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.