Wednesday, May 30, 2018
Another Fujii script, one that feels a little unlike him -- it reminds me more of a Susumu Takaku script. Takaku was a writer who liked incorporating real Japanese-y themes and focusing on making episodes that were appealing to the young boy viewers; Takaku also liked writing animal-related episodes. Here we have an episode that takes place on Children's Day (Boys' Day, back then), set at Mount Ashigara, with an oni-related Bouma-Beast, talk of the Kintaro legend and focusing on a small boy and his horse. I think this episode has a fun, adventurous feel and quick pace to it. (Again, it needs a bigger budget for what it wants to do, but it works anyhow.)
I like that the episode starts with Riki wondering if there could be any truth to old folk tales like Kintaro, while Daichi argues that, if there are Bouma, then there's the possibility that folk tales are valid. While it would have been enough to just ponder that, this episode pretty much suggests that Kintaro did exist and was the one who sealed this week's Bouma-Beast, Oni Bouma, locking it into a samurai doll. (I also like that Shiron and Jinba both sense the Bouma-Beast within the doll at the same time, which creates a race between the heroes and the Bouma to get to the doll.)
And I'm an animal lover, so all of the stuff with the boy and his horse, which is taken and used by Oni Bouma, gets to me. Thankfully, unlike a lot of other animal-related toku episodes, they manage to break the horse free of Oni Bouma's control via the cursed ofuda and save it. The horse, once clear of control, also throws Oni Bouma from it, which is cool. And, unlike episode 5, the boy and his elder are both nice and sympathetic, so the episode just sails better.
Fujii returns with another good episode; another atmospheric episode directed by Nagaishi. In it, we have a sorrowful teenager (played by future Ako-chan Sayuri Uchida -- the episode gets a thumbs-up just for that) who's desperate to make it to the school's music competition. (She's at the same school, but one grade lower than the Turboranger.) She's a flutist with tendonitis and the music teacher is doubtful she'll make the cut. One night, she prays to God for her hand to heal enough for her to make the concert, but it's a Bouma-Beast who replies to her...
Most of the Bouma-Beasts we've seen in the show so far have been set free by one of the regular Bouma villains. (I think it's an interesting set up, that the villains have to seek out where their sealed compatriots are. The monsters aren't just whipped up in a lab or created on the spot; they were sealed in ancient times with the others, so they have the same rage, and a shared history.) In this episode, the flutist, Yumi, is the one who's called by the Bouma-Beast and breaks him out of his prison; it's funny that it's Zuruten who takes the credit, when he had jackshit to do with it!
The Bouma-Beast manipulates her and resides in her flute -- she can play again, but she now has to fulfill the Bouma-Beast's demands, which is to entice kids with music so he can absorb their life-force. It's a take on the old musician-who-sells-their-soul story, needless to say that it's appropriate for this show, just as the previous episode's haunted house story was.
Shunsuke has taken a liking to the Yumi's playing; it calms him and cheers him up after struggling with his gymnastics. So he understands and sympathizes with the girl's desperate need to make the competition because he's similarly struggling with his gymnastics, and wants to pay her back for her music by helping her out. I'm a fan of the slimy and crude Zuruten character -- he's like a Japanese Beetlejuice -- and he gets a lot to do here, a couple of funny bits, including a fun little chase when he becomes his cart form and Shunsuke grabs on to try to save an unconscious Yumi. (It's not the most excitingly arranged action scene, but they sure try to film it like it is.)
And the episode doesn't end as you think it would, with Yumi magically healed and winning that competition; she's still injured, she doesn't attend -- AND she lost her flute by coming to her senses and destroying it to be rid of the Bouma-Beast's influence. The Turboranger chip in to buy her a new flute, presenting it to her with hopes that she'll continue.
On a side note, Zuruten attacks the Turboranger by picking crud out of his belly-button and letting loose a stench. He would have gotten along with the Bowzock guys.
I should also highlight voice-actor Eisuke Yoda as the Bouma-Beast. Yoda's done a ton of monster-of-the-week voices -- nowadays, it's a different seiyuu for each monster of the week, but back in the day, they rotated pretty much the same three or four guys. Yoda was one of those guys. But what's great about his performance here is the calm and soothing voice he uses when the Bouma-Beast is trying to entice Yumi, compared to the monster's usual voice.
Monday, May 28, 2018
I've always just liked this episode; it has nice moments, with great direction and a good performance by Keiya Asakura. The episode really highlights what a decent guy Youhei is, and gives us some good guest characters who are easy to care for.
The focus of the episode is a new transfer student, Risa, who wants to join the swimming team, so she's paired up with Youhei, who's glad to welcome her. When he finds out where she lives, it stirs up some bad, buried memories for him. When he was a kid, he was good friends with a girl, who also happened to be named Risa, and who lived where transfer student Risa now lives. One night, her parents drowned in a mysterious flood and Risa moved away. There started to be whispers about the house being haunted, so nobody really moved in there; the new Risa's family happens to move in there because the dad chose not to believe the rumors but believe in the good deal he got on the place. History nearly repeats itself as the house once again mysteriously floods, sending the family into a panic...
The house ends up being built above an area where a house-based Bouma-Beast is sealed. Its influence is what caused the flooding (and confirms the rumors). Youhei, who was always saddened by what happened to his friend and her family, realizes the Bouma threat and sees this a chance of symbolically righting what happened to that Risa and her family by saving this Risa and her family.
But it's not just Risa's house they need to worry about; the whole plan is a result of Jarmine's vengeance, wanting to exact a revenge on humanity by taking away their houses because she never knew what a warm shelter was like. (Ragon has a line where he notes that the snake-based Jarmine is "kicking humans out of their happy homes, just like a serpent.") So, there's a sliver of information about Jarmine here that you can build off of. Jarmine uses this Bouma-Beast in a unique way; she enlarges him right off the bat. As he's house-based, she's riding around in him, flying across Japan and causing massive floods and property damage. This monster is kind of a precursor to Jetman's House Jigen, which in you case you missed it, I said I thought House Jigen was an awesome monster.
This episode is just filmed in a way that sets it apart; it lets the dramatic parts be quiet, it's a surprisingly somber episode. There's a lot of good, atmospheric scenes of dark storms and flooding; credit to director Takao Nagaishi. In the chaos of the natural disaster, they can better mask the low budget they're working with, so it's better conveyed than the samurai town or the zombie attack, and the sense of danger is better realized. (You can spot a super young Yasuhiro Takeuchi as a guy struggling to stay afloat in the flood.) The atypical monster means we don't have the typical ground battle, it goes straight into the mecha fight. The guest cast -- Risa, her family -- are quickly established and sympathetic; you get a good sense of how she and her big, working class family function.
Youhei's cool and likable, you're on board with his dedication to wanting to help Risa and her family so much. There's a sense of history repeating itself for Youhei, but he's going to try to change the outcome for good this time. Youhei saves the day for Risa and her family, who manage to save their house. He has the victory of making a family in that house happy, and ends the episode sadly looking out across the city, hoping his old childhood chum is out there and happy with her life now. One of the more melancholy ways to wrap up an episode.
Kunio Fujii's first script for the series, and it's a good one. We not only get a scenario that involves our heroes a little more personally -- Riki, who feels so bad for a bud whose girlfriend is attacked, he really goes above and beyond -- but we get backstory on and why this attack is so personal for one of our bad guys, Jinba.
Jinba was a warrior in ancient times who fought for a princess he loved -- long, nasty, brutal fights in wars. When he returned to her wounded and scarred, she rejected him. He just lay dying, rotting in his place over time, his vengeful spirit living on, possessing the armor-wearing haniwa we recognize as Jinba, becoming a Bouma. The M.O. for the Bouma as a group, the recurring theme, is revenge and the punishment of humanity, which continues with Jinba, his grudge, and the way he preys on human love. He raised this episode's Bouma-Beast, Agito Bouma, from infancy, feeding it human love. (The monster's weakness is sakura, so when he ended up being sealed, he was sealed into part of a sakura tree.) I like the flashbacks to the ancient times in this show; here it's doubly awesome because Jinba's human form is played by JAC suit-actor Koji Matoba (Change Griffin/Green Flash/Black Mask/Jiraiya) and the princess is also a JACtor, Haruko "Koron/Zaza" Watanabe.
The monster absorbs humans into him and drains their love; since the humans become a part of him, it prevents the Turboranger from attacking. And there's also a time limit -- the people within the Bouma Beast only have 24 hours or they'll die. The Turboranger's plans to lure the monster into an area heavy with sakura trees doesn't work -- pollution and land development has greatly reduced them in the area and the monster catches on, not letting himself near the few remaining. This causes Riki to gather a bag full of loose sakura and face the monster while posing as his pal, tricking the Bouma-Beast into absorbing him so he can join his girlfriend, completing the "set" of couples he's meant to be collecting. (I think this is kind of interesting, and makes me wonder if we're meant to assume that Riki feels love for this girl.) Once within Agito Bouma, he unleashes the sakura, harming the monster and freeing everyone just in time. We then get a pretty cool swordfight between Red and Jinba, with Red wielding both the ordinary Turbo Laser's sword and his newly acquired GT Sword, performing the GT Crash with both. The first of Riki's many awesome moments in the series.
Sunday, May 27, 2018
Here's another one that has a situation that's meant to be bigger and more dangerous than the budget allows. In keeping with the show's environmental theme, this week's Bouma-Beast licks clean a polluted river, giving birth to groups of sludge-like zombies; both the monster and his minions discharge even more powerful and harmful pollutants. The dilemma's in the zombies causing mass destruction -- including the Turboranger's arsenal -- and that the monster is protected by a couple of kids who see its "cleaning" of the river's pollutants as good, especially since their struggling grandfather dreams of getting back to his life as a fisherman.
Problem number one is that the Bouma Zombies, while a neat idea -- they're kind of like a super version of the typical monster grunts, and a modern show would probably keep them around in addition to the Uras -- they only have five of 'em! It's meant to be this unstoppable army, but just as it was with the previous episode, the threat's not fully conveyed with the show's budget limitations. (I like their design and the way they emerge from the Bouma-Beast, however. Nice and creepy.)
Problem number two is that the kids aren't your more sympathetic toku guests. The little boy -- who most of the episode's focus is on -- shrieks his lines and his actor is Yuuki Kuroda, who grows up to be the creep who plays Glaive in Missing Ace. Also, the kid whines about the polluted river ruining his grandpa's dreams, but he doesn't mind using the river to piss in. (Thanks, director Kiyoshi Arai, for that low-angled shot where we technically get pissed on by Kid-Glaive.)
Problem number three is that the environmental theme is really heavy-handed here, down to the narrator lecturing us to do our part at the end of the episode! (What is this, Ultraman?) The worst part of the environmental heavy-handedness in this episode is when Reida's boasting about this plan to Ragon, Ragon's like "Let the humans be buried in the filth they've created!" Well...the pollution and the sorry state of the environment is one of the things that weakened the fairy magic and let loose the Bouma. So...why's Ragon preaching?
The most important thing in this episode is the introduction of the Turboranger's fancy new individual weapons. There's a sense of growing and progression to the Turboranger becoming the kind of norm; I think it's intentional they start out with a kind of puny team-attack before getting the big guns (V-Turbo Bazooka) that every Sentai usually has from the start. These teen heroes don't have it easy. Look at how they're just whisked away one day and taken to where their enemy is awakening and just thrown into the mix. There's no real obligation for them to fight, it's not their profession, they're not trained. But they still step up, and this set-up makes it more tense, because they feel like they're in over their heads.
I've seen Turboranger's set-up accused of being "random," but I think the whole point of the magical and fantasy setting is to imply that, by encountering and being showered in the Lights of the Fairies as children, that they were basically destined to get involved, picking up this battle where it was left off. The link in this battle is Shiron, who it's personal for, who has a history with the villains, therefore making it personal for the Turboranger by association. (I feel like that's good enough for the introductory episodes, until the show is able to REALLY make it personal for our heroes, which mainly happens with Yamimaru and Kirika.) It's a modern day repeat of the humans and fairies uniting to battle the Bouma, but the humans are now armed with technology and some of that fairy magic themselves.
I know people don't like it when something's knocked down in order to prop up something else, but that's the internet, sorry newb. But I never understood why Turboranger's premise and set-up has been so difficult for people to accept, with Turboranger so looked down on and called the worst, and yet Bioman's let off the hook. Bioman has consistently been one of the most worshipped and highly ranked Sentai shows. And Bioman's set-up is similar, but makes LESS sense to me. Planet Bio's destroyed, Peebo and the Bio Robo fly to Japan, shower the first five assholes they meet with Bio Particles, take a nap for 500 years and then seek out their ancestors when it seems like shit's going down because of that weird Doctor Man dude. Like...HUH?! That is some random shit. The source of the heroes' powers has no connection to the villains, the heroes have no connection to the villains, they're just picked at random, nothing's really tied together. And nobody questions that show! Even the newer fans who aren't all that into '70s or '80s stuff, and mock it, will praise Bioman. It's crazy!
While this episode, along with episode 5, doesn't fully convey the scope and threat they're supposed to, and fall short of being quality episodes, I wouldn't rank them as bad. They're enjoyable enough, even if they're not all they could be. There's really only one episode of Turboranger I dislike and think is a real stinker. Until that post, I'll leave you to wonder which one that is.
Friday, May 25, 2018
I like the idea behind Jarmine's plan in this episode -- the Bouma-Beast she unseals transforms the citizens of a city into people from the samurai era. Jarmine's reasoning is that in that era, those types of people are who the Bouma would have probably ended up ruling, that they missed out on ruling, so this is a form of revenge on their part. That they're turning modern civilians -- and symbols of peace and safety like cops and doctors -- into violent disrupters is appropriate of a tribe called the Violent Demon Tribe, and another kind of revenge in that they're regressing those modern civilians. If part of the theme of the series is the advancement of civilization and science making people think they've moved beyond magic and monsters, then this Bouma-Beast is forcing people to remember in a mean old way, by thrusting them back into the ways of old, when doctors didn't know any better than just amputate what they couldn't cure.
But the episode doesn't have the money to pull this premise off successfully. It's really cheap, you really get the sense they just raided the Edo Period wardrobe, only able to somehow scrounge up about three sets of outfits. Really, for a "samurai town," it feels like there's only about three people! And on top of that, they want this episode to mainly just be crazy action and adventure -- it's a chase for most of the episode, as track champ Daichi runs from the samurai out to kill him and the kid with the broken ankle he's force to haul around with him. (Add to this that Daichi loses one half of his Turbo Brace; Dynaman and Maskman had more exciting lost and/or broken henshin brace episodes.) The money just ain't there for this episode; it's not done as big or as exciting as they want it to be. The tone's also a little wonky; the situation with the samurai cop and doctor, they're meant to be played humorously in their strangeness, but they cast two guys who are going hard for the yuks. (One is played by Hope, one-half of the comedy duo Utopia, who you might remember guest-starring as the two dummy ashigaru ruining the tone of that time-travel episode of Kamen Rider Black.)
Oh, did I mention it's a Daichi episode? Not that I have anything against Daichi, he's all right. But actor Yoshiaki Ganaha is strange. He's not a bad actor or annoying or anything. But the guy just always looks miserable. Pull up pretty much any cast publicity photo -- he looks like he'd rather be dead. The other four Turboranger are so full of life and fun and enthusiastic, so he in comparison comes across twice as depressed as he ordinarily would. He just always looks like he doesn't feel well and would rather be any place else than making Turboranger. Daichi's not unlike Megaranger's Koichiro, where he's supposed to be the reliable guy with all of the answers and the one who wants to whip the team into shape. He's one of the top students of his school, a fair guy who looks out for his friends. You can picture the type of person typically cast in this kind of role. Actually, I don't need to describe the type, I just mentioned it -- Koichiro. Ganaha just doesn't match that type. Now add on his suicidal vibe and you're left wondering how he even got the role. (Not to mention that Daichi is supposed to be COOL on top of it all; especially cooler than Koichiro, who was meant to be the big poindexter nerd of the team. Especially take note of how this episode gives Black Turbo a cool sword fight scene.) I think Keiya Asakura would have made a better Daichi. Maybe the suits would figure he's too similar to Kenta Satou, though, making him a better fit for third-in-line?
So, an episode that doesn't have the money to pull of its ambition, centered on the guy who looks like he'd rather be dead...it leads to a weird-kinda episode so early on.
One great part, though, is when Shiron finds Daichi's Turbo Brace. They built, like, a Publisher's Clearing House check-sized brace prop for Ohmura to carry around! It's funny. And then when Dazai doesn't realize she's near, she just drops it on his head. Keep the Fairy Glasses handy next time, Hakase!
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
I happen to really like this movie. I think it the best theatrical Sentai movie. One of the only good ones, really, because so many of them are just forgettable or afterthoughts or made so early in the production, there's nothing unique about them. I enjoy Changeman's two movies, but...c'mon, it's Changeman, so I'm biased. But those movies prioritize action over everything else, so you're not left with much Changeman, or what made Changeman great.
Turboranger's movie is very much Turboranger, focusing on one of the show's main characters and adding to its lore and history. It also wants to impress you with action and great shots, but doesn't seem to have as much money as some of Toei's other big-screen toku adventures at the time, sadly. On the bright side, at least they seemed to put a lot of money into depicting a marathon Musashino High is putting on; it's nice to see the production put the priority on depicting a big school activity like this, when a regular episode probably doesn't have the money or time to stage.
(Thankfully, the Changeman movies and the Turboranger movie are on the same volume of the Super Sentai The Movie set, so I only had to buy one volume. With the early Sentai movies being mostly just recycled episodes and with the '90s ones being unwatchable, Volume Three is the only volume you need. So, I'm glad Toei decided to release the volumes individually after they had only been available together in a box set!)
I love that there's a prologue set in the ancient times, depicting some of the battle between the fairies and human allied forces against the Bouma. That old war is one of the things I think would be perfect for some spin-off novel or comics or something. The scenes focuses on the end of a battle with the Bouma-Beast Wicked God Bouma, a guardian protector of the Bouma. Shiron witnesses a friend of hers, the fairy Flora, sacrificing herself to fight the Bouma Beast. Wicked God Bouma has a deadly move in which he breathes and incinerates things with some hellfire. Flora is burned, turning into a light which ends up binding the monster, with Holy Beast Rakia finishing his sealing.
In the present, Wicked God Bouma's son -- Wicked God Bouma, Jr. That's really his name! -- is on a quest to find where his father is sealed and break him out. Ragon is gunning for this, because he wants to put Wicked God Bouma's hellfire to use, having the Bouma Castle absorb it so they can cause mass destruction and fry all life on Earth. Since Wicked God Bouma was so powerful and dangerous, he has two seals that need broken, with a ritual needing performed to locate the seals. (They don't really explain this two seal thing, but I'm assuming it had to do with both Flora and Rakia's being involved in his sealing.) This buys the Turboranger some time to try to beat him from obtaining his goal, which is good, because...Shiron's in a panic, sensing the great evil of Wicked God Bouma approaching. Shiron soon falls ill, not only due to the worry and the sense of the powerful monster, but probably knowing it was the one that cost Flora her life.
Knowing what a powerful monster he is, Dazai goes over their possibilities if he happened to get loose. Although he doesn't even want to consider it, Dazai tells the others that really the only possibility of beating the monster is to sacrifice Shiron; that she needs to, as we saw with Flora, use her life-force -- the Life Aura, they call it here -- to once again seal him. The Turboranger refuse to let that happen, though, and are determined to stop Junior from springing his dad, or just fight him themselves if they have to.
The Turboranger aren't able to stop Junior from finding and breaking the seals, despite how hard they try. Wicked God Bouma's first order of things is to set Turboranger on fire and knock 'em across town. (If the burning effects had been better, this would have been a pretty cool and shocking scene.) Wicked God Bouma's design is pretty interesting, though. He's a hunched over and massive, requiring obviously more than one suit actor to operate. Wicked God Bouma, also, is yet another great father in a line of great toku fathers, who decides to eat his son for strength after getting his ass kicked by the Turboranger. (It's also a nice contrast to the Turboranger not wanting to sacrifice Shiron.)
What's cool about this movie is that the Turboranger are racing to stop the Bouma plan, but the Bouma regulars keep popping up to intercept them. There's constant obstacles for our heroes. And not only is there the threat of Wicked God Bouma, but the Turboranger know they have to be fast before Shiron resorts to sacrificing herself. By the time Wicked God Bouma begins sending his hellfire to the Bouma Castle, things start to look too bleak and Shiron makes the choice to fly out and take care of it.
Riki and the others stop Shiron in time -- who was intercepted and about to be killed by Reida! -- telling her that maybe in the old days the fairies had to make such a sacrifice, but in this era they have the Turboranger to fight for them. This movie is the Turboranger premise in a nutshell -- the combined forces of young and old, magic and technology, coming together in the modern era the same way the fairies and humans once did in the past. The Turboranger are driven by their friendship with Shiron to succeed, not wanting to lose her the way she lost her own friend fighting the same foe.
Most toku movies are intentionally vague -- since they're usually always double billed, they have to be accessible for casual fans or people who don't know jack about the show. Turboranger's movie is nice in that it strikes a balance. It's accessible and enjoyable enough for the newbs who are just there waiting for the Saint Seiya movie, but actually conveys a lot of what it is that makes the show unique, which also gives those who are ALREADY fans a little something worthwhile to work with. The movie's not generic like Bioman's or a random bag of batshit like Maskman's. It's fun, it's entertaining, it's meaningful.
This movie will work best for you if you're a fan of the early episodes, and if you're not a cynical Shiron hater. I guess that's basically what a lot of the Shiron hate comes down to. Turboranger is very earnest, and I think there's just too many jaded people who scoff, laugh or roll their eyes when something dares seem emotional or whimsical and is genuine about it. (It will be called "cheesy.") And I suppose why Turboranger doesn't get credit for paving the way for fan favorites like Zyuranger, Dairanger, Kakuranger, Carranger, Megaranger, Gingaman, Gaoranger and so on is because most of those shows have an attitude of irreverence about them. They'd try to have emotional moments, but would hide behind something -- weirdness, comedy, a Bandai toy -- out of embarrassment or shame or an unwillingness to take itself too seriously. Turboranger's heart is on its sleeve. If you don't want to believe in this fairy tale, then...your loss, because you're missing out on a good show.
I'm sure this episode gets mocked for having a silly villain plan, but when you really think about it, it's pretty gruesome. The latest Bouma-Beast specializes in mashing humans together and turning them into dango he plans to feed Ragon in celebration of his return. This is human sacrifice. We're even shown what that would look like, with a piece of the human dango -- a couple of severed body parts -- being cut from the treat and served to Ragon. This is screwed up! And while you might laugh at the depiction of the human dango -- obviously a collision of rubber limbs, wigs and clothing -- it still paints a more disturbing image than what they'd probably do today, which would be to literally turn the people into just regular old real dango...actually, probably CGI dango.
While we have that creepy villain plot, on the hero side, Riki's getting a taste of Yamaguchi's wrath because his grades have been slipping ever since he became a Turboranger. (Of course, she doesn't know anything about his being a Turboranger, and it makes sense why they don't volunteer the information.) He's even slipping at baseball, which Yamaguchi threatens to have him removed from, anyway, until his grades improve. It's a dilemma that doesn't get neatly fixed by the end of this episode -- it's going to keep occurring in the series. Yamaguchi is harsh, but she means well, and I like where they take the character throughout the course of the show.
Comedy comes in the form of Yamaguchi and Dazai -- I've mentioned before that I think Dazai must be partially inspired by Doc Brown, and Yamaguchi is the Strickland to his Doc Brown. She knows of him, that he's a kooky scientist, she thinks he's no good and that his bad influence is causing her students to stray, so she lets him have an earful...before they're both caught and rolled into a human dango! This episode has its seriousness, its grisliness and some comedy on top of it.
Monday, May 21, 2018
The Turboranger race to find Holy Beast Rakia, guardian beast of the fairy race, as the Bouma are on the hunt for the creature, as it's the one who currently holds in place the seal on the Bouma Castle. The Turboranger blow it, as Rakia -- weakened by the decline in nature -- is discovered and loses his grip on the seal. (If you notice, there's a marked plate on all of the Bouma seals that bears Rakia's image, which I think is a nice detail. Since the Bouma castle is massive and flies, it's kept imprisoned within a dark nebula, with Rakia using stars shaped in his image to seal it.)
The Turboranger take a further beating in this episode, being drained of power until their suits are all white. (Kinda like Kuuga's Growing Form.) Again, I like that they're struggling. While Riki gives them a speech that they need to stick together and keep their faith for this power they've been entrusted with, it gives them the strength to fight a decent fight against some Uras and this episode's Bouma-Beast. This episode re-enforces what's said in the first about the mystical and magical elements in the world being snuffed out by modern civilization, and the power of belief, in magic and in youth. (Dazai has this line: "Trust in that youth! Age 18 is the best, most beautiful time in one's life. Show them that the power of your youth is the strongest force!" I'm noting this, mainly, because it comes up in the finale.)
The seal on the Bouma Castle is broken and with it comes the Emperor, Ragon. We gotta talk about Ragon, because he's an impressive achievement for the show. There have been a ton of immobile head villains in toku; some are awesome (X's King Dark, Changeman's Bazuu, Flashman's La Deus to name a few) and some are lame (see: Uchuu Keiji main villains, Megaranger's Javius the Eyeball). But Ragon stands above most. This guy is creepy and intimidating as hell. And the design is a bit of a marvel -- it's a huge, ambitious endeavor, one that I'm surprised they attempted AND pulled off. (Especially when you take into account the budget of toku shows, ESPECIALLY one that had a visibly lower budget like Turboranger.) This isn't just a suit actor in a chair, Ragon's practically a full set piece -- a fully functioning set piece.
This was the first of many, many Super Sentai and toku shows that designer Tamotsu Shinohara worked on, and I think Turboranger houses a lot of his best, creepiest designs. (It's said that Keita Amemiya was supposed to design Turboranger's Bouma, but he declined since he was already designing the villains of RX and Jiban at the same time. Good thing, because I don't think he would have done Turboranger justice since he would have been spreading himself thin, although the Bouma would have been right up his alley. Amemiya gave Shinohara some rough sketches to work off of, though, with Shinohara saying that Zuruten is pretty much completely Amemiya's design.)
Ragon's terrifying, he looks like a pile of snakes with fangs and claws coming out all over the place, with that horrifying, evil, demonic face, and that massive mane, those lengthy tentacles oozing all over the place. The stroke of genius was leaving eye-holes in the rubber mask, so that you could see suit actor Hideaki Kusaka's eyes and performance; Kusaka had long mastered the wide Creepy Eyes as La Deus and Maskman's Emperor Zeba, so you get more of a performance and it ups the creep factor, rather than if it had just colored, rubber eyes with holes poked into it.
The next thing to notice is...Ragon appears to be seated, but it's not quite a traditional chair or throne. It appears to be...a pile of other living creatures! There's faces and limbs all over the place! And this is where one of my favorite parts of the design comes into play -- a lot of the limbs are either rigged to wires or will have stage-hands behind them to give them movement. It really elevates the whole piece into being something pretty unique and special, as well as crazy and terrifying. There's just constant movement. On top of that, the way they film the scenes -- the angles, lighting, smoke -- further adds an unsettling atmosphere. They go a long way to make Ragon seem imposing.
I have to wonder if they took inspiration from the way they brought Jabba the Hutt to life in Return of the Jedi, having two guys in the suit, and numerous puppeteers working it on the outside. I feel like Ragon was a really detailed, elaborate, and dedicated take on this type of villain.
Not only is the design scary and impressive, with Hideaki Kusaka doing great work, but you also have a great voice performance by Takeshi Watabe. Watabe's probably my favorite villain voice actor in tokusatsu -- it's kind of sad he was used in Changeman for just Gyodai! -- he could do all types of villains, from the straightforward villains to those goofy ones to cutesy ones to really menacing villains. I always thought he sounded especially menacing and vile as Ragon. His voice is really guttural, like Ragon's pulling his voice from the deep bowels of Hell. But he also gives Ragon a real anger, appropriate for the character who's in a rage over being sealed up for so long, and appropriate for a character who's supposed to be in charge of the group that calls themselves the Violent Demon Tribe.
Turboranger's also ambitious in the way it tries to bring Rakia to life; despite a big presence in advertising and being included in the eyecatch and so prominently in the ending credits, this episode marks Rakia's one big appearance in the series; he's so weakened, that he ends the episode by becoming a constellation of stars to watch over the planet. I have to wonder if Rakia's time is cut short due to the unique way they tried to bring the creature to life, which was by having the suit actor on their hands and knees. It's something Sentai would do again to bring to life other Seijuus -- the Star Beasts of Gingaman -- and the technique has been mocked by viewers, but I appreciate these attempts at making what's meant to be unique creatures truly stand-out. The Rakia suit is well made and has a good design and he's voiced by Banjo Ginga, who Sentai fans might best recognize as Abaranger's Brachio or Boukenger's Maboroshi no Gekkou; the voice he gives these characters is just such an old-sounding, all-knowingness which really suits them.
The Turboranger end their mission with a determination to do Rakia proud. How will they fit in school? We'll find out, but they're certain to have interesting essays to write!
Sunday, May 20, 2018
This episode takes its time and wisely uses every second of its run-time. What I like about it is that we're thrown into the action and as taken by surprise as the five heroes are; we're right there with them.
When dockers loosen a mysterious stone hand, it flies to a destination only it knows. This catches the attention of the fairy Shiron, who begins her search for anyone to help what's about to go down... We hear only her voice pleading to numerous people for help, but she goes unheard. She's finally heard by five high-schoolers, who are perplexed, but even moreso once they're whisked from their school to a vacant site where they witness an ancient evil being reborn...
Now, people have often acted like Turboranger was a comedic show. I'll see comments like "it started off goofy, but got retooled." And that's not really the case. It has lighter moments, but that's only really a reflection of having a team so young. Several Sentai prior to this had a teenage member, but this was the first team that was entirely teenager. The show wants to display the vibrancy of youth, it wants to show a group of close classmates as they're thrown into some strange and unusual circumstances while on the road to adulthood. This episode is about the oddity of the situation; just one second they're in class, business as usual -- sneaking a snack, struggling to stay awake -- and, BAM, they're pulled into this adventure by Shiron. There are things that might play funny or not age well to a younger viewer's eyes -- the invisible Shiron tugging Haruna by her hair or stabbing Youhei in the bum with a pencil -- but it's meant to be strange and amusing, not HA-HA, it's a comedy. More examples will pop up.
Despite hearing Shiron, they can't see her. They witness the three Bouma generals being unsealed. They're given the Turbo Braces, but they do nothing. When the Bouma sniff them out and attack, things could have easily been over right then and there, but Professor Dazai arrives in a jeep and takes them to his place, explaining everything.
He shows them a brief history of humans and fairies in ancient times, united in fighting and sealing the Bouma. It was a brutal war in which many lives -- human, fairy, magical creatures -- died. Things were peaceful until modern civilization; advancements in civilization led to scientific breakthroughs, but through those came things like pollution, a disconnect with nature and a loss in belief of magic. Shiron is the last surviving fairy and together with Dazai, they combined her magic with his technology to create the Turboranger and their arsenal, knowing it would be needed. I like this history between Dazai and Shiron; you really get the sense that they've known each other for a while, especially with the conviction Fujita Okamoto plays the professor. (I'm always saying Toei's missing a big opportunity to have Sentai novels or comics, and here's one topic they could cover: Shiron's seeking out Dazai and Dazai's first interaction with her. There's a story!) But I also like the footage we see from the ancient times, which we'll get more glimpses of in later episodes and the movie. But it goes a long way into building the world and history and getting you curious and invested in the show.
And this, smart-asses, is why a fairy/magic theme is set with a car theme... The theme is ancient, make-believe fairy power combining forces with today's cold, technological science to combat ancient evil let loose by modern society's ills. What is so hard about this idea for people to grasp? "OMG, what does fairies have to do with cars?" Symbolism, big dummy turds. Several shots of Dazai linger on the model cars decorating his place; he's a car freak and basing the suits on cars is his design contribution. I've seen many people worship Kamen Rider Gaim, giving that show's stupid design choices a pass -- magical fruits that turn into padlocks that power singing belts -- because the show tries to wave them off as ideas by kooky scientist Ryoma Sengoku. But the combined magic of fairy power with a car nerd's vehicular-themed arsenal is so hard to swallow? People get so hung up on it that they dismiss Turboranger entirely. But, please, enjoy your stupid teen dancers who fight each other with fruit and ride flower bikes.
I like that even the Turboranger are affected by modern society; they can hear Shiron, but can't transform immediately. And they're unable to transform until they actually lay eyes on Shiron and are instantly fascinated and drawn in by her. Seeing is believing, and soon after that, they're on their way to their first fight as Turboranger. But it also kinda plays into the youth and the vibrancy of youth theme -- teenagers aren't kids, but they aren't adults. So they'll have remains of that child-like openness that allows them to be dreamers or believe, but they have the strength and ability to fight, unlike a child. And, of course, there's what cars represent to teenagers, which is the sign of independence and adulthood. (A view which, even if the Japanese don't share, will at least recognize from pop-culture and emulate.)
Look, it's obvious that if you look at it logically, Turboranger came about like this: Transformers was a juggernaut in the '80s, so vehicular-based toys were thought to be a slam dunk. Fantasy was enjoying a resurgence in pop-culture at the time, so they thought they'd throw some of that in the show, which was a first for Sentai. (Just as the high-school theme was new; Turboranger was trying to introduce new elements.) Main writer Hirohisa Soda has always favored science-based shows -- it's the common link to all of his Sentai shows -- so he worked that angle in, too. But I think he finds a way to make it all work and gives it a logic and symbolism that's severely unnoticed and unappreciated.
The scene with Shiron is just done so well -- from the way they're directed to how the actors play the scene to the music that plays. Mayumi Ohmura is just such great casting, she's so good in this role, she just has a special, unique quality and emits such a genuine warmth and kindheartedness. I think she's such a find for the show and it's unbelievable she's so good when she's so young (she's around 12 at the start of the show!) and that such a bond between Shiron and the others are felt when she's not even working with the actors! That Shiron works so well, in this scene and throughout the whole series, is pretty damn impressive and all of the actors deserve praise in making it all work. Ohmura's not even interacting with the cast, and the Turboranger interact with either a puppet or nothing. But it all connects and she's such a important piece of the show, its heart and soul. She's such a sweet character, representing purity and innocence, and I don't know why there's so much hatred for her out there in the fandom. Blackhearted bastards.
And, like Liveman, I love that the Turboranger don't have a handle on everything immediately in their first battle. They take quite a few hits. They're victorious against the monster, but get beaten by the generals. (Reida, Jarmine and Jinba have taken a lot of criticism from viewers, and while they don't immediately make as much of an impression as the villains Soda gave us in shows like Changeman, Flashman or Liveman, I like that they're all just pretty pissed off. They mean business.) And after the five students' strange, strange day, the episode ends with mysterious, bestial howls. The Turboranger look scared, but it's actually the Holy Beast Rakia, who we sadly won't be seeing much of...
Damn, the Turboranger OP is awesome. You could set a thumb-wrestling match to that song and it would be a bad-ass action scene.
Friday, May 18, 2018
The retrospective special thing. It's not bad for what it is, but I ain't going to get into it; I just needed to point out that it's technically "episode 1." If I just started off with Episode 2 -- the real episode 1 of the series -- I was afraid that would be confusing down the line.
Nowadays this wouldn't be called "Episode 1" but "Episode 0" or "Episode SP" or something.
Actually, I would like to complain about how they get the same two voice actors to voice ALL of the previous Sentai teams. It seriously sounds like it's just two dudes, but they're trying to pass it off as 48 people -- men AND women! What a bonehead move. Why not just use old audio?
And I'll say this for the special: I know it only had a short amount of shows to go through, but it's nice to see a clip show that utilizes more footage from the individual shows than just something from a first or final episode, or a stock attack. Clip shows nowadays are so lazy, with the people putting them together not wanting to go through the whole show. Think of Timeranger's clip show or Gaoranger VS Super Sentai -- it's all stuff from early or final episodes! They don't like showing cast members or villains, either. But this episode shows a lot of stuff, spanning big moments of each series, showing cast members, villains, all that stuff.
Damn cool opening credits sequence, though! The first time I heard the OP, I knew it would become a favorite of mine. It's fast-paced and works well with a lot of the action-oriented clips they use for this particular OP. I remember having a WAV rip of these credits, and I'd listen to that. Sometimes, I'll listen to the OP and still expect Nobuo Tanaka to start blabbering towards the end of the first verse. I just took an instant liking to that song...
Much like the show itself. Turboranger's always had a bad reputation in the fandom, even when I got into the online fandom in the late '90s. Megaranger was just wrapping up and Gingaman was starting, and my main objective was to finish Liveman, since my family left Japan and the last one I saw was episode 8 and I thought Liveman rocked. From there, I dabbled into the shows that came afterward, mostly checking out the shows that Power Rangers used. I thought so many of them were weird or goofy, like the Sugimura run. Megaranger seemed OK, I was excited by getting to see the latest show from its beginning, but Gingaman was a sore thumb that took me quite a while to get into. The only thing I saw that came close to the shows I grew up with was Jetman, which I only had the first Hero Club of at first, but was wowed by.
It was kind of disheartening to see the franchise go in what I then considered a sugar-coated or bonkers direction. (I figured the PR influence played a part in it, like the removal of having actor villains.) So, I again placed my focus on completing my Liveman collection as best I could. The direction that show went, I feel the same way then as I do now -- it ended as a letdown. I had only the barest info about Turboranger from Marc Miyake's Super Sentai Manual (where he had even taken the time to point out what little he thought of it) and various people saying how bad or goofy it was. I was kind of hesitant to check it out because I was skeptical about the heroes all being high-schoolers, and so young. But when I saw the first episode preview after Liveman's whimper of a finale, I was like...this looks all right. I liked the look of it, I liked the villains, the music -- it's just a well presented first episode preview. I knew I had liked the OP from downloading the intro to this first episode clipshow, and that was playing during the whole preview, giving it extra kick.
So I bought the first volume from someone -- that's episodes 1 - 4 -- and the quality was faded and horrendous, but I enjoyed it. It didn't have everything in place, the promise of a Flashman or Liveman, but it seemed cool, and it seemed closer to the shows I was familiar with. (I've often wondered how I would have felt about Turboranger if my family had stayed in Japan for it. I think it would have been a case similar to Maskman, a show I found strange as a kid, but grew to love when I became older.)
Frankly, I thought people were insane with their overbearing hatred for it. I thought the cast was all cool and likable -- yes, even weirdo Daichi -- and I liked the action. The villains didn't make an immediate impression, save for Ragon, who I thought was AWESOME. Being a kid who had a semi-interest in fantasy -- I was one of the few weirdos who liked the movie Willow -- I liked that aspect of the show. The more I watched it, the more I just really liked the hero characters, the supporting cast. The more I watched, the more I realized that the Bouma, in the way they're designed, filmed and depicted, is the closest Sentai has had to having truly horror-like villains. Their designs, by Tamotsu Shinohara, are some of my favorite Sentai villain designs, some of my favorite suits in terms of the craftsmanship that brought them to life. So many inventive, mean, gnarly monsters in the show. And then once Yamimaru and Kirika came into the picture? The show really shot up my ranking. When I first saw Yamimaru's original outfit, I thought that was one of the coolest Sentai villain designs ever.
Cool hero characters, fast-paced action, horror-fantasy...it has a humorous touch, but I definitely wouldn't call it a comedic show. I HATE when people lump it in with Carranger or Go-onger. Carranger's satirical, Go-onger's idiotic. Turboranger's a show that has comedy, but there's also a misconception about its tone in the way the villain situations are sometimes portrayed. The Bouma can be weird, and a lot of their plans or gimmicks are rooted in youkai folklore, which I think to Western eyes can seem pretty bizarre, and if you're not familiar with some of that folklore, I think for a lot of people it can come across as goofy or surreal nonsense. There's this misconception that Turboranger begins "comedic" but eventually becomes "serious" after the show is "retooled." I get more into this "retool" misconception in later posts, but I never saw early Turbo as "comedic."
A lot of the early episodes focus on the strangeness of the situation our unprepared teen heroes are thrown into. Some episodes heighten the situation, sometimes our hero will have a humorous reaction of disbelief. One of the main points of having heroes so young is that they're going to be reacting to these tokusatsu situations in a way that's different from the norm, from the older and/or professional heroes. A teen's going to react differently, possibly with humor, to a strange situation. But as the show goes on, certainly by the time Yamimaru enters the picture, things get more personal for the heroes and they change, and the show becomes a worthy successor to Soda's greats. There's a progression to the series and stories it tells. (That's not to say it's serialized or planned out -- Turboranger's obviously not planned out when it shakes up the roster so much throughout the series and improvises around production changes, but more on that stuff in later posts.)
Turboranger was trying out new styles and themes and that meant it needed to find its footing and grow, the way its teen heroes do. Turboranger was trying out a lot of new things, introducing some new elements to the franchise, trying to do things a little differently. And I don't think that it ever gets the credit or respect it should, but more on that in later posts, too. It's hard to imagine fan-favorites like the Sugimura or Takatera runs of Super Sentai without Turboranger. I think Turboranger paved the road for many of its successors, and its influence has gone unacknowledged.
If I have to complain about Turboranger, it will be that it doesn't have more recurring storylines or characters. In Soda's greatest works, there will be a running thread or a repeat character or one of the teammates will have their own tie to another character, usually a villain. But I chalk that up to some of the production issues. (For example, the popularity of Yamimaru and Kirika -- two characters who were intended for short-term arcs -- influencing how much time they get devoted to them.) People have complained that it's the Riki show, but what can you do when Kenta Sato kicks so much ass and was already an established talent? The show deviated from what it set out to do, mostly for reasons beyond its control, but I don't think Turboranger turns out poorly for it. It's still a solid, entertaining, satisfyingly full production.
I remember fondly getting a tape in a trade, of about 18 or so Turboranger episodes. (It was one of the rare people who wasn't a stickler for SP mode; they did a tape on SLP, which meant, yay, more episodes! And, yes, I realize that talk of VHS tape speeds might not make sense to some youngsters reading this.) I think I watched most of that tape in one sitting, sad to say. Like I said, I took a quick liking to this show, it's always a fun and breezy watch. There was a point in the early '00s when I'd be in a funk, and hauling out some Turboranger cheered me up. I think the show's treated unfairly. I think it's time for Turboranger to be given the attention and respect it deserves.
Thursday, May 17, 2018
You know what's funny, I remember watching this two-parter years ago -- and well after I finished Time Force in its entirety -- and thought it was pretty cool. But now when I watch it so closely with the actual series, I don't enjoy it so much and feel it's mostly pointless. There are still some cool things about it, but there's more I *don't* like about this two-parter...
It's an adequate enough way to involve the Time Force, and it at least feels eventful, unlike Time Force's team-up with Lightspeed Rescue. There are weirdo Orgs on the loose that the Wild Force can't quite handle and that the Silver Guardians are no match for. Wes contacts Trip in the future -- using the same equipment the Time Force used to contact Logan and Alex throughout their series -- and finds out that they're Org/mutant hybrids that the Time Force have been tracking. It's discovered that Jen was tracking them, but went radio-silent and they lost track of her.
To combat this Mutorg (that's what I'm calling them for convenience) menace, they need someone with expertise, so Lucas and Katie have to seek out Nadira and Ransik. It's a cool little idea to have Ransik in a Hannibal Lecter role, but Ransik's not bad anymore. He's genuinely remorseful, a model prisoner, a chill dude who wants to help. It's...disappointing. I guess Power Rangers was too safe to have Ransik, like, discover religion in the slammer, which would help a BIT, but I still wouldn't buy this coming from him, really. But this is nothing compared to what ends up happening to Ransik in the end of this team-up... (Yes, it gets even worse.)
I like that they make a big deal revealing Jen -- she's been on the hunt for the Mutorgs and she inexplicably has this really early-00s sci-fi-y uniform that's like a cross between Zeiram's Iria, Aeon Flux and The Matrix's Trinity. She gets a cool, over-the-top Sakamoto fight scene. Wes and Jen don't get to spend too much time together, since the Mutorg threat is on. They try to address this, but the feeling I get is that since this is Wild Force's show, they don't want to devote TOO much time to the old guys, which sucks.
Eventually, the other Time Force Rangers return -- along with Ransik and Nadira -- and after everyone puts aside their differences, like they've been mainlining Brady Bunch episodes in 3001 or something, the hunt's on for the Mutorgs. Ransik reveals he's responsible for their existence -- in the future, he found them as plain old Orgs and freed them, and they coursed through him, being altered by his mutant DNA and became these fancy Gingaman repaints -- er, Mutorgs! This scene also sadly explains that Ransik's neat little pulling-blades-from-his-skeleton trick was a "gift" given to him by the Mutorgs, which was an unnecessary explanation that robs Ransik of one of his cool little quirks.
I'll just get to it -- Ransik feels responsible for these three freaks and so he grabs 'em all and "drains the mutation" from them, making them plain old Orgs that are easy to fight. It looks as if he dies here, but he doesn't -- somehow, even though he just absorbed three times the mutant-stuff-and-junk from these monsters, it's wiped the mutant DNA from HIS own body and he gets up looking like plain old Vernon Wells. Our bad guy gets his happy ending! But that's not all! More as it develops.
Basically, the best part of this two-parter is Uber-Jen and I like just how sorrowful Eric seems in these episodes, and the thing he and Lady Gao Yellow have going. (I'm trying not to cheat and look up her name, but she seems cool, and would be one of the reasons I'd consider watching Wild Force, which otherwise looks mostly...ech.) Not having Eric die like Naoto, and then shuttling him off for all of the important stuff in the final episode robbed the character of a conclusion. He still doesn't really get one here, but there's something interesting about his sadness. Like, he might have mellowed, he might have mended things with Wes, but he still didn't find what he was looking for. He didn't find happiness. There's a glimmer with Lady Gao Yellow, but that ain't going to last. Naoto did find a bit of peace, even if he didn't survive the series. One could argue that Eric has the more tragic tale.
The team-up ends with a big pic-a-nic -- obviously a Wild Force idea, and they obviously just watched Gingaman VS Megaranger, which has a similarly stupid idea -- between the two teams. That's all of the Time Force and all of Wild Force. And Nadira. AND RANSIK! Again: AND RANSIK! He shows up dressed like the lead singer of the first and last Smash Mouth cover band, like everything's all right and always has been and always will be. And everyone's OK with it! Ransik's yukking it up and making funnies about anyone showing interest in Nadira. The two villains...having a picnic with the Rangers. This is kinda like PR's cowardice in a nutshell. It's pure Danny Tanner "he wishes Tim Burton's Batman ended with Batman and the Joker hugging." Villains having a picnic with the Rangers. That's it, this post is over.
Monday, May 14, 2018
This episode takes one of the strangest turns I've ever seen in a superhero show...
Ransik has everyone working for him out searching for Frax, including Nadira. Bored by the search, she stops off at a store. When her presence causes all of the shoppers in the store to panic, a pregnant woman goes into labor. Trip shows up to fight Nadira, pausing when he notices the pregnant woman. He then ignores Nadira to help the pregnant woman, before convincing Nadira to help her take care of the lady and deliver the baby while he goes and helps his buddies. And. Nadira. Listens. What the...
It's the beginning of this out-of-nowhere redemption for Nadira, and I see what they're going for, but it's staged in the clumsiest manner possible. Like...why didn't Trip call an ambulance? Why does he think Nadira, of everyone in the store, was the best choice? There were plenty of other options. It's not like she was Dr. Nadira in 3000... Nadira! The woman was better off delivering her baby herself like that woman in Liveman's second episode! And Nadira listens and helps! I don't know how I didn't remember this happening in the show, but it doesn't quite work for me, and Nadira's change is pivotal to the finale of the show...
We've never seen Nadira not be selfish or narcissistic. She always takes delight in the chaos she's caused. She was ready to kill a busload of kids in an episode way back. But helping deliver a baby is going to change her? Like I said, I see what the show wants to do, but it doesn't jibe with what we've seen from Nadira for the entire series. And Kate Sheldon's performance and the way all of these "Nadira questions her life" scenes are handled with the subtley of a purple elephant doing a bicycle kick. You have Koichi Sakamoto -- whose primary focus is on delivering a heightened, big-bang adventure -- directing, so he's not invested in the emotions of the scene. And to describe Sheldon's performance in these episodes as maudlin is too positive, because that suggests some genuine, raw emotion, and she just comes across as really phony and exaggerated. (I'm going to assume she thinks this about-face of Nadira's is as bullshit as I do and she just didn't find it playable.)
Helping the delivery, witnessing the miracle of birth, causes Nadira to question everything -- like why she and her father hate humans so much, why are they fighting. If Nadira had only been a minor threat in the show, maybe it would be easier to buy. If we had been shown that she's kind of innocent, but knows no better because this is the life her father's given her, that would be one thing. But we've seen her unafraid to get her hands dirty. So this redemption which leads to -- even harder to buy -- a Ransik redemption is just so phony and soft and wimpy even by Power Rangers standards. Time Force was trying to be gutsier than the usual PR show, but it slides right back to Nerdville with this one.
And I'd like it to work, because it gives the character depth. Lila ends Timeranger by just walking out on the Londarz when shit goes south, and it's unintentionally comedic and stupid. (Way to go protecting history there, Timeranger, the Keystone Cops of time cops, when you let one of the villains from 3000 just mingle about in the past and not even give her a thought. A shapeshifting villain at that!) Frustrating that it doesn't work, because there's a couple of moments that would have been really good had they played right...
One comes with Nadira's moment with Frax. Frax is found and caught by Ransik. Nadira tries to talk to him about her shifting views while he's imprisoned, and he doesn't buy it, and just spews more hatred for her to hear. When grunts come to get him to transport him to surgery, Nadira softly lets out a apology to Dr. Fericks for what her father did to him. This actually gets through to Frax, he's touched, and he tries to offer encouraging words to Nadira as he's hauled off. This scene is shot well -- Frax's frantic cries, the roughness of his being hauled away, the surprisingly decent and dramatic background music.
Nadira later finds Frax on a slab after being operated on, hoping he'd elaborate on what he was saying, only to find that Ransik had his memory wiped; he's rid Frax of his remaining humanity and he's now the obedient worker Ransik wants him to be. Frax spends the rest of the series as just Ransik's goon operating his giant robot creation, now serving Ransik's purpose. A sad end to a tragic character, and thankfully these scenes work more than some of the other scenes we'll see of Nadira questioning her life.
And thankfully all of the stuff on the Ranger side works, or else we'd be winding up with some dud finale episodes. But, as in Timeranger, after having nightmares about their deaths, Wes makes the decision to send the others back to 3000 against their will. While Wes is doing what he thinks is right, and he's acting out of desperation, it still feels like more of a betrayal here that he blindsides them. They're all such a functional unit that I find the emotions of the scene works more than in Timeranger. (I think I've hammered home how I don't think any of the Timeranger cast members ever feel like they've come to love one another as family; they really only have feelings for themselves.) The words of Jen's feelings are just about to hit her lips as the ship takes off and Wes is left alone in an unwinnable situation.
It's up to Wes and Eric to set aside their squabbles and save the day, as the four other Time Force Rangers awaken in 3000, confused and pissed off. Alex reassures them that it's for the best, that staying in 2001 would have been a losing battle where they would have pointlessly died. When they ask what happened to Wes, he tells them Wes didn't survive the attack. He then readies them to have their memories of 2001 wiped -- standard procedure to help time-travelers better reacclimate to their own time period. That's the breaking point for them and they decide to go back to 2001. Thankfully, the show had the guts to word Jen's line the way they did: "We can't live our lives here knowing Wes gave his there." She then returns Alex's engagement ring...cold! Maybe bold. Eh, Alex knew what was up.
Timeranger's scenario is a muddled mess, and I've never liked it. In Timeranger, they were told to return to 3000 and not to interfere -- Gien Megazord was meant to destroy the 20th century to give birth to the 30th. The four Timeranger return to 3000 and meet with Ryuuya, who's being his usual weasel-with-a-shit-eating-grin self. Ryuuya's glad they returned and tells them that history's changed for the better for them -- Yuuri's family is alive, there's a cure for Ayase, and Domon was never banned from his fighting career. Since Shion's the Last Son of Krypton, tough shit, nothing's changed for him.
It's supposed to be a weighty situation: the Timeranger are not only home, but presented with this dream scenario, a future that's even better than the one they left. But is it worth it? If the cost of this improved future was to just callously let so much destruction be caused in the past, is it worth it? The show needed to ask and answer this. It's pretty unclear just how much was changed due to Ryuuya's tampering. If the Londarz were always going to escape and Gien was going to build a robot that destroyed the 20th, paving the way for the 30th, then...anything Ryuuya did wasn't all that different. This causes a bigger hole to the show's central set-up in that this organization in 3000 that exists solely to protect the timeline and does a very, very shitty job of it by 1) letting the Londarz escape and 2) putting someone like Ryuuya in charge.
Of course, the Timeranger don't even mull it over. They want to get back and finish the fight and help Tatsuya. But nefarious Ryuuya wants to wipe their memory and is basically holding them hostage until it's done. We're supposed to find the Timeranger wanting to return to 2000, jeopardizing their own timeline and lives and very existence, to be peak heroism. And I just REALLY don't buy these particular characters to a) care enough about the 20th century to not only jeopardize their own time, but also their own supposed happily-ever-after or b) love Tatsuya enough to jeopardize all of that to go back and save him. Even if they came to the conclusion that there was a big conspiracy within the time cop organization and that their civilization is basically built on lies -- because it only exists as a result of people tampering with technology they didn't use properly -- that's still their own time period, their own home, their own people. I don't think they're going to just quickly brush all of that off to get back to 2000/2001. I'm not sure a person, let alone four people, a millennium away is going to care so much about 1000 years ago, and certainly not the narcissistic Timeranger asshats. Tangent ahead...
I really liked the first season of CW's The Flash. It wasn't perfect, but I thought it handled a time-traveling villain well. The Reverse Flash was a heartless bastard, but through his own villainy, he trapped himself in a predicament that he had to make the best of. He got stuck in the past and tried to speed up some history to suit his agenda in getting home, while not tampering with the timeline as he knew it. It was a juggling act, and he tried very hard to not do anything that would screw his era up. But he wanted back home as soon as possible. And it was a cruel irony that he needed his enemy, Barry Allen/The Flash, to help reach his goal. So he poses as a mentor to The Flash and actually gets close with the heroes of the show and becomes a bit of a better person. But he's still focused on getting home, to the future. He's not going to let anyone stop that or jeopardize the future he remembers in any way. (I like that he even tries to protect an ancestor, so as not to risk the future of his bloodline. Something Ryuuya doesn't care about, eh? He's fine with letting Wataru and Tatsuya get killed.) And when he's exposed and all of his plans come to light, some characters are like, "And you don't care that you're going to kill so many people in this timeline?" And Reverse Flash is basically like, "As close as I've gotten to some of you, remember this -- from my point of view, you've been dead for centuries."
And I basically think that anyone from a thousand years in the future would have that kind of thinking. If Timeranger's future was set in, like, 2150? OK, maybe they'd care more. But 1,000 years?! It sounds callous, but it's really just intangible, isn't it? It's hard to wrap your mind around. Is somebody so far in the future going to feel so strongly for people so far in the past? (Would you care about a peasant in 1018?) Even if they have a face to put to that past, in this case Tatsuya and Naoto, don't you think they'd choose their own period, the world as they know it, filled with the people they know and love? Even once they discover their world's basically built on lies, that it only exists as a result of tampering with timelines...it's still the world they know, the life they've lived, the one they've been fighting for and fighting to get back to.
The Timeranger don't even weigh the options and discuss it, which would have helped. We needed to see them take everything into consideration, like whether or not they even trusted Ryuuya's words. But, no, they're immediately planning to return to the past. It's a choice I especially don't believe the self-centered Timeranger to make; I don't believe they care enough to throw away their time period for the sake of Tatsuya and his era. Especially when it comes down to the one stranger and his people from a thousand years ago and his weird time period or EVERYONE in the 3000 as they know it. I just don't see the Timeranger making that call, but they do...
And I just don't buy it from them, and I think it shows a real disregard and selfishness that these four basically destroy their own timeline and all in it for Tatsuya's sake. It's meant to seem like a big sacrifice that they're giving up this dream-version of 3000, but it doesn't, because that's not all that they're giving up. Their supposed happy endings isn't all that's at stake, but their ENTIRE world. So, it doesn't come across as selfless or heroic the way it's meant to play, and the way most other viewers see it. Between Ryuuya's tampering with history for his own sake and the Timeranger's brazen disregard for 3000 -- not to mention Domon Jr and Lila still being out there -- I feel like the Time Cops of Timeranger are far more dangerous to history and the timeline than any Londarz. Timeranger are their own show's biggest villains, but they don't see it that way at all. You're supposed to love the heck out of these guys and think they're cool, but they're just hateable and lame.
Now, in Time Force, Alex is keeping an eye on events, but it's still being written by Frax's going renegade. All he knows is that there's going to be massive destruction in the 21st century and that it results in all of the Rangers being killed. It's not the scenario as in Timeranger, where the 20th NEEDS to be destroyed to create the 30th, and a piece of shit like Ryuuya's trying to work it all out in his favor. (Timeranger's a fookin' mess.) So when the four Time Force officers decide to abandon their time to go back and help Wes, they're really just risking their own lives. It's a suicide mission, but it's up to them and they're not jeopardizing anyone or anything else in their choice. (Not to mention, once again, that the Time Force seem closer than the Timeranger, so you believe they want to go help Wes.)
Meanwhile, back in 2001, Wes and Eric take a beating. After he's been injured and Wes has carried him off, we finally get confirmation on Eric's backstory -- that he was "dirt poor" and fought his way up -- and his whole problem with Wes. Naoto only ever mentioned his poor background in a couple of voiceovers, when it would have been stronger to bring it up directly to Tatsuya; Tatsuya was too oblivious to make the connection. But Wes tells him to forget all that crap, because there's one thing they have in common -- the desire to save people and right now they're the world's best chance. Wes takes Eric back to the clock tower to rest, but Ransik tracks them down and destroys the place. (It bugs the heck out of me that Wes doesn't even bother trying to retrieve the Polaroids of his pals from the future, or even seem to care that they're destroyed right along with the clock tower.)
I like how the choices Wes makes are building blocks, going towards changing history for the better, going towards victory. If he didn't send the others back to the future, they wouldn't have found the determination to get back and secure a victory. If Wes hadn't been alone because of that decision, he wouldn't have finally settled things with Eric, to the point where maybe they wouldn't have successfully taken back the Q-Rex and destroyed Frax's mecha. There's a lot of the Timeranger talk of taking control of destiny in these episodes, but there's also a lot of chance involved; it was by nothing but chance that Nadira witnessed the birth that changes her, and it's chance that leads her to where she finds herself in the finale...
And I suppose I should mention Eric. Nobody dies in Power Rangers -- not even bad guys -- so we knew he wasn't going to die like Naoto. But it would have been nice if his injuries looked a little more serious. He gets a generic CGI blast from a Cyclodroid and that's it, he's ready to hand over the Quantum powers to Wes? C'mon! This is Eric! You ain't getting that Defender unless you pry it from his cold, dead hands! Oh, well. At least he went out taking a hit for Wes and his dad, which was a nice touch, and a tad more meaningful in how it relates to the story than Zenitto gunning Naoto down as he protects that girl's bird. Naoto's death is really...for the birds. *puts on sunglasses*
Which brings me to this tangent. Why all of the Dragon Ranger homages with Naoto/Time Fire, anyway? Because he was the first sixth since Burai to be antagonistic? I find it a little odd and misplaced with this show. You have him being an outsider; you have him getting killed off; you have the (strange choice of) dinosaur mecha, which he controls from the ground (but rides the head of sometimes). It's obviously intentional. Now imagine on top of it if Naoto HAD been Tatsuya's brother like I suggested!
This episode quickly gets through the Timeranger portion, it's funny. The four return from 3000 and they take down Frax and his robot pretty easily. (One really nice scene I like is Nadira bursting out in emotion as she sees Frax crumble to death. Unlike Timeranger, you can kinda feel for Frax. And for as Gien being as important as he was, it was always strange to me that he just fell to pieces and nobody even really cared to find out whether or not he was truly a goner. For all the Timeranger knew, Miles Dyson scooped up some Gien parts.)
But the show can't rely on Timeranger anymore, because the head villain is an original, and the final showdown with Ransik takes up most of the time. (Gluto -- Dolnero, remember -- gets the Lila treatment of just "Eh, screw this stuff," and imprisons himself!) Despite Nadira constantly pleading with Ransik to just forget the destruction and move on, Ransik says he ain't leaving until he's wiped out humans. And he easily knocks all of the Rangers on their asses, just one hit unmorphs 'em. Wes uses that ugly Fire Armor stuff where he gets in some hits and Ransik tries to take him down in an explosion, but all that does is make Wes unmorph and knock Ransik's robotic mask off his face, revealing him to look like the Toxic Avenger. (Not a movie you want your work to remind people of. Just saying.) The fight has been big and nasty -- you can tell the show wants to evoke something like Superman fighting Zod Trio from Superman II, but just doesn't have the money to pull off -- at one point, Nadira notices a stroller in the line of fire and grabs the baby it contains, hauling it off to an abandoned facility she thinks is out of harm's way...
I like the kind of desperation at the end of this fight, as a dirtied and wounded unmorphed Jen tries to take Ransik on. They find their way to that abandoned facility, where Ransik eventually shoots Nadira, thinking she's Jen...
This causes Ransik pause, which is believable. (Yes, even after he kicks Nadira over when he's disgusted to find her saddened over Frax's dea-- er, destruction!) Nadira then offers up the baby she was protecting, asking Ransik if he finds it such a bad creature worth attacking, blah blah. He has the epitome that his hatred led him to nearly killi-- er, destroying! -- the one thing in existence (other than himself) he loves, so he then just willingly surrenders to the Time Force, who are all pretty chill just kicking back and watching this scene unfold in the background. (I would have directed it so at least a couple of them kept weapons drawn on Ransik. Jeez.)
Not that I think they should have killed Ransik -- they arrested everyone else, they're cops, so that fits. And the personal element, for Jen, of bringing Ransik to justice is no longer relevant since Alex survived, so it just makes our heroes seem like they're insufficient or something. They didn't get the main bad guy, he gave himself over. It feels like a wheezing victory in terms of succeeding their mission, even if the bigger picture was defeating Frax's robot and all of the timeholes it had been creating. This was a time Power Rangers just needed to find its guts and go for it -- Nadira should have died from the blast Ransik gave her (her dying breath for Ransik to turn himself in), he should have gone berserk and been taken down. (Whether that meant killing him or stunning him and locking him up, you decide.) Because now we have Ransik making an about-face, and if Nadira was already hard to swallow, Ransik is just...get the hell outta here with this Nerf storytelling. (I'm surprised Frax didn't survive to become a buddy of Circuit's.) And that doesn't even get into the stupid, stupid directions they go with these two characters in the Wild Force team-up.
(Or, another option if you're after a sugar-coated version of the storyline: have Nadira be critically injured, with the Rangers getting her to a hospital in the nick of time, where she's saved by 21st century humans and medicine. This would be slightly more believable in making Ransik suspending his hate long enough to consider turning himself in.)
Which brings me to the show's final scene and Timeranger. People always wonder why there wasn't a Gaoranger VS Timeranger. Well, Gaoranger VS Super Sentai was a more bad-ass and epic choice. That's reason enough. Would you rather see Big One kicking Org ass or Tock yukking it up with Tetom? Another reason is Toei trying to protect Timeranger's finale. To bring the four Timeranger back after their dramatic send-off would undo the point of that dramatic send-off. If the Timeranger can just easily bounce back to 2001 for the sake of some shitty VS movie, then they can just always visit their buddy Tatsuya and things will be awesome with a freeze-frame, CHiPs laugh for them, now won't it?
Only...do the Timeranger make it back to 3000? If you want to believe Ryuuya, saving 2001 erased 3000 as they knew it. One wasn't able to exist with the other. If you look at the way the farewell scene in Timeranger is filmed, it's not filmed with the usual green swirly stuff with which the show signified time travel -- it's shot in a completely white space, with the characters vanishing. As in being erased from existence. I've never seen much speculation about this, so maybe it's just me, but it seems almost like a question mark to me whether the Timeranger are going back to their time in this scene or basically dying. If their actions made their time no longer exist, it would mean they no longer exist, wouldn't it? TL;DR -- there's no Gaoranger VS Timeranger because the Timeranger are dead!
Of course, 3000 is still safe in Time Force, but the four need to leave in order to bring in Ransik. Also, obviously, they don't belong in 2001 and Wes doesn't belong in 3000, so they have to part ways. It's REALLY awkward that their farewells all take place in front of Wes' dad and the Silver Guardians, but...shit happens. While everyone gets some final words before teleporting to the ship -- poor Lucas, Wes basically tells him "Remember to wear your seatbelt and brush your teeth!" -- the focus, of course, is on Jen. Good performances from both Cahill and Faunt as they finally admit they love each other. Wes says he wishes he could live another 1,000 years so he could be with her, which is a nice thought, but has some problems. That means he'd live long enough to see her again and die right on the spot, doesn't it? A weird take on that Proclaimers song. "He would live a thousand years just to be the man who lived a thousand years and dropped dead at her door YADADA." She gifts him with her Time Force badge, which is cool, and a big and meaningful move for a dedicated cop, but since he thoughtlessly let those Polaroids of his buddies be burned in the clock tower, maybe some pictures of the friends he'll never see again would be nice? Something like a yearbook, basically? Geez.
As the time ship enters the portal, Wes' dad awkwardly asks him what's next. Great timing, Mr. A. Collins! Not taking the hint that it's great timing, he decides to then ask Wes if he'll lead the Silver Guardians. It's funny that the idea of Tatsuya becoming a bud of his dad's and choosing to lead the Silver Guardians would be a huge betrayal of his character, but this is one part where Time Force...well, grabbed its own destiny. Mr. Collins is a good dude now and there's really no problem with Wes working with the Guardians, who will protect the city gratis now. (I thought I remembered there being hints that the Silver Guardians were kind of the beginning of what would eventually become the Time Force, but I guess I was wrong.)
Time Force, and a lot of Power Rangers, has a problem with abrupt episode endings. This episode needed a little more of a breather. It's like...the Rangers part ways, Wes agrees to work with his dad, episode ends. At least I misremembered the end -- I thought the last shot was of Wes getting a Silver Guardian badge and looking at it, which I thought was a really bad note to end on. But it's thankfully not, it's him looking at Jen's badge, noting that the future looks bright. (A predictable line, but it works, and it also reminds me of the "Timeranger brightening hope" lyric that totally wasn't applicable to Timeranger, from that awesome opening theme the show didn't deserve.) It still feels like a rushed ending, though, in need of something a little extra. I don't have a suggestion here. And, no, I wouldn't have copied Timeranger's ending, either. I never liked that whole Tatsuya seeing the Timeranger doppelgangers, it's ridiculous to me. (Especially why we see a Naoto clone in Naoto's own timeline. Or...did Naoto just fake his death? Or is this "Naoto" actually...Lila in disguise? DUNDUNDUN!)
Rushed final scene and questionable villain motivations aside, I like these final three episodes. The Nadira/Ransik stuff...definitely could have been improved upon, been more genuine, not so damned heavy-handed, but I see what they're going for and just choose to look at it that way. (NOT the completely absurd stuff Wild Force does with them, though. I ignore that.) The Ranger stuff is all good and works and is what's the bigger priority. Timeranger's farewell scene is filmed better and is more personal, not taking place in front of so many other characters awkwardly, but the emotions are still felt in the Time Force take. These are just more likable people than the Timeranger.
Time Force isn't perfect -- it still has a lot of the problems I find in Power Rangers, including the kid glove handling of villains and fear of taking things too seriously. There's still some concessions that have to be made to enjoy it. But I do enjoy it. And I'm glad I decided to stick with the choice to rewatch it so close after rewatching Timeranger -- I thought the repetition would be a tedious chore -- because it gave me even more appreciation of certain things Time Force did. Like, to be honest, when I previously watched Time Force, I didn't really pay attention to Frax. I thought Gien was done in a more interesting way, seeming more diabolical. But now I'm totally flipped on that, I far prefer Frax and the sympathetic take on the character and think Gien is a bit of a disappointment that the show didn't know what to do with. I never really liked Eric when I previously watched Time Force, but really grew to appreciate him and Southworth's mercurial performance. (I still like Naoto more, though. The way Kasahara plays him and the character's tragic arc; Naoto finally found the power he sought, but it ended up costing him his life. Yuuri and Ayase warned him. And all because some selfish ass wrote it into history that Naoto would die in his place. Like I've said -- an interesting story there with Ryuuya, just executed all wrong.)
And, while Timeranger lacks Time Force's heart and heroics, I see where Time Force could have used some of Timeranger's sense of seriousness and coolness. Timeranger, to me, is basically Kotaro Tanaka from Jetman, in show form. Even though I came out of my last Jetman rewatch trying to let Tanaka off the hook, Timeranger is similar in that the ingredients are there for a very, very good show -- a damn GREAT show. But it's like everyone involved -- the actors, the directors, the writers, the designers -- they're all Kotaro Tanaka. They all think they're so cool and doing an amazing job, and if you don't think so...well, screw you, because it's just a dumb kids show. Well, actually, there's a HUGE amount of space for improvement. A better actor as Ryu would have truly let Jetman soar. Better casting, some tweaks to the writing, would have benefited Timeranger. And, in a way, Timeranger got a do-over in the form of Time Force, which had better casting and dropped some of the muddled writing that tripped up Timeranger. (There are some things Time Force would have been wise to keep, but for the most part, what it jettisoned was extraneous.)
Mostly, I think Timeranger is extremely boring. I struggle to stay focused on that show, and last time I rewatched it, I would tune out and have to rewind parts to catch them again. Timeranger is really, disgustingly in love with mecha -- more than Megaranger, more than GoGoFive, even. Like...so much of the show's big action, big storylines, involve mecha and mecha-caused destruction. For a show that wants to be so character-driven, turning everything into roc'em sock'em robots makes everything impersonal. Your eyes just glaze over when it comes upon the umpteenth big CGI mecha destruction scene. Time Force episodes run a few minutes shorter than Timeranger, bringing it closer to Sentai's glory days of 20-minute episodes, and that makes for breezy episodes. A lot of times, especially in the final episodes, it's the mecha stuff that's excised. As I've mentioned, Time Force will sometimes take multi-parters and condense them into lean, mean one-shots. That all gives more focus to the character stuff, gives it more room and makes an improvement...especially if you're not a mecha fan like I am. No wonder I've developed a preference for Time Force!
I like Time Force so much, I basically can look at the Timeranger suits and see the Time Force cast. That's always been something that's hard for me to shake as a Sentai fan who then goes on to watch some of the PR shows. Like, even though I was a big-time MMPR fan and I watched hundreds of episodes of that show repeatedly before I even saw Zyuranger, I never thought of the MMPR cast members when I finally saw Zyuranger. I didn't have to shake that image -- I just didn't even think about them. But it's funny...like, with how much I don't like Tatsuya, I also dislike the way Seiji Takaiwa plays Time Red in suit; his performance is really off and unnecessarily goofy and obnoxious. But with Time Force cutting around some of Takaiwa's goofier moments and having their own new footage with Hiroshi Maeda as Red, and with how much I actually like Wes more, I can not only tolerate Time Red, but see Wes when I see Time Red. But I especially see Jen and Erin Cahill when I look at Time Pink, no question. I could never picture Yuuri or Mika Katsumura being that character, even before I got into Time Force. Jen's cooler, more bad-ass and Cahill more believable. And it's easier to see Southworth's Eric as Time Fire; even if it's his just being a better physical match to Yasuhiko Imai than Kasahara was.
I like Time Force so much, I bought this piece of merchandise to represent my liking of it. I thought it was appropriate since I think it has a better handle on the cop side of the show: