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The Jetman (untransformed) and their chief.

Part one covered character relationships and the drama of the Jetman series.  To read that go here: Choujin Sentai Jetman Review pt. 1

 

This part mostly focuses on the story, it’s issues, and questions that the series leaves unanswered.  I’ll get a bit into characters here however it’ll be about how the characters relate to the story and if they are necessary or not.

 

Firstly, the pacing of the story is a bit awkward.  The first episode was extremely quick paced.  There’s very little build up to the introduction of the Jetman.  One moment Ryu and Rie are saving someone.  The next they’re being recruited to become Jetman.  And the next they’re attacked by the Vyram and Rie “dies”.  The Vyram attack comes out of nowhere.  It takes a while to even understand why the Vyram are there and why they’re trying to destroy humanity.  Eventually you figure out that they view humans as an inferior and unintelligent species and they take it upon themselves to exact some form of “divine justice” on humanity.

 

Aside from that bit, there are many points where characters are introduced that have very little to do with the plot.  The ones that come to mind are the 3 different groups of alternate or replacement rangers that come:

 

  • First the Back Dimension Warriors, Ray, Kanna, and Dan.  They’re rangers from an alternate dimension that the Vyram also attacked and destroyed.  They come to the Earth to battle the Vyram with the technology they created (their own special suits and their mech called Jet Garuda).  We only see one of them when they’re transformed and all of them die as quickly as they’re introduced.  The only reason they were necessary was to introduce the Jet Garuda to the team.  Unfortunately this could have been done without bringing in extra characters.  Many of the inventions the Jetman use were created and/or by their chief and/or the Sky Force (for example, the Tetra Boy).  Why couldn’t they work to create the Jet Garuda?
  • Second are Lou and Duran.  As useless as the Back Dimension Warriors were, Lou and Duran served absolutely no purpose.  They were a couple from another alternate world conquered by the Vyram.  Lou sought revenge on the Vyram for destroying her home, despite being warned not to seek revenge.  Their relationship is supposed to mirror the one that Ryu and Rie had so their sole purpose was to ram into our heads yet again this relationship that Ryu had and was still seeking.  Their introduction added nothing new to the series.
  • Third are the replacement rangers, the Neo Jetman.  Out of nowhere, we’re told that there was an alternate Jetman program going on using trained soldiers instead of civilians.  When the Jetman lose their powers, the Neo Jetman take their place for an episode.  Until it’s revealed to them that their chief’s sole goal was to take control of their base and keep it for revenge, the Neo Jetman keep fighting for him even though they know that he views them as dispensable objects.  While they served a purpose (they were introduced to give the regular Jetman back their powers), this is another situation that could’ve been solved by them creating new technology.  You’d think that there would’ve have been another birdonic wave machine would have been created in case of an emergency, but I guess not.

 

On top of this, the series presents us with a lot of information (both important and trivial) that has no answer:

 

  • What was the purpose of Radiguet brainwashing Rie?  We know that the Vyram hate humans.  And Rie is human.  While he finds out later on that Rie was Ryu/Red Hawk’s girlfriend, he did not have this information from the start.  It makes sense that he would want to keep her away from Ryu when he knows what Rie means to him.  That way Radiguet has some form of leverage over Ryu.  But in the beginning it would’ve made more sense for him to have killed her or just left her to die.
  • Why did a robot like Grey have human emotions?  Out of all the Vyram, he had the most heart.  He knew what it felt like to love.  He was the most human of all of them, yet he was a robot.
  • What happened to that girl Radiguet met when he became human?  This is another story point that was extremely confusing.  As punishment Radiguet was sent to live amongst humans.  But once regaining the memory of who he really was, he changed back into himself.  Was this plot point just more padding?  It honestly could’ve made for a very good twist.  Radiguet could’ve taken the memory of what it as like to be and feel human and this could’ve changed him for the better.  But all it did was show the blatant hypocrisy of the Vyram.  They call humans fools for not learning and advancing themselves, yet the Vyram do the exact same.  There was no need for this scene.  If Radiguet was going to remain a twisted individual until the end, this plot point added nothing to the story.  Furthermore, what did he actually do to the woman?  Did he kill her?  Injure her?  Use her as a tool for the Vyram?  Why end the episode with such uncertainty?  The sad thing is this episode had potential to be very interesting.  This Vyram elite has become human and doesn’t remember his previous life as a Vyram.  He’s behaving as a typical human would and he’s even having fun and getting along with other humans.  This concept should have been pushed a little further than it was.
  • What happened to Gai in the epilogue?  Now the next episode of Gokaiger is the Jetman tribute episode and it features Gai/Black Condor.  So Gai clearly didn’t die.  But the finale of Jetman makes this very unclear.  His apparent death mirrors the way that Grey dies an episode or two before.  Hopefully this ending is cleared up in the Gokaiger’s tribute to Jetman.  Still, it leaves the series on a confusing downer and makes the audience feel like they don’t have full closure.

 

All in all, the series may not be perfect.  There are a few plot holes ant twists that can leave you confused or want ing more.  And there are many story points that should be elaborated.  Many of the episodes are good stories on their own, but as a connected cohesive story, it can be disjointed at points.  What this series does well is mix together drama and humor.  The story is very dramatic and very focused on individual relationships, but when it calls for it, the story knows how to be silly and that quirky (if not a bit campy) humor shows through quite a bit.  For all the faults the story has, it is a well put together series and worth checking out.

White Swan (Kaori), Yellow Owl (Raita), Red Hawk (Ryu), Black Condor (Gai), Blue Swallow (Ako)

Admittedly the first thing that got me interested in Jetman were their outfits.  As a visual person, I can be swayed to watch a series on the basis that I like the style or the costuming.  Plus the bird motif caught my attention and when I found subtitles for it, I couldn’t resist watching it.  The series revolves around 5 ordinary people who through an accident caused by the Vyram (the antagonists) invading the Earth are imbued with extra-ordinary strength and abilities and become the Choujin Sentai (Birdman Squadron) Jetman.  There’s Ryu, the sole member of Jetman who was actually a planned member due to his training.  Ako, a loud-mouthed, opinionated high school girl.  Gai, a womanizer who enjoys jazz, gambling, and drinking.  Raita, a country boy who enjoys cultivating vegetables and dislikes violence.  And Kaori, a woman raised with wealth but sought something more from life.  Despite their different personalities and despite the issues they had as a team, they’re able to overcome their personal issues and protect the world from evil.

However the unfortunate thing about their personal issues is the show is completely filled with them.  All the relationship breakdowns and complications cause issues that affect that performance of the Jetman team.  And on top of relationship issues, the story leaves many questions unanswered, many holes open, and adds in many unnecessary details that could have been fixed without the introduction of extra (and unnecessary) characters.  So without further ado, let’s get into Choujin Sentai Jetman.  Starting with the relationship issues…

When I speak of “relationships”, I’m not just speaking of them in the romantic fashion though romance does play a key role in many of the problems the Jetman face.  The main conflicting relationships are as follows:

  • Ryu and Kaori
  • Ryu and Gai
  • Gai and Kaori
  • Ryu and Rie/Maria

 
A good chunk of Jetman reads like a drama series.  And if you went into the series expecting it to be a typical action show, you might be disappointed with the level of drama presented.  And sadly, most of the tension in the series is centered around the first relationship we’re introduced to.  Two of the first characters we meet are Ryu and Rie and you learn fairly quickly that they’re an inseparable item.  Until the Vyram attack the Earth Ship and Rie is tossed from it.  Though distraught from the loss of his girlfriend, Ryu attempts to put aside his personal feelings in order to protect the world from the Vyram.

Once the Jetman team is assembled, we’re shown that for the time being Ryu is the only person who can “put aside” his personal feelings for the sake of his work.  Human beings aren’t infallible thus emotions like love, lust, and rage interfere with our work.  Heroes aren’t exempt from this either.  Each of the relational issues presented stem from the initial relationship between Ryu and Rie.  To plainly break it down:

  • Kaori fell in love with Ryu.  To the point of obsession.  She would do everything in her power to make Ryu love her but to no avail.  Ryu’s desire to concentrate on his work as well as his undying devotion and love for Rie didn’t allow him to reciprocate her feelings.
  • Gai was in love with Kaori.  However Kaori didn’t reciprocate his feelings because she viewed him as abrasive and uncaring.  From the audience’s point of view, Gai’s sole interest in Kaori is because of her looks and because she wasn’t in love with him.  He wanted her because she didn’t want him and no woman has turned him down before.
  • Gai becomes jealous of Ryu because he can get Kaori’s attention without trying.  No matter what Gai does, Kaori doesn’t recognize him as a suitable boyfriend.
  • Gai’s jealousy becomes a point of contingency for the team.  Particularly towards the beginning, it greatly affected their performance in battle as Gai wasn’t going to take orders from a “goody-two shoes” like Ryu.  Not to mention whenever Ryu upsets Kaori, Gai is quick to attack Ryu both physically and verbally.
  • Knowing that Rie is “dead”, Kaori vows to erase Rie from Ryu’s heart (a rather cold hearted statement if you ask me).
  • Once Ryu learns that Rie is still alive but being used and brainwashed by the Vyram, he vows to do everything in his power to save her.  Learning that Rie is still alive completely screws with Ryu’s emotions.  At times, he’s no longer the composed person that he is in the beginning of the series.

 

The drama can be a bit much at times and goes to very petty levels.  Most of the drama could easily be avoided if it weren’t for Kaori’s unwillingness to let go and Gai’s reckless personality.  The only character who had decent reason to feel the way that he did was Ryu.  He lost the love of his life so his heart isn’t open to another relationship.  He never expressed interest in Kaori.  All the interest was on her part.  Thus the brunt of the drama comes from her and Gai.  It’s sad really.  Gai and Kaori’s relationship was doomed from the start anyways.

 

For the most part, the drama was baseless.  However there was one relationship where the drama added a necessary element to the series.  And that was the relationship between Ryu and Rie once Rie became Maria.  As I said earlier, Ryu always put aside his personal feelings for the good of his work and he advised that the other Jetman do the same.  Once he learned that Rie was still alive, this changes.  His personal feelings start to affect the way that he fights until a single point when all the emotion that he’s been burying deep inside himself wells up and causes him to fall into a deep depression and slight insanity.  The backbone of the Jetman becomes a broken shell who only remains happy in his memories because there he could live forever with Rie.  The Rie that he loved and not the brainwashed Maria.  Drastic character changes in a short amount of time rarely work, especially when it’s trying to show character development.  While it seems like his mental breakdown is sudden, there’s episodes of build up to it.  Early on, the hint is dropped that Rie is still alive as Maria.  We’re shown snippets of Ryu’s mindset when he recalls Rie’s “death” and also when he recalls all the good times they had together.  We’re conditioned to understand that Rie is Ryu’s main weakness so seeing him fall into madness and depression can just be seen as the culmination of months and months of emotions that can no longer be repressed.

Character relationships outside of the romantic realm are wonderful however.  Such as…

 

  • Tran’s relationship with the other Vyram elite.  As the youngest of the bunch, the rest don’t take him seriously and often openly mock and laugh at him much to his dismay.  However he tries his best to prove his worth to the group until he changes to Tranza and forces the rest of them to acknowledge his power.
  • Gai’s relationship with Ryu.  Although his initial resentment towards Ryu was due to jealousy and dislike of working with a group (especially under someone he considered to be a goody-two shoes), by working together the two of them became best friends and are probably the closest of any of the Jetman.  The development of their friendship was extremely slow which is a good thing.  Many series (particularly short ones) rush important relationships.  And especially in series where it’s important that the group works together.  But despite the series being only 51 episodes long, they took a nice amount of time to develop the friendship.
  • Radiguet’s relationship with any person who held more power than him.  His drive for power filled consumed him.  But he wasn’t the most powerful.  Most others around him held more power than he did, but he couldn’t stand not being on top.  And despite gaining the power than he initially sought, it wasn’t enough to keep him from losing (granted this is a type of show where the good guys always have to win in the end but still…).
  • Grey’s relationship with Maria.  Despite this falling under the realm of “romantic”, I consider this the romantic relationship done right.  Also Maria didn’t reciprocate Grey’s feelings but I believe his feelings were subtle enough that she might not have known until later on that he loved her.  Despite Grey being a robot, he had the most heart of any of the Vyram.  Despite being a programmed warrior, he still had the ability to care and the ability to appreciate what’s beautiful in the world.  Despite the Vyram hating humans, Grey fell in love with Maria and even after learning that she was human he still cared for her as she was.  As much as he loved her, he always wanted the best for her.  He’d rather her become human again rather than transform into a mindless beast.
  • The relationship between Grey and Gai.  Now admittedly this wasn’t a real “relationship” persay.  Rather it was a subtle connection and understanding that these two characters had.  Their personalities and passions mirrored each other.

So what do I think of the relationships?  Aside from the relationships between Ryu and Rie and Grey and Maria, the romance is bland and borders on unrealistic.  Watching it, you get beat over the head so much with Ryu’s relationship with Rie that you can even get annoyed with that.  However, watching the characters develop as individuals and watching their relationships as friends/co-workers/enemies/etc. change over time is wonderful.  Most of the characters are well established and relatable and their growth over the course of the series is realistic.  Most of the relationships were pushed as far as they could go.  Though if there were any that I felt needed a little more meat behind them, it would have to be Tran’s relationship with the rest of the Vyram elite.  While you understand that they treat him like a child, you’re only shown that in a few episodes.  Otherwise he’s treated no different than the rest of them.  But other than that, the characters and their relationships are well developed.

That’s it for part one.  Stick around for part two which will cover the story, a few other character details, and questions that were left unanswered.

(Left to Right): Guano, Lily, Mitsuki, Gonard (in the back), Mikey, Ozu, and Yes Man

Don’t you see the man is Kappa Mikey?

 

This show has nothing to do with anime or furry or tokusatsu.  Okay it has a little to do with anime.  If you’re not familiar with the series, it was a parody series that ran on NickToons Network from 2006-2008 about a young American kid named Mikey Simon who is having bad luck trying to become an actor.  He finds a the winning ticket (or whatever the object was) to a Japanese series called LilyMu and the show’s all about him living in Japan and being the star of LilyMu.  The premise is simple enough, but the execution is atrocious.  And nearly everyone who’s seen the show can agree on that.  Low brow, gross out humor and terrible Flash animation is really all the series had going for it.  As much as I consider this series to be one of my guilty pleasures, this show was bad.  And that disappoints me…

 

I think the show had something.  It had a decent premise as a parody series.  The problem is that the series was targeted for the wrong audience and made by the wrong people.  Most people will only insult Kappa Mikey as I did in the first paragraph.  Bad humor, horrendous animation, so on and so forth.  No one fails to mention how much fun the premise of this show could have been if in the hands of the right people.  Perhaps no one cares.  Everyone’s quite content with the fact the show’s been canceled for years now.  I’m not willing to let it go so easily…

 

While watching a countdown of the top 11 American made anime series by Suede the “That Guy with the Glasses” site, he mentions (using video and not so much talking about it) Kappa Mikey as a horrible example of American anime.  Well, I agree.  It’s a horrible anime series…if were actually trying to be an anime series.  The deal with Kappa Mikey is that it’s a parody show.  Or rather it’s supposed to be one.  But Suede’s right for listing it as an American anime because it’s attempting to cash in on the growing popularity and appeal of Japanese animated media in the US…but it does it horribly.  The problem with the show is that it doesn’t do what it sets out to do.  You can clearly tell it’s supposed to be a parody of the differences between Japanese animation and American animation.  That gets across just by looking at the style differences.  Since the majority of the characters are from Japan, they’re drawn looking like stereotypical anime cliches (thin lines, less “stylized” anatomy, big eyes).  Mikey’s drawn according to American animation cliches (thicker lines, more stylization with anatomy, etc.).  But that’s as far as the parody goes.  It tries to do silly things like adding in characters that look like anime characters either in the background or as a main character.  But they don’t push the concept far enough.  Here’s what the show should have been…

 

Kappa Mikey should have been a series that parodied the differences and similarities between Japanese animation and Western (American) animation in story and style.  The basic premise can remain.  But do something more with the LilyMu series.  If it’s going to parody a specific series or genre, make it parody that series or genre.  Currently it’s all over the place and other that it being a parody of the entire shounen genre, I can’t pin point a specific series it’s trying to parody.  At times it could be a mech series.  Others it seems very DragonBall Z like.  It even got into parodying Yugioh and other such series that uses cards as a motif.  This should have been a show made by people who know exactly what they’re parodying for people who’ll understand the references.  It tried to do that but it only stuck to things that every person in America has seen and it did the references way too obviously.  Their driver was a Speed Racer parody.  Guano’s a Pokemon parody.  The episode dealing with cards is a Yugioh parody.  The rarest the references got were Yubaba from Spirited Away or a persocom from Chobits.  Sticking to popular/common series isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  But it’s just boring when it’s everything you expect and nothing new or clever.

 

The key to success for this series is quite simple.  1) Better animation and art.  None of this Flash stuff.  While it can be good, most times Flash products are stiff and lifeless.  They don’t move like people or creatures should move.  Redo the show with regular 2D, hand-drawn animation.  Flash is cheaper, but better to have a quality looking show than something quickly thrown out there for profit (especially when it clearly wasn’t going to make much anyways).  2) Have the humor pertain to the subject at hand and not focus on gross out humor.  Toilet humor is cheap comedy.  Cheap, disgusting, unfunny comedy.  It’s for little kids who are easily amused and adults who just never grew out of that liking toilet humor phase (the only series I’ll allow for gratuitous toilet humor aside from South Park is Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt…the title tells you what you’re getting pretty much).  Plus the show had a topic at hand.  Use that for the humor.  And in case you don’t know anyone who knows how to properly parody anime (due to a lack of knowledge about Japanese animated series/movies), find people who do.  It’s not that difficult.  For example…the theme song for Kappa Mikey was sung by the Beat Crusaders.  Even though the reference would be obscure, do some sort of nod to them in the show.  Or just in the theme animation.  If a nod to Puffy Ami Yumi (at least the cartoon they had for a while) could be made, why not one for the people that made something for your show?

 

For what it’s worth, the small parody elements that they did have were fun.  For example the title of the series is a play off of “Kappamaki” which is a type of sushi and the show is set in Japan and had that dancing sushi bit.  Apparently the “kappa” part of the title is also supposed to be referencing that Mikey’s like a fish out of water but that doesn’t really work considering what a kappa is.  Regardless, I’m well aware that people hate this show so I’ll just open it up to discussion.  Even if you don’t like what Kappa Mikey was, what did you think about the basic parody premise (the mixing of the art styles and the concept of making a parody of Japanese and American animation)?  If better people made something similar but really thought about what they were doing, would you give the show a shot or dismiss it as exactly like Kappa Mikey?

 

(Side note:  I have nothing against using Flash as a medium for animation.  When people put in the effort in Flash it can really pay off.  But many of these animated series on TV done in Flash have little to no effort put into them and make Flash look like a cheap product which it really isn’t.  I’ve seen some independently made Flash works that are incredible.)

(Left to Right): Mia, Mike, Jayden, Kevin, Emily

As I started to get more into Super Sentai, it was inevitable that I would want to try watching Power Rangers again.  And as luck would have it, around the same time my interest in the sentai series started to grow, there was a new Power Rangers series coming out in the US: Power Rangers Samurai.  So needless to say I did check it out.  I hadn’t watched Power Rangers for years before this but even so I felt that the show really didn’t change much (well aside from better filming equipment) from when I was little.  Same corny action sequences, same cheesy dialogue and terrible voice over work, and same cheesy acting.  But otherwise it’s still a fun and enjoyable show.  And of course, it got me interested in it’s sentai counterpart, Samurai Sentai Shinkenger.  It wasn’t until this week that I took a peek at Shinkenger (mostly due to watching other sentai series).  The curiosity was further sparked when I read a review of Power Rangers Samurai that said its first episode was derived from the third episode of Shinkenger.  To me, that doesn’t make sense.  That’s two missed episodes that could’ve given back story for each of the characters, shown how they came together, shown the dynamic of the team, and so on and so forth.  So without anymore hesitation, let’s do a bit of compare and contrast on these series.

 

(Left to Right): Mako Shiraishi, Chiaki Tani, Takeru Shiba, Ryunosuke Ikenami, Kotoha Hanaori

First up, Shinkenger.  The series starts off with the lord of the Shiba clan, Takeru as he fights off a few demonic creatures.  His guardian, Hikoma Kusakabe (usually called “Jii” by the Shinkengers) senses that the seal the past samurai put on the Gedoushuu will be broken soon and warns Takeru that they should start searching for the other 4 samurai.  Not wanting to rely on the help of others, Takeru refuses but eventually agrees.  Hikoma fires an arrow that acts as a beacon and relays a message to Takeru’s 4 vassals that the time has come to gather.

 

The first two episodes take time to establish each character, their personalities, and how they work together.  Anything after these two episodes just gets into specifics about the characters, though technically episode 2 is specific to Kotoha (we learn why it is she’s fighting and what she hopes to gain).  Episode 3 is specific about Chiaki.  Episode 4 is specifically about Mako and Ryunosuke.  And episode 5 is specific to Takeru.  For this, I’m going to stick to episodes 1-3 of Shinkenger.

 

Here’s the basic breakdown.  Episode 1 dealt with the awakening of the Gedoushuu and the gathering of Takeru’s vassals.  We’re shown why they had to come together, why it is they come together, and how they work together in battle.  It’s a basic introduction.  Episode 2 gets more into the team dynamic.  Everyone works hard to improve their skills as a Shinkenger, except Chiaki who continuously has trouble.  And we also learn Kotoha’s reasons for being Takeru’s vassal.  Episode 3 deals with Chiaki’s skills as a samurai.  He’s tired of being the weak link on the team so he leaves for a while in order to hang out with his friends.  Unfortunately doing this results in his friends being injured by a Gedoushuu and he finally realizes the price he has to pay in order to fight these creatures.

 

And episode 3 is where Power Rangers Samurai starts off.  Even watching this episode the first time, I realized it was an awkward way to start a series.  The rangers are all together training and Mike just leaves because he feels like he doesn’t measure up to the rest of them.  He goes to the arcade to meet up with his friends and talk things over with them (without mentioning that he’s a Samurai ranger) when a Nighlok attacks.  The friends try to run away and get Mike to go with them but he runs towards the Nighlok.  Looking like they’re going to go after him, the friends take a step forward but are thrown back by the Nighlok’s attack.  Thus allowing for Mike to transform without his friends seeing him (even though he didn’t know they were injured).  The Nighlok overpowers Mike and even overpowers the other rangers when they show up, but has to leave in mid-battle because he’s been away from the Sanzu River for too long and his body’s running out of water.  Mike is taken back and has his injuries treated.  The rest of the rangers tell him it was brave of him to attempt to battle the creature by himself but he has to stay away from his friends and family unless they’ll get involved with the battle.  Now understanding the ramifications of his actions, Mike works hard to create a plan to defeat the Nighlok.

 

I really didn’t expect the Power Rangers version to be a near shot for shot remake of the original episode, but it was.  But the key word is “near” because there are plenty of story differences that make the Shinkenger version of this episode a stronger story.  Let’s forget that you know what you know about the characters from episodes 1 and 2.  Just starting with episode 3, you can see that Takeru is some sort of important figure.  The leader of this group.  And the rest are his subordinates as well as teammates.  We understand that Chiaki never asked to be thrust into this position and tends to be rebellious as well as the weakest link on the Shinkengers.  Upon being scolded and treated worse than the rest of the team, he immediately shirks his duties for the calmer environment of hanging out with his friends at an arcade (mostly to have a way to vent his feelings about Takeru).  Chiaki’s character leaves a much better impression than Mike.  You feel for him.  He’s the odd man out on a team where everyone seems to accept this drastic change in their life so quickly.  He isn’t okay with it.  Mike on the other hand is surrounded by people who completely support and try to help him.  Instead he just runs away from that.  No one’s making fun of him or humiliating him.  No one’s ordering him around.  Jayden isn’t the cold and strict type like Takeru is.  Mike just ran away because he was embarrassed when he was given no reason to feel that way.  He ran away because they needed him to run away to keep the story rolling.

 

Skip ahead a little further in the episode and we get the scene where Chikai/Mike is hanging out with his friends and they’re attacked by a Gedoushuu/Nighlok.  The scenes themselves are nearly identical, but as similar as these two scenes are, the one that leaves a stronger impact is still the Shinkenger version.  While talking through his problems, a Gedoushuu begins attacking the area.  Chiaki’s friends want to run, but Chiaki wants to prove that he’s still worthy of being a Shinkenger.  His friends try to stop him when they see him transform in to ShinkenGreen and are shocked.  They keep watching on but only see their friend keep getting more and more injured.  In order to try to see if he’s okay, they make themselves known to the Gedoushuu (accidentally) and open themselves up for attack.  We find out later that they were injured so badly that they’ll be in the hospital for 2-3 weeks.  Similarly in Power Rangers Samurai, a Nighlok attacks while Mike is talking with his friends.  The friends want to run away but Mike goes into battle the Nighlok.  The Nighlok attacks right as Mike’s friends try to stop him so they don’t see him change into the Green Samurai ranger.  They get injured as well but instead of staying in the hospital, they’re back playing video games that same day.

 

Here’s why the Shinken version is much stronger.  This moment where the friends are put in danger is suppose to be the moment where the audience realizes that it’s absolutely necessary that these rangers don’t hang around their loved ones anymore because they can’t risk putting them in danger.  Chiaki’s friends are injured enough that they’re hospitalized for a few weeks.  He’s even scolded by the rest of the Shinkengers for his actions.  This is his fault that they’re in the hospital.  He knows it’s his fault.  Seeing the cost they had to pay for him being around them, Chiaki realizes that he has to stay away from them for the time being because he doesn’t want it happening again.  Chiaki acted selfishly and the people he cared for paid a price for it.  We see that.  We feel that.  And we sympathize with him because of that.  In Power Rangers Samurai, this issue is just whisked over rather nicely.  The rest of the team call Mike “brave”.  They try to cheer him up like there was nothing he could’ve done in this situation.  Clearly he knew the ramifications beforehand because when Jayden tells him not to see his friends or family again because they could be in danger, Mike says he knows that.  Which means he knew that this situation was his fault.  And to top it all off, his friends (though still injured and bandaged up) are back at the arcade smiling and playing games like nothing ever happened.  Am I supposed to believe that his friends were really in that much danger?  They clearly weren’t phased by the incident.  Aside from some scraps and scratches (and maybe an injured arm since one of them had a sling), they’re back to their regular selves.  And if they can recover so quickly from a traumatizing incident like that, then what danger are they really in if they know their friend is a samurai ranger?

 

Now let’s touch base on the team dynamic a little bit.  In Shinkenger it’s set up with Takeru as the leader and the rest of them are his subordinates.  Sure they can be friendly with him, but for the most part he’s always addressed as “lord” and even when they do their roll call, the others do not address themselves as “Shinken”.  Rather they say “The same” plus their color and their name (unless Takeru isn’t there when they do their respective roll calls).  When in his presence, they must kneel before him and not place themselves higher than him.  Is it a written rule that they do so?  Not really, but they respect him and so they show their respect for him by doing this.  In Power Rangers, the team dynamic is less clear.  The fact that we don’t know their back story creates this lack of clarity.  Are they friends?  Did they know each other before having to fight together?  What were the circumstances when they first met?  Is Jayden a “lord” like Takeru?  All we can see from their team is that they’re friends or at the least they’re friendly with each other.  I understand the desire to make a team behave as a cohesive group, but even groups suffer from problems.  They’re not perfect right off the bat.

 

Before I get into nitpicking details, I have one last bit to address when it comes to story and what makes it stronger.  This comes from Shinkenger episode 4 and Power Rangers Samurai episode 2.  In these episodes, we have a scenario where a Gedoushuu/Nighlok makes a deal with a child.  If the child gives up his dream of playing baseball, he’ll bring the child’s loved on back to life.  With the Nighlok, the child was just told to give up the dream so he just threw his baseball equipment away and when he finds out he’s been lied to, it’s too late because the garbage truck takes it away.  While it’s sad to see a child cry because he thought he was going to get back something that’s been lost, he could’ve easily asked his mother to buy him new equipment or gone to his game and borrowed something from the coach.  Throwing away a bat and mitt isn’t exactly giving up a dream.  In Shinkenger however, the child throws away his bat and mitt and begins climbing high on scaffolding.  He won’t tell the Shinkengers why he’s doing it but the Gedoushuu promised that he would bring his grandfather back if he made it so he couldn’t play baseball in their game.  So the child jumps.  Deliberately jumps from high up on scaffolding down to the rough ground where he injures his legs.  Once he finds out he’s been lied to, that makes this scene much more depressing.  He sacrificed his safety just to see his grandfather one more time.  Not only is that not coming true, but there’s no possibility of him playing baseball for quite some time.  He literally was willing to give up his dream in order to see his grandfather again.

 

And as much as I promised myself that I wouldn’t nitpick details, there’s just some concepts that can’t be overlooked.  For example, the usage of kanji by everyday high school students.  Americans knowing Japanese isn’t a far fetched concept.  I know a little myself.  But when I say a little, I do mean a little.  Whatever I’ve learned in two semesters of Japanese classes and taught myself is what I know.  It’s not a common occurrence to just find kids that know Japanese.  So not only is it awkward to see this “symbol power” be used in the series, it’s made even more awkward that it’s rarely explained what these “symbols” mean.  In Shinkenger that’s understandable.  The show was made for a Japanese audience so of course they know the language.  What American child watching Power Rangers Samurai knows that the helmet designs are the specific characters that they write when they transform?  That Jayden’s is “fire”?  Or Kevin’s is “water”?  Of course we understand their abilities and we can figure out what it is they write by what happens afterward.  But what about when Jayden used his power to show the kid playing baseball a memory of his father?  Without that explanation, we would’ve never known that was a memory.  As an audience, I suppose we’re supposed to pick up on what the symbols mean based on what’s going on in the series but I know that being the curious person that I am, I just sit there wondering what the symbols mean.  Until I started watching a subtitled version of Shinkenger, I was left to guess what they mean.  They don’t have to work it into the episodes.  But perhaps they could do a little lesson after the episode where a new kanji is taught each time.

 

So which series is stronger?  Shinkenger.  Putting aside all the nitpicking, Shinkenger’s story’s just better developed, the character’s personalities and back stories are better developed, and the team dynamic is more realistic.  Granted Shinkenger had two episodes that built up back story while Power Rangers Samurai plunged head first into the issues.  But those two beginning episodes were key in learning about the characters and getting familiar and attached to them.  Regardless, I still like Power Rangers Samurai.  You could say it’s one of my many guilty pleasure series.  But put it up against it’s sentai counterpart and it’s no contest.  Shinkenger is the stronger series.

Tonight, Tonight, Tonight

Okay, so I’m going to try something a little different and review a few anime songs.  Well maybe a few, maybe a lot…depends on how well it goes.  Personally I find the music key in a series.  Especially the opening and ending songs.  I’m a little more forgiving with background and insert music, though insert songs are rather important as well.  Opening songs are especially important because they set the tone for the series you’re about to watch.  Does the music match the mood of the show?  Do the lyrics reflect anything that have to do with the series?  Admittedly it’s a little difficult to judge anime songs based on that due to the fact that most of them are in Japanese, but for the majority of songs, you can find English translations for them.  But for this first song up, it isn’t that difficult to judge it because the entire song is in English.  Poor English, but it’s still completely in English.  So without further ado a review of the 4th opening for Bleach, Tonight, Tonight, Tonight by the Beat Crusaders.

Let me preface this by saying 1) I really like the Beat Crusaders and really wish I could see them perform in person.  However the band has broken up and that isn’t likely to happen unless they do some sort of reunion tour and 2) I really like this song.  It’s one of my favorite openings for Bleach.  That being said that doesn’t mean that I can’t be critical of the music because there is quite a bit to be critical of when it comes to the actual lyrics.  I already wrote up my little discussion on “Engrish” so you can read my rant on that at that link.  This will just be centered around this particular song, it’s connection to the series, the musicality, and the lyrics.

First up, lyrics.  What does any of this song mean?  Really, what does it mean?

Woke up with yawn. It’s dawning, I’m still alive.
Turned on my radio to start up new day
As goddamned DJ’s chattered how to survive
Amazing news got over on the air wave

My basic guess is that this verse is just talking about getting up in the morning and getting the day started.  At least that’s what the opening line suggests.  But…It’s dawning?  What’s dawning?  It’s dawning on you that you’re still alive?  If that’s how the line’s supposed to be taken I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean.  Is the person in the song happy or sad to still be alive?  The basic gist of the song is really gotten with the first half of the first line, the second line, and the third line.  The person woke up, the turned on their radio and heard some amazing news.  And if I have to try to make sense of why he/she’s alive, I’d say that they’re either very grateful for life and are happy to live another day or that they’ve potentially gone through some terrible ordeal and their life has become something that is getting risked everyday so they’re happy to still have it.  Either way I don’t get the feeling that they’re sad that they’re still alive because the last line of the verse is about amazing news that they heard.  So what is that amazing news?

Tonight, love is rationed
Tonight, across the nation
Tonight, love infects worldwide
Almost another day

I think the chorus is the part of the song that makes the most sense.  At first I was sort of confused to what the “love is rationed” line means but when I thought about it a little more it started to make more sense.  Just because something is rationed doesn’t necessarily mean that the resource is limited.  In theory you could also ration out something that is plentiful.  So love is a resource/concept that is being “rationed” out worldwide.  People across the nation are learning to love and live with each other.  The only part that throws this off is the last line.  “Almost another day”.  The rest of the chorus, while confusing, at least made grammatical sense.  It’s about love spreading out around the world and everyone being touched by that feeling.  I feel like adding that “almost another day” at the end makes it seem like the news is something for the future.  Something that hasn’t happened yet, but will happen at some point in the future.

At this point, the song just repeats itself again until it gets to the bridge.  While I can just guess at what most of this song means, the brigde means…nothing.  It means absolutely nothing.

She’s a shooting star, good night, good night
She’s a shooting star, good bye

Admittedly I like this part of the song.  But I like it because it’s different from the rest of the verses.  It feels like this verse doesn’t fit at all with the rest of the song.

The last verse of the song is just the chorus again with a small twist.  There’s an extra little line added on at the end.  One that sort of sounds sweet but somber at the same time…

See you some other day…

Even the music quiets and slows down right before this line which is why I feel it sounds somber.  After all this good news about love spreading around the world at some point in the future, the singer then seems to be saying that they’ll see us then.  They’ll come back to us when that time comes.  It’s bittersweet.

So, is this a good song.  Yes.  Lyrically it’s confusing, but there’s a slight message there that got across.  And the actual music is wonderful.  Is it a good song for Bleach?  Musically, sure.  Lyrically, it doesn’t seem to go with any of the themes of the series.  Aside from maybe the first verse.  Once it starts getting into the talk of love, then it doesn’t fit with the series anymore.

But what do you all think?  Any different interpretations of the song?  Or anyone else think this is a good or bad theme for Bleach?  Why or why not?

Pictured above: Shinichi, Ran, Sonoko, Eri, and Kogoro

Well the full title is Detective Conan: Challenge Letter to Shinichi Kudo.  Initially I wasn’t going to check out this drama series.  Some shows are better left to their anime/manga counterparts and rarely can they translate well to live action.  Detective Conan is a show that can translate well to live action, but in the way it’s been handled in previous specials wasn’t done well.  So I was skeptical about watching this new live action drama but eventually I caved in an watched the first episode.  (For anyone who was planning on checking this show out later on, I’d advise you read no further due to spoilers.)

 

Right off the bat I have to say I was hooked.  It starts off with a dark screen with minimal lighting.  You hear people talking but you have no idea what’s going on.  Slowly lights start turning on in the room revealing that Shinichi, Ran, and Kogoro are trapped in a white square room and Shinichi and Ran are handcuffed to one another.  They don’t know how they got there or why they’re there.  They just know they need to find away out.  Shinichi finds a note on the wall from what I can only assume is some sort of stalker and when he turns around there’s a platform on the floor with a sort of computer in it.  On the screen it shows a date which corresponds to a case that was solved on that day.  It’s then when the episode goes into flashback mode and we’re shown the case that Shinichi had to solve.

 

The case opens with a man and a woman making out in an apartment.  The woman (Momoko Aida) breaks off the kiss saying that she can’t do this anymore and she tells the man (Yuuhei Tsubouchi) that he can take his camera back.  She’s feeling guilty for having an affair with her sister’s husband and she doesn’t want the relationship to go any further.  Yuuhei is noticeably angered by this, possibly believing that Momoko had another man.  He questions her on this, but she denies that she does.  But he doesn’t believe her.  He takes to empty grocery bags that were lying on the counter, comes up behind Momoko, and strangles her.  While she’s lying on the floor, he ransacks the apartment to cover up his crime and leaves to meet with his assistant.

 

He and his assistant (Kousuke Kishi) were suppose to meet with Momoko for a photoshoot so playing like nothing happened, Yuuhei goes back to the apartment with him.  Momoko isn’t answering the door and they realize that the door is open.  As they open the door, they see a flash and scream.  Meanwhile, Ran and Shinichi are a few floors below the apartment at a nail salon.  Ran’s getting her nails done and Shinichi’s…just there to carry her bags.  After hearing the scream, Shinichi and Ran run upstairs where they find Kousuke and Yuuhei on the ground with head injuries.  When he asks what happens they say that a robber came out the door and attacked them with what they perceived to be some sort of pipe or tire iron.  They’re also worried about Momoko since she’s inside the apartment.  When they find her, Shinichi announces that she’s dead and thus the investigation begins.

 

I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by the series.  The way it opened took me by shock and I just needed to know what was going to happen next.  Or why they were trapped in this room.  While the formula for telling a story solely through flashbacks can get a little annoying, I think it works for this show.  You already know the set up.  You know that there’s a device in the middle of the room that won’t allow for them to pass unless they put in a codeword that pertains to the case.  You just don’t know what the case is.  And the audience can have a little fun trying to figure out what the codeword is supposed to be as well.

 

The part I was most worried about was how they were going to treat the characters.  Detective Conan’s been around for 15+ years (counting the manga) so the characters are very well established.  We know their personalities fairly well.  I believe the actors do a very good job of portraying their respective characters.  Ran is obviously not that difficult to portray.  Aside from her “strong” streak, she’s a fairly typical “damsel in distress” type.  I’m afraid most women can pull off that character since it’s a rather stereotypical one.  I have to say my favorite character is Kogoro.  While he’s not my favorite in the series (those would be Conan and Heiji), Takanori Jinnai does a near perfect job of portraying him in both attitude and looks.

 

I think I’m more apt to call this drama a more grown up version of Detective Conan.  While it retains the same spirit and characters as its source material (okay I realize that the source material for this series is a book but the material for the book was the manga/anime), you can feel that this isn’t really for children.  And it shows a bit more in the next few episodes.

 

So far I only have two problems with it.  First, this one’s strictly about the episode itself but the motive for murder seemed amazingly weak to me.  There’s been a couple manga and anime related cases where betrayal in the relationship lead to the demise of either the man or woman involved.  But usually there’s something there that drives that person to the point of wanting to kill the other.  Either one partner is very manipulative and controlling, or there’s blackmail involved.  Here there was nothing.  The woman just wanted to break off the relationship because she admitted that she was feeling guilty about cheating with her sister’s husband.  She told him the exact reason that she wanted to break it off.  For him to invent this other reasoning in his head and pretend like she didn’t tell him the reason she wanted to break it off was unnecessary.  And second, I’m very confused about when this is taking place.  While it’s said that this drama is taking place before all the events that transpire in Detective Conan, the one thing that throws me off is Kogoro.  There’s no hint that he believed he was this great detective before he started becoming famous.  And there’s no hint that anyone even knew who he was aside from close friends and previous co-workers.  In fact you get a glimpse of Kogoro’s life before becoming a household name.  He was just a drunkard who sat at home, watched Yoko-chan on TV, and slept most of the day while Ran handled most of the household chores.  And while he’s still a drunkard, at least he gets work.  The show almost mixes these things together.  It takes place before the events of the manga/anime because Shinichi’s the main character, but Kogoro is still a well known and respected detective.  I suppose you could argue that he always felt he was superior to Shinichi due to age and experience so that’s why in the series he addresses himself as the great detective Kogoro Mouri.  But even then he was never that cocky about it even before the series start.  And even then he didn’t seem to be involved with too many cases until Conan joined his family.  It’s a little bit of a nitpick but something that bothered me about the series regardless.

 

Either way, the series is off to a great start.  Nice story and set up.  It hooks you quickly and that’s something that’s rare with movies and TV shows.  I love the suspense.  The characters are true to form.  And I particularly love how they work the main theme song of Detective Conan into the series.  If you’re a fan of Detective Conan, I suggest you check it out and see if you like it.  Even if you don’t know about Detective Conan and you just like crime dramas or mystery shows, I recommend it.  You don’t need to really know any back story on the particular characters.  It’s a separate case on it’s own and you’ll get a good idea for how each character relates to one another fairly quickly.  So far I’m giving this show two thumbs up and can’t wait to watch more.

Okay, admittedly I’ve only finished 5 series and am slightly introduced to a few others through the crossover specials or watching a few episodes of it (Boukenger, Dekaranger, Shinkenger, and Goseiger).  So I’ve just barely skimmed the surface of the sentai universe.  Still I have my favorites of what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard and their roll call phrases are no exception. These are just my favorite ones not one that I think are the best or anything along those lines.  So just take them as my honest opinion.

 

In all honesty…these are all coming from either Gekiranger or Go-Onger.  Those two shows had some of my favorite introductory/roll call phrases to date.

 

Rinjuu Chameleon-ken, Mele

5. Rio sama no ai no tame ni iki…Rio sama no ai no tame ni tatakau rabu woriaa.

“For Lord Rio’s love I live…For Lord Rio’s love I fight as his love warrior…”

 

Seriously, Mele’s phrase is just sort of funny.  You know why she’s doing what she’s doing.  You know what she expects down the road as a reward for her hard work.  Does she ever get Rio sama’s love?  It’s unclear at times but it’s hinted that she does in the Gekiranger/Go-Onger crossover (the crossovers don’t seem to be canon so I’d take that with a grain of salt).  It’s a bit unfair that I’m adding this on the list seeing as Mele really isn’t a sentai but in a way she kind of is since she and Rio switched sides at the end of the series.  All in all, it’s a cute, fitting phrase for this “warrior of love”.

 

Go-On Green

4. Doki Doki Yukai!

“Heart Pounding Delight!”

 

Personally I like it ’cause the phrase itself is adorable plus the character (Hanto/Go-On Green) makes it more adorable.  It’s cheery, describes Hanto’s role on the team perfectly, and it’s really fun to say.  Plus it just makes me smile.

 

GekiBlue

3. Waza ga irodoru tairin no hana…Fantasutikku Tekunikku!

“The great blossom colored with technique…Fantastic Technique!”

 

The Gekiranger phrases are just some of my favorite.  Purely for how poetic they are and GekiBlue’s phrase is probably the most poetic of all of them.  It’s reference to his technical abilities and skills as a fighter as well as his technical abilities as an artist.  It sounds delicate and beautiful but most of all…you can’t say that “fantastic technique” isn’t really fun to say.

 

GekiRed

2. Karada ni minagiru mugen no chikara…Anbureikaburu Bodi!”

“Infinite power flows in my body…Unbreakable Body!”

 

While GekiBlue’s phrase is very poetic, GekiRed’s phrase is very powerful and inspiring in another way.  It’s very literal.  For Jan, he has infinite power in his body and usually in the series they’re speaking about physically (especially due to ending it with “unbreakable body”).  But this “power” can be taken in many other ways as well.  Physical, mental/emotional, spiritual…everyone has power flowing in their body and the ability for it to become limitless is there if we allow it to be.  Perhaps the physical strength isn’t limitless but psychological strength is.  I’m sure that’s why this quote tends to stick with me a bit.  And if I listened to myself and took my own advice more, I’d probably be saying this quote more just to remind myself that it’s true.

 

Go-On Gold

1. Break Genkai…

“Break the limit…”

 

It’s short.  It’s sweet.  And it’s to the point.  It’s another one of those phrases that’s just going to stick with me because it’s like a mantra that you could take into real life as well.  Just try to surpass your limitations.  There’s really nothing more to be said about that.

 

So that’s it for my favorite phrases.  What are some of yours?

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