Monday, May 8, 2017

Super Sentai What-if -- The Seventh Zyuranger

As much as I like Burai, the last time I re-watched Zyuranger, I started to think his storyline was a little murky. So, he and Geki are brothers, the offspring of the lower Black Knight of the Yamato Kingdom. The Yamato King wants the Black Knight's newborn, Geki, to raise as his own, presumably to take over the kingdom. The Black Knight goes along with this...and then changes his mind? He starts a rebellion, reneging on the arrangement he seemed happy to make, getting his fool ass killed in the process. Little Burai witnesses his dad, the Black Knight, being killed, with the Black Knight screwing the kid up by making him vow to avenge him. OK, that's an understandable motivation for Burai, and he ends up shifting that hatred onto Geki, but what always puzzled me was...Burai declaring himself the Yamato Prince over Geki.

Buuba's the Yamato King...and he stole Icarus' outfit.

Huh, wha, how? How does he figure -- does he just think he should have been the one to have been adopted, instead of Geki? He literally has no claim. It's not like the Yamato King overthrew the Black Knight -- the Black Knight was a nobody. And it's not like anyone in their right mind would have wanted to adopt 8 year old Burai, especially when he was played by Dairanger's Kou! (The casting here is funny all around; the Yamato King is Yoshinori Okamoto, the Black Knight is Toshimichi Takahashi -- two JAC guys who mostly play villains. And then the evil Kiba Ranger as young Burai!) Burai thinking he was owed the title of Yamato Prince is one of the things that makes this story murky...

Death Giller is Burai's pops. No wonder he's an a-hole.

And there's something else. Something bigger. Something that proves Burai was never planned to be in the damn show. In episode 2, Geki gives viewers who missed the first episode a quick rundown of the show's backstory; the way that there was a human civilization in the time of dinosaurs, the way they were divided into kingdoms who worshiped a certain dinosaur. That it was a time of peace...until Bandora launched her war, slaughtering tons of people and dinosaurs. Among the victims, according to Geki? His father, the Yamato King, his mother, and...HIS TEN-YEAR OLD SISTER! While it's something the writers didn't seem to think was important enough to remember, my mind kind of ran off with this idea...

If Geki had a younger sister, she was probably the Yamato King and Queen's actual offspring. I imagine the Yamato King took Geki off of the Black Knight, and shortly after the Yamato Queen got pregnant and it was like "Oops!" But then the Queen gave birth to a girl, and the Yamato King was probably like "Whew! Dodged a bullet there. I want me a boy to inherit my kingdom, so I didn't risk a war with that insane Black Knight for nothin'." So, I thought...what if Geki's sister was still out there? What if she grew up, watching from a distance, shaking her head at Burai's insistence that he was the Yamato Prince, while also kind of disregarding Geki, since he was adopted? She'd have royal blood and more claim to the Yamato Kingdom than either of them. What if she had survived, what if she showed up with her own powers and threw her crown onto the battlefield? Here's where I get a little fan-fic'y...

Zyuranger is incredibly vague with its background details. (For good reason, otherwise they couldn't shoehorn something like Dragon Ranger in there.) The show's not clear on how long the war with Bandora lasted in the old days. Geki's said to be 24 in the show. So, that obviously means that's the age he was put in stasis. Now, I'm assuming Bandora's attack lasted a few years. I kind of picture a big war, with Geki helping to fight, maybe as young as 18 years old. They'd have to have been at war for a while, it wasn't like Bandora showed up, the Shugozyu immediately came to save the day. No...Bandora was a destructive force, and caused a lot of harm and damage to the crazy prehistoric society of Zyuranger. Maybe early in the battle, a few years before Geki was chosen to be put on ice, his family perished in an attack. But maybe his 10 year old sister was just critically wounded, finding herself in the care of another tribe...? Maybe, as she healed, she watched over Geki and the battle with Bandora, knowing Geki and the other Zyuranger were being frozen for if the world ever needed them again. Maybe she spent years training herself and studying and eventually had herself frozen, as well, just in case. (Hey, maybe she knew about Burai and was like "That guy's going to be a pain in the ass. We need a plan B.") This is all my way of saying: if I'm bringing Geki's sister back into the mix, I don't want her to be a tween. I want her to spend some time growing and learning and becoming a Zyuranger. She's watching from the sidelines, the Zyuranger are already frozen. She grows into a young woman before deciding to follow Geki's Encino Man play.

The backstory I picture is basically that she's seriously wounded, taking time to recover. She's found by a lesser known, kind of discredited tribe in the Dinosaur Kingdom. They worship the goddess Chelys Reina, one of the oldest known Shugozyu, who was kind of pushed out once Shugozyu Tyrannosaurus proved his might. She bonds with the tribe, but also with Chelys Reina, and eventually comes to share the Shugozyu's feeling of being overlooked. Unlike Burai, she's not coming from a hateful place, but a place of hurt, feeling undervalued, unappreciated. She's a fighter, so she'll fight, but she's not antagonistic. She shares Chelys Reina's feeling of peace and harmony. At age 23, having trained as a warrior and having developed her own Zyuranger powers derived from Chelys Reina, she enters stasis. In 1992, amidst the new war with Bandora and a game of thrones over the Yamato Kingdom thanks to Burai, she emerges onto the battlefield as...

                           CHELYS RANGER!

I went through a bunch of dinosaurs to find one to base her on. I didn't really like any of the options. I remembered, when MMPR and Jurassic Park were both huge, when kids in school would draw their own Power Rangers based off of dinosaurs not seen in the show, and the popular one (of course) was a raptor. I thought of using that just for that connection, but I didn't like it. (At that time, I drew a Power Ranger based off of the dilophosaurus. Imagine my disappointment when I found out Jurassic Park lied about the poison spit and the neck frill. So, to base a Zyuranger off of a dilophosaurus, it would basically just look like a T. rex with a mohawk. C'mon.) The person who helped me with this project, who drew that design, wanted to go with something really nutty -- a pentaceratops. I liked the crazy look, but basically didn't like the association with triceratops (and therefore Dan).

I wanted something that out T. rex'd a T. rex, man. The popular dinosaur to pit against a T. rex, due to its size and viciousness, is the spinosaurus. While I think it's interesting that the spinosaurus hunted on both land and in water, it basically looks like a giant alligator, so I didn't think it would make that unique of a helmet. And then it hit me -- prehistoric turtles. There's a wide variety of prehistoric turtles, and I liked the look of a few of them, so there's a kind of blending of a few, Chelys Ranger isn't based on just one. (The biggest influence being proganochelys.) I wanted Chelys Ranger to be regal, to really show-off that she's the one true royal. I knew she had to be purple, the color of royalty. I wanted her to stand out alongside Burai, so I wanted her to have some gold-colored, shell-based armor, the way Dragon Ranger has his shield. The illustrator decided to color the tips of the horns of the helmet gold to evoke a crown.

"Chelys" is Latin for tortoise.

I needed a name for the character who becomes Chelys Ranger. I considered a weird mix of names that sounded appropriate to the show -- short little names like Geki, Boi, Mei, etc. -- but I decided on something else instead. Back in the '90s, a fan named Akemi Kishita ran an English Zyuranger fan-site. It was comprehensive, it was one of the few of its kind. So I decided to try to pay tribute to her by rearranging her first name and calling Chelys Ranger Mikea, soldier of honor. And I've cast the role, too! I put too much thought into it. Too many of the people I wanted were in the wrong age group. I wanted someone who was the right age, but would also seem like they'd be a cast member of Zyuranger, like someone Toei would cast at the time. I eventually came up with Yuko Moriyama. She had a big following after Zeiram, I think if she had played a traditional toku hero, it would have blown fanboy minds. She can play stoic, reserved, cool and tough.

From the era of dinosaurs, a new senshi revives! MIKEA, CHELYS RANGER, KOUEI NO SENSHI!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Random Warriors and Other Weirdos

Those who weren't enough to cover, plus a couple of updated ones. Here's we go...

Kensaku Shiraishi/Battle Cossack

As I said before, I definitely like actor Yukio Itou here more than in Goranger; he's older, more mature and confident as a performer. It's always weird to me that Cossack is credited second, but Battle France is considered the second in command. While Shiraishi has a temper and is quick to fly off the handle, France is a bit too comical. Kensaku's a dedicated and loyal warrior who, in one of my favorite moments early on, isn't afraid to kick the shit out of Battle Japan when signs point towards Japan being a traitor.

The most we know about Shiraishi's background is that he was an orphan, taken care of by Tetsuzan. This makes Kensaku's murder tragic in hindsight; would he have never joined Battle Fever if it hadn't been for Tetsuzan? Would he have lived without meeting Tetsuzan?

I'm not sure I like Kensaku's death, though. On one hand, I like the idea that, after seeing the priest who ran the orphanage where he grew up murdered in front of him, Kensaku's sensitive about violence; when a girl who sees her dad shot to death in front of her shuts out Kensaku, it affects him. He meets with her to cheer her up, leaving behind his ability to become Cossack as proof that he's not the violent guy or fighter she accuses him of being. Unfortunately, Egos targets the girl, and Kensaku is shot to death before her...

To me, it's about as senseless as Gai's death in Jetman. Gai could have easily gotten himself to a hospital, and as I've always said, his survival would have been a better wedding day present to Ryu and Kaori than his showing up and dying on the spot. Kensaku wants to cheer up this girl, trying to get over seeing her dad gunned down by putting himself in a situation in which he gets gunned down by Egos, right in front of her. I doubt Battle Fever's paying for that girl's therapist. A better way to write him out would have been for him to just retire as Cossack and adopt the girl, but...they chose to kill him for whatever reason. Makes no sense.

It's also kind of dumb that Kensaku is kinda lectured by Masao when he's leaving the base without his Battle Cossack uniform, the way Kensaku just jokingly dismisses all of the warnings. "I'll be careful!" Then he's cornered by Egos and is like "Shit! I don't have my suit!" Well, double-dumbass on you, Kensaku.

Makoto Jin/Battle Cossack

I'm glad toku legend Daisuke Ban finally got to play a Sentai character, even though the replacement Battle Cossack is a tad bit of a step down after headlining, what, four toku series already? I like Ban, and think he's a good actor, but he's always seemed like an unlikely choice for an action-oriented henshin hero to me -- he seems professorial or like a banker or something.

I always got the impression that Toei was maybe hoping for a guy like Hiroshi Miyauchi for Jin. The cool cowboy who's the thinker and precise and a strong, bad-ass ass kicker. An older, experienced loner who's just playing on a completely different level than the others. I still like Ban in the role, but I don't feel like he fits in with the rest of the cast. If I had to pick a former toku hero actor as Jin, I'd pick someone like Akira Yamaguchi -- I think he would have blended with the cast better.

Jin's a cool character, but I would have liked for his transition into becoming the new Cossack to go smoother. We're told he's a friendly rival of Kensaku, but it's kind of hard to buy because Jin is obviously so much older than Kensaku. I like that Jin shows most life and happiness when Kensaku's near, making their friendship seem believable, before we see him coldly shutting out everyone else on the team. And I like the way he silently picks up Cossack's suit to carry on the battle for his friend. But the show needed to let it breathe a little. Kensaku dies right there, the team doesn't bat an eye, and two seconds later Jin's the new Cossack, the team accepts it, and Kensaku's almost immediately forgotten. They make a bigger deal about Diane stepping down as Miss America, and all she was doing was moving to America after doing jack shit for 24 episodes!

And I know it's a nitpick and that the show was late in the game, but I kinda think they should have given Jin a different outfit or modified the Cossack suit. I know the Japanese see cowboy getup as simply foreign to them, but a cowboy being the hero who's meant to represent Eurasia...huh?

Shouta Yamamori/Magnet Senshi

The role that I think locked Seiki Kurosaki in for the following year's Juspion. Kurosaki's hilarious, and really ahead of his time in the way he can act like a live-action cartoon. (Only Kurosaki is skilled at this, unlike most of the modern day performers.) Shouta was a big hit with my family and me in the '80s -- we always did his "Peace, peace!" bit.

The two episodes with him just seem kind of bittersweet when I watch it now; it was where he met his future wife, the late Yuko Asuka (Farrah) and Magnet Senshi was played in-suit by Kurosaki's friend Masato Akada, who is now disabled as a result of a serious injury he received while doing stunts on Exceedraft.

Ryou Asuka/X1 Mask

A really interesting way to work in the idea of a new hero, while putting to use the actual rejected Maskman designs. The episode should have been a two-parter. It's interesting, of course, the way his episode is the prototype for Gai's beginning in the early Jetman episodes, but more importantly, I like the way that Ryou is a mirror of Takeru. He's a cautionary tale of what could have happened to Takeru if Takeru hadn't been surrounded by the right people and weren't so disciplined and centered, and unable to silence the rage he felt at losing his love.


I like Ninjaman, and he's a better version of Shurikenger (the only thing Shurikenger has over him is the 20 Faces of Past Sentai Actors gimmick), but...he's kinda unnecessary to the show, isn't he? He's fun, but you can take him out and have the exact same show. And maybe even shorter -- I always thought Kakuranger had five or so episodes too many.


He's hilarious. A myopic dunce who doesn't know when his job ends and sanity begins. Great voice actor and suit actor combo.

About the suit actor...once upon a time, it was a mystery who O-BITOH was. It wasn't until a 2003 interview with Toei Hero Max, where Yoshinori Okamoto revealed it was him. (He thought it would be funny to be credited as O-BITOH, which is an alternate reading of a few of the kanji in his name.)

Swan Shiratori/Deka Swan

I grew to like Swan, even though I initially thought actress Mako Ishino was kind of odd. (I always make fun of the way she calls Doggie "Doogie.") I don't like her as much as Gekiranger's Miki, the character more deserving of getting to transform, but whatever. I don't like her as much as Oboro, either. She's basically just the new Oboro, always there with the right Bandai gadget when the heroes need it. Her romance with Doogie is still some strange shit, though.

Isamu Ozu/Wolzard/Wolzard Fire

Wolzard always bothered me. I'm not a fan of villains who pretend to be honorable, but they're really just excusing shit writing for a shit writer not knowing how to get their characters out of a jam. For example: Wolzard would show up and kick the shit out of Magi Red. Instead of just finishing the job, or dare show the hero bail out of the fight (which toku *used* to show, which made the heroes seem sensible and human), there would be some arbitrary bullshit of Magi Red looking aside for a second and Wolzard would be like, "You're distracted! I'll come back to fight you when you're stronger and your head's in the fight!" Get outta with that shit.

Everyone knew from the start that Wolzard was going to be Papa Ozu, and I remember hoping for a cool actor, a Shirou Izumi type, to play the part. We just got the dude who voiced him, who looked too tired and old to be the guy he was supposed to be playing. By the time Wolzard turned good, Magiranger took some stupider turns (hard to believe, I know), becoming a repetitive Saint Seiya-kind of bore, and I just wanted the show to end, so I didn't care.

Gou Fukami/Geki Violet

A big savior of Gekiranger for me. I like the show and all, but he brought it up another level. Gou brought more of a traditional hero feel, and gave the show some serious and needed history and backstory. I'm a horror fan, the Wolf Man is my favorite Universal Monster, so I loved the part of his storyline about his being a werewolf. I thought it was interesting the way they tied that into what happened to the Kenseis. (Gou sacrificed his humanity in an attempt to defeat Rio the way the Kensei did to be rid of a past villain.) I like the episode where Gou and the Wolf are having an internal slug-fest, in which Gou finally conquers the wolf side.

It's kinda sad that he gets put on the back burner in the final episodes to make room for spotlight-hogging Jan to deal with Rio, when Gou and Rio's fight was much more personal, but that's the breaks when you're a Sentai member not in Red. Gou tried, at least.

And, again, the story of Gou, Miki and Rio as the original triangle training under Dan and Sha-fu was the Gekiranger show I wanted to watch.

Gou's character song is also one of the only character songs in the history of tokusatsu that's cool. There's worse actor-singers than Riki Miura, it's composed by Hideaki Takatori and Denjiman's Ken Narita is the one playing harmonica. Awesome.

Masato Jin/Beet Buster

The savior of Go-busters. Only, unlike Geki, I hadn't been enjoying Go-busters. He was the savior we needed and deserved, man. And I had zero hopes for him based on how bad I thought actor Hiroya Matsumoto was in Magiranger. But Jin was a lot of fun, a prankster goofball who brought actual comedy and life into a show that thought freezing at the mention of a chicken was comedy. It's amazing the way a single character and performer was able to make the show more tolerable and actually emotional at the end.

Beet J Stag/Stag Buster

Poor man's Deneb. I can't stand Beet J Stag. He's the avatar of Go-busters' mostly shitty sense of humor. I *never* found him funny. He's the one who should have died.

Ramires/Kyoryu Cyan

Fat. White. Kyoryu Cyan.

Yuko Fukui/Kyoryu Cyan

Deka Yellow. Becomes Kyoryu Cyan (for a split-second in the finale). Whoopee.

Tessai/Kyoryu Gray

Bouken Silver. Actually kind of entertaining here.

Shinya Tsugouchi (Yuu Aoyaki)/Kyoryu Gray

I have no idea who this is.

Doctor Ulshade/Kyoryu Violet

Never a fan of Shigeru Chiba's screeching everything. Didn't need him to be a hero.

Yayoi Ulshade/Kyoryu Violet

Instantly forgettable.

Torin/Kyoryu Silver

Torin's a tool, I've covered this.

Dantetsu Kiryu/Kyoryu Silver

Dantetsu's a bigger tool.

Akira Nijino/ToQ 6

Akira was a bright spot in the show. He and Zet made ToQ watchable, and both deserved a better show. Akira's actor was a little stiff, but I thought his character was a fun take-down of the sixth hero stereotype of being a death-obsessed loner.

Kinji Kitagawa/Star Ninger

He was so damned obnoxious when he joined the show, I have no idea why he was supposed to be so endearing to the teammates that they accepted him and argued for his place on the team. Oh, that's right, they were morons. Seriously though, Kinji deserved to be murdered. He eventually moves on from his stupid, stupid, stupid trying to kill the other Ninninger shtick, and then just slips into the background for most of the remaining episodes. The actor is so generic, that if he didn't have the stupid hat on, I didn't know who he was. Seriously!

And was he meant to be an homage to Jiraiya/Ninja Black? If so, Kane Kosugi should sue.

Kyuemon's voice-actress/Mido Ninger

I didn't watch the Ninninger Returns thing.

Yamato Kazakiri/Zyuoh Eagle

He doesn't have much going for him. I guess he's meant to be a Godai/Shouichi/Ryouga kind of empathetic and big-hearted hippie, but there's just not much there on the page for him. And the actor doesn't play it well, he just seems really phony and insincere to me, like a serial killer pretending to be a nice, ordinary guy.

Sela/Zyuoh Shark

She's supposed to be "serious" and yet kind, but bottles up her emotions, but the actress translates this as "look snobby while smelling a sour fart" and thinks that gets the job done. She just kind of looks like an a-hole.

Leo/Zyuoh Lion

Loud and boisterous lion dude should be funny, but he's always overdoing it to the point where it means nothin'. He's Shinkenger's Ryunosuke, if Ryunosuke hadn't toned down his obnoxious freak-outs.

Tusk/Zyuoh Elephant

Stiffest, most awkward actor in history. It's a ToQ 4 situation, where it's laughable that he's supposed to be the serious, cool, brains of the group. Ever notice how the guy can't move his neck? He's always doing this weird move with his shoulders thing.

Amu/Zyuoh Tiger

Eh? Really, I get no reading from her.

Misao Mondo/Zyuoh the World

Annoying character "gimmick." Pipsqueak actor who reminds me too much of the guy who played Kamen Rider Mayo. Actually, this guy might be the most awkward actor in the history of actors. He doesn't act like a person. I get some Vul Panther-y vibes from him, so...keep on eye on him, Japan!

What really sucks is, Misao could be interesting. A sixth hero who doesn't feel like he fits in, one who has guilt for being villainous and using some Zyumen for evil -- but the show doesn't take it seriously, and the actor is weak, so none of it is ever convincing. I had a similar problem with Akira, when he was conflicted about his past with the Shadow Line. Nothing's treated seriously anymore. I don't know why toku is so afraid to play it straight and be genuine and dramatic anymore. When they try to, it's just disingenuous. Everything's so winky and self-conscious and remote now. Toku doesn't try to ever do anything meaningful anymore.

And is it just me, or is The World the stupidest name for a hero? Kamen Rider Scissors, you're off the hook.

Bud/Zyuoh Bird

It's Kaixa! I don't care who he plays, how well he does it, or what amazing feats of charity the actor does in real life -- he ain't living down playing one of the biggest shitheads in toku history. You want to know why Bird Flu is back in the news? Kaixa as Zyuoh Bird.

Mario Mori

Sad, sad waste of the awesome, awesome Susumu Terajima. I'll like Mario in his few moments of sanity, when he's offering the team some actually good advice, or standing up to and slapping Naria, but that's such a small portion of what he does -- the remaining 99.5% of his screentime is that dumb bad animal cosplay stuff. I don't get why Toei thinks it's funny to hire a veteran actor and just have them do embarrassing stuff for a year.


Since this post was an afterthought and doesn't count, I ain't picking any of these assholes for my team. (Is that everybody? Do you really want me to cover Doubutsu Sentai Go-busters? I hated that freakin' movie!)

White Warriors

Soukichi Banba/Big One

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

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

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

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

Sayaka Nagisa/Change Mermaid

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

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

Kaori Rokumeikan/White Swan

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

Along with Gai, she's a good embodiment of Jetman's theme -- unlikely people thrown together to save the world. Jetman being a show with such different priorities from the toku norm, it opened up the door for a character like Kaori -- who wouldn't typically be in a superhero story -- as well as an actress like Rika Kishida, who wouldn't typically be cast as a superheroine. (I think Kishida's great in the role, and one of the show's most underrated performers. Sue, please don't.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tsuruhime/Ninja White

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

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

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

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

Rajieta Fanbelt/White Racer

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

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

Sae Taiga/Gao White

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

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

Mikoto Nakadai/Abare Killer

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

Miyuki Ozu/Magi Mother

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

Ken Hisatsu/Geki Chopper

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

Fuuka Igasaki/Shiro Ninger

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

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

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

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