Sunday, July 27, 2014

Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger Review

Originally, I was a little concerned about the show after hearing it wasn't plot-based but once I started the series, that concern was quickly thrown out the window. That was thanks in no small part to how the writer handles the episodic format. Without further adieu, its time to see how Dekaranger worked out for me. In other words: Its Judgement Time!
Story: The show follows the exploits of Earth's branch of a galactic police force known as the Dekarangers. It isn't done like a usual Sentai series as it has a more episodic nature like an actual cop show and lacks an over-arcing plot. The episodic nature of the show actually works in its favor and it makes everything memorable like the Alienizers but I'll get to them later. It gives plenty of room for great moments for all of the Dekarangers.

Characters: The cast for this show is just fun. They have some nice chemistry and I like the way they play off of each other, particularly in the episodes Jasmine and Umeko share.
  • Ban/DekaRed: He is a decent character. I like his drive and sense of justice. During his scenes he can be overly energetic but he has a nice heart even acknowledging later in the series that he is the one keeping the team from being too by-the-book. Though my main complaint is that sometimes his screams can be a bit disorienting. My favorite episode for Ban is the episode where he was running around the city looking for explosives. The episode shows that Ban isn't actually a fool and I especially love the look on everyone's face when he figures out where the Alienizer is.
  • Hoji/DekaBlue: He prides himself on his skill and professionalism as well as taking his job really seriously. It was fun seeing him react to Ban's overly energetic personality and antics all the while watching him grow to accept Ban. He has some of the more serious episodes in the show and they make for great drama. My personal favorite episodes of his are Hard-boiled License and the episode where he sneaks into an illegal fighting circuit.
  • Sen/DekaGreen: Sen is a fun character. His focus episodes were some of the most interesting ones due to the way he analyzes the cases. He is usually able to spot things that his teammates overlook while coming up with interesting ways to stop the Alienizers. My favorite moments for Sen are the episode with the plant Alienizer that used water to cut things and the episode with the ghost Alienizer. They really highlight his inventiveness and ability to analyze things.
  • Jasmine/DekaYellow: Jasmine is a fun character somewhat serious character who is usually calm. Like Hoji, she gets some of the more serious episodes but she can also be funny as well. I like her back-story of how she came to terms with her powers. Her powers as an ESPer were interesting and the show molded them to fit the cop show motif. It is a nice take on what is similar to mind reading but works on objects as well as living beings. My favorite episodes for her are a tie between the episode with that goofy duck Alienizer and her episode with detective Chou.
  • Umeko/DekaPink: Her episodes are some of my favorites due to her being a more comedic character. I couldn't get through a lot of her comedic scenes without a big smile creeping across my face. Her serious moments were fun as well. If I was to pick a favorite character, it would be a tie between her and Sen. For comedy, my favorite is the episode where she went undercover as a princess. For seriousness, it is a tie between the episode Requiem World, an episode she shares with Jasmine, and the episode she almost got married which she shared with Sen.
  • Testsu/DekaBreak: Tetsu was just kind of there for me. He didn't get as many focus episodes as the others. Overall the character is just meh for me. Being a sucker for martial arts, I did like how his combat style was geared toward bare-handed fighting. I also really like how his henshin device doubles as his weapon. The DekaBright episode provided a nice explanation for why Tetsu didn't believe in fighting with emotion in his premier.
  • Kruger/DekaMaster: The mentor and an awesome swordsman. What I like about him the most is that shortly after his first transformation he tells the Dekarangers that he will not fight alongside them in every fight since they would become too dependent on his strength. That is the mark of a great mentor when he basically tells them that they have to grow stronger for the coming battles while still helping when they absolutely need him. My favorite episodes of his are his premier and the episode Mortal Campaign.
  • Swan/DekaSwan: She also serves as the team's mentor alongside Kruger. I like how part of her role is to repair and maintain the mechas. It was a nice touch and it is something I would like to see done more in Sentai. She has this almost motherly air around her when she speaks with the others and it really shows in how much the others respect her. She is someone the others can turn to if they need advice. My favorite Swan moment was the episode she transformed. I like the speech she gave Hiemel about how the machines that they build should be used to help people, not built for personal glory. Even though she only fought once, it had this air of awesomeness to it.

Villains: The way the Alienizers are handled is very interesting and rather creative. Since this is written like a cop show, they are entirely one-off characters with Agent Abrella being the exception. Despite them being one-offs however, the writer goes to great lengths to make them memorable. Whether it is their motives, their powers, or their designs, you will more remember them more often than not. The show features some very creative plans from the Alienizers such as turning humans into spaceship fuel, turning them into dolls for a collection, and even the old stand-by simply attempting to blow up the planet just to name a few. The diverse designs and abilities really help show how vast the universe is in Dekaranger. If I were to pick my favorite of the one-off Alienizers, it would be the Hell Siblings. They were nice power-house villains and I liked how Succubus' first response to fighting Jasmine was "Hey she could be useful to us so I'll force her to join".
Agent Abrella is just a cool and interesting villain. He doesn't really have any interest in taking over the world, he is just a weapons dealer for the various Alienizers and is simply in it for the money. For the right price he supplies the Alienizers with foot soldiers, new gear, and even mecha. His goal is to make the galaxy a haven for crime so he can grow his business even more. The entire reason he hates the Dekarangers is because they are getting in the way of his business and costing him money. He is also a really strategic villain who prefers to hide in the shadows as opposed to fighting the Dekarangers directly. He has an incredibly calm demeanor when he speaks, even when you can obviously tell he is mad. The guy does an entire season's worth of planning just for a three episode direct assault on DekaBase. I like his design a lot and I find it cool that it includes a tie.

I like the mecha designs in Dekaranger. Don't let their looks fool you, while they may look bulky they are actually very movable, especially in Dekaranger Robo's case. DekaBase Robo is one of those big mecha that actually looks and feels like it has some weight to it which is sadly something that the two most current giant mech, Great Gobuster and Gigant Kyoryuzin lacked. Every time DekaBase Robo takes a step you see the ground explode beneath its feet and sparks flying around. It is a heavy mecha that wasn't overused like Great Gobuster or Gigant Kyoryuzin. I like that DekaBike Robo has both a vehicle mode and robot mode. Plus its design is nice to look at. Super Dekaranger Robo looks nice though it looks slightly bulky. However, if I were to pick a favorite of the Dekaranger mecha, it would be DekaWing Robo. Its got a really nice design and a gun mode for its finisher.
The show features a lot of mecha with most of the Alienizers actually having giant robots of their own with some nice designs. It was a great idea to not just have the Alienizers grow into giant versions of themselves. The mecha fights in the show are great and it looks like a lot of effort went into them. As I said earlier, despite some of them looking really bulky, they can actually move rather well. The mecha fights feature a nice mix of practical effects and CGI. Overall the mecha action is nicely choreographed and exciting.

Music: Dekaranger has a lot of fun and addictive songs. The opening theme really gives the show a sense of power and energy. The ending theme is soothing, sort of mellow, and has a nice jazzy feel to it. Both of those are songs I could not bring myself to skip to save time while watching it. Girls In Trouble is a nicely addictive up-beat song featuring vocals by both Jasmine and Umeko's actresses and it is appropriately used during the girl power episodes or whenever they share a development episode. Dekaranger Action and SWAT On are awesome and they have some nice power and energy to them. The character theme songs are nice as well. If I had to pick a favorite piece of music from the show, it would be a tie between Girls In Trouble and Dekaranger Action.

Suit Designs: 
The Dekaranger suits are nice to look at. The black on the left side of the main five's suits blends well with their color scheme. It helps their numbers stand out really well. The black and silver bands on the hands and feet help add the to look of the white gloves and the belt of the suits look really nice in silver. The lights on the side of the helmets were an interesting choice and they help sell the police look along with the badges on each suit. The belt buckles for all of the suits even hold handcuffs. If I had to pick my favorite suit in terms of color combination, it would be Tetsu's suit. The white, blue, and gold blend really well together.

However, if I were to pick my favorite suits in terms of overall look, I'd have to pick Kruger's and Swan's suits since they have a slightly more armor-like look to them especially their chest-plates and they have unique helmets. For Kruger, the black spandex complements the light blue armor rather well and having his number outlined in red looks really nice. His belt looks nice in red and it works well with the buckle being silver. The raised ears on his helmet look great and so do the studded gloves on his hands. For Swan, the orange and white looks great with the orange part of the chest-plate being outlined in black. Her helmet has a nice feather pattern on the side and the visor has this almost wing-like look to it to help sell her swan motif.
The design for the main five's SWAT mode looks great. It adds on some extra armor around the legs and arms while giving them a chest-plate. It also features their respective number in their color as well as a place for the SP License. One of the lights gets pushed out to make a mic for communication between the main five. It looks very simple and doesn't over-shadow the original suit design which is a very good thing.

Final Thoughts: It was a great show and I had a lot of fun. While it doesn't have a plot per say, the way it handles its episodic formula worked out well. It is a well done cop-show that balances its comedic and serious moments nicely to create a very unique experience. I also love how the gun-play is used in this show. It never breaks up the pace of a fight. DekaRed even uses his guns like melee weapons in close-up fights.
A nice touch for the show is that they have to ask permission to use lethal force and kill the Alienizers like actual cops do. It was actually easier for me to keep track of what episode I was on than it is for me to keep track during a lot of plot-centric series. All I had to do was remember what the last Alienizer they fought was so that made marathon-ing it really easy. Overall I really enjoyed the show and I'd honestly recommend it to any sentai fan or even cop show fans in general. At the time of this review, Dekaranger holds my number 3 spot for Sentai.

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