Thursday, April 14, 2011

Introduction to Super Sentai and Explanation of Site

This page is an explanation of Super Sentai and of what I do on this blog. There are some clips further below.

This is my Super Sentai Images Blog. Several years ago I got very interested in Super Sentai from watching the episodes translated online. Super Sentai is essentially the Japanese version of Power Rangers. Power Rangers of course being a favorite show of mine when I was much younger, I was surprised to see how cool the original source material was. The series is indeed aimed at the same age level in Japan - but it's been on so long, now 35 years, that it's become somewhat of generational show that both kids and adults can both enjoy. The best way to describe my enjoyment of the series is to say it's sort of like Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Super Sentai deftly swings between action and comedy, and often builds up an on-going plot for the entire year. Each series usually has around 50 episodes. It's essentially aired year-round, with the next series primering the next week after the last one ends. Each series that premieres only lasts a year, and are unconnected except through movies putting departing and arriving casts together. With a kind of anthology going on, they have been able to do various different themed series, from Dinosaurs, Mythology, Virtual Reality, Magic, Ninjas, Angels, and all sorts of other ideas. With the varying styles of each series, sometimes certain series can be more serious in tone, more child-friendly, or they can be more comical. The series is also the purest example of Tokusatsu (Japanese Special Effects). Godzilla is in that same category; giant battles are a trademark of Tokusatsu. Add all this to the experience of viewing another culture's entertainment, and I hope it better explains my interest in the series.

As for what I do on this blog - when I began getting interested in Super Sentai I went searching on the internet for all sorts of information on the series. I was also very interested in collecting images - but I found there to be a deficit of good Super Sentai images out there. There where some good sites that provided images, but more often than not the images where too small or of poor quality, or with confusing menus on decaying and abandoned websites. So I decided to put all the best images I could find together to make an easier to search resource for fans. It's apparently proved somewhat of a success, with over 90 followers, and (as of 4/12/11) a total of 1,098,329 hits. That's from when I began, 2/27/09, to the present. I'm unsure how all the numbers are calculated, or if hits are counted because of Google searches -- but I think I have about over 100 unique visitors each day, on average.

In addition to collecting Super Sentai images, I began making my own images as well. Using "screen capture", I regularly go through episodes and get images of some of the best shots. I previously didn't have access to HD version of episodes, and subsequently am just too use to them now - so I'm usually getting images off of Standard Definition episodes. The image quality isn't always as clear, especially with the large size I always aim for when grabbing a screen shot -- but I've been pretty proud of some of the images I've been able to get. Here are some images to show you what I'm talking about:

Anyway, I hope you'll enjoy my blog. I tried to make an easy to access menu, found on the right side of the screen, where you can get a list of all the different Rangers, Robots, Enemies, ect. A more precise menu is listed as well, called the "Master List" - where every page I've created is listed, with characters from each series. It's in chronological order, so it begins with the much older series from the 70s, 80s, and forward.

The series Zyuranger might of most interest to some, as that's the series the original Power Rangers where based on. Zyuranger had a theme of mythology primarily. It was nothing like what we where shown in America. Besides the entire theme of the series being rewritten, there where very odd choices made as well. The Yellow Ranger, for example, is a man in Zyuranger - but was recast as a woman in America. The reason the Green Ranger was taken in and out of use was because he was killed off during the Japanese series. Also, since Super Sentai is an anthology series, when Zyuranger came to an end, Bandai ran out of Zyuranger footage to use. They ordered new footage to be shot in Japan specifically for the next two seasons of Power Rangers. The Zords where changed in-between seasons, as they began using the robots from Dairanger and Kakuranger alongside the new Zyuranger footage.

The current Power Ranger Samurai series on TV right now is adapted from the 2009 series "Samurai Sentai Shinkenger". The episodes have actually copied the Japanese scripts nearly verbatim, yet still lacks the quality of the original series. No matter how much they try, everything is dumbed down in the translation. (The inclusion of "armored up" powers, and the return of Bulk and Skull doesn't help matters.) I really only watch Power Rangers more out of curiosity now. Seeing the adaptation of the series, the Japanese first and then the American version, was simply a surreal experience. This had to have been a very hard series to translate, as Shinkenger was very Japanese-Themed. To my surprise one of the most Japanese features of Shinkenger, their Mojikara (Character Power, where they write Kanji to transform) was kept in the series despite the obvious language barrier. There did seem to be a real attempt to bring the best parts of Shinkenger over to America, but it still seems to fall short of the mark.

The most recent series is "Gokaiger" - a pirate themed series. Gokaiger, in particular, seemed tailor made for me - as all the stuff I've learned of the previous 34 series is put to good use, as this series features the powers of the previous teams - in addition to actors returning to reprise their roles.

If you're interested in watching Super Sentai, the people at TV-Nihon are the ones who translate the series. In their forums you can find direct download links to episodes. A series like Shinkenger, or Gekiranger are good starting points. I would be remiss in not mentioning this, but the episodes are technically illegal. There's just no way the series is ever going to be offered in America legally, especially since it's licensed in America as Power Rangers. I do wish there was a way to legally see the series, but for now this is all that's available in America.

I do want to mention, though, that Super Sentai also has some of the best J-Pop music. In a rare move Toei has made the music legally available in America. You can find it in iTunes by searching "Super Sentai" or "Gokaiger". The only legitimate album they have listed is "Gokaiger vs Super Sentai". Everything else are lower grade imitations of the real songs, so I'd ignore them. Songs from all 35 series are due to release on iTunes sometime in April, but I don't know how the Earthquake might have effected that (they started it just a week before the Earthquake hit)

Here are a few video clips from Youtube to show you first hand what some of the series are like. Some of these clips are untranslated, and one of them I have to simply give you a link, as embedding is disabled. Also, if you see any text during the clip, just ignore it. (The videos aren't mine, so...)

From Zyuranger
Geki vs Burai

This is a clip of the battle between Geki and Burai (otherwise known as TyrannoRanger and DragonRanger, or the Red and Green Ranger). In the original series Geki and Burai are brothers. They both claim to be Prince of the Yamato Tribe, and Burai blames his younger brother for his father's death; so when first introduced Burai is an enemy to the team. There's no magic spell like they did in Power Rangers, Burai was legitimately out for blood. This is the fight just before they reconcile and join forces. Sorry for the quality of the clip (it's from 1992).

From Gekiranger
Super Gekiranger

The beginning of this clip is a bit violent, but it's a prelude to the Gekiranger's accessing a new level of their powers. In this series they are practitioners of a fighting style called Juken, calling on animal spirits. The Gekirangers practice the good side of Juken, called "Geki Juken". The villains, Rio and Mele (the guy in black and the girl in green) are practitioners of the evil form of Juken, called "Rin Juken". The lead character, Jan, is able to access the new power, called "Kageki". The clip is translated.

From Gekiranger
Final Battle Against Long

This is from the final episode of Gekiranger, where they defeat the biggest enemy, an immortal named Long. Being immortal, Long has proved quite hard to beat, as he keeps returning alive no matter how many times he's defeated. After gaining the full knowledge of Juken, knowing both Geki and Rin Juken, the Gekirangers are able to stop Long. Instead of beating him, they instead trap him -- using a Rin Juken technique of sealing a person up into a ball. (It had been previously used on their masters in the middle of the series.)

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