Saturday, December 22, 2018

Shougo's Super Sentai Ranking!

Well, I've finally gotten around to doing it -- ranking each Super Sentai series. I've done this a couple of times before when it came up at HJU, and felt like it was a bit of a fool's errand. There's just too many shows, I felt like you couldn't honestly rank some of those in-between entries that you might feel indifferent towards. But I actually feel really pretty certain about my list this time around, and happy where I've ranked things. Traditionally, lists like this go from worst to best, but if you're here at this blog, I suspect you'll know my top favorites, and that won't be a surprise. But what Sentai does Shougo like least? That might be a surprise! So, here goes...

1. Dengeki Sentai Changeman

It's kinda sad. After the Changeman 30th thing I did, it's been hard for me to write anything more about Changeman. I need to recharge after that. If you followed that endeavor at all, you'll know why I love Changeman. If you know me at all, you'll know why I love Changeman. And if you don't know -- welcome to the fandom, n00b! I'm Shougo B'Stard.

Here's what I wrote to wrap up the Changeman 30th endeavor. It's what I consider my near-ultimate love letter to the show.

2. Chojuu Sentai Liveman

I've gotten some feedback regarding my posts on Liveman, with people wondering how I could like a show that I criticized so much. (Same with Kamen Rider Black, which I DO love.) Liveman is flawed, and it chickens out, but I still love the show, what it does, what it stands for. I think the premise and set-up is so strong and that the show is meaningful, it *says* something. Liveman used to be my top favorite Sentai show, but the last couple of times I made this list, it came in at 4. There's two things recently that made me have a bit of an epiphany in how much I like Liveman and can forgive some of its flaws, coming to realize that Liveman ranks higher for me...

One was my posts about Time Force. I wrote about its sappy, chicken-shit final episodes, and ended up saying something like "It sucks, it doesn't work, but I can see what they were going for and choose to look at it that way." So, if I'm willing to cut a g'damn Power Rangers show such slack, then why not one of my top favorite tokus? Sure, I hold Super Sentai to a higher standard than Power Rangers, and I hold Liveman to a higher standard than most tokus, but...Liveman does a lot right.

The second thing was, there was a topic on Twitter asking for your five favorite toku shows. I didn't Tweet my picks, but my answer was instantly Changeman, Agito, Liveman, Flashman, Black. (I was going to choose Spielban over Flashman, but at the end of the day, would probably prefer to watch Flashman over Spielban.) And I was like "I rank Maskman as my second favorite Super Sentai, but I immediately went for Liveman rather than it. Huh." I love Maskman, I'll get to that in a second, but, for all of its flaws and where it went wrong, I just love Liveman's grounded, dour, contemplative, tragic, dark and serious style, and it meshes with a lot of my sensibilities. Liveman's first three episodes alone just blow me away, and I think are unlike anything a Sentai has done before or since. (I actually like to lump episode 8 with those three, making a really great little Sentai mini movie.)

Amazing set-up to this show; I like how it wants to be more grounded, I like how it explores the themes of betrayal, the dark side of ambition, the egotistical intellectuals who use their knowledge for their own gain versus the good side who use their knowledge to save people, for the betterment of everyone. And, of course, the central theme, the almost spiritual concept of the value of life. (The show is the rare Japanese show that champions living and enjoying your life over constant working or studies.) Great heroes, great villains, heavy, emotional, with a message -- again, it *says* something. It wears its heart on its sleeve at times, but I think it swings for the fences and goes further with a similarly sorta philosophical style as Metalder did, and I'll argue that Liveman is stronger than fan-favorite, over-praised Metalder. Nobody will let Liveman off the hook for, say, the dinosaur episodes, but overly serious episodes about robots who want to play violin will get a pass. Metalder's ruminations for mostly all-robot characters can get a little dull and uninvolving, IMO; Liveman made cases for just about everything.

But then something happens to the show... While The Other Two joining the team certainly don't help matters -- even if the idea behind them held so much potential -- Liveman starts dipping in quality in the second half in ways that CAN'T just be blamed completely on The Other Two and the way they throw off the cast's chemistry. I don't know for certain if there was a demand by higher-ups, but the show seems to get softer for most of the later half. (Which happens to all of Toei's shows in the late '80s, if you look at them.) The story potential becomes limited. The heated relationship between the heroes and villains loses intensity. It gets a little too wrapped up in speechifying at the cost of what makes more narrative sense.

Most obvious of all, the show just flat out runs out of money. Liveman never looked like it had the biggest budget -- Japanese fans blame Kamen Rider Black for taking all of Toei's money and focus in '88, but I think it's probably the casting of top pop stars Daisuke Shima and Megumi Mori -- but it looks like it has zero budget in its second half. It's striking how little Liveman films in any actual locations -- nearly EVERYWHERE is a freakin' (cheaply constructed) set or just outdoors in the boonies.

Liveman has a great premise, a strong beginning, but wavers in its second half. Whenever I rewatch the series, it's always heartbreaking to see the show change and lose its narrative courage. There's still some damn good episodes later on. I think I'd probably find it easier to overlook the flawed second half if it had better final episodes. I'd go a *little* easier on other areas of the second half I dislike. The Other Two is a problem, the ever-lowering budget is a problem, but the punch-pulling softness that leads to the underwhelming way the villains are ultimately dealt with and in which the series wraps up eclipses most other shortcomings. If they had delivered a final arc as strong as the first three episodes, one that truly fit the tone of the show, it would be easier to overlook some of the other issues and flaws that popped up all too often in the second half.

As is, I...I've started to just kind of write my own version of the show's ending arc and go with that. Delusional? Hey, it worked for Nobuo Akagi.

3. Hikari Sentai Maskman

Maskman's a show I appreciated more and more over the years. I just like the grounded approach it takes and how it goes about building the world of Tube. It gives you enough information, while leaving something to the imagination.

The heroes are all fun and likable and believable as regular folks and close friends. The villains are all interesting, and you can sense their shared history. I like the Shakespearean, personal overall story with the star-crossed, separated lovers and how their romance impacts the surrounding characters. I like the light versus darkness theme, the almost Gothic feel the world of Tube has. The production did a good job of bringing that underground world to life. (I still love the way you get a peak at what looks like a red sky outside of Tube's windows. What is that? A magma atmosphere? Whatever it is, it looks cool!) I also like the '80sness of the show, its style and soundtrack.

It's just a strong, consistent, nuanced and entertaining show that I think constantly delivers. There's not really an episode of this show I hate. And it's probably the Sentai team I'd want to be on, and the Sentai show I'd want to be in. (It's also the only toku show I can remember having any dreams about. At least twice I was Blue Mask. That kinda sucked. It's my dream, why wasn't I Red?!)

4. Choshinsei Flashman

For a while, Flashman was really close to Changeman for me. Flashman was my favorite as a kid. Flashman's a really solid show that I think hits a mark of quality and maintains it. The premise is amazing and original and tragic, the characters (especially the villains) are all so memorable. The show's a well-oiled machine, with chunks of multi-parters and a strong continuity. The fact that it was my favorite as a kid, that nearly all of my Flashman tapes had survived over the years, I just feel more of a familiarity with this show that kind of keeps me from being as enthusiastic about it as I once was, and as I should still be.

As strange as it sounds, I think Flashman might be TOO well-oiled of a machine. It's not like I like forgettable, standalone -- dare I say filler-y -- malarkey, but I find there's times when a show can be too serialized, and it can make it easier to become too familiar with it. Instead of, say, 50 episodes with a lot of variety, a serialized 50-episode show can feel half that length, and you'll be like "Ugh! Not the 5-parter with Ley Baraki!" It would be dismissed by modern viewers as "filler," but the one stand-alone episode with Miran is better than the Baraki episodes. Done-in-ones can be powerful and meaningful.

5. Gekisou Sentai Carranger

Carranger, for a LONG time, had a terrible reputation. Everybody thought it was stupid. Me and a few of the cool kids realized its value. A witty comedy, a sometimes take-down of the genre and pop-culture, perfectly cast, extremely creative. I love the characters and its unique world and voice. Being curious about bosozoku culture, I love the Bowzock and think they're hilarious, yet somehow retain some cruelty and therefore threat. (I think the Bowzock are actually my favorite part of the show.)

Anyway, I'm one of those assholes who likes a band before they're super popular, and thinks it sucks when the dorky masses get into them. That's Carranger. It was the cool thing to like, now everyone likes it, so it's less cool.

The worst part is when you get the feeling that people like it because they think it's dorky, not really getting the humor of the show, thinking it's unintentionally bad or has contempt for the franchise or something. Carranger's not coming from a place of hatred. Another sucky scenario is when there's someone who hates the genre and themself for liking it, so they feel like something like Carranger or Akibaranger is the only thing they can let themselves like since they see it as trashing the stuff they're embarrassed to like.

6. Kousoku Sentai Turboranger

Unfairly maligned. I've always loved this show, I took an instant liking to it, so it always confused me when I'd get on the internet and see people call it the worst or whatever.

It was main writer Hirohisa Soda's eighth consecutive show AND it had to fight its way up from the low budget grime Liveman left it in. Soda stumbles a bit in the way he handles the early set of villains, but I don't think it's one of his worst works, as people often label it. Soda's always favored scientific themes, but here he's trying to work in some fantasy and mystical components. I like Turboranger's minimal approach to bringing in those genres, rather than going insane with them the way, say, Zyuranger does, where the fantasy is just an excuse for the writers to be lazy and get away with whatever nuttiness they want to.

Turboranger has a lot of Soda's usual concepts and ingredients, but I feel like he accomplishes them in different enough ways to not feel stale. (Which can't be said about Fiveman.) The show really hits its stride once Yamimaru and Kirika join the cast, and it begins to focus on the topics of growing up, finding yourself, your place, and trying to be your own person.

7. Chojin Sentai Jetman

For the record, when I first saw Jetman, I LOVED it. It was only as I got older and saw more Sentai that I became...I'll say "disillusioned" with it. So, for a lot of the past several years, I've kind of gone back and forth about this show. I've had my issues with it, I've gone over those enough times. But there's so much of this show and Inoue's style that matches my own sensibilities. With a few tweaks, it could have been seriously amazing, and probably kept an even higher ranking for me.

I enjoyed the show more on my last rewatch, trying to let go of the hang-ups I have. I feel like I grew kind of numb to what made Jetman Jetman, so I tried to be more forgiving and more observant on my last rewatch. (The sad, sad state the franchise has been in for the past several years also helps make Jetman's minor-blunders-in-comparison seem ignorable.) While I still don't love it as much as I used to, there's still so much I like about the show, its set-up, its seriousness, its depiction of the first truly dysfunctional team. And it's the end of an era, since Sentai starts to get away from the military set-up and gets really wacky under Sugimura, before then becoming limited in what it can do because of Power Rangers needing to slice and dice it.

8. Bakuryu Sentai Abaranger

The early '00s were a dark time for me as a Sentai fan. Despite liking GoGoFive, I was kinda not into toku so much in 2000 or 2001. I didn't like Timeranger, it took time for me to give Gaoranger a shot, I hated Hurricaneger. I've never thought dinosaurs were cool, and I hated the other dinosaur Sentai, so I didn't expect much from Abaranger...

But I kept an open mind since, by '03, I had just played catch up and gotten through Kuuga, which at the time I thought was awesome. And I knew Kuuga's main writer was main writer of Abaranger, and while Abaranger initially seems likes it's far more lighthearted and comedic than Kuuga ever was, it didn't take long to realize Abaranger had more going for it than first appearance. And at first glance, it's not even that it's just comedic, but it features some *really* quirky, off-the-wall stuff. It's hard to believe now, in a post-Den-O world, but at the time Abaranger was seen as being really wacky and out of its mind.

So it wasn't as serious as Kuuga, but Abaranger thankfully had good, game performers who made it all work. But for comedic as it was, it still had a strong dramatic foundation, and a real genuine sense of heart that made it easier to put up with some of its weirder scenarios. (Teaming up with a fishing cartoon? Whaaaaaa?) There's quite a few things about Abaranger that shouldn't work or that I'd ordinarily find bothersome -- like talking dinosaurs or the Dino Guts concept for example -- but through the strength of the performers, writing and dedication at creating such a unique world, you just buy it, don't question it and it does work. I always thought Abaranger was more in the spirit of a mid-to-late '90s Sentai. I can easily picture this show as being a follow-up to Carranger or Megaranger.

Abaranger was just a pleasant surprise to me, I was just so into the show, it had me hooked, it had built its own offbeat world and setting. It was a show that I found legitimately funny. It's kinda the last show where I felt like the heroes were adults. It was a show that I instantly missed when it was over and made me want more from it; like, I was REALLY depending on Dekaranger VS Abaranger to be something, since it was going to be our last visit with the Abaranger characters. (That movie is a massive letdown.) How much did I love Abaranger? Well, despite not being a fan of Power Rangers, I'll usually check out the latest show's first episode to see what they've done with the Sentai. I didn't check out Dino Thunder, I couldn't see what was done with Abaranger. All I've seen of Dino Thunder is a clip of Tommy's first morph and the Lost and Found in Translation episode. Still...I just didn't want to see what they did to Abaranger. It hurt too much. I had a similar reaction when I first saw an ad for VR Troopers. Like "No! Don't ruin Spielban!"

I'm just really fond of Abaranger and the time it was on.

9. Kyukyu Sentai GoGoFive

GoGoFive is a grand disaster movie with superheroes. I love the heroes, I love how realistically they tried to convey the idea of the GoGoFive being an extension of their everyday jobs, and how the technology worked. Kuuga took the realistic approach even further, but I feel like it was something GoGoFive first approached and doesn't get the recognition or credit it deserves for doing so.

A great cast of heroes, some creepy and diabolical villains (who would have been even better if they were played by actors) -- I like how it's the rare toku family that actually seems like a family, and the contrast between the do-gooder hero family and the hellspawn villain family. There's great suit work, an amazing soundtrack; it's a packed, entertaining, ambitious ride.

That's another thing -- the show was pretty ambitious for being a show airing on the weekend at 7:30. It does a great job creating high-stakes disaster scenes with its small budget. Nowadays it would all either be off-screen or done completely CGI, which is shit. GoGoFive has some great miniature work. Damn underrated show. It's a show that I'll get in the mood to watch a couple of episodes, and then a couple turns into several and then several turns into a full rewatch...

Whenever I'm trying to make lists like this, I'll always feel like GoGoFive deserves a higher ranking, but what keeps it from moving, for me, is the lackluster-seeming final episodes. The constant villain revivals, it just takes away from the heroes' victories, it takes away from the ways those foes were initially defeated, and it's just lazy. It's dull, it takes away urgency.

10. Ninja Sentai Kakuranger

When I first saw Kakuranger in the '90s, I rolled my eyes. A ninja Sentai should have been cool, and it was so silly, on both the hero and villain side. Not even just silly, but cartoonishly silly, complete with the '60s Batman-style POW! BAM! BOOM! graphics. But once I saw more of the show, found out more about Japan's youkai, I started to see where I had misjudged it. It was making a statement on the then-current generation and the old. It was saying something about the place youkai stories have in the world.

It was saying that a lot of the ninja lore is so extreme in its over-the-topness that, hey, here are ninjas that can basically do anything, no matter how absurd. You want to believe Jiraiya rode frogs in real life? Why stop there, how about ninjas that can turn themselves into hamburgers? Yeah! Pop-culture has long presented ninjas who were basically magicians, so here's Kakuranger to take the piss out of them by having them do just about anything.

While I really enjoy Kakuranger, I always had a problem with the final dozen episodes. I think it kind of sputters and they throw in a few too many random, unessential episodes at the end. It didn't need to be 53 episodes. (And the budget agrees with me on that one.)

11. Kagaku Sentai Dynaman

It's a mostly episodic series, and it shows only traces of the heights Soda would take the franchise to, but I just have such a fun damn time when I watch this show. There's enough interesting characters, situations and action scenes to make the more episodic or routine episodes worthwhile. While I can look at something like Bioman or Dairanger and recognize it as a better constructed show, I just find Dynaman so entertaining and enjoyable that, for me, it beats 'em.

12. JAKQ Dengeki Tai

A show that's really climbed the list for me. I always liked the earlier episodes and was disheartened when they tinkered around with it to lighten up. Having seen the show a couple more times, I don't mind the changes so much. I've come to like Banba a lot, and while I feel they tried too hard in those later episodes to make the show more Goranger-y, I enjoy JAKQ's characters and setting more than I do Goranger.

13. Battle Fever J

A product of its time, but another show that I think is fun, full of life and color and lets your imagination fill in some of the details. I think the villains are interesting and creepy -- so, they don't always have the greatest plans -- and I think the heroes are all a fun, likable bunch. The show is sometimes weird in the way it will focus on one hero, with the others barely ever appearing, but I guess that was the show playing around with the format. Osamu Kaneda's reusing so many action scenes is a letdown, but for the most part, the show has cool, fast-paced, crazy action.

I always describe it as Goranger done right. Having just rewatched Goranger -- separated in half with a viewing of Battle Fever J -- I stick by that. It was a bit of a bummer getting back to Goranger after watching all of Battle Fever again.

14. Chodenshi Bioman

One that's hard to rank for me. I think it's a good show, with a lot of solid episodes, an interesting main villain and pretty much mostly serious villain plans. The heroes are mostly great, just likable and really heroic and all business. I really want to place it higher on my least, but here's my problem with the show...

Changeman was my first Sentai. Bioman went on to have morning reruns in '85, so I saw it after Changeman. Even as a kid I recognized Bioman as being older than Changeman, which I felt made it inferior. It seemed to me like a knock-off, like it wanted to be Changeman, but didn't get right what Changeman did. For as much as I like the show now, I think there's still some buried residue of my feelings as a kid that keeps me from being like "Bioman, fuck, yeah!"

15. Denshi Sentai Denjiman

Denjiman's a fun show, and I like it A LOT. I like the way the team functions, I think the bad guys have a good group of actors -- I don't usually like the underling-types of women spies that Uehara's so fond of putting in his shows, but the actresses here are good enough to make them memorable. When I watch Denjiman, it's interesting to see how it set a lot of standards; Denjiman's DNA is in a lot of subsequent Sentai shows. Goranger, JAKQ and Battle Fever J are all still finding their footing, and Denjiman feels more like THE FIRST Sentai series to me. It's crazy to me that it isn't held in higher regard, especially by the Japanese fans. It's a good show, setting the stage for so many others. And I think a lot of that is due to Denjiman being the first show where being the hero ISN'T their job; they're ordinary citizens thrown together, and the show highlights the different things each member brings to the table, and their differences. That's all something subsequent Sentai shows carry on.

My big gripe with Denjiman is that I would have liked for it to have a stronger overall arc of some kind. I know that's just not how TV was done at the time -- and you can't really expect that from the [s]second[/s] fourth Sentai series -- but I just feel like Bioman takes Denjiman concepts and goes further with them. Like, when I rewatched Denjiman, and they were talking about the people who were descendants of the Denji aliens who the Denji Princess left behind back in the day, I thought an easy arc would have been if a Vader member -- most likely Banriki -- had an Agito-esque motive of wanting to track down and eliminate people who had Denji DNA. And then I thought, well, that's basically Bio Hunter Silver. And Dr. Man's a more interesting character than any of the Denji villains. And even if it came late in the show, the story with Gou's dad is stronger than anything the Denjiman heroes are given. And there's losing Yellow Four and the new one joining, so...Bioman just edges out Denjiman for me.

But the show's so damn entertaining, and I think an important entry of the franchise, and even without an overall arc, I probably WOULD still rank Denjiman higher...if Red and Pink were stronger characters/actors. They're OK enough, but I like the remaining three more, but the lead hero and heroine need to be strong.

16. Denji Sentai Megaranger

I have a soft spot for this show, but I'm not as into it as I used to be. But it has such a cool, fun, lovable group of heroes, and that's what makes it special. I like that it wants to be a modernization of some of the more science-oriented and sci-fi related Sentai shows from the '80s. What keeps it from ranking higher for me is the way the show becomes just too mecha-obsessed in its later episodes. It gets scattered, breaks away a bit too much from how the show started. (They most likely had to change a lot of stuff going from an evening timeslot to a morning one, and I've always wondered how Megaranger would have turned out if it got to stay on in the evening.) Megaranger is at its height when it's the five of them, making their way through juggling school, growing up, having fun and being superheroes and unlikely friends.

Also, I think the villains end up being pretty lackluster. I never really remember until I'm actually watching the show again, but the Nejirejia seem so ineffectual and so disconnected from the rest of the show, that scenes with them feel like stuff from an unrelated show spliced in. But that still doesn't take away from how fun and cool the rest of the show usually is.

17. Gosei Sentai Dairanger

While I think Dairanger relies too much on weirdness and comedy than it should, and that it doesn't fully utilize the great history and backstory it's set up, it still manages to pull off being a cool, good show, that's also just really entertaining. I used to rank it a little higher -- it used to be the Sugimura show I ranked highest, but Kakuranger pretty much took its spot because I think it says a little more and is the show best suited for Sugimura's weird style and humor. It also slipped the more I got into the '70s and early '80s shows, but I still think it's a solid show.

The Gorma being the last villain group to be mainly actors helps save the show a lot, especially Shadam, Gara and the Gorma Emperor. (Akomaru's actually pretty good, too.)

18. Seijuu Sentai Gingaman

I think Gingaman does the whole fairy tale storybook thing better than nutty-ass Zyuranger, and I like that it wants to evoke a Showa kind of feel to it, but there's just always felt like the show's missing something to me. It plays it extremely safe. (Rubber villains don't help.) I feel like it doesn't quite accomplish what it tries to. I think the show really goes out with a whimper in its latter half -- producer Shigenori Takatera obviously checking out, having his eye on Kamen Rider. Takatera usually has such a strong vision, and writer Yasuko Kobayashi certainly needs the strong guidance of someone like Takatera. So, when he's half out the door, the show suffers for it. And it's a problem, because Gingaman's big thing was in trying to feel like a big, epic fantasy adventure. For the most part, it succeeds, but sadly peters out towards the end, when it needed to be delivering some of its biggest episodes.

I find that, for as much as I enjoy the show as I watch it, it kind of doesn't linger in the memory that long. But the show has a bit of an extra brightness for me because it was the first Sentai I got to see develop from its start when I got back into toku in the late '90s -- when I decided to look up all of these funky shows I saw when I was a kid on the internet. This was at some point in late '97, so Megaranger was near its end, so it was exciting to see news of the latest show as it developed. And even though I thought the show was shaping up to be weird as heck, and I was kinda like "What the hell are they thinking?!" I liked that it was a "____man" name!

19. Juuken Sentai Gekiranger

Gekiranger was a surprise for me; at the time, it was the first premiere episode in a while that I thought was good and the show continued to hold my interest. It would have been nice for the show to play it a little straighter -- producer Hideaki Tsukada seems to look down on the genre a bit, favoring lighthearted, more anime-infused shows -- but it's early JAKQ compared to the recent shows. Like Dairanger, it's a show that has a lot of good backstory that it sadly doesn't put to full use. The show could have had a little more depth, a big problem of which is that I don't think the villains are nuanced. The show was soooooooooo afraid of making Rio and Mele actually evil; they kept them on the fence and they felt non-threatening for most of the show. (I also think Rio needed to be played by someone older than Araki.)

20. Samurai Sentai Shinkenger

A show I liked more after rewatching it; Shinkenger's not without its problems, but I think it had a better grasp on how to do a Sentai than most of the modern shows. Well-rounded characters, a good serious setting. The show is more style over substance, but the style helps give the show a bolder, more epic feel than it might have. Like, the suit actors carry themselves well, even when the action might let you down. The villains are disappointing since they're suits, and only Dayuu really has any character or motivation, but the show does a good job in filming technique in terms of making Dokoku seem big and menacing. (Juzo might have been as cool as the show pretended he was if they had a better actor. They definitely needed someone like Takashi Hagino.)

Shinkenger's, like, the last sane show, isn't it? It was restrained, most of the characters seemed like humans and not cartoons, and it didn't have henshin items screeching and scatting shit at you. I still don't like Genta, though, and feel like he's a completely unnecessary addition to the show, and one that proves that Kobayashi DIDN'T have the Tono-is-a-kagemusha twist until she was nearly finished with the show. (You wouldn't need a commoner member to help "humanize" the Tono if she had intended for him to be a fake all along. Just sayin'.)

21. Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger

As much as I've come to like this show, there's a part of me that's still disappointed in that it could have been -- should have been -- soooooooooo much cooler. As I said for Gekiranger, producer Tsukada favors comedy and lightheartedness over anything else, so couple that with the show's goofy cast, and it started to take different turns from the way it was initially depicted.

Think of it this way. It's 2004. I hear the next Sentai show is going to be a cop show done by the Kuuga writer. And they're going to be space cops on top of it! The Uchuu Keiji were always disappointing in that area, weren't they? A 2004 Super Sentai could be so much bolder than any of those limited shows were. So this all sounds promising, even intriguing, right? So, you can imagine there's some mild disappointment when Dekaranger starts and is so cartoony. (And they're making the same Uchuu Keiji mistakes, like having aliens just be people with animal heads!) And then you have Ban shrieking everything like a kid actor and everyone's going "EHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH?!?!?" all over the place. And it doesn't help that this show has barely gone away. These guys keep popping up in toku, whether they're returning as Dekaranger or in different roles. That kinda puts a cloud over the show for me. (What's disappointing is, something like 10YA is geared to an older group than the show originally was, but it STILL plays it cartoonishly safe.)

Does this show have the worst sound effects or what? It's like someone's making the noises with their mouth. Not somebody good, either, like Michael Winslow -- someone shitty. Maybe even a kid playing with his Dekaranger soft vinyls in his backyard.

22. Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger

Gokaiger was a really fun show, and I really liked the return of a space-y, sci-fi tinged show. I thought the heroes were all enjoyable and likable and distinct, even if they were just pretty broad. (I think the show knew to keep things a little simple for viewers who might be tuning in to see a particular past hero -- not have them turned away or bogged down by not knowing what the hell might have happened in the past X amount of episodes. You could jump in the show at any point and pretty much know right away who are heroes are by their traits.) The show might have been too afraid to stick to its guns of having them be truly heartless, but learn to be heroic, but...we didn't need total jackasses in what was the big Sentai celebration. Leave that shit to Kamen Rider.

And that's what was great about Gokaiger -- it was an actual celebration, a full on birthday cake for Super Sentai. It wasn't perfect, but it's been closest to the anniversary show I always wanted for Sentai. Bring back past people, pay homage and respect to past shows, haul out old themes and stuff. Past villains would have been cool, but I get why that might not have been a priority for the production -- they were already ambitious and taking chances by weaving past shows into everything, as more than just a gimmick. As it aired, the show was pretty exciting. You didn't know what it was going to do next and just who might show up.

I will say, though, at the same time, for this Showa fan, the show could kinda be frustrating. I sweated the entire show if they were ever going to honor the Showa shows, and they handled a lot of my favorites in a disappointing last-minute/half-hearted kind of way. Again, I think the show was just kind of afraid because of the big task they were taking on, but I certainly think it's awesome that you can say that at least one person from every single Sentai show appeared at one point, which is especially impressive when some of the performers had long left showbiz. And the Sentai love wasn't only reflected within the show, but around the production. A lot of past cast and staff members were made aware of it and would talk about it or visit the set. It was just nice to have a good, entertaining Sentai show for its anniversary that you could appreciate, and that felt like it had a lot of love going into it.

The villains blow, though. Of course, because that's a problem with so many of the modern toku shows. I strongly dislike the Zangyaku designs, and I didn't like the voice actors. Basco was a disappointment, just far too cutesy to ever convey what a traitorous bastard he was supposed to be. The thing that helped the Zangyaku, though, is that they at least had numbers. They might not have been the best villains, but they at least tried to convey why it took every Sentai to push them back. And since the center of the show was that the Gokaiger were meant to be outlaws and possibly villainous themselves, it chose to use the Zangyaku often as just kind of background noise, and that kind of helped ease how lame they were. Like...sure, the Gokaiger hated them for what they did to their homeworlds, but they were also on the run from them, so...yes, they wanted to fight them off, they felt a duty to that that put them on the path of being heroes, but a lot of the time, the Zangyaku are just kind of nuisances who are in the way of the Gokaiger. The more important part of the show was the rough and standoffish Gokaiger learning how to be better heroes from the past guys. So the Zangyaku being so TV-Y7 wasn't as much of a detriment to my enjoyment of the show and it worked out for the show.

The show's just big and ambitious, and has a lot of untapped potential. It provided just enough material of the heroes' pasts and the show's universe to let your mind wonder. Between the untapped potential of the Gokaiger's pre-hero past and the Legendary War, I always felt like Gokaiger was a goldmine for tie-in novels and comic adventures.

Also, remember this: Gokaiger gave us Akibaranger. Think of that next time you want to smack talk it.

23. Choriki Sentai Ohranger

Good cast of heroes + amazing Yamaoka action = higher on this list than it probably deserves. Real life tragedies or no, the show was doomed anyway, especially since it has those cutesy looking villains. There's just no making those guys as threatening as the early episodes wanted them to be. (Which is why I think Ohranger would have been better off never showing the high-ranking Baranoia; just show the monsters of the week, leave it a mystery who's behind them, revealing only in the final episodes something like the Genius Kuroda character, someone who sold himself to advanced machines who were going to invade.)

I admire that it was the first anniversary series to try to do big things to mark it, like having two of the franchise's past producers teaming up and bringing in every main writer of the past Sentai shows to contribute. (Although I think all of those producers and writers having such differing styles is another possible contribution to the show's extreme personality shifts.)

I can kind of take this show in its early half -- especially with what good action it has -- but it becomes spotty once they let Uehara get away with his goofy standalones (with Costanza and that robot professor guy from Gransazer) and the show becomes a dumping ground for whatever toy Bandai wants to shill that week. If not for that aimless second half, I MIGHT have ranked it higher than Gokaiger, because I think I might have had more fun with Ohranger last time I watched it than it. (Thanks to CCLemon and the magic of Shout Factory. Or maybe because my previous copies of Ohranger were HORRENDOUS seventh-generation-cloned-VHS-transferred-to-VCD-crammed-onto-four-DVDs quality copies. That's not even an exaggeration, that's totally what the seller sold me, and I hadn't enjoyed the show enough to ever buy higher quality.)

And the only real reason I rank this higher than a couple of the next entries is thanks to the 20-minute running time giving it a quicker pace. Like, that's the only reason it outranks Goranger to me -- 84 episodes at 25 minutes, you did it to yourself, Goranger.

24. Himitsu Sentai Goranger

I'd like to like Goranger more than I do, but I think it's too damn long for a show that settles in a comfort zone so early on. I think the show has a strong cast, and I like the spy aspect -- but here's two huge problems for me...

First of all, the Kurojuu Jigun designs are fucking horrendous. Ishinomori used up all of his good monster design ideas on the first Rider series. For the most part, the Kurojuu Jigun are depicted as serious and straightforward and evil in their means and methods. But they look so stupid. This isn't a case of a design just not aging well -- these designs had to have looked atrocious in 1975, too. "Yeah, this guy is in black tights and his head is a giant fist. Fist Mask. Yeah. How about a guy whose head is a telephone -- Telephone Mask. Ooh, and then a guy with an ear head. Big Ear Mask. Now, where's my check?" You could EASILY parody the Kurojuu Jigun, and they'd probably still look like something that could have been in the show. Hairy Testicle Mask. Dog Poop Pile Mask. Q-Tip Mask. Fork Mask. Toilet Paper Roll Mask. Nail Clipper Mask. Snotty Nose Mask. Hypodermic Needle Mask. Brassiere Mask. Deodorant Bar Mask. Yo-yo Mask. I could keep going, folks. (And a few of those are real!)

Especially early on, the villains are filmed and presented in this Shocker kind of way. They have it bad for Shocker, they're such wannabes -- Mocker. But it never works because of the designs, which are so bad that the show basically goes on to acknowledge how bad they are by beginning to put the monsters in humorous scenes, leading to a change in tone for the show. There's no thought put into these monster designs -- everything's just focused on the head, their "mask." They're gimmicks that don't even fit into the scenarios. Worst of all, I feel like these designs give freedom to later, shittier designers, far less talented than Ishinomori, who think they can do stupid shit at the bare minimum and claim it's an homage to Goranger. Screw that!

Second big problem is that the show settles into a groove by episode 20 and is just unchanging. Early episodes had villain plans that put the world in danger, but after a while the focus becomes solely on targeting EAGLE or the Goranger. There's only so many times you can see EAGLE soldiers gunned down or (cheaply made models of) EAGLE bases blown up. So, yeah, I'd like to like Goranger more than I do, but I think it gets just far too repetitive. And if you think all this makes me a bad Sentai fan,'s a Goranger monster just for you: it has a big hand for a head, and the hand-head's middle finger is extended. Eff You Mask.

25. Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger

Fun for what it is early on -- with a likable cast who all look like they get along and are having a blast -- but then it's all brought down by mopey Silver and the show forcing some unconvincing environmental message really, really hard, in the form of the obnoxious Fuutaro. (The original five are all so fun, likable and cool, though -- a reverse Timeranger. Zombie Tetsuji Tamayama would have fit in with the Timeranger cast, though.)

It's also held back by being the first show to try to turn toku into a DigiPokeRancher, anime-quest, "collect all 'em critters!" gimmick. Gaoranger created a monster of greed that's ripping Sentai apart to this day.

26. Chikyuu Sentai Fiveman

I'd like to like Fiveman. It's my hero Soda's last show as main writer. But the show's just a mess, and not an interesting one. Just...they try to make it be and do everything, and it just has no soul to it. To say it's by the numbers is to give it too much praise.

It's sad, because the cast is mostly cool, even though they're really not used well and don't look like they're having a great time. And I love the Zone as villains! They're pretty much all cool and menacing. (Even early Garoa.) The weak spot is Shubarie, who's just the worst villain of Uehara-Soda years of Sentai. Green Flash deserved better than to play that lame bastard. Show's just not very fun, but potential was there.

27. Dai Sentai Goggle V

I've said before, I don't hate Goggle V as much as most people. I think it's very formulaic and plays it safe, and is often just boring. The heroes are on the generic side. (Jun'ichi Haruta is the best, though -- why in the hell didn't he just play Akama? This show would be fairly rough without him.) The bad guys aren't terribly interesting, but I like the idea behind them. There's SOME fun ideas in the show, like the Comboy, assistants who shadow the Goggle V and could one day take over for them. It's a show that I could imagine sort of liking when I was a kid.

28. Taiyou Sentai Sunvulcan

A show as unremarkable as it is overrated by the Japanese fans. I still have no fucking clue what the Japanese fans see in this show. It's because it's a sausage fest, right? The show's just very slow-paced, and then it becomes very silly out of nowhere. It wants to be Goranger, but doesn't have the kick-ass cast to help it out. The show really suffers from not having a heroine. (No, Misa doesn't cut it.)

OK, to be honest, it's not like I think Sunvulcan's a bad show. It's watchable, it can be entertaining. (When I first saw it, I had just watched and enjoyed the Uchuu Keiji shows, and thought that Sunvulcan had a kinda Uchuu Keiji vibe that I appreciated.) It might be unfair, but a lot of my distaste for it comes from the worship it receives. To me, it's the weakest of the Showa Sentai shows, but it's called the best for reasons I don't really understand, when there's 11 shows that do everything better than it. And not just longtime Sentai fans in Japan, but Toei staff place this show on a pedestal -- it really IS the Uchuu Keiji of Super Sentai! Just...why do you love it so much, people?! Just as Denjiman and Bioman are better versions of Sunvulcan, Juspion and Spielban are better versions of the Uchuu Keiji, but they're the least popular of the '80s Metal Heroes and...bah!

29. Tokumei Sentai Go-busters

Still boring, still pretty miscast, but...cripes, this thing's Flashman compared to a lot of the shows that came after it.

The staff of this show's cockiness is hilarious. They thought they were "rebooting" the franchise and making it "cool" and "serious" again. They were so clueless that they thought having a character freeze whenever anything chicken-related hits the screen is "serious." This show was over ten years too late to be "cool," with its seriously outdated ideas that anything imitating The Matrix was still cool...

But it at least had a couple of things going for it. Jin/Beet Buster. The last human villains, even if they were a disappointment. Dark Buster was a kind of cool idea. The show could have been tweaked and made better, but...does Toei make anything better nowadays, or just worse?

30. Shuriken Sentai Ninninger

I had no clue I'd rank this as high as I am. 30's not great, obviously, but...

Ninninger's a stinky show. But I at least like a couple of the heroes, I can find some inadvertently entertaining aspects of it (Bakaharu), the hero suits look neat. The show actually tries to get its shit together in the last dozen episodes, which is far too late, but I was surprised it even made the effort. The mecha's atrocious, though. I seriously want to know what knucklehead designed them and had the gonads to submit them, and who was the bigger idiot who OK'd it all.

31. Ressha Sentai ToQger

I hate to say that it's probably a better show than Ninninger, so I should swap their rankings, but ToQger did a lot of things that annoyed me personally. (The stupid henshin item reciting entire textbooks and/or stating the obvious; the dumb swapping colors gimmick. Wagon Kardashian. Tokkachi's overacting and dumb pushing his glasses up thing. Gritta's horrible design and her dumb marriage woes.)

I liked Akira and Zet, at least, even if Zet became too one note. Truthfully, I think ToQger could have worked as a show -- the ingredients were there -- it's just that it was content with riding in cruise control. Young heroes powered by imagination -- the sky should have been the limit with that premise. The heroes riding to towns to rid them of the bad guys -- it's formulaic, but that's cool and Western-like. The show could have been far better than what it gave us.

32. Engine Sentai Go-onger

I'm kind of embarrassed how, at the time it started airing, I tried really hard to like this show. Hey, I liked the other car Sentais... (I had Go-onger avatars at Japan Hero. Yeah...) But it was just hard to like, because it's so stupid. In its head, it really thinks it's Carranger, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Go-onger is the show people who don't understand Carranger accuse Carranger of being, which is mindless, dumb-for-dumb's-sake goofballery.

I do like a couple of the heroes -- Sousuke and Gunpei -- and a couple of episodes, at least. I rewatched this show around the time Sousuke appeared on Gokaiger, and actually had some fun with it, but I don't know what that was about. I guess it was just the Gokai high, the celebration of Sentai.

33. Mahou Sentai Magiranger

A show that irritated the hell out of me when it aired, and I don't make it far whenever I try to rewatch it. On one hand, I like the show's attempt at having a lore and history. But they focus on so much uninteresting, Disney magoo shit that is really just squanders its premise. Like Gekiranger, the more interesting show is in the backstory. Unlike Gekiranger, the actual show isn't interesting enough to stand on its own.

34. Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger

This show just gives me the creeps. Sorry I can't articulate it better than that. It's just...the try-hard weirdness, the strange mishmash of dinosaur stuff and caveman stuff and witchcraft and to top it off, the show just has this really cheap, really grimy look to it that is just so off-putting. It really just gives me the willies. And if all that's not bad enough, you have a likable cast of heroes who are rarely given anything to do other than babysit the kid guest star of the day. Yeah, Burai's cool and all, and the sole reason I rank the show this high, but there's far more that I don't like about the show. I actually think I like MMPR more, even if that's mostly nostalgia talking. (Despite what people say, nostalgia's a valid reason to like something.) And I really, really, really hate to say that. But, hey, I watched all 753 MMPR episodes when I bought it from Shout, and didn't get past episode 30 of Zyu when I bought that set!

35. Mirai Sentai Timeranger

I dislike this show more than this ranking implies. While I think a lot of the plot is nonsensical horseshit (the problem with too many time travel stories), there WERE interesting ideas there that just go to waste. I don't really like the characters, their casting is weak, I think the villains are lacking, and the show is just soooooooo incredibly boring to me. One episode feels like three. The visuals of the show, the music, I also find unappealing.

You gotta laugh at how cool and serious Timeranger thinks it is. It really thinks it's out-Jetmanning Jetman. I ranked it a couple of numbers higher just for how cute that is. (Honestly, I feel awkward ranking it this low when it gave us Time Force, and Time Force copies so much from it.)

36. Ninpuu Sentai Hurricaneger

Three annoying leads, a dumbed-down Kakuranger, visually dull and cheap looking. There's just not a lot about Hurricaneger I like. I didn't enjoy much of it, I thought a lot of it was dull, and I never really felt compelled to rewatch it or reevaluate it. It's sad that I gave something as dreadful as Go-onger a second shot and Hurricaneger, despite being more "serious" and having a writer like Jun'ichi Miyashita, is really just unappealing to me. A huge, huge problem is also just how mecha happy this show is. I remember a couple of episodes that seem to take place entirely in mecha, with characters talking to one another from their cockpits. That's rough.

37. Tensou Sentai Goseiger

A completely generic, by-the-numbers, fill-a-year, forgettable show. It's really feels like entry number two in a franchise. I *try* to cut it some slack because it obviously had production problems. I find it a little difficult to rank this show, actually. I'd probably pop in a Goseiger before an episode of Hurricaneger or Zyuranger or Timeranger, so you'd think that would mean it ranks higher than those for me. It's not like the show's outright offensive or anything, it's just incredibly bland, never finding its own identity, making you end every episode with a "that's it?" sigh.

There's a couple of good things there -- Yasuhiro Takeuchi as Gosei Red's suit actor, the Matrintis arc -- but I don't find it's able to be ranked all that high since it's not a memorable show. Unfocus your eyes and jiggle the wire when you watch an episode and you'll uncode an image of a Toei exec shrugging and saying "We kinda give up." Toei was better off rerunning the first episode of every Sentai for the year to lead into the anniversary.

38. Gougou Sentai Boukenger

It's a pathetic anniversary entry. There's not much I like about the show, but I can at least come up with a COUPLE of tiny things or episodes that I liked while watching it, if I really, really had to. (Even if it's something as unimportant as "Well, it was cool that Hiroshi Watari was in it.") Mostly, when I recast the show and watch those early episodes, I can see the show Boukenger could have, should have and probably wanted to be. So, I can kinda put up with those early episodes, but by the time Silver shows up, and the show settles in and starts writing to fit the cast they have and diverts from the show I think it wanted to be, THAT'S when it becomes the Boukenger I loathe. A boring show, filled with unlikable characters, and a premise that doesn't lend itself well to the henshin hero format -- especially when your production's going to be pinching yennies as much as Boukenger obviously does.

39. Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger

I had a real hard time getting through Zyuohger. It's like Goseiger 2, but I don't think it has any production problems to excuse its lazy-ass, generic-as-heck boringness. I watch the show and feel like I watch nothing, and it's a lonnnnnnng-feeling nothing; the heroes are empty; the villains are a non-presence, slapped-on afterthought; the mecha's ugly; Cho screeching shit at you in that wannabe-Akira Kushida voice is annoying...ugh. Sad, sad, sad anniversary entry. I guess producer Utsunomiya was like "Gokaiger was hard work! Let's not bother this time 'round, guys!" I just didn't have much fun watching this show. It was unambitious and tedious, to put it lightly. And an even worse anniversary entry than Boukenger! I never thought Toei could manage that.

40. Uchuu Sentai Kyuranger

Spoiler alert: Kyoryuger is dead last. But it was pretty hard for me to decide which was worse -- Kyoryuger or Kyuranger. I feel like they're practically the same show; Kyuranger is basically Kyoryuger if it had the sense to acknowledge their pathetic villains were basically just mischievous heroes and made official team members. (Don't believe me? Balance and Raptor would have been right at home with the Deboss. Man, Deboss is such a joke.)

I couldn't stand Kyuranger. It was a loud, ugly mess from top to bottom, with zero stakes, too many heroes, the same lazy damn episode repeating again and again, terrible, terrible "characters," who were sub-dimensional cartoons spouting inane and nonsensical catchphrases in lieu of dialogue. It took me SO LONG to finish the entire series. I couldn't do more than two episodes at once, and even that would get whittled down to one episode whenever and even THAT I dreaded. The word I always come back to when I think of Kyuranger is "unpleasant." It's just an unpleasant viewing experience. There was no reason for the show to turn out the way it did. ZERO effort from the staff of this thing.

And it didn't need to be so bad and brainless. The premise is one that I've wanted to see in Sentai for ages -- the bad guys have won and already taken over and the Sentai is a scrappy resistance that rises against them. The parallel that's easiest to make is Star Wars, of course, but what first interested me in the idea of a Sentai doing that is the 1983 miniseries V, which is the better, more realistic, more mature version of Star Wars (even if it wouldn't exist without Star Wars, which it wouldn't). Kyuranger promised Star Wars, but...

We didn't get Star Wars. At least not the good Star Wars. We didn't even get the terrible prequels, which at least would have meant the show was taking itself too seriously and failing hardcore. We didn't even get Disney's terrible Greatest Hits Reheated version of Star Wars. No, no. Toei gave us the Star Wars Holiday Special FORTY-EIGHT-FUCKING-TIMES-OVER. I always thought the hate against the Star Wars Holiday Special was hyperbole. Until I watched it. And then I realized it's as bad as the legend says. Time froze while watching it. It was gruelling. It was stupider and smellier than a sack of petrified turds. It was a no-budget, cynically-made disgrace masquerading as a continuation of a beloved movie, a movie that was a juggernaut that changed movies and merchandising and entertainment forever. I honestly got pissed off by watching the holiday special, and was actually angry for the following few days. The thing's never going to get an official release, which means it's kind of rare. I tend to cling to rare movies and stuff just in case it gets hard to find. Not the Star Wars Holiday Special. I couldn't delete that sucker fast enough.

So, yeah. Kyuranger is the Star Wars Holiday Special. Unpleasant. Pissed me off. I think I had a harder time getting through Kyuranger than I did Kyoryuger, so you'd think I'd rank Kyoryuger above it, right? Wrong. Kyuranger at least had that potential to be more, to be big. The ingredients were there. I'm a sucker for the sci-fi shows; the hero designs were mostly awesome. Hell, I can tolerate most of the cast members, but the writing really screwed them over. (Not Naga, though. That guy is one of the worst actors working today. And they give HIM the character who's meant to learn emotions! Someone at Toei had a laugh.) But not only did the show squander this premise, but it never had the intention of giving it the budget to fully convey its worlds, which really hurts it. The show needed to be so much bigger, so much more adventurous seeming. (I had just finished watching Message From Space: Galactic War around the same time this show aired, and THAT show has a much more fun, adventurous feel to it, despite having more limitations than a modern-day production.)

The IDEA of the show, the space setting, the sci-fi flavor, that alone makes it beat Kyoryuger for me. I think dinosaurs are dorky, man. The Kyutama are neat gimmicks, just poorly executed. And there's at least a COUPLE of moments early on that I didn't mind, like the storyline with Stinger and Kamen Rider Melon. The villains needed to be better, though. They have no presence, despite how far-reaching (and successful!) they were supposed to be. The show's like...there's more heroes than villains, and they're all so happy and carefree that you don't buy they're scrappy underdogs fighting back a big regime, and they have so many toys and robots that they're so overpowered that the show just feels like there's no stakes and pointless; nothing is as dire as it should be. There's just never a question in the show that the Kyuranger are going to win, and they're able to win in the stupidest ways possible -- spouting dumbass barely "catchphrases."

And the fights in this show are shit. So boring and unimaginative, just them standing there juggling the Kyutama around while that obnoxious voice never shuts up and they just wave their toy at the monster. That's EVERY single fight scene, whether they're fighting grunts or a monster or Don Armage for the 88th time. (How many times did they have a "final" showdown with Don Armage?!) As someone who worships the old Japan Action Club, it really is such a disappointment how Bandai has ruined toku action scenes and suit actors' work.

41. Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger

So aggressive in its attempt to annoy the ever-loving bejesus out of you, mistaking its obnoxiousness for "fun." I hate it from top to bottom, and can't find ANY pleasant thing to say about it. It's loud, it's ugly, it's obnoxious -- to the eyes, to the ears, to the intellect. It really lowered the bar. A bad, bad show that's nowhere near as cool or fun as it thinks it is. Pretty much every idea it had was done better in another Sentai. It's the Sentai equivalent of The Goldbergs, with no original thought of its own -- it takes better people's work and the only contribution it makes is to make it all awful.

Kingoo is hands-down the worst Red the franchise has had so far. An obnoxiously written character who can do it all, played by an obnoxiously one-note and over-exaggerated performer. Shun Shioya's just a bad actor. Lucky just has an irritatingly sucky catchphrase. Kingoo is an attention hog, bad character, AND weak actor. If you don't like him, you're screwed, because he's the whole show. I don't care for the other cast members and the designs of the show are just eye-piercing. When I think of Kyoryuger, I just get this image of things made out of Play-doh.

And that's not even getting to the villains, who are brighter and cuter than even the heroes. Or obnoxious-as-hell Shigeru Chiba shrieking everything at you. Or the dumb dance henshin. Or the terrible music that accompanies it. Or any of the Sakamoto-isms.

Well, there you have it. And if you think I'm somehow a bad fan for being harsh on a lot of those later entries, well...I love Super Sentai, dammit. I'll give a lot of those shows I don't like more chances than I would a show from another franchise. (Meaning...I'd be more likely to pop in something like Go-onger than I would something like OOO. Yeesh.) And I'd probably fight for those shows over something from another franchise, too. (Meaning...I'd make an argument for why ToQger has more depth over something like Ex-Aid. Yeesh.) But you can't like everything, and anyone who says they do or seems like they do are just full of it. Especially with something as long-running as Super Sentai.

It's like I've said before...I look at Super Sentai the way I do any long-running franchise, or a longtime band or author or director -- not everything's going to be a winner. They're going to turn out something you won't like and don't recognize as being the same thing you loved in the first place. But does that mean you hate them? Of course not. You just hope they get their shit back together for the next one.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Holy Martha Mother of Superheroes, Batman!

I missed out on seeing Deadpool 2 in the theater because...well, I wasn't the biggest fan of Deadpool 1, so I wasn't in a rush to see the sequel. Even though I like the character of Cable, I didn't care much for the casting (Josh Brolin, who always acts like he's above this type of stuff) or the way he was going to be depicted in the film (as the villain), so not even Cable's big-screen debut made me excited for the sequel.

So, I just only watched it. I liked it less than the first one, but that's not what I'm getting at here. In Deadpool 2, there's a line mocking the infamous "Martha Moment" of 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. That part of the movie has been mocked since its release, is still mocked by people on the internet on a daily basis, and I thought it was pretty strange for a real Hollywood movie to take a jab at it two years later, but that's me. Anyway...

I don't get what the fuck people have against Batman v Superman, and especially that scene. I mean...I didn't see Batman v Superman on opening weekend, so I had it all spoiled for me, and people have criticized the scene from day one. I remember listening to Hollywood professionals (like Kevin Smith, who likes to shit all over DC, but still gets to work for them, somehow) tear that scene apart and completely miss the point or meaning of the scene, a meaning that I understood without yet actually seeing the damn movie! So when people latch onto this scene and treat it like it's stupid or nonsense, I find it frustrating.

Bruce Wayne/Batman is terrified and repulsed by Superman. He doesn't trust Superman, he thinks Superman is nothing but a problem for the world, that he probably means the end of the world. He doesn't even see Superman as human or a man, but some alien freak, an animal, a weapon. Batman does his homework finding out Superman's weaknesses and beats him within an inch of his life, coming damn near close to killing him. Recognizing how close he is to the end of things, Superman blurts out that time's running out, that Martha (Kent) needs to be saved. Going in for the kill as this is said, Batman freezes. He freaks and panics. But it stops him dead in his tracks. He learns from Lois that Martha is the name of Superman's mom. Batman takes this all in. He throws aside the weapon he was using.

This scene goes beyond the dumb-dumb dismissal of "Heh, the fight all came down to their moms having the same name. That stoopid!" I don't understand why it's so hard for people to wrap their heads around the meaning of this scene, and the way it's presented in the movie.

Seeing a pathetic, bleeding Superman under his heel, learning that he has a mother, it humanizes Superman for Batman for the first time. What he saw as an alien freak, who could destroy the world, he begins to see as a guy, worried about his mom, being cared for by his girlfriend. (This is probably the moment Batman figures out that Superman is Clark Kent, by the way. So, for all of the weisenheimers who say "It's dumb for Superman to be saying 'Save Martha!' instead of 'Save mom," well...Superman's still in disguise here, man. He ain't going to be going "Save my mom, Martha Kent! I'm Clark Kent!" Not to mention...the dude just ate two Kryptonite gas grenades and had the shit kicked out of him. He wanted the info conveyed quickly! And also? People like to say that they wouldn't have had to fight if they just talked it out. Superman TRIED to talk it out. He lands and immediately lets Batman know he knows he's Bruce and what Luthor's planning, but Batman doesn't let him get far before he starts his attack. So there! "But Batman's supposed to be a detective!" Yeah, well, this is a broken, pissed off Batman, who's stubborn and decided on what he's going to do. And, besides, no matter what kind of great detective Batman's supposed to be...he's not going to be better than Superman. I rather like how Superman's obviously known Bruce is Batman, but doesn't let on until absolutely necessary, when the situation is dire.)

But not only does it humanize Superman for Batman, but, yes, what gets him to pause and freak out is that he hears the name Martha, the name of his mother. In this movie, Martha is his father's dying word. As with most Batman stories, Bruce/Batman still carries a lot of anguish and guilt about his parents' death. Hearing his dying opponent say the name Martha takes him by a chilling surprise. Once Batman collects himself, and Superman recovers enough to tell him that they both fell into Lex Luthor's trap and what they need to do to get out of it, Batman vows to take care of Martha while Supes goes and deals with Lex. Symbolically, Batman is being given the chance to save his own mother here. And he succeeds, in an awesome, awesome action scene that most people, even the biggest haters of this movie, call the movie's best scene!

But I also like to look at it like this... I love Batman. He's my favorite superhero. Throughout 70+ years of this character, we've had a lot of iterations of his parents' murder and, usually, 99.5% of the time, the focus goes to his dad, Thomas Wayne. Thomas Wayne is usually given dialogue. He's always given the most history. There's alternate worlds where HE is Batman. In the old days, there were stories that said he was briefly Batman even before Bruce ever thought the whole thing up, which is stupid. In Christopher Nolan's disgustingly overrated movies, Thomas Wayne is depicted as being the biggest saint who ever sainted -- until Bruce grows up, anyway. (Martha's practically an extra in Batman Begins, because Nolan likes a sausage fest.) What I'm saying is...

For the first time in the character's history, Batman v Superman makes Martha Wayne matter. She technically saves Superman's life. She technically prevents her son from making what would have been the biggest mistake of his life, and something he'd never come back from. (Killing Superman, continuing down the dark, mean path he was on, never rounding up the Justice League.) I think this is something that should be celebrated and acknowledged and NOT the source of ridicule it is. You know the biggest thing the comics have done with Martha Wayne? Have her become the Joker in an alternate history! How fucked up is that?! Batman v Superman gives you something with a little meaning and symbolism, but...fuck that, we're in the age of Twitter wannabe comedians, so let's just make light of everything, and turn everything into a meme!

And then take Justice League into account, where Bruce is down in the dumps for the way everything went down for Superman, for the way he treated Superman, where we realize how much of an impact Superman had on him in such a short time. In that moment when Superman is humanized for him...Martha Wayne saves Batman in that movie, too. At the start of Batman v Superman, we see a very dark and angry Bruce/Batman. We're told of how much Batman changed in the way he fought crime, how isolated he was, how brutal he had become, ESPECIALLY once Superman comes into the picture. And then not only is Superman humanized for him, but he realizes how wrong he's been about him, and what a good person and actual hero Superman is -- something he's gotten colder and farther away from being. There's that line in Justice League where Bruce confesses that he thinks Clark was a better human being than he was.

What I like about Affleck's Bruce/Batman is how haunted he is. People think the characters turn too quickly in BvS and that the rewrites and reshoots of Justice League make for inconsistent characterizations -- "LOL, they're about to kill each other and then 1 second later they're Super Friends!" -- but I think Affleck does a surprisingly good job of conveying all of the internal damage of the character, the psychological reasoning behind his actions. Bruce knew his enemy, he knew the Daily Planet was pro-Superman. So, seeing Lois come to his aide, I think that helps him take on the point of view of maybe all of the stories about him are true. But certainly his opinion changes once he, Superman and Wonder Woman fight alongside each other against Doomsday. He witnesses how selfless Superman is, ultimately sacrificing himself to stop the monster. It basically makes Bruce see all that he did wrong, all of the darkness he harbored, and I see him as in the midst of a deep depression in Justice League, on a suicide mission to round everyone up and make amends. You get the feeling he's willing to die to resurrect Superman, because Superman's better than he is, because Superman's the one who can actually save the world, and maybe, just maybe because he feels guilty for all of the problems he caused Superman, and feels he needs to pay.

Man, Batman v Superman is unappreciated. It has 20 movies worth of material in one movie! I mean...did you ever think you'd see a Superman movie where Batman is the villain?! And even though I ended up being a little let down by Justice League, I don't think that movie's as bad as people pretend it is, either.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Films That Made Us

So, a few months ago, some movie streaming site decided to spam and gather data by starting a Twitter hashtag asking people to name the four movies that define them. As far as corporate stunts go, I thought it was pretty fun and harmless and it was interesting to see what some people thought. I got tagged and had to Google what the hell it was about, but thought it was fun, so I replied with my picks and then tagged some others. (If that annoyed you, well...that's Twitter's job. But I thought it was fun!)

I clicked the hashtag and went through A LOT of strangers' answers to the #FilmStruck4 challenge. I was curious what people said, but I also liked seeing the answers of some "famous" people. It's tricky whenever you talk about your top favorite movies or movies that mean a lot to you or compile a list of all of your favorites... I've been a member of forums that would have the inevitable "Top 10 Favorite Movies" thread and would want to reply, but would be hesitant. When I saw CCLemon99's blog post about his favorite movies, I wanted to copy him and post something similar, because his list was fun and honest. But...again, it's tricky.

I feel like a Top 10's not big enough, but where do you stop? And then there's snobbery... I'd compile a list of my favorite movies and it would be about 20 to 30 movies mainly from the 1980s. There's so many movies that mean so much to me from that decade, and I have theories why it was such a magical decade for movies. (No, it's not cocaine. Well, not JUST cocaine.) But the fear of snobbery creeps in. I'd be hesitant to post lists of favorite movies, because someone would see it and chortle at an entry like The Goonies, which I think is just one of the most fun and funniest adventure movies ever made. Or the way some people absolutely worship Back to the Future, I worship The Karate Kid. I'm pretty protective of that movie. ( Apologies to my bro, who was upset when I shat all over YouTubeRed's Cobra Kai, when he finds it legitimately entertaining, despite being a supposed Karate Kid fan. :P )

At the same time, I'll see some people's list of their favorite movies and be like "Yeah, right. Nice try, pretentious." (And I'm sure those people would turn around and say that's a defense mechanism based on my picks being "lowbrow" crowd-pleaser flicks, but forget those people. Pretend all you want, but you don't genuinely like the four-hour, black-and-white, silent, German, expressionist tearjerker you placed at number three on your list. So, shaddap!) There's many a "serious" movies I like and value, but I feel like if you're being really honest with yourself when compiling one of these lists of favorite movies or movies that mean most to you? You gotta think of what movie you reach for more often, and chances are it's not one of the heavies.

But this silly little Tweet was kind of different. The films that define you. I posted mine, and fear I had a couple of bizarre answers. (Of the many, many Tweets I went through, not too many people had a horror movie on their list. I did.) There also seemed to be some confusion about the challenge. I thought the challenge was obviously movies that meant something to you, shaped you in some way. These wouldn't necessarily be your TOP favorites, but movies that were important to you and probably still ranked pretty damn high for you. Some people took it to mean the movies that represent the type of person they are, which I think is a bizarre interpretation. (For example: one person said they were forgetful, so they felt Memento represented them. Weirdo.)

When I saw someone semi-famous post their selections, which included one of the choices I had, they indicated that if those movies truly defined them, then that meant they were a messed up person. So...I'm here to defend my picks and explain them a little more to compensate for that jackass.

My four choices, in chronological order:


Ghostbusters was a phenomenon when I was a kid. I was massively into the movie and The Real Ghostbusters. (I feel like my first memory is of the movie, but I'm not completely sure if I saw it or the cartoon first.) It speaks so much to my interests; there's wise-ass comedy, there's horror, there's heroics. It's also sci-fi in a way, in the way it tries to depict the science behind it all, striking a balance with the supernatural elements. It gives it all a surprising credibility for a comedy and roots it all. There's also authenticity in the supernatural material because co-writer Dan Aykroyd has a real life interest in the subject matter.

It's working on a lot of levels; it's a horror movie that's not too scary and it has so many types of comedy, one that you can still get as a kid, but also adult humor that you didn't realize as a kid. I hate when I see people categorize this movie as purely comedy or horror (or even worse, a kids movie because of the cartoon). It's a movie that transcends genres, yet pulls it all off and is its own, unique thing. And it's insanely quotable -- I think I quote the movie every day and just don't realize it. ("Slow down. Chew your food.")


You can't overstate how popular this franchise and Freddy Krueger was back in the day. Horror just doesn't reach that level of popularity anymore, so there's nothing to really even compare it to in modern film. You couldn't escape this franchise, so it was on my radar well before I should have even watched the movie.

When I saw the first movie, I was just wowed and like "You gotta see this!" to whomever would listen. It's a highly imaginative movie that has been marred by too many of the sequels going too far with humor and losing sight of what makes this first one so damn good. Freddy Krueger is scary, yes, and entertaining and more memorable than a lot of horror villains, but most of the fans of this franchise are drawn to the movie also by its protagonists and its setting. (The third movie is practically a superhero movie, with people learning to use dreams to their advantage and finding their own unique "dream powers.")

I've always had a fascination with dreams and trying to analyze them. This movie and franchise takes dreams, dream psychology, dreaming techniques and applies them to a horror setting in a truly unique way. It's so much more than a slasher film. A lot of slasher films are made for the money, so there's not much thought put into them beyond a crazy guy with a knife stabbing a bunch of women. But Nightmare on Elm Street meant more to writer-director Wes Craven -- a true-life event inspired it! -- and it's fresh in its depiction of a threat, which've gotta sleep! People like to say Jaws is such a great scary movie, because it ruined the beach for them.'s a movie that doesn't work if you're someone who doesn't give a shit about the beach. Nightmare on Elm Street's concept is ingenious, and it stays with you long after it's over.

It's a movie that had a huge impact on me and cemented me as a horror fan.

BATMAN (1989)

So memorable and unlike anything before it, in terms of superhero movies. Tim Burton being a guy who grew up on horror movies, being a guy with a love for the Gothic, you can feel those influences in the movie. So it's marrying horror and superheroes, which appeals to me. It's the movie that set me on the path of becoming a Batman fan, a comics fan, and Batman became my favorite superhero. The movie was just huge and inescapable and influential. I have fond memories of it and it's a movie that I think of as being really special, and I'll just flat out say magical.

Michael Keaton was kind of a hero of mine when I was a kid. I loved Beetlejuice and The Dream Team, Batman making a good trilogy of sorts. I nearly included Beetlejuice in this list, but figured Ghostbusters better covered similar terrain.


A game-changer, such a juggernaut that it was the topic of my school when we were all too damn young to even be watching it. You'd think it was, like, a superhero movie or summer blockbuster with the way it was talked about amongst my schoolmates. One of my friends, who I knew was mainly an action-movie guy, was like "Man, you gotta watch this!" I finally rented it and was just blown away. Like, "Wow! What was that?!" It just felt so fresh and had such a unique flow and palpable energy. I felt like I was hit by lightning while watching it, only instead of becoming a superhero, I became a Tarantino freak who embarrassingly wrote stories aping his unique style. (Hey, I was just a kid. Go and watch movies Hollywood released for a few years after Pulp Fiction, and most of them desperately try to imitate QT, too, when they should've known better.)

To be honest, I actually like Reservoir Dogs the most of any of Tarantino's movies, but I might not have watched it if not for seeing Pulp Fiction first. Pulp Fiction put me on that path, therefore it's the one who shaped me. And Pulp Fiction's another one that I think is insanely quotable.

I feel like what these movies all have in common is a uniqueness, a certain sense of humor, they're highly imaginative, one of a kind, never a movie like it before or since, no matter how hard people have tried to replicate them. I feel like they all create their own unique worlds, with colorful yet realistic characters and you can immerse yourself in these movies, they're transportive. I think that's an important element in entertainment, to be transported, to let you and your imagination go for a ride. These four movies made such a mark that I can vividly recall when I first watched them and all that I felt. (Sometimes I'm like "How did I first discover (blank) movie/franchise? I don't recall...")

While I consider myself a sci-fi fan and was a huge Star Wars fan at one point, I felt funny not including a Star Wars, but even before prequels and Disney made me hate that franchise, I wouldn't consider any of those movies a top favorite or big influence. Similar to James Bond, I'm a huge fan of those movies and considered putting one there, but I feel like Tim Burton's Batman kind of covers it. What is Tim Burton's Batman, but a superhero noir? What is James Bond but a superhero noir detective? And Batman certainly is more meaningful and made more of an impact.

I love The Karate Kid, so that's one would probably be the fifth pick if this had been FilmStruck5. Because that's a great movie with great lessons and I remember watching it a lot after coming back to the U.S. from Japan and loving it for its Nihon no Spirits. If anything's missing from the four I've picked in terms of something that defines me, it's that none of them contain any elements of Japan or Japanese culture when that means something to me.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Burn Bright, Super Sentai Spirits!

I like the Super Sentai Spirits concerts -- I think they're awesome. I think they shot themselves in the foot a bit in releasing the second one from 2006 when it was SO close to the set list of the first, but I still appreciated the release at the time. However...look how much time has passed. How many new shows and new themes. How many more of the PAST theme singers have started participating. There's so many shows and so many songs performed, that they've had to split up the concerts and have them performed on two separate nights now! And since 2006, there's been an entirely new home video format -- HD's taken over and Blu-ray's become the norm. Blu-ray offers more room on a single disc -- sounds perfect for two nights worth of concerts, eh?

It's me, Shougo, the Sentai Guy. "But Shougo, you're so negative about the modern era of shows, how can you say you love Sentai so much?" It's tough love, dammit! I'm mean because I care and know what the franchise is capable of. But that's beside the point. Toku-themed concerts really took off in the late '90s. I remember being excited to buy the Superhero Spirits 2000 DVD (still the only release THAT concert has been given), but being bummed out that there were so few Sentai songs performed there. "I'd love an all-Sentai concert," I'd think. When the first Super Sentai Spirits was announced in 2004, I was obsessed. If you're an entertainment-junkie, you're probably well aware of the feeling of REALLY looking forward to a blockbuster movie or a show's new season or a band's new album or the latest from a favorite author; even the date of a big convention or the release of a collectible toy. There's usually just one entertainment offering per year that consumes your attention and you can't wait for. I call that feeling "the entertainment event." Something that just grabs you with the same excitement as Christmas probably did when you were a kid. Super Sentai Spirits 2004 was my entertainment event of that year.

I had kept hoping they would get certain people, but I was impressed with the line-up they ended up with. Taku Kitahara! I never thought I'd see the Flashman themes performed; he's someone who seemed to have fallen off the radar. Kenta Satou, who I had always suggested on fan sites to do one of the concerts. (I knew he had dressed in character in the early '90s when performing Turboranger.) NEW JACK Takurou, Shinichi Ishihara, Kumi Sasaki, Hideaki Takatori -- these were the performers I was most excited to see perform their songs. I really like MoJo, and hadn't seen any live performance of his songs, so he was another I had look forward to seeing. And so I remember emailing official sites asking about the filming of the concert for release. The first time I emailed, I got a "we don't know." The second time I emailed, a couple of months later, I got a "it's looking likely." That was it, I was excited. It was announced right after the first concert the release date for the DVD, which was a felt-longer-than-it-should-have four months from its November performance to March DVD release. I'll embarrassingly admit that I kept a countdown calendar.

I excitedly read up on what concertgoers had to say. I was surprised that several Sentai actors attended the concert. Kazuo Niibori on the Red Action Club's blog described the night as having a "magical aura." Fans all sounded very happy and blown away by it. It meant so much to Hideaki Takatori, he didn't want to miss it and he actually left the hospital -- he was due to have his appendix removed -- just to perform at the show. It was the first big performance of Takayuki Miyauchi's since he recovered from cancer. Taku Kitahara was mindful enough of "Super Sentai Spirit" that he said he made it a point to wear Red. And whereas Super Anisong Spirits concerts tend to revolve around Ichirou Mizuki and Superhero Spirits around Akira Kushida, Super Sentai Spirits makes Isao Sasaki its headliner, and you can tell he really just appreciates that attention and steps up. (There was a point where Sasaki didn't participate in these types of concerts as much as those other guys.) All of the performers at this particular concert look like they're having so much fun, and it comes through their performances. They're all bringing it.

It DID end up feeling like a big, special, FUN, magical concert. My brother and I made an event for its release, buying some Japanese snacks, renting good audio and video equipment... I have a real fondness for the 2004 concert, and it's my favorite of the toku-related concerts. What's great about the "Spirits" concerts is that it's all about the music. The crowd is packed with mostly adult fans, so the performers are truly putting their all into their performance. The vibe of these concerts is great -- performers happy to be performing, an energetic audience of superfans giving right back. There's audience participation. Everybody who is there is a fan.

The Cho Eiyuu Sai concerts Toei puts on and releases are fun and all, but they're just not the same. They're overly produced. The focus of those events are on shows' cast members performing and talking. In terms of music, most of the focus goes to Kamen Rider. Sentai's only allowed to do TV size versions of themes, and only the same handful of recent singers are ever gotten. These events are geared towards members of all ages, but especially kids, so there's just not that same commitment by the singers in performing. Only being allowed to do one verse, they zip through the song, and the songs tend to be interrupted by suit actors getting up to antics on the side. These events are not about the music, so they're not even close to being the same as a Super Sentai Spirits.

The Super Sentai Spirits concerts started out one every two years, and then they became annual. Nearly every time they hold one, I hold out hope that they'll film and release it. With every concert, I'll email the folks in charge and ask. Each time I'd get what was obviously a brush-off answer. The concerts would come and go, unfilmed, unreleased. At a certain point, I wouldn't even bother emailing them, basically just giving up on the idea.

Cut to 2016. They announce the 10th iteration of the Super Sentai Spirits concerts, with the news that Daisuke Shima will be performing there for the first time. Now, I love Liveman. It's one of my top favorite Sentai shows, Red Falcon's one of my top favorite Reds and its themes are among my favorite toku themes. Throughout all of the Super Sentai Spirits concerts, Shima was the one performer I had hoped they'd always get. After Liveman, Shima stepped away from music to focus on acting. In the early '00s he had started to sing again -- nothing major, he didn't start touring or anything, but he released a few singles and an album of self covers. Shima's one of the better known, more mainstream performers that Sentai has seen, so even if he had started singing again, I didn't think it was likely he'd ever show up to one of these concerts and sing Liveman's themes. I had hoped he would, but didn't think it was likely...

But then he did. Knowing how popular Shima once was, how popular Liveman was (and is), I thought for sure they would film this one and release it -- if not to DVD or Blu-ray, then at least to pay television, which means someone could have found a download for it. But they didn't film it, so my hopes pretty much died. I was surprised to see Shima show up for the next concert, but didn't bother giving it much thought at all. And I'm REALLY surprised that he's planning to do the latest one, this November. I went from thinking he'd never do ONE to now he's done a couple. And not only that, but Hironobu Kageyama is slated to perform this year, and it's the first Super Sentai Spirits he's done in a few years. And it was a few years before THAT one that he did the previous one. He's no longer a regular at these things.

This year's line-up is one of the fullest they've ever had. The only people that are not listed to attend this year, that have in previous years, is Ken Narita, Taku Kitahara, Kumi Sasaki and Masaaki Endou. Now, Kitahara, Sasaki and Endou took part in the first and second concerts that were released, so...their appearance isn't crucial. And they filmed a portion of a Super Anisong Spirits concerts that Ken Narita performed at and aired it on pay-per-view, so there IS a professional clip of Narita performing at least the Denjiman OP out there. But everyone else who ever attended one of the Super Sentai Spirits is set to be at this new one. (They're apparently never getting Takashi Tsushimi, Naritaka Takayama or Masato Shimon. I understand why Shimon, since he's retired and it's not even officially confirmed he's the one doing the Gingaman songs. I know Tsushimi's a busy producer now, but I have no idea why Takayama won't do one.)

And, sure, since there are so many of the old-timers at the new concert, there will be several repeats that I mentioned as being one of my theories why I think the SSS II DVD tanked. But there are so many new factors at play here. The performers are going to have changed in the 12 freaking years since the last one. These concerts are done at an entirely different venue now. The brass members of Takatori's band Zetki now play with the band, which really oughta help a lot of the older songs sound closer to the track. The older performers aren't going to perform forever, unfortunately, so isn't this a good time, considering what a full line-up it is, to release a new one? (And, dammit, I REALLY would like to see great, complete live performances of Ohranger and Megaranger! Shima, Hayami and Fuuga are the top three I'm most excited about, but I've also always wanted a good live performance of Maskman's ED, which Kageyama performed last time he attended, so hopefully he'll sing it again.)

And, actually, you can't tell me that set lists being too similar or the repetition is a no-sale, because how many times have they released concerts with the Rider Chips and the Kamen Rider Girls doing the same exact songs, in the same exact ways, no variation? If they can film and release the 100th performance of Elements, then a concert with yet another performance of Sunvulcan or Jetman shouldn't be any different. "But Shougo, you've said you disliked this song or that, why do you want to see it live?" Well...geez, sometimes a song can grow on you, now can't it? Besides, it all goes back to the vibe these concerts have. There's some songs that I'll like after seeing a live performance of it -- whether it's hearing it in a different way or seeing what a performer puts into it or the energy it has live. (Here's a Super Sentai example: I used to be pretty indifferent towards the Fiveman themes. But then I saw Suzuki's performance at SSS II, with how emotional he got performing those songs, how much fun he was having, noticing certain lines he'd emphasize, which helped me appreciate certain lyrics more, and now I like those songs.)

I really would like for them to film and sell the two Tokyo Super Sentai Spirits concerts this year. It would mean a lot to me, and I know a lot of other people -- even Japanese fans, most importantly -- want another one released. Not everybody can go, you know? Each year when I'd check out a concert-goer's blog or Tweet about going, there'd be a bunch of replies of people who said how much they wanted to go, but couldn't, and that they wished they'd put a new one out on DVD. I really feel like this year's concert is the best shot at getting a new release. I think it would make sense to film them both and sell them. The line-up is massive, they wouldn't have to release another one for a while. And if they DON'T film and release it, well...then I will pretty much officially abandon hope that they'd ever film and release another one. It will be like letting go of the idea of Shoko Nakagawa getting to play a Pink. When they couldn't get her for the anniversary show (Gokaiger) or to just VOICE the Pink that was a suit (Kyuranger), it was obvious they were never going to get her. So, same situation here. If this one's not filmed...forget about any others. (So, Shougo will shut up about it. That's worth some Retweets, eh?)

You might think a Twitter campaign is pointless. I'm trying to stay positive here, man. Let's keep an open mind. When this newest concert was announced, I emailed the folks in charge. What did I get? The brush-off. "We don't know. We'll pass along that there's interest." Well, I figured it was time to stop bothering behind-the-scenes and take it public and make this an open request. I wanted fans to show how much they'd like to see another release, and I wanted to get on this ASAP. I was optimistic on that first day I Tweeted -- I got responses from a couple of people that made me very happy. But by day three it's tapered off and what the hell, guys? I appreciate those who did Retweet, but I couldn't help but think that I could Tweet a GIF of Mega Blue squeezing that Kunekune's nuts and instantly get 2,000 Retweets, but a Tweet that means something and has a goal gets lost in the mix so quickly...?

C'mon. Let's make this happen. Let's get a new release of this. You know you'd watch. Yeah, even you, who pretends to not like Sentai music. Yeah, even you, who thinks you're too cool to participate in a Twitter campaign. Yeah, even you, who thinks a DVD/BD release doesn't matter because you've been able to go see one of these shows live. Let's feel some Super Sentai Spirit, huh?

Let's do this to shut Shougo up! SHOW SOME SUPER SENTAI SPIRIT!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Turboranger Episode 51

Picking up where we left off, earthquakes are shaking Turbo Builder around, with energies being emitted from beneath it. Dazai realizes that, when he was scouting locations for Turbo Builder, he was using an ancient fairy map, so the location has significance. More than just a super mecha and a new base, the Turbo Builder has now ended up playing an important role acting as a blockade to the Big Seal.

Bouma forces intend to strike the Turbo Builder, Zuruten amongst pilots of a squad of Gaizoku ships. Intent on protecting the Turbo Builder, the five launch missiles at the Bouma ships, Zuruten's ship going down in a fiery explosion. (Umezu lets out a scream of "Neo-Ragon!" before Zuruten crashes, which sounds pretty pathetic. Oh, well, Zuruten did say he wanted to die in battle.) The five transform and decide to take the fight right to Neo-Ragon in the Bouma Castle. They basically kind of teleport, MMPR-style -- they just become streaks of light, corresponding to their colors, traveling from Turbo Builder to the Bouma Castle. I'm just going to flat out say MMPR ripped off of it, man.

I love the way Neo-Ragon's not really caring about their presence. They just stroll into that main throne room and he's not worried or surprised by any of it. "How foolish of you! I'll commend you for showing your faces here, but you think too highly of yourselves if you think you can beat me." It's close quarters, but a fast-paced fight scene, with Kusaka doing great work making Neo-Ragon seem swift, imposing and confident. And, once again, Watabe's doing great voice work, laughing off half of their attacks. And then when an attack sends rubble falling down onto the Turboranger, he just laughs his ass off, saying something like "my throneroom is much too good of a burial ground than the likes of you deserve."

Just then, Yamimaru arrives, still using that ninja-like trick of the Dark Hiding, rendering him untouchable. He manages to get in a couple of good attacks on Neo-Ragon. Poor Kirika's not given a hell of a lot to do this episode; she's at the rocky terrain, getting visions in Kashim's locket of Yamimaru, wincing in pain, reaching out to her. She panics, knowing that if he uses the Dark Hiding technique for too long, he'll die.

Meanwhile, the Turboranger are all still unconscious under a pile of rubble at the Bouma Castle. Back at base, Dazai calls for them, hoping for a reply. Just then, an alarm blares -- the intruder alarm. Dazai and Shiron are both startled and worried. Who could this be? And then the doors to the command center open and there stands...Yamaguchi-sensei!

Back at the Bouma Castle, Yamimaru thinks he has a chance over Neo-Ragon, but Neo-Ragon has a trick of his own, which cancels out Yamimaru's Dark Hiding. Riki and the others are finally coming to, only to find Yamimaru taking a beating. I love the way Watabe says "You're still alive?!" to Riki and the others as they get to their feet. Too many voice actors make it sound like surprise and worry; Watabe makes Neo-Ragon sound kind of casual, like the Turboranger are just too stupid to know better. Suddenly, a surprising voice cuts through on their Turbo Brace. "Do your best, everyone," Yamaguchi encourages. They're all shocked to hear her, of course, the one person they've tried so hard to hide their Turboranger activities from. But it's a voice they NEED to hear, the right one to cheer them on. It's such a nice touch and sentiment and it's probably my favorite part of the episode. "Tomorrow you graduate! I've been searching all over for you to make sure you come! Let's all be there!" I like that they revealed Yamaguchi breaking into the Turbo Builder, but not anything else. They leave if off-screen how she's found out about the situation her students are currently in. Did Dazai fill her in? Did she always just know? (I think she knew.) And she's not chewing them out or complaining; she's encouraging them. She's telling them to not die.

This motivates them. They also remember back to what Dazai said in episode 3, Riki quoting him, about age eighteen being the most beautiful time in life, that holds power. This gets everyone to transform and get back into battle, and while Neo-Ragon still manages to put up a good fight, Red gets in some good licks and hits him with a GT Crash. "If I die, we can all just fall down to Hell," Neo-Ragon says, before knocking out the bottom of the Bouma Castle, sending the Turboranger falling into the air. They're lucky to be caught by Turbo Rugger. In other great news for the Turboranger, Neo-Ragon makes himself giant, charging towards the Turbo Builder so he can access the Big Seal. The Turboranger quickly build the Super Turbo Robo and...manage to defeat Neo-Ragon with the Super Mirage Beam. It's a bit of a letdown, man. Remember when the Super Mirage Beam did NOTHING to Ragon when he became a giant in episode 39? And yet his powered-up form is taken down by it? I get that the episode's running short on time, but...geez. Neo-Ragon calls for the Bouma Castle as he falls, exploding, momentarily leaving the image of a fiery dragon. (Was Ragon dragon-based? Like dRAGON?)

The Bouma Castle, apparently, is set to collide with the Turbo Builder. I guess Neo-Ragon figured that, even if he died, the army of 108 Bouma Beasts would still be a victory. It's kinda weird that his dying plan was to basically repeat Yamimaru and Kirika's "crash the Bouma Castle into the Turbo Builder" plan from 39, isn't it? The Turboranger prepare to combine into the Super Turbo Builder to destroy the castle, but MORE great news. Kirika senses that Yamimaru is still alive, begging them to not destroy the castle just yet. There's a time crunch, as the castle is REALLY close to the Turbo Builder, so the Turboranger risk having the Big Seal undone if they choose to wait for Yamimaru. They all call for Yamimaru, telling him to get the hell outta the Bouma Castle. Yamaguchi, listening in along with Dazai and Shiron back at base, figures out that Yamimaru is Nagareboshi, and calls for him, as well. (Shiron even calls for him.)

Yamimaru regains consciousness, hearing everyone call for him. He thinks of everything they've been through together. "Don't worry, everyone. I'm a man with nothing left to live for. Don't worry, I'll destroy the Bouma Castle." It's looking like he's having one of those "bad guy goes nuts and destroys everything around him" moments, blasting the hell out of the Bouma Castle with his Ryusei Gun. It's obvious he's ready to just die. But what gets him to come to his senses? Red yelling out "Do you really want to leave Tsukikage alone?!" He has tears streaming down his face, thinking of her, and as he calls out her name, the red thread of fate once again shows up and connects the two, pulling Yamimaru from the castle. The two reunite on the ground, turning from Yamimaru and Kirika to Hikaru Nagareboshi and Sayoko Tsukikage. The Turboranger fire the Super Turbo Builder Beam, destroying the castle and subduing the Big Seal. Tanaka's performance here is great, and this piece alone should silence the naysayers who mock his performance. That he actually has a tear run down Yamimaru's face...I can't picture any of the tough guy performers I suggested for the role willing to do that, and it adds so much to the character and scene.

The battle won, we then see the five in their school uniforms, with flowers and diplomas. In the distance is Hikaru and Sayoko, dressed casually. This scene's a little strange, and something that I think is up to interpretation. The two obviously watched the graduation and are on their way, quietly, going unnoticed. But they're seen, and the reformed duo exchange a look and (maybe?) some final words with the heroes. I say "maybe," because the two are either just thinking their dialogue, what they'd like to be saying to the Turboranger, or are communicating to them telepathically. Nagareboshi congratulates them, telling them that he wasn't just saved by the red thread of fate by Sayoko, but by threads they were all connected to. Sayoko tells them that their bonds will never sever and thanks them.

I have to wonder if the Turbo staff were unsure where the Nagare Bouma would stand, so we get this silent/telepathic exchange as the writers debated what would be said. Whatever the reasoning, it's a fascinating choice that I like and think works -- it represents the lonesomeness of the two. There's some distance, and it plays into what outsiders they are, and the general uneasiness that comes from having once been opponents. They're keeping their cool and not overdoing it. They might be buds now, but they ain't going to be dancing in the end credits with the five of 'em, either. I think it would have been hokey and weird for the two to have attended the graduation ceremony and been all smiles and chummy and up close with our heroes. I mean, just imagine a scene like that.

Sayoko bids them farewell. It's also important to note here that Sayoko's not graduating. I guess she did miss a lot of school on account of her evildoing, but... I've always been curious what these two got up to in their post-Turboranger life. There's some spin-off novel adventures there. I picture just a quiet, sad life for those two. I doubt anyone expected Yamimaru to end the show mellowed out, though. Like I said, Sayoko, she was depicted in a way that you were meant to feel sympathetic for her. Yamimaru's always been rough. But these two characters were extremely popular. Yamimaru actor Yoshinori Tanaka has said that Yamimaru wasn't meant to last as long as he did; he was told when he joined the show that the character wasn't going to make it to the end. But he was popular with viewers, so they kept him. And Kirika was also meant to be a short-term character, but the staff liked the way Masako Morishita played her, so they decided to keep her around. For changes made on a whim, I think the show does a good job in making it all work. It doesn't feel forced or unnatural to the story, and it certainly wasn't predictable like it would be nowadays. It flowed and worked well with the themes of the show, of youth and magic and heart.

And the narrator informs us of another farewell: Shiron. She informs everyone that she's joining Rakia in the stars, and will always watch over them all and the planet. They say farewell, with a saddened Haruna saying she'll never forget her. Just then Dazai and Yamaguchi arrive, Dazai bidding farewell, with Yamaguchi wanting a glimpse of Shiron, tugging on his sleeve for him to hand over the Fairy Glasses. Yamaguchi is giddy to see her. Shiron laughs, saying a final farewell, and we see her fly into the sky, joining the constellation that Rakia became way back in episode 3. That's kinda sad, man. Seems like a weird, sad fate for those two, but especially Shiron. Why couldn't she just go off to look for the real Fairy Gate or something? Why couldn't she move in with Haruna, go on a road trip, go to college with her? (That could have been a Fushigi Comedy spin-off!)

Because time is running out, the five decide to just start playing around as the end credits roll. This is only the third time a Sentai show has opted to do a new end credits scene in the finale, rather than just playing the regular one. Turboranger unfortunately decides to use the insert song "Dance Tokimeku Kokoro" to accompany this last credits sequence, which is probably my least favorite song on the soundtrack. Kenta Sato requested for it to be used in the finale and won, and I get why they'd want something a little more wistful for the final episode, but the composition of the song is just goofy to me. The vocals aren't the problem, the music is -- the music sounds to me like some 13 year old in 1984 trying to start up their own Human League cover band using MIDI files they made or something.

I would have liked the classic old "clips from key episodes spliced into the final ending credits sequence" that became the norm, but that's a nitpick. I'm sure people poke fun at the visuals we got, which is the heroes just goofing around, playing leapfrog and chasing each other and stuff. It's meant to be a spontaneous outburst of joy -- joy of victory, joy of graduating. I also mostly look at it as a shorthand for them just having the fun that's had by youngsters, that it's meant to represent the last time they'll all have that kind of innocent fun together, which makes it even more bittersweet. They're happy and victorious and young. Still, I would have liked to have spent just a little more with the hero characters before the wrap-up; we get them saying farewell to Sayoko, Hikaru and Shiron, and it just jumps into the credits...

It's like this episode needed just the 5 extra minutes that mostly all toku shows today take for granted and squander. (Sometimes I feel like a toku should do "super-sized" episodes when needed, running just a few minutes longer than the norm.) They're trying to cover a lot of ground and keep up a tense pace in terms of the action, but we needed much more of a coming-down after all of that than just the very last scene. They try to wrap up the entire show in the same space where an ordinary episode wraps up its plot after the mecha fight, and it goes by just too damn fast. Heck, the credits even seem to cut off before they're finished, like it's racing the clock to the millisecond. Guys, you don't want to get to Fiveman that fast, trust me.

I do like that the episode TRIES to make the final battles seem so big and urgent, but I think another problem is that Turboranger has done so many "big" episodes, with big "final" battles that...look, there's just no way their final battle with Neo-Ragon was going to compare to the Riki VS Ragon showdown of episode 39. That scenario had an entire episode devoted to it, while they have to juggle several other balls than simply a final battle with Neo-Ragon in this episode. So they don't really try to top it, they focus more on the time limit and tension and emotion going into this final battle. And then they devote a lot of time to wrapping up the Nagare Bouma; they're prioritizing these two popular characters and shortchanging our heroes a little in this final adventure.'s a lot they're trying to do here. I still like the episode and find it enjoyable, but I would have liked for them to spend a little more time on those farewells and involve Daichi, Youhei, Shunsuke and Haruna more. We aren't seeing these characters again, so make it count. Make us sorry to see the episode end, to see these characters go. Make us wonder what they're going to do, where they'll be headed. Give us a high-school reunion special! In a perfect world, they'd make a Zigzag Turboranger 30 Year High School Reunion special.

So, that's Turboranger! I think it's a fun damn show, bringing a lot of new ideas and style to the franchise, filled with one classic Red, likable heroes, and truly memorable, freaky villains. I think it's low reputation is a sad mistake and oversight by viewers, and the show is never given a fair shake. The show has its flaws, but people who criticize it never are willing to give it enough of a chance to judge it for what it does; the criticism against it will always be very superficial. "Fairies are lame! Fairies have nothing to do with cars! The show looks generic, but I haven't even watched it to know if that's the case or not!"

I love the show, and it's in my top 10 of favorite Sentai. I tried to be fair with these reviews, highlighting what I thought made Turboranger cool or interesting or unique, and why it's a worthy installment that everybody ought to check out, while also not shying away from areas where I felt the show was weak. I feel like a lot of Turboranger's weaknesses were borne out of production issues beyond its control. Film and television production is tricky, there are so many variables involved. The writer could have everything they want to do planned out, written ahead of time, everything that they want to do with the show figured out -- but if you're not given the budget, or if there's a problem with a performer, or staff members are coming in and out, or the censors are on your ass, well...those are just a few examples of how something can get away from a writer, how quickly and easily something can change.

I've gone into detail about this across these various posts, but here's my viewpoint in one chunk:

Turboranger didn't look like it had a great budget; tokus are low-budget, and this was low-budget for an already low-budget production. And then take into account how there seemed to be a push to lighten toku shows in the late '80s. Throw in casting that maybe didn't best live up to the idea the writer had. (Ganaha as Daichi, for example.) Add to that a performer who's uncomfortable with their outfit and maybe wants to leave the show. (Masashi Ishibashi.) You don't even need to have production issues to change writing -- a writer has the choice to change their mind about something. (As in: Yamimaru and Kirika weren't meant to be permanent additions, but their popularity changed initial plans, and it's something that worked out to the show's advantage.)

There are so many things going into making a show or movie. So many things that can change it or derail it. Sometimes, you gotta sit back and marvel that there are ANY good shows or movies out there. Some shows can't recover from any of the problems thrown their way. Some shows barely scrape by, and some shows use their imagination to have things work to their advantage.

I don't think any of the production issues that came up on Turboranger derailed the show or made it unsalvageable. Turboranger doesn't get the credit it deserves for introducing new things to the franchise, things that would greatly benefit it and its survival into the 1990s. I brought up instances of the show introducing an idea and not dwelling on it or quickly brushing it aside -- for example, the idea of the humans gaining a power similar to fairy magic or the way that magic was returning to the world -- they were interesting ideas that would have helped make the show's world bigger if developed further, but...was it absolutely necessary for the show to delve deeply into it? At what point would it begin to get too far away from the show's main goal? Isn't the introduction of those ideas good enough?

Sometimes, I like a show or movie to provide little details like that, mention of unexplored corners of the show's world, enough to get your imagination working and creating those details yourself. And I find that's what Turboranger does. It will present to you enough of an idea to let your imagination take over. Does it make it weak? Not in my opinion. There's the possibility that what you picture is better than what would have ended up had the show gone down those roads. I like for a show to be as complete and planned out and meticulous as it can be, but I also like when there's room for things left to your imagination or layers or various ways of interpreting it. I think there's still value in those kinds of stories, something to still be had and enjoyed even if every "i" isn't perfectly dotted.