Monthly Archives: September 2014

Kamen Rider x Super Sentai: Super Hero Taisen

The event of a lifetime. The movie that settles the forty year old debate. Two sides clashing to decide the ultimate heroes. There can be only one victor. But no matter who wins… we get the team-up movie of the decade.

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Kamen Rider x Super Sentai: Super Hero Taisen

Get it? Decade? Because it stars Kamen Rider Decade? Well, okay, no, you probably wouldn’t get it. Because I haven’t actually told you anything about this movie yet. Well, I did, a little bit here: shameless promoting of other posts. Where I stated my reasons for not covering this Kamen Rider Fourze movie while reviewing other Kamen Rider Fourze stuff. See him up there on the poster? All white and front and center and stuff?

Well, joke’s on us ’cause he ain’t in this movie! Okay, he is, it’s not total false advertising, just pretty damn close. And so are the Go-Busters though I know virtually nothing about them at this point since I’ve seen nothing from their show. But if  you go into this movie, expecting it to actually be a crossover between these two, you’re going to be disappointed. Because this movie has a theme.

And that’s “anniversary”.

For this is a crossover between Gokaiger and Decade, the two series in their respective franchises that went out of their way to celebrate the many years and teams that came before them. Was it ultimately necessary? Well, we’ll get to that eventually.

Enjoying a quiet day on the moon, Gentaro, Yuki and Miu are shocked when the entire Zangyack fleet suddenly materialize in Earth’s orbit. Rushing back to school, they find it besieged by Zangyack soldiers and it doesn’t take long for Fourze to come face to face with their leader: Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger’s very own Captain Marvelous who swears he will kill every single Kamen Rider in existence. Elsewhere, the Go-Busters rush to the aid of several civilians who have come under attack by strange monsters they’ve never seen before. And they too soon come face to face with the leader behind this sudden attack: Kamen Rider Decade, Tsukasa Kadoya, who swears he will wipe all Super Sentai from existence. Only one side can survive and it’s a fight to the death.

A crossover movie between Kamen Rider and Super Sentai is something some people have wanted for a long time and others have dreaded. Personally, I’ve never seen the appeal since even the regular crossovers within their own franchises tend to muddy the water plenty enough. It’s difficult enough to imagine there’s a yearly crop of villains stupid enough when there’s about forty years of villains before them that failed. Imagine then if there’s double that? Continue like this and there won’t be room on Earth for us regular people.

Kamen Rider has it easier in this department since their struggles tend to be a lot more confined. It’s normally a single person going up against an organization that tends to work fairly locally but every other Super Sentai ends with the world hanging by a thread and a huge climactic battle. Now you’re telling me they all take place in the same universe? And at times, the same city? Ehhh?

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My reaction.

Alright, so practicing some “suspension of disbelief”, Kamen Riders are heroes that work in secret to protect the people of Earth whereas Super Sentai tend to be the ones that fight more openly for peace and all that. You’d think after twenty odd masked heroes on motorcycles, they’d be a little more than a myth but ignoring that, how come not all Kamen Riders know Super Sentai? Tokyo being attacked by a fleet of spaceships is the sort of thing that makes the news, even in Japan.

Ahhh, suspension of disbelief! When does it kick in?

The simple premise of the movie is that only one of the franchises can survive, sort of embodying the struggle between fans of Kamen Rider and their rival fans of Super Sentai. It adds a lot to the plot if you know of the rivalry between the series and it’s humorous to see the characters in the movie confused when someone else starts discussing the rivalry, saying it’s all because they lost their “slot”. This is a reference that dates back almost forty years, to 1975, when Himitsu Sentai Gorenger began airing and was given Kamen Rider‘s TV slot. Yes, the rivalry is that old.

Of course, and I hope I don’t spoil too much here, the ultimate lesson of the movie, one which it hammers in with the subtlety of… well, an elephant in a china shop, is that they can and should co-exist because it’s silly to think one needs to go away. The main characters continue to debate the question of why they must fight rather than just get along and while the sentiment in itself can get a bit tiring after a while, the actors really do bring their a-game in portraying the conflict they feel.

Another big surprise to me was that it’s not really Marvelous or Tsukasa that are the main characters. Instead that role has been given to Joe Gibken and Don Dogoier from Gokaiger, Daiki Kaito from Decade and Hina Izumi from Kamen Rider OOO. It’s surprising because, not to be too cruel, they’re b-listers. Joe and Don were Blue and Green respectively and when talking about Super Sentai, the red members are normally the ones you talk about. Daiki Kaito was the second Rider of Decade and Hina wasn’t even a Rider. The group are at odds with their former comrades who have chosen to go alone on this extermination quest and struggle to figure why they’re doing it and what lead to this happening since both Marvelous and Tsukasa tell different stories.

kamen-rider-x-super-sentai-super-hero-taisen-mkv_snapshot_00-57-39_2014-06-16_12-44-02The real star of the movie is Joe Gibken, again portrayed by Yuki Yamada, who is given far more screen time than anyone else. He’s the one who feels the most conflicted outwardly as he both wants to stop Marvelous while at the same time fiercely loyal to his former captain. Yamada really brings forth a much more emotional side of Joe than seen before.
After him, Daiki is really the one given the most space, partly because he remains a very popular Rider to this day but also because he was the most interesting character in Decade. His role as a loner thief and outsider gave him an air of mystery and he was slowly explored as a character whereas Tsukasa was more or less given his mysterious past on a silver platter. Daiki was further explored as a character in the Cho Den-O movie Episode Yellow which cemented him as a character that outlived his series in terms of popularity.

The conflict is again embodied in Joe and Daiki who repeatedly clash over the issue, Joe almost ready to kill Daiki from wanting to believe there’s a point to what Marvelous is doing and seeing his friends killed by Tsukasa in front of his very eyes. Don and Hina are mostly there to act as a voice of reason and ask the questions pertinent to the plot such as “Why? Who? When?”

And this is where I’ll be entering spoiler territory so if you want to go into this movie unspoiled, skip the lines of text between the lines:

 


 

Towards the end of the movie, it’s revealed that the big war was just an act put on by Marvelous and Tsukasa to root out the plans of the joint forces of both Super Sentai and Kamen Rider villains. The apparent deaths of their friends were nothing more than illusion while they hid them in a pocket dimension. Once the villains reveal their true plan, they summon forth all the Super Sentai and Kamen Riders believed dead for one big climactic battle.

However, my big problem with this is that the plan was stupid. While it was ultimately supposed to lead to something good, a lot of things could’ve gone wrong. For instance, what if Joe had actually killed Daiki? Imagine acting on the belief that you’re saving everything you know only to have it turned around and find out you in fact killed someone for no good reason at all.
How could Marvelous and Tsukasa expect the others heroes to just sit idly by and hope they didn’t do something stupid? Sure, you could try to sweep the question under the rug by saying heroes wouldn’t really kill anyone but… not all Kamen Riders were all that fair and good. Some would revel in the opportunity to fight and kill Super Sentai, I’m sure. And they’re working with villains who really DO want to murder every single person who they see as good. How do they make sure they don’t kill in the process? And for God’s sake, Marvelous invades a school and has his minions attack and harass students! Did he give them a specific “Don’t kill innocents!”-order? ‘Cause that would sort of give him away.

The movie sort of points this flaw out on its own as the joint forces of Kamen Rider and Super Sentai defeat the villains and foil their plans only for Daiki to appear, call Tsukasa out on his assholish behavior and that he betrayed what friendship they had. He then completes the villains’ plan and goes on a rampage to punish Tsukasa.

And you know what? I’m with Daiki on this. Maybe I wouldn’t go on a potentially murderous rampage but at the same time, I think he’s justified. Joe, on the other hand, seems to completely forget about the fact that Marvelous almost made him kill someone however indirectly. We’re talking straight up murder.

super-hero-taisen-joe-vs-kaitoIt’s kind of a big flaw in their plan and they were betting a lot of money on any other Rider unable to best them. That’s some serious hubris! What would’ve happened if Tsukasa and Marvelous were both killed? A bunch of heroes trapped in an alternate dimension and the rest fighting it out to the death. NOT a good plan. It was honestly enough to bring down my enjoyment of the movie quite a bit and it really shows how poorly the writers thought this through. Add to that that the giant robot piloted by Daiki isn’t even defeated by Decade or Gokaiger but instead the combined might of Fourze and Go-Busters? Sure, that makes sense since they were the two series airing at the time but more on this after the spoiler-line!

 


 

For the record, if you didn’t read the spoilers, from now on I’ll call those lines “Spoiler-Lines” so if you see one, chances are I’m talking sensitive plot information.

Now, if I were to ignore my problems with the plot then I still have some pretty damning complaints about this movie. For one, it’s sold as a Fourze/Go-Busters crossover which it is most certainly not. Fourze and the Go-Busters only figure into the plot a little in the beginning (and honestly, they could be replaced by anyone at this point) and at the end when they combine their powers to bring down the big bad. Other than that, it’s all Joe, Don, Hina and Daiki with Marvelous and Tsukasa occasionally trying to explain themselves. And it makes it feel very disjointed, it treats itself like a vehicle for the current (then, not at the moment of writing) tokusatsu heroes but probably couldn’t pry the cast away from their busy shooting schedule to feature in an additional movie outside of what they normally do so they had to rope previous actors into returning and sort of settled on who they could get.

Don’t get me wrong, seeing them back in action was a welcome sight but it still gives the movie a very rushed feel. Doubly so when the characters we’ve been following don’t even factor into the ultimate final battle. In part I feel lied to and it was a wholly unnecessary lie since I would’ve gladly watched this movie even without Fourze and Go-Busters. Hell, that’s something Toei definitely needs to look into more, bringing back old actors to feature in the occasional movie while their series are in full gear.

My other complaint is that the fights are sort of dull. First off, the twist is super obvious from the go. Partly because of the effects used but mostly because it’s a movie for kids! Even if you haven’t read the spoilers, I sincerely doubt it’s much of a twist. Secondly, you know their hands were tied and no one side could be seen as too powerful. If the Kamen Riders dominated, Super Sentai fans would be upset and vice versa. Realistically, Super Sentai would have an upper hand since in general they have five times as many members and I don’t care how good a fighter you are, that’s some pretty staggering odds. So you know from the start that no side is going to “win”. They also had to seriously reduce the number of Super Sentai members brought back or you’d have a hard time seeing the Riders in their midst. Even saying that, there’s still a very big focus on Super Sentai which to me is sort of boring since I do prefer Kamen Rider most of the time.

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Look at that picture then keep in mind that only the front TWO rows… of the LEFT side (from our perspective) are Kamen Riders. Two HALF rows. The rest are Super Sentai. Can you imagine if they did a role call for all of them? We’d be here all day!

But even ignoring the fact that no true winner can ever be appointed, the fights are still dull because there’s very little energy to them. Fights are first off very brief because there’s a lot to go through so there’s no real focus on anyone for very long outside of Decade and Gokaiger. Most heroes/teams get one real display of awesomeness before it’s on to the next one. For what it’s worth, the writers and director did try to pair them up as creatively as they could, either thematically or because they aired at the same time. But that’s a bone for the idle enthusiast and while I appreciate it, it’s not enough to salvage it. Secondly, they make these movies on a budget not much bigger than an episode and that’s exactly how the movie feels: like a longer, slightly prettier episode. It’s the same quarries, streets and warehouses that you see in any of Toei’s tokusatsu shows and it’s boring. You expect more from a movie, use some of that budget to get some new sets, dammit!

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There’s a joke in tokusatsu circles: you’re never more than an explosion away from a warehouse filled with empty boxes. But you’d think in movies they’d at least TRY to change it up.

And that really leads me to my biggest problem with this movie: it’s too cluttered. Even if you scaled it down to, say, one representative of each show, that’s still twentytwo Riders (I think that’s if you don’t count the movies) and 36 Super Sentai members for a joint cast of 58 characters. It’s obviously too much and the movie needed to be scaled down even further. Perhaps focus on a group of eight with four from each side and then Tsukasa and Marvelous as the villains (if you absolutely have to keep that damn plot). Then give each hero a villain from their own era to fight then change it up at the end, have Riders fight Sentai villains and of course the other way around. I get the appeal of having all of them on screen, it makes for a wicked ad but if the Gokaiger movies proved anything it’s that it doesn’t friggin’ work. What’s the point of having all of this nostalgia if you’re not ACTUALLY going to do something with it? It’s wasted money. The Fourze movies before have handled it far better, having only the seven original Kamen Riders showing up instead of all of them and it gives it a much heavier impact.

And for the love of Pete, try to bring back OLDER actors. I know it’s hard but I’m sure you could scrounge up some of the older Rangers and Riders. Don’t even have to be main ones, just from that series. But whatever you do, don’t have a different actor voice the character in the suit to pretend the character is back because we REALLY can tell, especially with the new ones.

Overall then, I found the movie to be seriously lacking. While great fun at times and great joy in seeing some of the old actors back in their roles, it squanders its potential almost entirely. It has no lasting impact and how can a crossover between two of the biggest tokusatsu franchises of all times NOT have a lasting impact? And I’m not alone in this, from what I read most people found the movie to be somewhat disappointing. Some people liked it, of course, and some people outright hated it but from what I’ve seen, most people place somewhere in the middle. And for good reason.

So it’s really just for the fans, I think.

Next time I’ll be wrapping up Fourze so look forward to that!

Kamen Rider Fourze – Part 1 (Episode 1 – 30 + Movie War + Super Hero Taisen)

Damn, that turned out to be a long title for a blog post. Wasn’t really what I was going for but oh well. I think you’ll manage. It’s time to discuss Kamen Rider anyhow.

Now I’ve discussed Kamen Rider before, then in the form of the Den-O movies and a few other straggling movies that I was mopping up at the time, but this will be the first time that I talk about one of the series. I know I promised to talk about OOO at one point and I still will. It’s just gonna have to wait until after Kamen Rider Fourze. Why? What kind of question is that, because I’m watching Kamen Rider Fourze now, obviously.

That’s the intro to Kamen Rider Fourze, a song the singer decided to do for two reasons: her son was a Kamen Rider fan and she herself used to watch Kamen Rider as a kid. I just wanted to say that to point out that Kamen Rider is now a way to bridge generation gaps. If I ever have kids, will I watch whatever version of Power Ranger they watch and remember how great I thought Mighty Morphin’ Power Ranger was? Part of me really hopes so.

Anyway, that was Anna Tsuchiya in case you liked what you heard.

Kamen Rider Fourze is the 22nd Kamen Rider series and began airing in 2011, following OOO. It is the 40th anniversary show of Kamen Rider but it also celebrates 50 years since the first space travel, giving it its theme: space.

It stars Gentaro Kisaragi, a recent transfer student to Amonogawa High where he continues his personal life goal: to make as many friends as possible. There he reunites with his childhood friend and space fanatic Yuki Jojima and is introduced to the school’s rather rigid social structure where jocks are jocks, cheerleaders are cheerleaders and nerds are nerds and there is no mingling between the groups. His arrival at the school could not have come at a better time, though. Shortly after his arrival, a monster terrorizes kids on campus and despite his best efforts he is powerless to help his future friends. Until Yuki entrusts him with her greatest secret: the Fourze system. A system designed specifically to combat these monsters by Yuki’s friend Kengo Utahoshi’s father. Together, the trio decide to defend the school from the monsters and soon find that they’re not alone in the fight as more and more people want to join the Kamen Rider Club.

Kamen Rider Fourze
Kamen Rider Fourze’s many forms

If it wasn’t clear from my rather splendid synopsis, Kamen Rider Fourze is perhaps more than anything a high school drama but with a super hero twist. Gentaro doesn’t just battle monsters, he also battles the structure of the school, refusing to see any imaginary boundaries set and enforced by society. In the first few episodes he often clashes with various groups within the school only to eventually befriend them and break down the barriers. Eventually the Kamen Rider Club ends up consisting of various representatives from the groups, including a teacher and the rebel inside of me can’t help but to find it all very heartwarming.

More surprising than the high school setting, however, is the fact that they make it work so wonderfully well. While most characters start out ludicrously shallow you soon come to realize this is by design as they all, under the rule-changing Gentaro’s guiding light all grow and develop as human beings. There’s romance, there’s anger, there’s clashing between adults and children and it’s all carried extremely well by the cast. My personal favorites are Miu and Shun, the cheerleader and jock characters respectively. Their arcs are written wonderfully well and the actors, Rikako Sakata and Justin Tomomori, portray the changes in the characters expertly. So far my favorite episodes are definitely 25 and 26, Graduation Troubles and Perfect Round Dance which deals with Miu and Shun’s graduation as they are the seniors of the group and therefor graduation one year before everyone else.

While it did end with a bit of a cop-out, it was still a very emotional and heavy tale of love, friendship and having to see your school days come to an end.

The main bad guys this time are the Zodiarts, monsters given the powers of various constellations. The minor monsters are lead by the commanders called Horoscopes. They in turn are based on the big twelve, the ones most of us at least have a decent idea about. For the record, my own sign, the Capricorn, has yet to appear. So in case you were wondering when I was born, that should give you a timeframe. Well, I’m a Capricorn by sidereal rules at least! That should narrow it down further!

Don’t ask me why I go by sidereal rules, I just always have.

The designs of the monsters are overall pretty good. Though I don’t have much knowledge about constellations outside of a few Greek myths, it’s always fun to guess what constellation they’re supposed to represent. Unfortunately the theme of the series, space, forces a lot of black on the monsters but the designers have done their best to add colors where ever an opportunity presented itself. This stands in stark contrast with Fourze’s design which is primarily white in its main form.

Kamen_Rider_FourzeI’m… not a big fan of this costume. It definitely goes against most Kamen Rider designs and borders on tack in my opinion. The helmet is childish obvious in its design and the belt is far too huge for my tastes. And it’s too white, it needs other colors to break it up a little more. And did I mention the belt is f*****g huge? Like, enormous? I hate that!

But! And I hate it when I say that ’cause then I have to admit that I may not be all right in this question.

The design also makes a lot of sense. White is the predominant color when it comes to space travel and the helmet is childish but so is Gentaro. The whole point is to celebrate space, not try to be difficult about it. Every time he transforms into Fourze he yells “Uchuu kita!” which translates into “Space, here I come!” or “Space is awesome!” depending a little on liberties taken (or so I’ve understood). So basically, the suit is not just themed after space but also after the character. It’s of course impossible to take him serious as is but I think that’s kind of the point. Gentaro isn’t supposed to be intimidate, he’s supposed to be a friendly, outgoing type.

So, while I may not like it on a personal level, I completely understand what they were going for. Not so much with Kamen Rider Metero, though.

Kamen_Rider_Meteor_FullI mean… what is that thing? It’s… the helmet is all kinds of wrong and what’s with that one shoulder pad? And the belt, again, HUGE! Why must you make the belts bigger and bigger, Toei, WHY!? And he’s shiny and sparkly. I get that it’s supposed to be a starmap but my initial reaction was that he was wearing a gimp suit. It just takes the space theme way too far. His special attacks even take on the appearance of planets… come on, we’re not that stupid. You don’t need to show us the planet Saturn when he throws energy rings, just calling it Saturn would be enough for most people. And we get why Mars ends up being a fire punch, you don’t need to have the planet there.

And let’s not even discuss his upgrade, Meteor Storm. That is the most “toyetic” I have ever seen Kamen Rider in my life. That’s Super Sentai levels, for god’s sake. You’d think the belt and the gauntlet would be enough to sell as toys but I guess not.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the character of Meteor. He’s an interesting aspect that adds more to the series and while I dislike him keeping his identity a secret from the rest of the group, the fact that we the audience know who it is and that they stick with it for as long as they have so far is good. Usually these loner heroes never last that many episodes in tokusatsu, converted into a team member in usually less than five episodes, but here I’m starting to question if they’ll even reveal it before the end.

And he does these Bruce Lee yells when he fights which I absolutely adore. Shoot me, I’m a nerd but Bruce Lee yells is a good way to get into my heart very fast. And it’s the same fighting style as legend Bruce Lee so it sort of make sense. Even if they don’t do that in real life, I have no idea, it’s an awesome reference that instantly elevated my love for this series.

So I’ve seen 30 episodes so far but I’ve also seen the two movies that take place during this time. The first is a crossover between Fourze and OOO known as Movie War Mega Max and the second is a crossover between Fourze and the Go-Busters known as Super Hero Taisen. But I’ll only talk about the first here because Super Hero Taisen is more of a crossover between the Gokaigers and Kamen Rider Decade so I’ll be covering that in a separate post, I think.

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Kamen Rider x Kamen Rider Fourze & OOO: Movie War Mega Max

Kamen Rider Decade featured a protagonist that traveled between worlds, meeting other Kamen Riders. Before this, Kamen Rider was treated as singular entities in singular universes, never crossing over to meet except for the odd anniversary movie and the like. However, with Decade that all ended and in subsequent entries in the Kamen Rider franchise, the riders have been running into each other more frequently. When it came time for OOO’s movie, it ended up being a 40 year anniversary of the Kamen Rider franchise where all past main Riders got to show up and beat the snot out of a few more monsters.

And Fourze proudly continues this tradition with Movie War Mega Max, starring Fourze and OOO together with the seven first Riders although they appear mostly in a glorified cameo.

But the best part about the movie is definitely this:

Love that song so much.

As said before, the movie is a crossover between OOO and Fourze but Double also plays a part in the story. It aims to tell more of the story after OOO’s conclusion and tie up some loose ends from both Double. It’s split up into five parts: the retro Riders, Double, Fourze, OOO and finale. It starts out with the seven first Riders fighting to stop Foundation X, the organization that was the bad guys in Double, from retrieving something called the SOLU from meteorites that recently fell to Earth. From there we see how Double gets involved in it all, how Fourze falls in love (and a rare sight: a female Kamen Rider),a future Kamen Rider travels back in time to make trouble for OOO and finally the big team up we were all waiting for.

If you think I’m keeping it vague, that’s because I am. This plot is very heavy on emotions from beginning to end and it relies heavily on you having seen OOO before. If you haven’t, watching this movie could easily spoil what I can only describe as one of the most powerful endings in the history of tokusatsu. Seriously, it still makes me cry a little when I think about it. And Fourze’s segment is one that really cranks up the tension and reveals a side of Gentaro you don’t get to see in the series, at least not this far. The only ones that never do much are the seven Riders and Double despite having their own segments. They’re there mostly to set up the rest of the plot and act as fanservice. But I’m not gonna lie, it was great fun seeing Shotaro and Philip kicking butt again and more retro Riders is fine by me.

The only real issue I have, which is fairly common around here, is that the movie doesn’t really impact Fourze’s story in the series even a little bit. He receives upgrades to his arsenal and an entirely new state but they’re never used in the series. I guess they don’t want to confuse the people who didn’t see the movie but come on, you’re trying to sell tickets here, don’t pull your punches! Especially since they do make another appearance in the next movie so we know he still has them.

And the effects are ridiculous, the CGI fight towards the end look like something taken from the PS2 era in terms of pre-rendered cutscenes… which, all things considered, is a step up for tokusatsu’s normal PS1 quality.

But all of that doesn’t change the fact that I loved this movie and found it quite enjoyable. Much like Fourze and OOO as series, the movie has the ability to really tug on my heart strings. Or maybe I’m just overly emotional right now. Either way, it was hard not to weep if you’ve gotten to know the characters at all. Especially OOO. Damn you, OOO… like, for real, damn you.

The action was good, the story was great, acting top-notch and what flaws there are, aren’t enough to tarnish the fun this movie has to offer. The only real problem is that if you haven’t seen at least OOO beforehand, you’re not gonna get why it’s so good. But why would you watch this movie without having seen OOO? Why would you do anything without having seen OOO? You’re crazy!

Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger – Final Thoughts

So, final thoughts on Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger. I promised it was coming so here it is. Quite simple, no? Actually, you’d be surprised at how difficult it can sometimes be to specify words to go with your thoughts. ‘Cause let me tell you, it’s a mess in here, some many thoughts at once.

But enough excuse making, my immediate opinion of Gokaiger is… well, that it was quite good. And not just for a Super Sentai, there are series that are okay for Super Sentai and then there are downright good ones and this is a case of the latter. It’s not perfect but it’s probably one of the most enjoyable Super Sentai I have seen in a very long time. It doesn’t quite nudge out Dairanger from first spot (and to be fair, my nostalgia and fanboyism for that series makes sure it will never be dethroned) but it’s definitely in my top three and I’m having a bit of a problem deciding between it and Gekiranger for second and third.

If you haven’t already read my previous posts, I highly recommend reading them first if you want a more in depth look at the series before coming back. Here’s the first post. Second post. And third post. (Plug it harder!)

What was it that I liked about Gokaiger? Well, first off, I love the fact that it’s an anniversary series. So was Boukenger but it did a much poorer job at it than Gokaiger did. While it was relegated to minor things and a little bit at the end of every episode of Boukenger, in Gokaiger they went the whole extra mile and even made it part of the story. That deserves crazy cred if you ask me.
But if you read my previous posts, you also know I wasn’t entirely happy with that aspect either. While it did fairly well, at times it felt rushed in this department and they didn’t do as much with it as they could. The plot is that they have to go around meeting all the old teams and get their powers but some are given to them in very lazy fashions and some team never get a chance to chance in the slightest. And it’s a double edged sword. Because there were 34 teams before Gokaiger and assuming there’s an actor left from all series still in any shape to act, with only 51 episodes, there’s no way they could’ve given all teams a fair shake, even with the movies, and in the same time build each of the Gokaiger into an actual character so some sacrifices were inevitable.

199 Heroes
That’s a lot of history!

But the opportunities are wasted. Why is Carranger  featured whereas Gorenger, the very first Super Sentai of all times, gets mostly a glorified cameo? I was really looking forward to that and though I understand that maybe the actors from the original series weren’t up for it, since it’s almost forty years old at this point, something Gorenger-centric would’ve been nice in a friggin’ anniversary series. I get that you can skip things like Maskman or Dynaman but Gorenger? The original? Good lord!

Of course, when they do focus on a team, they tend to do very well. The Hurricaneger episodes were great, fantastic fun, and the thing they did with Kenji Ohba was also pretty damn neat. Though the big joke happened in one of the movies, the build up and subsequent payoff did not disappoint. The Go-Onger double episode was also a real treat and seeing the Dekarangers back in action was fantastic fun, especially for me since that was the first Super Sentai I saw from beginning to end.

Banban - Deka Red
Banban in my heart! Forever!

Not gonna lie, it was quite emotional.

And that’s another thing that greatly surprised me about this series. The weight and seriousness it brought to its stories. There’s something serious about all five original members of Gokaigers, whether it’s something in their past or about them as a person, that greatly afflict the series as a whole. Joe must avenge his mentor and friend, Luka lost her little sister, Ahim saw her family murdered before her, Marvelous was betrayed by his close friend and Doc is a coward and hates himself for it. And all this development actually went somewhere for once, their flaws and darkness was not just for show or for the sake of being gritty, they were integral parts of who the characters were and why they did what they did.

But there are episodes not tied specifically to any ranger that also managed to twang effectively on the heart strings, such as the Jetman episode or the Timeranger episode. And this is riding on the coattail of Goseiger which feared darkness and serious themes like they were the plague. Not saying all Super Sentai need to be ultra serious but it’s an interesting 180 that quite frankly took me by surprise.

My only other real complaint was the ending. It felt entirely too stock for this series and it was very formulaic, to the point where I could’ve sworn it was just lifted straight from another Super Sentai. And it gave me serious flashbacks of Power Rangers in Space, believe it or not. But I guess there’s only so many ways you can end a series on a yearly basis and not reuse stuff. It isn’t terrible but I couldn’t help but to feel that the series really ended a few episodes earlier with the demise of Basco and that this was just a matter of formalities.

Basco's_Trumpet
I just can’t get enough of this guy!

You also know my opinion of the bad guys and I stick by it still. Outside of Basco, no other villain gets too much development and when they do get around to it, it just shows how much better it could’ve been. Only Barizorg gets any kind of development, really, and they start scraping on the surface of Warz Gill. But in hindsight that was really the final signal that the end was coming. Displaying more of Warz Gill’s insecurities and ambition to impress his dad could’ve made for something way more interesting but it’s simply too late. You barely have time to utter “Oh, that’s interesting.” before he’s dead.

Despite all of that, I still heartily recommend this series though I’m not entirely sure who to. If you don’t watch tokusatsu then you’re probably not gonna change your mind and if you do watch tokusatsu then chances are you’ve already seen it. So maybe this is to others like me, people who are still catching up and were thinking “I’ll get into you another day…” Well, hear me, Gokaiger is worth it!It has a big, big heart and it’s in the right place. There’s laughs to be had, tears to be shed and for the most part the action is really good, they’ve really upped the budget for their wire stunts. You get to know the crew like they’re your friends and you can’t help but to feel that it would be an awesome adventure to go with these guys. So, despite the flaws, it’s a really good series.

And though I’m actually somewhat hyped to watch Go-Busters, I’m already almost half-way into Kamen Rider Fourze so expect to see my thoughts on that very soon. Seriously, I don’t know how I could’ve gotten this far already, the episodes are just flying by. Not sure if that’s good or bad yet.

Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger – Part 3 (Episode 34 – 51 + Gokaiger vs Gavan)

We’re back only to say “sayonara”. Gokaigers is over, at least as a thing of its own and I can’t help but to feel just a tad bit sad about that. I got to know the characters well, I shared their laughter and I shared their pain, I shed my fair share of tears and I cheered when they stood tall against adversity. Honestly, it was a hell of a ride and I’ll miss them like crazy.

But before we get into the nit and grit of my feelings of this show, there’s two things I want to cover. One, the enemies and then the robots themselves. I’ll only touch upon each briefly this time because, for one, there’s not a lot to say and secondly, I really don’t want this page to become a mile long like the previous ones. So, let’s start with the main baddie of the show.

gokai-vi-gil.jpgWarz Gill serves as the main bad guy for most of the show. Unlike Goseigers that had a tendency to switch its bad guys rather quickly, Gokaigers stuck to its gun for much longer but that can easily be attributed to its format. The plot is about an invasion which means that Wars Gill gets to sit back and command from a safe distance rather than get entangled in hand to hand combat. As such, for the majority of the show, he’s never seen directly interacting with the Rangers and it’s more his commanders that do the actual warring against the Rangers. Despite all of that, I still enjoyed him as a villain. Although it takes a long time for him to get any actual character development other than “whiny son of the emperor”, when it does come around you can’t help but to feel a bit sorry for the guy. Not enough to want him to survive but when you realize he knows of the mockery he suffers behind his back, you can understand why he’s so driven to accomplish something that make others respect him.

04SpecialDutyOfficerBarizorgHe only has one intimate connection with someone else and that’s with his bodyguard, Barizorg. Barizorg is by far the darkest of the villain, having a past that intersects with one of the Gokaigers, Joe Gibken. Barizorg is in fact Joe’s long lost friend and mentor Sid Bamick who was captured after his defection from the empire and turned into Barizorg, stripping him of everything but his raw skills and combat prowess. Fiercely loyal Warz Gill, he continuously clash with Joe, ignoring his pleads to come back. In fact, he is unable to return to how he was before, regardless of whether he wants to or not and ultimately sacrifices his life in the line of duty. Barizorg’s death hits Warz Gill hard and it’s a sad moment when you realize the pampered son has lost the only one he could consider a friend.

There are other villains along the way, Warz Gill eventually beats the dust as sons of villains tend to do in these show but his father isn’t all that interesting and isn’t around long enough to make any sort of impression, his commanders even less. Warz Gill’s other commanders, Damarasu and Insarn, are never truly explored as characters and while Damarasu eventually clashes with the Gokaigers impressively, Insarn has even less than that. Her final showing is weak in comparison to the others and feels more like an afterthought than any sort of finish. Even in her role as science advisor, she never does much more than enlarge the bad guys once they die, a process that even the show itself can’t help but to mock at times.

I really like the design of Warz Gill, except for the thing on his chest. Mostly because it turned out to be nothing despite its immediate similarities with Gokai Silver’s powered up mode, Gold Mode. I figured it would finally come into play when he got his hands dirty but no such showing came. Instead it just looks kind of silly where it sits, drawing attention for no real reason. I imagine one of the main sources of inspiration behind this design, other than Napoleon, is a bird of some sort, possibly a swan, so the thing on his chest could be seen as feathers, I suppose. On the other hand, I’m not fond of Barizorg’s design even though there’s nothing specific to draw your eyes or anything wrong with it. It’s a very busy design, lots of pipes and metals and pistons and what not. It sets him apart from the other designs in the show and he feels like a left over from Go-Onger. It just sort of looks out of place but I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. He’s much more visually interesting than Damarasu or Insarn.

However, there is an additional villain that bears talking about and that’s Basco Ta Jolokia.

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Basco, you brilliant bastard you. With the introduction of Basco, the show gained some much needed momentum and really started moving in an interesting direction. For two reasons.

Nr. 1! Basco stands in direct opposition to the Gokaigers. To reach the Greatest Treasure in the Universe, the pirates need to collect the 34 Grand Powers. In simpler words, they need to be given the approval of the Super Sentai teams that preceeded them. Usually this would lead to some new attack though there are a few odd ball ones that… serve no purpose what so ever. While others serve more than one purpose. However, Basco is also looking for the treasure and can take the powers by force so it becomes more of a race. Whereas the Gokaigers could take it in their own pace before, with the introduction of Basco there’s a certain sense of urgency which really helped the pace of the show.

The second reason is his connection with Marvelous. They both served together under Aka Red before Basco betrayed them to take the treasure all to himself. Before this, Marvelous and Basco were practically brothers. From his introduction to his finale, Basco lends the show some serious intensity as he continuously clashes with Marvelous. Though he at first fights using a number of Ranger keys that he can give physical form with Rapparatta, a device that looks like a trumpet, the Gokaigers eventually manage to take the keys back which forces Basco to reveal his true appearance.

At his side at all times his monkey Sally. And she’s exactly that, a monkey that’s proficient at fighting with cymbals. It’s not really possible to talk about her much without spoiling one of the best two-parter completely so I’ll just say that she ends up being far more important to the plot than one might expect. Basco stores a number of giant monsters in a safe on her stomach called Pseudo-Lifeforms. They’re really not all that interesting, each embody a certain thing such as gold or water but their fights tend to be pretty one-sided in favor of the Gokaigers and are really just there to justify ending the episode in big mode.

I only have one gripe about Basco and that’s that they seemed to be building him up to something much more than he really was. Always scheming and plotting, you never quite knew where you had Basco. He quite clearly still cared for Marvelous as he had numerous opportunities to finish him off and at times he even straight up helped the pirates. He was a fascinating villain and a part of me sort of wanted him to survive the whole ordeal and come out on top, perhaps even joining the Gokaigers in some manner. If there had been a seventh Ranger, Basco was more than qualified to take the position as far as I’m concerned. He’d make a fabulous anti-hero and I would’ve loved to see his and Marvelous relationship begin to develop again as there was quite clearly a lot of affection going both ways at one point.

Crazy cred go out to Kei Hosogai, the actor who portrayed Basco so well.

 

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Gokaioh

But enough talk of the villains, what about the giant robots this time around. Well, we really only have two to talk about which compared to some Super Sentai shows is… downright paltry. And I like it. Yeah, not everyone agrees about this, some like it when Super Sentai have ridiculous amounts of robots but I prefer a smaller number that can do more things. The main robot, the Gokaigers’ Gokaioh, eventually receives various equipment upgrades and the ability to combine together with Goujyujin and Machalcon, the Go-Onger’s Grand Power, to form the Kanzen Gokaioh but I don’t really see that as an additional robot. So what we get is the Gokaioh and the Goujyujin, Silver Gokai’s own robot, and between them, Goujyujin is the clear winner.

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Goujyurex

Why? Because it’s a huge ass drill machine that turns into a t-rex that turns into a giant robot with a drill for an arm! That’s why. Each form is taken straight out of the series where Gokai Silver gets his initial three powers: TimeRanger, ZyuRanger and AbaRanger. And it is glorious, doubly so if you get what they’re doing. As a bonus, the t-rex form gets a decent amount of screen-time for a mid-tier transformation but I’m most certainly not complaining.

The only thing in this show that I don’t particularly like design wise are the monsters of the week. They’re just very forgettable, bordering on completely unremarkable. Many Super Sentai shows have very specific design ideas in mind; animals given humanoid forms, animals crossed with machines, everyday objects given life, animals with spiral themes and so on, so on. But if there is such a theme present in Gokaiger, I didn’t see it. That’s not to say there was no though behind them, some monsters were clearly intended as throwbacks to older monsters and more than once did I go “Oh, that reminds me of that monster from the episode of that show.” and I refuse to believe that wasn’t at least somewhat intentional. Other monsters are specifically said to come from older Super Sentai shows so I’m guessing that was the running theme throughout the entire series, I just didn’t pick up on it with most of them.

But I’m not entirely sure if that’s enough. And even if it is, the designs still weren’t all that good. I don’t really remember most of the monsters except for those that played bigger parts but even then I’m drawing partial blanks. I know there were two monsters in the Hurricaneger two-parter but I only remember one of them. And that’s not the only example.

But before I wrap this up with a final thoughts sort of thing, let’s talk a little about Gokaiger vs Gavan, the third and final movie of the Gokaiger series.

Gokaiger_vs._GavanKaizoku Sentai Gokaiger vs. Space Sheriff Gavan: The Movie

There’s… not too much to say about this movie other than “I liked it!”? Well, perhaps not with a ! at the end but I definitely came away from the movie smiling like a kid. And it’s hard to explain why, I’ve never seen Gavan myself so it’s not nostalgic in that sense. But I am very much aware of Gavan’s existence, the first of the Metal Hero series, a tokusatsu series I very much intend to get into one day. That’s right, I’ve never seen any of the Metal Hero series and sadly, that’s unlikely to change in the immediate future. They’re not as popular as either Super Sentai or Kamen Rider or Ultraman for that matter, a series that despite its legacy can’t really keep up with the two bigger ones today. In other words, there’s not a whole lot of fansubbing going on with these shows and I can only hope that once more of the old Kamen Rider and Super Sentai are done, groups will take a more dedicated look on them.

However, you don’t need to have seen the series to understand the movie. Space Sheriff Gavan isn’t a difficult character to wrap your head around, it’s pretty much right there in the name. He’s come to Earth to apprehend the space pirates Gokaigers. But all is not well in the Galactic Union Police and the Gokaigers find themselves knee deep in trouble once again as it’s soon revealed that the GUP is under Zangyack control and Gavan is slated to be replaced. But to Marvelous it’s much more than a fun adventure, it’s repaying a very old debt to the hero that saved his life as a kid.

From what I’ve gathered, the movie takes place after the original Gavan series but that never really plays a part. And unless you consider a thing like “the hero lives at the end and saves the day” a major spoiler, watching this before Gavan probably isn’t going to ruin the series for you.

It’s worth noting that this movie serves as part of Toei’s 30th anniversary of the Metal Hero series, together with Space Sheriff Gavan: The Movie. And it stars the original actor that played Gavan: Kenji Ohba. There’s a particularly delicious treat waiting for fans of the old Super Sentai as Gavan meets both Battle Kenya from Battle Fever J and Denji Blue from Denshi Sentai Denjiman. It might not seem like much of a treat if not for the fact that Kenji Ohba played all three roles in the past and does so again in the movie, creating much confusion for the Gokaigers.

OhbainGavanIt’s a special moment, especially for oldschool fans. You don’t even need to have seen this series, it’s great fun either way.

Overall, the movie isn’t all that impressive. It clearly got a bit of a boost to the budget and the one hour run time allows it to make something more of itself than “The Flying Ghost Ship” did.  And it’s a fun look into Marvelous past and what he possibly sees as a father figure. And I can’t help but to think that maybe, just maybe, this will give Toei the traction they need to make more Metal Hero series. Because we need it. You can never have too much tokusatsu… unless it’s made by Toho but that’s a story for another time. But Gavan and Kenji Ohba is really the only thing that keeps this movie interesting to the end and just highlights why we need more middle aged men in our tokusatsu. Don’t get me wrong, we have plenty of room for pretty, young guys too but I would kill to see a revived Gavan with Kenji Ohba in the lead. He definitely seems fit and eager enough for such a project so why not? I mean, he’s not even sixty yet, the guy has decades of acting left in him.

There’s plenty of action throughout the movie and you get to see some villains from Super Sentai past make an appearance however unsatisfying and short a cameo it is. The final battle, especially between Gavan and his impostor, is a lot of fun though I would’ve liked much more cooperation between Gavan and the Gokaigers. Oh, and the Super Sentai set to replace Gokaigers, the Go-Busters, makes a cameo much like how the Gokaigers made a cameo in the Goseiger/Shinkenger cross over movie.

But now it’s time to wrap this up. And I’ll wrap this up… next time. You see, when I start writing this I don’t actually know how long each post is going to be. I said I wasn’t going to talk too much about villains and I ended up doing exactly that. And that’s sort of the point of blogs, I think, that you write your thoughts down and what comes out, comes out. So what I’m getting at is… well, what was meant to be three parts will end up being four parts. But I’ll probably call the fourth part “Finale!” or something like that.

So see you in a day or two again.