An Analysis On Super Sentai's Three Possible Target Age Groups
After writing (and rambling) about the generation gap that I feel with super old school and super new school Super Sentai, I decided to write about the three possible target age groups. The reasons are because Gokaiger is having a two part appearance in Zyuohger and the upcoming Dekaranger vs. Gavan movie, does Super Sentai really have three possible age groups? Let's try to divide them into three possible age groups to make an analysis.
It doesn't take a genius to figure it out that Super Sentai's primary audience is for children. Most of the innovations are devoted to the sales of Bandai merchandise. Every innovative concept Toei's staff does from additional characters (rangers and villains alike), newer mecha and signature weapons (which are mostly toylike even on screen) are most likely meant to translate to more toy sales. The focus may have been more into toy sales than storytelling. Though one can't deny that storytelling is still important to keep children entertained like good advertisements must also be used to sell products. At the same time, it's all about keeping balance in the shows.
I'm one to keep whining at times about the lack of the seriousness in Super Sentai these days but darker and edgier doesn't always translate itself to be better. Go-Busters' lower ratings may have proven that it's time for Toei to focus on lighter and softer shows. What's with all the changes that Super Sentai had after Ohranger up to present? Super Sentai started to become less violent, less dark, less mature and "more true" to its calling as a show primarily aimed for children. Before Ohranger, even the less serious shows still had a lot more badass action. A good example is how Fiveman is less serious than GoGoFive but it has better fight scenes. Shows in the past had better action scenes but they had to lower down the quality to a certain extent to accommodate newer mecha ideas and newer writing ideas to appeal to the primary target audience.
So what do the children as the primary age group want these days? The easier guess would be toys and a more child friendly story these days. Super Sentai's latest to focus on lighter and softer as well as making new gimmicks for new toys because of the primary target market. I may not like the newer seasons that much but Toei's doing it right by focusing on how to keep the franchise fresh for children. I'd dare speculate that what keeps them going these days are because of toy sales and child friendly stories. If they don't do so, they're walking towards the wrong direction. After all, there's a lot of money in toy sales and it'd be stupid to ignore that!
Due to the upcoming Zyuohger vs. Gokaiger crossover which will take place as two episodes of Zyuohger instead of a TV movie, I'm thinking about the possible age groups again. So let's say that the fans of Super Sentai have the age bracket of 3-12 years old. Now five years can be a lot of time depending on one's age. Children who were 3-7 years old back then would be now 8 to 12 years old. But children from 9 to 12 years old are going to be teenagers from 14 to 17 years old creating the secondary age group who would be teenagers after Gokaiger was aired last 2011.
I don't think anything's wrong with a teenager watching Super Sentai for that matter. It's not even childish for them to do so and they can still get inspiration from it. I felt like adding Super Sentai rangers below 18 years old in a group composed of adults (ex. Ako and Kotoha are fighting school girls, Chiaki and Akira are the youngest males in their respective shows, Mei and Boi are the youngest Zyurangers) we also had cases when teenagers with attitude formed the Super Sentai team. I always felt like Seelon was probably retarded when she recruited teenagers with attitude assuming there are adults with fairy energies to do the job. Megaranger was a case of Dr. Kubota had no choice but to use the teenagers with attitude he had with him to combat the invasion of Nezire.
We may want to review Hirohisa Soda's time of introducing better innovations for writing when he worked from Goggle V up to Fiveman as the headwriter. This was from 1982 up to 1990 meaning a total of nine Super Sentai seasons. I just want to set the age group of children from 4-12 years old. So let's say that eight years has passed after Goggle V. This age bracket would have gone from 4-12 years old to 12 to 20 years old. When Soda felt like he needed a little more mature themes with what he wrote, he may have wanted to still appeal to the secondary audience while still keeping the primary audience interested. Then he had no idea what to do anymore with Turboranger and Fiveman that the concepts had to be "fixed" later in Carranger, Megaranger and GoGo Five with new writers to do the job.
So what may keep a teenager interested with Super Sentai? I don't think it's just the adjustment phase but there are times when Super Sentai can create a story that still appeals to teenagers. Most of the time, even today's Super Sentai can appeal to today's teenagers. I felt that's why Turboranger and Megaranger were created in the past. That's why I felt like Soda started to introduce more serious writing styles into Super Sentai. Even if the primary audience are children, a good story can still keep a teenager occupied even if they may not be there to watch the toys. Sidenote, I still have my rather weird speculation of what keeps certain teenage males intact is the eye candy. Ninninger has its fair share of eye candy with Fuuka and Kasumi though I didn't like the show. Shinkenger has Mako and Kotoha. Then you have other eye candy every now and then. Certain shows do have their eye candy factor though take note that eye candy won't save a bad show.
Young adults and possibly beyond
It does feel weird (for some people anyway) that there are young adults watching Super Sentai but there's nothing wrong with it. After Timeranger ended, I remembered there was this clip show that featured all Super Sentai from Goranger to GoGoFive. Oh wait, Goranger was so 1975 and it was already 2001 when the video was shown making it a huge gap of 26 years but take note that Super Sentai didn't return after JAKQ until it was already 1979. So a lot of seven year olds watching Goranger were already 33 years old by then. With Gokaiger, it would already be 36 years (but it's the 35th season) so seven year olds during Goranger would be already 43 years old during Timeranger's airing. That's a lot of time, isn't it? No pun intended there.
Gaoranger and Boukenger were huge anniversary seasons both with a VS. Super Sentai movie. If you try to ignore Gaoranger VS. Super Sentai, the show itself felt more focused primarily on children and secondarily on teenagers rather than adults. Yet the Gaoranger VS. Super Sentai movie had some throwbacks. Boukenger VS. Super Sentai may have purposely set the guest roles mostly from post-Gaoranger Super Sentai due to age gaps yet again. If one decided to add an 80s or 90s series during Boukenger VS. Super Sentai, one can think that most of them would be adults. While there may be adults still watching newer Super Sentai but they may not always be that interested. That's why I feel like throwbacks need to set a limit to set a successful gap.
Looking back at Gokaiger's tribute episodes, I felt like the show did a good job in not throwing back too far with having 80s episodes throwbacks. It may have even chosen to focus on certain age groups. One can think that Jetman was shown in 1991 and it's 20 years. A 27 year old adult may still be interested with Gokaiger then but if it were a 1981 series, I don't think a 37 year old adult would be that interested with Gokaiger. Sure we've had 80s Sentai making cameos but they didn't get focus episodes which I thought was good for keeping the generation gap to a limit. Gokaiger was trying to keep its primary target focused while still trying to keep the secondary and tertiary markets interested with the show presumably for more ratings.
I guess having movies like Hurricanger Ten Years After, Dekaranger Ten Years as well as the upcoming Dekranger VS. Gavan crossover are most likely meant to go with late teens to early adults. While Toei still focuses on children but it can't be denied they do still cater to older fans of the franchise. In short, it's a multi-age niche marketing for Super Sentai.
Possible "more mature" alternatives to Super Sentai for teenagers and adults?
There might be "more mature" alternatives which were done in the past but they may no longer work in the future. I thought about times when Super Sentai had to be beaten by something else from Toei's other list of properties. I thought about these mature alternatives with Kamen Rider and Metal Hero. I could talk about and maybe flaunt the "superiority" of Metal Hero and Kamen Rider over some Super Sentai seasons.
I could start with how Winspector and Solbrain (which I've just started watching) appeal to me more than GoGoFive. Back then, I can't forget how I dumped Solbrain when I was around 8-9 years old because it was "too hard to understand". But after seeing it as an adult, I want to keep seeing more of the show. I felt like as much as GoGoFive is a good rescue Super Sentai series, Winspector feels "more mature" than it. As much as I like Dekaranger's police action but I can't deny I still enjoy Winspector and Janperson more due to how stories were carried out. Janperson presents itself as the 80s movie hero Robocop re-imagined without a human past and yet the show feels like a more intense version of the Robocop TV series (which came after Janperson). GoGoFive and Dekaranger are enjoyable but I prefer the "more mature" themes of Winspector, Solbrain and Janperson as of late.
I feel that Kamen Rider is more mature for most of the time. From Kamen Rider Kuuga up to Kamen Rider Kabuto, it's been a load of nightmare fuel. The Super Sentai that aired that time were no match for the nightmare fuel that Kamen Rider offered that time. Post-Kabuto, Kamen Rider was more focused on lighter and softer but tend to be somewhat more mature most of the time. But back then, Kamen Rider like Kamen Rider Agito were too full of nightmare fuel. As of late, I feel like Kamen Rider Ghost isn't a more mature alternative as Kamen Rider Drive and Kamen Rider Gaim were against Ninninger and ToQGer. Also, Kamen Rider Fourze and Kamen Rider Den-O were less serious compared to Go-Busters and Gekiranger.
My own personal conclusion
By the way it looks like, Super Sentai caters to these three possible age groups with children as the first priority. Toei may have understood some Super Sentai fans may want to feel young or they want to increase their audience to a certain extent. There's a lot of constraints that need to be met and addressed before changes can happen for the better. With Super Sentai entering one new era after the other, I think it's still best to maintain focus mainly on the children's market. The generation gap's widening is inevitable so it's best to focus more on teenagers and young adults when it comes to anniversary throwbacks.