So I was going to post another round of Rider Battle last week (and the week before...) when a certain show appeared on my radar. Now I can get annoyed with certain shows but for Power Rangers Super Megaforce, I was angry. Mostly because there are elements that I think are more of a problem rather than a plus. As a result I've written this critique to voice these.
Now let's back up a minute and give you a bit of history into my fandom. As a child, I grew up on Power Rangers. My mother even bought a megazord or two because I loved the series. (In Space being my favourite to date) And to make this depressing (I think) my mother bought me the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers boxset on my 21st...I kid you not.
It was only until a few years ago that I was told that Power Rangers uses stock footage from it's Japanese source material, Super Sentai. Which for die hard Power Rangers fans is common knowledge. (And for a Japanator crowd, this is obvious) I decided to sit down and watch Kaizoku(Pirate) Sentai Gokaiger. Think Pirate Power Rangers. Looks familiar? It's now the new look at Super Megaforce. The point is the Sentai I watched was brilliant. Guest appearances from past rangers. Fan service to the max. Even the silver ranger was great. Bottom line, it was probably the most nostalgic thing in Super Sentai and the TV ratings were icing on the cake.
After the first three episodes, I decided to write this critique. Before anyone calls out "Sentai Fanboy!", I'm saying this as a Power Rangers fan and someone who wants to see it succeed long enough for my future kids to grow up with the same show I did. So with that out of the way, here's some of the things I found that didn't work in Super Megaforce. In my opinion.
1. The Pirate Motif
This is probably the first mistake that Super Megaforce makes. Now I totally understand the writer's intention of bringing this back to the old Mighty Morphin' days but the difference is the costume motif. Look at the costumes, the megazord, the ship and the weapons then describe the look they all have with one word.
If you said "Pirate" 20 points to you. Which I wouldn't have a problem with however the people who own the suits are my issue and the main reason why it doesn't work. The team is composed of teenagers who are kind hearted. In episode two, they're seen rebuilding an ice cream bar. The opposite behaviour. The writers could've made the team outlaws or deem Power Rangers a threat. Maybe the bad guys could've given them a choice of death or hatred for Power Rangers and the team have to spend the series proving their worth to Earth by defending it. There's a lot of possible stories the writers could've gone with to make the motif work but they choose to play it safe and as a result it gives the awkward feeling. "Pirates are...good?" or "Who are these pretenders?".
2. Super Megaforce NEVER explain the past 16.5 Power Ranger Teams
This is another massive issue I have with and another misstep by Super Megaforce. Now look, it's Power Rangers cannon that each planet has it's own team of Power Rangers to protect them. But the last time that was mentioned was years ago. The new fan are unaware of that convenient plot point. So imagine my surprise when a certain set of suits appeared which has never been seen or mentioned in cannon for the past 21 years of the franchise's existence. Well that's not technically true because die hard fans HAVE seen this team before. Well maybe just one member. A certain white ranger? Yes for reasons unknown instead of changing the outfits back then along with the white ranger, they just copy/pasted the one ranger along side the mighty morphin' team. Point is we've never seen these other rangers before.
Fast forward to episode two of Super Megaforce and this legendary mode début, the team can't help but say how awesome it is while never explaining why these suits exist or why the Earth rangers can use them. The western audience HAS NOT SEEN THESE RANGERS BEFORE!!! But Saban is expecting us to just sit here and look at the awesomeness of rangers we've never seen. When in reality all we see is, "Hey rangers, here's a new power...have at it."
Now, I'm all for introducing new rangers in this show but there has to be an explanation as to WHY they're available and WHO those particular rangers were. Writers could've made up ANY back-story to this legendary mode but they don't.
Hell, I'll give you my top 3:
1. The Armada destroyed a planet and the spirit of those rangers journeyed to Earth to give the Power Ranger's a hand in doing what they couldn't by giving them their powers.
2. Gosei designed these rangers but they're a prototype and the rangers wanted to test them out.
3. The Armada was developing ranger keys to combat the Rangers and the rangers fought and acquired them. Now making them tools for good.
If you're going to put a team of legendary rangers that we've never seen before, give them a reason to be there. Don't just throw them in. And while they might not show the other 16 teams the thought occurs they if Saban keeps using stock footage then they'll have no choice but to show them.
3. They never explain how to "master legendary rangers"
To acquire more zord types, the rangers have to master the legendary rangers. This is something I could get behind. BUT what we see if the rangers using a legendary power for a few minutes then Gosei, their mentor, just give them the zord ability because the plot calls for it. And some of the other ways to master don't even make sense. For example in episode three where Noah uses five blue ranger keys and for some reason the rangers unlock the power of Mystic Force. Wait...How does that work? Although I will admit, the third episode is by far the biggest problem I have but I this post is getting too long as it is. So I'll save it for another time.
Say what you like about Gokaiger. At least in that series, those rangers had to prove they were worthy of those powers and sometimes even worthy to hold the ranger keys.
Now it seems like I'm being harsh on Super Megaforce but please not that I'm not attacking it. I even find the actors to act very well in this with John Mark Loudermilk, a.k.a. Noah being one of my favourites. I'm mainly pointing out the things that don't work, in my opinion and suggest what Saban could've done. Which by the way, writers for the show, should you happen to be reading this wanting to use the ideas I've presented, go right ahead. You don't even have to pay me.
My point is there were and still are various ways to approach this series with the source materials the writers have. But because I'm so fired up, next week I'll give an inside as to how Saban could improve future Power Rangers.
Normally this is the part where I say something exciting and intriguing. But after watching this week's episodes of Ryuki and Dragon Knight, I can't really do that. Not that the episodes are bad, they're not. It's just some really, really good spoiler heavy writing that left me a bit sad. So let's get this week's Rider Battle started...
*DING* *DING* *DING*
Kamen Rider Ryuki - Episode 22
One prisoner rider, two contracts. What can Ryuki give this week?
...Well a pretty brutal beat down. With him ignoring the fact that riders can only be in mirror world for a short time. He's unbelievable and hands down one of my favourite riders thus far. I've gone on about how demented he is so something like this will come as no shock. I mean would you be shocked if I told you he kidnaps the lawyer-man's assistant as bait to draw him out? Didn't think so.
Miyuki confronts Kanzaki, Yui's sister and giver of advent decks. Why do they fight? What's the purpose of riders fighting? But the only response was a folder and a card with Kanzaki's word, "Fight".
Upon reviewing the contents of the folder they find a lead about Yui and Kanzaki's origin and decide to follow it. Ren is in the camp of not getting Yui involved.......with the disappearance of her brother.......Well I guess if you found out a loved one is orchestrating a battle royale to the death you would probably be incredibly heart broken. Turns out there was an explosion and the pair were victims of. Kanzaki was hurt while Yui wasn't. It's not a lot to go on but it's creating a nice sense of mystery which I always like about Ryuki. It keeps it's cards close and lays them out when they need to, card by card. something Dragon Knight is only now getting.
Speaking of heart broken, Miyuki believes he's going to die so this entire episode is him debating to either let it happen or change his fate. As much as I try, I can't really get involved with this. All of a sudden he goes berserk trying to kill a mirror monster to avenge his friend. Pushing Shunji out of the way to do it. And for someone whose been calm and collective this entire time feels very two-faced. Granted, he's been motivated to honour his friend, who was supposed to be a kamen rider but died letting Miyuki take his place, BUT! We only just discovered this ten minutes before the fight begins. It literally comes out of nowhere. I guess Ryuki tried to reviel it's hand to quickly.
It would've been nice to see backstory a little earlier because I just feel a little confused. Let's hope next episode explains it a lot better.
Kamen Rider Dragon Knight - Episode 19 (Semper Fi)
Chris encounters JTC, who offers him a cure for his asthma and the only catch is to vent Wing Knight. Obviously Chris fights him instead. As lame as it is, I didn't mind. The only reason is because of how JTC treats the whole scene. "Ok, you're probably not going to agree but work for us and we'll cure your asthma......ok, you wanna fight instead....Sigh. Fine"
So the two fight with JTC taunting him with his failures and Chris running the hell away. Now this is the first time Chris has every seen JTC but not his name so I hope this'll be fun when the time comes.
And holy crap, someone made the exact same comment I made last week about Lacey's doubts about the kamen riders. Far out! One of Maya's friends says, "Maybe we can ask Kit to transform in front of her. I mean, I'd like to see that too." That is without doubt the best thing written in this god damn sideplot. And what was Maya's response? "They don't do it for fun." ....Then why not just bring her with you. I know I'm making a big deal out of this but this has to be addressed. (Spoiler alert, she sees them transform....then runs off....)
But before this gets too deep, the Cho brothers appear saying, "Who wants to play cards?" Classy line....until Chris replies, "I do"....sigh...But whatever we have a three VS two match and I gotta say, I kinda liked it. Well mainly the part at the end when Kit is given a choice to vent one of them but can't bring himself to do it.
But all that is shoved aside for Chris's act of heroism as he sacrifices himself to save Len. Dragon Knight! How dare you make drama! But seriously, when that moment happened I was so upset. What made it work was that the writers gave Chris a personality and with a backstory I actually cared about. So when he finally did get vented, I couldn't help but feel depressed about that fact. They even show a flashback of the three of them making a pact of friendship.
What I'm trying to say is if you give your characters personality and try to not make them so cardboard cut out, then I'll care about what happens to them.
The Edge: Dragon Knight
Holy crap it's been ages since Dragon Knight has won the edge! But it's well deserved. Chris was one of my favourite characters and now that he's vented the trio has been demoted to a duo. While Ryuki tried to pluck at my heart strings, it just seemed a bit out of left field. So yes, Dragon Knight gets the edge. I just hope it can keep up.
How will Kit and Len cope? What does Miyuki's fate have in store for him? Why should I care about Kit's father that's still missing?
All these questions will be answered next week on Rider Battle!
[NOTE: The following is a joke and isn't intended to be taken seriously.]
This week I didn't watch Betterman and to be honest, I'm not impressed. Not because of it's vocal qualities or that one scene where the protagonist communicate with a whale through line dancing. But rather because of the fact that this anime is actually a documentary. That's right. Betterman is a documentary featuring anime. Surely this is something that should be an amazing thing to watch but it isn't.
Ok, perhaps I should explain the premise. Betterman is an environmental documentary about ocean life and the discovery of merpeople. Now a normal documentary would have people giving information to the audience because that's basic doco making 101. This however replaces shots of experts with animated versions of the same people. Now surely you're thinking "Sideshow, merpeople exist!?" Well I'm not sure they do since you only see anime caricatures of them that it's impossible to take it seriously. There's even a scene where one transforms into a rainbow haired geek but the transformation scene they show make it seem like they've spliced Sailor Moon into this.
Another thing is at that the anime claims that these are real scenes but some of them were dramatised. But they never tell you when it's dramatised so you have to assume it's all false or be very disappointed. Seriously, did the writers take a page or two from the Amish Mafia school of writing? All the way down to the one episode where they interview the cast and the amount of times they said the phrases "We're really merpeople" and "merpeople exist" you'd able to play a drinking game and be sent to the hospital for alcohol poisoning.
Bottom line, this is not worth your time. Unless you want to watch a documentary that is unsure about it's own facts then it's best to just avoid this.
I seriously need to stop with these sabbaticals...
Anyway, welcome to another Rider Battle. The first of 2014!
If you're unfamiliar, Rider Battle is a c-blog series that compares Kamen Rider Ryuki to it's western counterpart, Kamen Rider Dragon Knight.
Click here to go to my first one if you'd like a refresher.
Now on to the main event! This time it's a double dose of Ryuki VS Dragon Knight. Who will come out a winner? Let's find out!
*DING* *DING* *DING*
Kamen Rider Dragon Knight - Episode 18 (The Brothers Cho)
The three riders exchange stories about their past. Len was training for years to become a Kamen Rider. Kit the trouble maker and Chris walks off because of his daddy issues. Thinking he's a disappointment to his father because he couldn't be a marine. Glad someone managed to bring up the possibility that maybe his father should know he's a Kamen Rider. Sometimes this show can be smart.
Maya's friend, Lacey chews her out about the Kamen Riders. "Cute boys don't turn into superheroes with a deck of cards." as demands proof. Lady, it's been 18 episodes! How the hell did you avoid the attacks? Back in episode 2 Maya tried to buy time distracting Lacey while Kit transforms. Question, why bother hiding it if you're just going to talk freely about it? And furthermore why not just get one of the guys to come in and transform in front of Lacey? Boom! Kamen Riders exist, shut the hell up! But instead Lacey walks off frustrated that Maya chooses "make believe" over "reality". If anything, this is a stupid sub plot for that stupid ex-boss reporter of Maya's to get one up on her. It stinks just as much as the Torque sub plot. And if you remember how angry I was then, I'm just as angry now.
But still, two new riders have entered the ring so there's a change up.....I hope. Kamen Riders Axe and Spear, two brothers who commit crime.....poorly. Tricked by Xaviax to help in a heist and destroy Len. Who is still by far one of the best people to watch in a fight scene untransformed and even has enough time to taunt at them. "I should probably tell you guys you're being tricked but somehow I don't want you on my team.". At least in my mind it's a taunt. The Cho Brothers (who'd imagine that's their name) are just stupid. Low level thugs. Meh, I'm in. Might be fun.
Speaking of fun, at the end of the episode Kit finds that his comatose father is missing. Leaving only a coin with a snake on it. Which I'd love to see how that ends.
Apart from the Maya/Lacey sub plot, I have no real issues with this episode. I can't wait to see another Len fight scene and how the Cho Brothers will retaliate.
Kamen Rider Ryuki - Episode 20
Last time, the Ryuki throw down started and ended with the psycho prisoner turned kamen rider taking the rhino rider's life as well as a stalemate between Shinji and the Prisoner himself.
And to top it off, Ren comes to help this prisoner escape in a stolen police car. If anything Ren seems like he's still questioning where he stands in this rider war. Fight? Befriend? I see this as a slow pay off if done right. Maybe at some point a massive betrayal causing Shinji to go a downward spiral for a few episodes? That might be interesting. From a story perspective.
After seeing a former rival being taken down so easily has shaken up Shinji. Considering whether or not to kill this prisoner in retaliation. Regardless, the search for Ren is on!
While that's going on let's throw in the rhino mirror monster causing rampage in the background just for good measure. But really the main focus is finding the Prisoner for a second round of fighting. But once again, Ren comes to the rescue.....but changing teams.
To be honest, my interests were only in Ren's siding and how it effects this web of connections.
Kamen Rider Ryuki - Episode 21
Picking right back up after we left last episode, Ren forces Shinji to fight only to be defended by Miyuki at the last minute, warning Prison Rider (see what I did there?) about Rhino Rider's monster avenging his fallen master.
Shinji starts questioning whether or not he should stop the fighting. To stop it means preventing Ren's girlfriend, Eri, from ever waking up from her coma. Caused by Yui's brother, a.k.a. the guy responsible for handing out the Advent Decks to begin with. It always comes back to this web of connections. Finding out who knows who and how is always interesting to see.
It's also great to see the hook of this show in full swing. Last rider standing wins great power. Ren wants his girlfriend, Mr Lawyer wants eternal life and so on. Shinji has no desire, just to stop the fighting.
Still, that doesn't stop him from having another round with Prison Rider while Yui and Miyuki look into the whereabouts of Yui's missing brother. Bringing some painful memories as well. I really want to know what the deal is with her brother. So far all I know is that he made an experiment to see what Yui sees, causing this entire rider tournament to occur in the first place.
The final twist in this episode being that Prisoner has made a contract with the Rhino mirror monster that was chasing after him, making him twice as powerful. As expected, this guy is completely nuts and will go to great lengths to fight and leave his opponents defeated and devoured by mirror monsters. This guy makes this arc very interesting to watch.
The Edge: Ryuki
Betrayal, crazy rider, mysteries of a missing person, How could I not give the edge to Ryuki?! He's gone to lengths just to have more power and I'd love to see what that'll lead to. Plus I'm still pretty pissed about Lacey in Dragon Knight. There's only so much of her act I can put up with. So yes, another point to Ryuki.
Tune in next week for another instalment of Rider Battle! Fully revived* and heading to our halfway mark.
And finally, a last thing. This is one of a many "tricks" I have up my sleeve? What will they be? Keep diving in the c-blogs this month to find out!
Ok, so I've watched Kamen Rider Gaim and if you haven't watched it....at least give the first episode a go. Now while I go listen to the opening for the one hundredth time, please enjoy this week's Rider Battle!
*DING* *DING* *DING*
Kamen Rider Ryuki - Episode 19
Stumbling into a hostage situation Shinji lays low and scopes the situation. Chaos ensues and at the center of this is a newly escaped prisoner (and newly born rider) waving a gun and wanting tone thing. THE LAWYER!!!! The web of connections are spinning and it makes me feel great. Yes, this is a kid's show but you have to admit there's some intelligence going on here. "This guy knows ___ because of ______ and therefore ______" is the key of finding out where everyone stands. For example, The prisoner knows Mr Lawyer because of the fact he was the only guy who could get him out of jail but refused and therefore seeks revenge. It gives characters meaning and a purpose. In Dragon Knight the main thing is "This guy is told to vent Wing Knight". There's no connection. No other reason for us to care. Sure, characters like Kamen Rider Sting are improving.....but only just.
Nineteen episodes in and we finally get what we've been waiting for. A battle royale of riders! It reminds me of the episode of Dragon Knight when they tried that. Only this time it feels like there's a lot more at stake. Ren is fighting to buy time for Miyuki to find Yui, who was kidnapped as a bargaining chip to fight. Miyuki is trying to prevent Ren's defeat. Lawyer and Prisoner settle the score and Shinji finally joins the fray in an attempt to stop the riders from fighting altogether.
And the pay off? The Rhino rider being eliminated by the hands of a psycho with the defence of "you're in my way". It just shows how heartless this guy really is. As if we needed a reason before. This just had me wanting to do another Rider Battle right here and now so I can see what happens next!
Kamen Rider Dragon Knight - Episode 17 (The Power of Three)
After getting his ass whooped by Strike, Chris gives up being a rider...again. But gets a quick pep talk by Len using sticks. A quick two minute thing but it does the job. Now making it a trio of rider.
Xaviax finds more recruits. The Cho brothers, two bike thieves who are "not that bright". Cool a rider brotherhood. I'm in for that. So he goes to meets the two as...well...a heist planner. Kinda works for me.
Oh remember all those episodes ago about all the monster victims being in a secret hospital unit? Well they thought Kit seeing his dad there would be heart warming....no. It isn't. It's not working for me. I think because it's been too long since anyone has even mentioned it. If anything this is showing that there's a writer who JUST remembered that they opened this plot point. It's a nice tool to use and no I'm not saying bring this up EVERY TIME. What I mean is it's a really big gap from when now till the last time it was mentioned.
JTC catches wind of Len and the others wanting to question him and sets up a trap in an attempt to vent Chris. A thing I've noticed, these scenes seem to give me the impression they actually made their own footage for this. For one, it's a clearer image. For two, I don't thing that Shinji and Len have ever fought on grass.
The end game is "work as a team, you prick!". What this episode says to me is that it's setting up for something bigger. And I hope to Gaim that it pays off. I don't want to see another Torque!
The Edge: Ryuki
Rider Royale and a web of connections. This hit everything that it needed to make a really great episode and it's a good thing to give the Prisoner enough screen time to give viewers an idea of exactly who he is. An evil, heartless bastard.
It's that time again next week as Ryuki comes in with a set of two to take on Dragon Knight. Who will take the edge next week?!
Another week, another battle is upon us? Go, go. Let's go! Let's find out who comes on top!
Kamen Rider. Kamen Rider. Rider! RIDER!
*DING* *DING* *DING*
Kamen Rider Dragon Knight - Episode 16 (The Hero of Gramercy Heights)
Len makes a smart move about being suspicious of the notorious JTC, Maya's contact about Kamen Riders. So him and Kit go searching for this guy. Partly to question him about the riders and also because they want to know how the hell he knew about them in the first place. For those who've just started reading this JTC is also known as Kamen Rider Strike, Xaviax's right hand rider. Good, a race for more riders but one asks: Who has the Advent Decks? .....oh.......Xaviax......how awkward.......
Chris is still refusing to fight and gets a pep talk from Maya. I get that he needs this. The dudes been treated like a puppet by Xaviax but I think Maya's probably the least likely person to give this talk though. Mainly it's just back story and flashbacks of him so it's a tad forgiving.
Following a lead, Kit and Len fight a robot. Which I'm a bit curious about. A robot monster from Ventara? Usually they're more bio-related monsters so this is the first I've seen of a robotic one. Not a big deal at all by the way. Just an observation.
I think the fact that the main characters are starting to put two and two together quicker tells me this show is starting to think about all the things it sets up. That's not to say that they should reveal everything at once. What I mean is these characters now possess the intelligence they should have. Len, for example. The only people who know about the riders are the riders themselves, Maya and Xaviax. Why does this hacker know about them too unles Xaviax approched him? A good episode. It left me hanging.
Kamen Rider Ryuki - Episode 18
It's the birth of a new rider folks! An insane prisoner. But it turns out Yui's brother is a psycho. "Hey you. Crazy guy with anger issues. Here's the power to beat everyone to a pulp.". The brother fascinates me. What's his plan? Why this guy? I would like to see more of him but I understand the mystery. It's about the web of connections between the riders with him starting the initial weave.
And right now the latest connection is that Mr Lawyer is his first target. The guy who couldn't get him out of jail because being "vexed" can't cut as an excuse. He's AWESOME!!! Bringing some lively flavour to the mix. Who'd have thought it took a psycho prisoner to do it? Now it should be noted that he's JTC's eastern counterpart and it makes me think about which one I prefer. A rider whose insane and wants nothing but revenge? Or a rider who is basically a henchman to the main villain? I think I might need to see more of this guy before making a call. Ending the episode at the height of a hostage situation is a bonus.....entertainment wise. A great introduction to a new rider.
The Edge: Dragon Knight
To be honest I was about to give The Edge to Ryuki because of the new recruit. What stopped me was Len and his thoughts about JTC. The writing has improved and that's why I think it should go to them. If this episode were written in it's early days, this would've been part one of a five part episode for Len to reach that conclusion. Better writing and story structure are elements in an awesome cake of Kamen Rider.
Next week, another Rider Battle. I'm jumping back into the mirrors to sleep for a time knowing that I'll be safe from Mirror Monsters.