Sunday, March 31, 2013

My Top 3 Unique Mecha Control Systems

Before I begin talking about the mecha control systems, let me just say that I haven't seen much sentai so MagiKing and GekiTouja are my favorite so far. The ones I've seen (at the time of this post) are Gekiranger, Gokaiger, Gobusters, half of Magiranger, Dairanger, and Shinkenger, Kyoryuger, and Liveman.

Mechas are pretty much a staple of the franchise. Throughout the entire franchise, there have been many many mecha each with various types of control systems. Most have just been the standard seats with steering wheels or joysticks. However there have been a few who haven't used that type including, Gekiranger, Magiranger, Dairanger, Kyoryuger, and Shinkenger. Out of all the control systems I've seen, here are my top 3:

Number 3: Dairanger's Ki powered control systems.
Dairanger's mecha are controlled by the rangers' Ki. By placing their hands on the sphere in the cockpit they can control their mechas in a fight. This one earned my number 3 spot for the sheer fact that I'm stumped on how it works other than Ki power.

Number 2: Gekiranger's movement and thought control system.
Gekiranger's mechas have no control panels at all and the rangers just stand on a white floor and move their bodies to fight with the mecha mirroring their movements. This leads me to believe that their mecha is more thought controlled than the other sentai mecha.

Number 1: Magiranger's (specifically MagiKing) chess board system.
The Magiranger's mecha by far has the most unique way of movement I've ever seen. Once Kai and his siblings combine their Magin to form MagiKing their minds are put into the cockpit. There they move like chess pieces in order to control MagiKing. This type of control system in theory forces the Magirangers to think strategically in order to simply move their mecha.

I really love just thinking about how control systems could be applied to real life. In sense, dissecting them and figuring out how they work is just awesome to me. Can you imagine what it would be like if we were able to actually operate machines like this?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Robo Knight's premiere and enviromental stuff

Despite being a big Power Rangers fan, I'm not going to be overly positive in this review. I didn't like the episode. It started out on a bad note with me due to the overly obvious enviromental message. So anyway, here is my overall impression of the episode. In this episode, Roboknight premieres and we get our first look at new villians with powers based in pollution. They are aptly named Mutants.

My main issue: The environmental message in the episode. It was too obvious. In any visual medium there is an unspoken rule: "Show! Don't tell!". If you're going to have an environmental episode, then have the characters actually cleaning up the pollution instead of just talking about it. Having a character actually do something about the issue at hand helps the message get through much more easily. It does not help when you have a villian pretty much say "Humans are lazy for letting even the smallest amount of pollution remain". When all the characters do is talk about an issue but don't do anything about it, it can sometimes be percieved as shoving it down people's throats. I know its a kids' show but seriously, if you don't have the heroes do something about the issue they're talking about then kids can percieve the issue as not important enough to warrant any effort by them and no lesson may be learned.

 I know MMPR was more blantly obvious with its lessons, morals, and messages but I have to cut them some slack simply because it was the first season with no other seasons to help guide their writing. The reason I have harped on this episode's message being obvious is simply because they have 19 other seasons to help guide them in more subtle writing than this. Many of the other seasons have had enviromental episodes that were more subtle than this. This is the 20th season and I honestly haven't seen an episode with an environmental message this blantly obvious in a while.

As for RoboKnight himself, I don't mind him. Though the music they gave played for his entrance reminded me more of RoboCop and his voice only served to increase this feeling. I was expecting a deeper tone to the voice and I really hope the voice actor puts more effort in to the role soon. This is PR, robots have been shown to have emotions in this universe, he shouldn't sound like he doesn't care. At this point, this is all I can say about him.

I know I've spent more time ranting about the message and less time on the new villians and RoboKnight but thats because I honestly haven't seen Goseiger and I don't know much else about the new characters. I just expected something better in this episode than what we got. So yeah, call me biased or whatever you want but that is honestly how I feel.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Cosmic States: How I think an ultimate form should be.

Throughout the Kamen Rider franchise there have been many ultimate forms. While these look cool, a good chunk of them offer the rider an extreme amount of power with little to no noticable drawback such as Decade Complete.

Fourze's Cosmic States is the perfect example of how I think an ultimate form should work: It gives Gentaro an extreme amount of power but has a severe drawback that fits perfectly with Gentaro's personality.

My conditions for a good ultimate form:
1. The rider becomes extremely powerful (thats a given for any ultimate form).
2. It makes perfect use of the riders gadgets/gimmicks for the season.
3. It has an appropriate drawback based on the rider and in a sense sums up their personality.

Cosmic States works perfectly as an ulitmate form (no matter how lame the weakness seems to be). It is the culmination of Gentaro's relationships with other people and how he gains strength from the people around him.

It makes excellent use of Fourze's switches, even the one-shot switches, and even lets him mix and match them to create a variety of different moves and effects (though this was only used a few times). Though that fact was nicely offset by him not actually spamming Cosmic States at the beginning of the fight.

Its weakness may seem odd but it is also Gentaro's greatest strength: Friendship. The form cannot work if he loses someone's friendship. The switches synch with Gentaro's mental state so anything that clouds his mind or throws it into disaray will have a drastic effect on his ultimate form. Given who Gentaro is and the fact that the switches synch to his mind, the easiest way to stop Cosmic States is to destroy his friendships with people. Gentaro values his friendships more than anything so losing a friend would emotionally destroy him. When JK left the club he basically said that he wanted nothing more to do with Gentaro or the other club members, essentially severing his friendship with them all. Cosmic States reacted violently, electrocuting Gentaro and reverting him back to his basic state.

Fourze's cosmic state is by far my favorite ultimate form in terms of both pure power and how well it relates to Gentaro. Cosmic States speaks volumes about Gentaro's personality and says far more about him than I ever could.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Jyuden Sentai Kyoryuger: First Impressions

Kyoryuger is based on Dinosaurs. That's right! Another Dinosaur theme for a Sentai. I was very skeptical when I learned about it. I thought to myself "What possible twist could this new serie bring that will make it stand up above its predecessors?". As the weeks passed by, I thought to myself "Hey, but this new serie doesn't bring anything new to the theme. All it does is give the heroes a mixture of past characters' personalities and throw it back to us." I'm reduced to really be excited on a couple of elements (and that's hardly the plot!)

1) Songs: I really dig them. I really love the ending song sequence (I think this is the first time up to this day that heroes and villains dance to the ending song). The opening and ending songs don't bring the feeling of a Brazilian reference (Carrangers' ending song had more rhythm and heard as a samba than kyoryugers'). Not one of my faves but still dig them. The opening sequence is attractive. I really like the kanjis displayed in the back of the character, am really intrigued by what their meaning is. Note: The only time I feel the Brazilian reference is when the song for the transformation and the combination of the mecha play.
2) The suits and colors: The suits are meh, I dislike the mouthpiece in the helmet (we have yet to have a helmet w/o a mouthpiece at least according to my knowledge imo). I really like that one of the primary colors are not present at all (it only happened a couple of times before.) This is something that makes it stand out from their predeccessors in the franchise (from Go-Busters going backwards), now the reason for the decision...that's another story (silly excuse if you ask me :D).
3) The Headquarters (villains and heroes alike). Nothing that we haven't seen in the immediate predeccessors (Zyuranger and Abaranger). Villains' outside reminds me of Dezumozorya real body (shown in episode 48) while the inside is quite unique. The face emotions (sad, angry, happy) in the walls is what surprised me while watching the premiere. The color of the walls (pink) is another thing that I didn't expect of seeing in a villains' lair. Heroes' is a complete disappointement. Their hq is basically Zyurangers' and Abarangers' merged. I was more excited to see the villains' hq than the heroes'. Did Toei's Department responsible for creating the hq run out of ideas for the heroes' hq?
4) Villains: They're an interested group. They are based on emotions and as such, the monsters are influenced by the particular feeling of the General. I.E. if the General is the Whining One, the monster will be Sad/Whine over stuff. I find this to be very impressive, unique. The way of the monster growing is a variation of the Abarangers, but I'm ok with it because the 'girls' of the group are the one doing the job. At least, the girls don't seem to be like Bokbak and Totpat who were there but didn't do anything aside from cheering for Gryfforzer and Lami most of the time. Also, the fact they seem to be collecting energy/life force from the victims is something I'm sure I watched it in another serie but I can't remember where. Either way, I really like the concept. I really love that this concept shows it's not perfect (as seen in episode 05). Looking forward to see what their next plan turns out to be like.
5) Allies: Torin is the one who assemble the heroes, tells them everything about the mechas. There's nothing more to him. I really don't know what to think of him, I hope he becomes more involved in the battles as the serie progresses (the rumor of him being KyoryuGold coming true). Otherwise, he's gonna be a tasteless character. I'm torn on the suit. It reminds me of Gekkou of Illusion (the tori boss in Boukenger *he was part of the Negative Sindicate*) but with a human height. I like the human height part but not very keen on the suit.
On the family members/friends: nothing outstanding to say about them, I would have wait a bit to introduce all of them. I mean, within 4 eps aired, we met: Red's and Green's dads, Blue's sister and niece and Black's best friend. WTF?! Why have this rush? Having met so many allies in a short span of time felt the producers/writers are trying too hard to appeal to the audience. Isn't it good to wait idk up to ep 10 to introduce Green's dad (have met Red's and Blue's family in the first 2 episodes)?
Gentle: I despise him. He only worries over trivial stuff (Amy using a mostly female version of the personal pronoun "watashi"). For God's sake! Jiiya (Jetman's butler for White Swan/Kaori) was a better ally. Jiiya, when he was around Kaori and she was with her teammates, didn't corrected because she mispronounced a word. Jiiya helped Kaori with her duties as a hero (even when said duties required to dispose of the family fortune!) Jii (Shinkenger) was a better ally. Jii reprimended the Shinkengers when they did something wrong. Jii helped the team by delivering a weapon. Jii helped the team by advicing ShinkenGold to don't put his life in danger more than he needed to do. Gosh! Even the kurokos were better allies. A kuroko reminding ShinkenBlue of his very words when he didn't know what to do. Either a) he starts acting like a real ally in his next appearance or b) he better do not appear again. The series do not need a so-called ally who thinks he acts like a bad ass because a character don't speak properly the language and needs to be humilliated in front of other people for it.
6) Heroes: They're completely tasteless. I think the actors are trying too hard to impress the audience, something I don't like at all. There was only 2 things that I was hoping it would have been a good thing for these bunch of characters. A) They immediately don't know who each other was. This treat ended in episode 4...I was hoping it would have lasted within the first 10 episodes top. and B) Pink being a Princess and a Hero, having to hide from her butler her alter ego. This lasted only 2 eps--I'd have loved if for the entire of the serie she hid it...It would have been a cool twist over the other series which featured Butlers as Allies (Shinkenger and Jetman up to my knowledge). I really wanted to see a treat of "Nazotoki wa dinner no ato de" in sentai (the hero is a heiress who hides her true identity from the people she's close to--in this case being the butler.) *Note: In Nazotoki, the main character hides her true identity from her boss, a detective in the Police Force. Her butler helps her to solve the case she has been investigating as a cop.
7) Transformation: I really like the transformation sequence. The little dance proves it can be useful (it's not only for the pre-henshin sequence). The cgi is superb. I really ♥ the way the entire suit appears on the heroes. It's as if the heroes where eaten by the cgi dinosaurs. Neat :D
8) Weapons and mechas: I really like the gun design because it's completely different from what we've seen in a) Sentai and b) Kamen Rider Decade (with DiEnd). The personal weapons are ok, not really impressive. I am impressed by what the heroes have to do for their personal weapons to show up (I think it's the first sentai which do that). When I watched the mechas for the 1st time, I said "They look awful!" (aesthetically speaking) but as weeks passed by, I started to analyze the mechas design with the batteries and found out it made sense. I still don't like their design but everyone says "It's difficult to adapt yourself to a change". And the mechas are a change in Sentai (aside from the choices of Dino being used.) I also like the fact the show seems to go beyond and brings more Dino into the show (something I really applaud).
9) Plot: I sincerely don't care for the overall plot because to me it's a mixture of Zyuranger and Abaranger. If I wanna watch a serie where the dinosaurs are shown in the headquarters and rest in different parts of the world, I watch Zyuranger. If I wanna watch a serie where the dinosaurs team up with humans to fight for a common enemy, I watch Abaranger. For the episodes plot, one of them was boring (episode 2 with Blue's focus and Pink shining). Other spark lasted only a couple of secs (episode 3 with Dyna Black showing off he can still kick ass no matter his age). Premiere was mediocre (only good part was the first scene of the villains and the first transformation sequence). Episode 4 bringing up a mystery. Yep! I really think the episode makes you think about one of the Generals' true id. At least, I've been spending a whole week wondering if Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger will pull out a Barizorg later on. And finally, episode 5 was funny near the end.

To sum up this post, Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger has only 4 interesting elements to me which makes me to keep watching: Opening and Ending Song with their respective sequences, Villains, Transformation sequence and finally, the Cameos of Past Actors such as Ian's best friend (Go-On Black), Green's dad (Goggle Black/Dyna Black), Blue's sister (Deka Yellow).

Kobayashi recent sentai: why Shinkenger rocks and Go-Busters sucks

Shinkenger and Go-Busters are both recent sentai written by Yasuko Kobayashi, and both have been written less than 5 years ago. However, while Shinkenger is a sentai of very high quality, Go-Busters is mediocre at best.
Let's review the different elements of each sentai, and why Shinkenger works and Go-Busters doesn't

Generally speaking, Shinkenger's cast is much better than Go-Busters, with the actors being much more convincing in Shinkenger. I'd even say that Shinkenger has one of the best cast in recent sentai, both actors and voice actors. Let's check now the characters themselves.
a) The heroes

Yasuko Kobayashi is at her best when she's writing about the inteactions between her characters. It's worth noticing that while Shinkenger has five main heroes, one additional hero and one Bangai heroine, Go-Busters has only three main heroes and two additional heroes, one of which isn't even human. Even if she tries to make up for it with the Buddyroids, they don't have the same impact a human hero would have (th exception being J, who is definitely a good character). With less heroes, less different relationships to develop, and less diversity. Moreover, Takeru is more convincing as a leader than Hiromu, and unlike in Shinkenger, you never feel that Ryuji and Yoko are following Hiromu's lead. Shinkenger has also two heroines, and it allows to have a more adult heroine, instead of just a kid heroine, and Shinkenger gains a lot thanks to it. The other male rangers are also better done : Ryunnosuke and Chiaki  show much more personality than Ryuji; while Jin is not that bad, Genta plays better the mix of large ham and seriousness than him. Another element : Hiromu doesn't really have a foil among the other Go-Busters (except sometimes Jin),  while Takeru have characters like Ryunnosuke, Chiaki and Genta who are in different ways Takeru's foils, and add a lot in his character development. Kotoha is also more convincing as the "kid lady sentai" than Yoko.

b) Supporting characters
Shinkenger has one regular supporting character: Jii while Go-Busters has three : Kuroki, Morishita and Nakamura; however, Jii has more personality than the three others together, who most of the time, seem to be more machines than humans. When Jii  regularly displays his fatherly personality towards the team, the Go-Busters  helper trio seems to be just there

c) The Villains
I never thought that having only one main villain, with another one only appearing after more than 20 episodes was a good idea. Indeed, for that to work, it's necessary to make the monsters of the week be real characters (like the criminals in Timeranger and Dekaranger) instead of being mere canon fodder, like in Go-Busters. Both Shinkenger and Go-Busters aren't series where the main focus are on the villains. However, Shinkenger has a diverse and often interesting villain cast; the Big Bad Dokouku, who, I must admit, mostly stays in his boat and drinks sake, but the series does give a sensible explanation for it, and when he's able to fight, he shows he deserves to be a Big Bad (being voiced by Dairanger's Shadam actor helps too); contrarywise, Go-Busters Messiah is just a screaming skull who only is able to complain; it's no wonder Enter ended up as the true Big Bad.  Shitari is the wise among the Gedoushu and the perfect right hand. Dayu and Juuzo are both lost souls, who mostly are motivated by their own obsessions, and as such, don't really care for the main Gedoushu's plots. Akumaro is less interesting, but he still brings its part. Even if Enter is a pretty good villain, carrying alone the villain side by himslef is too much for him, and he has noone to interact with during 20 episodes (except Messiah, who's so uninteresting that it doesn't bring much). Besides, Escape, who appears later, has been pretty wasted and even if she shows Dayu's obsessive side and Juuzo's thirst for a good fight, she never manages to be as convincing as the Shinkenger duo, and she's pretty wasted during Go-Busters

2) The motif
Shinkenger has a big theme: Japanese folklore with the samurai theme, the kanji theme in the suits, the Gedoushu theme for the villains, with the Sanzu river, home to Yokai like characters ( the Gedoushuu) and of lost souls like Dayu and Juuzo. It adapts those theme for a modern time kid audience very cleverly, and it shows, with well done designs, and the series is beautiful esthetically. Go-Busters is supposed to have a spy theme, but I don't feel that that theme is used convincingly, one of the main reasons being the stories not being very well done.

Another element worthy to mention: while Shinkenger has a pretty heartwarming atmosphere, with the Shiba home as a family-like home, and Genta's sushi cart as a fun place to have a nice snack, Go-Busters's headquarters feels too professionnal, too cold, and, as a result, it doesn't feel like an appealing place to make the audience feel empathy for the heroes.

3) The story
Kobayashi isn't a very good storyteller, and both Shinkenger and Go-Busters suffer from plot stalling. However, because Shinkenger has more characters, it suffers much less of it, especially since it can focus on their interactions. Having a more diverse cast of villains help too.
I'll show a few examples to explain : characters like Dayu and Juuzo have an interesting backstory, them being former humans who chose a damnation like fate because of their obsessions; as a result, when they confront the heroes, especially Mako for Dayu and Takeru for Juuzo, it makes those confrontations much more rich. A good example being the final fight between Juuzo and Takeru; at that time, Takeru is desperate and doesn't feel he has a reason to live; as a result, he's drawn to Juuzo's nihilistic fighting hunger, and becomes almost like him; it's only when his friends come to save him and tell him how much he matters for them, despite the Kagemusha stuff that he manages to pull himself together: compare it to Escape having to overheat Ryuji to have him fight like she wants him to do; when he overheats, Ryuji doesn't act like himslef, but is rather like a fighting machine.

 Conclusion: Shinkenger is much better than Go-Busters because of better characters showing more character development, a more well used motif, and even a more interesting storyline.

Your thoughts?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Super Sentai; villains having connections with the heroes

Super Sentai is a franchise where you have colored heroes fighting evildoers trying to destroy the Earth, killing humans, and other evil stuff. In a lot of cases, the villains are either aliens, or demons, or evil sects, evil robots, or whatever creature wanting to conquer the Earth and destroy humankind.
However, in a lot of sentai series, there are villains who are closely related to the heroes, and even may have had a strong relationship with one of the heroes or even several heroes. As a result, the rivalries between the villains and the heroes they're related with can be even stronger, and it can result that, instead of fighting only to save Earth, the fights have a more personal feeling.

Let's review sentai series which use that concept (and I'm talking about main villains, not merely one shot villains)

Some series have the concept of villains having a close connection to the heroes being central in the conflict between heroes and villains

1) Liveman

Liveman is the most classic example, where the most important generals of Volt are none other than the former friends of the three main Liveman; Kemp (Kenji Tsukigata), Mazenda (Rui Senda) and Obler (Gou Omura) are former classmates of the heroes at the science academy; Gou was Jou's good friend, and Yuusuke was Kenji's friend and even had a crush on Rui ; betrayal is a big theme of Liveman and the heroes suffer when they see them kill two of their friends, and then, trying to conquer the Earth and destroy humanity; a lot of episodes deal with how the fight between the Liveman and the Volt is highly driven by personal feelings, and the struggle of those heroes, their inner conflicced feelings, either of desire of to have revenge and defeat the traitors or to forgive and save their former friends (and succeeding in one case); it must be noted that Gou Omura ends up leaving Volt and becomes back  Jou's friend; a good example of a case of someone who ended up realizing his foolishness and decided to revive his friendship with his former pal; that said, it's even more interesting to notice that, despite becoming good, Gou still has strong friendship feeling for his former Volt comrades, as seen when he tries to warn Mazenda from Bias's evil plans, and how he's sad seeing her die. Never in a Super Sentai series, the conflcit between heroes and villains was so personal.

2) The second half of Turboranger
While the Boma were just demons, the Nagare Boma Yamimaru and Kirika were going to the same school as the heroes; in Kirika's case, she was even a former childhood friend of Shunsuke, and Riki's friend and fan. starting with Kirika's appearance, the NagareBoma became the main antagonists of Turboranger; again the theme was how to deal with those classmates who became evil; and is that possible to get them to stop fighting a find peace; it's especially true for Kirika who had shown before her good side. In that case, the heroes succeeded, first with Kirika, who, after struggling with her identity during most of her arc, finally found peace between both her human and Boma halves, and as a result, managed to get Yamimaru to stop fighting.

3) Dairanger
 Dairanger had several plots involving deep connections between heroes and villains. The major ones involve Kou the sixth ranger, Master Kaku the mentor, and Kujaku, a supporting character : Kou is none other than a half Gouma, brother of the evil Akomaru and son of Shadam, and the rivalry between him and Akomaru si a very strong one; however, neither one know that they are siblings, and Kou never learns that he's Shadam's son. Doushi Kaku is a former Gouma who wanted peace instead of conflict, and  as such was in conflict with his fellow Gouma, but still kept a connection with the Gouma, being able to talk to the Goumaemperor and having followers among the Gouma. The rivalry between Kujaku (Daigo's lover) and Gara, fueled by feeling of betrayal is also an important plot, and also involved Shishiranger/ Daigo. lastly, the rivalry between Ryou and Jin deserves to be mentioned as well.

4) Abaranger
A lot of the major main villains of Abaranger had a connection with the heroes; Destruction Messenger Jeanne,  Messenger of Darkness Gueilton, and Messenger of Dawn Lije (and later Lijewel) are none other than Asuka/Abareblack's wife Mahoro,  his brother in law (and former best friend) Mizuho,  and his daughter; while Gueilton only lasts two episodes, the conflict between Abareblack and Jeanne is one of the most important plots of Abaranger, with once again the theme of betrayal involved, even if, in that case, the villains's rivalry was fueled by their feeling of betrayal because they felt betrayed by their husband or friend. While Asuka didn't know that Lije was her daughter, when Mahoro had to go back to the Evolian as Jeanne as a spy, she had to deal with her daughter being the evil Lijewel. Another major plot was the rivalry between Abared and Abarekiller, the latter being the surgeon who had saved the former before. Because of that, Abared had a lot of trouble dealing with Abarekiller's evilness.

5) Magiranger
The conflict between Magiranger and Wolzard is worthy to be mentioned, since Wolzard was none other than the sibling heroes's dad and Magishine's mentor; it's especially interesting to notice how, despite having forgotten his identity, Wolzard remained an honorable warrior, and subconsciously, wanted his kids to be stronger. Another strong conflict was the one between Lunagel and Hikaru/ Sungel with their former Heavenly Saint  comrade turned traitor, Raigel/Meemy.

6) Gekiranger
Rio , the leader of the RijyuKen Akugata, and main villain of the series, was none other than Shafu (the Gekiranger's mentor) former pupil, and Gou/Gekiviolet and Miki's fromer friend and comrade. Besides, Rio had a rivalry with Jan's dad, and that rivalry was revived with the son. As such, the personal component of the antagonism between the Gekijyuken and Rio was even stronger. Moreover, it's important to mention the rivalry between the Seven Kensei (mentor of the Beast Arts school) and the three Kenma (mentors of the Akugata school) who makes also a major arc of Gekiranger, since once again those are former friends who became enemies. Last but not least, there is also a the conflict with Jan and Suugu, a chimera monster who had the Gekisoul of his father, and as such,  is the closest being that Jan can cal his dad

7) Gokaiger
Two plots are worthy of mention: the conflict between Marvelous/ Gokaired and Basco, who were both Red Pirates before Basco's betrayal, and Joe/Gokaiblue having to fight Barizog, hos former friend turned into a mindless zombie

 Other series are using villains having connection with the heroes, but less developed (but still important)

1) Bioman
 In Bioman, Red One's father did know Dr Man; besides Dr Man's son became an ally of the Bioman

2) Maskman
It may seem strange to have Maskman there, but Igam's strong rivalry with Takeru was more linked to Takeru's relationship with Princess Iyal, Igam's sister, rather than a more personal connection. However, it's still a strong rivalry; and Kiros, who's in love with princess Iyal, also sees Takeru as a rival.

3) Jetman
Vyram general Maria was none other than Ryu/ Red Hawk's brainwashed girlfriend; however Ryu only really realizes it late in the series, and it doesn't really fuel Maria's conflict with Ryu through the series, at least until the second half. However, it's still an important plot, especially because of its effect on Red Hawk

4) Zyuranger
Geki's rivalry with his brother Burai/ Dragonranger deserves to be mentioned, despite only lasting about six episodes (bit those episodes are some of the most memorable of Zyuranger)

6) Carranger
Carranger had a subplot involving a love story between Red Racer and the female Bowzock Zonnette; the latter's sister also appear as an ally to the Carrangers.

7) Megaranger
Dr Hinelar, who is the heroes's main antagonist, was none other than Dr Samejima, a former colleague and friend of the heroes's mentor, Dr Kubota

8) Hurricanger
The Gouraigers, who were from a rival school from the Hurricanger, were the heroes's enemies before becoming their allies and friends

Series where the heroes had a personal conflict with the villains, precisely because they personally suffered because of them, and that suffering being an huge plot in the series

1)  Flashman
The heroes were themselves victims of Mess, having been kidnapped as children by the Alien Hunter, led by Ser Kaura,  because of the evil Empire

2) Fiveman
The five siblings lost their parents (even if their parents ended up having survived) because of Zone

3) Kakuranger
Daimaoh pretty much had a devastating effect on Tsuruhime's family, especially by forcing her father to work for him (even if he was revealed to be a double agent)

4) Gingaman
The heroes lost their forest and home because of the Balban

5) Timeranger
Timepink lost her family because of Don Dolnero; and the shady role of Captain Ryuuya must be mentioned as well

6) Go-Busters
The Vaglass have pretty destroyed Red and Yellow Buster's families, and Jin Masato became also a victim as well.

Your thoughts?

Sunday, March 3, 2013





When you look at the staff involved in Magiranger, there is something which is pretty striking: both the main writer (Atsushi Maekawa) and the main producer (Hideaki Tsukada) are pretty new into the sentai franchise, and both have begun in that franchise as respectivally secondary writer and sub-producer of Hurricanger and Abaranger (Tsukada has also be main producer of the very different Dekaranger).
As a result, I feel that Magiranger takes a lot from both Hurricanger and Abaranger, especially Hurricanger.
From Hurricanger:
- the heroes having "elemental powers", with the water one going to a female blue
- the heroes being young people forced to grown up because of the events of the series (it's true that that theme is shown in much sentai series, but in Hurricanger, the heroes are ninja school students who have to act after losing their school, and in Magiranger, they're forced to act after losing their mother)
- Use of mascot characters (Hamster Mugensai in Hurri, Mandora and Smoky in Magi)
- Most importantly: a big cast of characters, especially on the villain side, allwoing for a lot of storylines to be told : both Hurri and Magi are heavily storyline driven, compared to a lot of other sentai shows
- importance of world building aroung the theme of the series : ninjitsu in Hurricanger (the two schools (Hayate, Ikazuchi) and the Jakanja ) and magic and the magical universe (human magicians, Infershia, Magitopia with the Heavenly Saints)

However, one cannot forget the Aba influence as well: like having the main plot centered around a broken family that at the end at last is reunited again (Asuka, Mahoro and their daughter; the Ozu family in Magiranger); and having at least one main villain being part of that family (Mahoro/ Jeanne and Lije in Abaranger; Wolzard/ Isamu in Magiranger); Jeanne and Wolzard also share the fact that they switch sides at the end of the second tier of the series and become the heroes's allies until the end, even when keeping their villainous outfits; Wolzard shares with Abarekiller the fact that he's more interested in fighting the heroes than defeating them, the stronger the heroes are, the most interesting the fight gets; likewise, both series have one ranger being a mentor for the others (Asuka/Abareblack in Abaranger, Hikaru/Sungel/ Magishine in Magiranger); N'Ma and Dezumozorya are also similar as Big Bads.

It can also be noticed that Tsukada is also Gekiranger's main producer, and Gekiranger's main writer is Michiko Yokote, who has been a major secondary writer of Magiranger, writing as many episodes as the head writer Maekawa.
It's pretty obvious that Gekiranger and Magiranger come from the same mold, in their focus on storytelling, huge world building arond their main theme (Magic in Magiranger, "beast" martial arts in Gekiranger), important cast, especially on the villain side, and Rio shares with Wolzard the will to fight the heroes at their strongest, with himself being the stronger he can.

Your thoughts?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Super Sentai : a history: seven eras

In the "Rising sun tokusatsu blog", Aoi Kurenai has posted a post about the seven eras of  sentai, which goes into detail on the history of Super Sentai.
Here it is:
However, if I agree with him in a lot of his statements, I also have some points where I disagree with him. That's why I've decided to write my own post about the history of Super Sentai

1) First era: 1975-1977 : the Ishinomori era : Goranger-JAKQ
It's the first era, with the first Super Sentai series. At that time, there wasn't yet the giant robot and the monsters of the week growing bigger in sentai, and in fact, in a lot of ways, those series have a lot of similarities with other series written at the same time (the Kamen Rider series, Kikaider ...) : the series were very episodic, focused on a human-sized Kaijin, and the enemies were terrorist like groups, with mostly one Commander at a time, and a mysterious Big Bad which true nature isn't revealed until the end of the series. Goranger has even a similar villain concept as the first Kamen Rider series, with first, just the Big Bad, and the other villains are Kaijin of the week, and, later, one general at a time. JAKQ had even in common with a lot of Ishinomori toku the "Cyborg ("Kaizo-Ningen") hero concept. The main original point was that unlike most toku shows of that era, instead of one (or two) heroes, there was a real group of heroes, within a military organization. Goranger was very successful, and introduced the "colored hero group" concept. However JAKQ Dengekitai was much less successful, and, as a result, had some drastic changes, notably by introducing more comedy, a new Big Bad and the character of Big One, but that wasn't enough to save the series that was stopped after only 35 episodes.
At the time, the sentai franchise wasn't called "Super Sentai" and those two shows have even only be included in the Super Sentai franchise retrospectively, during the 90'. However, those series were very important, since they were the ones that introduced the basic concepts of a sentai series, and a lot of important writers (Shouzo Uehara, Susumu Takaku, and Hirihisa Soda as a secondary writer), were involved in those two shows, and would become very important writers in following sentai series.

2) Second era: the Uehara era : Battle Fever - Sun Vulcan (1979-1982)
Even if Uehara had already been the head writer of both Goranger and JAKQ, those three series belong to a separate era. Indeed, it's during that era that introduced some of the more important concepts that define the Super Sentai franchise: the giant robot fighting the giant monster.
Those concepts have been pretty much taken from the "Spiderman" toku show (which had the same writers, btw), who used them, in the climactic fights at the end of each episodes. In fact, in Battle Fever J,  Marvel was involved much like it was in "Spiderman".  Initially, those shows were the first real "Super Sentai" series. Like in the Goranger era, the series were very episodic, and the heroes were mostly investigating the bad stuff that the MOTW were doing in Japan. There weren't any long running plot. Interestingly, most of the field main villains were female (Salome, Keller and Mirror, the Zero Girls, Amazon Killer). However, some series introduced new concepts that would be used later (like Denziman having non professionnal sentai warriors, with a mascot-like mentor). Besides, Denziman used a transforming robot, and Sun Vulcan introduced the first "combining mechas" in Super Sentai.

3) Third era: the Soda era (Goggle V- Fiveman) 1982-1991

That era is named after Hirohisa Soda, who has been the head writer of 9 Super Sentai series which completely changed how the franchise would be made. That era can be divided in three parts:

- First part: GoggleV-Dynaman : that era is pretty much a transition era between the Uehara era and the majors Soda sentai series. GoggleV and Dynaman share with the Uehara series a pretty episodic concept. However, those series were pretty more light hearted  and kid friendly (example, the "Computer Boys and Girls" in Goggle V) However those series have the classic "Soda villain" group, with a Big Bad, two or three human looking generals (with one female among them), and additional villains coming later. Besides, the rivalries between heroes and villains were more explored, and lastly, Dynaman introduced, with the Black Knight storyline, a true long running arc. At that time, Hirohisa Soda was slowly introducing his concepts, but kept the initial Super Sentai episodic format.

Second part : Bioman-Liveman : those series are the peak of creativity of Hirohisa Soda, who began to introduce majors concepts, like long running arcs, multidimensional villains, deep rivalries between heroes and villains. The tone was more serious than during the GoggleV-Dynaman era, and some important concepts appeared from the first time in Super sentai:
- female rangers that were not Pink rangers, with new colors (mostly Yellow, but also White and Blue), and teams with two girls
- villains that survived at the end of the series, and at the end became the heroes's allies (like Shima, Gator and Gyodai in Changeman, Igam in Maskman and Gou/ Oblar in Liveman)
- the villains's motivations were explored in more detail ; Changeman for example had generals that were blackmailed by the Big Bad to fight for him, becuas eotherwise their planets would be destroyed forever ;  Liveman even introduced villains that were the heroes's former friends; and in Maskman, not all the Tube were evil villains.
- unlike previous sentai series that were mostly episodic, those series were very storyline driven.
 Those series (except Maskman) had a very science fiction theme, (Bioman and Liveman put huge focus on science, Changeman and Flashman had a "space drama" feeling)

Third part- Turboranger-Fiveman: those series were those where Soda began to show "burnout" , since he began to repeat ideas that has been used in his previous series. The season quality was not as good as previous series. However, Soda still managed to introduce some new concepts : the "high school" sentai in Turboranger, and the "sibling" sentai in Fiveman, two concepts that would be used later. Moreover, Turboranger also introduced some fantasy in Super Sentai (while the Uehara series were mostly spy/ military series, and Soda series were sci-fi series) with the fairies. Turboranger and Fiveman also had a lighter tone than the previous Soda series, and were more kid friendly.

After Fiveman, Soda left the sentai franchise. The next series would be Jetman.
Jetman can be seen as a transition series, between the Soda era, and the next era, the "Sugimura era".
Jetman was penned by Inoue, who has been an important secondary writer of Hirohisa Soda during his last five sentai series as main writer. Jetman was a pretty "one of a kind" sentai, with a lot of "soap opera" like drama, with complicated love stories, a love triangle between three heroes, and even love conflicts within the villains group, and between the main heroes and some of the villains. Inoue would put his own personality in that show, and Jetman really uses tropes that Inoue liked a lot an would introduce in his later Kamen Rider series. Jetman was a huge success, but was a pretty much "one of a kind " sentai. However, Jetman used very different concepts than the ones used during the Soda era, and helped bring a new personality to Super Sentai, before the beginning of a new era. Besides, Jetman esthetics (the mechas, the monsters, the main villains) were more like the Sugimura era than the Soda era.

Fourth era: the Sugimura era : Zyuranger-Ohranger (1992-1996)
Named after the main writer of those four sentai series, Noboru Sugimura. That era introduced very important concepts in Super Sentai:
- the "fantasy theme" would be very important during that era, with Zyuranger, Dairanger and Kakuranger all using mythology themes; Zyuranger mostly used Western myths, Dairanger, Chinese mythology, and Kakuranger used Japanese mythology, wit the Yokai, and used the classic ninja theme.
- the importance of animal mechas: even if the first animal mechas were used in Liveman, the Sugimura era was the frist when animals began being the main mecha theme: Zyuranger used prehistoric animals, Dairanger, mythology animals, and Kakuranger used modern time animals.
- the introduction of the "additional ranger" concept, or rather the "sixth ranger concept"; even if JAKQ and Liveman already used additional ranger, it must be noted that neither of those teams started with five rangers; Zyuranger was the first one who used a long term sixth ranger.
- Series would become even more wacky, with very bizarre concepts: Dairanger had very weird villains esthetics, and the Kakuranger villains were completely crazy. Kakuranger had also a lot of comedy, with, at the beginning, a crazy narrator, slacker heroes and silly villains.
- the enemies grus were very different; each series used very different concepts
- Ohranger is an interesting case, since it has both very old school sentai concepts (the military theme, a dark tone, especially at the beginning; besides, old school writers were back for Ohranger, and at first, an episodic format) and  Sugimura era concepts ( the mechas esthetics, some fantasy concepts, with King Ranger, and of course, the wackiness that appeared later). Ohranger was unique also because of its very diverse mechas concepts (ancient civilisations mechas, with some being animal like, but also geometric shape mechas (the Oh Blockers))

After Ohranger, it would be the end of that third era.
It's during that time that a new producer, Shigenori Takatera would leave his mark on the Super Sentai franchise

Fifth era: the Takadera era: Carranger- Timeranger (1996-2001)
Even if Takatera wasn't the producer of all those shows (GogoV and Timeranger were produced by Jun Hikasa), those shows can be grouped in a same era.
Carranger is a special case : it's a very unique series, because of its complete parodic tone, and can be seen as a transition series. Being penned by Yoshio Urasawa, who was a very important writer for the Toei comedy toku franchise "Toei Fushigi Comedy", Carranger was pretty much a one of a kind sentai series, with all the characters beign completely over the top, but using very funny comedy and having nice storytelling.
Carranger was the big return of vehicle themed mechas.
Megaranger, Gingaman, GogoV and Timeranger showed a pretty new tone compared to the previous series; it used new head writers (Junki Takegami, Yasuko Kobayashi); most of those series had a serious tone, with important focus on the main heroes. Those sentai series had a sci-fi feeling again (except Gingaman, who was more fantasy themed). They put also an important focus on storytelling, and despite its fantasy theme, Gingaman followed the trend of the others shows.
That era ended with Timeranger, because of its weak toy sales.

Gaoranger, the series that followed that era was pretty much a transition sentai series. It used a deliberately simple concepts, with the heroes being by themselves, isolated from the rest of the world to fight the villains. It used the demon villain concept used earlier in sentai series like Turboranger and GogoV. Moreover, Gao used more than ever the "animal mecha" concept, with important use of CGI for the mechas. Gao was a huge success, both rating wise and toy sales wise, and after Gao, followed the sixth era of sentai, that I'm gonna call the "Experimental era"

Sixth era: the "Experimental era": Hurricanger-Gekiranger (2002-2008)
Even if Super Sentai has been experimenting since its beginning, never it has so much tried different concepts than during that era.
- During that era, while most previous series used the classic "five man sentai (with, starting with Zyuranger, a sixth hero appearing at the middle of the series (Liveman, JAKQ and Sun Vulcan being isolated exceptions), that era used very different concepts of hero groups, with only three of those six series having the classic "five man team" at the beginning:
- Hurricanger used two rival sentai teams, a three member team (the main Hurricanger) and a two member team (the Gouraigers, who were siblings)); those two groups would later become allies with the introduction of a sixth hero later, who didn't have a human face (despite being human, and using plenty of different appearances (played by former sentai actors)
- Abaranger was a three man team, but with a fourth hero being there since the beginning, even if he would be unavailable as a sentai henshin ranger for different reasons through the show, and a sixth ranger that would be evil during most of the series.
- Dekaranger used the classic " five man team with a sixth appearing mid-series", but also had the mentor be a henshin hero (Doggie Kruger) even if he would only henshin in the most difficult cases only; Dekaranger would also have one shot henshin heroines.
-Magiranger used the classic "five +one " hero concept, but also had two additional heroes, including one appearing at the beginning of the series (Magimother) and another having a design similar to the one he had as a villain (Wolzard) ; besides that series was a sibling team, the sixth was a mentor figure, and the additional rangers were the heroes's parents
- Boukenger was more standard, but the "sword ranger " Zubaan has to be mentioned
- Gekiranger was again a three man team, but had two additional rangers appearing at the middle, (Violet, first, and then, once Violet's intro arc was over, Gekichopper). Moreover, the two main villains had a lot of focus and at the end, became also "Bangai hero": they even had mechas that could combine with the heroes's.
During that era, there were a lot of different head writers; but the most consistent presence as a writer was Naruhisa Arakawa, who was head writer of two series (Abaranger and Dekaranger) and secondary writer in all the others.
During that era, the series were either very plot driven with huge focus on storytelling and world building, with an important villain and supporting character cast, like in Hurricanger, Magiranger and Gekiranger: or very episodic, like Dekaranger and Boukenger, which had professional sentai teams (cops for the former, treasure hunters for the latter); it must be noticed that in Dekaranger and Boukenger, the finale isn't the conclusion of the series, but rather just the end of one story among others, since both cop work and treasure hunting won't stop after the finale.
Abaranger was pretty at the middle,  a little less plot driven than Hurri, Magi and Geki, and more focus on the characters,  but despite that, not episodic, unlike Deka and Bouken.
Gekiranger's low sales brought the end of that era

Seventh era: the modern era: Go-onger -Go-Busters (2008-2013)
That era is pretty remarkable because during that era, the series focused much less than before on storytelling. As a result, the series relied much more than before on their gimmicks, notably the mechas, with unfortunately very bulky "clusterf*ck" mechas, and the use tof the year's concepts (like the Engines in Go-onger, the Samurai theme in Shinkenger, the "sentai tributes and ranger keys" in Gokaiger for example).
Those series suffered a lot either of plot stalling, with the villains doing little during a big bunch of the series (like the Gedoushuu in Shinkenger , the Zangyack in Gokaiger or the Vaglass in Go-Busters) or  of pretty uninteresting villain groups (like the Warstar and Yuumajuu of Goseiger, or the Gaiark of Go-onger).
The quality of those series wasn't as high as the previous one,  the best ones  (Shinkenger, Gokaiger) being so because of their well fleshed heroes.

Now that Kyoryuger has started, the big question is : is Kyoryuger is gonna belong to that "modern era", or is it gonna be the start of a new era?
We'll have to wait to have the answer.

Your thoughts?