Categories
Nostalgia Review Video

Rewatch: Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger

You may have heard me mention it before, but I grew up loving the Power Rangers, and while I tried to get back into it for this Rewatch series, I couldn’t get through anything but the 1995 movie. I think I’ve just aged out of it. Fortunately, I was introduced to Super Sentai and its stark differences. It turns out that removing all but the action sequences from the original series results in a choppy uneven experience. Earlier, I watched Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger (read the Rewatch review), the Super Sentai counterpart to Power Rangers Wild Force. It was the last Power Rangers series I saw (and gave up on), so it made sense to start there. Now I’ve seen Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger, the Super Sentai counterpart to Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, the series I remember the most.

Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger translates as “Dinosaur Squadron Beast Ranger” and follows our heroes as they awaken from a 170-million year hibernation to defeat the recently awoken witch Bandora, played by Machiko Soga.

Fighting Bandora with various weapons and mecha, our heroes are from five ancient tribes that lived alongside the dinosaurs, not “teenagers with attitude” thank goodness. Yamato Tribe Prince Geki (Red), played by Yūta Mochizuki and suit actor Hiroshi Maeda, leads the team. Sharma Tribe Knight Goushi (Black), played by Seiju Umon and suit actors Naoki Ofuji and Yasuhiko Imai, is the conscience of the team. Etoffe Tribe Knight Dan (Blue), played by Hideki Fujiwara and suit actor Shoji Hachisuka, is the reckless member of the team. Dime Tribe Knight Boi (Yellow), played by Takumi Hashimoto and suit actor Hirofumi Ishigaki, is the youngest of the team. Lithia Tribe Princess Mei (Pink), played by Reiko Chiba and suit actor Kiyohito Nakagawa, is the heart of the team. And later, Yamato Tribe Knight Burai (Green), played by Shiro Izumi and suit actors Seiji Takaiwa, Yasuhiro Takeuchi, and Hideaki Kusaka, joins as the team’s last-minute savior for a while after being a misguided villain. They follow the guidance of the mysterious sage Barza, played by Jun Tatara, in their quest to stop Bandora.

In comparison to Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, everything is better. The story flows far better, because we aren’t dealing with just disconnected action footage. The music is by far better, because we aren’t dealing with an electric guitar that seems incapable of stopping. The fights are better, because they seamlessly move from fights with the main actors to fights with the transformed suit actors. The cast is excellent too, but if I had to pick one standout, it would be Shiro Izumi as Burai. His story is intense and dramatic. Is this a great show? No. Is it entertaining? Absolutely!

Whereas Gaoranger felt like a live action anime, Zyuranger feels much more like classic martial arts films. There’s a warmth to it that’s not as bright as Gaoranger, but the story is just as intense. There are some very goofy moments, it doesn’t strike as good of a balance between humor and drama as Gaoranger did, but this is a show for children, and it’s nowhere near as goofy as Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Oh yes, and Bandora likes to sing about herself … a lot. It’s odd, but I’ll allow it.

I recommend starting at the beginning, but if you want a smaller set of episodes to try out, I recommend Burai’s arc, which starts on episode 17. It’s a particularly goofy episode, but gets quite intense in the last few minutes, and you should be hooked for the remaining arc.

You can stream all of Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger for free on ShoutFactoryTV. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, and while you’re there, check out the other Super Sentai counterparts to the Power Rangers shows that you grew up with!

Categories
World

Going Carbon Negative

There are many ways to lower your carbon footprint, from simply recycling to outfitting your home with solar panels, but there are somethings you mostly can’t avoid, like air travel. The good news is, you can offset your remaining carbon footprint by donating to a group that plants diverse native trees (non-native monocultures are bad for the planet).

In our case, we chose Trees For The Future, a fully vetted nonprofit group that works to replace monoculture farms with Forest Gardens, which provide diverse, native, and food-producing trees. These trees, besides clearing carbon, provide year-round food and income for the farmers, and are therefore far more protected than most tree planting operations, and it really does work. Plus, they provide a handy calculator so you know exactly how much you need to donate to offset your carbon footprint with them.

Trees For The Future can help you easily climb that final step to carbon neutrality, but what about going carbon negative? That’s where Ecosia comes in. Ecosia is a search engine which uses its proceeds to plant trees all over the world, and they have the financial reports to back it up. Using Ecosia requires no monetary commitment, every 45 searches plants 1 tree. I do a lot of searching for work, so I switched the search engine in my work browser to Ecosia, and we have already planted 8 trees after 2 months.

I’ve done the best I can to limit my carbon footprint, I use Trees For The Future to cover everything else, and Ecosia at work to plant a few extra trees. It’s easy to do, and well worth it.

Categories
Technology

On Social Networks

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, especially with the introduction of WT.Social, a new social network from the co-founder of Wikipedia, which boasts about being a better alternative to the mainstream social networks. We all know those mainstream networks, and we’re all probably on them. I’m on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram, but there’s a lot more out there, and sometimes I wonder if that’s becoming a problem.

Originally, Facebook introduced itself as the only social network you’ll ever need. Almost 14 years later, it doesn’t seem like that has happened. Smaller players have joined and left the field, even big players have. Google’s own Google+ lasted 7 years, and let’s not forget Apple’s own iTunes Ping which lasted for a mere 2 years. But, others are hanging in there, like Tumblr, Reddit, and even WordPress.com has a social network element. They thrive on a loyal user base that prefers their product over others, and as Facebook continues to land on the wrong side of privacy, security, and marketing, no wonder other social networks are still thriving.

In the old days, we’d check probably just 1 social network probably just once a day, but now it’s more like 4 or 5 social networks 4 or 5 times a day (likely more). Is that a problem though? Is there an issue with having access to your friends and family, and a whole world of information, at all times? I believe that social media fatigue is real, so I suppose it all comes down to how you use them.

For me, I consider Twitter to be my primary social network, I’m on there and engaging the most, largely thanks to Twitterrific. I’m also on Instagram for photos, LinkedIn for business-y things, and reluctantly Facebook because that’s where I can connect with the most people I know. WordPress.com is in my life too, but that’s where I work, so I still consider it work. I do have my eyes set on Tumblr, but someone has squatted my username, and after winning Twitter and giving up on Instagram, I don’t think I’ll bother right now.

I have joined and thoroughly enjoy one alternative social network, MLTSHP (pronounced Malt Shop). It’s just a place where folks share fun images, GIFs, or videos they found around the internet. Think of it like a curated Tumblr or Reddit. It’s not free, there’s a small $3/year membership fee to keep all the junk out, and it works! Everyone there is kind and supportive, you’re immediately one of them just by joining, and anyone who joins with ill will is usually within hours of violating MLTSHP’s Code of Conduct anyway. The mainstream social networks are free and powered by advertising, you’re the product. MLTSHP is powered by that membership fee (and a $24/year upgrade for folks who want a few extras) and it’s entirely open source. You’ll never be the product at MLTSHP, and you could always fork it if it ever shut down, which is actually how MLTSHP was born from the ashes of MLKSHK (pronounced Milk Shake). You can follow folks there (like me), but the total membership is only in the hundreds, so you can go through the entire incoming feed once a day easily.

For me, MLTSHP makes up the missing piece of my social network collection. Twitter for engagement, Facebook for connections, LinkedIn for business connections, WordPress.com for work, and MLTSHP for fun. While I long for the unlikely days of 1 altruistic social network to rule them all, I think I’ve struck a good balance with these 5. Social networks will come and go. You should definitely try new things, but the best thing to do is to watch out for fatigue, however you handle that.

(Photo by Merakist on Unsplash)

Categories
Technology

WordPress 5.3 Released

WordPress 5.3 has been released! Along with new features, refinements, and accessibility improvements in the editor, this release introduces the new Twenty Twenty default theme, Health Check improvements, verification for admin email changes, PHP 7.4 compatibility, and 387 bug fixes. For specifics, check out the changelog.

645 volunteers contributed to this release, lead by Matt Mullenweg, Francesca Marano, and David Baumwald. At the time of writing this, WordPress 5.3 has been out for about 1 hour, and has already been downloaded 290,235 times!

All users can safely update from Dashboard -> Updates or download and update manually, though you should probably backup first just in case, unless you’re already using VaultPress, which you really should be.

If you run into any problems, stop by the known issues first, and please let us know if it’s not covered there!

Categories
Nostalgia Review Video

Rewatch: Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger

I grew up loving the Power Rangers, and if you recall I recently tracked down some Power Rangers fan productions, so I was absolutely sure I’d be doing a Rewatch post on a Power Rangers series. Well, I tried, and I just couldn’t get through anything but the 1995 movie, which was still not great, but also not as bad as the TV franchise has aged for me. This lead me to digging into the world of Super Sentai, the franchise that Power Rangers attempted to use footage from while cutting in their own stuff, and I discovered that Super Sentai was far superior. Which brings me to today’s review, Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger, the Super Sentai counterpart to Power Rangers Wild Force.

Wild Force was the last Power Rangers series I watched, and I couldn’t even make it through. Either it was just that bad, or I was growing out of it. So, I thought I’d start my Super Sentai experience off with Gaorangers, the series that Wild Force used for roughly half of its footage, and I was not disappointed. Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger is loosely translated as “Hundred-beasts Squadron Gaoranger,” though if you go by the subtitles during the title song, it could also be “Hundred-beasts Squadron Growl Ranger.”

The series follows our chosen heroes: GaoRed, played by Noboru Kaneko and suit actor Hirofumi Fukuzawa, the leader and newest member of the team. GaoYellow, played by Kei Horie and suit actor Yasuhiro Takeuchi, the longest serving Gaoranger in this era and the team’s resident hothead. GaoBlue, played by Takeru Shibaki and suit actor Yasuhiko Imai, the youngest of the team. GaoBlack, played by Kazuyoshi Sakai and suit actor Hideaki Kusaka, the team’s courage. GaoWhite, played by Mio Takeuchi, and suit actors Motokuni Nakagawa, Naoko Kamio, and Yuichi Hachisuka, the team’s heart. Tetomu, played by Takemi, the team’s priestess and source of advice. And, later in the series, GaoSilver, played by Tetsuji Tamayama and suit actor Naoki Ofuji, often the team’s last-minute savior.

Using their abilities, weapons, Power Animals, and Mecha, they battle the evil Org Tribe. The Orgs are generally led by Yabaiba, voiced by Kōichi Sakaguchi with suit actor Motokuni Nakagawa, TsueTsue, played by Rei Saito, and whatever higher power Org they can dig up for each arc. Yabaiba and TsueTsue are also the comic relief of the series, but unlike comic relief characters in Power Rangers, they prove themselves to be quite capable quite often.

The ensemble cast is amazing, their chemistry from the start is perfect, and you really get a sense that they all care of each other a great deal (even Yabaiba and TsueTsue). There are two stand-outs not in the main cast that I’d like to mention. Futaro, played by Daiki Arioka, is basically the child form of the team’s god. This kid can really act, he’s great. And finally, Rouki, voiced by Eiji Takemoto with suit actor Shoma Kai. Rouki is one of the “monsters” of the series, but he actually has a back story, character development, and an entire arc. As someone coming to this direct from years of Power Rangers, that is absolutely unheard of. Also, his design is impressive and it allows him to be one of most physical opponents in the series, often battling the Gaorangers directly on the ground.

So, you’ve seen these clips now, and you’re thinking, “That doesn’t look much better than Power Rangers,” and yeah you’re kind of right. Sadly, there just aren’t many clips of this pre-digital era Japanese series with English subtitles, but I assure you this series far exceeds its Power Rangers counterpart. The music is far better (like the music in that last clip), there is actual narrative cohesion when you don’t have to edit out every single minute that looks Japanese, and this series is incredibly dramatic. To give just one example, plenty of people actually die in this series. Early on, most of the Gaorangers are killed in battle (they come back later via a mystical side-quest), but this isn’t some sort of CGI-filled off-screen death. They are brutally killed on-screen. And because that’s not enough, the villains even kill a child on screen. Have you seen any of that on Power Rangers? Nope.

There’s a certain quality to this series too that I can’t quite describe. It’s like a live-action anime. And I know you’re thinking, “Yeah, it’s made in Japan,” but I’ve seen plenty of live action Japanese shows, I even checked out a few other Super Sentai shows too, and they just aren’t like this. Anime tropes shine through constantly, and the show manages a perfect balance of goofy episodes and incredibly serious episodes (sometimes both in the same episode, like that last clip again), kind of like Dragon Ball Z and other anime from that era. But it’s not over-stylized, like live action anime adaptions should be, it’s just anime tropes in a real-world setting, and it’s great.

If you don’t want to dive into all 51 episodes, I recommend at least checking out the Rouki arc, which runs for 10 episodes starting on Episode 15 through 24. If you’d rather watch just one episode to see if you like it, check out Episode 29. I’m pretty sure that either will hook you for the rest of the series. 😉

You can stream all of Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger for free on ShoutFactoryTV. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little experiment with the Rewatch series and Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger as much as I did, and I hope you check out a few more Super Sentai counterparts to Power Rangers shows you may have watched growing up!

Edit: Speaking of that, don’t miss the Rewatch review of Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger, the Super Sentai counterpart to Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.