Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Super Sentai series titles : some recurring Kanji

Hello guys, it's been a while since I've written here; I had trouble finding ideas to write a new blog post.
However, today, I've been thinking about the sentai series franchise : 40 years, 39 series and a 40th series to come soon.
As you know most sentai series have a title involving three words : a specific word written in kanji, different for each series, involving usually two, but sometimes one or even three kanji, followed by "Sentai" and then, a third word in katakana, being the name of the team, including either "man", "ranger" or its short form "ger", or even sometimes, "Five".
I've investigated the kanji used in the first part of the title (or those used outside of either "Sentai" or the katakana in the few series not including "sentai" in the title, such as Bioman or Flashman)). Because Super Sentai often uses the same themes, it often uses the same kanji in different individual series titles, and I've made a list of the kanji that appear in at least two titles of sentai series.
And here are the results : 

The kanji appearing the most, with six sentai series titles is the kanji 電 (den), the kanji meaning "electricity" : it appears in JAKQ, Denziman, Bioman, Changeman, Megaranger and Kyoryuger : it has been used in different contexts : either, it reflects a technology theme involving electronics, such as in Denziman, Bioman and Megaranger, and in a lesser way, Kyoryuger, with the dino theme associated with a "battery" theme. Or it is used in combination with the kanji "strike" (geki), to mean a "sudden attack", meaning that the team strikes quickly and hard, such in JAKQ and Changeman. The kanji started being used very early, since it appears in JAKQ first, the second series, and most of the series having it in the title are pretty early, (4 out of 6 in the first 10 shows) ; however, it has been used pretty recently too, as seen with Kyoryuger. Of course, "Den" is also included in katakana in Denziman.

In second place, with five titles, is the kanji  獣 (Juu),  the kanji meaning "beast" : it appears in the titles of five series : Liveman, Gingaman, Gaoranger, Gekiranger and Kyoryuger : it's pretty expected since animals is a theme used very often in sentai, and predictably, the five series have an animal theme (even if Kyoryuger has the more specialized theme of dinosaurs) ; besides, it's obvious that Zyuranger and the upcoming Juuohger also have in katakana actually the same meaning. It's interesting that, while used frequently, the kanji started being used relatively late in the franchise, starting with Liveman,  when animals started becoming a major mecha theme.

In third place, is the kanji 超 (Chou), meaning "Super", used four times, (in Bioman, Flashman, Liveman, and Ohranger) : interestingly, it's especially used in series not including "sentai" in the title, since among the four series, two of them don't include sentai (Bioman and Flashman) ; that kanji isn't unexpected, since we're talking about superhero shows titles (we're talking about Super Sentai). Thus having sometimes "super" in the titles of some shows is pretty logical. Interestingly, most of the shows having it in the title are 80' show in a short span (the golden Soda age), with Ohranger being the exception (and even that one has Soda heavily involved)

In fourth place is the kanji 星 (sei),  meaning "Star" included in three titles (Flashman, Dairanger and Gingaman) : interestingly, the series having it in the title aren't especially space themed, with the exception of Flashman, which has a major space theme : Dairanger has a martial arts, mystical beast and Chinese theme, while Gingaman has an animal theme, with the only "spatial" elements being the origin of the villains, and of the mechas : but having the kanji "star" in the title gives a sense of large scale in the show's universe, since it goes beyond Earth to include the whole universe.

Interestingly, those kanji are often associated with each other :
"Juu" is associated with "Den" in Kyoryuger, "Chou" is associated with "Den" in Bioman, "Sei" in Flashman and "Juu" in Liveman, and "Sei" is associated with "Juu" in Gingaman.

Several kanji appear twice, often in series with a same theme :

忍 (nin), meaning "stealth" appears in two ninja themed shows titles, Kakuranger and Hurricanger, and of course, it's in katakana in the title of the third ninja themed sentai title, Ninninger

Similarly, 竜 (Ryu) meaning "Dragon", is included in two dinosaur themed sentai show titles, Zyuranger and Abaranger (Kyoryu means dinosaur (terrible dragon), and of course it's in katakana in the third dino themed sentai title, Kyoryuger.

Another kanji, 特 (toku), meaning "special", is used in recent shows having a professional team included in an official organization involved in fighting the enemies : Dekaranger (the police sentai) and Go-Busters (the special Energy Management Center). It's interesting to notice that the kanji has been used a lot in the Metal Hero franchise, also involving professional teams (notably in the Rescue Police shows, which Dekaranger pays tribute too)

Two kanji are used twice, and always associated with the kanji "Den" : it's "子"(Shi), which usually means "child", but here is used with "Den" to mean "Electronic, in the titles of Denziman and Bioman ; and the other "撃" (Geki), meaning "Strike", used in JAKQ and Changeman with "Den" to mean "lightning strike", "Blitzkrieg", a very quick sudden and effective attack : it's however likely that kanji that appear in Katakana in "Gekiranger", which has a martial arts theme involving "strikes". 

In a word of conclusion, the kanji 轟 (Go) is used twice in the same title, the title of Boukenger, to have both the pun of the english verb "go" showing the "adventure theme" and the "loud explosive sound" which is the true meaning of the kanji, which means to show how that adventure team is full of energy. 

It's more than likely that future sentai shows are either gonna have those kanji appear again, or having kanji that have appeared so far only once appearing again. 

Your thoughts?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Bakuryu Sentai Abaranger Review

It is sort of weird how my last Sentai review was Dekaranger and now I'm covering its predecessor. This is a show that I had been curious about due to what I had read about it and what some friends had said about it. Needless to say, I jumped on it once it was subbed completely. Time to unleash my Dino Guts and take a look at how I felt about Abaranger. Note: Its going to be hard for me to talk about certain characters without getting into some spoilers so for the purpose of this review, my no spoiler policy is gone. However, I will try to avoid the biggest spoilers if at all possible.
Plot: The story opens with a lone warrior riding through a desert wasteland on a raptor while an Evolian ship rains down energy blasts. The warrior sees a portal to another world and jumps through winding up on Another Earth. Once there he seeks out warriors who can channel their Dino Guts to fight the on-coming invasion. Thus begins the tale of the Abarangers.

Characters: The main cast is fun and they have some great chemistry. We get a lot of nice interactions in the series, particularly between Ryouga and Mai. Note: AbareKiller will be covered in the villains section since he was a villain for most of the series.
  • Ryouga/AbaRed: Ryouga is Mai's uncle but he treats her like she is his daughter. His relationship with Mai was entertaining and adorable. It is that sort of family dynamic that I want to see more of in Sentai. A lot of his plots revolve around either AbareKiller or children being targeted by the Evolian. Needless to say, both of those involve great speeches from Ryouga about having hope in humanity and usually result in a righteous butt-kicking for the villains.
  • Yukito/AbareBlue: A serious level-headed chiropractor. He manages to take all the weirdness with a straight face. One thing that sort of surprised me is that his chiropractic skills actually got applied multiple times throughout the series. It was something I thought that they'd simply write off as something he could do and not mention it again. My favorite episodes for him are probably the mind-swap episode with Ryouga and the episode were Tricera turns into a human child.
  • Ranru/AbareYellow: Ranru is a fun character. Everything is her hobby and I mean everything, including but not limited to science, machines, and wearing bullet-proof vests. She has a strong sense of justice and the drive to help anyone in need. She is also one of the major driving forces that keeps Asuka motivated in his search for Mahoro and is very invested in making sure they could reunite. She even went so far as to take back a bracelet Asuka made for Mahoro when an Evolian stole it.
  • Asuka/AbareBlack: I'm just going to come right out and say it, Asuka is my favorite character out of the main cast. The dude went through a lot over the course of the series. His love story with Mahoro was really well done and honestly, Sentai needs more love stories like that. My favorite episode for him is actually the arc where they destroy the cursed armor as it shows the lengths that he and Mahoro would go to for each other.
  • Mai: Ryouga's niece who lost her parents when she was young. Her interactions with Ryouga were fun to watch and really adorable. They really feel like family.
  • Emiri: She is mostly comic relief though she does get a few episodes devoted to her. She is effective as both comic relief and as an ally. No matter what happens she will usually try to make sure Mai is ok and keep her from worrying whenever the Abarangers are in danger. She sort of acts like an older sister for Mai in that regard. My favorite episodes for her are the episodes with the psychic rhino trinoid and the AbarePink episode.
  • Ryunosuke: The owner of a curry restaurant known as Dino House that serves as the Abarangers' base. He provides little nuggets of wisdom and gives the Abarangers a place to stay in exchange for helping out around the restaurant.
Bakuryu: The Bakuryu are the mecha but they are much more than that. They are sentient partners that the Abarangers can turn to. They have their own distinct personalities and they are a great support system for the Abarangers. The relationships between the Bakuryu and the Abarangers was fun to watch, especially Ryouga and Tyranno's relationship. Both of them know exactly what it is like to be fathers and have families to take care of. They are honestly what I think the ZyuDenRyu should've been in Kyoryuger since it feels like an actual partnership. You actually get to see the Abarangers interact with the Bakuryu instead of just saying that they are partners. Tyranno, Tricera, and Ptera's appearance in the first episode had this Godzilla/Jurassic Park vibe to it. If I were to pick my favorite of the Bakuryu, it would be Tyranno, Tricera, Stegoslidon, and Brachio.
Their combined forms are nicely designed. Most of the extra Bakuryu are normally limited to being arm changes or add-ons for Abaren-Oh and Killer-Oh. It works out really well and doesn't change the overall design aspects of the two mecha. The mecha action is nicely choreographed and each fight carries some nice weight to it. The fights between Abaren-Oh and Killer-Oh were done well. My personal favorite Abaranger mecha design is Killer-Oh. It has a very imposing look to it and the colors blend really well.

From left to right: Michela, Jeanne, Rege, Geitron, and Voff.
The Evolians are the major antagonists and they feature a wide variety of designs. The bulk of the Evolian forces are Trinoids made by Michela and Giganoids made by Voff. Michela makes the Trinoids by painting three objects and it usually results in weird designs and abilities. The Giganoids are massive kaijuu-like beings created by Voff composing music. Geitron wasn't really around for long but his armor became a major part of Asuka's story. Now we get to the major players of the Evolians: Jeanne and Rege. Since these two are major parts of the plot, spoilers incoming.
Jeanne is honestly my favorite villain among the Evolians due to her plot-line being so closely tied to Asuka. Her fights with him were very intense and they are some of my favorite fights out of all of Sentai. The swordplay used by the two was fantastic. She made a great rival for him especially given who she actually is. She is Mahoro which isn't really much of a spoiler since Asuka speculates that she is or at least looks oddly similar to Mahoro rather early on and it makes the dynamic between both of them all the more interesting while adding some fantastic tension. I also like costume she wears, it has a lot of intricate and ornate details. It has an almost regal or royal air about it and she looks like a priestess.
Pretty much everything Rege does in the plot qualifies as a big spoiler so I'll try to describe her as best I can. Rege is Dezmoparamecia's host body. Its weird to think that such an adorable little girl has that much power inside of her. In addition to that, she serves as a way to transport the Evolians between Dino Earth and Another Earth.
When she becomes Regel later on, her power really shines through. She is a nice power-house villain and her first fight gives off a good glimpse of her true powers. Her arc is rather sad yet heart-warming due to its relation to Jeanne and the Evolian invasion of Dino Earth. I unfortunately can't say much more than that because it will spoil on of the most emotional moments of the show in my opinion.
AbareKiller is my favorite Abaranger villain overall. AbareKiller was fun to watch and made a great rival for Ryouga. He really knows how to push people's buttons. He doesn't have some grand plan in mind, he just wants to destroy stuff so he can ease his boredom. The man's take on boredom is an interesting one since well it is a major extreme. If he is bored he will do anything to get rid of it, whether it includes fighting, messing with the Abarangers' heads, or even crashing a planet into the Earth while he is still on it. He has no regard for his own safety and he will do anything as long as it amuses him. He'll even go so far as to change his own rules or cheat as long as it will make the game more exciting for him. All of that combined with his strength kind of scares me. He is just so much fun to watch.

Suit designs:
The suit designs for all of them are awesome. They all have a sleek design.The suits for Ryouga, Yukito, and Ranru feature white spike patterns along with their associated color. There is a big gold and black logo on the chest that looks like a dinosaur footprint. The helmets are nicely sculpted and immediately lets you know which dinosaurs they are modeled after. The visors look nice outlined in white. The gold wristbands look nice on all three of them and the belts look great in gold with a silver buckle.

Asuka's suit looks great and features a nice balance of black and gold that blends really well. His suit features gold shoulder pads and gold spike patterns. The helmet is nicely sculpted and immediately gives off a brachiosaurus look and features an interesting touch of red on the fin. The helmet even has little purple bits around the eyes on his helmet. Its the finer details like that that make me admire the craft that goes into making suits and how they affect the overall aesthetic of the show. The visor looks great outlined in gold. The gold wristbands and belt compliment his color scheme the most out of all five suits.

Mikoto's suit features a nice combination of white, black, and gold. The chest-plate looks great outlined in gold and the sculpting on the spikes is nice. Unlike the other suits, the collar is black instead of white. Its an odd choice but it works well enough since it helps provide a good bit of contrast with the white on the rest of the suit. The helmet is nicely sculpted and the visor looks great in red while being outlined in the black. The visor has a sort of sinister look to it thanks to the red. The black fin on the helmet has some nice little red eyes on it. The Abaranger logo for him is located on the belt with the points of the logo being black.
The spike patterns on all five suits were a nice choice for two reasons: 1. They provide a nice aesthetic value. 2. They serve an actual purpose in combat. By focusing their Dino Guts they can access Abare Mode which causes the spike patterns to actually protrude from the suits. Their bodies effectively become slashing weapons and they way they fight becomes more brutal. This further emphasizes the savage nature of dinosaurs in general and nicely alludes to the dinosaurs they are themed after. Asuka's fights are particularly brutal as he punches straight through some of the Evolians. At one point, AbareKiller even impales one on a tree branch. Ranru's Abare Mode even includes wings under her arms though they disappear later on for some reason. A nice little reference to their Bakuryu partners is that they also grunt and growl using the same words that the Bakuryu usually end their sentences with.
Ryouga has an upgrade form known as AbareMax. This is actually my favorite Abaranger suit overall. It doesn't really over-shadow the original AbaRed suit so it seems a bit more natural by just adding shoulder pads and a gold face-plate around the visor. The white spikes get replaced with blue and gold spikes. The logo gets expanded to look like the shield that enables the transformation and the brace gets gold-plated. The shield has some nice sculpting on it and red, gold, and black blends really well together. I absolutely love AbareMax's weapon since it doubles as both a sword and a shield. I've always like dual purpose weapons like that.

Music: Abaranger has a nice soundtrack. The opening theme does exactly what it it supposed to do. It gets you pumped up and excited. The ending theme is catchy and energetic. Those two songs are among the short list of opening/ending themes that I couldn't bring myself to skip through in order to save time. The tune from Asuka's harmonica is nice. It feels sort of eerie, sad, yet hopeful all at the same time. In a way, it sort of captures Asuka's feelings as the show goes on.

Final Thoughts: The show as a whole seems to have a certain way about it that I wish post-Gokaiger shows had in them. Each episode plot just has this scale of epic-ness to it and it all fit together rather nicely. There is nothing about this show that feels off to me. Despite the weirdness of one or two episodes, they still feel like they belong in the series. Each of the Abarangers gets their appropriate moments to be awesome and its fun to see them interact with each other. The fight choreography was really well handled particularly the sword-play in the fights between Asuka and Jeanne. The Abare Mode fights were down right brutal and featured quite a few wince-inducing moments.
Abaranger is filled with moments where I couldn't help but smile because of the characters or pump my fist in the air due to the levels of awesome. The current Sentai at the time I started Abaranger kind of had me down and bored (ToQger which I gave up on after 22 episodes of nothing happening) so it felt good to get excited about about something again. I would highly recommend this series to any Sentai fan, especially if post-Gokaiger Sentai series aren't exactly agreeing with them. At the time of this post, Abaranger holds my number 3 spot right alongside Dekaranger.