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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.

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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.

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(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.

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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?

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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.

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Now after being difficult on the environmental factor in Hyakkujuu Sentai Gaoranger, you’d think I’d probably be the same for this show.  I am…in a sense.  I still dislike the over the top “need to save the environment” sentiment because it’s one that we’ve heard time and time again.  And the majority of us are sick of it by this point.  But as Engine Sentai Go-Onger is it’s own separate series, I can’t judge it based on that merit alone.  So let’s look at the pros and cons of this series…

The Great:

The insanity.  If you like a lot of craziness in a show, you’ll probably appreciate Go-Onger then.  The show has a clear story, the characters are nicely developed, their engine partners are adorable (in their chibi “soul forms” anyways)…so the insanity doesn’t get in the way of the plot or the character development.  It nicely works with it to create a series that’s both hilarious when it wants to be and “serious” when it needs to be.  Though it would be best to explore the best of the insanity Go-Onger has to offer…

1) Hiroto’s fear of ghosts.  While it’s also explained why he has this fear you never expect this sort of reaction from him.  From the moment you’re introduced to Hiroto, he’s always been cool, level-headed, and a bit of a self-righeous snob.  He’s a rich kid.  It comes with the territory.  You get a few moments here and there where once he’s used to being around the Go-Ongers he loosens up and can have a bit of fun like they do.  But he still retains that level-headed coolness that he has for most of the series.  But then you get this one gem of a reaction from him.  A reaction so glorious that I just had to replay it a few times over just to make sure I wasn’t imagining this.  Sure.  There’s a few other moments in the series where he has over the top reactions.  The other that comes to mind is the episode in which he sings to a creature and when it turns out the creature considered his singing just noise, he ends up wallowing in his own sorrow and hanging his head in defeat.  Or the moment where an other worldly creature mistakes him for its mother and Hiroto has to pretend to be a mother to this creature.  No, no…those pail in comparison to his phobia of ghosts.  We only find this out because he and Saki are transported to some dark, scary place thanks to Cleaning Minister, Kireizuki.  When trying to find their way out they’re confronted by what Hiroto believes are ghosts.  Even Saki is taken back by this grown man with a cool level-headed temperament turning into a scared little boy, screaming and hiding behind a tombstone in a fetal position.  The only thing missing that would’ve made that scene complete would be him sucking his thumb.  I guess even the coolest of people have to be scared by something.  Too bad these “ghosts” were just actors in a haunted house in an amusement park.

2) Random amounts of male cross dressing.  This just started off as a quick gimmick.  Hanto is trying to help out an old woman who helped him out when he was injured.  She’s all alone and the only one that she used to have in her life previously was her granddaughter but she says that her granddaughter is dead.  So being the nice kid that he is, Hanto decides that he’ll play the role of this woman’s granddaughter for the day.  Though in order to really get into the role he decides that it’s a good idea to dress up as her as well.  Turns out that Hanto looks “cute” in womens clothing so this tends to be a running gag in future episodes.  In the short lessons after each episode, you find out (though most likely it’s a joke…would be better if it wasn’t), that Hanto’s favorite job was working as a maid in a maid cafe.  The other guys get their turn at cross dressing as well.  In episode 38, the men are all frozen due to Shower Banki’s acid rain and it’s up to the women to both protect them and defeat the Bankijuu.  The only way they could think to hide them was to hide them as mannequins in a store window…unfortunately for the men the mannequins were women.  Needless to say when they transformed out of their ranger forms, they received quite a surprise.  If you’re not amused by cross dressing though, you won’t find this as funny though.

3) This one’s episode specific but have you ever just wanted to see the heroes in a show just go evil for no reason?  And I don’t mean world class super villain status evil like you see in other super hero shows or comic.  I just mean “here’s a good guy…let’s corrupt him so he’s your everyday criminal” sort of evil.  That’s pretty much what episode 30.  While trying to figure out what this liquid is that Straw Banki dropped, Sousuke and Ren end up spraying themselves with the chemical.  Well since this was a concoction created to raise the strength of an evil creature, somehow it…turns Sousuke and Ren into…semi-old timey gangsters.  I didn’t need to try to figure it out why they needed to be old timey criminals.  No one does really.  Sousuke’s full of justice and excitement and Ren is a very motherly, gentle sort of man.  Watching them go from that to these sneaky, conniving, low lives is just plain fun.  Instead of protecting people they’re scamming them out of money, robbing banks, stealing from children, fighting Hiroto and somehow winning when there was no chance that he would’ve every beaten Hiroto in a fight previously.  Ren gets snapped out of it fairly quickly but it takes a lot more to bring Sousuke back to normal.

There’s a lot more randomness to the series but to break out of that vein there’s at least one more thing that needs to go under this section and that’s the music.  Specifically the opening theme.  It’s really all you need in a song.  It’s catchy, fun, and reflects the spirit of the show very well.

The Good:

Hiramekimedes.  Here’s a villain that I wish we saw more of.  He’s introduced as the Vice Minister of Earth Pollution and when you first meet him, he’s threatening.  I mean, he’s definitely a force to be reckoned with.  So much so that it was his introduction that spurred the introduction of the Go-On Wings.  Without the Go-On Wings, the Go-Ongers literally had no way they could over power him.  Even his back story is interesting.  He was just another one of the Gaiark who believed that he wasn’t of any really importance and he believed that no one recognized him as important.  So in order to prove his worth, he was planning on killing Yogostein.  When Yogostein instead approaches him to be the Vice Minister of Earth Pollution and presents Hiramekimedes with a protractor based sword.  He then decides to dedicate his life to serving Yogostein.

When Hiramekimedes is introduced he’s seen overpowering the Go-Ongers based on his speed and tactical genius.  Even the engines are frightened of him and initially do not want to fight him.  With the introduction of the Go-On Wings, you can see Hiramekimedes become more and more frustrated with his plans failing.  Every time a flash comes to him, the Go-Ongers and Go-On Wings end up foiling his plans.  While Yogostein still believes in him, Hiramekimedes believes there’s no other way around it other than to fight power with power.  His cunning and brilliance wasn’t working so he decides to fill his body with enough Bikkurium for 100 Bankijuu and becomes Detaramedes.  His mind is destroyed in the process but his strength is nearly unmatched and his fighting style becomes completely random and unreadable.

The only reason I just consider Hiramekimedes “good” and not “great” is because of Urameshimedes.  This was a completely unneeded episode after Detaramedes is destroyed where Hiramekimedes comes back in a ghostly form.  While the episode is charming in one way, Hiramekimedes had no purpose of being there.  He does nothing, the battle was quick and easy, and in the end he’s just destroyed again.  They should’ve just let him go out on a high note.

The Go-On Wings.  Admittedly I really dislike the way these two were introduced.  It was almost like they were haphazardly thrown into an episode because they needed a way to save the Go-Ongers from Hiramekimedes.  And I really disliked their personalities in the beginning.  Here are these two people who come out of absolutely nowhere and it turns out they have their own engine partners who are equally as stuck-up as they are.  They’re rude, disrespect the Go-Ongers on multiple occasions, and treat the Go-Ongers worse than dirt.  Yet they believe they’re the only people in the world qualified to be heroes.

While Hiroto and Miu are complete jerks when you meet them, their characters grow quite a bit as they learn more from Master Jumbowhale and about the Go-Ongers.  They begin to realize that their way of life isn’t the only path to happiness, that there’s more than one way to be a hero, and that sometimes passion is all that’s necessary to fulfill your destiny.  In a way, these two characters develop more over the course of the series than the actual Go-Ongers.  Not to mention they also follow the cliche of the “6th ranger”.  Although in the case of the Wings, they’re the 6th and 7th rangers respectively.  They have the better outfits, the better abilities, and Jetras an Toripter are amazing partners.  In fact, we were introduced to those two before we’d ever meet the Go-On Wings.  That was a smart choice.  It leaves the audience curious about who these flying engines are and who their partners were (because we clearly knew they had partners…if all the other engines had partners there’s no way these two were going to be any different).

The Bad:

The environmental message.  I know.  I already covered this in the Hyakkujuu Sentai Gaoranger review (linked above).  So I won’t repeat myself.  I do have to say this about it.  You’re only getting bombarded with the concept of polluting the Earth from the Gaiark.  There’s literally a Minister of Earth Pollution.  If that isn’t spelling it out for you I don’t know what is.  Their only duty is to pollute the world so the Gaiark can inhabit it because apparently they don’t like anything to be clean, clear, fresh, or beautiful.  What’s beautiful to them is a dirtied world.  What makes this environmental message so conflicting at time is that the focus of the series are engine partners.  Sure they’re engines that are mixed with animals but they’re more engine than anything else.  And just so you don’t forget that most of their names are combination for what they are (Buson equals “bus” and “lion”; Birca equals “bike” and “orca”; Bear RV equals…”bear” and “RV”).  It’s a little bit odd to use the engines as a focal point of a series when the message is clearly and environmental one.  Why use something that people consider detrimental to the environment as the thing that’s suppose to help protect the environment?  It really doesn’t make sense.  I suppose that’s why we have a moment where we’re told that the engine partners run on clean energy.  I’m sure someone else in the world questioned that logic too.

Kegareshia and Kiteneidas.  It’s a shame.  These two, especially Kegareshia, had something going for them.  Unfortunately they were mostly used for comic relief.  You rarely see them fight or see what their abilities are but these two are supposed to be the Water and Air Pollution ministers respectively.  All you really see them do is create Bankijuu to do their bidding.  Whereas Yogostein really went out their and battled the Go-Ongers, these two just created minions to do all the work for them.  And then at the end of the series when Yogostein’s father, Yogoshimacritein, takes over, they suddenly have a change of heart from being used a shields and controlled.  They decide to help out the Go-Ongers. While the idea of the bad guys turning good is a staple in many sentai series, you usually see the character develop a bit beforehand.  You know…regretting their actions, thinking things through, wanting to make things right…stuff like that.  This was just a spur of the moment action.  There’s nothing hinting at the possibility that Kegareshia and Kiteneidas might turn good and help the Go-Ongers.  They just do.  While I like Kegareshia as a member of G3 Princess (the “idol” unit created by Miu, Saki, and Kegareshia in episode 31), this is about the only interesting thing she ever does.

Last but not least, the usage of various universes.  We’re told that there are 11 different worlds out there but we’re really only introduced to 5 of them.  Human World is clearly the universe that most of the show takes place in.  Junk World is where the Gaiark are from.  And Machine World is where the Engines are from.  These are the only…the only…worlds that needed to every be brought up.  But they had to bring up more and these just get stupid.  First of the ridiculous worlds we’re introduced to is Samurai World which is just like the Human World except it’s in a constant Edo Period state.  While it would be nice if this were just left to the movie…it isn’t.  The movies in the sentai world seem to be canon and so Samurai World is brought up various times throughout the show after the movie takes place.  The second ridiculous world we’re introduced to is Christmas World.  This world literally only exists for the Christmas special but it was used once again in the Go-On/Shinken crossover.

The Ugly:

Now this was difficult.  I didn’t find anything that was glaringly wrong with the show.  What’s bad is bad, but it isn’t horrible.  The only thing that really confuses me is the decision to make the mechs a mix of animal and machine.  This is never explained but it’s just accepted.  The world they’re from is called Machine World so it’s expected that they would be machines.  Usually when sentai series create mechs, they relate to the series in some way.  Abaranger was about dinosaurs so their mechs were dinosaurs.  Gekiranger involved using kenpo that mimicked the movement of animals so their mechs were their specific animal spirits.  So why were these guys part animal?  Is it only to play to the environmental issues?  Most of them don’t even use abilities that their animals would use.  We all thought that Speedor could fly but apparently it was only jumping (even though he’s a condor).  Bear RV bites things but most animals bite things so that’s not bear specific.  The only one that seems to behave in a manner similar to its animal counterpart is Gunpherd and that’s only rarely.  Really the only time was when he needed to do a bit of scent tracking and since he’s a police dog (German Shepherd…no he’s not a wolf.  His name is Gunpherd for goodness sake.  He’s a police car and a shepherd dog) that’s what they do.  They don’t even make animals sounds.  Their speaking mannerisms consist of saying parts of their name at the end of sentences.  So why make them animals if you weren’t going to play to the fact that they’re also animals?

Overall Rating: 3.8/5

Not quite a 4 but almost there.  What can I say.  The series is fun and funny with a fairly consistent story all the way through.  It has a couple of issues here and there and really you don’t think too much about the engines being part animal because that’s something that you get used to from episode one.  If you like cars and animals and insanity (or if you just like insanity) then Go-Onger’s a good series for you.  If not then…I say you’re missing out on some really funny stuff.

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I’ve mentioned before that Detective Conan is my guilty pleasure series.  It’s fun, weirdly logical and illogical at the same time, and I love (most of) the characters.

 

The series centers around a high school detective, Shinichi Kudo.  While on a “date” with his childhood friend, Ran, he encounters some shady looking men in black.  Unable to ignore is detective instincts for one day, he decides to follow them and sees one of the men making an illegal deal.  Unfortunately he’s not paying close enough attention to his surroundings, thus allowing the other man (or rather giving the other man the chance to) over power him.  The shady characters force feed him a drug that’s supposed to kill him without leaving a trace of itself in the body.  This, though, backfires as the drug instead displays a rare side effect which changes poor Shinichi into a child.  Through out the course of the series, Shinichi disguises his true identity by assuming the name “Conan Edogawa” and continuously solves cases in hopes that he’ll find the men that poisoned him, bring them down, and get his regular body back.

 

Although this series is nowhere close to being finished, since there’s over 600 episode, it’s fair to say that the show deserves the full review treatment.

 

The Great:

 

The premise.  I described the basic premise of the series above so I don’t think I have to restate it right here.  Off the bat, you already know who the main villains are, what the conflict is, and how awkward the character relationships are going to get in future episodes.  And it’s all relatively easy to understand.  Of course it’s simple to say there’s going to be moments where the story breaks from this premise.  You can’t have every little moment be about the Black Organization.  But watching the various non-Black Organization oriented cases can be fun as well.

 

Speaking of which, the insane and elaborate ways criminals commit their crimes.  It’s absolutely laughable how detailed some of these plans are.  But it’s plain fun to watch each case get solved and learn how the criminal did it.  Clearly these people always commit a premeditated crime and clearly these people have way too much time on their hands to set up such elaborate plans.  I’m always surprised that no one ever catches them setting up their traps, but apparently in this universe there just aren’t that many people in the world perhaps.  There’s no way if someone attempted to recreate one of these plans in real life that they could ever get away with it.  Either they would be caught red handed while they were attempting to set the trap up or the physics of their plan would fail miserably.  Regardless, you keep coming back to episodes of the series to see how each plan will unfold because it’s just fun.

 

Conan Edogawa.  Not Shinichi Kudo (though I do like him as well), but I’m specifically talking about his child alter ego, Conan.  What can you say?  You have a 17 year old high schooler who has to readjust his entire life so that it reflect that of an elementary schooler.  Not only that, but he physically lives with the girl he’s had a crush on for basically his entire life and he has to pretend day in and day out that he’s 7 years old…and he’s pretty good at it.  I’ll have to give all the credit though to his voice actress, Minami Takayama.  When Conan needs to sound like a detective…like he’s being serious, her voice really reflects that.  And when Conan needs to sound very child-like, she makes it happen.  She’s the perfect person to play the role and she plays Conan flawlessly.  That’s not the reason I love Conan so much though.  Conan’s such a creepy character.  Now I’m pretty sure someone would disagree there.  Drawing wise, he’s really adorable especially when he’s embarrassed or really trying to play the part of a 7 year old.  But just imagine that adorable 7 year old twisting your words around, or talking in detail about the details of a murder.  Really?  You’re not going to be even a little creeped out by that?  My all time favorite creepy Conan moment has to be when he and this art teacher are alone.  Conan’s working on a sculpture and while playing the part of the innocent 7 year old he pretends to show off his cup to the teacher.  Impressed, the teacher congratulates Conan for his work but then proceeds to do a bit of fortune telling with the sculpture.  There’s apparently lines in the clay that say that Conan’s hiding something.  While that’s true, the teacher doesn’t know that.  The teacher also doesn’t know that Conan switched the cups when the teacher wasn’t in the room.  So the cup Conan was working on…it was the teacher’s.  Still playing innocent Conan looks at the teacher with those big, blue eyes of his and says “Hmmm, but sensei…this was your cup.  So sensei, that means you’re hiding something…right?” and at the end of that phrase give that teacher a glare that I’m sure sent shivers down his spine and gave him nightmares forever.    There’s nothing creepier than a genius child who knows he’s got the upper hand…except maybe a genius child who knows he always has the upper hand and also happens to be a miniature version of the grim reaper.  Did I mention Conan’s also that too?

 

Heiji Hattori.  Aside from Conan/Shinichi, Heji is my other favorite character and it’s a shame that we don’t really get to see him as much as we probably should.  I know.  He’s not the focus of the show but as one of the few people who know who Conan really is, it’d be fun to see him more often that we do.  Every time Heiji’s involved in a story, you know it’s going to be good.  He’s not only a good comic relief character but he’s the perfect partner and friend for Conan/Shinichi.  And it’s always fun to see the two competing with each other.  Shinichi basically comes out on top every time but that doesn’t diminish Heiji’s work.  He’s still a brilliant teenager who’s solved plenty of cases in his life time (even though he admittedly counts finding lost pets and objects as “solving cases”).  Not to mention he’s literally the only character in the show that can speak any good English.  But that’s a rant for later on.

 

The Good:

 

The music.  Most of the songs are either complete hits or complete misses so I couldn’t leave this section to “great” or “bad”.  Most of the older songs worked better for the series.  There’s nothing like listening to Giri Giri Chop or Shoudou by the B’z to get you pumped up for an exciting case.  And a song called Nazo (Mystery) is a perfect song for a series about mysteries.  While many of the newer songs are good, their themes are basically centered around romance.  Which I suppose is okay because a good portion of the series is about the relationship between Ran and Shinichi.  But lately it seems like the majority of the songs only focus on this aspect which while it’s an important part of the series, it isn’t the point of the series.  The show is about 1) finding the Black Organization so they can be defeated and Shinichi can be changed back to normal and 2) solving mysteries.  So far I’ve just talked about the opening songs.  The endings are a little bit more touch and go.  Either they’re good, or they’re not.  As for the background music in the episodes, it fits the mood just fine and most of it is very beautiful.  Or very cutesy whenever they’re dealing with the “Shounen Tanteidan”.  It’s not the best of music though this is going to fall under personal preference again.  I dislike the emulation of real instruments when you can just as easily find a real person to play a real instrument that will drastically improve the quality of the song.  A good example would be Kimi ga Ireba, an insert song that frequently played throughout a few episodes and the movies.  Has the potential to be a really good song.  The synthesized instruments ruin it a bit though.

 

Shinichi Kudo.  Well you’re probably curious why I separate out Conan and Shinichi considering they’re the same exact person.  And while that’s true that doesn’t mean that I don’t like one over the other.  You get to know the alter ego more than the real person.  So it’s only natural that you’ll have a stronger connection with Conan than with Shinichi.  Since he can only change back for short periods of time you don’t get to see him all that much except on rare (and I do mean rare) occasions.  Usually his changing back into himself has been used as a plot point though in recent cases I believe it’s used more for comic effect than anything.  But as a character I still like Shinichi.  He’s just your regular (albeit famous) teenage kid who was thrust into a situation that he would never ask for in a million years.  So you’re just rooting for him to be the victor in the end.

 

The Bad:

 

Ran Mouri.  Her character had so much potential to be a strong female lead.  She’s a champion in karate so you know she’s tough.  And in the beginning of the series this was how her character was developing.  Of course things like a dead body would freak her out but in situations where she or her family or friends could potentially be injured she could easily defend herself without turning into a sniveling crybaby first.  In more recent episodes, she’s seen as completely reliant on other people, especially Shinichi.  In rare instances when she desperately needs to protect someone she’ll still show off her karate prowess.  But usually she’s a useless crybaby and her sole purpose in the series is to be the damsel in distress or the “love interest”.  Her character’s actually developed for the worse over the course of 620+ episodes.  She’s nothing but a stereotypical female character who’s scared of everything and completely infatuated with and tied to “her man”.

 

The relationship between Ran and Shinichi.  Now unless you’re an avid fan of the non-canon pairing of Conan x Ai, you’re probably rooting for the happiness of Ran and Shinichi in the end.  But let’s be realistic about this pairing.  It can’t work.  It won’t work.  If anything Ran should be infuriated with Shinichi.  Not only for lying to her, but also for manipulating and drugging her father numerous times, confiding his secret in a person they’d only met one time prior, and seeing her naked on a few occasions.  But in order to make this scenario of “childhood friend turned romantic interest” work, all logistics of how the reality of this relationship would work have to be thrown out the window and be replaced with this fairy-tale like notion of what a real relationship is.  But of course when is this not a problem?  Let’s say that Ran and Shinichi don’t have the whole issue of Shinichi being turned into a child in the way.  Their relationship is still less than ideal.  Ran might be Shinichi’s crush but investigations are his mistress.  His calling to be a detective is stronger than his love for Ran.  While he wishes to love and protect her, his love of mysteries and justice is still stronger than his love for her which could cause drastic problems down the road for them.  Yet we’re hardwired to feel sympathetic towards the two of them and wish the best for them and their relationship.  They’re fictional characters anyways.  Why do we really care (oh wait…that’s what we’re supposed to do…)?

 

The inconsistent changes from Conan to Shinichi and vice versa.  So you have the major component that serves as an antidote to the poison.  Yet he can only change back for a day or so.  Even worse, the more he uses the antidote, the weaker the effect on him becomes.  So that means that eventually even the antidote won’t work on him.  Well…what?!  So you have a cure for something but it’s only a temporary fix for the problem.  Yet you don’t really mess with the formula to make it stronger.  You just keep it as is and let Conan keep using it knowing full well that it will only work for a day at most.  Firstly, why is this fix only temporary?  Why isn’t the ingredient strong enough to warrant a permanent fix?  Or even a partial cure?  Meaning he’s normal Shinichi most of the time but sometimes he’ll turn back into Conan sporadically, perhaps when his body is weak from illness.  Was this too difficult to conceive?  The idea for the partial cure works well the first time it’s used.  But when it’s used over and over and over again, the concept gets very old very fast.  Speaking of the changing back and forth from Conan to Shinichi…

 

The under use of Shinichi as a character.  As the main character of the series, he sure is underused.  I find myself “forgetting” at times that Conan is Shinichi until something happens that reminds me.  Such as a case with Heiji or some weird flashback.  Conan almost becomes an entity on his own that’s separate from Shinichi and that’s not the case.

 

And last but not least, Kogoro.  While he’s a decent enough comic relief character the “Nemuri no Kogoro” (Sleeping Kogoro) gimmick is getting stale.  While it’s necessary that Conan does this so that he can conceal his own identity, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the bit is old.  15 years old to be exact.  The gimmick is so old that it’s even hinted at once that Kogoro has grown a partial “immunity” to the tranquilizer darts from having so many of them used on him.  And that was the last time that Sleeping Kogoro was truly interesting.  I wish the Gosho Aoyama explored the possibilities down that road.  That could make for some extremely interesting character interactions and unique ways that cases could be solved.

 

The Ugly:

 

The length.  Not so much that the show is clearly and obnoxiously long, but that it’s long and it goes nowhere.  As I’ve written up an entire post that deals with this I won’t go into the details of it so much.  I’ll just link to the post so you can see what I’m talking about.

 

Suicide is never an option.  It sounds cold to put this under the ugly.  I’m not talking about criminals committing suicide because they regret what they did or don’t wish to be caught.  I’m talking about suicide as an option to an actual “murder” case.  This is always hinted at as a possibility but through some illogical twist of events it turns out that it in fact was a murder and not a suicide.  Well, how many people live in this area that so many are just murdered on a daily basis?  I know this is a show and everything and to make an episode where someone offs themselves would be dark but if you can do it with criminals why can’t you do with a regular person?  Yes I know there’s the one episode where the man almost commits suicide.  Since he didn’t follow through, that doesn’t count.  Couldn’t there just be one episode where a body is discovered, they go through an entire investigation and it turns out it was just a suicide?  Sure it won’t be nearly as interesting.  But it would be a different venture than the rest of the other episodes which read the exact same way.

 

Series Rating (so far): 3.5/5

 

For as much flack as I give this show for being obnoxiously long and repetitive, I’m hooked on the series.  What can I say.  I’ve invested quite a bit of time in the series and I’m not going to stop watching it now.  All I can hope is that the ending will not be a disappointment.  When the series end comes, there’ll be a part two to this review with just the ending.  Let’s just hope I remember to do so as I’m fairly sure the end is quite a few years away.

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