Monthly Archives: August 2014

Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger – Part 2 (Episode 17 – 33 + The Flying Ghost Ship)

When I left you last time I was right between episode 16 and 17, having just seen the team-up movie with the Goseigers and since then a lot of things have happened. Both in the show and when it comes to my opinion of the Gokaigers. First up, the sixth member of the Gokaigers has joined the team and a new series baddie was introduced in the same go but I’ll probably talk more about that in my final post on the show. So that leaves my opinion on the show itself and in what way that has changed.

Fear not for it is for the better.

I intentionally skipped doing any sort of lengthy character introduction/analysis last time because I felt it would’ve dragged the post out for too long if I had. And I worried I might not have had much to write about this time if I’d spent all that delicious talk of characters back then. So this time around, we’ll be talking a bit more of the individual characters themselves.

I’ve already mentioned how varied the characters are, especially if compared to previous incarnations of Super Sentai, such as the Goseigers, who were more or less just a bunch of Mary Sue’s. Ironically, they reminded me a great deal of the very first Power Rangers, the Mighty Morphin’ gang, in how each episode had a serious issue to deal with such as bullying, environment, healthy eating and so on. These things tend to vary significantly in Super Sentai, with some series going for some seriously kid friendly stuff while others go somewhat darker. My favorite Super Sentai to date, Dairanger, is the latter with Goseiger fitting in nicely in the former category. Gokaiger falls much closer to the darker end of the spectrum, most evident in the characters.

Gokai Red - Captain Marvelous
Pirate Captain Marvelous

First up, and always most prominent, is Captain Marvelous, played by Ryota Ozawa. If you can’t guess from his marvelous coat, he plays Gokai Red, the leader of space pirates and in some ways the main character of the show. He’s the first Gokaiger who gathered the others to go hunt for the “Greatest Treasure”. As such he’s also the one with the most fleshed out backstory, mostly revolving around the Red Pirates, the pirate crew that started gathering the Ranger Keys, led by legendary Aka Red. But when they had gathered all the keys, they were betrayed and Marvelous was the only one to get away.

In many ways, Marvelous has the least interesting story but he makes up for it by simply being great fun to watch. He has a very cavalier attitude to life, seeking adventure where ever he may find it and yet beneath his tough exterior hides a serious, smart man. Anyone who offers to make his day a little more interesting is someone he likes. He’s fiercely loyal to his friends and willing to support them through thick and thin though he also strongly believes that people, young and old alike, must stand up for themselves and be ready to reach out and grab what they want rather than wait for it to be delivered to them. He wants to be given nothing.

Gokai Blue - Joe Gibken
First Mate Joe Gibken

In some ways, he’s the very opposite of his first mate, Joe Gibken, the first addtion to Marvelous’ Gokaigers. Joe carries one of the darker pasts in the crew, having been part of Zangyack’s special forces in the past though he defected when asked to kill defenseless children. It was only through a chance meeting with Marvelous that he found a new purpose in life, defying Zangyack to his last breath. His story is further complicated when he finds out that his friend and mentor was turned, against his will, into one of the fiercest warriors in the Zangyack Empire and bodyguard of the Emperor’s own son. Though he struggles for a while, he eventually comes to terms with the situation and swears to set his friend’s soul free. He’s played by Yuki Yamada and yes, he’s Gokai Blue.

Joe is a very serious guy, often hiding his true feelings and nature under a stoic facade. Much like Marvelous, he strongly believes a person must be willing to fight for themselves first. Extremely skilled with a sword or two, he’s often considered the group’s finest fighter and one of the most skilled swordsmen in the universe.

Outside of the sixth member, he’s probably one of the most passionate Gokaigers though he’ll never admit it. Trained to be a soldier in the Zangyack empire, he’s learned to hide and mask his emotions, making it a right treat when they finally do break through. His past offers a really dark twist to the series, one I didn’t really see coming, and gives him a very solid reason to want to fight the Zangyack empire other than the obvious ones such as oppression and tyranny and death.

Gokai Yellow - Luka Millfy
Lookout Luka Millfy

Third member of the crew, Luka Millfy, also has a very dark past having grown up on the streets of a planet invaded by the Zangyack. There she helped care for many of the city’s orphans but when her little sister died from an illness, she vowed to acquire enough money to come back and save the orphans from their current life. It was during one of her thefts that she came across Marvelous and Joe who invited her into the crew upon seeing her skills.

She’s played by Mao Ichimichi and do I even need to point out she’s Gokai Yellow?

Personally, I don’t like Luka much. She’s very pushy and at times borders on being a bully. She’s completely obsessed with money and jewels and isn’t afraid to show it. Like Joe and Marvelous, though, she too hides a very deep rooted sense of justice and she hates seeing people being pushed around. And it’s hard not to feel sympathy for her when her past with her sister is revealed, twanging away on those heart strings expertly. She’s only second to Joe in terms of fighting prowess, also favoring swords but having a few other tricks up her sleeves, relying more on her agility than strength.

In some ways she’s one of the more realized characters but at times her flaws are just so overpowering. At times she’s incredibly inconsiderate of other’s feelings and this rubbed me the wrong way. I can’t hate her, though, but she’s probably my least enjoyed character on the show.

Gokai Green - Don Dogoier
Mechanic Don Dogoier

Yes, when everyone else gets a little profile picture to the side, Don Dogoier, aka Gokai Green, gets a banner picture because dammit, I love this character something fierce. He’s probably the biggest reason this series is going to remain in my heart for a very long time and why it jumped up quite a few placements on my Super Sentai ranking list. He’s played by Kazuki Shimizu

Don Dogoier, or Doc, is anything but a pirate. His actual backstory hasn’t really been revealed this far into the series but it’s not difficult to surmise from his personality that he didn’t join the crew because he wanted adventure. He’s an engineer and quite a good one at that, being in charge of their home base’s technical aspects and making sure everything is up and running. He’s also the cook, having devised a dinner plan that takes all members’ nutritional needs into consideration. Acting as a bit of a mother hen around the base, he also pleads with the other to keep their living space clean.
And he can’t really fight either, having had no actual formal training of any kind. He favors ranger combat and relies more on trickery than any sort of fighting art, using his inexperience in his favor. He’ll often utilize the environment he’s in to defeat the enemies, reminding me a great deal of Jackie Chan as he vaults over objects and uses even his fumbles as a way to gain the upper hand.

Overall, I just really enjoy seeing him fight which is rare for a Super Sentai but then again, this series choreography is rad, totally up the walls, good.

However, my interest in this character reaches far further than that. He’s by far the most cowardly Ranger I have ever seen, often opting to run away rather than fight. Not only that but he also suffers from massive bouts of doubt in himself, lacking any sort of confidence in himself despite the evidence of the contrary and the support of the others. When the sixth Ranger was introduced, Doc was so distraught seeing his skills he was close to leaving the team. He can’t hide his feelings at all, easily being the most emotional of the Gokaigers. Despite all that, deep down he’s a very courageous young man, something that often only shows when his friends are in serious danger.

All that combined makes for a character easy to relate to. He’s kind, sort of shy and very clumsy and outside of being good with machines, doesn’t really display anything that no normal person couldn’t do themselves whereas most other members are grander than life itself. He also displays the most evolution as a character, at least so far, with him slowly becoming more and more comfortable in his role as a hero.

Gokai Pink - Ahim de Famille
Ambassador Ahim de Famille

Fifth, and last of the original members, is Ahim de Famille, probably the most out of place character on the pirate ship. Once a princess before Zangyack invaded and killed her parents, she’s now taken up the mantle of Gokai Pink and is the last recruit to the crew before coming to Earth. Much like Doc, she has no real training to speak of in combat, but her desire to save the world and get revenge on the Zangyack empire forces her to learn and become much more capable.

As a character, she takes on the role of the Pink Ranger, meaning she’s cute, a bit ditzy and avid believer in peaceful solutions.  She’s in some ways the conscience of the crew and acts in such a capacity here as well. Though she does start out this way, she soon starts displaying actual combat prowess, easily surpassing Doc in this area and she’s not the delicate little flower many think her to be. Luka sort of adopted her new little sisters unconsciously, something Ahim doesn’t care a great deal for and eventually tells her off, asking to be taken just as seriously as the rest of the crew. Later she singlehandedly takes on a monster and saves the day and before that, when dealing with the Hurricanegers promises them that if they do not return the Ranger keys, they will take them back by force.

Though she always carries her past a princess with her, still concerned about her appearance and reputation, more than anyone else on the crew she desires the Empire’s head on a plate. In other words, he cute and adorable outwards appearance hides a true warrior underneath.

Gokai Silver - Gai Ikari
Trainee Gai Ikari

The final-final member of the Gokaiger was introduced in Episode 17 after an extremely brief cameo at the end of the first movie. His name is Gai Ikari, played by Junya Ikeda, and he’s an extremely enthusiastic Super Sentai fan who is given the ability to transform into Gokai Silver.

When he first appeared, I pretty much immediately hated him. He was excitable, energetic and quite loud. And he’s an utter Super Sentai fanboy so perhaps it just hit a bit too close to home. However, not only has my opinion of him changed, he also turned out to be a much needed member of the crew that I didn’t even realize was missing.

His inclusion in the series is no doubt intended to give fan a taste of what they want: how it would be like to actually become a Super Sentai hero. He states more than once that it was his lifelong dream to be a hero like the heroes he idolized and that also become a huge part of his character arc. At more than one point he loses the ability to transform into Gokai Silver and you can tell, thanks a great deal to the life Ikeda brings to the character, that it crushes him to know his adventures could be over and he needs to be reminded that he was a hero before he became Gokai Silver.

And it’s difficult to tell where they want to take the character. Since the main goal of this series is to revisit old teams and gain their powers, Gai’s knowledge of all previous teams streamlines the process considerably where before his inclusion they were fumbling around in the dark. And he’s also there for the fans to latch on to because he very much IS them.

But there’s more to the character than meets the eye or at least there could be. For one, he didn’t receive his powers like the other Gokaigers did. It was given to him by the dead Rangers of the past after rescuing a little girl and getting injured in the process, nearly dying. Or did he die? Fan speculation was rife for a while but I’ve made sure to stay away from any spoilers in this regards because to me it’s an exciting mystery.

Which ties into what I’m going to say next: the anniversary aspect has gotten better. And much of this is thanks to Gai and I finally figured out why they rolled out the most recent teams first: young viewers were more likely to know who they were without needing a great deal of exposition. But Dairanger is too old to casually introduce with a “they did this thing twenty years ago” so they needed Gai to introduce them in show. And it works. Really well.

In these past episodes we’ve seen OhRangers, Hurricanegers, Jetman and Dairangers… yes, Dairangers got to show off and it… was… AWESOME! I’m not even joking, I was quite literally jumping up and down like a five year old when Keiichi Wada stepped up and delivered an ass kicking unlike anything previously seen in the show… obviously, without transforming.

Old school ass kicking

I’m not even joking when I say this made me squeal like a little girl seeing Justin Bieber in real life. He’s still ridiculously fit and I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume the guy trains martial arts off camera as well.

And before I go too fanboyish, Hurricanegers revisit was a two-parter and a really fun one at that. And Jetman’s? It revolved around the ghost of a former Jetman member scolding the Gokaigers for being weak and needing to step it up a bit. Chilling yet strangely respectful. And I think it was where people first started thinking seriously about Ikari Gai being dead or having been spared from that fate by Rangers who died in the past since he couldn’t see the dead Jetman.

Finally, I’m gonna talk about the movie:

Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger the Movie: The Flying Ghost ShipKaizoku Sentai Gokaiger the Movie: The Flying Ghost Ship

There’s not much to say here. It’s less of a movie than 199 Hero, clocking in at just over 30 minutes, making it more of a glorified episode than a movie. Each modern Super Sentai gets one movie for themselves but the thing is that it usually goes hand in hand with a Kamen Rider movie and it’s easy to see who’s the dominant one in this relationship. They’re usually shown back to back in theaters so expecting them both to be full fledged movies is of course unrealistic, you can’t expect kids to sit still for three hours or more, especially not surrounded by other kids.

And when it comes to divvying up the run time, Super Sentai usually takes the backseat since they are often less serious in nature whereas Kamen Rider tends to deal with more serious, adult themes needing the time.

The plot this time is that a ghost ship appears in the sky, fabled to carry a wish-granting item that could seriously expedite the Gokaigers search for the Greatest Treasure. However, once inside the ghost ship they find themselves forced for their lives against the revived souls of previous enemies of Super Sentai.

It tried to pay homage to the series of old but the limited run time seriously hampers their ability to tell a respectful story and it’s instead reduced to a flustercluck of brief cameos that aren’t satisfying in the end. The point where they have to fight revived incarnations of footsoldiers from the past had me seriously excited but it was over far too quick and they never did anything clever with it which is a shame.

Overall, it’s just another episode made for the big screen with slightly better effects but not a whole lot. The ongoing series is unaffected by anything in the movie and they didn’t even have the decency to give them a Grand Power for their efforts. The last movie gave them 11!

Check back next time for my final opinion on Gokaiger and I’ll talk more about the villains and monsters.

Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger – Part 1 (Episode 1-16 + 199 Heroes)

I’ve been trying to write a review for DC’s take on the Shadow from the eighties but I keep getting stuck on the “review” part because there’s only so many ways you can say “I like it but it’s not perfect.” When it comes to comics, I’m not much of a reviewer. Movies I know how to review, games as well but despite reading tons of comics, I’ve never really invested myself enough to “know” comics. I can’t really talk about art other than to say “I like it!” or “I don’t like it.” What I’m trying to say, I guess, is that I’m no Linkara. I can talk about comics but ultimately I’m just a casual fan of the medium but I honestly wouldn’t care enough if it went away tomorrow and I could never read a comic again.

Not so when it comes to Japan. If you’ve read previous posts, you’ll know I have a bit of a hard on for that particular country. What can I say, the culture excites and confounds me. I’ve talked quite a bit about Kamen Rider before, mostly the movies, but not so much about Super Sentai so I figured it was time to even the score a bit.

Beware, however, this post will contain spoilers for the show itself as it’s not a review per say. You see, I haven’t actually finished anything Super Sentai lately so this is more my thought about the first couple of episodes of 2011’s Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger.

PS. I highly recommend reading my post on Goseiger as I will have to talk about them again.

Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger was Toei’s Super Sentai series for 2011, meaning it ended in 2012 in case you suck at math. It reached 51 episodes and I’ve currently seen 16 of them.

So again, this is spoiler territory. Here there be monsters.

If you’re mildly perceptive, you might have guessed that this year’s theme is that of pirates and you’d be right. “Kaizoku” in fact translates as “pirates” so it’s even right there in the title. But that’s not all that’s special about this series. It’s also the 35th Super Sentai series which of course warrants a special kind of series.

The Zangyack Empire has long had its eyes on Earth but their previous invasion was repelled by the combined might of 34 Super Sentais. While it cost them their power to transform, it saved Earth. A few years later, a group of space pirates arrive on Earth to search for the “Greatest Treasure in the Universe”. Unfortunately for them, Zangyack has returned to take Earth for themselves and the pirates must defend Earth if only to save their precious treasure. But the pirates have a trick up their sleeve: they come armed with all the previous Super Sentais powers, transforming into the heroes of old at the turn of a key. They now stand between Zangyack and the Earth and only by seeking out the heroes old can they learn more about their powers and beat back Zangyack once and for all.

First up, I need to talk about the design and theme here: I love it. Pirates will always be cool, especially space pirates. Everything from their clothes to their weapons to the robots scream pirate which coupled with the vibrant colors make for a tremendously memorable design. But, and this might come off as a bit weird… well, weirder than normal, I LOVE the helmets. They just stand out compared to many other Super Sentai helmets that tend to be just that, helmets with more stickers or stuff added to them. But here they’ve gone out of their way to reshape the helmets and I love it. It brings back fond memories of the Gekiranger and Abaranger designs and I want to see more of that stuff.

That and the popped collars and jackets just look great in action and like I said, makes for a much more memorable design. Simply put, it just works.

There’s other little bits of the design that I like as well. Such as their standard weapons, the sabre and gun. And while I like the designs of the weapons themselves, it’s also how they use them. First of all, they all dual wield. I love dual wielding, it looks fantastic and makes for great choreography. Secondly, while they all get the same loadout, Green and Pink prefer dual wielding guns and Blue and Yellow prefer wielding swords so they switch in the middle of the fight, making the fights that much more dynamic.

And the pirate theme also brings with it certain other requirement such as a completely different attitude. Gone are the angels with sound morals and ethics and in are the scoundrel pirates who are ultimately after treasure, not to be heroes. Of course, they have hearts of gold or it wouldn’t be much of a show but it still makes for a much more interesting group than the usual do-gooders of Super Sentai. They’re motivated equally to do good and to come out on top, often trying to find some kind of middle ground where they walk away with the treasure AND saving the day in an exhilarating adventure.

I’ll get into each character in more detail later ’cause I’m still only getting to know them but at the moment the group dynamic feels fantastic, each of them with their own specific traits and they manage to work off each other. And they all feel useful to the group’s purpose. Even Pink, who at first seem to be the group’s weak girl, the kind you see in all Super Sentai, is quite competent in combat even if she’s not quite on the level of Red or Blue and Yellow. And their powers aren’t restricted to just their transformed forms either.

They quite regularly get into fights out of “uniform” and the stunt work here is quite good, it’s a very energetic style and it’s obvious the actors themselves had to undergo some training to be able to participate. I’m not so naive as to think they do it all themselves but there are definite shots where you can tell it’s them and they do it well.

Overall, I found the combat to be much improved from Goseiger, their over reliance on the magical cards brought a lot of the combat to a screeching halt but here’s there’s a definite emphasis on physical combat and like previously stated, dual wielding is very much at the forefront. There’s also a distinct difference between the characters’ fighting styles. Other than the dual wielding that is, their characters shine through even here.

sentai1280So with that said, is there anything I don’t like about Gokaiger? Yes. And it has to do with the anniversary aspects of the show. In the series itself, it’s okay but I feel that they’re letting great opportunities of story telling go to waste. Much like Kamen Rider Decade did.

The notion of revisiting old series is one that appeals a great deal to me and I was quite looking forward to that. But so far, sixteen episodes in, I’ve been somewhat underwhelmed. I know there’s quite a lot of the show to go so plenty of time to change that but my current opinion of the anniversary aspect is: why didn’t they go further?

Basically, the idea is that the pirates have to visit the old teams and find out what made their power work or what’s special about them, often gaining some new power in the process. But as the series starts out, it’s mostly a revisit of the very latest series: Magiranger, Dekaranger, Gekiranger and so forth. They aired 2005, 2004 and 2007 respectively. Basically, series that I’ve been present for and I’ve not been watching Super Sentai that long. Don’t get me wrong, of course they were gonna show up at some point but the fact that they brought them out first sort of worries me. But, in fairness, one of the more recent episodes brought back Carrangers, a series that aired in 1996 so the revisits are getting longer in the tooth.

But, again, that brings me to my next point which is this:

199_Hero_Great_Battle

Gokaiger Goseiger Super Sentai 199 Hero Great Battle

All Super Sentai series of today get their own movies, usually starting with a cross over movie with the previous team, in this case Goseiger. But it’s also an anniversary movie so there’s a whole lot of teams waiting to get into battle again.

The movie continues the story from the series itself while at the same time acting as a bit of a prequel, showing the climactic battle between the 34 Super Sentais and the first Zangyack invasion fleet and how they gave up their powers. The present story revolves around a revived Black Cross Fuhrer, now calling himself Black Cross King, and his grudge against all Super Sentais who ever stood between evil and the conquering of Earth. In his quest to destroy Super Sentai once and for all, he revives enemies from the past. Only the Gokaigers and Goseigers stand in their way and together they must call upon the power of all Super Sentai.

This movie is a perfect example of how the series squanders its anniversary status. While I understand that many heroes of old, such as the Gorengers, JAKQ and Dynaman are now old and many no doubt dead, it would be difficult to bring them all back for an acting gig. But the way they solve this is unforgivable, having them appear only as talking heads. The thing that bugs me is that they obviously could get the actors back so why not expand their roles? The movie bills itself as a 35 year anniversary yet all the story reveals around the Goseigers and Gokaigers. Oh, they tease you by having members from Denjiman, Dekaranger and, my favorite series of all times, Dairanger actually do some acting, making it look like they might play some kind of important part.

But no, they’re just there, talking to some random dude about never giving up and they more or less disappear before the end where they all collectively nod at the Gokaigers as a sign of “Sure, you can use our powers!” thing.

I realize Toei has toys to sell but don’t bill this as an anniversary movie if you’re not going to do something with it. Why not have the Gokaigers incapacitated and have the old heroes regain their powers so they can save the Gokaigers before a grand climactic battle? Instead we just get more Goseigers! And I don’t want more Goseigers.

The best part of this movie is the final battle where you get to see a lot of old footage from older series, making me more or less instantly orgasm in my pants. Seeing the old robots slash and bash their way through the final wave of enemies was glorious and I wish there was more of that. I realize most kids probably didn’t like that too much on account of being stupid, I mean, young but then again, don’t bill it as an anniversary movie if you’re not gonna try to pay the respect they deserve. All it made me want to do was actually watch the old series and since I don’t know Japanese, I’m limited to what has been fansubbed. So that’s evil and totally their fault.

The most anniversarish they get is using Black Cross King, the revived villain from the first Super Sentai: Gorangers.

KurojuujiouBut why the redesign? He’s barely recognizable. He used to look like this:

Black_Cross_Führer

One of those looks like monster of the week and the other like a god damned… well, fuhrer. The modern one has lots of details and pointy bits for no real reason while the old is ugly by today’s standards but it has a simple design with something that immediately catches your eye. Not to mention the white sheet and name conjure up images of hate and destruction. Everything a proper villain should. Sure, using “Fuhrer” today probably would’ve gotten them sued into non-existence but still…

What I’m trying to say is, it’s a horrible anniversary movie and I wish they’d gone about it differently. More like what OOO, Den-O, All Riders: Let’s Go and less… well, what Super Sentai normally does, act like a commercial for new toys. Which reminds me, I need to talk about that movie some day.

Before I go on and rant even more about how this show sucks, I feel like I need to stop and the movie is a perfect place to do so because it bridges episode 16 and 17. And I end by saying that I don’t dislike Gokaiger at all, I just have reservations this far into the series. I don’t like the movie, I think that much is clear, but the series itself is energetic, exciting and fun without ever getting too deep into Goseiger territory of beating you over the head with the message. And to its credit, like some anniversary projects, it doesn’t demand you know everything beforehand but rather invites you to enjoy if you want.

I will return with future opinions in another 16 episodes or so and perhaps I’ve completely changed my opinion, perhaps I like or dislike it even more. Time will tell.