Tuesday, January 28, 2014

My thoughts on shounen anime's Big 3

When the subject of anime comes up, inevitably one of 3 names will pop up in the conversation at some point: Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece. These three are by far the most popular anime in the world. Two of these anime suffer from main character syndrome. To clarify what that is, its a term I coined to describe the phenomenon wherein the main character is the only one who can do anything and gets insanely powerful simply because the plot says so while the side characters get reduced to background roles. Though one suffers to a much greater degree than the other. Anyway here are my thoughts on the Big 3:

For the record, my knowledge of the events of the Bleach anime only extends to how far the dub has gotten on Toonami and I haven't caught up with the manga. This is my least favorite of the big 3 for the simple reason that it has a tendency to drag and repeat itself during the canon arcs. The Hueco Mundo arc is the exact same arc as the Soul Society arc just swapping Rukia for Orihime and the Arrancars in place of Soul Reapers. The War For Karakura arc is where the show just hits the fan for me due to Aizen having the largest amount of plot armor/plot convenience I've ever seen. Seriously, it got so bad that I ended up doing a massive rant about Aizen. The less I say about Aizen here the better so just go check out my Aizen rant for my full thoughts on him. The show actually has some interesting filler arcs. My personal favorite being the Zanpakuto Rebellion arc because it gave you the feeling that they were more than just weapons used by the Soul Reapers. I almost cried when that arc ended. The overall plot for the canon portions of the anime simply boil down to "Aizen was responsible for everything up to the War for Karakura" so the plot really only hinges on him and Ichigo. Ichigo's personality is kind of hard to pin down since he has that generic "I will protect everything precious to me" type of personality and well he doesn't go very far beyond that. Ichigo suffers from main character syndrome and his friends often have to rely on him to save them (Orihime and Chad). Orihime's downgrade is especially stupid since she basically has the powers of a God and can reverse any phenomenon she wishes yet she is basically reduced to acting as a medic and mostly uses her healing shield. This show is by far the biggest offender of the 3 when it comes to main character syndrome.

Naruto/Naruto Shippuuden:
This is the one I'm more neutral on so it might be harder for me to put this one into words. Its better executed than Bleach that much is for sure, though Bleach has the more interesting filler arcs. The characters are alright and don't seem to constantly suffer from main character syndrome or at the very least not to the degree that Bleach's side characters do. It has a nicely built up world and I like its history. With that said I do have some issues, like Sasuke not being killed off yet. Seriously, Kishimoto kills off better characters yet lets Sasuke live. Its gotten to the point where even some of my friends who are Naruto fans are calling BS on it. Granted my knowledge extends more into the manga than it does the anime and I left off at the 4th Great Ninja War.The only reason I stopped reading the manga was because SJ magazine went all digital. Though from what I've heard, it might have been good that I stopped there as I've had some people tell me that the rest of that arc basically amounts to spring cleaning in terms of character deaths. This included two really shocking ones, Neji and Shikamaru.This anime had a strong start with some really great fights early on. My personal favorite fight is the Zabuza/Haku fight. Anyway thats about all I can say for this series.

One Piece:
Well what can I say about this one that hasn't already been said by other people. Out of the Big 3, this is the one people seem to love the most and honestly, I think that love is totally justified. The characters are lovable, the villains feel threatening, the world is nicely built up, and the plots are nice. The show just seems to have a knack for making the implausible plausible and making weird stuff look completely normal. Only in One Piece can a cola-powered cyborg shipwright, a skeleton musician with an afro, fish people (not just mermaids, actual fish people), and a shape-shifting talking blue-nosed reindeer that is also a doctor not seem out of place. None of the characters in this anime suffer from main character syndrome. The entire crew feels like they are actual characters and don't get reduced to background roles. Each member of the crew is able to hold their own in a fight, even Usopp who as of the Franky arc earned his spot as my favorite character during his fight with Luffy. Luffy is one of those Goku-remakes that is able to take on a life of his own and step out of Goku's shadow to become his own character instead of just an example of his archetype. The only thing I can think of that I dislike about this anime is the second half of the Foxy Pirate arc. The world is actually set up well enough to where Oda can write side-stories for some of the characters outside the Straw Hat crew. I'd personally love to see a side-story based on Buggy the Clown, Jimbei's adventures before becoming a warlord, the story of how Crocodile founded Baroque Works and a whole lot of of other things. While a lot of characters can be seen as over-powered, it is shown from the very beginning that no matter how strong someone gets there will always be someone stronger down the road. Every shounen anime/manga series will inevitably hit the point where they start to drag and One Piece is no exception to that but I don't see it happening anytime soon.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Abaranger and Kyoryuger : two dinosaur sentai series that have much more in common than that

Abaranger and Kyoryuger, being both dinosaur themed sentai series, had obviously a their dinosaur theme in common. That said, the amazing thing is that both series have much more in common than merely that motif.
This post is gonna show how much in common both shows have :


Both series have the heroes having very diverse backgrounds.

Red : Abared and Kyoryured have of course plenty of common elements : both are very optimistic leaders, who have a deep trust on their comrades, even when they seem reluctant. Both have also in their show a very important family member too : Ryouga has his nice/ adoptive daughter, Daigo his dad Dantetsu. Another striking element is that both of them have a Red-specific upgrade giving them special powers, with Abared becoming Abaremax thanks to Blue and Yellow's DinoGuts, and as such is able to fight his enemies in special dimensions, and Kyoryured, thanks to Gabutyra, becomes Kyoryured de Carnival, and is able to use the Zyudenchi in a similar way as Kyoryujin.

The relationship between Ian and Daigo has similarities with the one between Yukito and Ryouga : Ian and Yukito seem to mock their Red partner's behaviour as stupid, but are in fact very fond of him precisely because of that.

Both Nossan and Ryouga are uncles and father figures of a little girl (Nossan with Rika, Ryouga with Mai)

Both series have a female ranger who is a technology genius (Ranru/ Abareyellow, Yayoi Ulshade/Kyoryuviolet II)

Amy/ Kyoryupink  and Yukito / Abareblue are both from a rich family, and both work as employees in a restaurant (in Abaranger, all rangers do so)

Both series have an important high school character : Souji/ Kyoryugreen and Emiri Imanaka

Torin/Kyoryusilver and Asuka/ Abareblack have plenty of common elements which are :
- Both are non human : Torin as a former Deboth, Asuka as a Ryujin (while human looking, he's still non human)
- Both were regular characters, but during a time, weren't able to become rangers : Torin wasn't able to become Kyoryusilver until the November episodes, and Asuka, at the beginning of Abaranger, couldn't become Abareblack
- Both, as a result, are tormented by weak self esteem
- Both were involved in the fight against the villain group much earlier than the regular rangers :
- Both have a dark past: Torin as a former Deboth, Asuka, as the first wearer of the Dark armor
- Both have a mentor role towards the other rangers, explaining the context of the fight, and giving them their henshin devices
- Both, despite being mentor figures, are not patronizing towards their fellow rangers, but more grateful and even feeling that they are learning from them
- Both have a Brachiosaurus as a partner : and in both cases, the Brachiosaurus is a father figure towards the other Dino mechas (and even, in a way, to their partners)
- Both have family among the enemy group: Chaos is Torin's brother : Jeanne and Lije are Asuka's wife and daughter
- Both have been in situations when they were fighting the heroes against their will, under an evil influence: Torin when brainwashed by Chaos and Candelilla, Asuka, when he wore the Dark armor.


- Both series have family members of the main heroes who become major allies of the heroes and playing key roles in the story : in Abaranger, Asuka's wife Mahoro (as the one who destroyed the evil armor and as a spy withing the Evolian,) and daughter (the mysterious girl was a very important ally, and once Dezumozorya and the other Evolian decided to get rid of Abarekiller, Lijewel did everything she could to protect him and had a key role in making him become the ally of the other Abarangers) ; in Kyoryuger, Daigo's father, Dantetsu is a key ally, searching for the special amber gems which will bring back to life Bragigas, he helped his son in many key moments in the  series, often saving his life, preparing him to Torin's real identity, and eventually becoming Kyoryusilver; even the final plot when he killed Torin was in fact a plan to help him, with Torin fighting within the Deboth hell; besides, Nossan's sister Yuko becomes Kyoryucyan for the final big fight.
- In both series, a plot involve a family member of a ranger seemingly joining the villains and fight the heroes, (Dantetsu in Kyoryuger (father of Daigo/Kyoryured), Mahoro in Abaranger (wife of Asuka/Abareblack) : and in both cases, that family member sends important info to the hero through a key physical contact with each other, allowing their spirits to meet,  during a big showdown.

Weapons, mechas and use of the dinosaur theme 
Because of their dino theme, Abaranger and Kyoryuger have of course both dinosaur themed weapons. Moreover, the rangers have a "supermode" involving spikes appearing in their suit (the Abaremode in Abaranger, the armed on in Kyoryuger)

However, it's with the mechas that the similarities with how the theme is used is striking :

- in both series the mechas are actually sentient dinosaurs, who are the heroes's partners (even in Aba the partner theme was more explored because the Bakuryuu were able to talk)
- Both series have a similar concepts with how the main robots are made, notably with Abarenoh and Killeroh in Abaranger, and Kyoryujin and Pteradenoh in Kyoryuger : both Abarenoh and Kyoryujin have much of their body being made with the red tyrannosaurus mechas, with the other dino mechas being used as arms, and most of the different forms of both robots are linked to arm switch, with a dino mecha replacing another ; likewise, Pteradenoh and Killeoh are mostly made of a pterosaur mechas, and, likewise, the different forms are linked to arm swithc with other dino mechas ; lastly, RaidenKyoryujin and Killerabarenoh, the combination of the two robots have a similar concept.
However, Plesion and Bragigas have no real counterpart in Abaranger
- As said before, most of the other dino mechas are used as arms in the robots
- Both Bragigas and Brachi are pretty much father figures to the other Bakuryuus
- Abaranger and Kyoryuger, as expected, alos have a lot of dinosaur/prehistoric reptiles mechas from same species : the classic Tyrannosaurus, Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Pteranodon, Brachiosaurus, but also Parasaurolophus, Ankylosaurus and Pachycephalosaurus.


-Interestingly, Abaranger and Kyoryuger's villains have a very similar concept : both have as main enemy a destructive entity coming from space long ago, but then stayed on Earth for a long time : Deboth and Dezumozorya are basically parasitic gods which aim is to destroy life : Dezumozorya absorbs all the life for itself, Deboth is basically a destroyer : both have a green theme, and both need to be revived, and to have a functional body. Moreover, most of the villains generals and mosnters basically are created out of the main villain, with Chaos, his generals, the Zorima and the monsters being created from Deboth, and Mikela, Voffa, the Bamias, Trinoids and Giganoids beign created from Dezumozorya
- In both cases, the fight against the evil entity started much before the beginning of the series,  with character involved in the fight before the core heroes (Asuka and the Ryujin in Abaranger, Torin, Ramirez, Tessai, Dr Ulshade and Utsusemimaru in Kyoryuger), and in both cases, those characters suffered huge losses, with a lot of destruction of life.
- Both series have a cursed armor as a major antagonist : Dogold in Kyoryuger, the cursed armor in Abaranger : and in both, a ranger was one of the victims (Asuka in Abaranger, Utsusemimaru in Kyoryuger)
- In both series, being born from the main villains doesn't always mean that you have to be evil : if the Evolian or Deboth creature is able to be touched by Earth and his living creatures, there is potential to become good : in Abaranger, Yatsudenwani (his love for Ranru and then, the kindness of the people in the Kyoryuya restaurant), in Kyoryuger, Torin (impressed by Earth and the dinosaurs's beauty) , and then Candelila  and Luckyuro (Candy is touched by Nossan's kindness, and Lucky loves manga)
- Both series have basically the female and kid member of the evil group turning good (Jeanne and Lije in Aba, Candelila and Luckyuro in Kyoryuger)
- Both have mooks based on protozoa life : the Barmia are amoeba design, the Zorima has paramecia design. 

A last few elements after watching the finale :
- in Kyoryuger, the "Earth melody" and how music give powers to the heroes  is a concept that is used in a very similar way as the "Dino Guts " of Abaranger.
- The final episode is in a lot of ways an homage to Abaranger's finale, notably with Red seemingly dying at the end, and all the rangers being sad, with the epilogue showing he's survived.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Update on toku writers: Wizard and Kyoryuger

Kamen Rider Wizard

Tsuyoshi Kida (main writer) : 1, 2-3(with Komura), 4-5, 10-11, 16-19, 22-23, 26-27, 30-31, 34-35, 38-39, 42-43, 48-51 (27 episodes)
Junko Komura : 2-3 (with Kida), 6-9, 12-15, 20-21, 24-25, 28-29, 40-41, 44-47 (22 episodes)
Daisuke Ishibashi : 32-33, 36-37 (4 episodes)
Sho Aikawa : 52-53

A few comments: Tsuyoshi Kida completely shares the writing with Junko Komura who looks more like a co-head writer than a secondary writer. Like in Hibiki, the other Rider show he wwas head writer (in the first half) he works with another writer with which he shares almost equally the writing. Only one other secondary writer : Daisuke Ishibashi. Interestingly, those are  Ishibashi's first episodes in the Rider franchise; he was previously a secondary writer in sentai series.  Special case  : Shou Aikawa for the crossover final episodes involving Kamen Rider Decade, the show he had been the head writer of.

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger

All 48 episodes written by Riku Sanjo, the main writer.

Several comments : Kyoryuger is the first sentai show where Riku Sanjo is involved, and  his first as main writer. It's also the first sentai series completely written by the main writer; even writers like Inoue and Uehara, who had written toku shows completely (Inoue has written all or almost all of his Rider shows as main writer, and Uehara has written all of Shaider and most of his other Metal Hero shows) have always shared the writing of sentai shows with other writers.
Besides, Riku Sanjo had already been involved in Rider series : he was the main writer of Kamen Rider W and main secondary writer of Kamen Rider Fourze. And unlike most Rider writers, he shared the writing of W with other writers, notably Hasegawa ( they almost shared the writing like Kida did with Komura in Wizard, see above). So, it's interesting to see him, who has worked on Rider shows where the writing was highly shared, to write his first sentai series all by himself.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sentai teams sorted by their type of supporting team : an analysis

In 37 years (with a 38th series coming) of Super Sentai history, a lot of different teams clashed with different enemies in  order to save the Earth from evil or annihilation. Some teams were professional teams, other were people who started the fight pretty much by themselves. As such, sentai teams can have very different levels of backup from other people. As such, sentai teams can be sorted according to their supporting cast, which say a lot about how the team works and fights against the villains

1 Sentai teams with human or human-like leaders : professional teams 

Those teams have an older man (sometimes woman) who is the leader of the team, and their mentor. More often than not, the heroes themselves are part of a military or military-like organization, which fight the villains (for example, Gorenger, Battle Fever, Sun Vulcan, Changeman, Ohranger, Dekaranger, Boukenger, Go-Busters, part of the JAKQ staff (notably Red), and Red Hawk from Jetman) . Those organizations are either secret ones, or in other cases, known by public knowledge. Sometimes, the heroes weren't  initially part of the organization, but become involved with them because of the evil threat (good examples are the non red-Jetman, the Megaranger, Boukensilver). The mentor figure often have one or more assistant, usually a woman (either young or beautiful, or older), and the series may show the many employees of the organization, showing how huge it is. Often, a mascot character appears as well. 

Those shows are :
- Gorenger : military team (EAGLE) with a leader (Gonpachy), some female agents (notably Yoko Kato/ Zero Zero Seven, a young female agent who can sometimes become Momoranger to help Peggy), and troops: mascot characters are Yoko's young brother and a mynah bird, Gon. 
- JAKQ : Special force ISSIS, with Joker as its leader (and then Banba/ Big One, first mentor who's a ranger as well)), cyborg rodent mascot
- Battle Fever J: Military-like team, led by Tetsusan Kurama, some female assistants, with two mascot character : one of the assistants's little brother and a robot mynah
- Sun Vulcan : Military team, with commander Arashiyama, his daughter Misa as his assistant and a mascot talking robot dog.
- Changeman : military team (the Earth Defense Force ), with a human (or rather human looking ) general, and a big staff of soldiers and officers
- Jetman : Aya Odagiri, first female commander : while we don't see much more staff, the Jetman force is part of a big military organization
- Ohranger: military team, (UAOH), with an officer, commander Miura.
- Megaranger : INET, a big science organization, led by Professor Kubota, with a big staff of scientist, technicians and engineers, including Yuusaku/Megasilver
- Dekaranger : a special police force, led by the dog-like Anubian alien Doggie Kruger, who's also a ranger (Dekamaster) with his scientist assistant, Swan Shiratori, a Cygnan woman-looking alien. The Special Police has also plenty of staff.
- Boukenger : SGS (Search Guard Successor) Foundation, which is involved in discovering and securing dangerous items: while the mentor is mostly seen as a funny looking hologram in a screen (Mister Voice (later revealed to be a young girl)), the heroes are mostly helped by a bumbling but very competent engineer, Morio Makino
- Go-Busters : the Energy Management Center, led by officer Kurokin, with two main assistants, Nakamura, a young woman checking Megazord transfer, and Morishita, a young man checking Enetron flux and Metaroid creation.

It's interesting to notice that most of the oldest teams are among those: Super Sentai started by being about profeesional teams working in secret, but for an official organization: Sen Tai = Combat unit. 

2 Sentai teams with human or human-like leaders : intermediate cases between professional teams and amateur teams

In those cases, the teams don't belong to an army, police or science-like team, with official recognition, but are still teams belonging to a company that was created by the mentor-like figure to fight the threat, and became an huge organization. In those cases, the heroes either discover the organization when the threat appears, and join it (Maskman, Jan/Gekired from Gekiranger), or were already involved in it (the Hurricanger, the other Gekirangers, the Shinkengers). In a lot of cases, the mentor also has a female assistant, either a young girl or a middle age woman.
- Maskman:  Commander Sugata is the mentor of the team : Sugata's racing company is a front for his special force which fights Tube : Sugata has an important staff, with assistants, scientists, technicians.
- Gekiranger : the SCRTC (a sports company) being the front for a martial art school, the Gekijyuken, with the mentor Master Xia-Fu, a formery human martial artist teacher (Kensei) who became an anthropomorphic cat, his assistant Miki Masaki,  and the other Kensei (six martial arts teachers, who also took an animal appearance)
- Shinkenger : the Shiba House, who has been fighting Gedoushuu for centuries, with the mentor Hikoma Kusakabe and his big Kuroko staff

Special cases :
- Goggle V: the support team involve a mentor, two (with one leaving halfway) female assistant, and a team of five kids working on computers: however, the mentor leaves after 2 episodes to only come back in the 2 final episodes.
- Hurricanger : the mentor is Mugensai Hinata Ninja Master of the Hayate School a ninja school, and who is helped by his daughter Oboro : but in most of the show, Hinata is in an hamster form, which makes him feel like a "mascot mentor", but I still count him here because of his human origin; besides, because most of the school was slaughtered in the first episodes, the assistants here are robots.

3 Sentai teams with human or human-like leaders, but which are pretty much amateur teams founded by the mentor

In those teams, the mentor is pretty much the one who created the team by himself, after learning about the enemy threat against Earth, using all of his (or her) intelligence, scientific or (more usually) magic/mystic  knowledge to create all the arsenal (weapons, mechas, suits) to oppose the villains. In those cases, the team are learning of the threat by the mentor and join him afterwards. In a lot of teams, a mascot character appear. Those teams are much more isolated than the others, and have no public recognition : but the heroes have a mentor figure who can share his experience.

Those teams are :
- Dynaman: Dr Kyutaro Yumeno, who devoted his life contering the Jashinka and created the Dynaman team by himself : he has a mascot robot, the Kendo robot
- Turboranger: Dr Dazai, a scientist who managed to mix the magical power of fairies and automobile technology to create the Turboranger : the mascot character is here the child-looking fairy Seelon
- Zyuranger : the mentor is here the Sage Barza, who woke up the Zyuranger to fight Bandora : unlike most of the teams included in that group, the Zyuranger are experienced warriors already trained to fight : Daizyujin, the heroes's mechas, which combines the guardian beasts is actually a god, who also has a mentor role.
- Dairanger : Master Kaku, who recruits the Dairangers to counter the Gorma menace, and is their martial arts mentor : interestingly, he's himself a renegade Gorma.
-GogoV: the mentor is none other than the father of the sibling team, Mondo Tatsumi, who invented all by himself all the team arsenal, mechas and suits : he's helped by a little robot, Mint, and in many cases, by Gogreen's mentor, a young woman named Kyoko Hayase : interestingly, while the GogoV aren't professional warriors, they all have jobs in the rescue field (firefighter, cops, paramedic)
- Gaoranger : here the mentor is a ancient priestess, Tetom, who is the one who knows the most about the Orgs and the Power Animals. She chose the Gaoranger with the Power Animals, with which she has a strong link.
- Kyoryuger : here, the mentor is the bird-looking humanoid,  Wise God Torin : he's the one who has fought the Deboth threat the longest, since the dinosaur age, and, like Tetom, has a special link with the Zyudenryu, and is involved with them in choosing the Kyoryugers.  He's himself a renegade Deboth. Eventually, he himself becomes a Kyoryuger, Kyoryusilver.

Special cases :
- Kakuranger: the heroes have a mentor, Sandayuu, who only appears occasionally to give them guidance, but more often than not, the heroes are by themselves, especially since Sandayuu dies in teh middke of the series: the team's mascot is their cat-like bus, Nekomaru. 
- Abaranger : in that case, the mentor figure is an old man who's the restaurant owner, and who hosts the heroes during their fights. A young schoolgirl plays an assistant role, Emiri Imanaka. However, unlike the previous cases, he's only the father figure of the team. The mentor like team with the link with the Bakuryuu and the experience in fighting the Evolian is one of the rangers, Asuka/ Abareblack. The mechas, the Bakuryuu, are in fact sentient  robotic dinosaurs and partners of the heroes, with one of them, Brachio, also having a mentor role. 

4 Sentai teams with mascot like support team/ mentor

In those cases, the heroes are mostly helped by a mascot like character, either a robot or a fantasy creature, who is the one who chooses them, has the knowledge about the enemy team, and is helping them in the war against the enemies. The teams in those groups are certainly the most isolated among all sentai teams, since they have no real mentor. Sometimes, they can have a child friend, and even, in some cases, have a mentor figure appear occasionally (those last cases will be discussed in  the "special case" of that part). In a lot of cases, the heroes had pretty much to build themselves their arsenal, have to train themselves, and have no real mentor figure to look up. In some cases, the heroes have as companion a family, with the most important member being a young boy.

Those teams are:
- Denziman : the heroes are recruited by a robot dog IC, which has been left on Earth by the Denzi Princess with all the technology of the Denzi civilization and is the only creature who knows about Vader on Earth
- Bioman : the heroes are helped by the robot Peebo from planet Bio
- Flashman : the heroes's ally is Mag, a robot who was the Round base's guard until turned into a assistant robot by the heroes
- Liveman : the heroes's ally is Colon, a robot shaped like a young girl (here, while the heroes built their own mecha, Colon and the Live Base was created by one of their late Academy teachers)
- Fiveman : the heroes's companion is Arthur-G6, who pretty much raised the sibling team by himslef after the heroes lost their parents when they were little children: Arthur is also the team cannon
- Carranger : the mentor is an alien child named Dappu, who lost his planet because of the Bowzock: he often has to deal with the heroes's weirdness : as workers in a garage, the "family" involved with the Carranger is their boss's family, with the son often involved with Signalman
- Gingaman : because the heroes lost their home because of the Balban, their mentor was a wise talking oak, Moku : a talking acorn, Boku, was another mascot assistant. The heroes have as friend Yuuta, a young boy, and his bumbling father. Those human companions are the ones who give a home to the heroes.
- Go-onger : the heroes's companion is a little car-looking robot, Bomper : but, like in Abaranger, the mechas are sentient creatures, the Engines, who are the heroes's partners : one of them, Jumbowhale, also has a mentor role.
- Goseiger : very similar to Gingaman: the mentor is Master Head, a wise elder of the Goseiworld, the heroes are also helped by a cute human sized robot, Datas (who also can fight as a big mecha). The heroes also have a human boy, Nozomu, as a friend, with the father giving a home to the stranded team.
- Gokaiger: the heroes's companion is a robot parrot, Navi

Special cases :
- Timeranger : here, the heroes are professional cops (except Red) with the sixth ranger himslef involved in a professional security team led by a businessman who's none other than Red's father.
However, the time cops are stranded in an era  (year 2000) where they are pretty separated from their headquarters (which are in the year 3000), and only have as an ally in the year 2000, the owl robot Tak, which gives the info about the Londarz. While they manage to get their mechas from the future with the help of their commander, Captain Ryuuya, for everything else, they have to rely on the help of the only main Timeranger from year 2000, Tatsuya Asami/ Timered, who gives them a home and jobs.
- Magiranger ; the sibling heroes get their powers from their mother, but she soons disappears, apparently killed by a dark wizard, Wolzard. During the first arc of the series, they only have a talking plant, Mandora, as a companion and helper. However, when Magishine, the sixth ranger, appears, he turns out to be an experienced Heavenly Saint from Magitopia,  and becomes the siblings's mentor and teacher (and for Magiblue, eventually his husband). The Magiranger will also have some help from other people from Magitopia, notably Lunagel.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Guyferd : Toho's Kamen Rider like show

In 1996, Toho produced a 26-episode long TV show named "Shichisei Tōshin Guyferd (Seven Star Fighting God Guyferd) which aired on TV Tokyo. The aim of this post is to decribe the main elements of that show, and review it.


Takeo Shiroishi, a scientist, working for the Crown company, was doing research about a parasite life form named "Fallah" for medical purposes . However, one day, during a failed experiment, one researcher turned into a monstrous creature after exposure to Fallah. While he was horrified by that incident, his superiors were thrilled by it, given that by becoming a monster, the researcher became very powerful. It was then that Shiroishi realized that Crown had nefarious purposes, doing research for military purposes, and likely, nefarious schemes. At the same time, Gou Kazama, a young man who had wandered through the world, notably Peru, went back to Japan, to investigate the disappearance of his older brother Masato. Soon after going back in the  Ken'nou-ryu dojo, where his brother was teaching, he ended up being kidnapped by Crown, and turned into a cyborg like creature, a Guyborg. However, when he was in Peru, he had been infected by the Fallah parasite, and, as such by the combination of his cyborg modifications and the abilities brought by the Fallah parasite, turned to be able to change into a strong warrior form, Guyferd. After escaping the Crown facility with Dr Shiroishi, learning about the nefarious plans of Crown and their potential involvement in his brother's kidnapping, Gou Kazama decided to fight the evil Crown and thwart their sinister ambitions.  He was helped by Dr Shiroishi and two young martial arts sibling students , Rei and Yuu Kujou.

Main Characters
In this part, I'm going to talk about main protagonists, the only characters seen through the whole show.

Gou Kazama
The main protagonist of the show, who was trained in martial arts, but wasn't motivated to fight, because of his pacifist mentality. However, after having his body modified by Crown and realizing that he was the only one who was able to stop the evil organization, he decided to start fighting. At first, he had trouble using his powers, but after meeting the spiritual mentor of the Ken'nou-ryu, he managed to  use the power of the five elemental "energies " ( Fire, Water, Earth, Nature and Metal) and the two ethereal energies (Air and Star), and turn those energies and his life force into deadly attack to defeat his enemies. Besides, as a trained and very talented martial artist, he was already a dangerous match for his opponents. While he is a good-natured man, he was very angered by the misdeeds of Crown. Moreover, he suffered from not being an human being anymore, even if his friend reminded him that the most important thing, his good heart, was still making him being human despite his modified body.

Dr Takeo Shiroishi
A scientist who worked for Crown until he realized their evil intents. After leaving Crown, he did everything to stop Crown's plans. He became Guyferd's mentor, and did the technology and investigation work for him. However, he lacks fighting skills and is often clumsy and often shows over the top behaviour. Despite those few shortcomings, he's a very good friend and an essential part of the team.

Rei Kujou
A young girl who was a pupil in the Ken'nou-ryu dojo. She has feelings for Masato Kazama, and, later for Gou as well. She's a very talented fighter, and the most down to earth member of the team, being the one doing the chores, notably the cooking. While she wans't able to fight the most powerful Crown minions, she was still able to be a good match for the footsoliers, especially after receiving special boots from Shiroishi, which made her kicks become 30'times more powerful.

Yuu Kujou
Rei's younger brother, and also a pupil in the dojo. He's a very talented hacker, being able to find plenty of information by pirating computers, and as such, helped a lot the team's investigations. He has good technologic skills, seen for example when he helped fellow hostages escape a Crown's building. He's also a skilled fighter, using special gloves built by Dr Shiroishi to strenghten his punches.

The team was often helped by a police officer, Detective Yuki Nakano, who was trying to investigate Crown despite his colleagues's skepticism, and often brought good help to the team, notably thanks to his police training and marksman skills.

Guyferd : a story in three main arcs

The main storyline is told in three parts, with the fight against Crown going into three different stages. Each of those parts has a different theme and different antagonists, and the following chapters are gonna describe each of those arcs, the antagonists and the themes.

First arc : Guyferd vs Bycross and his team : episodes 1-8

The first arc of Guyferd shows Crown as being an huge organization, involved in several areas of research, all of them aiming to create super strong soldiers and fighters, in order to take over the world. The leader of that organization was Bycross, a crime lord like leader, who had two main research teams. The most important team, at least initially was the team involved into cyborg reconstruction, with the creation of the powerful Guyborgs, the cyborg warriors of Crown. The leader of that team was Dr Minoh, a unscrupulous and arrogant scientist.  However, after the first Fallah incident and the realization of the incredible powers brought by it, the biotechnology team, involved in Fallah research started to get more importance, and its leader, after Dr Shiroishi's defection was an ambitious and cruel woman, Megumi Shion.

That first arc is mostly storyline driven, with Gou discovering his powers, and the major arc being Gou's quest for his missing brother. During that arc, Crown's main aim was to create the most powerful warriors, notably by using the Fallah parasite and turning humans into powerful monstrous fighters, the Mutians. Crown didn't hesitate to kidnap innocent civilians, even children to use them as guinea pigs for their twisted experiments. At first, Crown tried to capture Guyferd to analyse him and understand what was making him such a strong fighter, but, after undergoing important losses to Guyferd, then merely wanted him dead. Crown was interested in getting strong fighters to turn them into supersoldiers, either Guyborgs or Mutians: as such, they turned an arrogant teacher from the heroes's dojo into a Mutian, and Gou's brother, Masato, into a Guyborg. The final arc of the Bycross arc involved the kidnapping of an anti-terrorist unit to turn them into Mutians and build a strong army. However, that plan was thwarted by Guyferd, who at the same time, found his lost brother who was released at the same time as the kidnapped soldiers. However unbeknownst of Gou, Masato was in fact turned into a powerful opponent, Deathferd, fueled by his strong rivalry with his brother and his desire to duel him. Fed up with Guyferd's interference, Bycross decided to become himself a Mutian and fight Guyferd in duel, but while he was rescued by Deathferd after their first confrontation he was finally defeated by Guyferd during their second fight. It was at thattime that the true leader of Crown, the mysterious Zodiac, revealed himself to Shion, and asked her to destroy the Crown headquarters and kill all the research teams, only keeping the research data. She soon killed Dr Minoh, planted bombs in the Crown headquarters. However, while she was escaping , Dr Shiroishi tried to stop her and recover the researhc data, and when trying to go, she fell into a cliff, seemingly to her death. After a intense fight with his brother, Gou managed to get the upper end, but wasn't able to stop him from going back in the Crown's headquaters when they were being destroyed, and Masato apparently died. At that time, Gou and his friend believed that Crown was over.

That first part used a lot themes used in Showa Riders, with the hero feeling isolated because of his modified body, feeling an outcast among fellow humans, afraid of having other finding out that he wasn't an human anymore. As a result, he hid from his companions (except Dr Shiroishi) his identity as Guyferd, even if Yuu and Rei actually were admiring the fighter. Rei and Yuu only learnt about Gou being Guyferd when Shion, in her cruelty revealed the truth to the siblings, but, of course, it only made Rei and Yuu even feeling closer to Gou. Like in the Showa Riders, the enemy was a powerful terrorist like organization, using technology to transform the human body into modified humans, with the Mutians having an animal theme, like the Showa Rider Kaijins. Crown, like Shocker, had no qualms killing humans to advance their plans. An interesting element was to show Crown as an human team, with a leader and rival researchers, as in a classic military research facility and show those humans experimenting on their own kin, without any empathy for their suffering and killing innocents without second thoughs.

Second arc: the Fallah plan : episodes 9-16
During that second arc, Crown became more a completely hidden group, and used a completely secret base, without any official front. The leader was the unseen Zodiac, communicating with his generals thanks to a device having a stone dragon appearance. Zodiac had two generals working for him, the robotic Metal Master and a reconstructed Shion, who was revived by Metal Master and transformed into a Guyborg. At that time, Crown's true aims were revealed, with Zodiac wanting to wipe out the human race using the Fallah parasite, and have the world only inhabited by creatures transformed by Fallah. Zodiac tried to convince Guyferd into joining them, by showing him human's follishness and telling how similar he was to them, but to no avail, and the fight between Guyfed and Crown was more intense than ever, with Crown using Metalferds, which were guyborgs infected with the Fallah parasite, and having, as a result  similar abilities as Guyferd.
Unlike the first arc, that second arc was much more character driven. While in the first arc, Shion was fueled by her ambitions, in that second arc, she was driven by revenge against Guyferd, seeing him as the one responsible for her becoming a Guyborg and losing her humanity.
During that arc, each memeber of the Guyferd support team got a focus episode, one with Rei and a school friend, another with Yuu and a female friend of him, with his father being targeted by Shion, and even Shiroishi had a ficus episode with a former pupil of his and his awkward relationship with her. Another episode focused on a Guyborg hitman working for Crown and his dilemma when his next victim reminded him of his mother. Even Shion herself was shown t have hidden depth, with a backstory involving the tragic death of her mother. She ended up killed during a failed attempte to avenge her mother.
A theme explored in that arc is what it means to be human. Indeed, while Metal Master was a true machine, devoid of any emotions, other transformed characters, like Guyferd, and even evil ones like the killer and Shion, showed their human side by showing strong emotions, notably how Shion was driven by her revenge instead of being merely a cold blooded killer. Likewise, it's during those arcs that the protagonists were shown the most deveopment as characters.
That second arc ended up by Guyferd defeating Metal Master and stopping the plot involving spreading the Fallah parasite to the whole world by destroying a device where Shion's brain was stored and used as a vital part of the Fallah spreading bomb.

Third and final arc: the Gaia-net plot  : episode 17-26
During that final arc, Zodiac decided to involve himself in the plots, and, after the failure of the Fallah plot, decided to used mystical items to get rid of humanity. His plan involved using three mystical devices, linked to a mysterious tablet, the Daruga Tablet, to awaken a strong power which would be able to destroy all life on Earth. Zodiac was helped by a crazy scientist, Dr Kuzan, who wanted to have revenge on his fellow colleagues and prove that he was right about the Gaia-net powers. Zodiac used Gaia-Soldiers, Metalferds enhanced by the power of the Daruga tablet, to find the items and defeat Guyferd.
Guyferd and his friends tried to prevent Crown from getting the sacred items, with the help of a female archaeologist, but, unfortunately, two of the items, a tablet and a sword fell into the hands of Zodiac. The fights ended up more dangerous as ever, wit the loss of the heroes's spiritual mentor and with Guyferd even dying after a fight. However, at that time, he had been able to find the last item, a sacred orb which was able to resurrect him by fusing with him. Besides, soon afterwards, Gou was reunited with his brother Masato, who had actually survived and became his precious ally in their fight against Zodiac as Deathferd. However, in order to get the last item, Zodiac kidnapped Gou himself, while he was in a weakened state, and forced the power of the orb out of him to begin the Gaia-net destructive operation in Mount Fuji. Shiroishi, Masato, Rei, Detective Nakano, Yuu and the female archeologist managed to rescue Gou, and at the end,  Gou and Masato, as Guyferd and Deathferd  confronted Zodiac in  a last showdown which ended in Zodiac's defeat. However, the Gaia-net operation was already in motion, with Dr Kusan even bombing the headquarters in order to stop the two brothers from stopping it. Masato and Gou had to sacrifice themselves in order to save the world, leaving their friend into a deep sorrow, when they realized that the world was saved at the expense of both Gou and Masato's lives.
That final arc is certainly the most conventional of the three, with a basic arc involving a item hunt by both heroes and villains and a basic good vs evil plot. That arc was also noticeable by its  focus on mystical and archeological  themes, in contrast with the more science themed previous arcs.

Final review
Guyferd was certainly an interesting show, with a nice cast and an interesting protagonist group, with the hero's supporting team being a very useful help to him, even saving him from the enemy in several occasions. The interactions between the heroes was fun, and the cast had a nice chemistry.
Guyferd used very interestingly the theme of transformed humans and their consequences, the classic theme of old  Kamen Rider shows, especially during the two first arcs.
The most striking element of the show was its three arc structure, with each arc having a different theme. However, while that choice was an interesting idea, its execution was far from optiaml, with each arc often feeling disjointed from the others, and Crown's plans feeling inconsistent through the show. The third arc was especially weak, using in an excessive way the "killed and then resurrected" plot device, and often showing the portagonists as incompetent, losing in very stupid ways the items.
Masato's return came pretty much out of nowhere, even if it allowed Masato to have more interesting development after his pretty lame arc in the first arc.
One of the most interesting antagonists was Shion, who was involved in the two first arcs, and showed interesting development, being in the first arc an ambitious and unscupulous scientist, but, after her death and resurrection as a Guyborg, came back as a bitter woman, who hated being a Guyborg and was more driven by revenge than by ambition. It was interesting to see how she hated having become herself what she forced almost others to become without remorse, as a pretty ironice fate for her. While the attempt to make her look more sympathetic with her arc involveing her dead mother wasn't the most convincing, she still managed to have a tragic end, since she ended up as a living brain used by her former allies, and finally accepting death to be freed from her sorry state, being nothing more than raw living material used by Crown.
Guyferd had some nice fighting action, not only from the main hero, but also from his support team. 
Lastly, unlike most toku, Guyferd didn't end with a happy ending, but rather a bittersweet one, with the world being saved , but at the price of the hero and his brother's lives. This was a very interesting choice, which was pretty fitting in a show where the hero felt as if he was cast away from humanity because of his modified body, and  felt that their only role in the world was to fight the enemies (not unlike the Riders), even if they appreciated a lot the support that their friends brought to him. 
Guyferd, while not an awesome show, was far from being a bad show. It deserve a 6.5/10.