Episode Writers' Analysis Part 2: Hikari Sentai Maskman
Now it's on to Maskman since I'll probably arrange the shows I've watched from start to end based on their years, not on the sequence. Now for the Maskman episodes. This was another of Soda's got the huge cake series. However we are introduced to more of Kunio Fuji and Toshiki Inoue. I can't critique Toshiki Inoue's Flashman episodes since I haven't seen much Flashman to do a full critique. On the other hand, unlike my major plots analysis, this may not even be a marathon because of extensive research needed per show.
Hirohisa Soda: Episodes 1-6, 10, 12, 14, 19-25, 27-32, 35-36, 38, 41, 43-51
Episode 1 is the introductory episode. During this chapter, the Maskmen learn of the mysterious Igam who is Takeru's girlfriend. The introduction features the Maskmen who are yet to see the full power of the enemy. They are overly confident but are told by their team mentor they haven't unlocked their powers in full.
Episode 2 deals with the Igam family scar. So the audience knows the secret of Mio that she is Princess Ial but Takeru is left out of the blue. I love how Hirohisa Soda himself loves to reveal something to the audience but doesn't reveal it immediately to his characters.
Episode 3 introduces us to the Maskmen unlocking their aura power. This chapter is where Soda writes Takeru's inner conflict. Takeru is also unaware that his girlfriend Mio is Ial. He is also unaware of why Igam hates him so much. Yet Soda gives the right pace for the story to develop while the audience has an idea of what is going on.
Episode 4 features the Maskmen dealing with the Mebius Tunnel dilemma. It's a real nightmare imo to get stuck in that tunnel of no escape. The Maskmen create the new F-1 Racer for Red Mask, which destroys the Mebius Tunnel.
Episode 5 is Akira on focus. He is a mischievous swordsman but he is actually also a growing warrior. Soda displays some of his humor which makes this episode lighter than its predecessors but at the same time, provides real character development. The plan to swap the faces of people was just silly but at the same time, it can actually cause chaos. Too bad no other season in Sentai ever repeated such a silly plot.
Episode 6 is Takeru's next focus. It's about the God Hand technique which Takeru doesn't believe in until Director Sugata tells him that it's real. The Maskmen face the Drill Dobler (finally one monster without a familiar half) which only the God Hand can defeat. I love how Takeru did that God Hand, too bad he didn't do it all that much later.
Episode 10 features yet another development for Igam vs. Takeru. While Igam in episode 8 was featured to have treachery, here she shows she does have a sense of honor. She wants to fight Takeru one on one who is yet aware of the fact that she is a woman. Obviously, Igam does a good job with pretending to be rough and tough, only the audience knows her true secret. I thought of it to be another decent episode that fleshed out Igam and Takeru.
Episode 12 manages to show more about Haruka's past. We learn Haruka comes from a ninja family and even its females are expected to be like the males, thus explaining her traits. The episode features the challenge between Oyobur vs. Fumin in trying to get the Shinobi's prized possession to acquire greater power. Haruka shows her skills as a female ninja, which imo she shows he might actually be the toughest Maskman member.
Episode 14 explores more about the Tube. We discover that Zeba has been kidnapping people as infants, raising them as slaves of the underground. Akira learns of the secrets of the Tube. Here two children learn of the clear blue sky of the surface world which they just heard of is a myth. We know how terrifying Zeba can really be.
Episode 19 introduces the Maskmen to Anagbas. The audience knows of Anagbas' existence but not the Maskmen. Akira gets an amnesia in this episode. Anagbas revealing himself to the Maskmen was just one freaky episode.
Episode 20 is another Momoko episode. Momoko teaches kids the value of martial arts and a fair fight. Anagbas brings a woman known as Kotsuhi for his master plan. We discover that Zeba and Anagbas could care less about their fellow members as long as they get what they want. Momoko is badly beaten to which Anagbas planned it all along. I love how the genius plan of Anagbas gets rid of Great Five, leaving the Maskmen to question how they will fight.
Episode 21-22 is all about Galaxy Robo. In these episodes, Soda writes a unique way to introduce a secondary robo, which he makes it not so controllable at first. It introduces more about Commander Sugata's past with his friend Professor Yamaguchi. The professor's daughter doesn't want the Galaxy Robo revived because of that incident that killed her father. I love how the obstacles come and are overcome. Too bad though, Galaxy Robo never appeared near Great Five after they rescued the latter from Tube.
Episode 23 is well, the audience knows that "Mio" here is not Mio at all but an underground monster. It also provides Takeru with a clue that Mio is still alive. I love how they defeated Majin Dobler by outsmarting him into his own coffin.
Episode 24 has another yet nightmarish plot. Tube seeks to turn all humans into protists. A child gets turned into a monster which is sad. I love how this episode in its own way, reminds Takeru of his missing lover Ial. Seeing the boy turn into a monster was just really a sad scene... good thing he was restored!
Episode 25 features Akira joining a false tournament. I just love how Akira shows his love for his mother who he left behind for now. I love all the action sequences, the deception of Tube and just about everything that fleshes out Akira.
Episode 27-28 features the Thief Knight Kiros. For two episodes, Kiros is shown to be Takeru's bitter rival. At last, Takeru learns the truth that Mio is actually Igam's twin sister, Ial. One of the coolest things about Kiros as a stray villain is that he has a reason why he hates Takeru even more. Kiros manages to defeat the Maskmen's Shot Bomber with help of his monster. The Maskmen face Kiros who really knows how threaten then at the worst times. Kiros' lack of sense of honor makes him a truly dangerous foe.
Episode 29 features the Jet Cannon's introduction. It's revealed that Zeba had been doing various dangerous experiments on humans thus confirming he isn't human at all, though Zeba's true identity is still a mystery. In this one, the Maskmen are introduced to their new weapon the Jet Cannon. Their battle has just begun.
Episode 30 is all about Baraba and Akira. The contrast is Akira's loving mother vs. Baraba's warrior mother. For Baraba, even bad guys love their mothers. My favorite part was where Baraba gets the Imperial Underground Sword. I felt sorry for Akira here being deceived by Baraba's mother. I was starting to think Baraba is more determined to finish the job.
Episode 31 has another focus on Igam herself and in another, Haruka. Haruka is having some problems with herself and needs to find herself. But the main focus is all about Igam who unleashes the secret weapon of the Igam clan, the Igam Dragon. It's another development for the Igam family where Igam's rivalry with Baraba is also further examined.
Episode 35 has a closer identity revelation of Zeba. I love how Soda manages to create a sense of suspense, since nobody but the audience knows of Zeba's true origin. So I always assumed Zeba was a demon, this episode makes it look like Zeba is some kind of demon. We learn of the existence of Lethal Dobler who Zeba declares should not be awakened. The forbidden tomb is truly one terrifying episode!
Episode 36 was another clever plot by Tube. Igam by manipulating twin girls (I guess it's because she hates the fact she has to fight hers) into becoming weapons of destruction. The twin girls learn an important lesson not to depend on each other too much.
Episode 38 features Takeru's past. I thought this was one of my favorite episodes which I could relate to, considering I was that kind of a child so no surprise there. My favorite part was when Takeru actually learns an important lesson in honesty. We also learn of Takeru's past that he was a brat and all but one day grew up to be a great leader. It had some nice comic touch though I wonder if adult Takeru remembers all the bad things he did during the time paradox. Hehe.
Episode 41 is well, Soda using surprises on audiences. Kiros thought during the episode that he had controlled both Haruka and Momoko. However it was all a sham which was to fool Kiros, who wanted to get jewels to bribe Ial. I just thought that it shows Kiros can be quite heartless as he attempted to murder Haruka and Momoko for fooling in. I just love how the two girls worked together to fool an otherwise chauvinistic villain in Kiros.
Episodes 43-45 are the Fencer Unas Arc. Soda goes back all the way back to episode 14 to bring up Akira's development. Akira is now destined to be Fencer Unas, which makes wonder why in the world did he become that? We learn also that Zeba's origins are close to becoming uncovered. The underground refugees believe that Fencer Unas will save them but he turned out to serve the Igam family. The Maskmen finally discover more of Igam's identity that the prince is a princess, a terrible burden Igam bore since she knew she was really a woman. I felt sorry for Igam instead in these episodes.
Episode 46 gets a link to the Bloody Pond of Evil. Girai Dobler who is Igam's mentor reveals that Lethal Dobler was born out of the Pond of Evil compared to most underground monsters. I really started to feel sorry for Igam and Takeru. Takeru wants to end his rivalry with Igam, Igam still insists on fighting. I felt sorry for Girai Dobler on how the spirit of Lethal Dobler possessed him. We are a bit closer to Zeba's real identity.
Episode 47 is a filler episode of Haruka training a girl in dancing. I thought it reveals the harsher side of Haruka and also her softer side.
Episode 48 kinda wraps up episode 35. Zeba sends Baraba to his death. I love how Soda links Baraba to Kiros and Takeru. Kiros is shown to be more dishonorable when he intends to get Ial for himself as well as double cross Takeru and Baraba. This also made me think that perhaps Zeba wanted to get rid of Baraba because Baraba has clues of Zeba's vile origins. I love how Kiros reveals that he's truly a master thief.
Episode 49 is wrapping up Kiros. Kiros for his entire life got what he wanted in his conquests except one, Princess Ial. This episode has Takeru attempt to recover Ial. I love how Soda shows the difference between Takeru's selfles slove vs. Kiros' lust for Ial. Kiros was written off n a karmic manner, a manner that a low life thief deserves. It was satisfying to see Kiros die as a result of his greed. It's also revealed to Ial that Igam was a woman all along.
Episode 50 shows the final identity of Zeba. So I guess it's no surprise that Zeba was born without a mother if the original Lethal Dobler was born from the Pond of Evil. Zeba was really the terrifying embodiment of hatred. Anagbas shows up to intervene.. which kind of leads to the finale. Anagbas gets written off as the Maskmen finally got rid of him. At the same time we know only the Igam twins can cause Zeba's downfall, explaining why Zeba doesn't want them to work together.
Episode 51 is the finale which Zeba shows his true colors to his troops when he chooses to let them die so he can rule the world. For one, most of Soda's finales are usually intense but he also has a habit of writing bittersweet ones. If in Flashman he had the Flashmen leave Earth as they had no choice, in Maskman we just see that after the final battle, Takeru has no choice but to leave Ial. The twin sisters unite, Zeba is defeated but Igam becomes a nun to atone for her ways.
Kunio Fuji: 7, 9, 11, 15, 17-18, 26, 33, 37, 40 (10 eps)
Kunio Fuji even if he never became a head writer is still important. He wrote some of the best episodes in Maskman which he is an important writer in the Sugimura era.
Episode 7 has Kenta falling for a nice sweet girl which she is Kenta's first love interest. Baraba and Oyobur kidnap the girl and take advantage of her appearance. Kenta decides not to pursue the woman because of his responsibilities.
Episode 9 features Takeru's interaction with the alien Loro. Baraba and Oyobur are stealing electricity so they can easily conquer the surface world.
Episode 11 features yet another Kenta story. Kenta meets the refugee from the underground named Ru and her father Ijin. We also learn of Igam's past as a woman raised to be a man. I really felt sorry for Ijin's situation when he died in here. Zeba's identity was hidden in the crown of the late matriarch. So it leaves me to question why Igam even agreed to serve Zeba in the first place. I kinda thought Kenta also had a crush on Ru but it may not be true.
Episode 15 is one of my favorite Momoko stories. It features the Underground Kingdom's history and that Momoko met with the mother of Igam and Ial. The contrast was between the pure flower of Carol Love vs. the Hell Flowers. We get to see more of Igam's messed up background.
Episode 17 has Takeru on focus. Takeru gets framed and it's all part of Igam's plot. It's a pretty genius way to trap one's rival. It also shows how much blinded by hatred Igam is.
Episode 18 goes back to Haruka's childhood. Haruka wants her doll back but gives it to a child who can't afford it. The plot involves a bloodsucking leech that could kill the child. It was real nightmare fuel if you ask me. Gladly, Haruka saved the day.
Episode 26 is where Kenta falls for a monster but this is the only time he really sheds tears. So yeah, Kenta's a playboy but in this episode, he is shown to be able to feel. I felt sorry for Seira who is forced to lure men for the sinister plot of the day. Apparently, Fuji kinda loves tragic episodes.
Episode 33 is yet another Kiros vs. Takeru episode but mostly Kiros. Kiros meets his lover Eri. I felt sorry for Eri who believed Kiros saved her from death. Takeru tries to save Eri which he does succeed in. Eri realizes how much she was blinded by Kiros.
Episode 37 has Kiros going yet on another scheme. Kenta is turnedi into a coward and it seems the Maskmen have no real way out. I love how Kenta overcomes cowardice with the help of his friend. Overall, it's pretty good development for Kenta
Episode 40 features the episode of Zeba ordering Igam ande Fuumin to destroy the last of the Mereru tribe who can calm down his evil plans. I love the episode of Director Sugata and Mayu Kozuki who is really from the underground. This episode just shows how despicable Zeba can be who will stop at nothing to bend any opposition.
Toshiki Inoue: 8, 13, 16, 34, 39, 42 (6 eps)
Toshiki Inoue was a great talent before he actually burned out post-Agito. He gave Maskman some important episodes. More importantly, it was drafting his writing style.
Episode 8 gives us a more three dimensional character of Igam and Fumin. Fumin despite being a villain does show degree of concern for Ial who Igam resents for "smearing" the Igam name. This episode established the brother/sister type of relationship of Akira to Momoko. I love how Akira and Momoko both manage to retrieve the Maria Rose when the other Maskmen were frozen solid.
Episode 13 is yet another of Inoue's greater works. I love how this episode has Fuumin disguise herself as some cute idol while she is turning people into Unglers! Kenta in this episode shows he can be pretty naive at the same time, he has his playboy ways taking the best of him. The whole episode was nightmare fuel with a bit comedy at the end. Back then, Inoue's comic scenes were not blatant... only if he can take a look at how he did some funny scenes before.
Episode 16 is a focus of Kenta and Baraba. Kenta is forced to fight Baraba who has drained the power of the others. I think Inoue does like black rangers a lot huh? It was a pretty decent episode.
Episode 34 is when Inoue shows he loves killing off characters. Gorin Dobler long ago fell for a woman who looks like Momoko and later falls for Momoko. He only wants to be human. Zeba turns him into a man named Hikaru. I did like how Takeru and the others showed their concern for her. I kinda wanted to ship Takeru and Momoko in this episode but it was just purely professional. I felt sad for Gorin Dobler that he had to be destroyed.
Episode 42 has a timid boy who suddenly grows strong. I just love how the episode shows that true strenght comes from within.
Oh boy, I wonder why Inoue burnt out so soon!