Sentai Rambling: Super Sentai DOES NOT Always Get Better Or Always Get Worse Every Year!
First, I would like to remind the readers to at first, please check this list of Super Sentai series I've watched from start to end considering the disclaimer above. Now here's what I'd call a very iffy post considering that I haven't really checked out a lot of Super Sentai's long history and I still want to watch Goranger and JAKQ from start to end, no matter how old they are at least to see what my parents enjoyed. Now let's get it going with my rather limited knowledge, I'd just present this rather limited essay called, "Super Sentai DOES NOT always get better or get worse every year!"
Now it's time for me to check on some of my limited knowledge of the issue of Super Sentai does not always get better. For a list of TV ratings which does not automatically measure popularity in the long run, check it out in here. I'll be open to some criticism on the matter consider to help update this entry for the better. This is a very limited view, okay?
The Takeyuki Suzuki era
If you take a look at the picture above, Toei had Takeyuki Suzuki who would be working with two major writers which I will explain with my rather limited knowledge. If anybody can contribute more to this rambling, please do.
Hirohisa Soda himself is hailed as "Hail to the king" as what I might call, the most influential Super Sentai writer ever. I'll admit that having grown up with Bioman, Maskman, Turboranger, Fiveman and saw a few episodes of Goggle V, I had no idea they were written by Soda himself. In fact, I was shocked to learn about the existence of Dynaman, Changeman, Flashman and Liveman when I was a temperamental teenager. Now it's time for me to at least share from what I read from Toku Warriors on the history of seven eras especially when it came to the Soda Era.
Goggle V and Dynaman were his first two works which I am not so familiar with. Then his new era kicked in with Bioman up to Liveman where he started tooling in rather complex villains and his habit of teasing us with the secret identity of people. I thought about how Bioman revealed Dr. Man's past midseason and later series had Bazoo's identity in question, Flashman had Lee Keflen's identity in question (instead of Lar Deus) who inevitably became the final villain instead of the show's Big Bad, Maskman had Zeba's ever nightmare fueled mystery and Liveman had worked itself with Great Professor Bias' terrible secret that the audience knows first before the others do. I thought that a lot of Soda's eras from what I read and what I saw, are villains who are pretty well-rounded which still made itself to Turboranger and Fiveman.
However Soda eventually burned out following with Turboranger and Fiveman. During Turboranger, ratings started to drop. Liveman had an average TV rating of 10.5% but during Turboranger, it dropped down to 7.6% and for Fiveman, it dropped down even further to 6.5%. While I do like Turboranger and Fiveman but I can agree with fellow critics in one area, Soda wasn't as good as he was with those shows. Maskman and Liveman were better shows. Now only if I can check out more of Changeman and Flashman.
The next would be the one-shot Super Sentai series under Toshiki Inoue. Inoue himself though he's pretty much infamous to a lot of people in a way that Frank Miller was with comics, perhaps due to how he drops the ball or just gives up writing a better story, can still be credited for Jetman. Jetman's average TV rating was 7.1% in contrast to Fiveman's 6.5% which was a huge difference. But putting TV ratings aside, Jetman's popularity soared to the point that Inoue himself may have been requested to write a post-series TV Encylopedia about Chojin Sentai Jetman. Three years later, a non-canon Manga epilogue was developed as an alternate sequel where Ryu and Kaori had a daughter named Aya instead of a son named Gai (as shown in the TV Encyclopedia). He would still be involved during the Sugimura era as a secondary writer like he was an important secondary writer during Soda's era along with Kunio Fuji who sadly never became a head writer.
The next man after Soda was the late Noboru Sugimura. Like Soda, he also suffered from ups and downs of his writing. Zyuranger and Dairanger were popular series but Kakuranger may have somewhat struggled with the audiences. Ohranger was one series that got plagued with a lot of severe inconsistencies no thanks to the earthquake and sarin gas attack that year, forcing the show to get retooled at several levels. Ohranger was where Sugimura's work where it had a lot of retool and an attempt to sell merchandise to save the series. Toy sales were high, fortunately and Super Sentai could continue but there was the threat of cancellation or something, right? Much of his era was used for the Zordon Arc of Power Rangers. While Dairanger is better than Zyuranger, but it was succeeded by series that didn't do as well. I'll admit I like all his shows but, Zyuranger and Dairanger were the best in his list and the other two, I can like them but, not as much.
The Shigenori Takatera and Jun Hikasa era
After Ohranger, there had been what might be another golden age but it does get debatable to where or not Carranger or Megaranger saved Super Sentai. Based on TV ratings which is not really the sole reliability, Carranger had an average TV rating of 4.8% just a bit higher than Ohranger's 4.5% while Megaranger had an average TV rating of 6.5%. Carranger was basically the start of Shigenori Takatera's era as a producer together with Jun Hikasa. Soda who also wrote for Kakuranger and Ohranger, also wrote some episodes of Carranger who had Yoshio Urasawa as a transitional writer. I wish more people will help me clarify this one that if Carranger didn't save Super Sentai, how did the franchise survive cancellation then?!
During the post-Ohranger era where ratings started to go up again, we have Takatera who was the chief producer for Carranger, Megaranger and Gingaman during that time. Sidenote, he was also part of Kamen Rider Kuuga, Kamen Rider Hibiki and Daimajin Kanon. Another producer was Jun Hikasa who was the chief producer for GogoFive, Timeranger and he would also do Gaoranger, Hurricanger, Abaranger, Boukenger, Go-onger and the first half of Goseiger. I thought rotating producers is either for better or for worse but let's check out the series until Timeranger. We would also be introduced to the appearance of Yasuko Kobayashi as the head writer for both Gingaman and
Based on my list, I have seen Carranger, Megaranger, Gingaman and Timeranger (while working through a limited understanding of what I believe were Spanish subs) from start to finish which I cay they were really good shows. I haven't seen much of GogoFive and I am so much into anticipation of seeing it, besides if you want to know why I'm retro-viewing right now is because I still haven't seen other seasons yet. If I'm to talk, my favorite after Ohranger would be Megaranger though I might change my mind with GogoFive but it's still uncertain.
After Timeranger but not after Gokaiger
Super Sentai took another transition and as said, I felt like this era was pretty mixed but most of the shows were pretty good during this era. We have Gaoranger down to Goseiger for this era, Gokaiger was the 35th Super Sentai series but it was also the beginning of a new decade, pun intended, Kamen Rider Decade aired on 2009.
This was the era that started to considerably tone down violence down to TV-Y7-FV levels. During this era, most of the Super Sentai acting quality isn't as good but they could still act. Now it's time to think that this era started with the introduction of another beloved writer namely Naruhisa Arakawa. Other producers that will be introduced are Shinichiro Shirakura, Hideaki Tsukada (Dekaranger, Magiranger, Dekaranger), Takaaki Utsunomniya (Shinkenger, Gokaiger, ToQGer), Gou Wakamatsu (second half of Goseiger), Naomi Takebe (Gobusters, Ninninger) and Takahito Oomori (Kyoryuger, oh yeah I heard he's a chavunist).
Arakawa himself wrote some rather questionable Jetman episodes and I'll admit, I didn't really enjoy too much of his writing of the Three Idiots Arc in Dairanger compared to Toshiki Inoue's Jin Arc or Kunio Fuji's Kujaku Arc, but I did like the focus episode he wrote with Rin. After what I might call a pretty mixed reception. he did get better and he did write Kamen Rider Kuuga. Then he also wrote Abaranger which can be considered a very weird show. Dekaranger followed and it was for me, better than Abaranger. Gokaiger for me handled nostalgia but I really find myself to where I'm not that much of a big fan of it. Sorry but I'll just admit that Boukenger and Gaoranger for me are the better anniversary seasons. What? That's just my opinion, doesn't mean I hate Gokaiger, I just like it less and I am stressing my OPINION!
During this time, we also had major writers of the 90s making a return. Junichi Miyashita who was involved in much of Metal Hero series such as the Rescue Police (ex. Janperson) was the head writer for Hurricanger, which felt like a combination of Liveman and Kakuranger. Liveman under Hikasa's production. Junki Takegami whow as the head writer of Megaranger and GogoFive would also be the head writer for Gaoranger and Go-onger, while serving as an important secondary writer. Yasuko Kobayashi would be the head writer of Shinkenger (perhaps her most overrated work ever but still a good show nonetheless), Gobusters (where I felt she was still trying but then eventually gave up, think of Inoue and Faiz) and ToQGer (where I just felt, she gave up). Inoue would focus more on Kamen Rider then guest write on Gokaiger. The Michiko Yokote trio came in to handle both Gekiranger and Goseiger.
The same can go for the return of the classic writers from the 90s to write for the new era. For instance, a criticism on Takegami can have it go as, "He was the head writer of three good shows and his best was Megaranger, GogoFive was better than Fiveman, Gaoranger was a fun show so why did he end up writing the mess that's Go-onger?!" As much as I like Go-onger, I currently hold my opinion that it's probably the least of his shows. Megaranger and Gaoranger are well fun, but Go-onger tends to be either overly silly then switch to more serious when I decided to watch it to fall off my seat. For Kobayashi, some might say Shinkenger is her best work as a head writer even if they haven't seen Gingaman and Timeranger. I'll admit back then, Shinkenger was my top favorite among her works as a head writer until I saw more of Gingaman and Timeranger (under bad quality videos then hoping for more good quality videos). Sure Gaoranger, Shinkenger and Go-onger are fun seasons but I don't think they matched up to the older works. IMO, Go-onger isn't as funny as Carranger but the former is still worth a watch in my watch.
Now it's time to talk about series that were less popular. After the ever popular Boukenger, Gekiranger came in and for me, Gekiranger is a better series. But after Gekiranger, Go-onger a less popular series came in and as said, I'm a fan of the series and I still think it's better executed than Power Rangers RPM. Shinkenger came in and it became a very popular series but it was followed by the less popular Goseiger. Gokaiger became a popular anniversary season that was an entire huge crossover of 34 Super Sentai series into the 35th Super Sentai. Apparently, Gokaiger is not its own continuity in contrast to the 34 Super Sentai series that were crammed into it and it was a much better anniversary than Kamen Rider Decade. I'll also admit that after Dekaranger, I just found Magiranger not to be a series as good as I thought it was for the first few episodes, fortunately Boukenger was able to fix it. Again, after a good Super Sentai series, don't expect the next series to be always better.
After Gokaiger, we had the era that I felt like was "just giving up" when it came to the return of Yasuko Kobayashi after she wrote her first really fun and light-hearted Super Sentai series Shinkenger (which was less serious than Gingaman and Timeranger). It was during this era that Go-Busters, Kyoryuger, ToQGer and the more recent Ninninger came in.
During this era, Kobayashi herself may have already burned out. In Go-Busters, I could feel like she was still trying her best to come up with a good script but I felt like Naomi Takebe wasn't doing a good job as a producer. Now I understand that Judd Lynn from Power Rangers likes the script but Toei decided to skip it in favor of Kyoryuger. While Go-Busters made me yawn at first but the series that succeeded it made it look good for me. I can tell Kobayashi was still trying but she was more or less burning out and like Inoue, she would also write a fluffy series after this return to darker and edgier. But unlike the lighter and softer Shinkenger, the more serious and edgy Go-Busters did not do well which proves that a more serious show isn't always better. I didn't like Go-Busters on its first run but I didn't imagine myself warming up to it later on.
If some people complained that Go-Busters had "cookie dough faces, very boring look" but on boy, be ready for Kyoryuger. I really understand why Shogo B'Stard and me end up sharing a similar opinion on the series. Now I still respect the fans of Kyoryuger, they can like it all they want and I mean, some people are not afraid to admit they don't like Boukenger no matter how well-received it is and I can respect that too. But I felt like the whole idea of Kyoryuger introducing the extreme opposite namely overly energetic and hyper, especially one person... DAIGO KIRYU who keeps hogging the screen-time which can get very annoying for me. I would admit that even after a few episodes, I felt like I had a washing machine cycle. I'll admit I do admire Riku Sanjo in his writing of Kamen Rider seasons like Kamen Rider W, he's an important secondary writer to Kamen Rider Fourze and not to mention, just recently Kamen Rider Drive. So really, I had high hopes for Kyoryuger but it just fell flat for me but, I think Kamen Rider Drive was pretty much a good show for me.
ToQGer for me is where Kobayashi was basically, "That's it, I quit moment." or she was having a massive burnout and I couldn't help but agree with how other people think it sucks. Again, do I need to stress that if in my freaking OPINION that the Shinkenger/Decade crossover was miles above their crossover with Gaim? ToQGer for me had issues that while it had Takaaki Utsunomiya as the producer and Kobayashi as the writer, it was jsut simply more or less, "That's it... I quit." moment. I mean, I think that the management of Toei should have assigned Naruhisa Arakawa instead to be its writer. So really, why should I keep thinking Super Sentai gets better every year huh? While the younger audience can enjoy it for all I care but I personally wanted to yawn more often than not with the show. While the show did get an award for promoting safety rules but for me, it's a downer and I think the show could have worked better if it had the right writer.
For Ninninger, we do have some improvement and I'll admit, even if I did display some negative opinion but I never find myself yawning while watching it or feeling like I want to throw a brick at someone. Yeah I know Takaharu is a Bakaharu but I felt like that I don't really find him that annoying (even if I want to throw a slipper at him for his lack of common sense) or even if the family is pretty silly, the show itself can still be entertaining with the introduction of Kento Shimoyama as the head writer. Now I just wonder, how is Ninninger doing? I'll admit that the show even if it introduced the sixth ranger too early still has some entertaining gigs and gags to least, keep me entertained better than Kyoryuger or ToQGer. But at the same time, I want to agree with the question from Toku Warriors asking this question, "Frankly Toei, do you even try?" at times while I'm still watching the show. But in due fairness, their crossover with Kamen Rider Drive was a huge improvement over the ToQGer/Gaim crossover and it was fun. Unfortunately, I dumped the whole show. Against innovation? Not entirely. But this show took innovation at the wrong direction.
What about Zyuohger?
As said, Super Sentai doesn't always get better or get worse every year. After three seasons of what I call a really bad slump (or four for those who think Go-Busters sucks, that shows suffers similar reactions to Kamen Rider Faiz...) from Kyoryuger up to ToQGer, Zyuohger turns out to be a more different treat. It's back to some badly needed do it yourself stunts (which ToQGer and Ninninger had so little of) that's necessary for Super Sentai to be Super Sentai or Power Rangers to be Power Rangers. I may have laughed at the Minecraft Zords designs but I guess it's all part of a creative process. Part of a creative process to get children to play with toys that tease their brains aside from just learning about animals at the end of the show. I guess there's a huge demand for cube toys so Zyuohger kicked in and took the opportunity.
So far so good for me. It's a massive improvement after Ninninger was just a group of ninnies. I'd be glad if Yoshi Sudarso goes back to Toei Studios and gets a selfie with these guys instead of the Ninnie-ngers. He was better off and in more luck when he had a picture together with Donnie Yen. The whole series has better characters. Plus, Junko Komura as a headwriter with the help of Naruhisa Arakawa is making it better. I may not expect it to be as good as Gaoranger but I'm more excited to watch it than Kamen Rider Ghost. Quite the irony considering that during Ninnie-ngers airing, I enjoyed Kamen Rider Drive a lot more. Kamen Rider Gaim filled by void during the plague that's Kyoryuger to ToQGer after the mediocre Kamen Rider Wizard.
The more I think about it, progress is never always a road that's going up. The Super Sentai franchise itself while it tries something new, it cannot always expect progress and two, too many gimmicks can create a bad season if it does not focus on proper storytelling. I would admit innovation like creating the secondary robots, secondary combining robots, multi-gattai, clustered combinations and the like do add some flavor. However, how are these innovations carried out? I am afraid that while it's good to try new stuff but learn from the old methods of storytelling and combine it with the new. So I hope Ninninger will still be able to pull through better and the 40th Anniversary would come out good for the sake of the new generation fans.
What makes a Super Sentai better or worse has never been whether or not it's old or not. It's all about taking innovation at the right or the wrong direction by the producers and writers. Gaoranger introduced multi-gattai and the writers and producers did a pretty good job at introducing almost every new Gao Animal. On the other hand, Goseiger just threw whatever they could for the sake of selling toys. One can consider how Flashman and Maskman handled the introduction of a secondary robot into their storylines and not just for the sake of toys. Toshiki Inoue's writing style made Jetman a huge hit while Hirohisa Soda's running out of ideas made Fiveman his least memorable work. Yasuko Kobayashi's genius writing during Gingaman, Timeranger and Shinkenger did wonders but later, she started to fall during Go-Busters (but I'm still a fan) then came that awful ToQGer. It wasn't all about older or newer but how the producers and writers did their jobs.
As said, before you say Super Sentai gets better every year, ask yourself this question, "HOW MUCH OF OLD SCHOOL SUPER SENTAI HAVE YOU SEEN ANYWAY?!" Please don't give the excuse Gokaiger gave you everything you needed to know. No, Gokaiger is more of a review. Want to know more old school? Then watch it!
Updated: June 25, 2016