Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sentai Time! Samurai Sentai Shinkenger

This review was authorized by divine providence.
Translation: Samurai Squad True Sword Ranger
Number of Episodes: 49
Original Run: 2009-2010
Theme: Feudal Japan and Japanese folklore
Adaptation: Power Rangers Samurai

Welcome back to Senai Time! This time I’ll be reviewing Shinkenger, which I like just as much as Kyoruyger, but for different reasons. Let’s get started.

The Concept
Who better to fight demons than samurais! You know, people who have estates to manage!
For centuries, humanity has been at war with the Gedoushu, a race of demons that inhabit the River Sanzu (the Buddhist equivalent of the River Styx). The Japanese emperor, in order to counter them, created a squad of five samurai headed by the Shiba clan. Eighteen generations have passed, and the Gedoushu have resurfaced once again, hoping to flood the world with the waters of the River Sanzu. Now a new generation of samurai must take up the age-old mantle and stop the Gedoushu’s plans to make humanity suffer.

The Sentai
From left to right: Mako, Chiaki, Takeru, Ryuunosuke, and Kotoha.

The Shinkengers consist of Takeru (Shinken Red), the seemingly aloof 18th head of the Shiba clan, Ryuunosuke (Shinken Blue), a former kabuki actor and fanatic follower of Takeru, Mako (Shinken Pink), a former teacher who dreams of being an average woman, Chiaki (Shinken Green), a slacker and hardcore Tekken fan, and Kotoha (Shinken Yellow), a talented flute player and swordswoman. Each have control over mojikara, a special kind of magic that can be utilized through kanji.

I like this sentai quite a bit, but for much different reasons than why I like the Kyoryugers. Rather than being a fun barrel of monkeys, the cast of Shinkenger is more realistic (or at least how realistic as Super Sentai will lend itself to be) and interesting on an individual level. Takeru is only aloof to protect people from being hurt, Kotoha has been bullied enough to believe the mud slung at her, and so on. The characters develop quite well, and unlike Kyoryuger, it develops fairly evenly. Its not the most fun cast, but its far from boring.

The Villains
From left to right: Juzo, Doukoku, Shitari, and Daya.

The Gedoushu consist of Doukoku, the literal embodiment of rage and leader of the demonic hordes, Dayu, a mysterious shamisen player who is the only one able to quell Doukoku’s rage, Shitari, the oddly cheery strategist, and Juzo, an exiled swordsman who wishes to find the perfect opponent. The goal of the Gedoushu is to conquer the human world and turn it into a literal living hell. However, they can’t survive long without the waters of the River Sanzu, and thus wish to raise its waters by causing human suffering.

A monster that actually looks threatening? Blasphemy! 

I feel that the Gedoushu are pretty strong as an antagonistic force. Unlike the Deboss Army, which rarely posed a serious threat, the Gedoushu are more than willing to cut down countless civilians on camera and blow up buildings. Their monsters, the Ayakashi, are all based on Japanese folk monsters, and are more than a match for the Shinkengers. And most importantly, the Gedoushu actually look demonic and capable of causing destruction. The Gedoushu live up to their demonic appearances, and make for a great villainous army.

The Mecha
Lion + Dragon + Turtle + Monkey + Bear = a human robot. Whut...
The mecha for this show are called Origami, animal themed mechs that can either be pocket sized or giant. The Origami can combine into Shinken-Oh, a large samurai robot. Shinken-Oh can be augmented with other Origami, gaining new powers such as a naginata. Shinken-Oh is a pretty neat robot, as are the other Origamis, and while the auxiliary attachments are admittedly silly looking, they do offer some cool attacks. While I think that the Origami system could be improved a bit, its still very solid.

The Fights
Yes, that sword is as big as him. And no, it isn't as awesome as it looks.

The fights of Shinkenger deviate from the Super Sentai norm, as it focuses almost entirely on weapon combat, not martial arts. The Shinkengers’ main weapon are their katanas, not their fists, and each one uses their specialized weapons more often than other sentais. The fights themselves are still very good, being well choreographed and coordinated. I do have a couple of nitpicks though: the sword styles of the individual Shinkengers aren’t terribly different, and Takeru’s specialized weapon (a red buster sword) is more cumbersome than awesome. Other than that, the fights are great.

The Music

The music here isn’t as memorable as Kyoryuger. Sure, some of the insert songs and character themes are very good, but most of the background music is just...there. I can’t remember any of the background tunes. Unmemorable isn’t the same as bad, but its not good either.

The Verdict
Shinkenger is every bit as good as Kyoryuger, but for different reasons. It features actual character development, a great antagonistic force, and interesting concepts like kanji magic summons. There’s a lot to like about Shinkenger, probably more so than Kyoryuger.

8.5/10 - Terrific

Thanks for reading! As always, constructive criticism is welcome. I won’t be doing another Sentai Time for a while, but expect follow ups of both Kyoryuger and Shinkenger.

No comments:

Post a Comment