death by dairanger: 14 days of madness

Neighbors and local authorities are all no doubt wondering why an area man has been running around the streets in his underwear screaming “TENSHIN DAAAA!” for the past two weeks. Did he follow that battle cry out with a spirited “Whoaaa, whoa-whoa-whoa”? Yep. Will his brain ever be the same? Nope. To shed some light on these ramblings, I am that man, and I recently finished mainlining all 50 episodes of Gosei Sentai Dairanger.

What does that mean, you ask? I’m well aware of the awkward Venn Diagram representing people who read my blog and people who know what the hell Dairanger is. I’ll buck my old ways and play to a broader crowd here, because everyone needs an introduction into this deadly world at some point.

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The easiest way to put it is right on the cover of the Super Sentai box sets Shout! Factory releases once every few months: “Before Power Rangers there was… Super Sentai!” Sentai shows are the Japanese tokusatsu (special effects) TV series that went on to be localized in the west as Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers and all its various follow-ups. Saban basically just took all the costumed action sequences, monsters, and rad giant robot battles and wrapped it in a sunny Saved by the Bell-esque California Roll.

The results were cotton candy to my still-developing 12-year-old mind. Thus, it would stand to reason that snorting the original uncut lines are exactly what my still-developing 36-year-old mind needs just to wake up in the morning. Each episode is a spandex-clad coffee bean that makes me a little more human than human.

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Dairanger is the 17th entry in Toei’s still-running Super Sentai franchise, airing in Japan from 1993 to 1994 before coming stateside as the continuation of Power Rangers‘ adaptation of the previous series, Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger. This one has a cool Chinese mystic vibe to it, with all the martial arts styles one might expect making an appearance; even drunken style! Their Dairangers’ mentor, Master Kaku (pictured below, right), is basically Splinter.

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No one needs to know all this crap, though; it’s not like there’s gonna be a quiz, and if you see one you can bet it’s part of an insidious plot devised by Dairanger enemy du jour, the Gorma! Digging in too deep is dangerous, so let’s go for something different with:

THE SUBHUMANZOIDS SENTAI AWARDS: DAIRANGER EDITION

That’s right! Everyone’s here and it’s the moment they’ve all been waiting for, so without further adieu, let’s start handing out the honors.

Best Characters
San Baka (AKA Three Stooges)

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Known in Shout!’s subs as the Three Stooges, this team of ne’erdowells consists of, from left to right, President Gravestone, Telephone-sensei, and Boss Kamikaze. The latter is, as you might have guessed, the leader, and he’s a totally smooth delinquent. He ends most every sentence in a very enthusiastic (and English) “Baby!,” and he’s generally in charge of all the ridiculous plots to rid the world of the Dairangers.

These plots are also always games, and please believe anything goes. From exploding baseball games that would be right at home in a Yudai Yamaguchi flick to, uh, exploding soccer and exploding bike chases, the Stooges are a fabulous font of foolery from their first to final episodes.

Worst Recurring Story
Kujaku’s Quest for Peacock Heaven

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Here’s the skinny as best as I can remember it off the top of my head: Kujaku shows up and quickly becomes the love interest of Daigo, AKA Shishi Ranger. There’s only one problem, her Peacock Buddha powers are running out thanks to the crummy, polluted atmosphere of Earth. Much like the Stooges above, Kujaku episodes are scattered throughout Dairanger‘s run, and they’re just tough to get into. Masako Morishita really ups the melodrama in the role, and her beleaguered shouts of “Daigo!” will be etched into your brain for weeks.

Best Dairanger
Shoji AKA Tenma Ranger

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Would it surprise you to learn that the pompadour’d dude above is the Dairanger member who builds an intense rivalry with the Stooges? They troll him time and time again, and he always falls for it because he just knows one day Boss Kamikaze will present him with a fair challenge. Ei Hamura is the man in this role, and he sells every single one of his Bruce Lee nose swipes with aplomb.

Best Mythical Chi Beast
Won Tiger

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Sure, its pilot may literally be a child, but none of the mechs in the series hold a candle to Mythical Chi Beast Won Tiger. Ryuuseioh comes close, but there’s somethin’ about that slick white paint job that wins me over. Just to give Ryuuseioh and the rest of the beasts some love, though, let’s take a moment to appreciate how they look combined with Won Tiger (cue the Spice Girls’ “2 Become 1”).

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Creepiest Episode
Episode 34: “A Prickly Maiden Hunt”

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And finally, we have everyone’s favorite category, Creepiest Episode. There’s always at least one! If the name didn’t make it clear, episode 34 wins by a wide margin. The monster of the week is General Cactus, who looks like the gas station attendant above in human form. Here’s what he does to this dude’s daughter as soon as he leaves his car:

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And here he is as the somehow-less-threatening General Cactus:

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General Cactus loves to kidnap little girls, paralyze them, and turn them into dolls. It’s a plot that would be at home in any prime time police procedural (tune into NBC next month for the debut episode of Chicago Cactus Childnapper!), but the real creep-out comes when we stumble upon some of freshly-animated yet oh-so-still dolls.

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This is a moment best summed up with video.

Creepy. Yet… I love it! I think that’s about all the Dairanger energy I have at the moment, but if we get any late award-winners in the future, I’ll be sure to update. Once I have my powers back, it’s on to… Ninja Sentai Kakuranger!

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this bartkira project trailer rules

Some of you may recall that I did some pages for the Bartkira project waaaaay back around the time it was first announced. If it seems like years ago, it’s because it was! My pages don’t come until volume 4, but volume 3 was released in its entirety today, and promotion is going hard in everybody’s yard. So hard, in fact, that they put together an animated trailer that perfectly recreates the Akira trailer with Simpsons characters.

First up, a quick explanation for those of you scratching your heads. Bartkira is a project put together by Ryan Humphrey and James Harvey, among others, that rallied hundreds of artists from around the globe together to recreate Katsuhiro Otomo’s classic Akira manga with characters from The Simpsons.

If you haven’t seen them, here are the pages I did from volume 4.

favorite comics of 2014

I didn’t get to read everything I wanted to—so much good stuff was released in the world of comics this past year—but I still wanted to note some of my favorites of the past 365. There’s no order to these, but here’s some of the stuff I enjoyed that was released in 2014.

The Wrenchies by Farel Dalrymple

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This one was just tremendous. The Wrenchies is stacked with so much both in its lush watercolor visuals and its narrative that it warrants multiple readings. If there’s one book to put on your shelf this year, make it this one, because you’ll want to revisit it as soon as it’s over and you definitely missed more than one thing the first time through.

Twelve Gems by Lane Milburn

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Twelve Gems is the best ’80s sci-fi adventure that came out in the present day. Milburn goes nuts with the hatching and creates the comics blockbuster of the summer in the process.

Lose #6 by Michael DeForge

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This is probably my favorite single story by DeForge other than The Boy in Question.

Megahex by Simon Hanselmann

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If Twelve Gems was 2014’s big summer blockbuster, Megahex is its best stoner comedy. Hanselmann took some old children’s book characters and made them the stars of their own stupid sitcom with fantastic watercolors illustrating some great drug and horrible, despicable roommates humor.

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

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2014 produced one of the best horror anthology comics of all time in Emily Carroll’s wildly gorgeous Through the Woods. Her work in the latest issue of Youth in Decline’s Frontier series can sit right alongside it, as well, so be sure to get both and see why everyone’s been talking so highly of Carroll.

Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley

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I can’t imagine how much pressure must have come with trying to follow up something as big as Scott Pilgrim, but O’Malley showed how much he has grown in Seconds. Add in some top-notch coloring by Nathan Fairbairn and drawing assistance by friend of subhumanzoids Jason Fischer and you’ve got one of the best graphic novels of the year.

Safari Honeymoon by Jesse Jacobs

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Safari Honeymoon is funny, bizarre, and brilliantly illustrated with neat line work and a nicely-executed all-green palette. Jacobs’ comic is further proof that you could feel safe picking up pretty much anything from Koyama Press in 2014.

Forming II by Jesse Moynihan

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No comic flipped my lid this year quite like Jesse Moynihan’s Forming II. I devoured the first book and its followup, and all I want is more. Despite the fact that the whole thing is available to read online, Nobrow’s titanic hardcovers are a must for appreciating Moynihan’s combination of Acryla Gouache and india ink (I only know specifically because I bugged him about it via email). No comic made me both laugh more and want to work harder and make more comics of my own.

I wanted to put some manga on this list but I’m kind of behind on releases and am mostly stuck in 2013! I caught up with the volume releases of One Piece, though, which is as amazing as ever. I might make a second post sometime this year as I catch up.