My Shifting Opinions On Super Sentai And Kamen Rider
I remembered everything can go back to my childhood during the 90s and two late 80s shows that I enjoyed. I remembered how both my childhood favorites had the classic masterpieces Kamen Rider Black and Hikari Sentai Maskman -- though I'm no longer wanting to rewatch the Tagalog dubs! It was a bit of a fanservice from that otherwise super duper disaster known as Super Hero Taisen but it wasn't enough to pull it up from its dirt. Back then, I always thought I watched them both because they were part of the Kiddie Show Sunday spirit which usually involved a trip to McDonald's -- though I usually prefer Jollibee's hamburgers! I didn't really care which I liked better at first though I did prefer lone heroes at first -- that was until I learned Spiderman is also a part-time member of the Avengers or that Wolverine is perhaps my favorite in X-Men.
Back then, there was really no Internet access so I had no idea about the huge hiatuses that happened in Kamen Rider or how Super Sentai had a hiatus after Dengekitai JAKQ and became a yearly trend after Battle Fever J. Battle Fever J would later be the third installment series instead of the first for Super Sentai after both Himitsu Sentai Goranger and JAKQ were retroactively included during the 90s. What also amazed me was that there's a lot of gaps between Kamen Rider Stronger, Kamen Rider Super-1 and Kamen Rider Black. Kamen Rider Black spawned the less popular Kamen Rider Black RX sequel (which is still way superior to Saban's Mashed Rider in every way even if it's not perfect but still...) then we had a hiatus for from 1989 up to 1999 -- all the while shorts were made but no official series was ever done. Metal Hero was on the focus and sadly -- it started going down starting with B-Fighter Kabuto and ended with Robotack. Before that -- there were amazing shows such as Winspector, Solbrain, Exceedraft and Janperson -- four of Toei's classic masterpieces which felt more like primetime shows for older audiences than a kiddie show.
It wasn't long until the new millennium began and ended an era. Mirai Sentai Timeranger IMHO is the end of the 20th Century era Super Sentai and I think its finale clip show shows how they ended their era and Hyajakuu Sentai Gaoranger is the start of a new era for Super Sentai. Kamen Rider Kuuga was now reviving the Kamen Rider series after its long hiatus. Sadly, Shotaro Ishinomori wasn't there to see it come to action. Then two new eras started to become known as Super Hero Time starting 2003 -- though we already had a yearly fix of Kamen Rider and Super Sentai going on.
I think about two series which are probably dubbed as masterpieces. Timeranger is probably Yasuko Kobayashi's Magnum Opus on its own though others tend to insist it's either Seijuu Sentai Gingaman or Samurai Sentai Shinkenger -- some even want to say her best Ressha Sentai ToQGer and I respect their views. IMHO, it's been Mirai Sentai Timeranger. Kuuga itself started a new formula for Kamen Rider -- gone are the days of the silly but deadly villains we love to watch screw up with their rather convoluted plans (ex. the Gorgom) and the whole Heisei era tends to be like a sci-fi drama.
What's interesting is that Japan Info even says this about new school Kamen Rider:
With different themes for every installment, Toei made the story line quite dramatic with unexpected events and plot twists to cater to older audiences, while at the same time making the series as educational as possible so that the kids in the audience will learn something after watching the series. Taking latest Kamen Rider GHOST as an example, the theme of Rider power-ups (a Rider’s special abilities) have been based on famous historical beings (eg. Newton, Edison, Robin Hood, Nobunaga, etc.) Audiences can also easily fantasize to be one of them by purchasing the rider’s belt and buckle from their neighborhood toy store. Many hardcore fans (especially the older ones!) also like to purchase them as a collection item.
At first, I didn't like the whole idea of dragging a plot with two episodes to defeat a monster. I remembered how (at first) I didn't like the idea of Kamen Rider Ryuki. Maybe, I was just in the need of a break from Tokusatsu back when I was a college student -- it was that time I was pursuing other stuff such as Chinese drama or watching Korean drama for rather ridiculous reasons. I remembered how I watched Kamen Rider Den-O and thought it was somewhat chaotic -- yet I keep hearing it getting praise from the audience. I remembered watching bits and pieces of dubbed episodes of Kamen Rider Faiz, Kamen Rider Blade and Kamen Rider Hibiki -- though I was more into Chinese drama and Korean drama that time. But the more I watch new school Kamen Rider and it's more drama-type format -- the more I really think about how the "more mature" setting is probably a good reason why I don't like Showa era Kamen Rider that much.
At first, I thought Super Sentai is better than Kamen Rider though my opinion started to shift -- A LOT! At first, I was just relying on bits of opinion pieces from reviewers like Sentai Bandicoot (and his old shop is now gone) rather than watch the shows for myself. I still remembered how Kamen Rider Decade was THAT HORRIBLE and I still call it the Decade Meltdown -- I still feel like it's Toei's biggest mistake regarding Kamen Rider. Sure, there were lots of creative ideas but I can't deny just how the series is flat out boring. I even think that while Kamen Rider Zi-O may be getting some bashing now (because of Shinichiro Shirakura who's said to hate Tokusatsu yet that's just a biased Wiki statement) but it's been better than Zi-O in terms of execution. At least, it's getting some guest stars instead of creating those idiotic Alternate Reality Rider Worlds!
So when did my opinion start to shift? I guess it has to be when I started viewing more Kamen Riders of the Heisei era -- though I didn't watch them in their sequence. For instance, I saw Kamen Rider Kiva first before Kamen Rider Agito yet I watched it after Kamen Rider Kuuga. I admit, I do like Kiva even if it's really Toshiki Inoue's burnout season -- I even feel it's way more enjoyable than Engine Sentai Go-Onger in terms of wacky humor. I also thought about how I tend to think Kamen Rider Ryuki could've been a masterpiece if it wasn't for stupid executives who decided to reset all the events rather than leave everyone who's died as dead people. I also think Kamen Rider Hibiki isn't all that cut compared to Kamen Rider Blade.
Decade did have an early cancellation presumably due to fan reception. Fortunately, we've got Kamen Rider W. I love to stress it out now that darker and edgier doesn't always mean it's better unlike how I used to think of it back then. A good example is that Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger is more serious than Bakuryu Sentai Abaranger. However, I think Abaranger had more entertaining storylines and better characterization. Kamen Rider Faiz is one extremely dark series yet I think Kiva which is lighter and softer is more entertaining! Kamen Rider's shift to mostly lighter and softer tones did give some good series I could enjoy. For instance, I'm a fan of Kamen Rider OOO and Kamen Rider Fourze. Perhaps why I'm not such a fan of Kamen Rider Wizard is because I expected some real crazy fun but didn't get it. I did enjoy Kamen Rider Ghost's intent to educate while thinking Kiva has been more entertaining. But again, you are free to disagree with me.
Then I think about how Super Sentai fared after Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger. I may be a Gokaiger fan but I don't like it whenever people think that it's the best Super Sentai ever. Sure, it can be considered the best anniversary season (and I do think so too) yet I don't want to say it out loud as my personal opinion because of the bandwagon concerning said show. Gokaiger was really a huge ambitious project that delivered a really good show. But the question is how are we going to stay afloat after Gokaiger ends?
Personally, I think this is where my change of opinion between Kamen Rider and Super Sentai kicks in. True, I'm a fan of Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters and I'm somewhat always disagreeing with critics who dislike it. I'm also thankful for ToQGer fans who actually disagree with me with my personal opinion on the show. Then I thought about how I enjoyed Kamen Rider Fourze which is a lighter and softer series. What made me think is that I'm even more welcome to watching Kamen Rider Fourze over Go-Busters anytime -- though I like both shows.
I also think about this one -- Ucchu Sentai Kyuranger actually caused me to like Super Sentai better than Kamen Rider again. Kamen Rider EX-AID was a fun show yet I thought that the show started having some slip-ups plus it suddenly decided to end at 44 episodes presumably to fit in with Super Hero Time's new schedule. For me, Kyuranger had a lot of crazy fun going on such as Lucky learning the ropes and him meeting the legendary Tsurugi. I thought Kyuranger may be red-centric in many ways yet it does give some interesting storylines over EX-AID. I thought that Kyuranger also overshadowed Build in my mind as well or not. I still can't deny that I'm somewhat still stuck in space even when I'm enjoying the new shows.
Right now, I'm having yet another shift of mind concerning Kamen Rider Zi-O and Kaito Sentai Lupinranger vs. Keisatsu Sentai Patranger. I like Lupinranger vs. Patranger for its action and the conflict between two Super Sentai teams who can't get along. I still want to make jokes about Detective Zenigata whenever Keiichiro shows up and fails to arrest the Lupinrangers. Then I thought that I ended up liking Kamen Rider Build over Lupinranger vs. Patranger for the meantime. Then Zi-O came and maybe, I like Zi-O better than Lupinranger vs. Patranger. But again, I don't care which I like better if I can enjoy them all, right? It doesn't mean that I enjoy something less that I don't enjoy it -- it's just that some things will always be better!
As I think about it, there's always a rollercoaster of emotions considering how you don't succeed all the time. It's really something to think about how there's always going to be ups and downs as one pursues changes. Change is a needed force for progress yet not all change brings progress. Sometimes, change means you've got a failure to learn from and see what went wrong in order to do better next time. Just remember that innovation goes with Definition, Discovery, Development and Delivery. It's a series of lessons on why you succeeded, learning how to succeed, learning new ways to succeed, retaining some old lessons while learning new ones and learning how to succeed from failure is all part of the innovative process, isn't it?