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!

Categories
Nostalgia Review Video

Rewatch: Stargate Universe

Stargate Universe is the final series to follow Stargate SG-1 (read the Rewatch review here) and Stargate Atlantis (read the Rewatch review here). The series premiered in 2009 and ran for two seasons when it was canceled kind of on a cliffhanger, more on that later. The series is definitely a tone shift for the franchise. You’ll find overall that it’s darker and has more character-driven drama than SG-1 and Atlantis.

The show follows a set of occupants from the former Icarus Base who are forced to flee through the base’s Stargate to a mysterious address that the base’s obsessive lead scientist has dialed instead of Earth during the evacuation. The base was on the only planet Earth knew of at the time that could power dialing it, so in that scientist’s view, there was no reason to let it go to waste. Unfortunately, the planet explodes after they go through, leaving them no way to get back to Earth (or get supplies from Earth). They are now stranded several billion lightyears away on Destiny, an Ancient ship with an unknown mission and a predetermined course. They have no way home, they are lost in space, the ship is falling apart, they have no control over it, and they are the wrong people for the job.

That obsessive lead scientist I mentioned is Dr. Nicholas Rush, played by Robert Carlyle. He is exactly where he wants to be, unraveling the mysteries of the universe, and everyone else is just getting in his way. He frequently comes into conflict with the ranking military presence, Colonel Everett Young, played by Louis Ferreira. He’s a kind leader who cares for his people, but he wasn’t supposed to be the one commanding the expedition, and while Rush wants to forge forward to the mysteries of the universe, Young wants to get his people home. They’re balanced out by Ming-Na Wen as Camile Wrey, the ranking representative of the International Oversight Advisory. She often provides a bridge between leadership and the civilians onboard.

One real standout on the show is Eli Wallace, played by David Blue. Eli cracked the code for dialing the mysterious address, a task that Rush begrudgingly could never figure out, so he hid it inside a game that Eli, an unemployed college dropout, just happened to solve. Minutes later, he was visited by Rush and Lt. General Jack O’Neill, beamed up to the U.S.S. George Hammond, dropped off at Icarus Base (with his permission), finished the program to dial the mysterious address, and of course evacuated to Destiny. As the fresh newcomer to this entire experience, he is our analog throughout the series, and in case you ever forget, the only shirt he has says “You are here.” Eli constantly has to prove himself, a task he often excels at, despite being constantly out of his depth. He’s like a son to Young, an unwanted pupil to Rush, and a close friend to everyone on board. He doesn’t want to be there, no one wants to be there, but he’s going to make the most of it.

There are a few more characters of note. The entire science team is delightful, and it’s a lot of fun to watch them grow close (and grow a sense of humor) over the series. Besides Rush and Eli, there’s Peter Kelamis as Dr. Adam Brody, Patrick Gilmore as Dr. Dale Volker, and Jennifer Spence as Dr. Lisa Park. And, if you ever need a dose of realism, look no further than Jamil Walker Smith as Master Sergeant Ronald Greer and Mike Dopud as Varro. They are both no-nonsense military men who will do the right thing simply because they see no reason to do anything else, and they’ll tell anyone exactly what they need to hear at any time.

Yeah, I know, that’s a lot of characters, and this is a huge ensemble cast, so that’s not even half of it. What matters is, these are all the wrong people for the job. Some want to explore, some want to put every resource into going home, and at many times they clash. The bulk of the first season is devoted to figuring out how to work together, how Destiny works, why it randomly stops at system with active Stargates for only a few hours, and where it’s going in the first place. The characters drive the drama here. By the time we get to the second season, everyone knows their place and everyone works together, because they understand this is their life now. Almost sensing that, Destiny reveals her bridge, giving them full control over the ship (thought there is still no way to gate home, and the trip would still take far longer than a human lifespan). This all opens the series up to some more interesting developments.

As mentioned earlier, the show’s cancelation does leave it to end on a cliffhanger. Normally I don’t recommend shows that end on cliffhangers, but it’s by far the most gentle cliffhanger I’ve ever experienced. There is no peril, in fact they are escaping peril, and all we are left with is plenty of time for Eli to solve a problem that we all know he can solve. He even has enough time to look out the window and smile as we fade out. Most folks can easily imagine their own continuation of the series from that point, but if you absolutely must know what could have happened next, the show’s producer covered some of the possibilities.

Stargate Universe was the end of an era for a TV franchise that ran uninterrupted for 14 years from 1997 to 2011. The studio which owned the property switched gears and launched the incredibly low-budget and incredibly terrible Stargate Origins in 2018, which ignored all previous shows, and thankfully appears to have been canceled.

You can stream Stargate Universe for free on Amazon Video if you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber or buy the complete series on Apple TV for just $29.99. If you loved SG-1 and Atlantis, there’s no reason to not at least give it a try, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Categories
Nostalgia Review Video

Rewatch: Mystery Science Theater 3000

There are two types of people in the world: those who love Mystery Science Theater 3000, and those who have never seen it. If you’re in that latter group, it’s time to change that.

MST3K was a TV series of bad films, featuring colorful commentary during the films to elevate and transform them into something far better. The series followed an unfortunate human, initially Joel Hodgson as Joel Robinson and later Michael J. Nelson as Mike Nelson, paired with two cranky robots, Crow T. Robot (voiced by Trace Beaulieu, then J. Elvis Weinstein, and finally Bill Corbett) and Tom Servo (voiced by J. Elvis Weinstein and later Kevin Murphy). The three are trapped on a research satellite where they are forced to watch bad films in order to find the one that will eventually drive them insane, you know, research. To break up the film, there are small low-budget interludes often featuring the characters discussing the film, their predicament, or doing something inspired by the film, and there are also interludes featuring their tormentors (a rotating cast of hilarious folks throughout the series).

The series premiered in 1988 on a low-budget local Minneapolis TV station, but quickly made the jump to Comedy Central and later Syfy. The series later saw a revival on Netflix, but since that started in 2017, I’m only focussing on the classic seasons here.

If you have never seen MST3K before, I strongly recommend starting with Space Mutiny. I think it features the best balance of a watchable film and great commentary.

If you need just one more to convince you, check out The Pumaman, which is just an odd film, so very odd.

MST3K has an impressive legacy, with many homages and spinoffs. If you somehow make it through all of the episodes, I recommend checking out RiffTrax next, or just check it out now anyway. It’s a still-active spinoff features Nelson, Corbett, and Murphy, and it’s just as great as MST3K.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 ran for an impressive 11 years. You can stream many episodes for free on ShoutFactoryTV, and you can probably find the rest on YouTube (after all, many episodes of the series ended with “keep circulating the tapes”).

Categories
Nostalgia Video

Power Rangers vs Super Sentai

AKA, what we missed out on in the United States.

I grew up loving the Power Rangers, but I had no clue what I was missing out on back then. I tried to rewatch some for my Rewatch series, but I just couldn’t get engaged anymore, so imagine my surprise when I found multiple Super Sentai series on ShoutFactoryTV (a free ad-supported streaming service and app). Upon consuming several episodes, I became painfully aware of what we missed out on in the United States, and I’m hooked.

In short, Power Rangers takes the fight footage from Super Sentai and remixes it with overdubbed English dialogue and newly shot scenes featuring the English-speaking actors, often changing the plot dramatically. Rather than just getting a dubbed version of a great Japanese show, we got something very half-baked.

While scouring YouTube for some clips that I could use to make a comparison video, I was surprised to find exactly what I wanted, so let’s give them the ad revenue they deserve.

This clip shows a pivotal fight from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers between the Red Ranger and Green Ranger, followed at 4:08 by the Re-version of the fight featured obnoxious added visual effects (yes, this is official, and yes you should skip it for your sanity), followed at 8:30 by the same pivotal fight from Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger between the TyrannoRanger and DragonRanger.

I want you to notice a few things. First, the unrelenting electric guitar. It’s cool at first, but I won’t blame you if you find it obnoxious by the end. And second, how choppy and uneven the action is.

Let me give an example on that last point. In all three John Wick films, there is one scene involving gunfire in The Continental Hotel. If you took those three scenes and lined them up back to back, you’d be forgiven for accepting a thin narrative that they all take place around the same time, but something would feel very off. That’s what’s happening here in Power Rangers. To compensate for footage lost due to visible actors from the Super Sentai shots, and recognizable Japanese locations, the American produces have chopped in scenes from other fights. To make matters worse, some action has been cut entirely to keep the episode under time. All of that results in an unevenly paced, and sometimes confusing, fight sequence.

Compare that the Super Sentai scene, and you’ve got something very different. First, the music is great. And second, without any footage being removed or added, the fight sequence is evenly paced and far more intense.

I hope this brief comparison got you hooked on Super Sentai too. If it did, you can stream several Super Sentai series for free on ShoutFactoryTV, so find the Super Sentai counterpart to a Power Rangers series you used to love and start watching it today!

Update: For more on this subject, see Rewatch: Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger.

Categories
Nostalgia Review Video

Rewatch – Batman: The Animated Series

Of course the first animated series I review here is going to be Batman: The Animated Series, a 1992 children’s animated series that has aged incredibly well. There series is dark, artistic, thematically dense, and unlike anything on children’s television at the time. Collecting numerous awards and nominations throughout its run, Batman: The Animated Series redefined Batman and many other characters for generations.

Kevin Conroy voiced Batman and Bruce Wayne, and started the trend of considering Bruce Wayne as a mask that Batman wore, rather than the other way around. Wayne had a high-pitched and jovial voice, while Batman had a lower pitched rough voice. When alone (or amongst trusted friends) in Wayne Manor or the Batcave, you heard Batman’s voice, whether he was in costume or not. Bruce Wayne’s voice only came out in public when he was out of costume or on the phone as Bruce Wayne. He was Batman, and Bruce Wayne was simply a disguise that he wore for the public.

Mark Hamill voiced The Joker, and quickly became a fan-favorite Joker for a whole generation, perhaps more. Arleen Sorkin voiced Harley Quinn, the series was actually the introduction for the now fan-favorite character. Michael Ansara voiced Mister Freeze, a haunting voice that I will always and forever read his character with. Adam West (yes, the 1960’s Batman), voiced The Gray Ghost, a television hero from Wayne’s childhood. These are just my favorites, but there are many more.

This clip is from the Mask of the Phantasm spin-off film, but it’s the best quality I could find with both Conroy and Hamill as their characters.

Most of the episodes are self-contained, there are a few two-parters, and one or two that reference previous episodes, but it’s generally safe to start at any point and skip around. I recommend starting with the show’s third episode and introduction of Mister Freeze, Heart of Ice. If you’re still wondering how you’d enjoy a children’s show, this is the episode that will change your mind.

Batman: The Animated Series had two spin-off films. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm hit theaters, and Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero was direct-to-video. Both are definitely worth watching too. As for the show itself, you can stream Batman: The Animated Series on DC Universe, or buy the complete series on iTunes for $79.99. Batman: The Animated Series is a genre-defining success that still holds up to this day, and I hope you agree!