Wednesday, February 1, 2017

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.

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