Red Ranger's The Star Of the Show: A Closer Look At Red-Centric Seasons!
While watching Zyuohger from episode one up to present, it can't be denied that even when you've got a good show there's still some weaknesses with it. One of them is when you've got a red-centric season. Considering that red is the star of the show, it's very easy to have Super Sentai series where red rangers get that much focus than to even out character development. This time, I'll write all the way from 2016 back to 1987 to examine the red-centric trend. Note that most of these are my favorite shows.
Warning: Spoilers follow!
Yamato Kazakiri/Zyuoh Eagle (2016)
I can't deny that Zyuohger is a super good comeback for Toei after Kyoryuger, ToQGer and Ninninger didn't have too much of an idea on what to do. I can't blame Toei's possible super huge exhaustion after Gokaiger. They did spend a lot of their resources making such a magnificent crossover of sorts. Now it's time for Zyuohger five years after Gokaiger. What did I think of this guy? With Takaaki Utsunomiya as the producer, it's no surprise there's another red-centric season and Yamato's standing out against the others.
How's Yamato standing out? First, he's the only Zyuohger from the core team who's got a weapon of his own namely the Eagle Riser. So why aren't the other Zyuohgers given their signature weapons? It almost reminds me of Sun Vulcan's second Vul Eagle as the only one with his own signature weapon. It's understandable for Sun Vulcan because it's that old school but this is new school. Another is that Yamato can become Zyuoh Gorilla and if I'm not wrong, he's going to get the ability to become Zyuoh Whale. My question is why aren't the other core Zyuohgers getting extra beast symbols? In spite of that downside, the Zyuohgers do all get fair opportunity to develop as characters. Only that, their red ranger is really getting most of the cool stuff.
Another extra note... during Kamen Rider Ghost's crossover with Zyuohger, he's the only Zyuohger to show up to help Takeru Tenkuji out against the revived Shocker Monster. Where were the other Zyuohgers for that segment?!
Takaharu Igasaki/Akaninger (2015)
It's no secret that I don't really like Ninninger while I do watch it for eye candy. So how's Takaharu getting the attention? It's because he's the sole male successor of both his paternal grandfather and his father. The other cousins were descendants from his paternal aunts. Apparently, his father's the only son and he's the only grandson of his paternal grandfather who carries the Igasaki family name. That may explain why we've got that focus going on.
One can argue that Fuuka is his sister. There's one thing one can't deny while watching Ninninger. Due to his place in the Igasaki lineage, the show tends to focus on him a lot. Neither Kakuranger or Hurricanger gave their red ranger that treatment. Granted that we're talking about the possible last ninja by birthright, he's got that right. It's only normal he as the only male heir to his father and only male Igasaki left alive got that much attention.
Here's my problem with the character Takaharu: it's his actor Shunsuke Nishikawa. I always felt that it's just plain unconvincing. He's supposed to be a ninja and even at a kid show level, he's not all impressive. I felt that the guy really needs to be called "Bakaharu". I don't know if I could ever rewatch Ninninger all over again (and Takaharu makes it painful IMO) especially Zyuohger's a really good comeback for Super Sentai.
Daigo Kiryu/Kyoryu Red (2013)
Ahhh the struggles of the post-Gokaiger era can't be denied. While I don't dare deny that Kyoryuger has plenty of cool toys to sell but I can't deny the show had a lot of struggles after Gokaiger ended. You had one huge powerful crossover then you're thinking of how to keep the hype up. You want to keep the hype up but maybe just maybe you've exhausted yourself! I think that Kyoryuger may be the most red-centric season ever. Okay, Daigo Kiryu's not the first one and we have had red-centric rangers before him but I feel like Riku Sanjo has been showing extreme favoritism towards Daigo himself. A lot of times, he gets too much attention above the others. It's the way he's written that makes me feel mixed about the character.
So how's Daigo getting that much attention? Okay, there's a lot of out-of-suit fighting from everyone but he tends to really get the most attention. Maybe I don't hate the character but how he's written. A lot of times, he gets so much focus so are we having Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger or Daigo Sentai Kingranger? Even the finale had him fight off Deboth monster alone. I don't know what was in the head of Sanjo as Kyoryuger's headwriter. Was he trying something new but again, Super Sentai's been about teamwork. I feel pretty mixed about his lone victory against Deboth. It does make him badass but at the same time, it does defeat the purpose of teamwork.
At the same time, I think that Ryo Ryusei isn't annoying. It's just that the character tends to get annoying because of how he's written. I just hope that after this experience, writers decide not to make the show too red centric.
Takeru Shiba/Shinken Red (2009)
The first shadow warrior to be a red ranger and this guy well, overshadows almost everyone in the show no pun intended. He was raised by his father (a vassal for the Shiba clan) to act as the shadow lord of the Shiba Clan. He was born to protect its true head Kaoru Shiba without dreaming one day, he'd overshadow a lot of people even the one who he was assigned to protect. Shinkenger's got that red-centric feel. It's time to look at how Utsunomiya himself had his first red-centric moment as a producer.
He's the guy Chiaki wants to beat. He gets too much loyalty from Ryunosuke. Fans tend to have a Creddie/Seddie fan war over him to whether or not he should get Mako (my pick) or Kotoha (which sounds like trying to pair Ryu with Ako in Jetman... crack!). Genta's even written as his childhood friend rather than a newcomer without any connection to anyone. Face it... Shinkenger's plot tends to center around well... mostly him. During the Shinkenger/Decade crossover, he still got most of the screen time. When Kaoru finally arrives, I don't think too many fans were happy about it and the Shinkengers didn't feel too comfortable about fighting with her. Also, Kaoru ended up abdicating her birthright by "adopting" him which I thought was pretty weird. Kaoru should've stayed and Takeru and the rest should have left.
How red-centric does he go? Well take a look at every crossover. It didn't stop with Kamen Rider Decade's crossover with Shinkenger. As much as I praise the crossover for beating off "A Friend In Need" and Mako wasn't sick, I still want to address how he "hogs the glory". In Shinkenger vs. Go-onger, he gets more focus again that while everyone else is stranded across several Braneworlds, he gets the most attention. Fortunately, Goseiger vs. Shinkenger didn't focus on him too much.
Tatsuya Asami/Time Red (2000)
Timeranger's one huge masterpiece of a Super Sentai series for many fans. Hmmm I guess I forgot that Yasuko Kobayashi was also doing red-centric writing herself with Timeranger and Gingaman. So how does Timeranger really focus on Tatsuya Asami? First, he's the only man from the Year 2000 and everyone else is from the Year 3,000. A lot of the stuff of Timeranger tends to focus on the Asamis themselves: his father Wataru, him and his descendant Ryuya Asami. It seems to be that a lot of Ryuya's stupid actions might be because of something that Wataru, Tatsuya or ancestors before and after have done may have affected what Ryuya would do in the future.
The first episode has everything focus more on Tatsuya. Okay, I understand we have the Osiris disease with Ayase but that plot wasn't so well-explored. We may have bits and pieces of the other Timerangers' back stories but not all of them move the plot forward. Even if Yuuri's the character who's got that rivalry with Dolnero (since he had her family murdered), most of the plot still focuses on Tatsuya. When Ryuya arrives, the plot still revolves around Tatsuya. While he doesn't really hog all the attention but the plot seems to heavily rely on him. The final battle ends and he still gets the most focus meeting doppelgangers of his friends but realizes it's not them.
What about the crossovers? Fortunately, Timeranger vs. GoGoFive gave everyone better focus than Shinkenger vs. Go-onger. I felt like Shinkenger vs. Go-onger was an attempt to remake Timeranger vs. GoGoFive (and it was still good) but it wasn't all that good. For that, I think he's the least red-centric of Kobayashi's reds. Sidenote, I still feel that actor Masaru Nagai feels pretty stiff at times. He seems to have the same problem with Kotaro Tanaka in Jetman when it comes to outdoing themselves. They can act but it's not all that memorable!
Ryoma/Ginga Red the 133rd (1998)
Yasuko Kobayashi made her big time debut as Gingaman's head writer last 1998 and well, it's also red-centric. Much of the plot revolves around Ryoma himself. In the first episode, he wasn't supposed to be the new Ginga Red but his brother Hyuga. An unfortunate incident happened one day which caused his brother Hyuga to supposedly "die". Because of that, he became the new Ginga Red leading the team. While Gingaman had the interesting Hayate vs. Shelinda rivalry but I can't deny that Ginga Red seems to get a lot of attention... a lot more attention.
Let's talk about his relationship with his older brother Hyuga. So it turns out that Hayate is still very much alive. He still gets more attention even after Hyuga returns. Hyuga inherited Bullblack's powers becoming the sixth ranger. But even when his older brother returns, he's still acknowledged as the new Ginga Red even if it wasn't his original destiny to do so. I think Hyuga's temporary defection to Pucrates also gave Ryoma more screen-time. He's the only Gingaman to have clashed with Captain Zahab in later episodes.
In Gingaman vs. Megaranger and GoGoFive vs. Gingaman, he gets the attention again. He appears as the very first member of the other team to show up. I guess this guy really gets so much attention huh? In Gokaiger, he also gets more attention than Hyuga in the Gingaman episodes. I think actor Kazuki Maehara may have that much charm compared to Kobayashi's other reds.
Geki/Tyrano Ranger (1992)
Zyuranger's one show that's also red-centric. While he may not be as focused as Daigo but you can't deny that much of the show relies on him. Now the Zyurangers do have their focus except Boi and Dan didn't have backstories to tell. We have Goushi and Mei with backstories. Now let's think about the "Green with Evil" plot in Zyuranger. Burai appears who might have been meant to be a six episode X-1 Mask but became regularized version of X-1 Mask.
While Burai's six episode arc introduction was meant to show everyone that Burai's really that badass. As much as I wanted to give Tommy Oliver a lot of degrading comments during that arc, I still can't help but think that Geki's getting the most attention from the core team during that episode. I guess it's because Burai is his older brother he never knew existed until later in the series. We get to know more of who Geki is as a character. So who really got the honor of beating Burai out of suit in a whole fight scene Jason and Tommy never had? Geki! After Burai joins the team, Geki still becomes the focus whenever Burai's dying moments are raised. In the end, Geki gets the plot moving more than the badass Burai.
Fortunately, Gosei Sentai Dairanger managed to spread the character development better than Zyuranger. Ryou didn't too much focus and almost everyone had better character development.
Ryu Tendo/Red Hawk (1991)
Well I do accept the fact that Kotaro Tanaka isn't that good as an actor but that hasn't stopped me from liking his character Ryu the most. While I assume that Gai Yuki may be more popular than he is but he's the one where the plot revolves around the most. It's something that he's the red ranger with the love story and he gets entangled in one huge mess. Jetman has a messy love polygon as Ryu longs for Rie who he doesn't know has become Maria until later episodes, you have Gai Yuki liking Kaori while Kaori likes Ryu who's longing for Rie, and you have Gure with some genuine feelings for Maria even if he's a villain and Radiguet who may have a lustful obsession with Maria.
Watching Jetman from start to end, I even feel that a lot of stuff move around Ryu. The plot's progress nearly relies on Ryu and Maria most of the time. The plot moved a little more when Ryu discovered that Maria is indeed his assumed dead girlfriend Rie. Kaori's attraction to him is never complete without Ryu thinking about Rie. When Gai Yuki realizes his place in the Jetman team, Ryu gets that focus that he must move on from Rie. When Rie dies, it's Ryu that got affected the most. In the end, it's Ryu and not Gai Yuki who gets Kaori. That's a lot of red focus there!
I think his rivalry with Gai Yuki does keep some balance though. Gai Yuki happens to be a popular character from the show. Even without Kaori involved, both still clash a lot like Ken the Eagle and Joe the Condor. I guess Toshiki Inoue was trying to balance the red-centricity of Jetman with Gai Yuki. But still, Gai Yuki doesn't move the plot forward as much as Ryu does! So Gai Yuki may be more popular, he's the one who appeared in Gokaiger but during Jetman, I don't think anybody can deny he's got a lot of focus!
Takeru/Red Mask (1987)
Maskman is one one of those super innovative seasons during the 80s. With every innovation comes pros and cons and one of them came the red-centric writing Maskman brought into the spot. Maskman's love story focuses only on Takeru. Takeru's gotten into a love story with Ial which created much of the show's conflict. Because he's having a relationship with Ial, he gets the hatred of his first rival Prince(ess) Igam who's obsessed with getting rid of him. The show had a rivalry between them both. In short, even before Takeru Shiba had all his focus, Maskman's Takeru was already a red ranger who was getting all that focus.
If Prince(ess) Igam wasn't enough, he still has to fight Kiros who represented lustful desires while he represented pure love. While Kiros did clash with the other Maskmen but it's with Takeru he has the most hatred towards. Kiros yearns for Ial's affections and hates Takeru for it. Much of Maskman's plot relied on his love story with Ial which progressed when he learned that Mio is Princess Ial. When he discovered that Igam is a woman and not a man, the plot still relied on him. When it came to Ial's freedom it's his job... again. The importance of the Igam twins was that they held the secret that could destroy Emperor Zeba forever. Again, who else got the most involvement with the Igam twins than Takeru himself?
So how does he do as a red-centric? His acting ability is that hard to match. Kazunori Inaba himself may have made a stronger samurai than Tori Matsuzaka. Matsuzaka does make a good samurai but at the level of Red Hawk. Red Mask as a samurai would have been better than Red Hawk as as samurai. It's a shame that the 80s was a very limited era. I don't think a lot of younger fans of Super Sentai would immediately think he's the better Takeru. Then again, the choice between him and Matsuzaka as the better red is a matter of preference.
Final thoughts on these red rangers
Red ranger's the star of the show while there's always the need to distribute character development among his teammates. Sometimes, there's the tendency to be red-centric because of new stuff introduced to Super Sentai (such as Maskman) or other writers tend to play favorites with the red (and I'd consider myself in that category). Even when there's the time that the red ranger carries most of the plot but some writers are still generous enough to even out character development for most characters/
What can also be noticed is that Kobayashi herself may have her tendency to be red-centric. While ToQGer was no way red centric and everyone had a fair share of development, she wasn't always like that. It can be observed that Gingaman, Timeranger and Shinkenger were all red-centric shows. It seems Kobayashi just has her focus on reds for most of her run. I guess she must be a fan of how Soda himself wrote Maskman and how Inoue wrote Jetman. She gave it a shot with all the three shows where she was pretty much giving red ranger a lot of focus. While the red moves the plot but almost everyone had a chance in character development. I think Shinkenger managed to fix some rough edges Maskman and Jetman left behind. Mako's been more developed than Momoko and Kotoha's been more developed than Ako.
Other writers may have also wanted to try and improve the red-centric formula. I felt that Sanjo, Kento Shimoyama and Junko Komura wanted their shot. I like Zyuohger but I felt like Komura may be trying to do a Kobayashi but she's done a little more compensation. While Yamato gets cool stuff but the others get decent character development and have their fair share of moving the plot. Ninninger may focus on Takaharu but everyone had their fair distribution of character development. With Kyoryuger, I just thought it's a mistake to give Daigo too much spotlight during Kyoryuger.
So what's your thoughts of Super Sentai seasons that tend to be red-centric?