Sentai Rambling: Where I Think Shinkenger Succeeded, Where I Think ToQGer Failed
ToQGer really pales in comparison to Shinkenger regardless in my opinion...
I would like to ramble on Shinkenger and ToQGer for these reasons. ToQGer had the same head writer (Yasuko Kobayashi) and producer (Takaaki Utsunomiya) but it resulted to something that I couldn't take. This may be very unpleasant so please bear with me. I would start my own talk about how Shinkenger succeeded and ToQGer failed. It may contain my biases considering Shinkenger is the very first Sentai I watched from start to end, head-written by Yasuko Kobayashi though as of late, my favorite work from her is Mirai Sentai Timeranger and second is Seijuu Sentai Gingaman.
I will admit watching more Sentai shows, admitting I was pretending to be a know-it-all before and now admitting my fault is sort of like me re-educating myself as a writer and a person. So going on with this lengthy Sentai rambling this time around.... it's time to read my opinions.
Understanding the staff behind Ressha Sentai ToQGer
It would be necessary to understand the staff behind ToQGer to see what went wrong. Now we have the tandem of head producer Takaaki Utsunomiya and head writer Yasuko Kobayashi. Utsunomiya was responsible behind Shinkenger, Gokaiger and Kamen Rider Wizard. Looking at how Kamen Rider Wizard was, I thought he was at a decline but that show for me was more watchable than Magiranger (due to it having no Houka who really, REALLY annoys me).
For head writer Yasuko Kobayashi, I cannot deny she's responsible for two Super Sentai masterpieces namely Gingaman (hopefully I'll be done and over with it so I can write more about it) and the extremely complex Timeranger. She was also a major contributor as a sub-writer to Megaranger (prior to Gingaman), Gogo V (prior to Timeranger) and Boukenger (prior to Shinkenger). She was also the writer behind episode 28 of Kamen Rider Agito, she would later write Kamen Rider Ryuki (where the ending was most likely a result of executive meddling) and she would dabble with comedy in Kamen Rider Den-O. She became the head writer of Shinkenger (she also wrote the Shinkenger episodes in Decade) which was a pretty popular season. She also became Gobusters' head writer which suffered lower ratings probably because of the darker and edgier plans involved or Kobayashi just quit an effort to make good stories just like Toshiki Inoue after Kamen Rider Agito (Kamen Rider Faiz and Kamen Rider Kiva are berated by fans, but I do like the latter). The way she wrote the show looks more like she just gave up on writing better stories compared to her previous works.
The sub-writers are also important in this analysis namely Akatsuki Yamatoya (8 episodes) and Sho Aikawa (3 episodes, Boukenger's and a major contributor to Kamen Rider Blade's second half and first half of Kamen Rider Decade). Most of the series were here work which probably burned her out and due to a lack of good writers (like Naruhisa Arakawa and Junki Takegami), the whole show couldn't get any better plots. Also, she's practically burnt out for Super Sentai and not having better help really wasn't helping the show.
As usual, many spoilers ahead. So read at your own risk or if you don't mind being spoiled (I'm a spoiler addict), go ahead and proceed.
The main cast of heroes from both shows compared
I had so much fun having my trip to Japan with these guys!
What did I feel about Shinkenger's cast? Shinkenger had the charm of previous Super Sentai seasons like Maskman, Jetman and Gingaman. I always viewed Takeru Shiba to be a shadow lord possessing Ryu Tendo's and Ryu's leadership skills. Ryunosuke was basically 80s-90s quality of hammy comedy from any hammy ranger you can mention. Mako felt like a more mature Kimberly from MMPR (I love stating that opinion to piss those Power Rangers fantards and Super Sentai fantards off my blog) and I couldn't compare her too much to Sentai pinks of the past, I still see her as one of the physically weaker characters though she can still fight nonetheless but she relies mostly on her wits. Kotoha would be your Ako Hayasaka 2.0 except she is more reserved and shes' not a greedy person. Chiaki was Akira from Maskman with a streak of rebelliousness. Maybe some don't like Genta and I don't like him too, I was okay with his existence overall as a comic relief character who actually contributes with his hidden genius... my only problem with him was that he felt like what if Skull from MMPR had a son with a Japanese woman.
On a sidenote, I just thought of my biases. Shinkenger is the very first Super Sentai that I watched that had Yasuko Kobayashi as a headwriter plus it was a decent season for me, close to becoming a masterpiece. Also, another of my biases is that my top two favorite Shinkengers are Takeru Shiba and Mako then the rest (in order) are Ryunosuke, Kotoha, Chiaki and my least favorite is Genta (I just can't hate him). As of late, while I do still like Shinkenger but I do not like it as much as I used to after watching 44 episodes of Gingaman (I am almost done and it will be part of my list) and Timeranger (bad quality video though then some high quality Spanish videos at least Jillun's page provided a synopsis, seen 20 HD videos subbed by Over Time). So Shinkenger is still one of the shows that I like but it's never in my list of awesome. Still, the show is still much better than ToQGer for me.
Yawn yawn yawn... the train trip with these guys wasn't memorable...
ToQGer's cast was okay. Nobody was obnoxious but I felt like none of them stood up for me. Either I had too much of hangover from Kobayashi's previous works or ToQGer isn't as good as Shinkenger and other of Kobayashi's previous works. The plot of Shinkenger as children who went missing no thanks to Shadow Line's invasion of their hometown. It provides some mystery like... why are the children are the only ones who can see them? Later, it was figured out that the ToQGers are indeed children force-grown into becoming adults by their imaginative powers. They are continuously liberating one station after another from the influence of Shadow Line. While the concept of children, imagination and town liberization were interesting concepts for the show, the execution wasn't superb at all.
Now I don't hate any of the ToQGers as they are a radical departure from the mostly obnoxious Kyoryugers. Right is that naive leader, Tokkati is your geeky guy for comic effects, Mio is tomboyish, Hikari is sort of the loner that learns to open up and Kagura well she's my least favorite pink in Kobayashi's list of pinks and I didn't find her interesting at all. While they are likable characters but I tend to think none of them stand up and I couldn't favorite anyone. I also considered Akira's addition at first interesting but later, the fact he only caused rain as his reason to "atone himself" was just WTF just plain stupid. Come on, there has to be other lighter and softer reasoning for Akira joining the ToQGers to redeem himself like being a former thief or something!
Concerning the Super Sentai team mentors, I felt like Jii was better than Conductor. Again, this is just a bias considering that ToQGer is a train-themed show and Shinkenger is a samurai themed show (but it was a lighter show in contrast to Gingaman and Timeranger). I always thought of it that I like Jii's funny moments better than the forced comedy that comes with Conductor. Maybe it's because Goro Ibuki is a better actor than comedian Tsukuno Sekine who played Conductor. To make things worse IMO is the addition of Ticket and Wagon the robot girl. I always thought Jii had a more positive influence on the Shinkengers than Conductor did. Not that Conductor is terrible but he just doesn't meet the cut for me. I guess it's more on bad writing isn't it?
Mecha execution from the two series
Both shows had the problem of mecha overload to which we have Takaaki Utsunomiya as the producer. Shinkenger had a total of twelve mecha pieces. ToQGer would have 13 pieces of mecha. I might want to talk about the designs from both shows. I feel like both sides of the coin need to be discussed and I wasn't that impressed on mecha designs on both sides.
Shinkenger's mecha for me were ranging from average to good designs. So far, I think Shinkenoh looks very blocky but it's fine for me. My only problem was when it combined with Daitenkuu forming a rather awkward looking Tenkuu Shinkenoh which was just, awkward looking. I did like the design of the Daikai Shikenoh. Mougyudaioh had a cool design but it was more of a toy commercial than plot contribution. We have Daigoyo who was again, another attempt to sell more merchandise. Then it had the problem of the cluster mecha with Samuraihaoh which for me was totally bulky and well, impractical for an "Ultrazord" IMO.
I felt like ToQGer's mecha were all awkward. First, I felt like ToQ-Oh is a badly done version of the Gogo V's Grand Liner. Most of the auxillary mecha were were either average or just badly done. Then we just keep getting more awkward combinations and each combination for me just got more horrid than the last. Heck even their "Ultrazord" didn't impress me a bit and I just yawned too much. Most of the time, I can't help but ridicule the mecha design but I do respect those who still like it. For me, the mecha design just doesn't make the cut at all.
The crossovers that each show had with Kamen Rider
Due to the tradition of Super Sentai having a yearly non-canon crossover with its previous season in a two-team crossover (the practice was restored in Ohranger), so Shinkenger and ToQGer are no exemptions to the rule. But unlike its previous seasons, it had two crossovers with Kamen Riders. Shinkenger was featured for two episodes in Decade (shades of "Friend in Need") while the ToQGer/Gaim crossover was a non-canon movie that would bridge to the stupid Showa vs. Heisei Rider movie written by one gain Shoji Yonemura a.k.a. Patrick Star.
The first Super Sentai and Kamen Rider crossover on TV...
Shinkenger had its crossover with Decade for two episodes. For me, it was a real great experience no matter how much I freaking don't like Kamen Rider Decade as much as I freaking don't like Saban's Mashed Rider. The whole two episodes for me was indeed a smoother experience than "A Friend in Need" in MMPR with better writing, better casting and a concept of meeting Kamen Rider and Super Sentai as two different genres. We get some real conflict especially when Diend meddles around in the World of Shinkenger, which was a world without Kamen Riders and imbalance was happening. Of course, all Narutaki does is blame Decade for anything that happens bad in their continuity. For me, this was the more superior Super Sentai/Kamen Rider crossover over its successors.
Meanwhile, I slept in this one! Sorry if those who like this better find my opinion offensive.
For me the ToQGer vs. Gaim special got me to sleep for most of its turn. I do love Kamen Rider Gaim for its unique writing, being a more improvised version of Kamen Rider Ryuki (that show was so full of unbearable douchebags). I felt like the whole non-canon movie had a very slow plot and two, there was hardly any plot to it other than fanservice. While Shinkenger/Decade did put some decent effort to mix a bad show with a good one, the second crossover just didn't meet the cut for me. Is it me or am I just growing old? I felt like Ressha Sentai ToQGer vs. Kamen Rider Gaim wasn't as good as the Shinkenger arc in Kamen Rider Decade.
The villains from both shows
They carried enough factors that even if Doukoku and Shitari tend to get funny at times, they were still good plot material...
Okay Shinkenger just had a few villains namely Doukoku, Shitari and Dayu for the main team and we have Juzo as a stray villain who had no alignment with anyone whatsoever. I thought the Gedoushu while not really as scary as the Soda era villains or 90s era vilains have had their own fair share of being comical and destructive. Their aim was to cause despair and negative emotions any way they can so they can bring the Rokumon Junk into the surface world and slaughter all the humans. For a running gag, being a Gedoushu means you can't stay out of the Sanzu Rivera, meeting a strict time limit (Ryuki had time limits for its Kamen Riders) and have to return to recuperate. In spite of the running gag of monsters drying up and a lack of field commanders, the villains were still able to deliver a certain degree of performance.
Doukoku may be comical but he can also get scary whenever it is needed like every big bad in the series should always show a frightening side even in a lighter and softer series like Shinkenger. I mean, he might get funny at times with his tantrums, but he's serious about getting the Sanzu River filled and won't tolerate failure even if it means sacrificing his own followers. He is also followed by his adviser Shitari who was comical but also did research on various ways they can deal with the Shiba. Dayu is a tragic villain who was once human but comes a Gedoushu, a bloodthirsty killer yet with some sense of honor. Akumaro arrives as a game changing villain who showed more cruelty than his peers wishing to unleash Hell on Earth. Each of the villains though not that great, were still able to deliver necessary conflict whenever needed.
What I enjoyed about Shinkenger's villains were the more or less decent plots around them. My favorite plots usually involved the conflict between Juzo and Takeru. Juzo himself was always after bloodthirsty rage and yet he wouldn't fight a poisoned Takeru but both were light and darkness fighting each other. Mako later develops a rivalry with Dayu. Mako sees Day's past and it develops a bigger conflict than when Mako was a fake bride. Akumaro didn't care about anyone and showed degrees of cruelty, even to try to usurp Doukoku's position (during that time, Doukoku was dried up). Doukoku himself showed his fury generated by negative energies, he was the leader of the Gedoushu who was obsessed with fury, destruction and taking over the surface world. Later episodes show Doukoku later sacrifice Dayu (by absorbing her into his body) just so he could achieve full power for the finale.
Seriously, they drive me into despair because of how disappointing the are!
On the other hand, the Shadow Line felt more like a group of idiots like the Zangyacks, either at the same level or worse for me. What is worse, no Basco-like villain ever comes in and most of ToQGer feels bland. Although they have been releasing darkness left and right, the show is just shining too bright and getting too sparkly to make room for darker plots. One way or another, I can bash Emperor Zed again and again for all I care. For a positive, the show did have the presence of field commanders which Shinkenger lacked but I felt like it wasn't carried out as I expected it to be.
"He should be back where he belongs... at his Chamber of Command!"
I was expecting Zed to give the show some necessary conflict but what does he do? He's only out there trying to obsess with shiny stuff. He keeps Grita within him because she has shiny eyes. Although he has a degree of cruelty but he's definitely stupid in the sense, why be so obsessed with things that shine? To me, he's the biggest blunder the show ever had compared to Kobayashi's previous villains like Dolnero's typical crime waves, Zahab wanting to dominate space by turning planets into jewels, Doukoku's desire for the Gedoushu to take over the surface world, Dr. Maki's desire to see the world end... Zed does nothing to really give real conflict. I find him lazy and incompetent to the point I want to slam his head against Warz Gill. Later he just gets inconsistent when he decides to drown the Earth in darkness which contradicted his previous desires, plus his defeat was just as disappointing as to how the Orphnoch King was defeated in Kamen Rider Faiz. There are other ways to make him a silly monarch, just make sure he's still got a cunning side and that he really raises some conflict, not just obsess over shiny stuff. I mean, Go-onger's villains were mostly stupid but they were focused on Gaiarc's plan to pollute the Earth.
To be honest, Emperor Zed felt like he was related to this Addams family as Lord Zedd's and Rita's son, Rito Revolto's nephew and a grandson of Master Vile... even if that's just impossible!
The whole villain plots of ToQGer could have been done better. For instance, make Zed a real threat than a more powerful guy but all too obsessed with shiny stuff. He doesn't have to be scary or anything, just make him do something worthwhile than just obsess over shiny stuff. To be honest, no offense but I felt like Emperor Zed is like what if Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa had a son and he got misplaced after the events of Countdown to Destruction in Power Rangers in Space. I even want to imagine it where Rito Revolto was purified to a human being, started to look like Kenichi Endo (who played Rito's Kakuranger counterpart Junior/Gasha Dokuro) and endorsed Pizza Black, raised Zed like a son while waiting for his brother-in-law and sister to be reunited with him. But one day out of carelessness, he misplaced Zed who was later raised by the Shadow Liners to become their new emperor, to restore the legacy that Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa lost after they were purified by Zordon's wave. One way or another, the show makes it as if Zed emerged from Lord Zedd's and Rita's family tree.
Finale arcs from both Super Sentai seasons
Seriously Princess did you REALLY have to adopt someone older than you?!
Okay Shinkenger's finale is not perfect either, still leaving me some crazy moments to think about. So it does make sense that Takeru's behavior was justified because he played the shadow lord, a plan he willingly agreed with Kaoru's parents and the whole Shiba Clan, he knew he had to stand by as Kaoru's facade, even hide the truth from his friends for the plan to succeed. That of course was a shocker not the audience but to the Shinkengers that Takeru was a shadow lord all along. Takeru's behavior hinted he was a Shadow Lord. Now I have nothing against that but the problem had to be the WTF moment that Takeru gets adopted by Kaoru.
I mean, that scene always gets to me like WTF just happened?! I mean Kaoru could have just merely told Takeru, "As Princess of Shiba clan, I appoint you my shadow warrior to finish what I can't. Of course, part of my decree is you all come back safe and sound. After all, you are also my rightful vassal too." and she can REMAIN as head of Shiba (it is HER RIGHTFUL PLACE and sorry, I still can't buy the idea of Takeru as the 19th head, he should have just been sent to finish what Kaoru failed to do) but no, we had to get some funny shock value... like how Domon and Honami managed to find time to get intimate in the middle of chaos. Yeah I know, Kobayashi loves to shock us viewers. At least we got a real good finale except for that adoption part. In spite of that absurd Kaoru adopting her shadow warrior Takeru as her "son" (good thing she's not dating Genta or I'd puke), the finale revealed more details and had a real epic battle.
Well this was one thing done right in ToQGer, returning the heroes to their rightful ages than keeping them as adults!
Meanwhile ToQGer's finale arc for me was somewhat hurriedly done and most people were written off in such an unsatisfactory manner. I mean, rather than give the remaining villains valiant deaths, they just voluntarily absorbed themselves into Emperor Zed. Emperor Zed then makes a heel face turn, wanting to cause more darkness then returns back to his obsession with shiny things. Even the final battle is almost as lame as the Faiz finale. After he is defeated, he somewhat falls into a coma and he is recovered by Grita. Grita ends up playing the role of Smart Lady and Emperor Zed as the comatose Orphnoch King.
Well it did make sense to revert the ToQGers to being children so they can relive their normal lives because they have already grown old enough to be their parents' siblings. Again, Yasuko Kobayashi's finales in most of her shows usually end up with a bad mix like Toshiki Inoue's. The finale was so rushed one way or another, fortunately the ToQGers were allowed to return as kids. Still, ToQGer for me overall has failed to meet any of my expectations for a revival for Yasuko Kobayashi's job a a Tokusatsu writer.