Since I have every single Shout! Box ever released for Super Sentai in the US right now, I figured that I would start reviewing them as I watched them. Though for the record, I have seen both Jetman and Go Busters prior to this one and am not coming into the world of Sentai as a complete newbie.
Though let’s start with Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger, which got adapted into Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and soon became a phenomenon. First of all, Power Rangers worked so well with Zyuranger because of the elements that Zyuranger utilized as compared to earlier failed efforts like Bioman. Zyuranger was essentially “dinosaur rangers” which definitely appealed to the Japanese children it was targeted to, especially due to the fact that it mixed this dinosaur theme with heavy elements of myth and magic. It was very easy for American audiences to grasp, because the monsters here were familiar concepts like the Sphinx, Cyclops and Minotaur. When you have a giant robot battling a Sphinx monster, you’ll more or less find that you’re attracting a lot of child viewers to that particular arena. These battles were fun to watch, and they still remain entertaining today. Sentai has always been a combination of martial arts, superhero and kaiju films for me and I think that is what holds the appeal. Obviously much had to be changed for the localization though, so let me lay down bare the facts and explain some instances of Zyuranger that you’re never going to believe.
First of all, there’s no Zordon in Zyuranger. The Zyurangers were essentially frozen in time for thousands of years, only to be awakened by the magician Barda who must summon them after astronauts accidentally open the sealed prison from which Bandora and her minions have sealed in for millions of years. Not the “After ten thousand years I’m free, it’s time to conquer earth!” speech that you’ll remember from Power Rangers. Secondly, the zords are not mere robots as in Power Rangers. They’re not even zords at all. They’re guardian beasts and the literal gods for the Zyruangers. Yes, I said gods. There are sections of the show where they’ll walk into a sanctuary area and pray to these great dinosaur beasts for different things, and they’ll also ask the gods to stop testing them in other situations. When the gods appear, they appear as the same robot zords that you might imagine but they’re shown in the clouds and even speak back to the rangers. Yes, the robots here are not inanimate objects and they can completely fight on their own. They even have emotions, and I’ll get to that in a minute regarding Burai’s arc. When all of the dinosaur beasts come together, they form literal kami-sama (God) in the personification of Daizyuzin. Though to most US audiences, this is the Megazord. It’s also worth noting that the giant sword is known as “godhorn.”
On the evil side, we have what is essentially a child hating Satanic witch (no, I didn’t stutter) by the name of Bandora. She used to be the queen of some ancient empire, but her son was murdered by a dinosaur and she sold her soul to Dai-Satan (Great Satan). Ever since this happened, she used black magic to summon henchmen like Griffizor (familiarly known as Goldar in the US) who could only roar at first, until she broke the spell and allowed him to speak eloquently, monster molder PlePlechaun (Finster in the US) and Lamy (Scorpina, which I actually think fits so much better) who was Griffizor’s wife, previously sealed by Bandora. Again, Saban wasn’t even going to so much as tiptoe into the territory that Griffizor and Lamy were knocking boots, but it was quite obvious from the show that they were and this even resulted in a child. I’ll also say that there was a bit more activity in Bandora palace for Zyuranger than Power Rangers and it really stumps me as to why some of this footage didn’t get used. Bandora actually had a full song, which was quite catchy and could have at least been dubbed over. The actress sang pieces of it here and there, and the team of villains would often break into song and celebration when something was going their way. Bandora would still show her insecurities however, wondering if she was still beautiful and flipping the script when it came to her real thoughts towards children. It was obvious that she as a character was in a great deal of pain, and used dark Satanic magic to disguise that. It was also noted in her song, that she despised the way that humans were taking care of the planet. Many of her plans directly involved children, with the sole aim of removing them from their parents and breaking the strong family structures that were prevalent in Japan. She’s tried to kill them before too, which might have been a bit much to show in Power Rangers.
Now we’ll have to get into the rangers themselves. Obviously, Dan is the yellow ranger here so there are four males and one female as opposed to three males and two females in the US localization. It’s also safe to say that Austin St. John took a great deal of inspiration from Geki, and might be one of the best red leaders I’ve seen so far. There was a very interesting episode that strayed from the norm however, when two of the rangers drank a potion (which was pured into some shaved ice) that turned them into punks. They then proceeded to beat the crap out of street gangs and even became members of the yakuza where they did all kinds of shady underground deals, with loads of money and guns involved. The episode took a fairly dark and unsuspecting tone, making me wonder as to why in the hell it was made considering the audience; though at the same time praising its very existence. There is also a section where Barda and another character are shooting AK-47’s at his son (portrayed by a young child actor) while in full military regalia. It’s a moment of shock for me and still quite unbelievable. They also threw grenades at the child, knocking him down several times as he tries to awaken the dragon ranger, Burai. Before that, they were trying to run him over with a forklift and a van too, if you can believe it.
Then we have to talk about the Burai arc. Obviously, Burai was the dragon ranger (green ranger) here and a very involved part of the series which in the US was portrayed by now famous mega-star, Jason David Frank. You can see where Frank took quite a bit from Burai’s performance, but at the same time, I feel that Burai was much better. In Power Rangers, the green ranger was turned evil by Rita Repulsa’s magic; but in Zyuranger he wanted vengeance for the death of his father by Geki’s father, who was once a king. This sense of vengeance turned him against all of the Zyurangers, telling them to “go to Hell” several times as he worked on destroying them from inside Daizyuzin. Daizyuzin fell also, which was a great victory for Bandora. Eventually, he and Geki made amends, when Geki told his brother that if he feels he must kill him, then do so. He was then a Zyuranger from then on, but at a cost. You see, Bandora had nothing to do with the green candle in Zyuranger like Rita Repulsa in Power Rangers. Instead, while Burai was asleep for millions of years, his body was crushed by boulders, though rebuilt and protected at the cost of a shorter lifespan. When Geki died, I was just as crushed, and being that Dragon Caesar (Dragonzord in the US) in this series was a living organism, there is actually a scene where the robot begins to mourn for its creator. This is extremely touching and unexpected for a children’s show, especially if such a thing had aired in the west. It was enough for us when the green candle had went out and our green ranger had lost his powers. Just think about what it would have been like if he’d actually died.
Eventually there are some surprising later episodes, like onewhere the rangers are pelted with stones and hated by the people as their evil clones attempt to terrorize and attack citizens of Japan. We must also keep in mind that child souls are in fact sacrificed on altars in order to summon Dai-Satan from his icy slumber. It is obvious that Dante’s Inferno actually plays a role here, as Dai Satan is frost-bitten, which would come from being banished to the coldest layer of hell. He manages to make a three-layer monster transform from Frankie to Satan-Frankie, to which the monster is given some of Dai-Satan’s powers. Though in all the intrigue of having fucking Satan himself appear, all the bastard does is smile, frown and laugh. Yes, I understanding that a flying decapitated head might not have much to say; but this was a pretty awful decision for what is known as arguably the most fearsome villain in all of theology. It is unknown to me as if other Sentai series have featured Satan himself, but the appearance in this one was a bit shallow and piss-poor. I think the idea of Bandora being a Satanic witch and performing black magic spells is quite intriguing for a children’s series, but the finale kind of left me wanting more. It is much as you would expect from these things, with the Colossus (and not even the golden Colossus) monster destroying the rangers outright and of course, they find some great new power in order to be able to defeat Bandora forever. She’s thrown into a floating lamp this time around, in which things seem to be not so bad for her. After all, Griffizor and Lamy are parents by the end of it and her disdain for being defeated and sent out into the middle of the cosmos later becomes joy for new birth into the world, a child to replace the one in her heart that had been devoured by a dinosaur in the past. After all, this is what made Bandora evil and why she hated children so much – she’d lost her own.
Zyuranger is a great introduction to Sentai, because it features content and material that Power Ranger fans are already familiar with. The difference here is that this is the original story behind what was adapted in the US as Power Rangers and you may prefer some of the sillier American elements to the surprising amount of seriousness in the Japanese original. In my opinion, the crux of this series was Geki’s death, which was almost certainly needed as he started to be utilized so infrequently that he was almost something of a running joke in the fact that he would just come out of the room of time every so often just to help the rangers out with a few Dragon Caesar attacks, or combine to form one of many variations in which to defeat an enemy. Though I have not seen enough Sentai to comment, I can say that as of right now, I think the battle between Geki and the other rangers is probably one of the most heated and serious affairs in the history of this genre. Instead of becoming an ally, we see a resurrected madman with nothing but hatred in his heart for the rest of the team and not a man merely turned evil by one of Bandora’s spells. As with most Sentai, there are some silly episodes here and there, but when they stick to the core story, it delivers a mostly child-focused mythological plot that will appeal to people of all-ages. It is not quite as adult as Jetman, though nothing may ever be outside of Garo and possibly some of the Kamen Rider series.
With Power Rangers Beast Morphers coming up based on another Sentai I’ve watched by the name of Tokumei Sentai Go Busters, you can bet that this is next on my list for Sentai reviews. My next Sentai will of course be Gosei Sentai Dairanger, which is considered by most to be the most violent Sentai series that Toei have produced. I’m told it is very bloody and even more so than Maskman. If I ever get around to it, I may also cover Jetman, but I’m not sure if I’ll have the time. It depends on how many people enjoy reading these reviews.