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.


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.


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.


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:


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)


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


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


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


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”).


Creepiest Episode
Episode 34: “A Prickly Maiden Hunt”


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:



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


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.





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!

monday monsters: gyodai

Hey, it’s time for Monday Monsters! This week is kickin’ off with Gyodai, a recurring monster from 1985 sentai series Dengeki Sentai Changeman, which I’ve been shamelessly blasting in the background while I work.

Booba—a former space pirate working for the villainous Great Star League Gozma—had the following to say about this special creature in episode 1: “Gyodai has the ability to reconstruct particles. He has the ability to make things bigger!”


So yes, this is the dude that comes out and makes the monster of the week bigger at the end of each episode.

full metal tracksuit: space sheriff shaider

Back in 2000 or 2001 I started writing for a site called Kung Fu Cult Cinema. I’ve posted about it here before, and it’s long dead at this point, but yeah, that’s where I got my start. By the time 2004 hit I was full-on obsessed with Japanese tokusatsu shows and kaiju movies, so I started a semi-regular column called Full Metal Tracksuit. One of the columns covered a favorite of mine, Space Sheriff Shaider, and I finally booted up my old laptop to unearth it.

At the time this was published not many people were bothering to write coherently in English about most of this stuff, so feel free to pat me on the back after I’m done doing it myself.



(Uchuu Keiji Shaidaa)
~1984 Toei TV series~


Metal Heroes is another sub-genre of tokusatsu (special effects) shows that’s working its magic to drill a hole in my heart with its intrinsic insanity. Starting with Space Sheriff Gavan in 1982 (a series which you’ll find yourself much more informed on upon reading Patrick Macias‘ column in Animerica), Toei had a new hero in the form of steel-clad galactic detectives that would drop kick their way through multiple spinoff series through the ’80s and some of the ’90s. After Kenji Ohba tore through the the evil Makuu and their leader Don Horror in Gavan, Space Sheriff Sharivan took over to dish out justice upon Madou and Demon King Psycho. The series in question, Space Sheriff Shaider, ‘blue-flashed’ onto the airwaves the following year, and upholds the same obligation to be as bizarre and action-packed as possible.

Just like most other tokusatsu shows, the Space Sheriff series has an overall successful formula that is slightly tweaked from series to series. More is deemed better, as popular mainstays will roll over to new shows, while more and more insanity is piled upon what was already established. To give a general idea, any given series will typically feature the sheriff, under command of his superiors who have sent along a hot female to help him out and/or serve to be captured. All sheriffs have a flying base that transmits their combat suit from above, and also dispatches other vehicles such as the requisite bike with sidecar (a la Syberian in Gavan) or other possible tools like Drill tanks and such. The antagonist is typically a diabolically devil organization overflowing with drug-induced creature creations and run by your everyday “Demon so big he’s immobile” leader.


Shaider adheres to many of the rules set by its predecessors, but is such an intensely surreal experience it’s really hard to describe a single episode without sounding like an exasperated preschooler choking on cocoa puffs. More stuff happens in the first five minutes of this show than I’ve seen in whole seasons of others. In the first episode, Dai is chosen to be the next Space Sheriff, a true defender of the universe. While he’s not nearly as manly as Kenji Ohba in Gavan, his slick parted hair is likely a hit with the ladies. He drives a vehicle almost identical aside from color to Gavan’s classic red Suzuki Samurai. His suit is full of all the expected bells and whistles, and it looks like he shines that badboy on a regular basis. Usually fighting alongside or rescuing his pseudo-sidekick Annie, Dai takes all enemies out with quick and engaging fights that are so off the wall you have to give ’em the respect they deserve.


The series really belongs to the demons within, lead by the Great Emperor Kubilai, who is essentially a giant face in the wall with three eyes. Served by a bevy of cantina rejects and a transvestite grandson named God Officer Poe, Kubilai gives Shaider hell by birthing aliens and sending them to Earth to wreak havoc. The most insane moments are when they perform the birthing ritual. Hypnotic music cues up as the monsters and servants of the Emperor begin a trancelike dance, and Kubilai’s vagina-like third eye peels open in a disturbingly sexual sequence that ends with Poe removing pulsating orb from Kubilai’s mouth. The ball falls into a blood-filled birdbath and becomes a giant egg that houses the Double Monster of the week. It’s hard to believe what you’re watching 90% of the time Shaider is playing.

Fighting Monsters in Shaider follows the same formula as previous Sheriff shows. Just when it looks like the enemy is down and out, Kubilai sends Dai and his opponent to Strange World Fuuma (which is identical in appearance to Gavan‘s Makuu Space). The scenery changes more in this world than I have to change my pants while watching it. Once the enemy is taken out by Shaider’s ‘Blue Flash!!’ attack, he ends up fighting the enemy base itself via his transforming base Babylos. Babylos triple times as a flying Mothership, an enormous mech (with a Macross look to it) and a giant gun that Shaider can magnify his image to hold and blast away with. The design of everything in the show is unforgettable and a stretch of the imagination to say the least.


I really need to catch all of the Space Sheriff shows, as each one seems to get better and better. While Kenji Ohba reigns supreme in Gavan, Shaider takes everything up a level. Hopefully someone will give these shows a deserving release like the one Kikaida is currently enjoying. The way these shows take their situations so seriously in the face of how ridiculous everything appears to be is one of the chief attractions, making every episode fast paced and intense.

The madness continues in following series such as Megabeast Special Investigation Juspion, Dimensional Warrior Spielban and Super Man Machine Metalder, many of which were all chopped together to be imported to the US in the form of VR Troopers. Later series added more heroes to the mix, like 1995’s Heavy Armor B-Fighter, which partially came to Western shores under the moniker of Beetleborgs. All we can do right now is hope that someday we’ll get some great subtitled releases of shows like this so I can stop sounding like I’m out of breath on the playground flapping my lips about Saturday morning cartoons (which I may as well be).

Coming up next time, I’ll talk about Megaloman, which would really be more popular if they advertised the fact that it’s essentially Ultraman with a mullet. 

Joseph Luster