First look at Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters.
Yup. It’s been six months since I last discussed anything overtly Japanese but it’s that time yet again. You may have wondered why I haven’t really talked about anything tokusatsu related in a while, perhaps attributing it to what happened to my father, but when you finish reading my complete thoughts on Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters I think you’ll know why.
Last time we delved into a tokusatsu series it was Kamen Rider Fourze and the last time we touched on Super Sentai it was Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger, a series that celebrated 35 years of awesome people in spandex beating the snot out of less awesome people. Now, only a year away from the 40th Super Sentai series, let’s talk about what came after the last anniversary.
A new, cleaner, safer form of energy called Enetron has made life a lot easier. But it has come with a dire price. Thirteen years ago, the computer that controlled the Enetron was infected by a virus and created an evil AI dubbed “Messiah”. In a last ditch effort from the scientist in the facility where the computer was housed, they sent the AI into a subdimension in order to keep it from conquering the world. But not before they teleported three children out of the facility after enhancing their bodies to withstand the teleportation. Now, when the children have grown up and after years of rigorous training and preparing, they’re ready to protect the world from Messiah who wishes to return.
Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters began airing in 2012 and is the 36th entry in Toei’s Super Sentai franchise. The story follows those same three kids as they fight back against the evil Messiah who keeps sending robots from the subdimension to steal Enetron, energy he will then use to return to our world. At its most basic level, it’s the same as every other Super Sentai ever.
On the other hand, Go-Busters isn’t like any other Super Sentai that I’ve seen. Not excluding the possibility that there are none like it, just that in my ten years of watching Super Sentai, I haven’t seen it.
For one, it starts extremely abruptly. We’re told the story that something happened thirteen years ago and that it’s now the day when children affected take their positions as Earth’s guardians. It’s a very sudden way to start the season whereas most often we’re talking about a new team, fresh off their training wheels, having to learn everything from scratch. Instead, these three kids are already well aware what the threat is, what they have to do and they have a pretty good idea how to do it. This way of telling a story is a double edged sword. It allows them to jump into the action a lot faster but it also threatens to leave viewers behind.
And much like Gokaiger before it, there’s a much bigger focus on the characters themselves. This really is the story of the three kids who got left behind, as it were, and less about the threat to the world. They have additional motivations outside of just saving the world, such as saving their loved ones who were sent to the subdimension.
Ryuji Iwasaki is the oldest of the three children, a whopping 28 by the time the series starts, meaning he has the most complete childhood of the three. He’s also unique in the sense that he didn’t lose any family to the event thirteen years ago but rather his mentor. As such he doesn’t have the personal stake that the others have, at least initially, but has since the event learned to care for his two younger compatriots like siblings and sees himself as their older brother.
He’s calm and prefers to figure things out by logic rather than go in guns blazing at the first sign of trouble but he’d never leave his two partners to do the dirty work themselves. His role as Blue Buster is one of strength, his animal motif a gorilla and the event thirteen years ago gave him super strength. However, the modifications to his body also gave him possibly the greatest flaw: if he gets too hot, his strength greatly increases but his personality also takes on a much darker tone, one prone to violence. It is, however, the only flaw that can really be turned into a positive trait as he sometimes willingly overheats in order to give the others a leg up, no matter the cost to himself.
Serving as Yellow Buster is Yoko Usami, the youngest of the three children, merely sixteen when the show starts. Also the only girl on the active team. She’s easily the one most affected by the incident as she lost the only family she had, her mother. As such she became an orphan and was raised by the agency she works for, the Energy Management Center, and deprived of a normal childhood entirely. She starts out disliking Hiromu a great deal because she felt he skipped out on his duty.
At one point she reveals she doesn’t really remember that much of her mother, having been a mere three years old at the time of the incident. Her entire life revolves around defeating Messiah and get her mother back although she might not always know why. She’s impulsive and rash, prone to misunderstand and absolutely hates to study. As such she’s not exactly the brightest bulb and often displays her ignorance quite openly. But she makes up for it with passion and love not to mention care.
Like Ryuji before her, the modifications to her body gave her both an advantage and a flaw. She’s super agile but in turn she also burns through her energy much, much faster, requiring that she always carries a supply of snacks with her for a quick boost. Although theoretically easy to manage, her impulsive and rash nature means she often forgets to eat or even pack the snacks at all.
Hiromu Sakurada, Red Buster, comes in between the two at eighteen years when the show starts and in many way is a mix of the two. Old enough to remember a life before the incident, he was also too young to exert any kind of control over his life after that. Although he lost both his parents in the incident, his sister demanded he come live with her and refused to allow him to train to protect the world, fearing she’d lose him as well. Secretly, though, his mind was made up and he trained anyway to prepare himself for the day when Messiah tried to come back.
Personality wise he has traits from both Ryuji and Yoko, smart and collected but also with a very brash side to him. He’s dangerously honest and has a tendency to choose his words poorly, often making him clash with the emotional Yoko. Though he hides his emotions, much like Ryuji, he’s never one to step down from a fight no matter what kind it is. Though his motivation is to get his parents back, he’s also driven by a promise he made to Yoko right after the incident.
The changes to his physiology gave him super speed but it also gave him easily the weirdest flaw: chickens. Seeing the image of a chicken freezes his body completely, making him unable to act or even move. The bigger the chicken, the longer he stays frozen even after the image is removed. I’ll… get into this further down the line.
Completing the Busters are Jin and J. Jin Masato was the mentor of Ryuji all those years ago and was the reason Ryuji was at the research laboratory where Messiah was born. Unlike Ryuji, however, he never made it out in time and was transported to the other dimension together with all other researchers. He’s a unique character to say the least, very energetic and not one to shy away from being the center of attention. Although an unparalleled genius he’s also extremely eccentric, have unique views on how things should be. He dislikes the idea of perfection because perfection is boring whereas something imperfect is interesting.
J is the creation of Jin, a robot of sorts that allows Jin to exist in the real world. J is… not much of a character. He’s interesting, very quirky and tends to go off on his own quite a bit but it’s not much of a character. He exists primarily as the comic relief for Jin and the two’s relationship is what make them work so perfectly together. They’re both eccentric in their own right which allows them to work extremely well together.
There’s a lot of mystery surrounding Jin in the series as he’s not really supposed to be in the real world. His return is treated with extreme skepticism and even when telling the truth he tends to withhold a lot of it. Why he looks exactly the same as he did thirteen years ago, what’s the state of his body in the other dimension, the fate of everyone else that was transported? He plays his cards very close to the vest.
As such he’s the perfect embodiment of the series. Everything is a mystery so far. Most Super Sentai tends to be very obvious about their plot: bad guys show up to destroy, good guys beat them back. But here there’s much more personal stakes in play and there’s a looming sensation of a much bigger plan in the works. And it’s much darker in tone than you might first think. There’s some really goofy comedy in the works here but you keep thinking that these three children have some seriously dark revelations coming their way inevitably.
And that’s also why I won’t go into too much detail now as much is likely to change. I have a million different thoughts buzzing around my skull about both this and that. Why would the children take on flaws common to computers just from modifying their bodies? What is the state of Jin and the rest of the captives in the subdimension? Who or what is Messiah really?
But I’m not gonna try and answer these questions now as… well, I still have half a series to go.
To close out this post I’ll talk a little about the movie: “Protect the Tokyo Enetower!” This is the Go-Busters solo movie and was released fairly early on in the season. Like most other Super Sentai movies it clocks in at just over half an hour long so we’re yet again talking about a glorified episode here rather than an actual movie.
The plot follows the same formula as any individual episode with the bad guys trying to steal a massive amount of Enetron through some kooky plan. This time their plan centers around the Tokyo Enetower and transporting a big chunk of Tokyo to the subdimension. Things are further complicated when the Go-Busters can’t approach the tower without risking to damage their mechs.
The only really noteworthy thing about the movie is that they have access to an additional robot, a big frog submarine that can combine with their regular robots to form a specific robot only seen in the movie. The Tokyo Enetower is, of course, actually Tokyo Tower which is perhaps the only other thing worthy of note.
Like pretty much every single Super Sentai movie in the last decade, the movie is… very forgettable and not all that interesting to watch. Although I should know the pattern by now, I keep being disappointed by the movie aspect of it. It’s a glorified episode and that’s how they roll but even then it’s kind of forgettable. I hate that they introduce a new robot only to then never talk about it again, making me scratch my head at what the point was. I get that not everyone goes to see the movie but surely teasing the introduction of a new robot will make more people curious to go see it? Eh, what do I know of advertisement?
I squeezed the movie in between episode 17 and 18 (I think) but it has absolutely no lasting effect on anything in the series so as long as you watch it a couple of episodes after Jin and J are introduced and you’ll be fine.
Next time I’ll talk a bit more about the characters, depending on how they evolve over time, and the villains and I’ll finish this review thing off with a finale after that. Three parts to these things seem pretty adequate. We’ll see.