Sunday, March 17, 2013
Kobayashi recent sentai: why Shinkenger rocks and Go-Busters sucks
Let's review the different elements of each sentai, and why Shinkenger works and Go-Busters doesn't
1) THE CHARACTERS
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.