seem to be brought into the show in the same way, at the same point as Gaoranger did it.


Great gimmick with the changing faces, but the show needed to reveal a final one that wasn't a CGI silhouette, because I always kind of just disregard Shurikenger as a real hero. He's practically like a Bullblack or White Racer to me, or like a cartoon character inserted into a live action show. And what the hell was the thinking behind getting Taiki Matsuno as the voice? He's funny, but such a total weirdo.

Tetsu/Deka Break

Sucks, I hate him. The actor looks and sounds 12, but is supposed to be from the Major Case Squad? Not only that, but he's introduced as being cool, and then after spending two episodes with the Dekaranger, becomes dumber than any of them. He's one of the major weak links of Dekaranger I could never get over, but at least we got those awesome two episodes with Mie Nanamori's Deka Bright coming to scold him for being such a nincompoop. SHE should have been the sixth one on the team.

Hikaru/Magi Shine

I like the idea of the character, but he never really did anything to wow me. Plus Shine's design is quite possibly one of the worst hero designs the franchise has seen. And he has an awful, eardrum-busting Psychic Lover theme. Toei wasn't making it easy to like this guy, when he should have been pretty cool.

Eiji/Bouken Silver

Can't stand anything about the show to even care. Super fugly design, though. Eiji just doesn't fit in, except as a "Hey, Inuyasha's popular, squeeze that into the show." I suppose they wanted to avoid the standard "the sixth is better than all the others" thing so they wouldn't overshadow Cheefoo, so they came up with this flimsy storyline, but...they so badly botched their attempt at making Akashi "cool" and "old-school," anyway, what did it matter?

Hiroto/Go-on Gold & Miu/Go-on Silver

If only they were the calm, cool, pro bad-asses they pretended they were...

Genta/Shinken Gold

HATE this guy. No, like, REALLY hate him. He thinks he's hilarious and mugs more than the washed-up, unfunny Jim Carrey. (So, post-Liar Liar Jim Carrey.) He's about as funny as sitting on your balls. The most pointless addition to a Sentai, period. The Shinkenger didn't need him at all. We had the comedic member in Ryunosuke; that Genta was Takeru's childhood friend wasn't explored, so it ultimately made no difference. He's simply the hero Bandai needed. So far, he's my least favorite sixth hero.

Gai/Gokai Silver

The actor could be pretty damned obnoxious and go way overboard, but I liked Gai as a character. The brooding hero? The girl crazy hero? Every Sentai team can have one of those. Not every Sentai team can have a hero who's a Sentai fan, who's knowledgeable about Sentai. While I feel like Akibaranger's Nobuo Akagi made Gai obsolete, that's still a cool character trait, and something that makes Gai one of a kind as far as the official series goes.

Utsusemimaru/Kyoryu Gold

I'm really not liking Kyoryuger, so it shouldn't be a surprise that I don't care for Gold. Kyoryuger is just scraping, man, in its desperation to get you to forget the Go-busters misfire. It's taking an idea from every single Sentai show and shoving together and hoping it works, when it just reminds you of all of the shows that did it better and/or less obnoxiously. So, Utsusemimaru is basically just Mega Silver, Gao Silver and Deka Break shoved together. The show could have used a sane member to make fun of the five cartoon idiots the show calls heroes, but he's instead just a fake -- secretly a dope who's just as stupid as the rest. Points for getting Naoki Oofuji back to play him in-suit, though. Poor guy.

Sixth heroes -- do we even need them? When they're done right, which is a rarity, they can be a jolt that's beneficial to a show. But, back in my day, the shows had new VILLAINS to do that, and I think that can be more interesting. But a hero is what moves toys. Hoping for a new Sentai show to have just five members is like hoping for a new Rider series with just one Rider. Fine, Toei -- but just drop the goddamn "Go" titles and puns already, when you have no intention to sticking to "five" of anything.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Ranger Key nightmare returns

Just when you thought it was safe...

Premium Bandai has announced another overpriced release, the Metal Hero Ranger Keys used in the sure-to-be-stinkbomb Superhero Taisen Z. The crazily priced set doesn't seem worth it to me -- the only ones I'd be interested in are Jiraiya and Janperson, anyway. (I guess I'd also want the Abare Pink Key, that is if fans are correct in their guess that the secret Key with the Abaranger mark is Abare Pink.)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Dance Party BFJ

I often get asked why I like Battle Fever J so much. I just do. So, there! I've got a fever and the only prescription is more Battle Fever! Gotta have more Battle Fever, baby.

"But their costumes are ugly!" Says you, who likes the Boukenger designs. "They dance, that's dumb!" Says you, who likes Kyoryuger.

I love the Battle Fever suit designs. They look like no other Sentai team and no other Sentai team looks like them. (You can even make up as many extra characters as you can think of.) I can remember when I was a kid, seeing pictures of Battle Fever J in retrospective books, and just taking a liking to their designs. Basing a hero's design off of a flag could be uninspired and bland, but these suits were just so damned original and creative. Yes, Miss America's wig is weird, is putting lips on helmets, but everybody loves those, right? I also really, really dig the realistic-looking weapons they each have -- Cossack's sai and America's throwing knives, for example.

Battle Fever J -- for better or worse -- really reflects its point in the decade, the current trends, and embraces them. I feel that it does moreso than any of the other '70s or early '80s Sentais -- these characters were 1979 and they didn't let you forget it! They name-check popular singers, hang out at dance clubs, play video games! And because of that the heroes seem to me like they're supposed to come across as being hipper than your average hero. They're supposed to be up-to-date, cool, in-the-know. Maybe it hasn't aged well, but it makes them a heck of a lot more distinctive and lively than some of their contemporaries. You never get much of a sense of what the Goranger or JAKQ are like outside of the job, but the liveliness of the Battle Fever's heroes creep through even on their missions -- not to say that they don't take their job seriously or aren't good at their job, but BFJ just has a looser vibe to it, trying to be COOL. (The way Dekaranger are supposed to be cool cops or the Shinkenger cool samurai -- this show has cool spies.) It's not "cheesy" or some nudge-wink attempt at being kitsch for kitsch's sake or whatever -- the show was genuine in its attempt at seeming cool, and is just one of those '70s things that young'uns and newbs look back on and laugh, but I take it for what it is. (Your Wizard and Kyoryuger shows won't age well at all, either, kids.)

To reflect Battle Fever's Marvel connection, Toei hired comic book artists like Shuuhou Itahashi and Yuuji Kaida to design the heroes. The top picture is of early Battle Fever design concepts, the bottom picture is of the suits before a few final alterations. Changes made for the best, I'd say -- those yellow eyes really don't work.

Since Battle Fever J for a while was considered the "first" Super Sentai series, people have made comparisons between it and Goranger, thinking of BFJ as a sort-of remake. For me, Battle Fever J is improved upon Goranger. I know that's blasphemous to some Sentai fans, but that's the way I feel. Goranger, besides being too set in its ways, had a really wonky consistency to it. Look at that first episode, and then randomly select an episode just several ones down the line. Whiplash, right? Like, they couldn't possibly be from the same show? Battle Fever J can be goofy -- evil escargot, anyone? -- but I think there's just more a sense of cohesion about it. It can work as comedy, it can work serious. I think it has a little more fun with its spy premise -- I love the secret messages the team receives and passageways they use to get to their headquarters; the team going undercover and utilizing disguises. This being a Susumu Takaku-written show, I like the flair of "Japanese-ness" to it. (How awesome is their Shogun, man? Takes out a main villain on his own! As played by jidaigeki superstar Chiyonosuke Azuma, Kurama is easily one of the top mentors, keeping the team on their toes and often helping sell even some of the villains' more goofier plans by treating each threat seriously and with urgency. Like Changeman's Ibuki, he's one team commander that the heroes AND the villains should be afraid to cross.)

Also something I wanted to point out -- some people complain that, say, Battle Japan does a kung-fu dance, when it should be karate, or don't understand why Battle France does a Spanish dance. In a lot of the Sentai encyclopedia books, they explain that Battle Japan is actually supposed to represent all of Asia; Battle France all of Europe; Battle Cossack all of Eurasia; Miss America is supposed to represent America and Oceania. Is this an explanation by Toei after the fact? Maybe, but I think it's interesting to note.

Something that always disappointed me about Goranger was the villains. They start off spooky enough, even if they are initially a really watered down mock-Shocker. (Mocker?) But they became more and more absurd as the show went on, down to the spooky-awesome Mitsuo Ando being replaced as the Black Cross Fuhrer by the mugging Nobuo Yana and his oddly comedic take on the role. JAKQ's Crime was one villain, a wasted Masashi Ishibashi in a bad design. But Battle Fever's Egos? They're some creepy creeps. I like how eerie they make the Egos lair look; the cult-likeness of their secrety society, whose reach is far -- they often show how they have ordinary people from all walks of life following them or, at the very least, one of the Cutman grunts or monsters masquerading as someone with influence who the Egos have pull with. A lot of Egos plans are also not like the ordinary plans -- some are a bit more small scale, like infiltration for secrets or just setting out to get revenge on people who left them and/or won't follow them. Egos manages to be creepy, and come across like more of a covert, wide-spreading threat. But just as Egos has members everywhere, the Battle Fever also have their own undercover people. Also appreciated? You have episodes with the likes of Machiko Soga, Kin Omae and Shinji Toudou as the human forms of monsters of the week. And the regulars are tough-ass pro-wrestler Maki Ueda as bone-breakin' Salome, with Kenji Ushio -- wait, no -- Masashi Ishibashi? -- wait, are there two Hedders?

Ushio, Ishibashi.

The Hedder situation. The show originally started with awesome character actor Kenji Ushio in the role of Hedder. Kenji Ushio, offbeat villain actor extraordinaire! He's such a creepy, perfect fit for the role of Hedder, the devoted commander of the eerie Egos cult. Ushio, best known for his role as Ambassador Hell in the original Kamen Rider! Well, Ushio supposedly got busted shortly into filming, so he was replaced by Masashi Ishibashi. Ishibashi's a good replacement, he has a blast with Hedder, and it certainly makes up for what happened with his JAKQ role. But Ushio was just such a great fit, in my opinion. His quirkiness and giddy wickedness in the part could have led to a really memorable Sentai villain. Ishibashi does make for a more physically formidable villain, however, and makes Hedder feel more like the right-hand man he's supposed to be. Since it was still early into the show, Toei tried to refilm Ushio's stuff using Ishibashi to match for later broadcasts, but they couldn't quite redo it all, so there will be some odd moments where Ushio will be seen or Hedder will just plain morph from Ishibashi into Ushio sometimes. Every rebroadcast and release since the original airing has used the refilmed Ishibashi stuff, but here's something fun -- go download those Hawaiian subs of Battle Fever J. It's not the greatest video quality you'll ever see, but it's the only chance to see all of the Ushio footage -- I assume they had early prints. Whatever the case, it's neat to see. (So, a big thanks goes out to Justin Goo for putting those up for people.)

And maybe it's superficial, but I just like the way the show is filmed, by the reliable likes of Koichi Takemoto and Minoru Yamada -- while there can be some odd transitions and dizzying edits, it doesn't seem like any of the other '70s tokus to me, which gives it its own feel. And BFJ features cool, creative action from the underrated Kazutoshi Takahashi and Osamu Kaneda -- especially when Kaneda takes over, he lets things rip. The show just has a certain vibe to it that I think makes it stand out from the pack, it has a very lovable, great mix of a cast, and it's just a super entertaining, fun ride. Goranger's rough at 84 episodes, JAKQ is short but frustrating with its tonal shifts; while it takes the best of those shows, Battle Fever has its own clear identity, and makes for a worthy (first?) installment of the franchise.

Oh, and Battle Fever Robo ROCKS. (You know it's an awesome mecha if Shougo likes it. You know it's an awesome mecha if it still manages to be awesome despite the fact that the team enters it by flying into its pee-hole.)

Now, where's my Battle Japan Figuarts!?!!?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Daisuke Shima retires

After 32 years in the biz, Daisuke Shima has announced he's retiring from the entertainment industry. :(


Man, I think this pretty much leaves just Takayuki Godai, Ryousuke Sakamoto and Kenta Satou as the only '80s Reds still acting. :(

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Toku Legends: Jun Yoshida

I don't know if anyone remembers, but I used to have two video tributes to Yoshida on my old YouTube account -- one, "Poe'nd," dedicated to his Shaider character, and "Birugenia Action," dedicated to his Kamen Rider Black character. I wasn't really happy with how either turned out (mainly due to song choices), so I thought I'd just write something about about him here instead of reuploading them.

Yoshida was born on October 17th, 1961 -- the son of longtime Toei producer Tooru Yoshida. Jun had a couple of small movie parts before landing Shaider. While he was one of the finalists for the actual role of Dai/Shaider, he eventually ended up with the part of Priest Poe. I've always thought Poe was an interesting character, and a lot of it has to do with what Yoshida brought to the role.

The whole theme for the villain group that Poe was part of in the show, the Fuuma, was "strangeness." The show would have odd filming techniques or bonkers scenes of deluxe WTF weirdness or would always be playing that damned earwormy theme song of theirs which lets their victims and the audience (of which I imagine many young viewers at the time considered themselves fellow victims) know they're comin'. A lot of the WTFness is just unexplained -- hey, they're the Strange Group. Deal with it. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the character of Poe. Poe's involvement early on pretty much just hinges on how creepily calm the character is and the weirdness that he's a dude dressed like a lady. We're never told that much about Poe, but -- there he is, dressed in a gown, right in the middle of the villains' lair, seemingly high in rank. Who is he? What's he about? In one of his first focus episodes, episode 24, he's given the background that he's really thousands of years old, his true face decomposed, and that he kidnaps beautiful women in order to perform a ritual and take their beauty, perpetuating his own beauty. It gets Naomi Morinaga's Annie more involved in a story, as Poe becomes obsessed with her. (Poe's true face, and the voice Yoshida uses in those moments, is pretty creepy. This part of the story gives off horror-ish vibes that I like, of course.)

Poe's real face.
So, after dancing around it a bunch, the show goes on to refer to Poe as the main villain's "granddaughter." Yes, in the 30s, the show just ups and drops that Poe is supposed to have been a woman all this time. (I remember reading in Toei Hero Max that this revelation supposedly stunned viewers.) After spending most of the show squeezing weirdness out of just not really addressing Poe's deal, they almost make it weirder by declaring that Poe is supposed to be female -- especially when they still go on to have Poe disguise shimself several times as a man. It couldn't have been easy for writer Shozo Uehara to out-weird himself on Shaider, but he managed to do it. But that's kind of what makes Poe unique, but it's a gimmick that wouldn't have worked without an actor like Yoshida. What's interesting about his performance is just how restrained he is. He's not showy, he just plays the character seriously, using a soft, higher voice. It's easy to imagine what a campy and obnoxious and awful character this could have been in the hands of a lesser performer -- the overexaggerated and cartoonish feminine movements they'd make -- but Yoshida is great, he makes the character work, taking it beyond just a gimmick, and he creates one memorable toku villain...ess...

(A lot of places still incorrectly refer to Poe as Kubilai's "grandson," when "granddaughter" is clearly spoken in the show. And, sure enough, Poe is listed with other toku villainesses in books like the Superheroine Chronicles.)

Poe merchandise! In the late '90s, Banpresto released a line of Space Sheriff-related figures, which each came with an SD figure of a character (usually a villain) to match the figure. Annie's figure appropriately came with an SD Poe. Now, where's some Birugenia merchandise!?!

Four years after Shaider, Yoshida finds his way to Kamen Rider Black as Birugenia, the one-time contender of the King Stone who was so crazy he had to be sealed away. I'm a big, big fan of Birugenia. I think he's awesome, and the jolt the show needed, since he was the only really physically active villain until Shadow Moon woke up from his nappy-time. One reason I love Birugenia? He's like the Scott Evil of tokusatsu villains. A little more practical compared to the Golgom priests' typically convoluted and/or unbelievable plots.

Golgom priest: "We're going to lure Koutarou out by staging a mass kidnapping! First, our Buffalo Monster will infiltrate a school, where his lessons will contain subliminal messages that fester in kids' heads, and at night, when he plays his Song of Doom, it will activate the messages and tell them to seek out the Buffalo Monster, who will capture them, and we will then send a recorded message to Koutarou to come and give us the King Stone -- or else! And if that fails, we will try the subliminal message on Koutarou and coax him into giving us the King Stone!"

Birugenia: "Yeah, how about we just go kill him when he's on the crapper, dropping a Blackhole Message? It would be mighty easy to cut the King Stone from his dead body. Guys! Remember, you dug me up so you'd stop doing crap like this! You really think you can take over the world with necklaces that unleash bees? Gosh!"

Birugenia not only always kicks Black's ass and steals his motorcycle (he steals a Kamen Rider's motorcycle!), but he always hits him where it hurts -- not the random kid crying on the side of the road, but his family. I've always liked Birugenia more than Shadow Moon -- he's tough and at least does stuff! Even if he's not always successful, Birugenia's willing to put himself out there and dive into a fight. It's a shame that the show had to kill off Birugenia in favor of Shadow Moon -- why couldn't they keep both? Wouldn't it have been interesting for Birugenia to have been around when Shadow Moon was just standing there, doing nothing, waiting for the series to reach the end so he could have his final duel with Black? Why write off the ONLY villain who was active and regularly an actual obstacle and threat to Koutarou -- Shadow Moon just stood around all day like a paperweight and even when the Golgom priests got their upgrades, they weren't exactly brawling with Black.

But, Yoshida's good in the role. I couldn't believe when I first looked up Birugenia's actor and realized he was Poe. I'll still look at the two, and then at a picture of Yoshida, and can't picture them being the same person. He's either one amazing actor or someone took over his identity between Shaider and Black -- he's made two completely opposite characters, with two really dedicated performances, two everlasting characters -- a villain and villainess. Although he's made brief guest and voice appearances in a couple of other tokus, I think he definitely deserved a couple of other regular roles -- like, hey, where was a Sentai villain for him? (While he deserved a better show than Fiveman, I could easily picture him as Shubarie.) Still, for the two memorable, radically different characters he created, I name Jun Yoshida a Toku Legend.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Shougo's Ranger Key Collection

The Ranger Key nightmare is over! Bandai took their sweet time releasing the Ranger Keys, but they've finally finished releasing all of the Sentai heroes. I'm sure there are plenty of completists out there who bought every single Ranger Key released, but I wanted to focus on my favorite teams/characters/performers. As I said before -- I at least wanted one hero from each team.

Oh, noes! Love triangle.

As much as I love Kakuranger, I HATE Saizou, so I didn't want to buy his Key.

NRFB -- nerd alert!

Ones I bought to represent Power Rangers characters I liked -- Jen, Jason (NOT Rocky, he sucks) and Kimberly.

Gaoranger VS Super Sentai's Dream Team

On Japan Hero, someone once asked what your own Sentai Dream Team would like. Here's Shougo's Dream Team.