Dairanger And Gekiranger: Handling Chinese Themed Sentai

Happy year of the monkey! It's time for me to talk about Chinese-based Super Sentai. You might be wondering why Hikari Sentai Maskman isn't here. Maskman used mixed martial arts from both Chinese and Japanese influence. What's so strange about Super Sentai is that while it's a Japanese series, it utilizes more foreign themes. After so many Western themes, they also decided to do Chinese themes.


Gosei Sentai Dairanger

Dairanger happens to be the first Chinese-themed Super Sentai. Compared to Maskman, the Dairangers used Chinese style fighting. These fighting styles happen to be based on Chinese martial arts namely Ryou uses Dragon Fist, Daigo uses Hung Ga, Shoji uses Long Fist, Kazu uses Drunken Fist and Rin uses Eagle Fist Style. Although most of the Dairangers were presumably Japanese but we have both Ryou and Rin as the first half-Chinese members of a Super Sentai team. Rin spoke a few lines in mandarin but it's obviously memorized. Ryou hasn't spoken any Mandarin neither has Zhang Liao. I guess, trying to do a Chinese-themed Super Sentai isn't all that easy huh?

I felt this was a pretty ambitious season combining lots of martial arts that goes beyond Maskman's brilliant fight scenes, trying to integrate a Chinese theme into an otherwise Japanese-made series. Like every martial arts, there's a lot of discipline plus the main cast had to do a lot of their own stunts and not rely too much on the stuntman. For example, Keiichi Wada did a lot of his Long Fist fight scenes against Yutaka Hirose (who acted as Demon Boxer Jin). The Dairangers did fight the Cottoperos with a lot of out-of-suit scenes. Even some monsters get the taste of out-of-suit fighting before the Dairangers get in-suit. Must have really costed tons of cash trying to do Dairanger!

Dairanger's use of its "mecha" in the form of Chinese mythological animals also contributes to the show's mythological components. If you take a look at all the animals involved, the four beast gods of Chinese mythology are there. You have the dragon (Seiryuu), the phoenix (Suzaku), the tiger (Byakko) and the turtle (Genbu) as part of the entire group of Chi-Beasts. The aesthetics involved in Dairenou also looks like a Chinese shogun warrior complete with a Tang Dynasty sword, which served as an inspiration of the later Japanese katana. 

The whole show's theme ran on the theme of balance between positive and negative forces. The Daos and the Gorma represent the two sides of Yin and Yang. Both needed to exist to maintain balance but when the balance falls out, Daijinryuu steps in to preserve peace. Dairanger's entire idea was focused on two endless eternal forces that always duked it out.


Jyuken Sentai Gekiranger

Gekiranger was Toei's second attempt at another Chinese-themed Super Sentai after 14 years. Unlike Dairanger, this show may contain tons and tons of action but it has greatly reduced the violence and blood to nearly TV-Y7-FV levels. Like Dairanger, it aimed to use Chinese martial arts as its theme. There was an ambitious storyline which may or may have not really clicked with the audiences.

The narrative style mixes Super Sentai with Chinese wuxia battles with the Rin Juken and later the Gen Juken and Rin Juken faction wars. The Gekirangers also uses Hu Quan for Jan, Wing Chun for Ran and Piguaguan for Retsu. The later members Gou uses Muay Thai and Ken uses karate but the main theme focuses on Chinese Kung Fu. I felt like a lot of stuff were taken straight from Chinese films like the default attire of the Gekirangers to most of the martial arts practiced.

What may be the most noticeable are the Fist Saints who are named after different Chinese martial artists. As the Gekirangers progress with their mecha, they are all trained by their various masters. Each new mecha required learning a different martial arts style to be effective as they battle for supremacy. All these have a dark storyline what wasn't so used after Timeranger. Like Dairanger, it tried another attempt of slowly unwrapping mysteries as the story was presented. Some questions like how everything fell into place are slowly being revealed.

Which series is better?

It's hard to choose which series is better. Both series did a good job introducing all the Bandai merchandise they could as the show went. They didn't have it let's just insert it for the sake of toys. Instead, both sides tried to do what they can to really do martial arts, do your own stunts while attempting to sell new toys. Dairanger is superior in terms of choreography while Gekiranger moderates the martial arts to near TV-Y7-FV levels. For me, I still think Dairanger is better but both series are worth a watch.

Comments

  1. I completely agree with this review and comparison. Do you think Toei peaked the Chinese Kung-Fu theme with either Dairanger or Gekiranger like they did with the Dinosaur Theme and Kyoryuger (personal opinion on the Dinosaur theme)?

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    1. I think so. Gekiranger did manage to explore kung fu themes deeper than Dairanger on paper though the latter had better action. Dairanger was a tribute to Chinese mythos while Gekiranger improved it by adding kung fu legend tributes.

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    2. Kool, so let's play "What if". What if the next sentai series was going to be a Chinese Kung-Fu Series. Would you recommend doing what Ninninger did with the monsters by bringing in new versions of the Gorma Monsters?

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    3. @Millennium Ranger

      I'd recommend doing a kung fu comedy instead to try something new for Super Sentai.

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