TOEI TV HERO ZUKAN VOL. 2 -- CHOJIN SENTAI JETMAN
Toei released this in late '93, almost two full years after the series concluded. I have no idea why. (Promote VHS releases? Really no idea.) It's an hour-long clip show, basically, but it's shocking that they got Kotaro Tanaka and Rika Kishida to film new scenes as Mr. and Mrs. Tendo. (Looks like the new segments are filmed on video, though.) It's also shocking that Inoue wrote this thing and oversaw it.
The new bits are nice; some vegetables from Raita's farm are delivered to the Tendos along with a letter announcing Satsuki's pregnancy. This gets Ryu and Kaori to reminisce about their Jetman experience, kicking off the mostly clip show which highlights every Jetman move, weapon, mecha move, weapon, villain, EACH INDIVIDUAL MONSTER OF THE WEEK and the key story points of the series. This thing covers everything.
The flashbacks are interrupted by the cries of a baby -- Ryu and Kaori's infant, Gai. Thus ends this special, with Ryu and Kaori taking lil' Gai out in his stroller.
Overall, not much to say about this thing. The new material here is very, very brief, but I think an interesting and nice epilogue or coda to the series. Until Gokaiger, anyway.
CHOJIN SENTAI JETMAN: TOKI O KAKETE
As far as I know, Inoue had no involvement with it (hence some of the inconsistencies, like the Tendous having a baby girl and not a boy). Publications like Toei Hero Max, when they had a big Jetman retrospective, would mention the manga, but highlight Inoue's novelizations more. So, I ignored this thing for all this time, because I wasn't really interested if Inoue didn't have a say. To me, it's basically glorified fan-fiction...
And that's exactly how it ends up reading. (I caved and read this bastard for these posts.) Too much of it is callbacks and references and cute little nods that are meant to be what I refer to as fan-nip. Everything is a little too cutesy and on the nose. Ryu and Kaori have a daughter (the manga creator admits to ignoring Inoue's Toei Hero Zukan) named AYA, you know, after Aya Odagiri. Raita and Satsuki are expecting a son they plan to name Gai. Radeige's spirit returns to possess Toranza's paralyzed body. Gai's replacement, Jeff, is an amazing Gary Stu who saves the day again and again and goes on to become everybody's favorite. When things look bleak, the characters are bailed out by the ghosts of Gai and Rie. The Neo-Jetman even make appearances.
It all just tries so hard to make you go "Yay! So-and-so is back! Hey, that's a reference! Hey! I remember that from the show!" So, it's basically as bad as any piece of entertainment from Hollywood from the past decade. It's like J.J. Abrams wrote this sucker.
Speaking of writers, I have to wonder if Naruhisa Arakawa worked on this. Radeige kidnaps infant Aya, forces her to grow and makes her his "daughter" who fights by his side. There's always been comparisons between Jetman and Abaranger, and this really reminded me of the way Dezumozoria uses Mahoro's infant to grow and act as his offspring and messenger.
The drawings are lazy and impossible to decipher at times. The story makes the mistake of sidelining Kaori, leaving her at home to play the role of worried wife. Seriously, I'd expect it if this was a live-action movie made 10 years after the fact and Rika Kishida was busy or retired or something, but it's a damn comic -- why isn't she given anything to do, why isn't she still on the team?! I mean, Lil' Aya is kidnapped and she's just going to do nothing?
The only thing that really got me to read this was finding that Toranza was involved. Like I said previously, I think it would have been awesome if Gokaiger had picked up this thread and brought Toranza back. Radeige's spirit -- since he was shown to be into sorcery, since he did threaten to curse people -- possessing Toranza's body is one of the manga's better ideas. (Imagine if Gokaiger had used this comic as a source: it would mean Hirose playing Radeige!) It unfortunately leads to nothing but predictable turns, like trying to recreate the "what's my muthafuckin' name" bit from the show, which they should have left alone.
As for Gai's replacement? Ugh. They want Jeff Kenzaki (Kenjacky!) to be cool -- he's a rock 'n roller, man! From America, FUCK, YEAH! -- but at the same time, he's depicted as being a bit of a goofball, totally fanboying over Ako. (Who, remember, is an idol now.) I guess maybe Ako could be more power-pop, someone like Nanase Aikawa (who for some inexplicable reason once had a bosozoku following) -- that fits her character more -- and less what you really think of when you hear "idol," but, still...the point stands that Jeff's not cool, he's not funny. He also dies about 200 times in this story but manages to keep coming back, because he's the totally awesomer replacement of the awesome Gai, and don't you forget it! Everybody pretty much dies over and over again but inexplicably returns, because they now possess the power of being cartoons, so the action has to go over-the-top and everybody has to get impaled on something at least once. Stupid.
It was long and dull and, in the end, pointless. I'd like to cut it slack since, as I said, a Sentai follow-up was something new, but it was just a wasted opportunity. It feels like they did it for the sake of doing it and not out of a genuine attempt to follow-up on a show people really loved and wanted more of. I'm just going to go back to ignoring this thing.
Inoue returns to Sentai after an eleven-year absence with an episode that not only resurrects his most popular character, but is also an unsubtle critique of Gokaiger's characters and premise.
This episode's significant. A lot of what Gokaiger did goes really unappreciated; it was ambitious. This episode landed on Jetman's 20th anniversary. Nobody -- NOBODY -- in 1991/1992 would have ever expected to see a Sentai show that brought back old characters, and certainly nobody would have expected to ever see Gai Yuuki again. He died. It was a controversial ending, but one that you know the showmakers stuck by. It was thrilling to see even just the opening credits of this episode, seeing the names "Yuuki Gai - Wakamatsu Toshihide." It's a bold and ambitious episode that the other anniversary shows were either too safe (Mebius), too disrespectful (Decade) or too unceremonious (Gaoranger, Boukenger) to ever even consider attempting.
Nobody would have ever imagined that one day we'd see an adventure where Gai Yuuki comes down from Heaven to protect his old teammates and guide the latest Sentai team. He instantly one-ups each of the Gokaiger -- not Luka, really, which is interesting. She knows what he's up to. It's a little reminiscent of the way Toranza showed up and anonymously one-upped each guy on the Jetman team. I love that Gai criticizes the modern-era Reds.
I love that his whole purpose for this ghostly journey is to prevent the Gokaiger from disturbing the other Jetman members. It highlights Gokaiger's premise; the Gokaiger tend to be pushy, acting as if they're owed the Great Powers. One can imagine the rude or disruptive ways they'd approach one of the Jetman, a team with a tragic past that should be handled delicately. (It also makes you wonder if fighting alongside Black Condor in the Great Legend War opened old wounds between the Jetman team; another case supporting my old claim that Toei missed out on having cool comics or novels further detailing the old heroes' participation in the Legendary War. It could have been Sentai's version of Kamen Rider Spirits.)
Most of the other Sentai Legends awarded the Gokaiger their team's Great Power by being won over by an action of the Gokaiger, but here Gai makes the Gokaiger learn a lesson on their own before he deems them worthy. His role here's like a quirky martial-arts master who uses unconventional methods to steer his students, to the student's frustration.
It also seems to be the first episode in which Marvelous displays fear and doesn't have the answers, Inoue bringing some of his usual taste for showing a hero's flaws. Marvelous up until that point had been over-confident, so it was nice to see him in a different way.
The villain of the week Inoue creates, a bounty hunter, suffers from a weak design, but I like that he, too, makes a comment on basically how sucky the Zangyaku villains are. (Because they are. They've always been the worst part of Gokaiger.) Living only for combat and cash, the bounty hunter challenges each Zangyaku member to a challenge, which none of them accept. He scoffs. Point made. (The bounty hunter is voiced by Tomokazu Sugita -- Kiva's Kivat III, bringing another Inoue connection.)
It's also the rare Gokaiger episode that let the past hero transform, and here they actually got back the original Black Condor suit-actor, Naoki Oofuji, which is awesome.
All in all, a strong episode which is a balm on Jetman's own finale, addressing the loss of this fan favorite character and the impact it had on his surviving friends, giving the scenario its moment to let you take it in and spend one last moment with Gai. (The Jetman finale reserving his death for the final scene doesn't leave time to let it sink in and have it make in impact on you OR the characters.) Put simply: the episode gives you CLOSURE that the series lacked.
And that wraps that up! How did I feel about Jetman this go-around? Well, it helped to rewatch it in the same year as a show as soulless and vapid and pointless and plotless and villain-less and mindless and stake-free and such silly fluff as Kyuranger. (Jetman's about something. Man, remember when tokusatsu was ABOUT stuff?!?! Not just bad attempts at lulz and shilling shitty gimmicks?) The beginning of this rewatch was a bit of a rocky start, because I just kept thinking of all my fanboy wishes and recasts and hang-ups I've always thought would improve the show. Once I tried to let that go and just enjoy the show for what it is, I was able to sail more smoothly.
Of the three performers I've always had an issue with... I still stand by my casting of Hiroshi Watari as Red. While Tanaka does manage to have good moments, for the most part he's still weak and doesn't tap into the full range of the character. As for Raita, we needed someone FAR more good-natured and likable than Tomihisa Naruse. (Jou Onodera? I don't know, I haven't cast my ideal Raita yet.) Daisuke Tachi...he'll improve later on, by the time Toranza shows up, so I don't know if Hirose brought out the best in his co-stars, but for the most part, Tachi's just going through the motions or will be too forcibly over-the-top for the way Radeige was written, and clashes with the style of the show. It seems to me like he's very much in the mindset of "Uh-oh, this is a kid's show. I can't be scary!" So he plays what's meant to be such a vicious, atrocious character -- a malevolent monster who thinks he's a god -- like it's Dick Dastardly. When I think of the subtlety a Kenichi Endo or the menace a Shunsuke Kudo or the layers Jun Yoshida could have brought to the role...! Tachi just didn't work out as what Inoue wanted Radeige to be.
(Never thought I'd come through this rewatch liking Tanaka more than those other two.)
There's so much that I do love about Jetman, and I think it could have been one of the best pieces of superhero fiction if there were changes in certain areas, but there IS still so much I love about it. In terms of the writing, Toshiki Inoue brought his unique style and gave us a Sentai show that went further, pushed boundaries and was pretty special. It's a show with a legacy. And it's important to remember that, it's something a lot of fans have forgotten. They've taken for granted the doors Jetman opened. (Hirohisa Soda made it possible; he paved the road, built the vehicle and dropped Jetman off at the door, which Jetman then kicked down.)
Like, I can't imagine Toei being bold enough to do what they did with those initial Heisei Rider shows if the Jetman approach hadn't been so successful. (And it's no coincidence that Inoue was a big architect of the Heisei Rider shows. For all of his stumbling in his later career, he always wanted these shows to be more character driven, more dramatic and more unique than the mere toy commercial or disposable kids fluff they were often perceived as. Too bad that the people in charge now are those very same dismissive trolls Inoue rebelled against, and have actually turned these shows into mindless toy commercials. Bad commercials at that.)