Sentai Series Review: Samurai Sentai Shinkenger
After writing my Hikari Sentai Maskman review for this blog, I decided to write this review on Samurai Sentai Shinkenger instead of any other Super Sentai in the 80s or 90s as I have previously done. This series has been pretty popular during its airing and has personally given me a long hangover. I might be enjoying Ninninger, I do like Gokaiger (but not as much as Gaoranger and Boukenger) and I was a closet Gobusters fan while I felt like Shinkenger is the best series within the time span of Super Sentai series from 2009 up to 2015.
Shinkenger would be the third Super Sentai series that Yasuko Kobayashi had done her job as a head writer but she would be under Takaaki Utsunomiya. Producers that Kobayashi once worked with her Jun Hikasa (for Timeranger) and Shigenori Takatera (for Gingaman). Shinkenger may happen to be what some consider her "magnum opus". But even if I do like the series, I wouldn't say it's her best but I might say it was her last decent work.
The first five Shinkengers were all trained from samurai families currently occupying the 18th generation with Shiba as the head. The main hero is Takeru Shiba who appears to be a loner for some reason, Ryunosuke Ikenami the second in command is a kabuki artist who serves as comic relief but he can fight. Mako Shiraishi is a preschool teacher who has a pretty blunt side, Chiaki Tani is the youngest male who tends to slack at first but don't mess with him, and Kotoha Hanaori is a cute bruiser. Their team mentor, Hikoma Kusakabe also known as Jii was played veteran samurai movie actor Goro Ibuki. Later, the show introduces Genta a sushi seller and samurai fan as the sixth member. Unlike the traditional sixth members, he is more or less a comedic relief and a concept that would be added into Gai Ikari as the sixth member of Gokaiger.
I felt like the cast of characters has given me some unintended childhood flashbacks as a 24 year old adult watching the show. I always felt like that naming Shinken Red as Takeru was either coincidental or maybe it was a shoutout to his predecessor, Red Mask which I am just left to speculate. Two other characters that made me think of Maskman was the relationship between Ryunosuke and Chiaki was a bit similar to Kenta and Akira, where the older member tends to rebuke the younger for slacking off. Mako may remind some of the pink rangers as the team heart, big sister type or those who love children while she also reminds me of Kimberly in Power Rangers. Kotoha's status as a cute bruiser would remind me of Ako Hayasaka in Jetman even if they both wore different colors.
I'll admit that I saw Shinkenger before Gingaman. I could not help but compare the setting of the Gedoushu to the Balban in Gingaman together with the primary characters. Both villain teams were defeated by the predecessors of the Shinkengers. While the Balban's objective was to resurrect Daitanic so they can finally turn Earth into their next jewel, the main objective of the Gedoushu was to gather as many negative emotions as possible so the Sanzu River (which is be located underground) can finally overflow, allowing them to move freely in the human world. The twist however is that the Gedoushu cannot move freely around the human world and had to retreat to the Sanzu River whenever they "dried up" which I thought was either funny or a weakness in the show's writing.
The three main villains are similar (in some way) to the three main villains in Gingaman. Doukoku, Shitari and Dayu would be similar the characters of Captain Zahab (the big bad), Pucrates the researcher and Shelinda as the nasty female villain. Other villains though felt a little bit of the 80s to 90s like Juzo Fuwa's neutrally aligned status as a villain may remind some of the villains during the Takeyuki Suzuki/Hirohisa Soda era of Super Sentai like Thief Knight Kiros (also rivaling red rangers) or Silver in Bioman. Akumaro on the other hand was the treacherous game changing villain where he makes the protagonists suffer more than usual.
My final thoughts
My opinion is that as much as I am a fan of this series, I don't think it really fits in my personal list of Super Sentai masterpieces but it's close to becoming one. I can understand why many people in the Super Sentai fandom like this show because of the likable cast, cool designs, nice musical scores, decent acting and some good writing (but still, please check out other Super Sentai). It's also possible to like this show for very superficial reasons like saying that it's the best show ever because of the attractive cast (Takeru, Ryunosuke, Mako and Kotoha) instead of giving any valid reason that I just mentioned.
Meanwhile, you might want to read my guest review on Samurai Sentai Shinkenger vs. Kamen Rider Decade. It also brought me back to some childhood memories namely the crossover Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers had with Saban's Masked Rider. I might write a review on either Dekaranger or Gekiranger next, depending on my mood. Once again, until next time.
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