Choshinsei Flashman - A Highly Ambitious Space-Themed Super Sentai
I've always had this thing going on that there are times older school Super Sentai series tend to please me than the most recent entries -- that is in the area of storytelling. Perhaps the popularity of the military-space theme of Dengeki Sentai Changeman resulted that next year should still be a space season in its own way. We ended up having the series Choshinsei Flashman way back in 1986. Yup, I just love to say it that before Power Rangers Lost Galaxy -- there was Choshinsei Flashman! It's all because I can't stop thinking about Lost Galaxy (even if Seijuu Sentai Gingaman is its source) while watching this show!
It's still the 1980s where CGI was still in its infancy. Yet, Super Sentai had to evolve or even go beyond its time in order to survive. Flashman was really doing that with its space theme even if most of the effects were still using portraits, lower technology CGI, and the like. While I did enjoy Ucchu Sentai Kyuranger along with other space-themed Toku shows, it gave me what I wanted for so long in this day and age namely another space-themed Super Sentai, it now enjoys the privilege of better CGI but sometimes, I just tend to prefer simpler storytelling for Super Sentai. Quite ironic that I tend to enjoy newer Kamen Rider over older Kamen Rider these days. Flashman is one of those ambitious series in the 80s yet it would be considered "simpler times" due to the less overwhelming amount of Bandai merchandise the show has to offer. I'd like to even ask if you happen to be a toy collector -- did you collect all the Kyuranger merchandise yet?
What Flashman lacked in CGI or whatever -- it made up with its storytelling of the five rangers. The story having five children who were kidnapped during their infancy and were later lost in some distant galaxy. Yup, I'd like to dub it as Super Sentai's lost galaxy. They grow up in the Planet Flash and its four moons. They have been strangers to the planet Earth as a result. They discover that Mess is well, going to mess up Earth one way or another. They decide to escape there a complete stranger of their birthplace. They were raised to have abilities out-of-suit (which was done in Go-Busters as well as Gingaman, Dino Thunder, SPD, and Operation Overdrive) such as super strength, wall-climbing, sharp mind, and gravitational manipulation. They would engage Mess while hoping to find their families but things don't go as planned as the show progresses.
The series' villains are pretty ambitious. Never mess with Mess unless you've got the resources to do so! Lar Deus the ruler of the organization is seeking to become the most powerful being in the Universe. His right-hand man is Dr. Lee Keflen who is responsible for manipulative genetics. He also has several followers along the way. The whole empire itself has been responsible for their inhumane experiments. Dr. Lee Keflen though pretty much steals the show even when he's not the main villain until the finale. He's one creepy old man who really has no qualms about whatever he wants and has been planning to take over the whole time.
As said, I could think of how well-utilized Lar Deus was in contrast to Scorpius in Lost Galaxy. Sadly, Scorpius in Lost Galaxy was killed of midseason probably due to executive meddling -- something similar also happened in Turboranger when the three generals were written off and well, Ley Garus was killed off midseason too. I think Lar Deus looks just way too scary to pass through TV-Y7-FV and I wonder how did Scorpius get past the radar? I really love his origin where he's what I'd call an improved version of Fuehrer Taboo in Goggle V. Both of them are genetic messes that seek to become more powerful. In this case, it seems that Lar Deus was a result of a cosmic accident that came to life like Dr. Giba did in Jiban -- though it's not fully explained either. But the nightmare fuel he has is something. He even gets a more badass death.
Dr. Lee Keflen can easily become my favorite villain in the show due to how scheming and manipulative he is. He remains hidden but he's heard of. He starts to really perform experiments without a second thought. He's the Great Doctor of the Mess and he doesn't know anything about his past -- that was until Kaura revealed that he was an Earthling all along. He doesn't tolerate competition and he'd do anything even betray both Kaura and his master Lar Deus just for his power-hungry ambitions. I just love how he offers the Flashmen to make them human in a desperate bid for his life and died in his insanity. He probably had other ulterior motives like turning them into his new soldiers as he plans to conquer the universe. Sadly for him, his rule is pretty short. It's oh-so-satisfying to watch him crumble in his own mess. Hmmm... now only if Lost Galaxy decided to make their own version of Lee Keflen instead of Trakeena. It could've been something if somebody as insane as Keflen
Now, for the genetic messes that are the generals. You've got Yutaka Hirose as Ley Wanda. You've got Sayoko Hagiwara having been sharpened to be Ley Nefel. You've got Ley Garus as a brute force whose death probably didn't affect much either. There's Wolk and Kit. These guys get a massive upgrade to gain temporary access to stronger forms. Nefel though later viewed Keflen as her "father" figure even if she was just a genetic mess. Wanda could later temporarily stop time. Later on, Wanda's powers were later broken by Professor Tokimura's time machine.
I could also talk about Sir Kaura and the Alien Hunters. Sir Kaura is one villain you don't want to mess with yet evil still has standards. He was that person responsible for the kidnapping of the children for Mess' experiments yet he also treats his fellow Alien Hunters like family. He even had his just too last-minute ally Bo Gardan added -- only to feel his own crew fall apart. It's sort of like an improved Buuba from Changeman in some way.
How vicious is this guy? Talk about how he caused Flash King to fall down. He always has a plan to troll the Flashmen with vicious tactics. He also knows Keflen's most dangerous secret. He's also the guy who knows about one of the Flashmen's parents. I really love how this guy appears and starts to wreck havoc yet he treats his own hunter crew like family. He's such a dangerous threat that Keflen has had the bad habit of sabotaging his every move.
Unlike Keflen, he has a strong sense of honor at times such as he hates the foul play the former does. He really felt genuinely sad to see his comrades turned into genetic fodder. He saw his Alien Hunters used for experiments. He would later see Bo Gardan turned into a monster. Just seeing that makes you realize that even a villain has standards. Sure, he's guilty of kidnapping children but he does have some honor. He somehow stands in contrast to Keflen who almost has no scruples throughout the series. It even makes him commit kamikaze hoping to take down Keflen but not before revealing to Sarah her true parentage.
The ever-progressive though sometimes forgotten Anti-Flash Phenomenon
The arrival of Baraki starts to get things serious. It's not just Sir Kaura's arrival but also the arrival of Baraki. Baraki is a traitor to Mess. I really love how the show takes more lore from Flashman's lost galaxy. Baraki talks about the demise of the hero Titan. Titan was also the pilot of the show's secondary robot Titan Boy. It's a weird addition but it does have a design that puts Maskman's Galaxy Robo into question. Remember how Maskman's Galaxy Robo had TIT GUNS? I still laugh at it. The progress brought during the Titan Boy arc is really good. Also, I love how they didn't get to repair Flash King immediately and it took a few episodes more before it came into action. Maskman was kind of weak in dealing with the Great Five and Galaxy Robo.
What was this weakness? Baraki dies and somehow the show seems to forget about it. However, we do get it into the finale arc when we know what called Titan to start with. Titan's death was caused by the Anti-Flash Phenomenon. Being raised in a lost galaxy for 20 years does give you super powers at the cost of your biology. The Flashmen did gain their civilian superpowers but they've grown up as residents in some lost galaxy. They would now become strangers to the Earth. The phenomenon starts to kick in one way or another.
The finale arc does focus on the Flashmen's biggest dilemma. They can no longer be on Earth but will they let it get to them? They know they have 20 days to vacate Earth but can they vacate Earth knowing Mess will still mess it up? They are now strangers to Earth. They try to drink water and they choke! Plants would release excess carbon dioxide when they're near them! They can't even touch people from Earth any longer! The sun is harmful at mere sight! It's really them losing their powers on Earth yet they would rather die fighting. They even refuse Keflen's offer to fix it. I love how Sarah makes a Reason You Suck Speech to the mad doctor as she shoots the Gene Synthesizer. She declares how much life was compromised and that they don't want such a machine. She bade her parents farewell through a farewell note before engaging in the final battle.
I always wonder is the Anti-Flash Phenomenon permanent? I did notice that somehow they have the confidence they may return. Even the narrator says they're possibly waiting for their return. I wouldn't think of referencing Gokaiger though since it has to be understood that most Super Sentai series are standalone. You might consider treating Gokaiger and most crossover movies like you treat the Super Robot Taisen games -- a series of what-if scenarios. Right now, I guess viewers are now free to decide on whether or not the Flashmen will eventually return to Earth. For me, they have returned to Earth but only in my headcanon!