Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Re: Why Sentai Purists Don't (Often) Blame Toei For Power Rangers's Existence

Today I read an article vilifying 'Sentai purists' for not recognizing Toei's involvement in Power Rangers, and calling the general Sentai fandom a few choice adjectives for the ignorant actions of some who had threatened the well being of Haim Saban. There also seemed to be an underlying tone that Saban Brands can have a pass for the interpretation they offer of the Sentai series and unapologetically half-commit to their work. 

My response, though straying a bit away from the intended message of the initial post, is presented here:

While it's true that the implied threats to the well-being of Haim Saban are those of ignorance within the Sentai fandom, that does not mean that Power Rangers is necessarily a good show or doing well by its progenitor, Super Sentai.
The reasons many thoughtful Sentai fans have issue with PR are not wholly superficial.
If I hand you two films with the same premise, let's say the classic Jurassic Park and a Sci-Fi (now SyFy) Original interpretation of said film, it would not be unjustified to believe the latter might have poorer writing, lower production values, less talented actors, less inspired score/soundtrack, and so on. This is the same mindset the healthy Sentai fan has between something like Gokaiger versus Super Megaforce.
While the demographic is roughly the same between the two series, a focus on young children (with a further focus on males in the US), the messages laid forth for American audiences are often sub-par generalized themes that offer no substance, where the Sentai predecessor using the flavor of the year can often offer great messages and opportunities for the children's (and often the adults watching beside them) growth as individuals. The importance of discipline, family, imagination, justice, and a slew of any number of lessons are more aptly displayed with Sentai episodes and series than the generic 'good guys do good thing/Goofus and Gallant' stories that are offered by PR.
And note the depth of villain characters and stories in Sentai, how they have evolved as time has gone on to offer personality and story arcs. The US equivalent is often no more than a caricature by comparison. I'll use the example of Bandora of Zyuranger vs. Rita Repulsa of MMPR: while the early Bandora may have herself seemed a caricature, the series slowly releases that the reason behind her wanted to harm children then control Earth is her grieving at her son being killed by dinosaurs and not forgiving others for having their children still. Rita Repulsa was just 'Conquer Earth, Conquer Earth, Conquer Earth", never having more reason than that. Even though the intended audience for these shows are young children, that doesn't mean they have to be stunted by poor characterization and a missed opportunity at understanding the working of people and the world.
So yes, Toei does have its hand in PR and has since before MMPR. But it also relies on Saban and other North American staff to decide on how to adapt their shows. Until Toei sees the currency not coming as steadily as they'd like or a dramatic drop in viewership, they have no reason to truly meddle in the outcome.
And just to further support that Saban's hands are strangling the potential of the show, the Disney years of PR, though not wholly better, at least attempted to work storylines that offered more growth than Saban had done before or since, actually offered developed characters (we don't talk about OO), and made regular acknowledgement of their Sentai equivalent with attempts to bring them into viewers' knowledge or using similar episodes or overall arcing storylines of the series. Examples to note: Dino Thunder's romantic tension between Dino Black and Elsa or the 'Lost and Found in Translation' episode are blatant examples, but the bulk of episodes in the aforementioned era often adapted Sentai episodes into PR ones.

The point I guess I'm trying to make is that no one should be threatening the life of Haim Saban or the people involved in any iteration of the Power Rangers franchise. That's ignorant and cruel. And Sentai fans need to recognize that Toei gave Saban Brands the okay to use Sentai for PR, whether we may be happy with the outcome or not. But that doesn't mean the opinion that PR is a weaker series to Sentai is invalid, and is as much an opinion with points to be made as the preference toward PR.