Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Soda era of sentai: the golden age of sentai villains

Mess (Flashman, top), Tube (Maskman, middle) and Volt (Liveman, bottom): classic examples of Soda villain groups

As a very long running franchise, Super Sentai has evolved a lot during all the years. However, I feel that it's during the sentai era when Hirohisa Soda was the head writer (all sentai series from Goggle V through Fiveman) that the franchise was at its best regarding the villains.
Here are the reasons why I think so:

1) The villains goup had a very well established organization: there were the Big Bad, the leader of the villain group; three generals (at least one of them being female), some of them having personal subordonates, who were fighting for them ; often a comic relief villain, and a new enemy appearing during the series. That pattern allowed to have a colorful villain cast, with interesting interactions between the villains: how the general behaved with their leader, the rivalries between the different generals, which were even more highlighted when the new enemy, who often could become a new general, appeared; the relationship between the general and his (or her) faithful subordinate, usually showing a huge devotion the general's follower had for his (or her) leader. Al those elements helped to create a very dynamic villain group to oppose the heroes

2) Most of the main villains were human looking villains, played by actors, and not suit actor and seiyuu; I really like more when it's that way, because having an actor play a villain allowed to show the villain's emotions much better, because it allows to see the expression in his (or her) face. Besides, it makes the fights between the heroes and the villains feel more intense, stronger, because it makes heroes and villains look more similar in a way, as true warriors. Besides, during that era, Toei had used amazing actors to play the villains: classic toku villain actors, like Masashi Ishibashi (General Kar, Lehda) or Hirohisa Nakata (Mason); impressive actors like Jouji Nakata (Sir Kaura, Professor Bias), Yutaka Hirose (Ley Wanda, Kemp), Munemaru Kōda (Dr Man), or the suit actor Yoshinori Okamoto (Buuba, Ashura) or actresses like Fukumi Kuroda (Ahames) or Akiko Amamatsuri (Mazenda); even actors having played sentai heroes before could play villain like former Dynapink Sayoko Hagiwara (Ley Nefel), or former Green Flash Kihachirō Uemura (Chevalier in Fiveman)

3) The main villains were often directly involved in the action; they didn't merely send the mooks and MOTW fight the heroes, but also could fight against them on a regular basis, and that helped a lot build even more the rivalry between heroes and villains, and make the fight between them even more intense. Sometimes, that villain could be even seem invincible: some great examples are Bio Hunter Silva, Ahames, Sir Kaura. The fact that some of the villains were played by actors who know how to fight help; the best examples are Yoshinori Okamoto, and the actresses playing the female fighters.

4) In most cases, the villains weren't merely the type "MUAHAHAHA, I'm evil, I'm gonna take over the world, make human suffer"; in a lot of cases, they showed interesting personalities. Sometimes they had painful stories; like how the Gozma generals were forced to fight for Bazoo because otherwise, their home planets would be destroyed forever; or how Yamimaru, as a half Boma was forced to wander alone in the world, behing an outcast among both humans and Boma, and how Kirika, discovering she's half Boma, had to find her true path. Sometimes, they showed arrogance and pride, but beneath that, those villains felt a lot of doubt, and insecure feelings within themselves; some examples are most of the Volt generals, like Ashura, Mazenda, and especially Gou Omura. Sometimes, they had their own agenda, very different from the main villains's ; like Kiros in Maskman, Bio Hunter Silver in Bioman. Even, in some cases, some villains could realize the errors of their way, eventually switch sides and try to find redemption: some good examples are Gator, Shima, Oblar/ Gou Omura, Kirika. Of course, in most cases, the villains stayed evil until the end, and could show impressive cruelty. but it allowed to widen the ranger of personalities within the main villain groups

All of those elements may also be found in series not penned by Soda. But never all those four elements have been present together in such a consistent way than in the Soda era of sentai, and that's why I feel that the Soda era of sentai has been the golden age for sentai villains

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