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.
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.
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.
So 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:
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.
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.