Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger Is Super Sentai's Biggest What-If Crossover And Tribute!
I remembered the time I heard somebody's thoughts that, "Hey what if Gokaiger was a result of the Grand Delusion of the Akibarangers?" I thought of it myself. Normally, Super Sentai series are self-contained. Any VS Series is usually set as a series of what ifs and Ohranger vs. Kakuranger's obvious to be non-canon to each series, may have set the standard of non-canon crossovers. However some crossovers felt "canon" like Gekiranger vs. Boukenger felt like a sequel to Boukenger's ending, Go-onger vs. Gekiranger felt like a sequel to Gekiranger's ending, Shinkenger vs. Go-onger felt like a sequel to Go-onger's ending (and it introduced the Goseigers) all the while, verified by Toei to be a series of what ifs, than fitting all series in just one continuity. The whole series is the Super Robot Wars of Super Sentai!
In contrast to Boukenger (which I find better), Gokaiger itself exists as a huge anniversary of sorts and it really seeks to do the Decade, except it turned out much better. Gokaiger becomes a huge what if series. Normally, crossovers take place in the form of movies... Gokaiger is a year long crossover for most of its run. It felt like a parallel dimension, a universe in the multiverse, a universe where series that were supposedly self-contained, get crammed up into one huge season. It's a huge what if, that is what if all 35 Super Sentai series existed in one line! Or as said, "LET'S TAKE ALL THE SUPER SENTAI AND PUT THEM INTO ONE SEASON!"
The Super Sentai Legend War itself is more what if since if you try to force it into canon, you will realize that there's a lot of purposely done inconsistencies. For example, look at the endings of most Super Sentai series. In Flashman, the Flashmen left for space because the Anti-Flash phenomenon cannot be cured. In Kakuranger, the Kakurangers sacrificed their Ninja Braces so Daimaou can be locked up permanently. Most of the time, it's assumed they give up their powers. So how did they get altogether? It takes a wild imagination to cram all non-canon shows into one season. The whole Legend War can be viewed as a Grand Delusion of sorts. Apparently, there is a VS Universe and Gokaiger is a series taking place in the VS Continuity than a self-contained one like most Super Sentai are. Like for example, one may think that Takeru Shiba never became Gedou Shinken Red in Shinkenger but only his VS Universe counterpart or two, Captain Zahab never had a brother in Gingaman but only in Gingaman vs. Megaranger.
In the middle, the Hero 199 movie happened which featured more cameos and the whole Goseiger team. The VS Universe version of the Goseigers teams up with the Gokaigers. The episode also brings back memories of Bioman (Shiro), Goggle V (Kanpei), Turboranger (Riki Honoo), JAKQ (Banba), Goranger (Tyuyoshi), Genta, Chiaki, Umeko, Ryou (who will return in a guest episode), Satoru (who will return in a guest episide), Daigoro (Denzi Blue) and Saki as guest stars. The whole movie featured a very old villain in Black Cross Fuehrer together with the non-canon return of Dagon, Yogoschrimaten and Buredoran (who also had a non-canon return in Goseiger vs. Shinkenger).
The Super Sentai series tries to colorfully imagine what if all the Super Sentai before it were just part of an entire huge universe. I mean, in Gokaiger, a lot of people seemed to get used to the fact that a giant monster battle happens all the time unlike in most Super Sentai series, they treat them as unusual events. For example, one may think that "It used to be peaceful until... (insert enemy organization) attacks." or "Just then Bio Robo is awakened because the Earth is in danger." or "Earth Force is awakened because the Earth is in danger." and they all happen in their own continuities. Gai Ikari's dream of meeting Mikoto, Burai and Naoto (all three dead warriors) was trying to cram in three different continuities. There is NO WAY that the Zyuranger story and the Abaranger story could ever be reconciled in their actual canon.
For instance, remember Boukenger vs. Super Sentai isn't canon at all. Aka Red will remain as a non-canon, VS Universe exclusive character. He was given some plot in Gokaiger as a former crew member. So Gokaiger can be verified to exist in the VS Universe in contrast to the norm that each Super Sentai season is usually grounded in its own continuity. Having him as a casual character in the show further makes Gokaiger a season long crossover. After all, Boukenger's plots may have similarities with previous seasons but it's obviously self-contained. For example, the Ashu in Boukenger are different (even with similarities) from the short-lived Ramu and Gogu in Jetman.
Another part of the Super Sentai series is how some seniors do return either to make a cameo or to guest for the entire episode. You just saw Mikoto's picture, it was a cameo. Gokaiger's 28th episode had even dare bring back another ghost character, Gai Yuki acted by Toshihide Wakamatsu! Okay, I didn't like the episode's treatment of Gai Ikari (that's just my opinion that episode was cruel to the core to the poor Gai), but having Toshihide Wakamatsu a so 90s alumni return was something. While most of the guest cast were newer Super Sentai casts but seeing cameos of the seniors was something nice to have. They tried their best to get as many guest roles as possible which makes this show a memorable anniversary.
Part of Gokaiger presents us an alternative fate towards the Super Sentai seniors. While Gai Yuki is verified dead in both the Jetman Encyclopedia and the non-canon Gokaiger, most of Super Sentai heroes have their fates unknown after that. In Gokaiger, one episode shows Kenta is a teacher in his alma mater, though in Megaranger, his future career remains unknown.
The year long crossover tries to link the Super Sentai guests with the unleashing of the Greater Power. True, the Gokaigers were able to access the powers of the 34 Previous Sentai, put the Ranger Key into the Mobirate and all... but they still needed that Greater Power. It's also part of the hunt for the Greatest Treasure in the Universe, one of the plot movers of Gokaiger. While they also get the Greater Powers, they also get new mecha combinations as a result.
Perhaps the greatest symbolism in the show for a year long crossover is its sixth ranger, Gai Ikari. After all, wasn't he a Super Sentai fan who knew everything about every Super Sentai season, now he exists in a continuity where all 35 Super Sentai seasons exist as one and ends up becoming part of a Super Sentai season? He appeared apparently representing the feeling of any older fan watching Gokaiger and seeing their favorites make a return after some time. When he decided to get rid of the Greatest Treasure in the Universe, it felt like
Of course, I couldn't forget about Gokaiger vs. Gavan either. Why not? It's part of my childhood considering I watched Gavan way back when I was in elementary. It was nice to see how Kenji Ohba made a return, reprising his iconic role prior to passing his mantle to another. What was amazing to think was how later on, Gokaiger would still be a crossover. After Gokaiger vs. Gobusters (apparently, Gobusters is part of the crossover universe than a standalone series), it also ended up going head to head against Kamen Rider Decade in Patrick Star's disasterpiece, Super Hero Taisen.