The Two Takerus: Red Mask And Shinken Red
Due to the existence of Kamen Rider Ghost with the first Kamen Rider to be named Takeru in script, I thought I might write on two red rangers who were also named Takeru. It's no secret that they are both my favorite characters in both shows. I would like to discuss about my two favorite red rangers and remember, there may be spoilers so don't read unless you don't mind getting spoiled.
Takeru/Red Mask's basic introduction
I would consider this guy as one of the top-tier reds perhaps due to my favoritism or preference for older school Super Sentai. I always felt like that back then, there was better acting, less power ups and more focus on writing but as the momentum came, Toei started adding more new gimmicks to keep Super Sentai going with more merchandise. Back to topic, I could discuss about him and his role in his series, Hikari Sentai Maskman.
He became my first favorite red ranger in Super Sentai. I thought about the fact he's badass, he can get distracted from his duties all the while he develops as a character. Before becoming part of the Maskman team, he saved a woman and her child. Director Sugata saw potential in him that he would become the best leader for the team. However, he also has one obstacle he must overcome and that is trying to find his lover Mio who unknown to him for some time, is really Princess Ial of Tube.
During the course of the show, getting reunited with Mio or Princess Ial was what he was after. He nearly jeopardized the team early on because he was still looking for her. Putting her aside, he managed to lead the team to unleash the Aura Power from within. As the show goes, he gets to face several trials with his team that make him a better person. Much of his plot development relied on his love story while the others developed like how any typical Toku hero or heroine would develop.
Takeru/Shinken Red's basic introduction
When it came to Shinkenger, my favorite was automatically Shinken Red due to his namesake though I would like him for good reasons. It felt like I had a break from the screaming reds like Ban and Sosuke or most post-Timeranger reds, it felt like going back to the 90s in some way. I thought of him similar to Ryu Tendo in Jetman and Takeru in Maskman as a leader in some way. He grew up trained to be a samurai and was told of his responsibility to fight the Gedoushu.
He is introduced at first as someone who didn't want to fight with the other vassals for some reason. He thinks he can fight alone and everyone wonders why he is different, why he tends to be a loner while like most 80s-90s red rangers, he is a reliable leader and he's not into that "tono" or "lord" stuff. He wants his fellow rangers to learn on their own, to be strong enough to do their duties. While he felt harsh at the first episode but we see he really cares about his subordinates even he can play the distant card with them.
Unlike Red Mask, there is no romance plot in Shinkenger. He has been fan-paired with either Mako or Kotoha. In my case, I felt like that Takeru/Shinken Red x Kotoha is pretty much like Ryu Tendo x Ako. I felt like he and Mako might actually make a better couple. No matter how many times she's "fixed" him, it seems that the two are shipping potential.
My opinion on the respective actors playing their respective Takerus
As much as I like both red rangers, I felt like there was a difference between the actors considering the eras that they both belonged to. During the pre-Zyuranger era, I felt like there was a really good effort in acting and stunts. Back then, a lot of the quality of stunts from both the main cast and the suit actors was basically well done. After Timeranger, a lot of the stunts from both main cast and stuntmen were toned down to Power Rangers-ish levels. Acting quality really differed a lot before and after Timeranger.
Looking at Kazunori Inaba, I felt this guy really knew how to carry his role as Red Mask in such a way that made him really believable. Whether it was feelings of happiness or rage, I thought this guy really knew how to carry his part. I always felt that a lot of his out-of-suit stunts were really above today's Tokusatsu fight scenes and so were most of the pre-Gaoranger Super Sentai. I always felt his fight scenes plus a combination of his strong acting made him better.
Tori Matsuzaka can also act (but not that well) and he can fight, no questions asked. I do like how he did his work but it wasn't as good as Inaba's acting. In terms of acting, I felt like he was more of a Kotaro Tanaka (the one who played Ryu) than him as a person who carries the namesake Takeru. While Ryu/Red Hawk is my favorite Jetman and so is Shinken Red my favorite Shinkenger, I felt like both of them were played by passable but never outstanding actors. For me, most of the Super Sentai cast members post-Timeranger weren't that good in acting out their characters and later cast members would come out to be pretty weak.
Rival/s that they faced throughout the show
Somehow, it's a long running cliche in Super Sentai fandom for red rangers to have sworn rivals though not all of them did have sworn rivals. It's time to see how the two red rangers faced off against the rivals of their shows. Both Takerus had their personal rivalries with villains which I will compare.
Takeru/Red Mask faced off against two rivals. When it comes to his love story, I thought that it does draw the most conflict compared to other characters. Sure, we have Haruka fighting with Fuumin but the rivalry isn't very personal. For this guy, his relationship with his girlfriend Ial had drawn much attention. First, he's got the ire of Prince Igam who unknown to him was a woman all along (well the attire does a good job hiding her body shape plus, some men have a feminine look and voice) and later on, he gets stuck with a rivalry with Kiros. His rivalry with Igam is complicated since later on, he refuses to fight Igam after finding out that Igam and Ial are indeed siblings. When he found out Igam was a woman, he further refused to continue their rivalry. I also felt that his rivalry with Kiros ended in a more unique way that unlike a final duel, he saw his rival Kiros become a victim of one's own greed.
Takeru/Shinken Red on the other hand faced the stray Gedoushu in Juzo as his only rival in the show. I felt like Juzo wasn't really all that interesting. Unlike Kiros who was a more interesting troll, I felt Juzo's "I'm the only one allowed to defeat you" motif was mixed together with a lack of interesting depth. Juzo only wanted to get the satisfaction of a great duel while Kiros would do anything to get rid of Red Mask. I thought that when he was uncovered to be a kagemusha or shadow lord (as part of the plot) which had me think whether or not it was a necessary plot twist, he falls for Juzo's challenge for a final battle thinking he had no reason to fight for anything. So he was pulled out of depression by his friends who viewed him as a real friend, not a shadow lord but as their true leader which made Kaoru fell bad. Sidenote, I still felt like trying to talk Kaoru out of the guilt that she should never feel.
My conclusion between the two Takerus
I always thought Red Mask was more fun than Shinken Red. On the other hand, we can still see that both characters are fun to watch in their own respect and I like them both. It can be fun to watch a more serious show like Maskman or the less serious Shinkenger. At the end of the day, I still like them both though the first Takeru for me has been the better one even if the other is still a favorite of mine.