A Case Of Direct Sequels VS. Not So Direct Sequels!
As Zyuonger vs. Ninninger is the latest Super Sentai VS. movie until the next one comes, I want to take a huge rewind to think about what I call as direct sequels vs. not so direct sequels. There's something that I wrote before about the concept of a Super Sentai timeline which may have been an afterthought after some time. A lot of events between series tend to contradict each other. These events are like how dinosaurs got extinct in Super Sentai, that certain events happen only when the Earth is in grave danger or how certain events in crossover movies make the movies just impossible to fit in both series involved in some cases (ex. Ohranger vs. Kakuranger). It seems to be that after Kamen Rider Decade and Gokaiger most Super Sentai series now take place in the VS. Movies Continuity. Even JAKQ vs. Goranger showed that the heroes were in one continuity though they weren't included in the list of "Super Sentai" series. Both Goranger and JAKQ were only included during the 90s and were honored as such in Timeranger's post-series clip show.
All hail the power of retroactive continuities anyone?
The downside and upside of having direct sequels
As I've watching Solbrain subbed by Sailor Otaku (also called Weeaboo Shogun) and saw through Kamen Rider Stronger, remembered Kamen Rider Black RX and watched Sun Vulcan some months ago they were direct sequels. Kamen Rider Black RX is the sequel of Kamen Rider Black, Solbrain is the sequel of Winspector and Sun Vulcan is in some way the sequel of Denziman. Let's talk about the downside with direct sequels first.
It can be fun to have direct sequels but it can also be disadvantageous if you're trying to access through older series. Sometimes, you need to watch the previous series before you can fully understand the sequel. Watching Solbrain before Winspector and watching Kamen Rider Black RX before Kamen Rider Black may or may not lead to confusion. My reason is Solbrain is so tightly knit to Winspector as a sequel that not watching the previous installment may confuse you. Black RX may not be that tightly knit to Black (ex. it annoys me that Kyoko and Katsumi were soon conveniently ignored or how Shadow Moon's return wasn't handled properly) but still you need to watch Kamen Rider Black. It also reminds me of how Kamen Rider V3 was so tightly knit towards the first Kamen Rider that you may need to sit through the first installment to understand how events unfolded.
I've seen very little of the first Kamen Rider and Kamen Rider V3 but I could talk about the progressive storyline with almost every Kamen Rider during the Showa era. Every Kamen Rider passes the torch and the concept of the Great Leader was somewhat explored for almost the entirety of the Showa Era except for a few Riders that didn't directly fight him. Kamen Rider V3 showed how remnants of Shocker ended up forming Destron or later Showa era episodes showed how evil never dies. The Great Leader seems to be a metaphor of that as he's shown to have been using either decoys or may actually be a malevolent spirit. If Grand Lord Crisis were the Great Leader he said he'd return one day as long as evil exists. The Heisei era of Kamen Rider has a more different approach and the Great Leader has only appeared as an iconic butt monkey in the VS. Movies.
I could also talk about the advantage of having direct sequels. It's sort of like a direct passing the torch moment. We've been seeing red rangers passing torches to the next red rangers for some time in Super Sentai. But there's one thing about the direct sequel that I could like about them. I felt Black RX's recycling Tetsuo Kurata was a downside so I'll talk about Solbrain and Winspector as an example. The cast of Winspector graduated and Captain Masaki mentioned he was making a new organization to save the heart and the brain of human beings. Solbrain then starts taking where Winspector left behind. It gives a good storyline a potential to evolve but it may also give a good storyline a potential to devolve when it's overextended. It's good to improve a storyline but it can also deteriorate along the way.
Perhaps the best advice for this style of writing is use with caution. I guess Toei's used this sparingly because they prefer the second alternative which is...
The advantage and disadvantage of not-so-direct sequels
I'm thinking about the not-so-direct sequels such as the anniversary seasons. Okay, maybe this time Toei's already made the Super Hero Taisen Universe as one. Zyuohger had the Gokaigers return for the 2000th episode celebration which is also five years after Gokaiger. Gokaiger's two part crossover with Zyuohger was pretty much a break from the tradition of VS. Movies. Gokaiger was pretty much the huge anniversary season that a lot of Super Sentai fans may have dreamed of. Boukenger and Gaoranger featured movies where past Super Sentai alumni returned though none of the events happened within the series. VS. Movies don't happen within the series. The beauty with them is that with them not being direct sequels means you can choose to watch which series you want to watch first in any order.
Gokaiger is more of a not so direct sequel to all 34 Super Sentai series before it. The Legend War in the beginning shows you all Super Sentai series before it. Did you really need to watch everything from Goranger up to Goseiger to understand it? If you're an older fan it's a nostalgic review. The children may view it as an introduction to their elders' Super Sentai. Sure there are Super Sentai seniors reprising their roles but they may either be viewed as nostalgic flashbacks or introductions to their respective series. But nobody needed to watch Goranger up to Goseiger to fully understand Gokaiger. The way the teacher explained Gokaiger at the beginning felt more like a history lesson. While watching Gokaiger may not give you everything you need to know about its predecessors but you didn't need to watch them to avoid being confused with the series' events.
Ninninger featured guest stars from other series such as Sasuke/Ninja Red, Yousuke/Hurricane Red and Toha Yamaji/Jiraiya. Ninninger may have been intended to be part of the VS. Series universe instead of being standalone like Kakuranger and Hurricanger. Did you need to watch Kakuranger, Hurricanger or Jiraiya before watching Ninninger? Much of Ninninger's happens aren't even tightly knit to them. The events of Ninninger weren't dependent on Kakuranger's or Hurricanger's plotline. Did the Jakanja or Youkai even interact with the Kibaoni Corps? Nothing was hinted otherwise some plot like finding the remains of Jakanja and Youkai to turn them into monsters could have been added. The Kibaoni Corps may have had little or no history with the predecessors of the Hurricangers and the Kakurangers. The beauty of it is that you may have seen Ninninger or Hurricanger first but you can watch all three ninja shows in any order you please.
Did you even need to watch a lot of old school Super Sentai to understand all the new school ones? Even if there were two or three (or soon possibly more) Super Sentai series that repeats a motif from some decade or some years ago doesn't automatically mean it's a sequel. Right now you didn't even need to watch Gaoranger to understand the events of Zyuohger. You didn't need to watch Maskman and Dairanger to understand the events in Gekiranger. You didn't need to watch Turboranger to understand the events in Carranger and Go-onger. You didn't need to watch Zyuranger and Abaranger to further understand the events in Kyoryuger because the three of them operate very differently in terms of plot and execution. That's just a few examples of same motif but carries on an entirely different story to watch. You can still watch them in any order you wish. IMO, this provides more flexibility in the writing than to rely on the previous season. On the other hand, it's also nice to try and explore a storyline further.
On the other hand, I thought about it that there could have been cooler concepts to be explored if there were more direct sequels. Sun Vulcan certainly gave a little more depth to Queen Hedrian though the Denzimen didn't appear. I gave thought on ideas like what if Ohranger were written as something directly linked to Bioman like making the Baranoia Empire the very heart of the Anti-Bio Alliance, what if Mondo Tatsumi were once friends with Professor Hoshikawa from Fiveman, what if Carranger were directly linked to Turboranger, what if Hurricanger were directly linked to Liveman... those were some storylines that could have been pursued. Instead, most Super Sentai end up indirectly linked. As much as Gokaiger and Decade now several shows together but there seems to be more fun when you watch the latest season/s without having to watch previous shows to understand the basic plots. I couldn't imagine if I had to watch all 34 Super Sentai series just to understand Gokaiger's events!
Meanwhile, I've decided that I'll write one long post as a Zyuohger update as soon as show ends. Just wait for a crammed post sometime next month.