Innovations For Super Sentai Are Mainly Focused On Successfully Selling Bandai Merchandise
Let's take a look at a lot of gimmicks that have been created for a very long time. Analyzing the gimmicks Toei made throughout the years for Super Sentai may help provide an insight to what went on with Toei's research and development for selling toys. I even felt that happened during Zyuohger's and Kamen Rider Ghost's meeting in each other's shows. Zyuoh Eagle and Kamen Rider Ghost looking at each other's weapons made me want to think it's a message that says, "Don't forget to buy our toys!"
Bring forth the mecha to sell more Bandai Merchandise!
The introduction of the giant robot happened during Battle Fever J. I wouldn't believe that it was introduced for better plot but for the sake of toy sales. You've got the ranger figures, you've got the ranger weapons then let's add one more toy. The giant robots became a hit that a lot of change happened. I guess the Transformers hype added Denziman's Daidenzin to become a transforming robot. Sun Vulcan well their robot is pretty clunky. Goggle V managed to improve the combining robot but was unusual for not having everyone pilot it. A lot of weird mecha designs were created during the 80s. Some were badass, some where not.
I think mecha innovation during the 80s moved a little more forward since Flashman. Flashman introduced a secondary giant robot in Flash Titan. The gimmick worked so secondary robots became a trend. Maskman introduced the primary robot to have a five piece combining robot where everyone gets their own mecha. Liveman, Turboranger and Fiveman worked on more mecha concepts. Liveman and Turboranger showed the primary and secondary robots combining. Turboranger introduced the ultimate combination by combining the Turbo Builder with the Super Turbo Robo. Fiveman went back to the three piece combining robot and managed to refine the primary/secondary robot combination.
During the 90s, toys were well getting more abundant. I assume that the Japanese income per household has increased so it's a green flag for Toei. Jetman started introducing the first ever AI controlled robot. Kakuranger introduced a secondary combining robot. Ohranger well, it's a whole lot of mecha sales there but I felt it was a rough draft. Carranger started improving what Turboranger left off in the mecha (and in extension, writing) department. New concepts were made and old concepts either were kept or revived. Like who can ever forget the carrier mecha to carry the primary robot's mecha components since Battle Fever J was left out since Turboranger but Carranger brought it back with the Victory Trailer for the midseason, Gingaman with Grand Bitus (for the Starsteel Beasts) and Abaranger with Bakuryu. Ultimate combinations were left out for some time but came back but made occasional returns like Hurricanger and Go-onger reinvented the ultimate combination with Grand Prix 12 or the cluster mecha.
Perhaps the most powerful innovation for mecha to get more toy sales is multi-gattai. I felt that was the real aim of Gaoranger. Not only did Gaoranger start toning down considerably that it's really much less serious than Timeranger, the multi-gattai was pretty exciting IMO. Gao King getting new arms or legs was a new idea. You bought Gao King then another animal came in. Then it's time to get another set to replace the arms and legs with another Gao Animal. Hurricanger went back somewhat old school. But Abaranger had the gimmick of dinosaur multi-gattai which was also repeated during Kyoryuger. Multi-gattai has been innovated during Gekiranger as an "add on armor" and it was repeated during Shinkenger and Goseiger. Gokaiger had a lot of multi-gattai and old school combinations mixed into the show's anniversary.
Some ideas tend to make mecha look something like it's been designed to endorse a certain product line. I think Shinkenger's mecha and Zyuohger's earlier mecha were probably made to encourage educational toys. When I think of Zyuohger having the cube theme I always wanted to ask everyone if is there a sales on rubix cubes going on. I guess Toei's taking advantage of whatever trend goes on in Japan when it came to making toys.
These plastic weapons are used to defeat the rubber monsters!
Aside from mecha, one of the departments that evolved overtime but not all the time is the introduction of them signature weapons. As of late, why is Zyuoh Eagle the only one with a signature weapon as of late?! It's almost like a throwback to how Takayuki Hiba/Vul Eagle II was the only member in Sun Vulcan to have his own signature weapon. Note Utsunomiya... Yamato Kazakiri is not Tayakuki Hiba! Signature weapons were already as early as Goranger but the concept needed to be reinvented over and over before we get better weapons.
Goggle V and Dynaman were the shows that managed to redefine the weapons for the rangers to a whole new level back in the 80s. Bioman took a step backward since only Green Two and the second Yellow 4 had a signature weapon while the rest didn't unless you count Pink Five's barrier. Certain Super Sentai seasons stepped backward in the weapons for toys by not having signature weapons for anyone like Denziman, Changeman, Jetman, GoGoFive, Timeranger and Ninninger. Signature weapons have been an ongoing trend subjected to many innovations up to late. Depending on who the artistic crew were the weapons either got better or got worse.
Perhaps one of the cheesiest gimmicks ever done for toy sales was the team cannon and midseason upgrades. During Maskman, I believe that the destruction of the Shot Bomber by Kiros was not only meant to introduce him as a badass villain. Carranger had the Giga Formula which later had the Giga Booster as a new weapon. It was also made to sell more toys by introducing the Jet Cannon. Fiveman introduced the Five-Tector suits which was a gimmick made better or worse with the team temporary upgrade with Dekaranger, Magiranger, Goseiger and ToQGer.
I always felt like why most of the weapons in Super Sentai were meant to look fake and I mean, even the monsters look fake is because it's a children's show. It's not like the Wuxia series where quality standards are much higher. While Super Sentai can always (and may always) get away with fake looking weapons (like honestly, I still laugh at the really fake looking swords used by Red Mask and Red Falcon while enjoying the show's writing and badass action) but not in Wuxia series. Wuxia series isn't aimed for children in contrast to Super Sentai. So Super Sentai may be best summarized as, "A team of heroes in spandex using plastic weapons to defend the imagination of children from rubber monsters that don't really exist!"
Yup he's the latest member or you've got an extra hero so we get to sell more toys!
I guess one of the reasons why sixth rangers are becoming more and more involved is toy sales. A sixth ranger means more toys, right? That's what happened during Zyuranger. I have a feeling Burai was meant to be a six-parter X-1 Mask but the want to sell more toys made him more regular. Kakuranger had no sixth ranger but Ninjaman was an extra hero. We had a series of sixth rangers and extra heroes for the sake of selling more toys!
GoGoFive went a step backward by having no sixth ranger or extra hero for the show since it was a sibling Super Sentai team and the V at the end meant that they were a team of five. But it made up by having a lot of cool mecha toys to sell to make up for it. After GoGoFive, we would see that sixth rangers or extra rangers were becoming more common even to the point Magiranger had Magishine as an ally for a sibling Super Sentai team. The first extra ranger was in JAKQ but that was a team of four and an extra ranger arrived to make it a team of five. Liveman was a team of three and had two more members. Hurricanger modified Liveman's formula with three plus two plus one. Abaranger was again a step backward since there were only four official rangers. Mikoto was a last minute add on since he's a villain for the rest of the series. Go-onger added not one but two more extra rangers to add to Go-onger's team of five.
Some mistakes that could be made with the sixth ranger is that they can arrive too early (like Utchi/Kyoryu Gold and Kinji/Starninger) or they can take too long like Naoto Takizawa/Time Fire. I felt like that sixth rangers' best arrival should be around the late 10s (16-19) or the early 20s while Timeranger made it too late. But there are times I felt like Naoto's late arrival may be a good thing because it made me enjoy a team of five for a longer period of time. Yet it can be frustrating because children are already screaming for the sixth ranger. I guess that's why Kyoryuger tried to make the sixth ranger arrive as early as possible and so did Ninninger because of children. As for Zyuohger, I'm glad that it's back to the more moderate pace for the sixth ranger's arrival.
Time and setting may determine why these changes happen!
One may take a look at the time and setting to determine how the changes of innovation happen. I'm currently enjoying some old school Super Sentai having a clearer copy than they did in the past. While watching some episodes of old school, something came into my mind: it's the late 70s, 80s and 90s and while watching Zyuohger, I felt like there's one keyword we need here: INCOME!
Japan wasn't always a first world country. Back then, it was still struggling then life started to improve but it wasn't there yet. Japanese products were once known to be inferior before they became known for being of high quality. I guess the income levels of households didn't have enough money to buy toys for their children so there wasn't much of a reason to innovate for the sake of selling toys. When income level started to improve then there was a whole lot of reason to innovate for the sake of selling toys. It's all about its primary target market or you lose a lot of sales in turn!
When Toei Ltd. finally entered into the American market by joining forces with Haim Saban to create Power Rangers way back in 1993, it was also time to think, "What toys will we sell to the U.S. next year?" I guess that really became Toei's and Bandai's concern wasn't only to sell toys to the Japanese Super Sentai fans but also with American Power Rangers fans. I still think Power Rangers became another factor. Why sell Go-Busters toys which had very low slump sales on toys when you can sell dinosaur toys instead? I guess every time they thought of what's going to be the next Super Sentai, they also have Power Rangers in mind all with the thought of Bandai selling more toys. The three companies were focused mostly on the children's market than older fans of Tokusatsu.
What do you think about this post that seeks to analyze Toei's innovation of Super Sentai for business reasons? I may not be enjoying newer Super Sentai as much but I can understand the need for change because the children fans of Super Sentai from past eras have all GROWN UP. It's should always be focused on its target market and seek new gimmicks for new generations. Besides, some people may be free not to like newer Super Sentai as much if they've got cooler stuff to keep them occupied.