Mystical Arcade Magic and Megaranger

Denji Sentai Megaranger is a sentai series that follows one of my favorite story setups. Frankly, it’s not used often enough, and the easiest parallel to make would be to 1984’s The Last Starfighter. Just as Alex Rogan discovered when playing Starfighter at a local arcade, Kenta Date learns that not all “games” are what they appear to be on the surface.

As episode one begins, Kenta defends the honor of some young arcade rats by besting the tough guy pictured below at the game Megaranger, which is kind of like that old 3D FMV arcade blaster Time Traveler.

I imagine this is what Tomonobu Itagaki was like back in the day

You see, Kenta is an ace at this game, so he has no trouble whuppin’ up on this ne’er-do-well. Itagaki here isn’t the only one that takes notice, though, as Kenta is approached by some suits from INET labs who claim to be the creators of this earth-shaking game. Turns out it’s a training simulator, and Kenta fits the bill perfectly.

And so it is through this steel-sturdy premise that Kenta ends up being introduced to the base of the Megarangers, but his deployment into action’s going to come sooner than expected. Rather than wasting a lot of time drafting other players via this game, the rest of Kenta’s pals in the “Cybernetics Club” are simply invited to tour the lab and end up thrown into the same wild situation as Kenta when the evil Neijireijia attack.

“That’s total bullcrap! I had to be awesome at games to get here!”

Before you know it we’re thrust into space with our new sentai crew. I’ve only watched a few episodes so far, but Megaranger really falls into a comfortable time period as far as tokusatsu aesthetics are concerned. It originally aired in Japan in 1997 (and was used as the basis for Power Rangers in Space the following year), so it’s not too advanced to be overrun with mediocre CG. In fact, what CG there is is so crude it circles back around to charming, kind of like early movies and shows about “the ‘net.”

Cool badguys (like li’l dude above), some rad mecha and the look of early ’90s sentai masquerading deceptively under the slightly slicker hood of ’97. TV-Nihon has subbed some of the series, or you can just get started by watching the beginning of episode one below. At least stick around for Kenta’s exciting induction into the tights-clad service of the world’s greatest heroes.

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