Welcome to the first installment of our new Anime and Manga column where each month we will be making recommendations on starting points in various manga and anime genres! This month’s genre is HORROR!
By Science SARU
In this remake of Go Nagai’s classic Devilman, you are hit with tons of style and themes. Director Yuasa Masaaki and his studio Science SARU take their flattened, high contrast, and high energy animation style to breathe new life into the story from 1972. In Modernizing the story, the classic anti-war themes change to cover things more for today’s world like sexuality, self-confidence, and more. From a Black Sabbath to a drug and sex-filled rave there are many changes that make this ten-episode Netflix Original anime, an amazing series worth watching for anyone.
Follow Akira as his old friend, Ryo, drags him into the world of demons and possession. Akira is one of the few to be possessed by a demon; becoming the first Devilman! Akira must lead the Devilmen in taking on the demon hordes, led by Lucifer, as they bring upon the apocalypse. Can the soft-hearted crybaby Akira stop the destruction of Earth and save his loved ones? Find out.
I genuinely loved this when I watched it during a winter break in college. The color palette of the series just pops at all times because of the flatter art style causing the high contrast bright colors to work so well. Also, there is a character who is always rapping and he ends up being a decent guy in the end. It lived up to the hype that I had been seeing from all my friends.
By Ishida Sui
Imagine, you meet a cute girl and she asks you out on a date to talk about books over coffee. One thing leads to another and you become a flesh-eating, coffee-sipping ghoul! Well, that’s exactly what happened to Ken Kaneki. Now as a half-ghoul, he must navigate the worlds of humans and ghouls while managing his new diet.
For me, this series is best read rather than watched. The anime’s second season outpaced the manga and took on an alternate story to the source material. To add more confusion goes back to the original story for the third season. But the manga is a fantastic read and the art is so kinetic I could look at single panels all day. I admit while reading it on the Shonen Jump app I screenshot so many of my favorite panels.
By Fujimoto Tatsuki
I read Chainsaw Man very recently and devoured all 11 volumes in less than 48 hours. I truly wasn’t interested in it for the longest time and then all of a sudden, I found myself paying $2 for the Shonen Jump app solely to read it. There’s so much to say about Chainsaw Man and how utterly fantastic it is. The thing that really stands out for me the most, even beyond the stunning art, is how it treats its female characters. This is the first Shonen Jump series I’ve read in a long while where the women dominate the story, even though its main protagonist is a man. While Denji certainly falls into the stereotypical trappings of being a Shonen Protagonist, there is still a lot of care taken to give his character more everything and make the reader feel like he’s unique in a very oversaturated genre. Makima, Power, Kobeni, etc. all have more spotlight than almost every male character, and even female characters we see for only a volume feel like someone we’ve been with for a while. Each one has substance, an arc, and though they leave just as quickly as they came, it doesn’t leave you feeling unsatisfied. Warning for body horror and gore, but if you’re a fan of things like Invincible, Slasher movies, Berserk, etc. where the violence isn’t just there for gratuity’s sake, and you want some really beautiful looks at trauma, humanity, and morality, all mixed in with goofy fun, I truly cannot recommend Chainsaw Man enough.
By Iwaaki Hitoshi
Parasitic aliens fall to Earth and begin implanting themselves into the brains of people with few special cases. One of those special cases is Shinichi Izumi. Through his fear of bugs, panics at the parasite tunneling into his body, but stops it from getting past his arm. He is rewarded by a shapeshifting talking hand named Migi, who helps Shinichi fight off other parasite hosts in a bid for survival.
I’m not too far into the anime but it’s super easy to follow. I appreciate that it doesn’t have Migi give a long-winded explanation of his origins because he doesn’t know much himself. I thought it had some really cool ideas and even some funny bits in how Migi tries to understand things. It’s an interesting take on body horror without seeming to go overboard with it
Invincible is one of my favourite shows of 2021, and I loved it so much I started to binge read the source material, the comics. A lot of the comics shows their age at the start, some of the gay jokes and dialogue but it was 2003 so it’s expected, it was still super enjoyable.
However what surprises me at the end of the run was just how dark a turn it took and not for the better, in short Invincible in some ways goes potentially fascist lite? The word is overused a lot today and gets thrown around loosely, but Invincible seems to play with those ideas and somewhat present them if channelled correctly as reasonable and starts leaning heavily into the ends justify the means, although thankfully I think the cartoon might be softening the stance seeing as Cecil seems considerably warmer and reasonable in the cartoon.
The most glaring example was Robot violently overthrows the world governments and actually leads us all to a better world, but that’s still not right cause yes we have a better world but one man’s unilateral vision for us all, no checks and balances and him imprisoning any dissidents against his rule, inherently comics will always struggle with fascist ideas because they often present super gifted men who go and break the law to make society what they believe it should be by fighting crime, a mighty man breaking the law to save us all, and if you are unaware of the history that’s somewhat similar to how fascist regimes start, granted heroes do not become our government and run our lives but again it’s a quick rundown of how the ideas are linked.
Heck Mark overthrows the alliance of planets cause according to him things needed to change, and while on paper I have no issue with some of the premises of that action, the council of planets being corrupt and favouring richer planets wasn’t hinted at all, so the one strong man Mark overthrowing them last minute didn’t resonate with me
The comic seems to somewhat vindicate it, Mark does stop Robot but he just hands over Robot’s intellect to immortal to guide the world but fallen into a trap again, select few unilaterally deciding how best to rule an entire planet.
Yes it’s a comic and at times shouldn’t be an arbiter of truth and morality but like all Art, the ideas presented can still be examined and criticised.
What seems to be a consistent theme was democracy and everyone having a say was wrong and a strong man was what was needed to make the world a better place, robot, Cecil and even in a sadder tragic way mark(who before then had started going down a darker path having killed and mauled some of his enemies who were beaten or even somewhat victims), and that lends a more interesting question in an where the Viltrumites wrong? cause minus the brutality and conquering that was their philosophy the best of the best-taking control of the fate of civilization without care or consult of those considered lesser, and their power consolidated with sheer superior might. My only hope is that the animated series tackles, changes and improves on these narrative choices, cause I still enjoy both but take issue with that narrative choice.
You’ve heard of him. You’ve seen him. No, not that evil Superman doppelganger from Earth-3 or Anti-Matter!
The shiny silver boye from space! The one and only celestial superstar!
Yes! The Solar Sentinel From The Stars! The Luminary From The Land Of Light! The Monumental Messiah!
If you’re only familiar with the title and image of the iconic Japanese hero, who made his debut all the way back in 1966, and has kept going since, then let’s lay out some basics.
Who is Ultraman?
‘Ultraman’ is the title of many heroes across decades, rather than just belonging to a singular figure. It’s a long legacy, going all the way back to the first Ultraman. And it’s a legacy of a race of celestial beings known as THE ULTRAS.
The Ultras were originally akin to humans, but their world fell to darkness, as their sun died. In desperation, amidst the dark, the people of the world Nebula M78, soon to be known as The Land Of Light, built an artificial sun. An incredible source of power and light, this invention was known as The Plasma Spark. When activated, its light would transform the planet and its entire populus into the stellar beings we now know as The Ultras.
These are their adventures, their voyages. They traverse The Multiverse, they protect the cosmos, and are beings of light powered by light.
Created by Eiji Tsuburaya and Tohl Narita, Ultraman is a vital icon, who represents the absolute best of us. Here was a hero envisioned to fight the monsters that haunted us, to wrestle with our demons, quite literally, to represent us and our daily struggles.
But alongside all of that, Ultraman was also a character famously loaded with Christian ideas, subtext, and iconography, due to co-creator Eiji Tsuburaya being a Catholic. So if you like your angelic heroes from heavens above, you’re in for a fun ride.
Where Do I Start?
There are three paths here, and all of them are very doable, so let’s go through them!
Each of the titles will be carrying links to the work’s digital home (ie, where it can be read/watched), so be sure to take advantage of that. We’ve made this easy for you.
This is an easy way to do it, and it’s arguably the quickest. You have two options waiting for you.
This is an alternative-universe, think akin to The Ultimates or Earth One. But it’s basically a fresh start and a new spin/take on ‘Ultraman’, for a new generation. It takes the rough idea of Ultraman and the 1966 series and does completely its own thing here. In it, Ultraman existed, and then was gone. And now we follow the story of the boy who must succeed Ultraman.
It’s very akin to Spider-Man or Early Years Superman, and it feels like it’s made to appeal to that sensibility, as well as a wider, global audience that may not be familiar with Ultraman beyond the rough name and image.
[Fun Fact- Before this manga, the same creative was doing a Kamen Rider fan-comic, which KR’s owners Toei made sure to shut down. Tsuburaya Productions, the owners of Ultraman, would then offer the creative team a chance to officially do their thing with Ultraman instead, and voila, we have this!]
In 2020, Marvel Comics and Tsuburaya Productions came to an agreement, by which Marvel would publish Ultraman comics for a Western readership. The initiative would be spearheaded by Kyle Higgins, well-known for his success revitalizing Mighty Morphin Power Rangers over at BOOM! Studios, alongside Matt Groom.
Effectively a full-scale reboot of the original 1966 series, it’s a modernization of the entire affair for the 2020s. Every old character is made all-new and all-different again, offering readership a brand new start and entry point into Ultra mythology.
With Francesco Mann’s incredible artwork, it’s as solid an Ultra 101 as a new reader is going to get. It takes its time, decompressed in much the same way as Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man, but it’s got the solid character beats you want. Released in a series of mini-series, acting almost as ‘phases’, the roll out of this whole slow-building Ultraverse across Marvel has been interesting to watch. And certainly, it’s a way to dive into the mythos.
The TV Series
The classic way! The way! The way (Ultra) God intended! This is the premiere way of diving into Ultra.
Traditionally, you can watch any new, airing, current Ultra series, as they all take place on their own worlds, despite connective tissue. You can kinda just jump in headfirst. Or even beyond that, just take a look at any of the Ultras. Like the design and look of one? Just try out their series, and see how those episodes work for you.
[Note: Many Ultra-Series are available on ShoutFactory, and can be streamed there. The respective picks below bear direct links to be viewed.]
But beyond that general advice, let’s take a look at some recommendations to start with:
Do you like Cowboys? Do you love melancholic characters? Do you like leads with mysterious pasts? Well, boy howdy do I have an Ultra-series for you! The Ultra-cowboy, who walks about making melancholic music. The alien hero known as Gai Kurenai, aka Ultraman Orb, is a lone wanderer. A nomadic hero of secretive heroism, his past hides wounds. And things get interesting when that past confronts him once more.
If you’re someone into great protagonist-antagonist dynamics, especially with them as Old Friends/Bitter-Exes, then Ultraman Orb will be pleasing for you.
It’s a nomadic hero, on the ground, trying to reform connections, and become complete after whatever it is that happened to him. He’s a man haunted by his past, trying to move forward.
If you’re a Doctor Who person, think of Gai Kurenai as akin to the 9th Doctor, played by Christopher Eccleston, but younger, and hotter.
Who is Riku Asakura? And what plans does his demonic father, Ultraman Belial, have in store for him? That’s what Ultraman Geed is about. Perhaps the most achingly sincere Ultraman series of all, it’s a tale of found family, about defying fate, about nurture against nature, and the ability we all have within us to write our stories. Geed is the tale of a man who tries to define himself, even against the controlling influence of his cosmic devil dad.
The 13-episode adaptation of the aforementioned Ultraman manga! It’s a bit different from the manga, with some alterations and changes, and is one season in, with a season two greenlit and coming.
If you’ve got a Netflix subscription and some free time to kill, this is an easy option by which to sample the whole enterprise. Though, like with the manga, do keep in mind that it’s quite (deliberately) different from most of what you get in Ultraman elsewhere.
Before Ultraman, there was Ultra Q, a sort of Twilight Zone-esque sci-fi show featuring people investigating incidents and cases involving strange monsters. Ultraman is the successor show to Ultra Q, so in a way, it all goes back to this one.
If you like classic sci-fi stuff, old procedurals, this is a great one, and a ton of fun. It’s all available on ShoutFactory, as linked above, and it’s a great ride. But also, above all, it’s an astonishing piece of cultural history.
The original! The first! The classic! The one begat all the rest of them! The moment Ultraman was introduced to the world, and the series after which a cultural icon would be born, now and forever.
It’s the foundation upon which everything is built, and watching something so iconic and known now manifest from the start has a special joy to it. It’s like going back and reading those early superhero books of The Golden Age. But just the historical fascination aside, it’s a really fun, solid show, much like Ultra Q.
The multiversal event-epic about the war against The Devil, Ultraman Belial! This movie stars the most important and popular Ultra hero of the modern era, Ultraman Zero, and is his definitive, defining story. A legacy hero, Ultraman Zero is forced to go out on his own, carrying the hopes and dreams of his people, all those who came before him, to save all of reality.
Revenge Of Belial (also called Return Of Belial) is, frankly speaking, one of the best modern live-action superhero films out there. A delightfully sincere space opera epic that is packed to the brim with wondrously weird ideas and characters, it plays like the best event comics you’ve read. It feels massive, it feels cool, and by the end, it makes you cheer. It’s all the colorfully bright, deeply dumb, utterly unashamed superhero storytelling that so many Hollywood blockbusters would be too embarrassed to do. And it rules, as our hero confronts The Devil determined to destroy all of existence.
It’s a great character piece for Ultraman Zero, but beyond that, it’s a great romp for all to enjoy.
Also, it’s up on Youtube, in full, with Tsuburaya monetizing the video. So click away and experience a story full of great music and super-wrestling.
Shin Ultraman (2021)
If none of these feel like your vibe or the route you wanna know, fear not! Later this year, Shinji Higuchi and Hideaki Anno, the team who brought us Shin Gojira, the best Godzilla movie since the very first, are reuniting to do Shin Ultraman. With Anno writing and producing, and Higuchi directing, it’s going to be a brand new, modernized entry point into Ultraman.
There’s no date yet, but it is set to hit later this year, and if Shin Gojira was any indication, it’s going to be astonishing.
What Do I Do After All These?
Why, explore, of course! Have fun! Try out whatever Ultra series looks cool to you. Whatever seems pleasing is worth a shot. Maybe give Ultraseven a watch? Or Perhaps you’d like Return Of Ultraman? Or maybe Ultraman X for something more recent? There’s over 55 years of stuff for you to dive into. The sky’s the limit!
With the recent announcement of Shin Kamen Rider, a question I’ve been hearing frequently is, “How do I get into Kamen Rider?”. It’s a fair question to ask, as unlike other Tokusatsu series and movies like Ultraman, Power Rangers, or Godzilla, Kamen Rider isn’t as readily accessible to a western audience . I don’t mean this as a matter of the content being difficult to get into; it’s tough to find all the various television seasons, movies, and manga in English. I hope that with this guide, I can explain why the current state of Kamen Rider’s presence in the West is the way it is, and make it easier for you, the reader, to get into this wonderful franchise.
What is Kamen Rider?
Kamen Rider is a tokusatsu (lit. “Special Filming”, a term used to describe the genre of live-action films and TV shows that use special effects) franchise created by manga creator Shotaro Ishinomori. Ishinomori originally intended to adapt his manga series Skull Man for television but ultimately opted for a grasshopper-esque design for the hero instead, as Skull Man’s content was deemed too dark for the show’s intended 7-13 year-old audience.
The first series in the franchise, the suffix-less Kamen Rider, first aired in 1971 and followed the adventures of college student-turned-cyborg Takeshi Hongo as he fights the terrorist organization Shocker. Since then, the franchise has undergone many iterations, with roughly 40 main riders and over 100 riders in total at the time of this writing. While themes and plots vary, at its very core, the franchise will always follow a singular motorcycle-riding masked hero who fights against monsters (or Kaijin, as they’re commonly referred to) and evil organizations.
The Kamen Rider franchise’s many seasons can be categorized by the eras in Japanese history within which they aired in: The Shōwa Era (Kamen Rider – Kamen Rider Black RX, 1971 – 1989), the Heisei Era (Kamen Rider Kuuga – Kamen Rider Zi-O, 2000 – 2019), and the Reiwa Era (Kamen Rider Zero-One – Kamen Rider Saber, 2019 – Present). The show took a break from 1989 to 1999 (the first ten years of the Heisei era), but during this time the series was kept alive through movies and stage shows.
While the bulk of the Kamen Rider franchise is its long running TV show, there are also movies, V-Cinema (direct-to-video releases), web-series/net movies, novels, manga, and stage shows that expand on the series’ many seasons. As of the second half of the Heisei era (Every season after Kamen Rider Decade and before Kamen Rider Zero-One), each season of Kamen Rider has had at least one crossover movie with either the previous season’s rider or a variety of previous riders (often referred to as “Movie Wars”), one Summer movie which typically introduces a new movie-exclusive villain, and a set of post-show V-Cinema movies, usually focusing on other riders from the show.
Kamen Rider has been adapted for American audiences twice. The first was in the mid-90s, when Saban Entertainment, fresh off its roaring success adapting Kamen Rider’s sister series Super Sentai into Power Rangers, was trying to adapt other Toei properties to recreate that success. Kamen Rider received an adaptation from Saban Entertainment similar to Power Rangers with the Masked Rider series, which adapted Kamen Rider Black RX into a 40-episode series. The character also appeared in a 3-part crossover with Power Rangers. Unlike other Saban Entertainment adaptations like V.R Troopers and Big Bad Beetleborgs, which both ended as the company ran out of Japanese Footage to adapt, Masked Rider was canceled due to low ratings and paltry toy sales.
However, the Kamen Rider franchise would see yet another American adaptation in 2008 with the CW’s adaptation of Kamen Rider Ryuki, Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight. The series managed to win a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Stunt Coordination, and even got two video game adaptations, but had received neither a second season, nor a follow-up.
At the time of this writing, Kamen Rider is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a number of recent announcements including a remake of Kamen Rider Black titled Kamen Rider Black Sun, an anime adaptation of the Kamen Rider W sequel manga Fuuto Detective, Shin Kamen Rider, directed by Hideaki Anno and slated for a 2023 release, and two new American localizations of Kamen Rider Ryuki and Kamen Rider Zero-One done by TokuSHOUTsu. The latest season, Kamen Rider Saber, began airing in August of last year, and is slated to end later this year, before the next season, presumably celebrating the series’ 50th anniversary, is released.
Why is it difficult to find Kamen Rider media in North America?
While there’s no concrete reason for the lack of Kamen Rider content in North America, some possible reasons include the slightly more mature material not being appropriate enough for younger audiences familiar with Power Rangers, as well as there being a lack of interest in the material. As mentioned above, both attempts to adapt Kamen Rider for Western audiences proved to be commercial failures at the very least.
But the world has changed significantly since the release of Masked Raider and Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight, and the advent of the internet has made it far easier for Western audiences to become more acquainted with the series. Despite a rapid increase in interest in the series overseas, Toei’s acknowledgement of said interest has progressed at a snail’s pace. The amount of localized Kamen Rider content that Toei has licensed for the west is far outnumbered by fellow production company Tsuburaya with their Ultraman series. Will things change with the 50th anniversary of the series? Only time will tell.
What is being done to make Kamen Rider more accessible in North America?
While Toei has been rather averse to localizing and translating Kamen Rider for Western audiences, it doesn’t mean that there haven’t been attempts to bridge that gap. Currently, through legal means, North American audiences can watch the original Kamen Rider series, Kamen Rider Kuuga, and the Heisei anniversary movie Kamen Rider Heisei Generations Forever on Shout Factory’s TokuSHOUTsu channel, as well as Tubi TV for free, with ads. (NOTE: KR Heisei Generations Forever, as well as most, if not all Kamen Rider movies, are not good entry points into the franchise). The 2001 season Kamen Rider Agito can also be streamed with a subscription to the TOKU streaming platform.
To celebrate the series’ 50th anniversary, Toei has been releasing subbed versions of the first two episodes of variousseasons of the franchise, as well as movies like Kamen Rider ZO and Kamen Rider J to their Toei Tokusatsu World Official YouTube channel, though there’s been no explicit mention of how many episodes they will be uploading to the channel in total.
On April 3rd, 2021, the anniversary of the premiere of the first episode of Kamen Rider, it was announced that Kamen Rider Ryuki (2003) and Kamen Rider Zero-One (2019) would be localized for North American audiences by Shout Factory, with the two seasons streaming on their TokuSHOUTsu platform, and the latter receiving a blu-ray release, making it the first season of Kamen Rider to ever receive a physical blu-ray release in North America.
How to Access Kamen Rider currently
There’s a harsh truth to be acknowledged in regards to getting into Kamen Rider in that, as very little of the franchise has been legally localized in North America, and even less so in Europe and other regions, accessing Kamen Rider involves a significant amount of piracy. Pearls be clutched, gasps be had, but it’s true. But the very fact that people outside can access so many seasons of Kamen Rider outside of Japan is thanks to the work of subbers & scrubbers.
While piracy should never be suggested as a glowing recommendation, when it happens to be the only method of accessing a certain piece of media in a certain region of the world, it should be considered. Nevertheless, as a viewer, you should support official releases whenever and wherever possible. A common practice in the Kamen Rider/Super Sentai fansub community is taking down subbed versions of shows that get official releases, in order to support those releases. In showing interest for official releases, it signals that there is a significant interest in the series outside of Japan, and could push Toei to localize more seasons of the Kamen Rider franchise.
A Primer on Kamen Rider Subs and Scrubs
In order to localize Kamen Rider for english audiences, the content needs to be translated and subtitled. So who is responsible for doing this? Fans; amateurs putting professional-quality work (most of the time) into not only translating the content, but encoding the video as well. As the internet became more and more connected over the years, fansubs became more proliferant, with more and more subber groups popping up to handle subbing various series and seasons. Here are some common terms you might want to know when looking for fansubs:
Sub: A subtitled, translated/localized video
Subber: Someone who translates/localizes raw Japanese video
Scrub: An edited Sub, usually with subtitle errors fixed
Scrubber: Someone who goes back and fixes mistakes in fansub scripts and/or adjusts them to better fit the story
Raws: An untranslated, unsubtitled video, often ripped from streaming sites and DVD/Blu-Ray releases, or recorded from TV
Encoder: Someone who encodes subtitles into video files
Scripts: The raw translated text with timecodes mapped to video timecodes, but not attached to a video
Softsub: A subtitled video in which the subtitles are not hardcoded into the video’s encoding, and can be turned on/off in a video player, or switched out for another subtitle track (often associated with files ending in .mkv)
Hardsub: A subtitled video in which the subtitles are hardcoded into the video’s encoding, and cannot be changed or turned off/on (often associated with files ending in .avi or .mp4)
Where to Start With Kamen Rider
While the answer to this may vary depending on where you look online, most seasons of the Kamen Rider franchise are structured as standalone stories that don’t require any knowledge of previous seasons’ story or lore. At most, previous storylines and characters will be referenced in crossover movies, which in turn don’t have much impact on the season’s main storyline. The biggest exception to this would be Kamen Rider Zi-O, which celebrated the series’ 20th Heisei-era season by bringing back riders from previous seasons. As such, Zi-O should not be recommended as anyone’s entry into the series.
The franchise’s many movies are often not good entry points into the series either, as they assume the viewer already has a significant amount of knowledge of who the characters in the movie are. These movies take place either midway through a season, or after the season has finished, so it’s not recommended to use them as jumping-on points.
As for a personal recommendation, I would recommend Kamen Rider Was any new viewer’s first season, as it’s not only a fantastic season, but also a season I’d consider to be the platonic ideal of what Kamen Rider as a franchise is. It’s Kamen Rider done as detective fiction, and the bond shared by the two protagonists exemplifies the spirit of the Kamen Rider franchise at its purest. Beyond that, you’ve got a fun transformation gimmick in the form of USB Flash drives, a sinister crime family with hidden ties to our heroes, and fantastic action choreography. After that, just choose whichever series piques your interest, and jump on in.
A List of Kamen Rider Seasons and Recommended Ways to Watch Them
Kamen Rider (Shōwa, 1971-73)
College student Takeshi Hongo is kidnapped and turned into a cyborg by terrorist organization Shocker. He manages to escape before being brainwashed and vows to fight against Shocker to stop their reign of terror as the eponymous Kamen Rider (later known as Kamen Rider 1/Ichigo). He is later joined by Hayato Ichimongi, who fights alongside him as Kamen Rider 2 against Shocker and its successor, Gel Shocker.
Scientist Keitaro Jin is able to transform his son Keisuke Jin into a cyborg before being killed by the terrorist organization known as G.O.D. Fighting as Kamen Rider X, Keisuke vows vengeance upon G.O.D for the death of his father.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber:Order of Zeronos (eps. 1-6), The Masked Subbers (eps. 7-35)
Kamen Rider Amazon (Shōwa, 1974-75)
Orphaned from a plane crash in the Amazon forest, Daisuke Yamamoto grows up amongst an Incan tribe as a wild child. His village is massacred by the demon Gorgos and the evil organization known as Geddon. He is given the GiGi armlet and is given the ability to transform into Kamen Rider Amazon, as he heads back to Japan to put an end to Geddon.
Shigeru Jo finesses the evil organization Black Satan into giving him cyborg powers, which he uses to become Kamen Rider Stronger. Alongside Tackle, another cyborg warrior given powers by Black Satan, he fights the organization to avenge the death of his friend and bring peace to the world.
A kidnapped scientist is forced by the terrorist organization Neo Shocker to create superpowered soldiers for them. Instead, he gives injured camper Hiroshi Tsubaka extraordinary powers, allowing him to fight as the high-flying Skyrider.
Kazuya Oki undergoes a cybernetic surgery to prep himself for space travel, but before he can head for the stars, the International Space Development Program’s base is attacked by the Dogma Kingdom. After training under a martial arts master, Kazuya fights the Dogma Kingdom as Kamen Rider Super-1.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Bereke Scrubs (over SXIG)
Kamen Rider Black (Shōwa, 1987-88)
Two stepbrothers are kidnapped by the Gorgom cult and undergo surgery to become candidates for the next Gorgom Creation King. One of the brothers, Kohtaro Minami, escapes and vows to save his brother. He becomes Kamen Rider Black, and fights to defeat Gorgom.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Bereke Scrubs (over Century Kings Subs, encoded by Bunny Hat); First two episodes on Toei Tokusatsu World Official
Kamen Rider Black RX (Shōwa, 1988-89)
A direct sequel to Kamen Rider Black, Kohtaro settles down after defeating Gorgom, but is kidnapped by the Crisis Empire and flung into space. Morphed and evolved by the sun’s radiation, Kohtaro fights the Crisis Empire as Kamen Rider Black RX.
The first of three Kamen Rider films released during the Heisei era hiatus period. Doctors experiment on Shin Kazamatsuri, a motorcycle racer, in hopes of finding ways to strengthen the human body against diseases. Unbeknownst to them, their research is funded by a crime syndicate who seek to use the research to create their own genetically-enhanced super-soldiers. Kazamatsuri is fused with grasshopper genes and is turned into a humanoid grasshopper.
The second of three Kamen Rider films released during the Heisei era hiatus period. Lab assistant Masaru Aso is experimented on and given the ability to turn into a grasshopper-like being called Kamen Rider ZO. He uses his power to fight the “perfect being” known as the Neonoid.
The third of three Kamen Rider films released during the Heisei era hiatus period. Reporter Kouji Segawa sacrifices himself to save a little girl, but is resurrected by spirits of the earth as Kamen Rider J. J is known for being the first rider to grow in size to fight large kaiju.
Seen as a spiritual successor/sequel to Kuuga, an amnesiac named Shouichi Tsugami transforms into a powerful warrior in the presence of monsters known only as “The Unknown”. Meanwhile, the police force create their own man-made Kamen Rider modeled after Kamen Rider Kuuga, titled G3, to fight against the Gurongi, known here as “Unidentified Life Forms”.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Official release; TOKU streaming service (paid). OR Gomen Rider Scrubs (over TV-Nihon); First two episodes on Toei Tokusatsu World Official
Kamen Rider Ryuki (Heisei, 2002-2003)
13 Kamen Riders in possession of 13 respective card decks form contracts with monsters from a mirror world and fight for survival in the Rider War, a battle royale that ends with only one rider standing. Journalist intern Shinji Kido finds himself sucked into the mirror world and enters the Rider War as Kamen Rider Ryuki to protect the real world from the mirror world’s many monsters.
The Orphnoch are seen as the next evolutionary step in human evolution. The Smart Brain corporation tries to use the Orphnoch to take over the world, developing Rider Gear to help them find the Orphnoch king. The Rider Gear is stolen, and one of the gears, the Faiz Gear, ends up in the hands of Takumi Inui, who must now fight against Smart Brain and the Orphnoch as Kamen Rider Faiz.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Agony Subs
Kamen Rider Blade (Heisei, 2004-2005)
52 demons known as the Undead fought to the death in the past in an event known as the Battle Royal, and have been uncovered in the present by archaeologists, setting in motion the next Battle Royal. The BOARD organization equip Kazuma Kenzaki and Sakuya Tachibana to fight as Kamen Rider Blade and Kamen Rider Garren respectively against the Undead.
A young man named Soji Tendo trains his entire life to gain access to the Kabuto Zecter and get his revenge on the human-imitating Worms walking amongst humans.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Earthly Subs
Kamen Rider Den-O (Heisei, 2007-2008)
High School dropout Ryotaro Nogami finds himself possessed by four benevolent Imagin, wish-granting demons from the future, who have come to the present to gain corporeal forms through making contracts with humans. Ryotaro and the four Taros fight together as one against the other Imagin as Kamen Rider Den-O, travelling through time on the time-travelling bullet train, the Den-Liner.
In 2008, a reclusive young man named Wataru Kurenai fights against the Fangire race as Kamen Rider Kiva. In 1986, Wataru’s father Otoya Kurenai fights the Fangire race alongside Fangire hunter Yuri Aso using the Kamen Rider Ixa module. A season with two concurrent plotlines in the past and present, weaving together to reveal the truth behind the Fangires and Kiva himself.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Railler Subs (encoded by OZC-Live)
Kamen Rider Decade (Heisei, 2009)
Nine worlds, each representing the first nine seasons of the Heisei era, are merging into one, causing catastrophe across the multiverse. Amateur photographer Tsukasa Kadoya uses his powers as Kamen Rider Decade to travel to each of the worlds and eliminate the anomalies that lie within them in order to protect his own world.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Rider-Time Subs
Kamen Rider W (or Double) (Heisei, 2009-2010)
In windy Fuuto city, hard half-boiled detective Shotaro Hidari and the mysterious genius Philip fight as Kamen Rider Double, the two-in-one Kamen Rider. They investigate crimes committed by Dopants, criminals who use thumb drive-like devices called Gaia memories to become superpowered monsters.
The medal-based monsters known as the Greeed awaken after an 800-year slumber. Traveler Eiji Hino is given the OOO (pronounced Oh-z) Driver as well as three medals by the disembodied hand of one of the Greeed, and uses them to become Kamen Rider OOO and fight against the Greeed.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Over-Time Subs
Kamen Rider Fourze (Heisei, 2011-2012)
Transfer student Gentaro Kisaragi finds that his high school is the hotbed for paranormal activity. Along with his friends, Gentaro finds himself able to teleport between his school and a lunar base on the moon, within which he finds the Fourze Driver. Using the Fourze Driver to become Kamen Rider Fourze, Gentaro fights against the monstrous Zodiarts attacking the city.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Over-Time Subs
Kamen Rider Wizard (Heisei, 2012-2013)
A mystical ritual unleashes the monsters known as Phantoms into the world. Haruto Soma, a survivor of the ritual, finds that he now has powers and uses the Wizardriver to become Kamen Rider Wizard in order to protect the world from Phantoms.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Over-Time Subs
Kamen Rider Gaim (Heisei, 2013-2014)
In the corporation-run Zawame City, dance crews try to bring joy back to the city, competing in dance battles and using the mysterious lockseeds to battle creatures called Inves from another dimension against each other. Portals begin opening up across the city and Inves come through, rampaging throughout the city with no one to control them. Ex-dancer Kouta Kazuraba finds a Sengoku Driver and transforms into Armored Rider Gaim to fight against the Inves and the Yggdrasill Corporation. Rival dance crew leaders gain access to similar powers, which leads to a Sengoku period-like war within the city.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Aesir Subs
Kamen Rider Drive (Heisei, 2014-2015)
Recently-demoted beat cop Shinnosuke Tomari works with the Tokujo Special Investigation Unit and inventor-turned-sentient-belt Krim Steinbelt to fight against the time-shifting cyborgs known as Roidmudes as Kamen Rider Drive.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Over-Time Subs
Kamen Rider Ghost (Heisei, 2015-2016)
Aspiring ghost hunter Takeru Tenkuji is killed on his 18th birthday by members of the monstrous Gamma race. He’s brought back to life on the condition that he must find 15 Eyecons, representing the spirits of 15 historical figures, within 99 days, or else he will cease to exist. As Kamen Rider Ghost, he fights the Gamma not only to save himself, but to protect the world.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Over-Time Subs
Kamen Rider Amazons (2016-2017)
A gritty reimagining of the original Kamen Rider Amazon series, produced by Amazon for Amazon Prime Video.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Official release; Amazon Prime Video
Kamen Rider Ex-Aid (Heisei, 2016-2017)
A mysterious virus called the Bugster Virus causes monsters known as Bugsters to emerge from its victims. With the help of gaming corporation Genm Corp’s Gamer Drivers, medical intern and gaming genius Emu Hojo fights on behalf of the Cyber Rescue response team as Kamen Rider Ex-Aid to get rid of the Bugster menace.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Excite Subs (encoded by OZC-Live)
Kamen Rider Build (Heisei, 2017-2018)
Ten Years after a mysterious box from Mars split Japan into three regional factions, amnesiac inventor Sento Kiryuu uses the Build System to fight against the evil organization Faust as Kamen Rider Build, and bring unity to Japan once more.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Over-Time Subs (encoded by OZC-Live)
Kamen Rider Zi-O (Heisei, 2018-2019)
High Schooler Sougo Tokiwa has dreams of one day becoming a king. When two resistance fighters from the future come to the present to warn Sougo that he’ll one day become a world-conquering Demon King, Sougo’s life is thrown into disarray. As Kamen Rider Zi-O, Sougo fights against Time Jackers seeking to disrupt the fabric of space and time, while travelling through time to meet the Heisei Kamen Riders who came before him.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Over-Time Subs (encoded by OZC-Live)
Kamen Rider Zero-One (Reiwa, 2019 – 2020)
A failed comedian inherits his grandfather’s A.I/Android company and fights both as a Kamen Rider against rogue androids corrupted by an anti-human terrorist organization, and as Hiden Intelligence’s CEO against corporate rivals.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Official release incoming; TokuSHOUTsu, Tubi TV
Kamen Rider Saber (Reiwa, 2020 – 2021)
A young novelist fights against mystical creatures from a magical alternate world alongside an ancient sect of sword-bearing Kamen Riders.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: GenmCorp Subs
Kamen Rider as a series is very easy to get into; you pick a season that interests you, and you hop in. However, Kamen Rider as a media is extremely difficult to source legally, which is a barrier that needs to be traversed in order to engage with the franchise. With time, it will become increasingly more accessible for North Americans (sorry Europe, you’re still left in the dust here), and by supporting official releases like the upcoming Kamen Rider Ryuki and Kamen Rider Zero-One localizations, that progress can hopefully come faster. Until then, salute to all the subbers, scrubbers, and encoders translating and localizing this series without any financial compensation, as without them, Kamen Rider’s presence wouldn’t be nearly as big as it is today.
Every once in a while, there is something wonderful you see on twitter. Sounds crazy I know, but hear me out. There is this neat society of (at least moderately) like-minded individuals, known as X-twitter. What makes you a part of X-twitter, you may wonder. Tweet about the X-Men even one time and you’re already there, that’s all it takes. There are so many critics, artists, and creatives of all sorts throughout this place. Sometimes, parts of the community even come together and make something that is truly special. This is one of those times.
Scott Modrzynski organized this behemoth, gathering over thirty different artists from the community, to illustrate double-sided X-Men cards, showcasing the duality of the characters. It’s a huge undertaking and really highlights how talented this community is. Scott was kind enough to share some of his time and answer some questions about the process.
So, how does such a thing come about? I know you did the first ColleXion, but how did you broach the idea of a follow-up to the artists?
Honestly, the follow-up was way easier. Most of the artists from Series 1 were more than willing to jump back in a second time, and with proof of concept backing me up, it was a lot easier to snag new talent. No longer was this a pie in the sky, shady deal. It was real with tangible results.
The results do certainly speak for themselves. As far as new artists go, were there any that you had in mind already whose work you wanted to see in the Collexion? Or did you let artists approach you?
A little bit of both. Some artists came to me after seeing the first series. Some, I accidentally found through my usual travels on the internet. In both cases, I jotted down their contact information, so if and when the time came, I’d have them ready.
In a few cases, I specifically wanted to find an art style – Monika Norcross-Cerminara’s beautiful jazz age children’s book illustrations come to mind – and found the artist through that reverse search.
You ended up with an incredible slew of artists with varied styles, so clearly your methods worked out. How were the characters chosen for each artist? Did everyone get their choice?
I told Dave Shevlin – editor of https://comfortfoodcomics.com/ and all-around good dude – my idea for reversible cards featuring light and dark aspects of the characters, and together, we came up with an initial list of about 40-50 for artists to choose from, with the caveat that each artist had to render both versions. (So in the end, this set has 158 illustrations!) Some artists, like Kevin Newburn and Quinn Hesters, ran their own ideas by me, and in most cases, I loved them. It’s great when other people get what you’re trying to do, and can be additive to the process.
Dave(Editor’s note: famously of Comfort Food Comics, whom we love at GC) is a great guy so I love to hear that. Could you see a similar sort of project happening with another IP? Or do you think the attachment to X-Men is the only thing strong enough to pull everyone together?
Definitely room for any number of things. The Ninja Turtles are probably the one thing IP that rivals my love and general knowledge of X-Men, but I’d throw any “boy property” that was big in the 80s (He-Man, GI Joe, Transformers, ThunderCats) into the mix.
Dave and I joked about a series that focused exclusively on C-list Spider-Man villains.
I love the idea of keeping this going, maybe once a year, and getting to contribute a little to society by donating the proceeds to charity. But I also want to find a way to do this to get the artists paid and be free and clear of any entanglements fan art presents. I have a couple ideas on that front, too. Right now I’m focused on cutting, scoring, and folding boxes to ship out the cards in my home office.
I think you and Dave might be onto something there. I know I would love to see this sort of project revisited annually with different ideas mixed in. I wish you the best of luck with figuring out how to get everyone paid, they surely deserve it. Are there any final thoughts you’d like readers to know about the new ColleXion?
This was always about art and different art styles. I really want people to check out the work of these awesome creators. Some of them (Adam Reck, Leigh Wortley and Marcelo Biott come to mind) have webcomics you can check out for the low cost of NOTHING.
A number of the crew have terrific online shops with tees (Beefcake Boss), or cool swag like patches, stickers and buttons (Valentine Smith, Elisa Barety), and most post their incredible work all over the web. I’ve tried to make it easier to find them by linking to their social channels in the free, downloadable, interactive PDF.
We would like to thank Scott for his time and insight into the process behind this project. You can check out the PDF that was mentioned right here. It’s incredibly handy and brings you right to the accounts of all the artists involved.
Consider throwing some money at these folks, whose social media accounts are also all linked below, as well as a select portion of their cards(mostly because I think the PDF is awesome and you should really look at that whole thing).
Much like they’re the backbone of the Rebel Alliance, pilots are the backbone of Star Wars storytelling, having been the subject of countless books, comics, and video games. But this is perhaps the best depiction they’ve ever had.
Victory’s Price, the final book in the Alphabet Squadron trilogy by Alexander Freed, gives us a tense, emotional conclusion to this story of daring pilots. Nearly a year on since the death of Emperor Palpatine, the fledgling New Republic is ready to bring the war to a final end. One of their prime objectives? Defeating the Imperial aces of the 204th, Shadow Wing. Who under the command of Colonel Soran Keize, have begun a second Operation Cinder, bringing devastation to world after world.
To hunt them down, Alphabet Squadron was brought together. Consisting of a defected, traumatized Shadow Wing pilot, Yrica Quell. A sweet, sadly no longer innocent boy by the name of Wyl Lark. A Theelin with a death wish struggling after an affecting experience with a cult, Chass na Chadic. An ex-Imperial rebel pirate, now seemingly a war hero for actions against the 204th, and somehow the most put-together of the squad, Nath Tensent. And finally, the mysterious Kairos, who no one knows much about, though we do peel back some layers to her in a beautifully told sub-plot throughout the book. The entire squad has been, are going, and are about to go through, a lot.
When we pick up, Yrica Quell has defected back to the 204th, in a story that leaves us guessing at her true motives. It’s a heartbreaking look at the damage divided loyalties can do to a person. This leaves Alphabet in a rough place, though they’re not alone in the fight. They have assistance from a battle group under command of Rebels fan-favourite Hera Syndulla, giving us someone of sound-mind to center us against the turmoil our other characters are going through. Even still, Hera struggles with the responsibility of command, finding herself missing the days of being part of a small crew of rebels.
This book, and the trilogy it belongs to, are some of the most impactful stories ever told in Star Wars. Taking a look at the trauma caused by war, none of our “heroes”, and I use that term in the lightest possible definition, are doing well. They’re all hurt in their own way. How Victory’s Price goes about showing this will break you emotionally. It broke me.
Alexander Freed may well be the Star Wars author with the best understanding of the toll war can have on someone, especially those who have lost countless friends to a constant stream of seemingly endless battles. While he writes some truly engaging, edge-of-your-seat battles between the pilots of Alphabet Squadron and the 204th, it’s in the quieter moments, when there’s no battle to win, or dogfight to duel, that he hits the highest of highs. These moments, especially one specific scene of a radio conversation with the enemy that is held without malice or objective, are where the book shines brightest. When it digs into who these characters are at their core.
To keep talking about Victory’s Price would mean going into spoilers. I don’t want to do that, because this trilogy has easily emerged as my favorite piece of storytelling to come out of Star Wars, and one I hope everyone can experience for themselves at some point. I’ll finish by simply saying that when I came to the end of the book I was left an emotional wreck for at least an hour, and it’s going to stick with me for a long while yet.
Power Rangers as a franchise has existed for almost 30 years now, and has been adapted into a variety of formats, including comics. With the Boom Studios comics adaptation of the series having recently relaunched with two new #1s and my own impromptu revisit-for-nostalgia-turned-series-rewatch, I must ask: what’s the secret sauce to making a season of Power Rangers? What common themes and episode archetypes do each new season have? With comics taking a recent bent into tokusatsu subgenres (Ultramega with kyodai, Radiant Black with henshin), what should someone looking to make their own sentai analogue look out for?
A Brief History of Super Sentai and Power Rangers
You can’t talk about the history of Power Rangers without talking about the history of Super Sentai first. Sentai (Japanese for “Squadron”) is a subgenre of the Japanese tokusatsu (“Special Filming”) genre. With origins in Japanese kabuki theatre, the first real progenitor of the genre was in 1957’s Super Giant, which brought forth a boom in interest in masked hero stories to Japan. This reached the next step in its evolution with 1971’s Kamen Rider, created by the late Shotaro Ishinomori. It was the first show to use the term Henshin (Japanese for “Transform/Transformation”), something that the eponymous Rider would shout before transforming into a masked hero.
A few years later, Ishinomori would go on to create what is now known as the first two Super Sentai shows, Himitsu Sentai Gorenger and J.A.K.Q Dengekitai. The shows featured a team of five heroes who would transform into masked heroes to fight crime around the world. The latter of the two shows ended up being a commercial failure, which led to Ishinomori dropping the project altogether after J.A.K.Q ended. The shows weren’t actually considered a part of the Super Sentai line until 1994 when Toei retroactively included the shows to their roster.
But the story of the Power Rangers actually starts with Spider-man, just not the Spider-man you might initially think of. From 1978 to 1979, Toei and Marvel worked together to produce a Japanese tokusatsu Spider-man television series. The show lasted 41 episodes, with the final episode airing March 14th, 1979, a month after the first episode of Battle Fever J. It’s an interesting thing to note, because, while BFJ can categorically be considered the third Sentai show, it was the first to use the Super Sentai moniker. But going back to Supaidāman, it was a monumental milestone for the tokusatsu genre thanks to the inclusion of Leopardon, the giant robot that Spider-man’s spacecraft The Marveller would transform into. Leopardon was groundbreaking because it was the first example of a transforming mech in the tokusatsu genre, something that would be riffed on in Battle Fever J, the first Super Sentai season to regularly feature a piloted transforming mech. So it’s no surprise that Battle Fever J was also a joint venture between Toei and Marvel (with the last collaboration between the two being Taiyou Sentai Sun Vulcan in 1981). Marvel would then (unsuccessfully) try to create an American adaptation of Super Sentai in 1985.
In the mid-80s, during a business trip to Japan, producer Haim Saban found himself in a hotel room watching Super Sentai. It inspired him to bring the show over to American audiences, with him pitching the show as Bio-Man in 1986 (adapting Choudenshi Sentai Bioman). His pitch was finally accepted in the early 90s by Margaret Loesch, CEO of Fox Kids (and former President of Marvel’s TV and film subsidiary). But as Super Sentai had moved on since Saban’s first pitch, the most recent series at the time, Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger, was chosen to be adapted into Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers debuted in August of 1993, and was a monumental success, to say the very least. The first three seasons adapted the aforementioned Zyuranger, as well as parts of Gosei Sentai Dairanger and Ninja Sentai Kakuranger. Subsequent seasons of Power Rangers would adapt each new season (and by extension, team) from the Super Sentai series year by year. The franchise was sold to Disney in 2001, then back to Saban in 2010, then to Hasbro in 2018, which currently releases the show through Nickelodeon. Since the show’s reacquisition by Saban in 2010, the show has opted for a two-season structure for each series, leading to the show falling behind on adapting recent Super Sentai seasons (This is a gripe for a whole other article, I swear). The latest iteration in the series, 2021’s Power Rangers Dino Fury, is set to adapt 2019’s Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger.
Every Ranger team has three to five core members, each dressed in their own specific colour, all of which morph into Power Rangers through the use of a morpher. The specific colours vary, but there’s always a Red and Blue ranger at the very least. Members also tend to dress up in their respective colour when not morphed. Red Ranger? Red plainclothes shirt. Morphers vary in format (the two most common types being wrist devices and cell phones) and are accompanied by a morphing call and action (“It’s Morphin’ Time!”). There’s always one Big Bad who ends up being the season’s final villain, who’s responsible for sending each episode’s Monster of the Week (MOTW, as I’ll be referring to them for the rest of this piece). The Big Bad also has an army of indistinguishable mooks to be used as cannon fodder against the rangers. After defeating the MOTW, it grows to kaiju-sized proportions, forcing the Power Rangers to get into their respectively-coloured mechanical Zords, which subsequently combine to form the team’s Megazord, a mech they use to fight the monster.
The team might have a mentor figure to help guide them on their journey (Zordon, Dimitria, Gosei, etc.), with some even becoming rangers themselves later on in the season (Doggie Cruger, RJ, Kendall Morgan, etc.). Each season will also have extra rangers join the team midway through the season, with the circumstances for joining varying from season to season. Each season has its own theme to unify the team’s costume design, arsenal, and zords. While it varies from season to season, common themes have been dinosaurs (4), ninjas (3), cars (2), and animals (2). Though not always the case, episodes have a moral or lesson that’s taught through the story, more on this later.
What Not to Do
Whatever the fuck Power Rangers Megaforce and Power Rangers Super Megaforce did.
Okay, but Really Though
Power Rangers Megaforce and Power Rangers Super Megaforce are widely considered to be the worst seasons of the series, the latter being the worst of the two. There are a variety of reasons why, including a less-than-stellar cast led by a wooden Red Ranger, and completely botching the process of adapting Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger for Super Megaforce, but that’s a topic for another article. Long story short, these two shows are textbook examples of what not to do with your show.
Other than that though,
Try not to opt for a car theme when choosing your team’s overarching theme.
Both times that Power Rangers did a car theme (Turbo, RPM), viewership and toy sales TANKED hard. Kids apparently didn’t like cars that transformed into robots (unless they were that other franchise with transforming cars).
Don’t put too much focus on one ranger over the others.
The term “Tommywank” was established to refer to Power Rangers’ seeming obsession with Tommy Oliver, better known as the Green Ranger from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. The character went from being a bad guy-turned hero to leader of the team, to the leader of the team (again), to the leader of the team (again), to “the greatest ranger ever” (as per the 10th anniversary special), to mentor, to “the greatest ranger ever” (again). While the overexposure of Tommy (no thanks in part to audiences loving the character) is a great paycheck for actor Jason David Frank, it came as an impediment to future ranger teams as they were forced to live in his shadow. Tommy Oliver isn’t the only character that’s guilty of this either, as some other seasons also tended to focus on one ranger over the others (looking at you, Mystic Force). There may be an I in Super Sentai, but there definitely isn’t one in Power Rangers.
If you’re going to adapt a season that’s deeply established in Japanese culture and heritage, don’t make your main characters white, then keep the Japanese surname.
This isn’t a joke; when Saban adapted Samurai Sentai Shinkenger into Power Rangers Samurai, they adapted it almost to a T, even going as far as adapting Shinkenger writer Yasuko Kobayashi’s scripts for Samurai. There’s just one problem with that. Shinkenger dealt heavily with Japanese Samurai culture, and when protagonists Takeru and Kaoru Shiba were adapted, their race changed….but not their last name or history. Enter Jayden and Lauren Shiba, two blond-haired, blue-eyed Red Rangers who we’re told to believe are Japanese. So yeah, maybe don’t do that?
But Let’s Talk Specifics
So you’ve got your rangers, you’ve got your theme, and you’ve got your zords. Now, all you need is a story. Don’t worry though, it’s a lot easier than you’d think. After having watched almost every single episode of the series over the course of two months, the recurring themes in episodes really begin to stick out. This isn’t exactly a bad thing; in fact, it’s probably a boon if you’re not looking to fix what (apparently) isn’t broken. Let’s go through and take a look at some of the recurring episode themes in the Power Rangers franchise.
In this episode, one or more of the rangers are put to sleep by the MOTW and must either fight their way out of a twisted dream or destroy the MOTW in the real world to break the spell. The hand-to-hand combat occurs in the dream, and the Megazord battle occurs outside of the dream.
Rock-a-Bye Power Rangers, Zeo
Silent Sleep, Lost Galaxy
Dream Battle, Lost Galaxy
In Your Dreams, Dino Thunder
The Dome Dolls, RPM
Broken Dreams, Samurai
Dream Snatcher, Megaforce
Nightmare in Amber Beach, Dino Charge
Bully for You
Bullies sure do suck, right? In this episode, the rangers must help a child (or in the case of Bully for Ethan and Alarmed and Dangerous, one of the rangers themselves) deal with a bully, all while dealing with a mean MOTW themselves. At the end of the day, the child is able to stand up to the bully, or in rare cases, even become friends with the former bullies.
Alarmed and Dangerous, Turbo
Bully for Ethan, Dino Thunder
Tigers Fall, Lions Rise, Jungle Fury
Who’s Crying Now?, Megaforce
Tuba Triumph, Beast Morphers
An episode theme that was weirdly prevalent in the late 90s, and died off until rearing its ugly head again in 2013, this episode pits the two female rangers on the team against each other, because uh….they’re women? They get back together at the end of the episode, and their strife is brushed away without any further mention. Maybe this episode is best left in the 90s after all.
Bloom of Doom, Mighty Morphin
The Rival Rangers, Turbo
A Rift in the Rangers, In Space
Orion Rising, Lost Galaxy
In the Limelight, Lightspeed Rescue
United We Stand, Megaforce
Being a ranger is hard, and sometimes a ranger needs to leave the team to forge their own path- oh what’s that? They go back to being a ranger by the end of the episode? They learn how important being a ranger is, and that convinces them to return to the team, all within the span of one twenty-two-minute episode? Alright.
Always a Chance, In Space
Fight Against Fate, Time Force
Wave Goodbye, Dino Thunder
One Gets Away, Operation Overdrive
Forest for the Trees, Samurai
A classic MOTW tactic: switching bodies with one of the rangers, or switching two rangers’ bodies. In the former’s case, the MOTW tries to infiltrate the team and learn their secrets but ultimately fails, exposing themselves. In the latter’s case, two rangers with diametrically opposed personalities are put into the other’s shoes and forced to walk a mile in them. Real sappy stuff, but they both learn to appreciate their fellow ranger a bit more. Oh, and there’s a MOTW that they have to deal with.
Switching Places, Mighty Morphin
Invasion of the Body Switcher, In Space
Sensei Switcheroo, Ninja Storm
Trading Places, Samurai
The Grass is Always Greener… or Bluer, Megaforce
Monster Mix-up, Ninja Steel
The Silva Switch, Beast Morphers
Bad Best Friend
This one isn’t really a common episode, but an interesting one worth noting nonetheless. One of the rangers has an old friend come back into their lives, which throws their dedication to being a Power Ranger for a loop. Ultimately, we learn that their friend is secretly a MOTW working for the Big Bad, and the rangers need to defeat it to save the day. The now-friendless ranger learns that they still have friends amongst their fellow rangers, and end the day having strengthened their bond.
Memories of Mirinoi, Lost Galaxy
A Face from the Past
The specifics of this episode tend to vary wildly, but the basic gist of it is that one of the rangers has someone from their past, be it a former mentor or family member, return into their lives (except this time around, they’re not evil). They either need to prove to this person that they’re not a complete failure and are doing good through their role as a Power Ranger, or get help from this person to solve a problem that they’re currently stumped with.
Inner Spirit, Zeo
The Chosen Path, Lightspeed Rescue
The Tornado Spin, Wild Force
A Father’s Footsteps, Wild Force
Eye of the Storm, Ninja Storm
One Master Too Many, Jungle Fury
Blue Ranger, Twin Danger, Jungle Fury
Ranger Yellow, RPM
He Ain’t Heavy Metal, He’s My Brother, Samurai
Breaking Black, Dino Charge
Golden Opportunity, Beast Morphers
Lest You Come Down From Your Ivory Tower
No one likes a pretentious brat, and sometimes, the rangers find themselves having to navigate around someone that’s just too posh to be rabble-rousing with miscreants. The episode ends with the pretentious asshole punk learning a lesson in humility and caring for others. Isn’t teamwork great?
The Curve Ball, Turbo
Double Duty, Lost Galaxy
Diva in Distress, Dino Thunder
Ocean Alert, Dino Thunder
Break Out, Dino Charge
When you’re a teenager with attitude, you have to juggle your responsibilities as a ranger with your responsibilities as a not-ranger. Sometimes things veer in one direction much harder than the other, leading to problems for our rangers. This episode follows one of the rangers reconciling with their role as a Power Ranger in face of their regular life. Tough decisions are made, but in the end, they stick to their duty as a ranger.
Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire, Mighty Morphin
A Different Shade of Pink, Mighty Morphin
Song Sung Yellow, Zeo
In the Limelight, Lightspeed Rescue
Looming Thunder, Ninja Storm
Lights, Camera, Dax, Operation Overdrive
Kevin’s Choice, Samurai
Recipe for disaster, Dino Charge
A Date With Danger, Dino Charge
Ace and the Race, Ninja Steel
Car Trouble, Ninja Steel
Taking Care of Business, Beast Morphers
Boxed In, Beast Morphers
Power Rangers, Powered Up
Not a specific episode, but a power-up for the whole team. Sometimes, the MOTW is just too powerful for our daring rangers, and they need a power boost to deal with the threat. Every member gets access to this power-up, which they use intermittently in subsequent episodes whenever they need a boost.
Metallic Armor, Mighty Morphin
Lights of Orion, Lost Galaxy
Super Dino Mode, Dino Thunder
SWAT Mode, SPD
Legend Mode, Mystic Force
Defender Vest, Operation Overdrive
Jungle Master Mode, Jungle Fury
Super Samurai Mode & Shogun Mode, Samurai
Ultra Mode, Megaforce
Dino Steel & Dino Drive, Dino Charge
Ninja Super Steel, Ninja Steel
Beast-X Mode, Beast Morphers
Gee Red, How Come Your Mom Lets You Have Two Power-ups?
Oh, but it wouldn’t be a Power Rangers season if the Red Ranger didn’t get an exclusive power-up, with an entire episode dedicated to how they get that specific mode. After all, they are the leader, and only they are capable of wielding the incredible power of a Battlizer (yeah, that’s what they’re called).
Mission to Secret City, In Space
Facing the Past, Lost Galaxy
Web War, Lightspeed Rescue
Beware the Knight, Time Force
The Wings of Animaria, Wild Force
Shane’s Karma, Ninja Storm
The Passion of Connor, Dino Thunder
The Hunter, Mystic Force
Things Not Said, Operation Overdrive
Roar of the Red Ranger, Dino Charge
The Royal Rumble, Ninja Steel
Sound and Fury, Beast Morphers
Who me? A Ranger?
It sure would suck if someone with the superhuman powers of a Power Ranger were to lose all memory of them being a ranger, huh? That’s what happens in this episode, as the MOTW makes one or more rangers lose all memories of being a Power Ranger. It’s up to the remaining rangers to try and remind the rangers of who they are before the MOTW gets away with their dastardly plans.
When is a Ranger Not a Ranger?, Mighty Morphin
The Last Ranger, Lightspeed Rescue
TJ’s Identity Crisis, In Space
Secrets and Lies, Wild Force
Forgive and Forget, Dino Charge
Attack of the Galactic Rangers, Ninja Steel
Rewriting History, Beast Morphers
Boys will be Boys
In this episode of Horny Hormonal Power Rangers, male rangers on the team are put under a spell, falling head over heels for the (female-coded) MOTW. If you’re really daring, put them all under the same spell, forcing them to fight one another for the adoration of the MOTW. Don’t worry though, the rangers get a nice lesson with some tough love by the end of the episode.
Lovestruck Rangers, Time Force
Heart of Blue, Operation Overdrive
United We Stand, Megaforce
Love at First Fight, Dino Charge
Tough Love, Ninja Steel
Love Stings, Ninja Steel
Woe, our identities
One of the toughest parts about being a superhero is maintaining your secret identity. Well, unless you’re a Lightspeed Rescue ranger or an Operation Overdrive ranger, in which case your identity as a Power Ranger is public knowledge, but I digress. What happens when a member of the public accidentally uncovers the rangers’ secret identities? To what lengths will the rangers go to protect and hush that information? Will they be dealt the benevolent hand of kindness, and have their identities protected by this Peeping Tom? Oh, and there’s a MOTW to fight during all this.
Carlos on Call, In Space
Full Exposure, Time Force
Ranger Reveal, Beast Morphers
Enter the Sixth Ranger
Considered one of the most important parts of any given season, the sixth ranger’s entrance marks a dynamic shift in the season’s team hierarchy. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers got lucky in that the season of Super Sentai it adapted was the first to include a sixth ranger as a part of its regular cast. The circumstances behind the sixth ranger’s arrival change from season to season, be it a bad ranger turned good (as you’ll see below in “Going Good”), or an ancient ranger awakened to help the team, or a supporting cast member picking up the suit to join the main team. Given how commonplace a factor it is, here are some exceptions to the rule.
Turbo (The status of the Phantom Ranger being a Power Ranger is contested and yadda yadda yadda)
Lost Galaxy (The status of the Magna Defender being a Power Ranger is contested and yadda yadda yadda)
Dino Thunder (Started with three, got two extra)
Jungle Fury (Started with three, got five extra)
Beast Morphers (Started with three, got two extra)
Nothing like a good redemption arc to flesh a character out, huh? Sixth/extra rangers who start evil (or in Eric Myers’ case, an asshole), but become good has been a recurring theme since Mighty Morphin’s Green With Evil. With a few exceptions here and there, the rangers are introduced in a multi-part episode where they manage to hand the main team’s asses to them, before ultimately overcoming the influence that’s making them evil (or in Eric Myers’ case, an ass- actually, he’s still a bit of an ass even after he learns to play nice.).
Tommy Oliver, Mighty Morphin
Kat Hillard, Mighty Morphin
Astronema/Karone, In Space & Lost Galaxy
Ryan Mitchell, Lightspeed Rescue
Eric Myers, Time Force
Zen-Aku/Merrick Baliton, Wild Force
Hunter and Blake Bradley, Ninja Storm
Trent Fernandez-Mercer, Dino Thunder (Technically, he started good, turned evil, then good again)
Koragg/Leanbow, Mystic Force
Tyzonn, Operation Overdrive
Spirit Rangers, Jungle Fury
Jarrod and Camille, Jungle Fury
Heckyl, Dino Charge
Going Good, Villain Edition
Who says bad guys can’t go good? In these episodes, the MOTW either isn’t actually evil, to begin with (being forced into doing dirty work for the Big Bad) or are a villain with a strict moral code, which puts them at odds with the Big Bad’s goals. It’s up to one of the rangers to reach out to the MOTW’s soft side and solve things by talking it out.
For Whom the Bell Tolls (Mr. Ticklesneezer), Mighty Morphin
Green No More (The Dark Rangers), Mighty Morphin
The Wasp with a Heart (Waspicable), In Space
Loyax’s Last Battle (Loyax), Lost Galaxy
Trip Takes a Stand (Notacon), Time Force
It’s a Mad, Mad Mackerel (Mad Mackerel), Dino Thunder
Samurai (Katana), SPD
The Return (Matoombo), Mystic Force
Mystic Fate (Itassis), Mystic Force
The Spirit of Kindness (Whiger), Jungle Fury
Rico the Robot (Rico the Robot), Megaforce
Us, But Evil
The Power Rangers’ greatest enemy is themselves. No, I mean literally, duplicates of themselves. Big Bads love creating clones of the Power Rangers to fight against them. These episodes usually have the rangers matched in skill, until they figure out how to turn the odds against their doppelgangers (which usually just means that the color matchups end up getting mixed and matched). The Psycho Rangers are the most famous example of the clone matchup, showing up in not one, but two separate seasons, facing two separate teams.
The Evil Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (A Bad Reflection on You, Mighty Morphin)
The Evil Mutant Rangers (Mighty Morphin’ Mutants, Mighty Morphin)
The Dark Rangers (Green No More, Mighty Morphin)
The Shadow Rangers (Shadow Rangers, Turbo)
Crash and the Creeps (The Song of Confusion, Turbo)
The Psycho Rangers (Rangers Gone Psycho – To the Tenth Power, Space & Lost Galaxy)
The Cyborg Rangers (Cyborg Rangers, Lightspeed Rescue)
The Evil Time Force Rangers (Trust and Triumph, Time Force)
The Shadow Rangers (The Master’s Herald, Wild Force)
The Evil Ninja Rangers (The Wild Wipeout, Ninja Storm)
The Evil Mystic Rangers (Light Source, Mystic Force)
The Evil Overdrive Rangers (Red Ranger Unplugged, Operation Overdrive)
The Evil Beast Morphers Power Rangers (Game On!, Beast Morphers)
The Mandated Halloween/Christmas episode, or, How I Learned to Love the Clip Show Episode
According to TVTropes, a Clip Show episode is “An episode which consists mainly of fragments (clips) of previous episodes.” In a series where a lot of the budget goes towards the effects, props, and monsters, sometimes you need a clip show to pad the season out without having to do a ton of legwork. These episodes, which take place near the end of a season, involve a loose framing narrative that allows the team to reminisce on their journey, be it near, or right after the end of their journey. So why bring up Halloween and Christmas? Ever since Saban regained the rights to the franchise from Disney, the clip show episode has been relegated to the season’s Christmas and Halloween Special episodes. It’s also worth noting that a regular Christmas/Halloween special every season was never a thing prior to the Neo-Saban era.
Party Monsters, Samurai
Christmas Together, Friends Forever, Samurai
Trickster Treat, Samurai
Stuck on Christmas, Samurai
Raising Spirits, Megaforce
The Robo Knight Before Christmas, Megaforce
The Ghostest With the Mostest, Dino Charge
Race to Rescue Christmas, Dino Charge
Trick or Trial, Dino Charge
Here Comes Heximas, Dino Charge
Grave Robber, Ninja Steel
Past, Presents, and Future, Ninja Steel (An exception, this one had no reused footage)
Hypnotic Halloween, Beast Morphers
Scrozzle’s Revenge, Beast Morphers
Clip show episodes (Non-festive):
Crystal of Nightmares, Mighty Morphin
Until Sunset, Lost Galaxy
The Last Ranger, Lightspeed Rescue
A Calm Before the Storm, Time Force
Legacy of Power, Dino Thunder
A Test of Trust, Dino Thunder
Koragg’s Trial, Mystic Force
Way Back When, Operation Overdrive
Don’t Blow That Dough, Jungle Fury
If Venjix Won, RPM
Party Monsters, Samurai
The Mandated Team Crossover
For anyone that’s followed Power Rangers for more than a season, this is one of the most highly-anticipated episodes of the season. A previous team gets another chance to shine as they team up with the current team to defeat a threat that takes two teams to handle. These episodes also offer some closure to plot threads from previous seasons. It’s heartwarming to see Joel and Ms. Merriweather married in Time Force, or Wes and Eric chumming it up as best buds in Wild Force or seeing what Jason Scott’s been up to since that terrible Turbo movie. Sadly, the franchise has been pretty inconsistent with these types of episodes, be it due to behind-the-scenes logistics or whatnot. In some cases, you’ll get just one or two members from a previous team meeting up with the current team. It’s something, I suppose.
Rangers of Two Worlds, Zeo
Shell Shocked (It counts, even it’s a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crossover), In Space
To the Tenth Power & The Power of Pink, Lost Galaxy
Trakeena’s Revenge, Lightspeed Rescue
Time for Lightspeed, Time Force
Reinforcements from the Future, Wild Force
Forever Red, Wild Force
Thunder Storm, Dino Thunder
History & Wormhole, SPD
Once a Ranger (On a technicality), Operation Overdrive
Legendary Battle, Super Megaforce
Finders Keepers & Grid Connection, Beast Morphers
This isn’t an episode specifically more so than it is a location. Ever since the franchise’s inception, there’s always been a particular quarry that shows up at least once every season. It’s hard to tell if it’s the exact same quarry each time (except for the obvious change when the show moved its filming to New Zealand), but there’s always a quarry. Why the quarry? Sometimes there’s plot significance, but most of the time, it’s because it’s the easiest place to get away with large, bombastic explosions.
Too many to count. Trust me, when you see it, you’ll know.
Some Final Thoughts
You’ve got your rangers, you’ve got your plot points, and you’re ready to write about the adventures of your spandex-clad heroes. None of what I mentioned above should be taken as gospel for creating your own tokusatsu story. Power Rangers RPM, considered by many to be one of the best Power Rangers seasons, took the happy-go-lucky goofball adventures of Engine Sentai Go-Onger and turned it into a story about post-apocalyptic rebellion. The comparisons between Super Sentai and Power Rangers warrant a conversation for another day, but they’re both series that are full of heart (with the exception of Megaforce and Super Megaforce). They’re meant to represent the best of us, a team of heroes fighting against the end of the world for the betterment of humanity. Your story should inspire people to be better, to morph the world into a better place.
Disney really needs to keep utilizing some of their more underrated properties.
With the amount of IP’s the Big Mouse has under its belt, it’s hard to forget that before the superheroes and the Star War, Disney had some pretty inventive ideas that were so ahead of its time. Atlantis and Treasure Planet are a couple that comes to mind.
But one IP that Disney constantly underutilizes and deserves way more love is the Tron franchise. We’re going to take a look at why this property deserves the love that it should.
The first film, written and directed by Steven Lisberger, may seem like just another cheesy 80s sci-fi film. However, it still manages to hold some sort of wonder and spectacle, as well as lay the groundwork for what is to come. The film presents a classic tale of revolution and “fish out of water trying to find his way home”, while simultaneously doing an insanely impressive amount of world-building. So many cool concepts such as light cycles, futuristic gladiator games, “derezzing”… all of it is some of the most original ideas ever put to a film.
For the time, the visual effects featured here were some of the most advanced and cutting edge at the time. While the amount of CGI-laden spectacles have made these effects seem…..outdated, there’s still a certain kind of charm to the way this film is designed. It really DOES make you feel like this is what computers at the time would look like as a real world.
The cast here is terrific too. Jeff Bridges brings a warm likable everyman persona to the genius Kevin Flynn. And Bruce Boxleitner, for his first time in the role is….average as Alan Bradley/Tron.
Financially, the film did okay, grossing $50 million against a $17 million budget. However, this was still seen as a financial loss by Disney. Over time the film, while not a megahit, became a cult favorite in the years since.
While this film does introduce some cool ideas to the series, it wouldn’t be until around 30 years later that the film would find its real creative explosion.
For 26 years, no word was heard from the Tron series again. There was a first-person shooter game for PC that came out in 2003, and a small appearance in Kingdom Hearts II, but other than that, no news on a sequel of any kind was heard.
And then, San Diego Comic-Con 2008 happened. At the Disney panel, a surprise was shown to the attendees: test footage of a potential Tron sequel (then called TR2N, which they should have kept). At the time, it was never officially confirmed, but the test footage showed that Disney was seriously considering heading back into the Grid.
And this trip wasn’t like our last time in the Grid. Everything looked way more shiny and sleek. LightCycles looked way cooler, the suits looked more refined, it showed the return of Jeff Bridges and….young Jeff Bridges?? The teaser definitely promised a bigger exploration of the world Steve Lisberger established in 1982.
However, Lisberger would be not behind the chair again this time. Rather, it would be Joseph Kosinski, who would make his directorial debut with the newly titled Tron: Legacy. At the time, Kosinski was most notable for directing commercials for Halo 3 and Gears of War.
Tron: Legacy is, without a doubt, a million miles better than the original. It takes the world of the original film and expands it in such new and interesting ways. The programs and world now feel lived in. We see hints of society, levels of class, how the differences in The Grid look buildings-wise in terms of rich vs poor, etc. The most interesting part is the idea of ISO’s. The concept of ISO’s being this race of programs that spontaneously appeared on the Grid, as opposed to being made by users, and being shunned and rejected by other Programs, is a genuinely interesting one. It’s kind of wild to see Disney sneak in a message about class warfare in a movie that literally shines every five seconds.
Speaking of shiny lights, this movie is drop-dead gorgeous to look at. Joseph Kosinski brings a sleek, neon/chrome-like look to all the buildings. Every frame of this movie has something cool to look at and discover, from the buildings to lightcycles to the new suits. Kosinski did such a great job at creating what an updated Grid would look like.
It helps that, to set the mood of the film, Kosinski got two of the greatest musicians to create one of the greatest soundtracks of all time. Daft Punk’s score is next-level BRILLIANT here. They go for an entirely different sound here, mixing big orchestral pieces with their signature music. Seriously, some of these pieces range from absolute BANGERS to some surprisingly quieter and sweet moments. The result is one of the most genuinely fascinating soundtracks ever composed.
If anything, the only thing that does not hold up as well is young CGI Jeff Bridges. It was their first time using this technology so, at the time, it was pretty fascinating, if not revolutionary.
Nowadays, this looks like the unholy spawn of Satan. Kill it. Kill it with fire.
Unlike the original, the film was not well-received critically, earning only 51% on Rotten Tomatoes. Also unlike the original, the film was a major box office success, grossing $400 million worldwide on a $170 million budget.
It would be another wait, albeit a much shorter one, before we would see anything else from this universe.
Movin on…..down to Television?
About two years after Tron: Legacy debuted in theaters, the franchise would return one last time (for now) in the form of an animated television show. Tron: Uprising premiered in 2012 on Disney XD (more on that in a moment).
The show acts as an interquel, taking place in between Tron and Tron: Legacy. Rather than focus on the Flynn family, the show takes place in the Grid, showing the lives and actions of the Programs within. A young program, Beck, leads a double life between being a mechanic and secretly leading a revolution against CLU and his minions as the new Tron, being trained by the original Tron.
Right off the bat, the show has one of the most unique animation styles I’ve ever seen. The design mixes 3D and 2D animation and looks so different than most shows. Buildings and designs look so sharp and refined. Even the outside of the Grid, beyond the main city, looks so desolate and bleak.
In addition, Robert Valley, the character designer for the Gorillaz music videos, designed the characters for the show. They definitely look like they belong in one of Gorillaz’s videos. Their movements are so lanky and wobbly, making for some really interesting fight sequences.
Finally, this show has a STACKED voice cast. Elijah Wood, Bruce Boxleitner (returning as Tron), Mandy Moore, Lance Henriksen, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Reginald VelJohnson, Aaron Paul, Paul Reubens, Olivia Wilde, David Arquette, Lance Reddick….the list goes on and on. Everyone in the voice cast absolutely KILLS it. They all bring such layers and intrigue to these characters.
Sadly, the show was canceled after only one season. This cancellation can be chalked up to two reasons.
Reason 1: The show probably didn’t sell enough toys, and when your animated kids’ show doesn’t sell toys, it doesn’t last very long.
Reason 2: The show premiered exclusively on Disney XD. Disney XD is a cable channel dedicated to more action-oriented and “extreme” shows. The problem is that Disney XD is very, VERY exclusive to certain cable packages. This means that very few people would have been able to find it, which means fewer viewers, which means fewer ratings.
An utter shame because this is a genuinely interesting part of the Tron mythos. It’s cool to see the Programs and their world fully realized, and how the actions of Kevin Flynn and CLU affected them greatly. The animation is top-notch and the writing is pretty great too for a kids’ show. The entire series is streaming right now on Disney+, and I can not recommend it enough.
“I kept dreaming of a world I’d thought I’d never see….”
So where do we go from here? All has been fairly quiet up until recently on a return to the Grid.
A Tron Lightcycle themed rollercoaster opened at Shanghai Disney in 2016, with a cloned version coming to Magic Kingdom in Orlando in 2021 (although whether COVID will affect this remains to be seen).
The BIG news however is that Disney HAS started development on an upcoming third installment in the series, entitled Tron: Ares. From what I’m seeing, it’s going to be the true follow-up to Legacy, will NOT be directed by Joseph Kosinski (instead of being directed by Garth Davis, who made Lion), and will star everyone’s favorite cult leader, Jared Leto.
Leto will co-produce the film as well. Ares is said to not only feature the return of the cast of Legacy BUT will potentially also be scored once again by Daft Punk.
Not only is new Daft Punk enough to get me into a seat, but the idea of Disney returning to this truly wonderful and unique IP brings a smile to my face. This whole universe is one of Disney’s most underrated franchises, one that deserves way more love than it gets.
When I was in college, I remember reading an article about how millennials have a stronger feeling of childhood nostalgia than previous generations. Technology was changing so quickly in our developmental years that our minds were forced to process those changes as if they had happened over a more extended period of time. Looking back on 2020 feels similar. This one year feels like ten, and as I read back over my top 10 list, it almost feels like my life is flashing before my eyes. I experienced all of these things within the last year? How did I just find another grey hair in my beard? Why is it so difficult to maintain a stream of conscious thought? But I digress.
So without further ado, and in no particular order…
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Let’s get this one out of the way, because who hasn’t watched Avatar this year? While I haven’t actually finished the series yet, it’s only because I’m enjoying it so much that I don’t want it to end. So why rush it? It’s rare to find a show with such a strong display of empathy – characters care about each other and aren’t afraid to have long discussions to get to the bottom of personal issues. While I did see some episodes of Avatar as a teenager, I wasn’t able to fully appreciate the patience it exercised. For a time when the manic personalities of shows like Spongebob Squarepants were dominating the airwaves, Avatar had the courage to slow down, take a deep breath, and think things through.
Carly Rae Jepsen, Dedicated: Side B
It feels like many of my favorite music artists tend to drop new music exactly when I need it most. Carly Rae Jepsen is no exception. Dedicated Side B is full of the elated pop medicine that I was desperately aching for as a very different summer began this year. Always in touch with her fanbase, Carly herself has noted that the track Solo almost never made it onto this album, but she felt the need to include it since so many people were going through a period of isolation at the time. Considering that this track contains the most beautiful set of notes I’ve ever heard a human being sing (it’s that high “hoo-ooo-ooo” in the background of the last chorus), I am eternally grateful.
The Last of Us: Part II
For better or worse, Neil Druckmann and co. seemed hellbent on putting the term “ludonarrative dissonance” to bed this year. Never in all my years of gaming have I felt so resistant to completing the task at hand, and yet, this is what made The Last of Us: Part II so incredible. We can’t always predict the future, but I think it’s safe to say that this game will be discussed for decades to come. It’s a modern classic that completely upends conventional storytelling in a way that only a video game could accomplish. The Last of Us: Part II may not be for the faint of heart, but for those who can handle it, the experience is completely unparalleled.
In 2020, many of us transitioned to a work-from-home environment. For years now, the music of Tycho has been a mainstay of helping me stay productive. For those unfamiliar, Tycho is the brainchild of electronic musician and graphic designer Scott Hansen. Easy on the ears, minimalist, but never boring, Simulcast was another wonderful addition to my playlist that has helped me through more long work days than I can count. If you’re curious for a good pairing to listen through the album, I recommend a fresh copy of Microsoft Excel 2019. It’s also great with a long evening walk through Collingswood, New Jersey on a chilly night. Hot chocolate is optional.
True Detective (Season 1)
How often is a single season of television this perfect? This well-thought-out? This well-executed? These are the types of questions I kept asking myself as I watched an episode of True Detective, and then another… and then another… and then, well, you get the point. The chemistry between Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson is out of this world, and the present-day interview to past-event narrative structure feels so effortless that I almost didn’t take notice it was happening. Add to this the incredible dialogue, directing, and performances from everyone involved, and it’s one of my favorite seasons of television I’ve ever had the pleasure to view.
Few films have the audacity to show the monotonous portions of a job as flatly as Spotlight does, but this is one of the reasons it works so well. As reporters from the Boston Globe investigate a cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, Spotlight makes a point that big breakthroughs don’t come out of nowhere. The tedious and often thankless work has to be done, but the impact that work can have is immeasurable. As someone who loves working in teams, and was born and raised Catholic (but now identifies as agnostic), Spotlight hit home for me in a unique, unforgettable way.
A Star is Born
Most of my friends and family know that I’m an easy crier when it comes to film or TV. There are obvious instigators, such as Pixar films or any movie where a dog dies. And then, we have A Star is Born. I’m not sure I’ve ever been more wildly unprepared for the effect a movie would have on me than this one. A Star is Born hits me in so many places all at once. As a lover of film, Bradley Cooper nails a tone that feels “classic” right off the bat. As a musician and a hopeless romantic, it had me ugly crying on my couch for a solid five minutes after the credits started rolling. Speaking of ugly crying…
When I think of Schindler’s List, I’m still left somewhat speechless. There can’t possibly be anything I can say about this film that hasn’t already been said. As an experience, the film sits in an odd place for me that few pieces of media do: it’s one of my favorite films I’ve ever watched, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I never viewed it again. It’s so powerful but so gut-wrenching. It’s a strange feeling to realize that this may very well be Steven Spielberg’s greatest work, but I couldn’t possibly bear watching it as many times as Jurassic Park. Simply put, it hurts too much. A highly significant portion of that comes from John Williams’ tear-inducing score. Schindler’s List is a complete and total masterpiece.
During a year with so many negatives, Ted Lasso was a revelation. A product of Bill Lawrence, creator of Scrubs, Ted Lasso brought some much-needed optimism back into my life. From the moment Ted asks Nathan for his name and remembers it, I knew this show was going to be something special. Ted Lasso serves as a reminder that interacting with other human beings is a privilege, one we should never take for granted, and how there’s some good to be found in everyone. I can’t wait to see where this show goes next, considering it may be my favorite first season of a television show ever.
The Extra Time Spent with My Daughter
As far as silver linings go, this one tops any other, and I recognize there is immense privilege tied to this. Transitioning to a work-from-home environment this year allowed me much more time to spend with my daughter than I could have imagined having in a normal year. We’ve made a regular habit of taking lunch-time or early evening walks outside, and the conversations we’ve had are completely invaluable. I’ve learned more about the way she thinks and feels at 11 years old than I ever would have otherwise. Perhaps most importantly, it’s reminded me that as a parent, you’re never finished learning. Juggling remote work and remote learning for the two of us has been a challenge, but it’s been more than worth it for the memories I get to keep.
Honorable Mention: GateCrashers
I didn’t want to be too self-indulgent with this one (I’ll leave that up to Dan), but GateCrashers (formerly Supersons), has been my biggest constant throughout the year. As busy as we make ourselves, it can really pay off to have that one steady marker to return to whenever you need it most. There have been so many instances where I’ve felt stressed with the state of the world, only to go edit that week’s episode of GateCrashers and bring my barometer back to a neutral position. Plus, with all the new people we’re bringing on board, I gained a new film-watching buddy! So, in a way, I guess I’m thanking Dan for assigning me work… Weird.
What a year 2020 has been for literally every single person on the planet. It felt like we have all been frozen in place, yet the clock kept ticking. I was an essential worker having to go into work every day but the first day of Maryland’s shut down I was told that I had to go into quarantine with my family. Within those two weeks, I contracted the virus myself and had to be in isolation for another two. Along with the virus and mental illness creeping on me like it has many times in my life, there were a lot of things that got me through the year, but here are my top ten things that got me through the year.
Ghost of Tsushima
From an early age I loved history, I even majored in it in college, but there has always been something about Japan that has been of special interest to me. Japan has a rich history of the power dynamic from the still ongoing Imperial family to the military dictatorship of the Shogunate. But not just Japan, when I first learned about the Mongols in high school I was fascinated by the complexity and contrasting nature of their brutal conquests versus their often fair rule towards the peasants. To have the point in history when these two forces of horseback warriors collided told in a brilliant video game was a great thing for me.
It’s important to say I slept on American Vampire as it was initially coming out. But this year, I binge-read all of it and am loving the current series having all the characters coming together. One of the things I read a lot of in middle school was the YA vampire novels known as The Chronicles of Vladimir Todd by Z Brewer and after finishing those I did not give a damn about vampires until deciding to give this franchise a shot. Was a great decision on my part. Love the style, history, and the vampires.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales
This game was a masterpiece. It was the first thing I started playing on my PS5 and I actually love the fact it’s not technically Spider-man 2 because when that does actually come out we will have two full-fledged Spider-men to play as. But this is so stellar, the way it encapsulates the culture and makes the city feel alive in a way that most other games can’t even scratch the surface of. The haptic feedback on my dual sense controller made it even better. It makes you feel each and every swing.
The Queen’s Gambit
Anya Taylor Joy puts on a hell of a performance in this Netflix adaptation of the novel by the same name. It tackles issues like mental illness and drug use in a way that doesn’t glamorize it but shows it in a stylized way. Check and mate on this series.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
It’s a series I always play and this installment took a period of history that never really appealed to me and showed me I was just incorrect. It takes a lot of the lore of the franchise of the Isu and uses it in a creative way that fits in with the mythology of the Norse pantheon. Mythology is always my jam since I was a toddler watching Hercules on repeat.
Basketful of Heads
I have never understood horror as a genre before so I asked Trish of Third Eye Comics where I should start and knowing I love DC she turned me to the Hill House imprint and this book specifically and it became one of the few comics I would read the day I bought it.
Written by Joe Hill
Illustrated by Leomacs
Colored by Dave Stewart
Lettered by Deron Bennett
I have mainly listed things set in the past so let’s go to the future. The style and genre trappings of a cyberpunk series have always appealed to me, but they are hard to do well. This game does that well. On next-gen consoles and pc anyway. I understand that many people have been let down by the way the game plays on last-generation consoles and do not get to experience this properly. As someone who has, I can say it’s great. It has a lot of heart and ambition put into it. I hope everyone can get to experience the game the way the developers and not the executives wanted.
I wrote a fun-sized review for this but I need to say this again this comic is pure energy. It’s so kinetic everyone involved knocked it out of the park with this. I want to say nothing else other than go out and buy it if you haven’t already. Oh but one last thing cause someone took it out of my review “Also lots of dongs if that makes it more appealing for you.”
W: Steve Orlando
A: Ricardo Lopez Ortiz
C: Triona Farrell
L: Thomas Mauer
E: Sebastian Girner
I have watched almost all of Gundam this year. So all the way from the 1979 series all the way to the most recent releases I have seen so much of it. My soul is no longer held down by gravity. I spent too much money on models that I had to stop everything to save my bank account. Gundam was the only thing keeping me entertained while I laid on my couch with the feeling that my lungs were being squeezed tightly. Being stuck inside was a lot easier when I could be taken to the stars inside a giant fighting robot that was built by the military-industrial complex, which is the ultimate evil in the real world.
I have needed therapy for a long time. It has been so helpful in finding ways to improve my life. Everyone should go to therapy. It’s great. As someone that has dealt with suicidal ideation and a slew of other issues for a long time with no help let me just say it was about time.