Part I was posted February 19, 2011
I’ve been meaning to do a blog entry on the long-running, internationally popular, Japanese series known as Super Sentai(sentai means task force or fighting squadron). I’m a personal fan of Super Sentai and Power Rangers is pretty good, but that’s just my opinion. I know both are geared towards children much younger than myself, but there’s something about Sentai and Rangers that needs to be said. However, I want to write about the two, and since this will be a pretty long entry, I will divide it into a few parts.
At first glance one would guess that they are Power Rangers. In a way that is correct. However, one was born from the other to attract Western audiences. Both series are geared towards children even though they have adult fans who mostly followed the shows since they began. Depending on the individuals, some prefer one over the other.
Super Sentai began in 1975 with the shows Himitsu Sentai Goranger and JAKQ (pronounced Jacka) Dengekitai. Then, Super Sentai took shape with the creation of Battle Fever J (BFJ), the first in the series to introduce a giant robot for larger-than-life battles. For several years in the beginning, Super Sentai was considered to have begun with BFJ. Reason being was that the word Super applies to the use of giant robots or mecha. Goranger and JAKQ didn’t have any, and as such were excluded during the (then) 10th Anniversary Super Sentai Special. However, they would be retroactively included as part of the series in future seasons.
Each Sentai edition or season changes year after year, of course with the exception of Goranger which lasted two years, with new actors, characters, heroes, villians, mecha, and themes, but the basic premise remains constant each year:
A group of usually three to five young people are chosen to be the season’s squadron to battle evil from space, from Earth, or from another dimension. The main villians would send, at least, one monster to terrorize a city forcing the rangers to fight it. Usually, the monster is defeated within near the last half of the episode, but will grow into its giant form prompting the rangers to operate a giant robot to engage in a Godzilla-esque battle. The rangers destroy the monster by the end of the episode, and all is peaceful until the next, new episode.
It may sound like a tiring theme, but it has stood the test of time for more than three decades. People look forward to each adventure, and look forward to who will take up the mantle to defend Earth in the following year.
February marks the 35th entry of the Super Sentai Series. New heroes, new villians, and a new mission have already begun. Since this is the 35th anniversary, this is a celebration for young and old fans alike.
Part II was posted February 20, 2011
Super Sentai had made its presence in the United States in certain locations in the 1970s and 80s. It wasn’t until 1993 that its American adaptation would give rise to a popular series.
Haim Saban obtained footage from Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger to create Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, a series about five (later six) teens obtaining ancient powers of Prehistoric animals and Dinosaurs to battle an ancient evil. The series would help give rise to the Fox Kids block on Fox Network stations
This team of rangers was multiracial. Two members played certain ranger colors that corresponded to their race; the Black Ranger was played by a Black male, and the Yellow Ranger was played by an Asian female. A couple of years later the series would replace characters and introduce new vehicles and mecha, but would mostly retain the costumes until Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers, the American version of Ninja Sentai Kakuranger.
Like its Japanese counterpart, the series would change every season. The series would help popularize Fox Kids segments.
In 2001 Power Rangers would be brought by the Walt Disney Company beginning with Ninpuu Sentai Hurricanger which would be adapted into Power Rangers: Ninja Storm. Subsequently, the series would continue to change each season until Power Rangers: RPM(Engine Sentai Go-Onger). The series would air during ABC networks and affiliates.
In 2009 new seasons of Power Rangers would end. In place of that season Mighty Morphin would be re-broadcasted with slight new alterations.
In 2010 Saban brought back the Power Rangers franchise and in the following year in February released Power Rangers: Samurai(Samurai Sentai Shinkenger). This would be the 19th season of the series.
With the introduction of internet video websites, fans of both series have uploaded their episodes. However, the Super Sentai series is much harder to obtain let alone view. As of now some people are unaware of Power Rangers’ original Japanese version, and some believe that Sentai was an adaptation of Rangers. I often wondered that if Sentai was shown today in its original form with appropriate, non-parodic translation, how would Americans view it?
Part III was posted February 22, 2011
Since Power Rangers came from Super Sentai, the two series share common elements:
1. Both series feature a cast of young people with varying age groups.
2. Both series feature hi-tech weaponry, vehicles, and giant mecha.
3. Both series use varying styles of combat and martial arts to defeat their enemies.
4. The teams display stylized forms of poses before engaging in a battle.
5. Both shows involve fantasy violence.
6. Both series promote teamwork.
7. Both sets of warriors wore civilian clothing that corresponded to their ranger color.
There are some major differences between the two shows mainly due to plots and cultural differences:
1. Super Sentai began in 1975 where Power Rangers began in 1993. Some people believed that Sentai was based upon Rangers. An episode of Power Rangers: Dino Thunder ”Lost and Found in Translation” showed actual footage of its Japanese counterpart’s (Bakuryu Sentai Abaranger) actors. The show’s plot suggests that Sentai was based upon Rangers.
2. Super Sentai started “Versus” movie specials where a past team of rangers team up with the team that came next. For example,Gosei Sentai Dairanger would team up with it’s predecessor Zyuranger. The trend began with Goranger and JAKQ, but would be absent until Chouriki Sentai Ohranger teams up with Ninja Sentai Kakuranger. All other specials would follow in movie editions.
Power Rangers would adapt the same trend beginning with Power Rangers in Space. However, it began with individual rangers from past shows being the allies of the Space Rangers. Also, the ranger team that joined in was the Alien Rangers and not the immediate past soldiers (Power Rangers: Turbo) seeing as how four out of five rangers became Space Rangers in the first place. It would cease with Power Rangers: SPD teaming up with Dino Thunder.
Another key difference is the use of mecha battles. Sentai Versus specials feature mecha battles using robots from both series. Power Rangers, on the other hand, can not use the same motif in its episodes (these specials usually consist of one to two episodes and not in movie specials) due to Toei’s restrictions.
3. Along with Versus specials came Anniversary movie specials where every five years beginning with Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger, the squadron celebrating the franchise would team up with a squadron composed of warriors from past shows united to defeat a dangerous foe.
Power Rangers adapted the same motif in Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive to celebrate its 15th anniversary. The two-part episode “Once a Ranger” featured rangers from past shows to battle an enemy based upon the enemies of the first rangers.
During the season Power Rangers: Wild Force, one episode “Forever Red” had a team of (then) all Red Rangers against enemies based on Power Rangers: Zeo.
Note, that some enemies used costumes from the Metal Hero Series.
4. A few Sentai warriors have died in or after battle. So far, no Ranger has died, at least not in the series. However, Thuy Trang, the woman who played Trini, the first Yellow Ranger, did die in real life in a car accident. She was 27.
5. The only original Power Rangers include the Titanium Ranger from Power Rangers: Lightspeed Rescue. The series counterpart KyuuKyuu Sentai Gogo-V (Five) had no such ranger. Power Rangers: Jungle Fury had three extra rangers, the Spirit Rangers, which did not have counterparts in the original series Juuken Sentai Gekiranger.
6. My personal favorite about Sentai is the introduction of its members and team before engaging in battle. Each Sentai member, usually beginning with the red warrior, would introduce themselves in their own animated fashion. Then, the entire team would introduce itself using a series of poses. Power Rangers would occasionally do the same, but they were nowhere near the fashion as their Sentai counterparts.
7. Power Rangers began the Battlizer mode with Power Rangers in Space where the Red Ranger would aquire upgrades with new armor to defeat his opponent.
8. To date Power Rangers has had only two movies while Super Sentai has movie specials that corresponded with each season. However, it was reported that Power Rangers: Samurai is having a movie deal in the works.
That being said, I’ve wondered about some things concerning the Sentai/Ranger phenomenon. I wondered how Americans tend to “Americanize” foreign films. Some Sentai seasons’ plots were remade for Western audiences for fear that Americans would not comprehend or appreciate the original stories. It was rumored that such was the case with Samurai Sentai Shinkenger. There was no new season for Power Rangers that year. Instead, the first season was re-broadasted.
If it was true, is it part of America’s tendency to reject cultural appreciation and ethnic diversity in its mainstream media arena for the premise that Americans, in general, do not appreciate or understand what’s beyond its borders and that anything American or “White” is not only admired but profitable? Does American media claim diversity as long as White America is the central component?
I also wondered about numerous videos that feature Super Sentai footage that appears throughout the internet in video websites. Media companies, seemingly, are hell-bent on deleting Sentai videos due to copyright violations. Any video that features an entire episode or movie of a Super Sentai series is sure to be deleted, on Youtube.com especially. However, with this online movement to show America, and perhaps the world, the original franchise, why haven’t the media realized that there are people who appreciate Super Sentai in it’s original form?
Lastly, I wondered if they show Power Rangers episodes in Japan? If anyone knows, please let me know. Assuming they do, if they can show both Super Sentai and Power Rangers in Japan, why only show Power Rangers here in the United States?
Would Super Sentai be as popular in America without any “Americanization” involved? Would Power Rangers be as popular with an all-Asian cast or at least an Asian actor playing as the Red Ranger often? In end do Americans appreciate or devalue true diversity in the media, and if they do, do they know what it really means?