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Uncategorized Various Media

GateCrashers #FBF – September 2021

The GateCrashers are properly obsessed with lots of things. We’re so obsessed, instead of shouting our overwhelming joy for various forms of media into the void, we’ve created this monthly column – so we can share it with you. We know you think you’ve discovered all the good stuff out there, but we’re here to remind you that you may have missed a few things!


Amanda
Film: Promare

Last month was Anime August here at GateCrashers, and to celebrate, I watched dozens of hours’ worth of anime (and, well…haven’t stopped). One of the anime I ended up watching was the 2019 film Promare, a movie I’d heard about for years before finally sitting down to watch it myself, and oh boy, was it a wild ride in the best possible way. 

Promare takes place in a post-apocalyptic world 30-years after a calamity where fires caused by mass spontaneous human combustion killed half the world’s population. Certain humans, like secondary protagonist Lio Fotia (left), developed pyrokinetic powers from the fires. Others, like primary protagonist Galo Thymos (right), spend their days putting out the fires caused by the combustions. It sounds way grimmer than it is. In fact, Promare is pure fun with beautiful animation and extremely meta dialogue. It even pokes fun at action-adventure story mechanics by naming their giant battle mech (yes, I said giant battle mech) Deus Ex Machina. Because, of course, they did.

I’d definitely recommend taking the time to watch this delightful movie. I rented it off of Amazon Prime for $1.99. But it’s also now available to stream on HBO Max, and it’s coming back to theaters for a limited engagement!

Gabrielle
TV: Regular Show

I started watching Regular Show on HBO Max, as a way to have something to put on while I do other things or in little stretches of free time I have, given how short the episodes are. But I did not expect to be so engaged and entertained by it. It’s honestly crazy how invested I am in the lives of these dumbasses and their interpersonal relationships as much as their crazy bizarre adventures. Even more, as someone who currently finds themself in that same weird phase of life, it’s so reassuring, in a way, to see them go through it; be confused, fail, feel love, sadness, excitement, and sometimes even win.

Katie
TV: A Series of Unfortunate Events

I was a completionist when it came to reading long book series growing up. Comprising thirteen novels total, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events was among one of the first full series I remember reading. Unfortunately, I was not a fan of the 2004 film adaptation. Flash forward to 2017, and the books finally received a worthy Netflix adaptation. I watched the first three episodes with joy but forgot to ever return for more. Finally, having graduated college now and finding myself with more time on my hands than I could have ever imagined, I consumed every episode of the completed Unfortunate Events Netflix series in about a week. The dark comedy, gothic undertones, phenomenal acting, and sharp humor captures the book series’ tone identically. I binged the show and felt my mind actively sharpening, wheels turning in my head with analysis and appreciation for the visionary media I saw on the screen. Needless to say, I’m happy I was able to revisit the show with each episode available to stream all at once. A few essays about A Series of Unfortunate Events may be on the horizon.

(Side note: Daniel Handler’s inappropriate comments and utter sexism are unacceptable. It’s unfortunate that he is entirely connected to this adaptation of his books, but I am choosing here to try and separate the work from the creator without praising the creator himself.)

Sean
Graphic Novel: are you listening? by Tillie Walden

When I was a kid growing up, my family would frequently go on long car rides. Be it down the 95 to visit my grandparents in Florida or across the state to spend a Christmas afternoon with my dad’s side of the family, I would always love going on these long car rides. Just seeing the world pass me by. The odd tourist attractions, the cold dips of snow, or even the presence of other cars. I remember this one time, we were stuck in a massive traffic jam, practically frozen in place for two hours. It got to the point where many drivers and passengers, myself included, actually left our cars to stretch our legs and see what had happened. I bring this up because reading Tillie Walden’s brilliant are you listening? brought back these memories and so many others. A story of love, healing, and the desire to get a cat home, are you listening? is a triumph of color and images. Its color pallet perfectly captures the comforting, dangerous, melancholic atmosphere of being on a multi-day car trip. It’s a feeling I will always hold dear and one I love every time I see it. Highly recommended.

RJ
Documentary: The Last Dance

On a chilly November morning in 1996, my father and I witnessed a young rookie Allen Iverson play against the greatest basketball player of all-time, Michael Jordan. Growing up in the 90s meant one of three things: you owned a pair of Air Jordan’s, you had a #23 Bulls jersey, or you had seen Space Jam more times than you would brave to admit. You didn’t want to just play basketball like Mike, but rather as his famous slogan stated, you wanted to BE like Mike. Flash forward to this soul-crushing pandemic, and the basketball gods had gifted us an enlightening documentary called The Last Dance, a never-before-seen / behind-the-scenes look at the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s. I’ll admit, my first watch took place only hours after its release in early 2020, and yes, I even participated in the memes of Michael Jordan “taking things personally.” But like all things new, they are consumed so quickly, that sometimes a second look gives more depth than what was originally thought. Each of the 10 episodes carries you through the meteoric rise of Michael Jordan, while also capturing something that is ever-present with our current idolization of everyone in front of a camera, as well as a realization that Michael Jordan is human. He was an insatiable gambler, he smoked cigars, drank beers after games, he harassed and bullied teammates. Jordan was all those things, and yet he’s still known as an Olympic hero who literally lifted the NBA into a worldwide phenomenon. If you are not a basketball fan, this documentary might not give you quite the satisfaction, but you can still enjoy it as a time-capsule of the 1990s and a reflective piece on one of the greatest sports players of all-time. My wife, who is admittedly not a basketball fan herself, watched along-side me, which is a testament to the documentary’s appeal. Jordan’s basketball legacy remains untarnished, but as he walked away a hero, perhaps we have lived long enough to see him turn villain.

The Last Dance can be seen on Netflix, Prime Video, and for purchase on Apple TV.

Rook
Video Game: The World Ends With You

I’ve been on a The World Ends With You kick lately. I’ve always loved this game, but when the anime adaptation premiered earlier this year, a single gorgeous episode wasn’t enough to sate my appetite. So I downloaded the Nintendo Switch remake, and while I originally started playing it to kill time until the (excellent) sequel came out, it quickly sucked me in all over again with its phenomenally vibrant visual style and incredibly creative combat system. 

The sequel is out, and so far, it’s fulfilling its promise as the successor of one of the most legendary JRPGs of the Nintendo DS. But from time to time, I keep coming back to the original. With an incredible post-game experience that lets you travel back in time to uncover the machinations that were happening offscreen, that’s to be expected. It also doesn’t hurt that there are over 300 incredible abilities to collect and combo together, a killer story full of immensely satisfying twists and turns, or a cast of characters that will live in my brain for decades to come. It’s a singularly unique experience, and I can’t recommend it enough.

But don’t take my word for it; try out the (stand-alone) sequel’s extensive demo, or watch the anime adaptation on Hulu. Chances are, you won’t regret it.

Amir
Film: Cure

Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Cure might be the best horror film I’ll watch all year. A bold claim to make given there are plenty of other horror films on the way, and yet I doubt any of them will hit in the same way Cure does. While many horror films work with overly familiar tropes and unearned jump scares with zero impact, Cure feels like an original work that aims to disarm you more than it wants to make you scream. The less said, the better; the film follows a police detective as he attempts to solve a series of violent and random murders. The only signifying clue that ties them all together is that each victim carries an X carved into them, and the murderer on the scene has no memory of committing the crime. What starts out as a curious police procedural quickly unravels into a commentary about the facade humanity puts on to hide away the potential for violence brewing underneath; the truth that any one of us may carry a desire to cause harm, one that is completely out of our control. Making excellent use of long takes, an editing style that calls to mind The Exorcist III, and imagery that sticks with you, Cure just might be the film that captures the pressure that comes with living during a post-pandemic (if we ever get there) mindset. There simply is nothing else like it. 

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Various Media

Getting into Dungeons & Dragons with Critical Role

By Ryan Biesecker

Critical Role is a wildly popular actual-play Dungeons & Dragons show on Twitch and YouTube and has been pivotal in reintroducing table-top roleplaying games (TTRPGs) to the world. They’re creating, or at least significantly contributing to, what many are calling a “Roleplaying Game Renaissance”, spurring many viewers to try to replicate the experience at home, including myself.

If you’re a fan of the show like me, it’s not hard to see why. Matthew Mercer and his close friends of big-name voice actors weave a complex, engaging narrative with memorable characters and gripping conflicts. They’ve transformed an otherwise intimidating gameset and long-established community into an approachable entertainment experience, with nearly 1000 hours of content (easily more if you go for their spinoffs).

I tried to pick up D&D once in 2018 and was open to it after finding an inexpensive starter set. I woke up on a Saturday, crunching through the 45-page rulebook that I now realize is abbreviated and felt…I got it? Kind of. After trying and failing to explain the game to a few friends, and sharing some clunky “how to” videos, I couldn’t get enough of them to commit; it was a bit of a drag, so I shelved the box and told myself, “another time”.

Critical Role Logo

Sometime late in 2019, early 2020, I had heard the name “Critical Role” thrown around casually on the gaming news websites and YouTube. I ran across “Critical Role Campaign 2, Episode 1,” read the description, and fired it up over coffee and breakfast. Right away, I took away a few things. One: they hadn’t even started the game and they were having a BLAST. Two: they were good enough at this game that I could watch it and learn better how to play myself. Three: There was a whole first campaign with over 100 episodes already available to watch, with warnings of spoilers. I personally hate having my media spoiled to a fault, so I closed the first episode of Campaign 2 before they even finished their introduction, searched for Campaign 1: Episode 1, and hit “play.”

Instantly, I was engrossed. They were excited to be there, casually drinking, and the entire cast was actors, writers, and/or directors; and hey, I already knew a few of them from one of my favorite games: The Last of Us. Comparing the Campaign 2 episode to what I had in front of me, the early growing pains were clear, but most importantly, they were humbling. The technology, the miniature setup, the confusion on rules all brought the whole thing down to earth. I thought “Holy crap, if it’s this chaotic for a hit show with big name talent, then my chaos doesn’t seem so bad!” I kept watching.

The cast of Critical Role

The voices were immersive, the characters distinct, and the artful descriptions painted a transportive picture. There was music and art, dice and statistics, and an actual open world. As a long-time devourer of any video game that had the words “open world” in its description, I’m regularly disappointed by their bounds; but not here. That guy just turned invisible and went somewhere he clearly wasn’t supposed to! That mysterious house of mages has magical traps their sorcerer must navigate to enlist arcane support! Oh, and the job they got hired to do, with all the hints of missing workers and strange creatures? It all accumulates in a spectacular battle, where the episode ends on a cliffhanger. 

The episode was over before I knew it. Then so were the first ten of Vox Machina’s journey. Then the next forty.  The campaign took a glorious path through love, horror, revenge, and divine politics. Before long, I welled up as the team at Critical Role sunset Vox Machina and their epic story. Surely, they couldn’t top that. Fans of Campaign 2 will know that the Mighty Nein do just that; cue additional wows, surprises, and tears of joy and pain. Not to mention the global pandemic and lockdown; I had so many hours of free time to kill at home, and this was the place to spend it. Many viewers have watched an episode, a campaign, or every minute those voice-acting goons are on the internet (this nerd is unabashedly in that third category) and been inspired to bring some semblance of it home.

If you and your friends are interested in playing a game yourselves, all you need are a few tools to transport yourselves into an entirely different world. There you can bring your own characters and tell your own tales, an experience I would argue is unmatched in many popular media, including video games, which have made a valiant attempt at adopting the genre as their own. Yeah, I went there; get ready to experience the original interactive media!

Critical Role Dungeon Master Matt Mercer

Before anyone tries to gatekeep you from the inside, or warn you about the “Matthew Mercer Effect,” let’s make one thing clear: tabletop roleplaying-games are for anyone and everyone. You don’t need experience. Everyone must start from somewhere, right? You don’t need a fancy setup. Pen and paper will do and many of the basics are available for free or cheap online. All you truly need is a group, open minds, a bit of time, and a shared enthusiasm for some form of media, be it high fantasy, science fiction, anime, what have you.

Let’s break that down in case you’re missing any of those. The first thing you need is a group who is interested in playing. You’ll probably want at least three for your first game; two player D&D will have a very different dynamic, but don’t let that stop you. If you’re having a hard time getting people together, you can always check out your nearest comic book store, local Adventurer’s League, or many Discord servers’ “classified” channels. Chances are there are other people nearby or online looking for a group or a wandering player to fill in their last available seat.

The Player Characters of Critical Role Campaign One

Once you have a group together, start with finding a time you can all meet regularly and agree on a schedule up-front; the biggest challenge any group faces, yes, even Critical Role, is scheduling. Next, you’ll need to decide how much of a commitment your group is up for. Sessions can run anywhere from two hours to all day, and they can be a single event or a years-long weekly occurrence. So be sure to set expectations and try what’s right for everyone. Notably, there are two main kinds of game formats: “Campaigns” and “One Shots.” The only difference is that a One Shot is planned for a single session, and campaigns string sessions together through connected characters and stories. Think “film” vs “tv series.”

Now you’ve arranged a session or cadence, you’ll need to decide roles. Whoever is the most experienced or most enthusiastic will be your best candidate for the role of Dungeon Master (DM). Note that this role will take more work, so be sure this person is up for it. My guess is that if you’re the person doing the research to read this article, that will be you! The DM will be preparing, running, and guiding the game. Everyone else will be Player Characters (PCs), the core “party” of adventures with a goal of saving villagers from kidnapping goblins, retrieving a mysterious item for a crime-lord, or saving the very world you live in.

Various Handbooks and Player Sheets for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition

Where does all this material come from you might ask? There are two main categories of D&D content: pre-written modules made by publishers, and “homebrew,” made by your DM. For your first game, I’d recommend a module. This takes care of the story, non-player characters (NPCs), and dungeons for your new DM so that they can learn the ropes with a lot less up-front work. Similarly, your new PCs can use pre-made characters, reducing their up-front work as they learn the mechanics of the core game, race, and class. Keep in mind that Dungeons & Dragons, while incredibly popular, is far from the only RPG out there. Do a bit of searching at your local comic shop or your favorite place to order nerdy products online, they’re bound to have more than one. You may find that a specific IP of another game fits your group more, especially if you’re not a huge fan of the fantasy genre. Though it should be noted that D&D can be adopted for many genres, that usually requires a bit of work or the right pre-written module, which I haven’t experimented with myself.

Last, but not least, you’ll need a few tools to satisfy the mechanics of the game. The core rules of Dungeons & Dragons are available for free online, as are pre-built character sheets, as mentioned above. If you purchase a module for another system, be sure to check that it comes with the core ruleset, or that the rules are available elsewhere. You’ll also need at least one 7-piece dice set to share among the group, though having a set per person is ideal. Those can run you anywhere from $0.16 per die if you buy in bulk, to $100+ for a fancy set; just shop around until you find what you need and are comfortable spending a few bucks on. Keep in mind you can also find free online dice rollers, but if you’re like me and my friends, you’ll develop an addiction to physical dice much sooner than you expect. Also, check out some of the free digital game management options out there as well, especially if you’re playing remotely.

The Player Characters of Critical Role Campaign Two

Now arm every player with a way to take notes, a comfy seat, and your favorite snacks. You’re ready to dive into a game that centers on a core desire so many of us crave: creative storytelling. May the dice ever be in your favor and have a freakin’ blast.

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Interviews Various Media

Interview With Mike Trapp

GateCrashers own RJ Durante sat down with writer, actor, and comedian Mike Trapp to cover his career and current stay as host of Um, Actually… . Mike canvassed his time at CollegeHumor, illuminating listeners to his own path of success from sales to eventually settling in as a Head Writer. We also explored the process behind creating questions for Um, Actually… and his views on celebrity guests. Mike was an interviewer’s dream, personable, witty, and willing to talk about anything. You can catch Mike Trapp on Dropout.tv, or catch episodes after they premiere on YouTube, and make sure to follow him on Twitter @MikeWTrapp.

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Various Media

Star Wars: Tempest Runner Review

Set 200 years before the start of the Skywalker Saga, the multi-media publishing line of the High Republic takes the Star Wars universe to a time of expansion for the Republic as they explore and begin settling the Outer Rim of the galaxy for the first time and encounter a whole new group of threats in the Nihil, a gang of space pirates and marauders with access to hyperspace technology beyond what anyone else is capable of.

The latest chapter in the ongoing High Republic era, Tempest Runner explores the past and future of Lourna Dee, one of the leaders of the Nihil in an all new format, the audio drama. Picking up where previous High Republic novels The Rising Storm and Out of the Shadows left her, Tempest Runner builds on a character that had been set up in such an interesting way over the previous books and leaves her as one of my favourite characters in this entire High Republic era.

Tempest Runner follows two narrative threads as we learn the past of Lourna Dee and what drove her from a rich daughter of a Twi’lek colony leader to one of the Nihil’s deadliest members and also continue her journey from the end of the The Rising Storm as she finds herself the most wanted person in the galaxy, believed to be the leader of the Nihil.  It strikes a strong balance between the two threads, giving each plenty of time to shine.  Lourna’s background features several jumps as we go through the key moments of her life that define who she becomes but it’s all woven together very well and easy to follow.  Jessica Almasy, the voice of Lourna Dee herself, does a great job of growing Lourna’s voice throughout the different time periods which helps separate the younger Lourna in flashbacks from the more grizzled Lourna in the “present” day.  

There’s always a challenge when characters make the jump from being featured solely in comics and books to being played by real people.  You build up that voice in your head for what a character sounds like and it can be difficult when that idea doesn’t match with what you hear.  But the cast of Tempest Runner absolutely nails it.  Every returning character feels like they’ve jumped right off the page.  While a couple of line deliveries felt a little off, for the most part the acting itself was brilliant and really brings the characters alive.  Special mention to Marc Thompson who returns as Marchion Ro from his role in the High Republic audiobooks who is an absolutely perfect Marchion.  He balances the terrifying gravitas that Ro has while still capturing that calm, calculating demeanor.  Although Marchion’s role isn’t large, it’s a performance that will be stuck in my head any time I read the character from now on.

Tempest Runner is a real culmination of Lourna Dee’s journey so far. Both The Rising Storm and Into the Dark from the second High Republic wave set up Lourna in such an interesting place, and this is the real pay off for that. We also get brief appearances by a variety of characters from the greater High Republic world, including the Marvel comic series also written by Cavan Scott. Although reading any of the previous High Republic books wouldn’t be essential, this audio drama would be pretty confusing without at least a basic knowledge of the era, it’s larger cast and especially the Nihil themselves.

Being a story built almost entirely by a cast of villains, it’s good to see Tempest Runner avoid a lot of tropes with Lourna Dee.  While she may be a character with many relatable aspects the story doesn’t shy away from her being an awful person.  What we get is the believable downfall of someone who was dealt one too many bad hands, but who still makes the wrong choices at every opportunity.  She’s easy to root for while still not being exactly likeable and a great addition to the Star Wars universe.  We also meet several new characters in Tempest Runner as well as the recurring ones.  My personal favourite being Ola Hest, a character who I could only describe as a space gangster with a voice by Orlagh Cassidy that is reminiscent of esteemed character actress Margo Martindale who I would love to see in other High Republic projects in the future.

A real strength of this project is the production design.  Sound is a key aspect to really capture that Star Wars feel and with a soundtrack mostly composed of the music by John Williams from previous Star Wars movies and fantastic sound effects, Tempest Runner is able to nail that vibe perfectly.  Close your eyes and you could feel like you’re just watching a new Star Wars film.  The action is vibrant and exciting despite a lack of any visual fights thanks to the great action effects and the general background effects used also add a lot to the story being told.  The production shows just how much Tempest Runner benefits from being an audio drama instead of just another novel.

As my first foray into the Star Wars audio dramas, I’ll admit to being a bit apprehensive when Tempest Runner was first announced.  I often find it difficult to focus on things like podcasts when there’s no visual medium to go along with it.  But Tempest Runner had me engrossed from start to finish.  Although not necessarily essential to the larger story being built in the High Republic universe, it’s a fascinating look at one of the era’s most interesting characters and helps fill in some gaps in the larger ongoing story.  I’d highly recommend it to any fans of the other High Republic books, although I worry it would be a confusing place to start for people new to the era. 

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Anime Manga Television Various Media

AnimeCrashers: Horror

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!

Promotional art from NETFLIX

DEVILMAN: Crybaby 

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.

  • Jake McMahon
Cover to Volume 1 of Tokyo Ghoul

Tokyo Ghoul 

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.

  • Jake
Cover from Volume 1 of CHAINSAW MAN

Chainsaw Man

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.

  • DW

Parasyte

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

  • Jake

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Comics Various Media

The Weird Politics of Invincible.

By Bolu Ayeye

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.

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Various Media

How To Get Into Ultraman

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.

The Comics

This is an easy way to do it, and it’s arguably the quickest. You have two options waiting for you.

The Ultraman Manga

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!]

The Marvel Ultraman Series

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:

Ultraman Orb (2016)

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.

The Sunset Wanderer, as he’s called, is one worth spending time with. Here’s the first full episode for free, uploaded officially, on Youtube. Try it, and see if it’s your speed.

Ultraman Orb also happens to be available on Crunchyroll, so that is also an option.

Ultraman Geed (2017)

The Son Of The Devil vs The Devil! 

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.

If you love your Devils, father-son stories, and stories about identity, you’ll enjoy this one. Here’s the first full episode for free, uploaded officially, on Youtube. Try it, and see if it works for you.

Much like Orb, Geed also happens to be available on Crunchyroll, so that is also an option.

Netflix’s Ultraman (2019)

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.

Ultra Q (1966)

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.

Ultraman (1966)

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.

It’s up for viewing on Shout, but also, here’s that iconic first episode for free, officially, on Youtube. Try it and see if it feels like something you might be into.

The Movies

Ultraman Zero: Revenge Of Belial

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!

Categories
Television Various Media

Bug Man Incarnate: A Definitive Guide for Getting Into Kamen Rider

Edited by Ben Ventura

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 Original Kamen Rider Is Coming to YouTube - for Free | CBR

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-OneKamen 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.

Aidan BLM.'s tweet - "Happy 50th anniversary to Kamen rider. A franchise  that I love so much. It's story, themes and characters are amazing and I  always love it. I'm glad I've

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 various seasons 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.  

Shout! Factory, Toei Company Ltd. Announce Distribution For KAMEN RIDER ZERO -ONE And KAMEN RIDER RYUKI « SciFi Japan
The two shows being localized by Shout! Factory later this year

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.

玲維 on Twitter: "Wの声はオルガとバナージかよ! 桐山漣さんと菅田将暉じゃないのか…… #仮面ライダーW #桐山漣 #菅田将暉  #RIDER_MoH… "
The two protagonists from Kamen Rider W, Shotaro and Philip

As for a personal recommendation, I would recommend Kamen Rider W as 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)

Kamen Rider 1 (Masked Rider 1) by ShinRider on DeviantArt

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.

How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Official release; TokuSHOUTsu, Tubi TV

Kamen Rider V3 (Shōwa, 1973-74)

Kamen Rider V3 vs. Destron Mutants Now Subbed - Orends: Range (Temp)

A sequel to Kamen Rider, college student Shiro Kazami undergoes the process of becoming a cyborg to fight against terrorist organization Destron and protect mankind.

How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Generation Kikaida; First two episodes on Toei Tokusatsu World Official

Kamen Rider X (Shōwa, 1974)

Kamen Rider X the Movie Japanese Movie Streaming Online Watch

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)

Kamen Rider Amazon (1974) 11-13 BluRay – ASkyTI Fansub

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. 

How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Hi No Tori Fansubs; First two episodes on Toei Tokusatsu World Official

Kamen Rider Stronger (Shōwa, 1975)

Kamen Rider Stronger To Be Released On Blu-ray In Japan - The Tokusatsu  Network

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.

How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Bereke Scrubs (over Midnight Crew Subs and KITSubs); First two episodes on Toei Tokusatsu World Official

Kamen Rider Skyrider (Shōwa, 1979-80)

Kamen Rider (1979)/Skyrider Now Fully Subbed - Orends: Range (Temp)

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.

How to watch it/Recommended Subber: KITSubs; First two episodes on Toei Tokusatsu World Official

Kamen Rider Super-1 (Shōwa, 1980-81)

仮面ライダースーパー1」第8話「闘え一也!死のドグマ裁判」 | サンダーストームのブログ

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)

KAMEN RIDER BLACK (TV): KOTARO MINAMI RESPECT THREAD |

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)

Discuss] BLACK RX is my all time favourite Rider suit design. Interested to  see what everyone else's favourite suit designs are. : KamenRider

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.

How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Bereke Scrubs (over Stone Subs, encoded by OZC-Live); First two episodes on Toei Tokusatsu World Official

Shin Kamen Rider: Prologue (Shōwa, 1992)

Shin Kamen Rider/Prologue - Version 3

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.

How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Official release; Toei Tokusatsu World Official Youtube Channel 

Kamen Rider ZO (Shōwa, 1993)

HTOP on Twitter: "27 years ago Kamen Rider ZO was released, which is my  favorite Kamen Rider movie. I think it beautifully condenses everything  that the franchise is about into a 45

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.

How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Official release; Toei Tokusatsu World Official Youtube Channel 

Kamen Rider J (Shōwa, 1994)

仮面ライダー: Kamen Rider J (仮面ライダーJ)

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.

How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Official release; Toei Tokusatsu World Official Youtube Channel 

Kamen Rider Kuuga (Heisei, 2000-2001)

Kamen Rider Kuuga Coming To Streaming | Den of Geek

Happy-go-lucky hero Yusuke Godai uses the ancient power of the ancient hero Kuuga to fight the Gurongi, the revived members of an ancient monster tribe.

How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Official release; TokuSHOUTsu, Tubi TV; First two episodes on Toei Tokusatsu World Official

Kamen Rider Agito (Heisei, 2001-2002)

Kaito9029号🎧 on Twitter: "Twitter離れてる 間は 仮面ライダードライブ を本編全話 みたり  子供の頃放送していたアギトを 見返したりしてた あとは 鬼滅の刃 アニメ 漫画 共々 すべて みて 読んで すっかりはまってしまった… "

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)

It's 03/02/21, Happy 19th Birthday Kamen Rider Ryuki! : KamenRider

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.

How to watch it/Recommended Subber:  Official release incoming; TokuSHOUTsu, Tubi TV; First two episodes on Toei Tokusatsu World Official

Kamen Rider 555 (or Faiz) (Heisei, 2003-2004)

仮面ライダー: Kamen Rider Faiz (Φ) Blaster Form (仮面ライダーファイズ Blaster Form)

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)

Tokusatsu News Network on Twitter: "Are you one of those people who stay up  at night wondering about the genius behind Kamen Rider Blade memes? In this  article, we delve into the

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.

How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Turn Up Scrubs (over TV-Nihon, encoded by Bunny Hat); First two episodes on Toei Tokusatsu World Official

Kamen Rider Hibiki (Heisei, 2005-2006)

Kamen Rider Hibiki Episode 46 | OZC Live

An Oni named Hibiki takes on a high-schooler as an apprentice as he fights against monsters known as the Makamou.  A music-centric season where the Kamen Riders are all Oni.

How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Shushutto Scrubs (over TV-Nihon, encoded by OZC-Live); First two episodes on Toei Tokusatsu World Official

Kamen Rider Kabuto (Heisei, 2006-2007)

Earthly on Twitter: "Kamen Rider Kabuto - Complete Series Batch (1-49 +  Movie + HBV) https://t.co/sFUGtTePGk… "

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)

ムービーコア®︎ en Twitter: "『 #仮面ライダー平成ジェネレーションズFOREVER 』に #佐藤健 が #野上良太郎役 で出演!  【コメントあり】 https://t.co/WZRzCVBcyO #平ジェネ #平ジェネFOREVER… "

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. 

How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Earthly Subs (encoded by OZC-Live); First two episodes on Toei Tokusatsu World Official

Kamen Rider Kiva (Heisei, 2008-2009)

My Shiny Toy Robots: Series REVIEW: Kamen Rider Kiva

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)

My Shiny Toy Robots: Series REVIEW: Kamen Rider Decade

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)

ARK XLR on Twitter: "I kinda hope that Kamen Rider Saber has a lady  vocalist for the OP It's pure superstition, but I think lady vocalists are  a good sign… https://t.co/g7JhsU3GzF"

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. 

How to watch it/Recommended Subber: W-Time (encoded by OZC-Live); First two episodes on Toei Tokusatsu World Official

Kamen Rider OOO (Heisei, 2010-2011)

My Shiny Toy Robots: Series REVIEW: Kamen Rider OOO

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)

Kamen Sentai: Kamen Rider Fourze Series Review

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)

What Kamen Rider Teaches Us - The Tokusatsu Network

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)

TV Time - Kamen Rider Gaim (TVShow Time)

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)

Kamen Rider Drive Episode 15 | The Glorio Blog

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)

My Shiny Toy Robots: Series REVIEW: Kamen Rider Ghost

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) 

JEFusion | Japanese Entertainment Blog - The Center of Tokusatsu: Kamen  Rider Amazons Episode 2 Clips - Dual Amazons First Encounter

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)

Kamen Rider Ex-Aid Impressions - The Reimaru Files

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)

My Shiny Toy Robots: Series REVIEW: Kamen Rider Build

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)

JEFusion | Japanese Entertainment Blog - The Center of Tokusatsu: Kamen  Rider ZI-O Episode 1 Preview

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)

My Shiny Toy Robots: First Impressions: Kamen Rider Zero-One

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)

Tokusatsu Suits on Twitter: "Kamen Rider Saber (2020) - Episode 1 Suit:  Kamen Rider Saber Brave Dragon… "

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

Afterword

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.

Categories
Books Film Various Media

Star Wars – Alphabet Squadron: Victory’s Price Review

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.

Alphabet Squadron (From L to R: Yrica Quell, Kairos, Wyl Lark, Nath Tensent, Chass na Chadic)

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.

Hera Syndulla

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.

Categories
Comics Film Television Various Media

To Make a Ranger: So You Wanna Make a Sentai Story, Huh?

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.

The Basics

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.

Sleepy Time

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.

Examples:

  • 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.

Examples:

  • Alarmed and Dangerous, Turbo
  • Bully for Ethan, Dino Thunder
  • Tigers Fall, Lions Rise, Jungle Fury
  • Who’s Crying Now?, Megaforce
  • Tuba Triumph, Beast Morphers

Catfight

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.

Examples:

  • 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

I Quit

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.

Examples:

  • Always a Chance, In Space
  • Fight Against Fate, Time Force
  • Wave Goodbye, Dino Thunder
  • One Gets Away, Operation Overdrive
  • Forest for the Trees, Samurai

Freaky Friday

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.

Examples:

  • Switching Places, Mighty Morphin
  • Invasion of the Body Switcher, In Space
  • Sensei Switcheroo, Ninja Storm
  • Recognition, SPD
  • 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.

Examples:

  • Memories of Mirinoi, Lost Galaxy
  • Idol, SPD

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.

Examples:

  • 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
  • Boom, SPD
  • Dismissed, SPD
  • 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?

Examples:

  • The Curve Ball, Turbo
  • Double Duty, Lost Galaxy
  • Diva in Distress, Dino Thunder
  • Ocean Alert, Dino Thunder
  • Resurrection, SPD
  • Break Out, Dino Charge

Juggling Responsibility

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.

Examples:

  • 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.

Examples:

  • 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).

Examples:

  • 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
  • Reflection, SPD
  • 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.

Examples:

  • 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.

Examples:

  • 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.

Examples:

  • 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.

Exceptions:

  • 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)

Going Good

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.).  

Examples:

  • 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.  

Examples:

  • 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.

Examples:

  • 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 PsychoTo 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)
  • Duplicon Clone Rangers (Double Ranger, Double Danger, Dino Charge)
  • 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.   

Examples:

  • 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
    • Insomnia, SPD
    • 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.

Examples:

  • 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

The Quarry

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.  

Examples:

  • 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.