Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Jyuken Sentai Gekiranger Review: Part 3 GenJyuken

Now we come to another group of enemies in the show who pretty much make up the final couple of arcs. The GenJyuken users are the final group of enemies in the show and their fighting styles are based around mythical creatures. Unlike GekiJyuken and RinJyuken, they aren't actually a school. Each of the generals represents one of the four big beasts in Chinese mythos that represent the four directions with Mele becoming the Phoenix once she gains the power of GenJyuken. Each of the GenJyuken generals have their own MOTW.

Long:
Long represents the dragon and he is my all time favorite Sentai villain. He terrifies me so much that just hearing his name sends a chill down my spine. He is always calm, cool, and collected, rarely letting his anger show through. However, above all else Long is patient. He is one of those villains where the main threat isn't just what he is doing right now, it is also what he could do later. This dude is directly responsible for Rio turning to RinJyuken. The theme of three is shows up here because he, Rio, and Mele are the only villains in the show to have a human form. His first appearance in the show is terrifying because the first thing he does is literally liquefy Rageku. His main reason for sending Rio down the path of darkness is to turn him into a god of destruction. He tried to do the same thing with Maku but Maku's defeat in the RinJyuken Rebellion kind of squashed that plan. The actor is fantastic and really sells the role with the way he moves. He also plays up the creep factor by constantly popping up out of nowhere and getting uncomfortably close to people's faces.

Sanyo:
Sanyo is a master of the basilisk-ken. With that being said, his overall appearance is a turtle so he basically represents the black tortoise and snake of the four beasts. He has a habit of running his mouth a lot and some of the stuff he says pretty much clues Mele into the idea that Long might not be on the up and up. He is pretty much immortal, which is something brought up near end of the series. He is actually a part of Long and when Long reabsorbs him, he gains that immortality.

Suugu:
Suugu is a master of the chimera-ken which is basically an amalgamation of different fighting styles so he has access to the techniques of RinJyuken users. His overall motif is a white tiger so out of the four beasts, he represents that one. He was basically created by Long using the geki soul of Jan's father, Dan, hence the white tiger look. Its a rather heart-wrenching story because once Dan's consciousness starts taking over, Jan is forced to kill him so his father can pass on. In a way it helps show how demented Long is even more since he used someone's very soul as a means to achieve is his own goals. When Dan was alive, Rio actually saw him as a rival or an obstacle to overcome. In a sense, Jan is taking his father's place in finishing off the rivalry. Plus Jan's father is played by Kenji Oba so that works out really well. Despite Dan himself being dead at the time, you get a nice feel for his power just from Rio's memories of him.

Music: The music for the show is nice. It really helps capture the kung fu movie feel of the show so much that it feels like I've heard the music in actual kung fu films. The opening song is great and it really helps you get pumped for the show. My favorite bit is probably the chinese violin at the start of the song. The singer puts a ton of energy into the song and its really contagious. The ending theme is awesome and as usual Ichiro Mizuki does really well. Its actually more addictive for me than the opening theme. I'm unfortunately not too big on the Super Gekiranger theme. Its not a bad song but it really doesn't do anything for me. I will say that it feels a bit uplifting and gives off a sense of growth. The music for the villains is great and it gives off a real sense of dread, fore-boding, and unease.

Final Thoughts: I absolutely love this series. It handles CGI in a way that feels appropriate. It mostly uses the CGI represent the Ki or energy flowing from them so it comes as sort of a natural thing. The fight choreography is great, especially when you realize that a lot of the fighting styles in the show are based on actual martial arts. The show also has a lot of training montages which is always great to see and its really appropriate for a martial arts Sentai. It even shows Jan, Retsu, and Ran training to fire their cannon faster after they get it. Even when its not shown on screen, it is implied that the Gekirangers are always training to get better. Its that sense of progression that makes each victory feel earned instead of the problem simply being solved by a new weapon. The constant training is even applied to Rio and Mele as Rio especially wants to get stronger and stronger. This really helps keep the threat feeling strong. I've seen complaints regarding how Gou and Ken get sidelined for Jan, Retsu, and Ran. I honestly don't mind that because the Triangle is one of the core themes in Gekiranger. Plus Gou and Ken still get their own awesome moments so I think it evens out.
Gekiranger is one of those shows that I simply can't recommend enough, especially if you like martial arts movies. Even to this day, I'm noticing things about this show that I didn't catch before. For example, they pretty much foreshadow Long in the first episode because the shadow creature in Rio's dreams is dragon shaped with shining gold eyes. I'm actually rather curious if the writer for this show is a fan of martial arts films. The show seems to demonstrate a love for the genre given all the little nods and references. This is without a doubt my favorite Sentai series and will likely remain my favorite for a while.

Jyuken Sentai Gekiranger Review: Part 2 RinJyuken

Now that we've covered GekiJyuken, we get to the other school in the show. The RinJyuken school follows a survival of the fittest mentality. Your worth is determined solely by how strong you are. Due to that, there are a few power struggles within the group. It is a school dedicated to gaining strength usually by inducing fear and despair. The survival of the fittest mentality is shown really well in episode 3 because the Rinshi have to fight each other to do death in order to be promoted and gain their monster forms. There are a lot of Rinjyuken members so I'll mostly just cover the big name ones.

Rio:
Rio is the leader of the RinJyuden for most of the series. He trained with Miki and Gou under Sha Fu before pursuing the path of RinJyuken in order to become stronger. His desire for strength comes from having seen his family slaughtered in front of him by a monster as a child. In the beginning of the series, he sought to revive the Kenma in order to learn from them and become the RinJyuken King. Through the first two he learns to channel his hatred and jealousy, though the third Kenma proved to be more problematic for him. He pretty much forces himself to become stronger to overcome the third Kenma. When he becomes a Genjyuken user, he gains the power of the griffon.

Mele:
Mele is Rio's second in command and she loves him deeply. She is unquestioningly loyal during most of the series. When Braco tried to betray Rio, she took several blasts from the Gekirangers' cannon to develop a way to counter Braco's attacks. She killed Braco without hesitation. She is so loyal that she threw away an offer to make her live again because it would've required her to betray Rio. While she seeks to help him grow stronger she does fear for his safety. When she thought Kata's training was too dangerous, she revived Rageku in the hopes that Rageku would train him instead. When she becomes a Genjyuken user, she gains the power of the phoenix. I'll cover the significance of that when I cover Genjyuken in Part 3.

The Five Venoms:
This is my favorite scene of them.
These guys are some of my favorites. They're nice power-house villains and they make for a great first arc for the series. All five of them got involved in their introduction fight. It was a really tense moment and the heroes barely won. Their arc provides some great character moments for Jan, Retsu, and Ran early on in the series. With Braco, we get our first power struggle in the show. Though he works for Rio, Braco's loyalty isn't actually to him. He tries to stage his own takeover of the RinJyuden alongside a revived Kademu and Moriya near the end of the first arc. Needless to say, this does not go well for them. Their fighting styles are a reference to the classic kung fu film Five Deadly Venoms. It goes further than that as their introduction in episode 4 is a direct reference to the sequence in the film where the master talks about his most successful and dangerous students. The set designer for Gekiranger even recreated each Venom's chamber from the film. The end of their arc leads right into the Kenma arc.

The Kenma: Like the Kensei, they are former pupils of Brusa Li, the founder of Jyuken. They were the instigators of the RinJyu rebellion and founded the RinJyuken school. Sha Fu and the other Kensei trained with them for many years so it makes their betrayal cut all the more deeply. The theme of three continues with them so I like to call them the Triangle of Hatred, Jealousy, and Anger.  They teach Rio to grow stronger by channeling those dark emotions. They also present the sky, sea, and land and their RinRinShi are also themed around that as well. I absolutely love their designs. Each of them has tons of detail on the suits and it captures the look of their animals really well.
Kata is the Kenma of the Sky and gains his power through hatred. His RinRinShi are themed around birds. He is the first Kenma revived and pretty much teaches Rio to grow stronger through hatred. His training was very dangerous for Rio. Thats pretty much all he does in the grand scheme of things. With that being said, he does feel like a heavy-hitter when he fights the Gekirangers and its usually a really tense fight so he does actually justify is his presense in the show. Out of the Kenma, he probably has my favorite design.
Rageku is the Kenma of the Sea and gains her power through jealousy. Her RinRinShi are themed around sea creatures. She joined the RinJyuken Rebellion because Sha Fu spurned her love for him. She is actually the most sadistic of the Kenma. Her training was actually a lot more dangerous than Kata's. She actually trains Mele as well as Rio. Her death in the show probably the most brutal of the Kenmas. Long pretty much liquifies her and its a rather fitting end for her given her sadistic nature.
Maku is the Kenma of the Land and gains his power through anger. His RinRinShi are themed around mammals. Maku is very prideful and it was that pride that lead to the RinJyuken Rebellion. When Brusa Li named his successor, he chose Sha Fu but Sha Fu asked him to choose Maku instead. Being chosen based on someone else's word rather than his own power really wounded his pride. Kata and Rageku were terrified of him being revived and for good reason. He is the strongest Rinjyuken user and he took control of the RinJyuden from Rio and banished him after Rio revived him. This pretty much causes Rio of force himself to get stronger so he can take on Maku.

Suits:
Rio's suit is probably my favorite suit in the entire show. That includes the Gekiranger's suits as well. There is a massive amount of detail in this thing. The sculpting on the chest-plate is great and you can see each individual tooth in the lion's mouth. The black and gold color scheme works really. My favorite part is probably the mane of blades on the side of the helmet. I love the Rinjyuden emblem on the belt and the silver blends really well with the gold and black.
Mele's suit looks great and it has a lot of detail. The green and purple work really well with the yellow highlights. It highlights the chameleon look really well. The sculpting for the chameleon head on the chest-plate is nice and I particularly like the red chameleon tongue coming down from it. The suit overall has this really nice scale pattern to it. The Rinjyuden emblem looks great on the belt.

Jyuken Sentai Gekiranger Review: Part 1 GekiJyuken

I've talked a lot about my love of tokusatsu in the past but there is one aspect of myself I probably haven't really talked about much. That would be my love of Kung Fu films. Its where I first started developing an eye for fight scenes and learned the importance of movement in a fight. So why not cover a series that manages to brings together aspects of both fandoms? Its my all time favorite sentai and it manages to tell a classic martial arts story in the form of a Sentai. It really hits the sweet spot for me. Since I'm going-depth to celebrate the anniversary, my no spoiler policy is out the window. In other words: MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK! There is a lot of stuff to cover so for this part, I'll just talk about the GekiJyuken side of things in this part.
The story features the battle between the GekiJyuken and RinJyuken schools (I will go more in-depth in part two when I cover RinJyuken). GekiJyuken is dedicated to training in Jyuken for justice while RinJyuken is dedicated to using Jyuken to obtain strength and power usually by invoking fear and despair. Its a classic story but it translates pretty well to a Sentai. It also makes the fight feel really personal once we find out the origins of the RinJyuken school.

Throughout the show there is a theme of three that pops up quite a few times. The show refers to it as the Triangle. It shows up in more ways than one but for now, lets talk about how it shows up in regards to the characters. It is referenced a lot in regards to Jan, Retsu, and Ran so we might as well start by looking at them and the current Triangle of Heart, Body, and Technique. I'll cover the other times the theme shows up as they appear.

Jan Kandou/GekiRed:
Jan represents the Body of the Gekiranger Triangle. His preferred fighting style is Tiger-ken. Jan was raised by animals in the jungle. The show makes his reactions to civilization feel really natural. Due to his position in the Triangle, he is a lot more durable than Ran or Retsu. When the team gets their cannon, it is up to him to buy time while Ran and Retsu charge it. He can be somewhat impatient as shown in the cannon's introduction episode but he learns to be patient. I've occasionally seen the phrase "chosen one" be thrown around in reference to Jan because of a lot stuff revolving around him in the show. I don't think thats an accurate take on Jan. Yeah, he had a lot of talent and learned quickly but he still had to work and train just to reach Retsu and Ran's level in the first arc. Throughout the entire show he and the other Gekirangers are constantly getting stronger. Thats something I'll talk more about later since I like how the show handles its power escalation. He gets a rather heart-wrenching moment with Suugu near the end which I'll cover in the GenJyuken section. Even though at its core, the story does essentially revolve around him and Rio, the other Gekirangers get some nice moments to themselves. During the Kageki arc, he faces off against Gorie Yen in a coin stacking competition to test his "heart".

Ran Uzaki/GekiYellow:
Ran represents the Heart of the Gekiranger Triangle. Her preferred fighting style is Cheetah-ken. She is the team's leader and is the one responsible for coordinating their training. They also refer to her as "Captain". In a sense she is the glue that holds the team together. Her being the leader and heart of the team makes sense given her designation in the triangle. She is extremely dedicated to training in order to make sure she is not only fast but accurate. It is a point made very clear when she faced off against Kademu of the Five Venoms. She can be a little uptight at times but through learning how to use the Geki Hammer from Elehung, she learns to cut loose and relax a little more. During the Kageki arc, she faces off against Michelle Peng in a skate-boarding competition to refine her technique.

Retsu Fukami/GekiBlue:
Retsu reprsents the Technique of the Gekiranger Triangle. His preferred fighting style is Jaguar-ken. The dude has a lot of talent. For him, winning in and of itself is not enough. Instead of just fighting to win, its the challenge of constantly trying to improve himself that drives him. That actually sums up his place in the Triangle rather well. He is even skilled enough to fight while drunk. He is Gou's younger brother and he pretty much took up Jyuken in honor of his brother when Gou disappeared and was thought to be dead. We get some wonderful interactions between him and Gou after Gou joins the team. Its a nice family dynamic that I always like to see in tv shows in general. He trains in the bat-ken with Bat Li to further refine his techniques and he learns to enter a trance. His position in the triangle and dedication to beauty puts him at a disadvantage during the Kageki arc since he has to fight Pyon Piao in an endurance match for his trial as he sort of lacks stamina.

Gou Fukami/GekiViolet:
Gou is Retsu's brother and studied Jyuken alongside Miki and Rio. He sort of feels guilty for not being able to stop Rio from defecting. Due to that, he sort of feels like its his job to put a stop to Rio and sort of sees himself as Rio's rival. He however eventually realizes he isn't simply strong enough to defeat Rio so it leaves it to Jan to handle. I've seen a few people complain about that but Jan and Gou are written well enough that I don't mind it. It feels natural because Gou himself is the one to come to that conclusion. It makes a lot of sense considering him trying to stop Rio in the past led to him using an extremely dangerous technique that backfired and caused him to go missing. When he came back, he was also kinda irritated that Retsu took up Jyuken as well because he felt fighting was too dangerous for his younger brother. Naturally Gou comes to terms with Retsu's decision. He starts out as one of those lone wolf characters but his reason makes a lot of sense. He wanted to work alone because he didn't want to risk throwing off the balance of Jan, Ran, and Retsu's triangle and didn't want to interfere with their ability to work together. His wolf-ken is actually an off-shoot of normal wolf-ken that he created himself.

Ken Hisatsu/GekiChopper:
He is pretty much a love-able goofball. I like the dude but out of everyone else on the team, he kinda gets lost in the shuffle character-wise given when he is introduced. He gets introduced while the Kenma arc is wrapping up and Long starts showing up around that time as well. Even under those circumstances, he still gets his time to shine and I can't really imagine the team without him. His best moments are easily the lead-up to the end of the Kenma arc. I particularly like his introduction into the show. The first time he meets Jan, they get into an argument over a pastry and the situation snowballs into him trying to run Jan over with a garbage truck. He is a master of Rhino-ken which is the same style that the founder of Jyuken used.

Miki Masaki:
She runs SCRTC which is the company that funds the Gekirangers and provides them with their equipment. She also serves as a sort of secondary mentor to the team. She plays off of Sha Fu rather well and she helps Jan and the others interpret the nuggets of wisdom he provides. Its a rather nice dynamic that she and Sha Fu have. It feels sort of like the dynamic Kruger and Swan had in Dekaranger just without the romance sub-plot. She also has a daughter who Jan actually strikes up a rather nice friendship with and its kind of sweet seeing her and her daughter interact. She was a student of Sha fu at the same time Rio and Gou were. She is a master of Leopard-ken and she even gets to show off her fighting skills here and there despite not being a Gekiranger herself.

Sha Fu:
The mentor of the team and one of the Kensei. He is a big believer in the concept of the Triangle which is visually represented by him carrying a triangle with him. He is one of my favorite mentors in Sentai. He perfectly exemplifies the archetype of the old-wise kung fu master who speaks in philosophy. He and the other Kensei took a vow to not fight after the RinJyu Rebellion but he still manages to show his skills by blocking and dodging pretty much every attack Rio throws at him in episode 4. He was originally chosen to be Brusa Li's successor but he turned it down and suggested another pupil (Maku) be chosen instead. I'll go more in-depth into the ramifications of that once we get into the RinJyuken side of things. Oddly enough, he and Miki have the same mentor dynamic as Kruger and Swan from Dekaranger just without the romance subplot.

The Other Kensei: The Kensei are all pupils of the founder of Jyuken: Brusa Li. Originally Brusa Li had ten students, seven became the Kensei and the other three rebelled. Those three became the Kenma, RinJyuken's founders. There is also a Triangle among the Kensei which is introduced during the Kageki arc. Its the original Heart, Body, and Technique Triangle formed by Gorie Yen (Heart), Michelle Peng(Technique), and Pyon Piao (Body). Jan, Retsu, and Ran have to undergo Gorie, Michelle, and Pyon Piao's trials in order to gain access to Kageki. The Kageki arc is great because we get to see the Jan, Ran, and Retsu take on each of their weaknesses by facing off against the Kensei triangle. The Kensei's names are all references to martial arts film actors. I particularly love how the show keeps bringing these guys up even after their introduction. Even though they're technically side characters, they still feel like a major part of the show and they even have a major impact near the end.

Suits: This is going to work a little differently since its a three part review. I'll cover the Gekirangers' suits here and cover Rio and Mele's suits in the RinJyuken portion of the review.
I love these suits. They fit the martial arts and animal motifs rather well. The black highlights work well on all five suits The black and white portions of GekiViolet's suit work really well together and make the violet pop. The orange on GekiChopper's suit works really well with the black and both colors compliment the white rather well.

Jan, Retsu, and Ran get Super Gekiranger modes that are accessed through using the Super Geki Claw developed by SCRTC alongside channeling their Kageki. The torsos become white and the claw insignia turns into each of their colors. The spots and stripes on their suits turn into jets that allow for flight. The helmets also get these nice white highlights on them. I really love the color balance on these suits and the white complements them really well.

Mecha: There are quite a few mecha in this show. However, a lot of them are auxiliary GekiBeasts so I'll just cover the main mecha combinations to keep this from running on too long.
I love the Gekiranger mecha and GekiTouja's design is great. Its transformation sequence is rather simple but it works. Its oddly one of the more agile mecha I've seen in the franchise even if some of it aided by sort of questionable cgi. The basic GekiTouja looks great and balances red, blue, and yellow rather well. It can combine with the bat, elephant, and shark GekiBeasts as well. Gou can even summon GekiTiger and GekiJaguar to make his own version aptly named GekiTouja Wolf.
The Super Gekiranger mode gives them access to three new GekiBeasts: GekiGorilla, GekiPenguin, and GekiGazelle. These combine together to form GekiFire. GekiFire continues the red, blue, and yellow color scheme of GekiTouja but adds more black in there along with some white plus I'm a bit of a sucker for the fire design near the fists. Like GekiTouja, it can combine with GekiBat, GekiElephant, and GekiShark.
Unlike the other Gekirangers, Ken doesn't summon a GekiBeast to create his mecha. His mecha SaiDaiOh is basically formed from a giant rhino statue that holds the soul of Brusa Li. I love SaiDaiOh's design. It looks like a powerful warrior. The head looks great in red with gold spikes on both sides. The white compliments the blue perfectly and both work really well with the gold.