Sentai Rambling: My View on Yasuko Kobayashi As A Head Writer!
So I can officially say I've seen the five Super Sentai seasons where Yasuko Kobayashi was the head writer of the following Super Sentai series namely Gingaman, Timeranger, Shinkenger, Gobusters and ToQGer. So I'll ramble on Yasuko Kobayashi and how I think of her as a writer. I'll confess I haven't seen Sailormoon yet but I am scheduling it. As of the meantime, this entry will be focused on Super Sentai/Kamen Rider franchise where she has been focused on. I haven't seen Anime with her as the head writer to further critique on her writing style.
Kobayashi herself started her writing as a minor writer for Winspector for one episode (haven't seen it), Janperson, Blue SWAT, B-Fighter and B-Fighter Kabuto. Now I've only seen Janperson from start to end and I don't know which episode she wrote. With Super Sentai became an important major writer for Megaranger (13 episodes), GoGo V (12 episodes), Boukenger (11 episodes) and for Kamen Rider, she was also a secondary writer for Agito (one episode, 28) and Decade (four episodes, including the Shinkenger crossover). Now I'd focus on how she was as a head writer. Unlike my Naruhisa Arakawa post, I will try to write based on order even if I've seen Shinkenger first and Gingaman last. Meanwhile, you may want to check out my comparison between her and Toshiki Inoue.
After I have just finished watching Gingaman last time, and I am currently watching Carranger, I felt like I'd like to ramble on Kobayashi's writing. From all the Super Sentai series with her as the head writer, my very first would be Shinkenger followed by Gobusters, Timeranger (but bad quality videos so I'm bracing for good quality ones), ToQGer and the last one in the list was Gingaman. At the same time I've seen Den-O first, Ryuki next and OOO as last for the Kamen Riders where she was the head writer.
Warning also! Spoilers ahead!
Seijuu Sentai Gingaman
What I find ironic is that I am talking about Gingaman here first and to consider, this should have been the last in my list since I saw it last from this list. After Megaranger, Gingaman became her time to shine as a head writer where she was the head writer and wrote most of the episodes. The minor writers were Junki Takegami, Naruhisa Arakawa, Tyuyoshi Kida, Tetsuo Okita and Kei Murumuya but sad to say, Takegami and Arakawa didn't contribute that much. On the other hand, 38 episodes gave us an idea of the kind of writer Kobayashi was going to become. Gingaman was a combination of dark themes and light themes, it was also Kobayashi's tandem with producer Shigenori Takatera.
Gingaman itself existed in a fantastic fantasy world. The story itself had involved five warriors who are memorable characters, inheriting the title of Seijuu Sentai Gingaman as the 133rd generation. The Balban appears after 3,000 years of imprisonment, rampaging mankind and all. At this point, Kobayashi started to introduce her writing style like focusing on character dialogue, development and some dark conflict. Gingaman may be an adventure world but it's not all fn and games. They must face some really cruel villains in the Balban, who now seek to turn the Earth into a jewel.
The series also introduced her favorite styles such as memorable characters, two reds (Hyuga and Ryoma), foreshadowing (ex. Hyuga still being alive, hints of Zahab's source of power), making most of her characters memorable, anti-heroes (the first Bullblack was vengeance crazed until he realized what he was doing was really wrong), villains with some other motive other than taking over the world (Pucrates did care about his niece Iliess while Zahab was more typical big bad) and moral dilemmas (personal matters vs. the world) played in some way. However this was her only headwriting series where the enemy generals took the place of the last one that got destroyed, very similar to that of Goranger and earlier Kamen Rider series.
In terms of finale, Kobayashi herself had written a decent one. Though I don't think Gingaman's finale was that grand, but it was passable. I just thought that the Earth Beast should have been enlarged two episodes prior to the finale than showing up in battle in the second to the last episode. I mean, come on show the might of the Earth Beast. I felt the finale was pretty rushed and that, I wish Zahab had more screen time beating up the Gingamen before he gets the death he deserved. The Ginga Forest was later revived for the finale and Moak does return after his sacrifice so the Gingamen can use their Earth Powers.
Mirai Sentai Timeranger
Arguably, Timeranger is my favorite Sentai season with Kobayashi as the head writer (she wrote 40 episodes with Ryota Yamaguchi writing 8 episodes and Toshiki Inoue sadly only two episodes), for me this is truly her magnum opus with all the daring dark elements in it. It's dark, gritty and not your typical Super Sentai season. This was also the season where Yasuko Kobayashi would team up with producer Jun Hikasa (also the producer of GogoV, Gaoranger, Hurricanger, Abaranger, Boukenger, Go-onger and first half of Goseiger). As the title would also suggest, Timeranger introduced us to how Kobayashi loves to use time travel in many of her situations.
Timeranger is very atypical in many ways aside from the fact it's more serious than Gingaman. One, it's four people from the year 3,000 who ends up teaming up with their Captain Ryuya's ancestor Tatsuya. The whole series then focused on a more important relatives like the Asamis (they are pretty dysfunctional)and Yuuri's family (her motive to why she hates Dolnero). The Timerangers are sent to the past to chase after Don Dolnero's escape and later, there are plans to try and secure the 30th Century. Later episodes would feature a long-term anti-hero in Naoto Takizawa (whose role reminds me of Hojo Toru in Kamen Rider Agito, a series that occurred in 2001, after Timeranger), who tries to secure his place of society to prove that poverty isn't an obstacle, but at the same time, he rivals the Timerangers.
The villains in the series were more focused on mafia related activities rather than taking over the world, while it does play a role where Dolnero is concerned about Gien's unstable behavior. The Timerangers and the villains are also pit against time, space and ultimately fate which while the Timerangers fight to save the 21st Century, their ultimate battle is for their own personal destinies. The whole series itself is a complex battle against fatewhich can be viewed as the series' true villain and not Don Dolnero(spoilers, click if you dare) where the Timerangers must choose their destiny, try to fight fate and you might consider a lot of stuff in Timeranger, to be pretty complex especially when it came to revealing some stuff.
Later, the finale arc would start getting atypical and would show Kobayashi's finales can be pretty much hit or miss at times. So the main villain Dolnero gets dethroned of that position (as a result of Gien insanity had reached its peak), even getting killed. Before that, we learn from Captain Ryuya's admissions that he allowed the villains to escape but he had some hidden agenda. Was he really after world domination? Nope, he just wanted to live without otherwise totally changing the 30th Century and had changed some things for the better but his hero wannabe actions ended up making him the "true villain" in the eyes of many fans though note that he wasn't even the man behind Londarz and he hated them as much. I felt like Ryuya's revelation could have been done one episode prior to the final episode, than the final episode at least to expand to why he's such a manipulative f*cking a**hole like Masato Kusaka was in Kamen Rider Faiz. The finale itself did leave some crazy wrap-ups like how in the world did Domon and Honami find time to get intimate in the middle of all that mayhem?!
Timeranger got so popular that it ended up having a post-series non-canon special where the Timerangers gave us a view of the 23 Super Sentai series before it.
Kamen Rider Ryuki
Kamen Rider Ryuki is Yasuko Kobayashi's first time to be a headwriter for Kamen Rider, with Toshiki Inoue writing a quarter of the show. It's a very atypical Kamen Rider with Shinichiro Shirakura as the producer of the show. I always thought of how the show was really pretty depressing for most of its run. It features a Battle Royale of Kamen Riders, both good and evil in the quest for the ultimate wish. It's also very atypical since most of the show featured Kamen Riders duking each other out for the ultimate wish. Shinji wants to stop the war (but he is one unlikable douche), Renn wants to save his fiance (but come on) and Shouichi is some corrupt lawyer who get entangled in the war for their lives. Along the way, the whole series' mysteries get complex but also annoying with all the time travel.
The Rider War itself was meant to be a tragedy with how it meant. For example, Miyuki one of the good Kamen Riders dies a premature death no thanks to Kamen Rider Ouja. During the run of the show, some evil Kamen Riders makes your blood boil. One of them is the spoiled brat Jun, a 21 year old computer science student who is so full of himself and becomes Kamen Rider Gai in the process. The more dangerous one was Kamen Rider Ouja who like Sword Saint Bilgenia (I assume Shiro Kanzaki the main villain unleashed him to liven up the game) in Kamen Rider Black, was really making the lives of a lot of people miserable, he even killed Jun for the sake of doing it! Later episodes show several moral dilemmas to which the show may have raised complaints.
I felt this show had too much executive meddling at the same time time. For instance, it seemed like Megumi Asano was a result of executive meddling than bad writing of either which Inoue or Kobayashi hoping to lighten up the mood (maybe a lot of parents kept complaining). Later, we are introduced to the annoying reset button, the arrival of Kamen Rider Odin just didn't help too much either like how the Orphnoch King was in Kamen Rider Faiz. In fact, I even felt like how it ended was a result of executive meddling than just plain bad writing. I even felt Kobayashi wanted to end it as tragic as people... but executives just meddled too much one way or another. Instead, we get that stupid reset button ending which sadly gets rid of ALL character development as well. I mean, Ryuki should have been a tragedy but oh well... curse the executive meddling! =P
Kamen Rider Den-O
This was Yasuko Kobayashi's well, first time to dabble with comedy which was a contrast to Ryuki's dark and serious atmosphere ruined by executive meddling. This would be her second time travel series where I felt like, "Man it's a real rollercoaster dizzy ride!" Even if it was a comedy (and Ryotaro Nogami is an unlucky man) it did carry one trope I felt was too annoying called douchebag protagonists. One of the Imagins namely Momotaros was just so freaking annoying. I mean, while Momotaros wasn't as bad as Masato Kusaka (who I consider as Kamen Rider Faiz's secondary villain) but he didn't have to keep annoying Ryotaro!
So the whole theme is all on time travel, Imagins and how the past can affect the future, and vice-versa. The Den-Liner arrives into the present, making Ryotaro the protector of the present time he's in, he boards the Den-Liner where he meets his alternate future niece, where he must defend the future. While it has Timeranger vibes, I don't think the series held a candle towards Timeranger.
Unlike Timeranger which was fantastically complex, this one was pretty confusing one way or another. In my case, I felt like watching Kamen Rider Kiva (by Toshiki Inoue) or Power Rangers Time Force (by Judd Lynn) would be better than this season. I felt this show was very confusing with too much time travel that it's so hard to follow. It involves so much time displacement it's very hard for me to follow.
However the series itself was pretty popular in Japan and I'm among the minority who doesn't like this season. For one, the show itself was where Kobayashi may have failed to impress the older audience and ended up impressing the younger audience. A lot of the show featured some pretty cool stuff and concepts like the Imagin/human relation, lots of time travel and Ryotaro's character development. Personally, I don't like the series after rewatching it. The finale itself was a mess, I couldn't even understand what the finale really meant.
Samurai Sentai Shinkenger
So I don't like Den-O but I like Shinkenger and I used to overrate it. My primary reason was based on the fact, it's the first Kobayashi as its head writer series I've seen from start to end! Unlike Den-O's humor, those show had some better comedy executed like my favorites are Ryunosuke's ham, Chiaki slacking off and Mako's really bad cooking. I even felt like the Gedoushu's drying up gag was pretty funny, trying to make a different way of writing Super Sentai monsters. At the same time, the show tries to maintain a balance of serious themes with comedy without becoming inconsistent.
Fortunately Kobayashi didn't write any unlikable douchebags into the show (Chiaki was funny for me, tries to be tough but he's a nice guy type of teenager) or Genta the sixth ranger (my least favorite of the show) is comic relief. The show itself tries to integrate samurai stuff at the same time, it feels like a tribute to other Sentai seasonslike the writings of Hirohisa Soda, the late Noboru Sugimura, Toshiki Inoue (in some of its comedy) like reusing the name Takeru (Maskman), Ryunosuke feels like a Kenta/Dan hybrid, Chiaki would be a rebellious Akira/Blue Mask and Kotoha would be reserved version of Ako Hayasaka. As far as concerned, everyone's likable for most of its run which made up of her the show lacking the bigger slice of Timeranger and Gingaman.
I would blame production crew (and the producer Takaaki Utsunomiya who'd later produce Gokaiger and Wizard) for having the mecha overload reading up to twelve pieces of mecha. For example, I felt like that the Mougyudaioh plot was more of a toy commercial than a plot mover. It's also here that midseason, plot really stalled which happened in Den-O and now in Shinkenger. Shinkenger's weaker midseason wasn't all that bad for me. Kobayashi however managed to write some good drama into the stories to make up for the mecha overload. However, it's a conflict of trying to write quality stories vs. executives which may soon affect her performance as a writer. The show did so well that a Shinkenger Returns OVA happened.
For the finale arc, I thought that while it was okay to have Kaoru injected into the story which justified Takeru's actions (he was a decoy lord for his princess) but... I do have some things to object towards the finale. So really, Kaoru is a princess and yet she couldn't come up with a better plan after her sealing symbol failed and nearly got her killed? Why did she have to "adopt" Takeru and have a "son" older than her? I felt like that the whole scenario was laughable at best considering that she could have just said, "Well I can't fight, Takeru I'm leaving everything in your hands. Tanba, don't object. We have no choice. It doesn't have to be me... my shadow warrior can finish the job that I can't." Worse, why let Kaoru leave her rightful birth post?! While you had one big awesome final battle but the finale itself had me "HUH" which made Gai Yuki's death in Chojin Sentai Jetman more acceptable even if it was for me, facepalm worthy.
In terms of production, Shinkenger had a lot of crossovers. The crossover episodes of Shinkenger with Decade were written by Yasuko Kobayashi. You may also consider that Shinkenger had a crossover with Go-onger which was also written by Kobayashi. Then we had Kento Shimoyama as the writer for Goseiger vs. Shinkenger.
Kamen Rider OOO
I find it amazing that while I really do dislike (not hate) Den-O, I did enjoy Kamen Rider OOO in spite of what some may call as "bad humor". Yeah Eiji Hino is stupid but at least he's not like that annoying Shinji in Ryuki. Ankh can get on my nerves but he's nowhere near how Kobayashi and Inoue wrote their douchebag protagonists before this show. The battle of Kamen Rider OOO though it's a lighthearted series, still has some dark undertones going on in an attempt to balance the show. The Greeeds aren't comedic villains for most of their run even if they do end up producing some funny monsters at times. The show like Shinkenger tries to balance serious and
I felt like the finale of Kamen Rider OOO wasn't so well-written either so I wonder why are they only bashing Inoue for bad finales? I could see how OOO did copy some elements from Kamen Rider Agito in the finale as you can notice in how it went. Dr. Maki was now planning to bring the world of the world in his Greeed Form, he is ascending there and the fight takes place in some industrial alley or backyard like Faiz's finale. Yup, OOO then ascends and does a finishing move on Dr. Maki (who is somewhat parodying Agito's Overlord of Darkness) after some episodes of rushed writing off the villains. Then we have that time jump of sorts as well.
Tokumei Sentai Gobusters
Gobusters was her attempt to return to the darker and edgier and it would be her second round to work with Naomi Takebe, aka the yes girl of Bandai, the first was Kamen Rider OOO. For me, the whole series felt it was either she was really on a burnout or she just gave up writing good stories or you can also blame Takebe for trying to please everyone. Gobusters started out with promise for me but again, I do have biases towards it. This was where a lot of problems showed up for the series but I don't consider this her worst work in the list. For me, this show is still watchable to a certain extent, it's just that the show has bigger signs of her burning out or giving up in her attempts to write better stories. Maybe, just maybe the only Super Sentai fans who felt like they could like this show are those who like Power Rangers RPM assuming that they are also Power Rangers fans.
At first, I was excited to have both Kobayashi and an old school-style Sentai, an atypical Sentai and hey maybe she can pull this off. My problem with the show might be more with the executives than Kobayashi or not. If Inoue really burnt out (or gave up) while writing Faiz, the same may have happened to her in Gobusters. While Gobusters felt nice to have some old school feel but my problem was how the villains were too focused on gathering Enetron, hardly doing anything but getting Enetron, the Messiah Cards arc did start to change the game but my problem is how the show lacked some villains. Again, I can't comment too much since I haven't seen much of Battle Fever J and that show only had Hedder at first to carry out orders then Salome came mid-series like how Enter was the only villain, only to be met by Escape.
So what's my downside on the show? Maybe not the stiff and boring characters but some plot elements that just don't make sense. Kobayashi gets inconsistent with how she writes. First, it seems she wants to return to darker and edgier but in a poor attempt to balance it, she adds Hiromu's weakness is... CHICKENS? Wow, can't she think of a better weak point than that or two, she could have had a Chicken Metaroid to develop Hiromu. Aside from that, the show felt like it ran around with circles with gathering Enetron, the Messiah Cards arc came then... I felt like the whole show collapsed within itself. The finale itself just made it too random that Jin Masato was dead all along (it should have been revealed a little earlier than that) or I felt like Enter was made the final villain by executive decision. I felt like Messiah could have been given a plot like entering into Enter's body (pun intended) returning for one last battle. Oh sigh! But then, the story itself started to warm up to me eventually after some time even if it will never be a favorite of mine.
Ressha Sentai ToQGer
For me ToQGer was somewhat refreshing with its characters but the whole story really, well collapsed. Unlike Toshiki Inoue writing with Kamen Rider Kiva, ToQGer didn't make the cut for me. Okay, maybe the younger generation love it but personally, I don't. The whole series had better personalities for the rangers, they weren't flat and boring but the execution for me wasn't superb. To think that this show had Kobayashi as its writer and Utsunomiya as the producer. While attempting to capture Shinkenger's charm, for me the show falls really flat in doing so. For one, I didn't even bother to marathon the show and watched it at snail pace because, the show felt stupid for me. While it did win an award for safety regulations and perhaps, the show was viewed as a Public Service Announcement but I felt the show doesn't click so much for me.
Moving on, it's okay to have rainbows, teddy bears, candies, etc. type of show if it can be done well. I mean Kamen Rider Kiva did have a colorful fantasy environment, horror comedy style. While I could enjoy Kiva for some of its complex plots in the midst of a silly season, ToQGer felt too much like a huge toy commercial and well, the main hero Right for me isn't as good as Kiva's hero Wataru. Kiva still had interesting stuff like the human/Fangire conflict mingled with the romance of some humans and Fangires. Sad to say but none of ToQGer ever really had that much of an exploration, maybe except for Akira who is a Shadow Liner who becomes the sixth member.
Shadow Line just felt too flat to me compared to the Fangires in Kamen Rider Kiva. While I can understand Sentai villains usually lack common sense in their schemes, this one felt bland. Zed's arrival wasn't even all that interesting either considering he's only too focused on stuff that shine, making him too annoying. I could care less if he's silly, he should have at least stuck with the Shadow Line's primary mission. I mean, Shadow Line's silliness is badly written to the point that it's just a plain bad joke on the faces of viewers. I can tolerate silly villains but Zed is inconsistent with his stand. He should have appeared obsessed with destroying everything that shines while launching typical Toku convoluted and/or unbelievable plots than just change direction for its sake.
For the finale itself, it was really more or less Faiz-ish in some way. I felt like after acting as a bad substitute for the Fangire King, Zed himself ends up becoming like the Orphnoch King when it comes to his defeat. After he was powered up for the finale, he is defeated by a powered up ToQ-1 and guess what, he's not even dead. He is rendered into a comatose and Grita rescues him and WTF, come on why would Grita still rescue him?! It felt stupid considering that Smart Girl had EVERY reason to rescue the Orphnoch King while Grita didn't. I mean, that finale made Faiz's badly written finale look decent!
Updated on: September 6, 2015