Sunday, January 12, 2014

Initial Impressions: Choujin Sentai Jetman

Wow, it has been a really long time since I posted anything.  I mean, a REALLY long time.  To be fair, moving and getting used to a new job really took most of my attention.  I'm actually a teacher now, so you can imagine how little time I have for things like this.  Whenever I get free time, I pretty much default to napping.  That's not to say I haven't been watching toku.  Stuff like toku and anime is easy to squeeze in before work or while eating dinner.  

That being said, I've been watching Choujin Sentai Jetman in the mornings before work.  I'm around episode 33, and so far, it's really good for early 90's sentai. I don't mean that like early 90's Sentai is bad, but Jetman is more like a soap opera than other Sentai shows were at the time, and even are today, really. 

I like how Toshiki Inoue wasn't afraid to depart from typical Sentai formula with his writing. In several episodes, they went pretty much the entire time without transforming or fighting. It was all drama. Corny love drama, but I'm sure that glued housewives that were there with their kids. In one episode, they debuted a new robot, Jet Garuda, which actually got trashed its first time out. That stuff doesn't happen. The new robot always comes to save the day and wins triumphantly. My mind was blown.  (Here's where someone thinks of another Sentai example to trump this, but off the top of my head, I couldn't think of one.)

And they all seem to fit this stuff into a 20 minute timeslot. I'm impressed. With Liveman, the robot fights were always rushed at the end of an episode and seem to be done just because it's the Sentai thing to do. Inoue, even though later becoming a hated(?) name among Rider fans for his ridiculous dramatic style, really adds a nice touch to Sentai by taking his time and deviating from the formula. It could just be that in his earlier works, he was on a tighter leash.  After all, he penned Agito, and that was a great show.  Honestly, I dig Faiz quite a bit as well, even if it gets a lot of hate.  Anyway, back on track.

As with any drama, the characters are set up to be a flawed bunch.  This makes for all sorts of misunderstandings, which is something Inoue has become famous for when he writes for shows.  All these characters are normal people, and they frequently stray from their duties a bit. They're not military (except for Ryu, the leader) and so they have trouble reconciling their normal lives with the responsibility that has been thrust upon them.

I'd always heard mixed responses to the Jetman characters.  Gai is always the cool, tough guy with a chip on his shoulder that fans really seem to like.  Kaori seems to annoy many viewers with the absurd amount of drama that happens wherever she goes.  I'll admit that it's a bit forced, awkward, and almost creepy at first how this instant love triangle materializes between Kaori, Ryu, and Gai.  Raita has a thing for Kaori, too, but he doesn't stand a chance.  Poor guy.   I can see how people could get annoyed with the love drama, but I'd argue that once you get past a certain point, it becomes a little less constant and seems to make more sense as other factors are added in. 

When at his best, Inoue excels at hooking viewers.  He loves cliffhangers and upping the ante on the drama in sudden ways.  A good example in Jetman is when, unexpectedly during a fight, Vyram commander Maria is transformed back into Rie, her human form, which causes all sorts of emotional issues to come to the forefront since Ryu thought she was dead the whole time.  Inoue milks it for all it's worth, delving Ryu into a dazed, deranged state from the emotional shock. 
 I think that's about it for now.  I'll update probably when I finish the series.  Might add some of my favorite screen caps as well. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I'm not dead - short update

Well, as the title says, I'm not dead.  My blog has gone neglected for a bit because of all sorts of real life stuff.  Job interviews, moving, work, travel, and mild depression have really put a hamper on my time and motivation for blogging.  Heck, I haven't even found much time to watch toku recently.  I certainly have some things to write about, though.  I have noticed that my passion for giant robots has been neglected on here, so I should catch up on some mecha shows.

I think I would normally let my blog kinda sit and rot for a bit before I finally get around to writing up some thoughts, but I've recently noticed some more viewing activity than normal, and I figured that readers may wonder if this blog is even active anymore.  Well, it is.  Kinda.  Look forward to some thoughts and pics in the future.  (I mostly get blog hits for the pictures)  Until then, take care of yourselves and keep justice in your hearts.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sentai Mini-Reviews Part I: Zyuranger and Dairanger

So, I was doing some thinking about why I haven't posted much about Sentai, aside from the recent Go-Busters review, and I found that truthfully, it is partly because I don't have as much to say about many of the Sentai titles that I have seen.  I'll finish watching a Sentai show, and my reaction will be something along the lines of, "Well, that was pretty cool."  The end.

Anyway, In light of this fact, I thought I might try to do some short reviews that cover the basics of what I liked and disliked about the shows that I have seen, which seems like a less tedious task than doing my usual, long-winded reviews.  For my first entry in this new series and style of review, I have decided to take a look at both Zyuranger and Dairanger, since they are still fairly fresh in my mind, and the fact that they fall right next to each other in the Sentai production chronology is convenient.

Another interesting thing to mention is that Zyuranger and Dairanger are the first shows to have footage spliced with cheesy American acting for Power Rangers.  While I personally find Power Rangers to be corny and watered-down in comparison to its Sentai counterparts, that is a blog entry for another time, I suppose.

Kyouryuu Sentai Zyuranger

Made in 1992, Zyuranger relates the story of five warriors that have risen after millions of years of slumber in order to defeat the witch, Bandora, who is accidentally released from the magical container that sealed her and her minions.  These warriors use the power of the Guardian Beasts, which are essentially dinosaur deities.   The show was heavily inspired by JRPGs, as puzzles and magical items often play important roles in many episodes.

Looks familiar.

Surprisingly, the tone of Zyuranger often ends up being rather silly and zany, which can be jarring to some viewers at first.  Things can get dark and kinda creepy, especially when Bandora attempts to summon Great Satan.  The Zyurangers aren't exactly the most memorable characters in the franchise, but Geki and Burai (TyrannoRanger and DragonRanger) stand out, probably due to the drama behind their relationship, especially since Burai is an enemy at first. Of course, tokusatsu doesn't shy away from main characters dying, and Burai is fated to a rather sad death.

Feels were had.

Bandora is fun to watch, probably due to Machiko Soga's performance.  She is great in her other Sentai roles, too, such as Queen Hedorian (Denjiman/Sun Vulcan).  She has a great dislike for children and often gets her DoraMonsters to do terrible things to them.  She actually has a pretty sad back story, which isn't revealed until near the end, but it sheds light on her motivations.

I don't know if nostalgia is playing a factor here, but I admit that I really like the costumes, whether "normal" attire or suited up for combat.  The mech designs are great and even hold their own against more recent designs.  The special effects are neat, though it gets corny when they obviously opt to use an action figure for certain mech sequences.  The soundtrack has some nice orchestral pieces.  Heck, they released a two CD symphonic suite for Zyuranger.

Overall, Zyuranger is an interesting experience.  If you watched Power Rangers as a kid, you pretty much owe it to yourself to try out the original.  In my opinion, it is a superior show, and Zyuranger honestly isn't even the best that Sentai has to offer.  It's decent enough, but there are Sentai seasons that are much more engaging.

Want a rating?  I think I'd place Zyuranger at ★★★☆☆.

Gosei Sentai Dairanger

On to Dairanger.  Dairanger is about five descendants of the ancient Dai tribe, a tribe that flourished thousands of years ago and battled the militaristic Gorma tribe in order to save the world.  Essentially, the Gorma have risen again to attempt round two at world takeover, prompting the mysterious Master Kaku to train these Dai tribe descendants in the ways of Qi power.  Dairanger was heavily inspired by Chinese mythology and martial arts.

Plotwise, Dairanger is one of the darker, more violent Sentai series.  Each character has somewhat of a dramatic subplot that revolves around some other character/s.  However, some of these subplots are handled unevenly.  For instance, Daigo (Shishi Ranger) and his relationship/romance with Kujaku takes up a lot of screen time and gets pretty intense, whereas Kazu (Qilin Ranger) is somewhat underdeveloped and neglected, having only a small arc concerning his friend, Kameo, and a few random episodes that feature him somewhat.  Despite this uneven character development, I found myself really liking the Dairangers.  Daigo and Kazu are easily among my favorite Greens and Yellows, respectively.  Reactions will vary in regard to Kou as Kiba Ranger, the sixth Dairanger, since he's just a kid and behaves as such.

Looks familiar.

The Gorma tribe makes for an interesting group of enemies.  The monsters of the week can be kinda derpy, but the main enemies tend to be serious and a bit dark.  The Gorma triumvirate, consisting of Shadam, Gara, and Zydos, are the ones that typically hatch the plans, and they tie prominently into much of the drama.  The Gorma leader, Gorma XV, is insane and surprisingly childlike, though he's arguably not terribly important.  As a whole, the Gorma are sadistic, menacing, engaging, and memorable.

(left to right) Zydos, Shadam, and Gara

The action in Dairanger is superb.  From what I understand, the Dairanger actors all had either stunt or martial arts experience.  These guys can fight and get really intense, which really bumps the show up a couple of notches.  Their out of suit roll call toward the end of the series is pretty much the best that I have ever seen in Sentai.  Seriously, Youtube it.  The suits are also some of the best that Sentai has to offer.  They are easily top 3 for my personal favorite Sentai suits.  You have to wonder why Saban only stole/reproduced the Kiba Ranger suit for Power Rangers and neglected to do anything with the others, not that I'm complaining. 

Crazy awesome suits

Dairanger suffers from the typical Sentai issues of the time, including some under or uneven development, and the shorter 20-minute run time causes the mech fights to be rushed.  The plot seems rushed toward the end, and the final big twist seems like a bit of an asspull.  Also, ignore the final episode.  It didn't happen.  Okay, maybe it did.  It's horrifically silly and pointless, but you can at least tell the actors had fun doing it.

Overall, Dairanger is easily one of the best Sentai shows. Despite the typical Sentai flaws of the time, it manages to be engaging, dark, and interesting.  Gosei (Five Star) Sentai Dairanger lives up to its name, earning a ★★★★★ rating from me.  It does have a few plot issues and unevenness, but I feel like its strengths make up for it.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Let's bloggin'! A Look at Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters

I've been watching toku regularly for some time now, and for some reason, I don't believe I have written any blog posts about a Sentai show.  So, I expect that the next few entries may be Sentai-related to try and balance things out a little bit.  Prior to viewing Go-Busters, I had only viewed four other Sentai shows in their entirety (Liveman, Zyuranger, Dairanger, and Gokaiger), though I have been steadily and randomly picking at the others.

Go-Busters does quite a few things differently, which is a great way to follow up an anniversary show such as Gokaiger.


The plot of Go-Busters takes place in what is called the New Common Era calendar, which utilizes a new form of energy called enertron.  I don't recall Sentai ever pulling a Gundam and defining its settings in such a way, so this already marks a very small, subtle departure from the Sentai norm.  Anyway, 13 years ago, a computer at the Transport Research Center pretty much goes crazy from a virus, resulting in the birth of a sentient being known as Messiah.

Messiah, in true AI-gone-wrong fashion, decides to purge humans and create a world of machinery.  The scientists at this research facility essentially sacrifice themselves by sending themselves and Messiah into a something of a hyperspace dimension.  Before they do so, however, they imbue three children with a special antivirus program and teleport them from the site, along with three robot guardians/helpers known as Buddyroids.

The chitlins.

In the wake of this crazy accident, the Energy Management Center remains on standby to face any incidents involving the Vagras/Vaglass (Messiah and his underlings).  The three kids, of course, are our heroes, the Go-Busters, and they have been training in order to defeat the Vagras and rescue their parents and the other scientists.

With enough enertron, Messiah's influence can trickle into the real world in the form of Metaroids, mechanical creatures created from inanimate objects by injecting a Metavirus.  Messiah also has giant robots at his disposal called Megazords (haha).  Last but not least, Messiah uses an avatar known as Enter to act as his agent in the real world and carry out his will.

The Vagras

A little ways in, the Go-Busters are joined by Beet Buster, who is actually one of the scientists from 13 years ago.  How and why he is present in the real world not looking like he aged a day is a pretty major plot point.  He is joined by his own Buddyroid, who can actually transform into a Go-Buster himself.

It's hard not to talk about the plot of Go-Busters without being really spoilerific.  Essentially, each episode in the first half consists of Enter concocting a plan to siphon enertron for his master's purposes.  The great thing about this is that he actually often succeeds.  Enter's metaroids+megazords of the week are always destroyed, of course, but he still often accomplishes his objective in spite of this.


At around episode 30, the Go-Busters enter hyperspace in order to defeat Messiah once and for all.  Messiah turns out to be kind of like Sigma from Megaman X in that complete destruction is quite difficult, especially when his remains get scattered about.  Emotions run very high, especially with the lives of the scientists and the heroes' parents on the line.  Trust me, things get REAL.

The last portion of Go-Busters becomes a race to destroy what is left of Messiah, which is stored on cards that produce very powerful Metaroids.  And if it wasn't terribly obvious at the beginning, Enter moves into place as the real threat and final enemy.  Unfortunately, the last half also gets bogged down in episodes that feel filler-ish, but things get REAL again in the last five episodes.


The Go-Busters


Hiromu / Red Buster:  Hiromu is the "middle child" of the three main Go-Busters.  He's very blunt and abrasive, and he is initially reluctant to join the other Go-Busters in battling the Vagras.  Hiromu is serious and down-to-business most of the time, which is offset by the scenes that depict his weakness:  Chickens.  That's right.  He has an irrational fear of anything chicken-related to the point where he will become paralyzed with a dumb, surprised look on his face.  This occurs several times in battle, believe it or not.  However, he possesses incredible agility.

Ryuji - Blue Buster:  Ryuji is the oldest of the three main Go-Busters.  As such, he has that more mature, big brother type of personality.  He is especially protective of Yoko, and he acts as mediator anytime bickering occurs.  Ryuji put his dream of being an engineer aside in order to fight the Vagras and look after Hiromu and Yoko.  He is quite the capable fighter due to his experience and super strength.  His strength comes at a price, of course.  If he battles for too long, he will overheat and lose control, essentially transitioning to a sadistic and bloodthirsty personality that doesn't distinguish between friend or foe.  His cool maturity and awesome combat ability make him one of my favorite Blues.

Yoko - Yellow Buster:  Yoko is the youngest Go-Buster.  Like many teenage girls, she is impulsive, eager, and neglectful of her studies.  She is prone to getting offended at Hiromu's blunt comments, which causes bickering, especially toward the beginning of the series.  Yoko's power is the ability to make incredible jumps and kicks, but she will collapse if she doesn't consume sweets every so often.

Jin - Beet Buster:  Jin is a genius engineer that was teleported into hyperspace with Messiah and the other scientists thirteen years ago.  He has somehow appeared to fight the Vagras with his own gear and mech.  Despite being 40, he only appears to be 27 years old, the age he was when the Messiah incidents first occurred.  He is casual in manner and appearance, and he pretty much acts as he sees fit.  Jin comes across as a bit of an immature jokester, but when things get serious, he often has a plan of action, and he is a very capable fighter.

J - Stag Buster:  J is Jin's Buddyroid that assists the team in fights by transforming into Stag Buster.  He is very eccentric and is fascinated by nature.  J describes himself as an egotist and appears to be very self-centered at times.  Deep down, however, he is very concerned with Jin's well-being and will not allow anything to threaten him.  J is a blast to watch, and is honestly one of the highlights of the show. 

Overall, I think that Go-Busters has a great cast.  I believe that it was a smart move for the team to be comprised of only four human characters.  It allows for better and deeper character development when you don't have to spread it out across six or so team members.  Unfortunately, some of this development potential isn't really utilized, especially in the second half when things get episodic and filler-ish.  Since J is a robot, I wasn't really looking for much character development for him, though I was surprised at how much he actually got.  I also liked that the characters had strengths and weaknesses that play important roles throughout the show.

The Buddyroids


Nick - Hiromu's Buddyroid is modeled after a cheetah and can turn into a motorcycle.  As such, he is a fairly useful in the field, though he isn't much of a fighter.  Despite being a robot, Nick has no sense of direction and is prone to getting lost.  He often acts as Hiromu's conscience, prodding him to do things he would rather not do, like apologize or do something nice.

Gorisaki - Ryuji's Buddyroid is built to look like a gorilla.  He is practically a motherly figure to Ryuji, constantly worrying and trying to be helpful.  This can cause him to become annoying, despite his best intentions.  Gorisaki tries to build gadgets to cope with Ryuji's overheating problem on several occasions.

Yes, that's a steering wheel on his face.

Usada - Yoko's Buddyroid is pretty much a cross between R2D2 and a rabbit.  He is an overbearing taskmaster when it comes to Yoko's tutoring and can be harsh and condescending.  He has a hollow storage compartment in his body, which is useful for storing sweets for Yoko, but he is otherwise useless in battle, as he essentially can only berate the enemies and encourage Yoko.

I initially had mixed feelings about the Buddyroids.  I expected them to be a source of childish fun and constant slapstick, though the writers gave them a lot of personality and human qualities.  These guys really worry about their humans and try their best to help out.  In addition, they are integral parts of the piloting system for the Go-Busters' mechs and are even part of the armor upgrades to the three main Go-Busters' suits, which essentially fuses Hiromu, Ryuji, and Yoko with their corresponding Buddyroids.  Of course, there are plenty of goofy moments, like when the Buddyroids go on strike, which was actually pretty entertaining.  I didn't really find myself facepalming at anything or having to grin and bear a lot of annoying antics like I thought I might.

The Energy Management Center Staff


The named characters of the Energy Management Center are Kuroki, the commander of the Special Operations Unit, and the two comm operators, Morishita and Nakamura.  Despite the fact that they are rarely in the field, the show never lets us take these guys for granted.  Missions wouldn't even be possible without them assisting the Go-Busters.  It is stressed on several occasions that they are heroes as well, and that's something I really loved about this show.

On top of that, the Energy Management Center has an entire maintenance crew dedicated to repairing and servicing the Buster Machines.  As far as I know, few Sentai shows try to include an actual reasonable means for the mechs getting repaired/healed.  The Go-Busters go out of their way to recognize that they couldn't do what they do without these crew members.

Gotta love Engrish warning signs.  DANGAR, etc.



Messiah - Messiah first appears in the form of a large, digital skull.  Honestly, he comes across like a retarded child throwing constant tantrums.  Yeah, yeah, we know you want enertron.  You don't have to yell all the time.  Later on, Messiah finally gets a body and becomes much more of a direct threat, though he is still somewhat unintelligent, craving only to assimilate everything.  He is definitely not the deepest Sentai villain, but thankfully, he isn't the real threat in Go-Busters.

angry retard baby

Enter - Enter is a French-speaking avatar created to carry out Messiah's will.  He refers to Messiah as "Majesty" though you can tell he gets periodically fed up with his master's impatience and tantrums.  He is responsible for imbuing objects with the Metavirus that turns them into Metaroids.  Enter is also the mastermind behind pretty much everything the Vagras do, and he succeeds in his objectives many times throughout the show.  In addition, he is a real treat to watch, possibly due to Syo Jinnai's flamboyant performance.  Enter is easily one of the highlights of Go-Busters and is one of the best Sentai villains, period.

Enter and Escape in battle gear

Escape - Escape is another avatar spawned from Messiah.  Unlike Enter, who is calculating and logical, she is often guided by what appear to be emotions.  She constantly craves a challenging fight and has a bit of a daddy complex, calling Messiah her "Papa" and doing everything in her power to please him.  Escape has somewhat of a rivalry with Enter, who often has different ideas of what is best for Messiah and the Vagras. 


The first thing people probably notice about Go-Busters is the suits.  After decades of spandex, the Go-Busters are outfitted with leathery suits and shining visors.  I love the look, personally.  Their equipment is based on a very spy feel, with their guns looking kinda like cameras and such.  One interesting thing to note is some of the sound effects that their equipment make.  The show decided to insert a nod to Power Rangers by having the Go-Busters' braces say, "It's morphin' time!" when activated.  I honestly wasn't the biggest fan of this, but I got used to it.  The best part is right afterward, where the Go-Busters say, "Let's morphin'!" in a spectacular display of Engrish.  I now like to say "Let's" followed by any random "-ing" word, depending on what I'm doing at the moment.  I already noted that the Vagras mechs are called Megazords, but the Go-Busters' mechs are called the Buster Machines.  Interesting choices for sure.

Go-Buster Ace + cool explosion

Anyway, the special effects were quite solid throughout the series, but the highlight in terms of action scenes were the mech fights.  I haven't seen a Sentai show where this much thought was put into making the mech fights as awesome as humanly possible.  The mech designs themselves are a bit of a mixed bag, however.  Go-Buster Ace is a cool-looking machine, and Go-Buster Oh is neat as well.  From there on, things become clunky and awkward.  Great Go-Buster is so clunky that it can barely move, and it looks pretty bad in my opinion.  Likewise, Go-Buster Beet looks cool, but when it combines to form Buster Hercules, it has far too much going on.  Same thing goes for Tategami Lioh.  By itself, it looks cool, but when it combines with anything, it becomes a hideous mess.

Go-Buster Oh

One of my favorite things about the fights in Go-Busters is the suit damage.  Anytime a Sentai show has visible damage to the suits during battle, it gets cool points in my book.  Liveman was one of the first shows where I noticed battle damage, and it really reflects the fact that these suits are pieces of technology, and it makes sense that when the suits get torn up, you see wiring and stuff.  I'm also a sucker for shattered visors during intense battles.  When you see the character's eyes through a shattered helmet visor, you feel how real things are getting.

LOVE this

Moving on.  I really appreciate how much care is put into soundtracks for these shows.  American kids shows just slap some forgettable guitar licks onto some explosions and decide that it's cooler that way.  Go-Busters, like many other Sentai titles, has a great score that utilizes an epic, symphonic sound, which really lends itself to the more dramatic scenes.  The first opening theme is wonderful, though they replaced it with a mediocre theme sometime around ep 30, probably in attempt to lighten the mood a bit.  The ending sequence is one of the ones where the cast dances to the song...  This usually works okay as long as you can tell the cast is having fun doing it.


I am under the impression that Go-Busters turned out to be a tad unpopular, which is really depressing, considering how refreshing it is.  It does many things differently, and that's what I like so much about it.  I actually almost shed a tear at several dramatic scenes, which is impressive for a Sentai show.  I did not expect or ask for the feels that Go-Busters delivered unto me, especially at the end.  I will admit that Go-Busters drags for a while in the last half, and there is some wasted potential and dropped plot points (I insist that Jin was totally intended to turn out to be Yoko's father), but overall, it is an incredibly solid Sentai season and definitely one of my favorites.  I definitely recommend it to any toku fans or newcomers.

Toei, make this happen!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Climax Double Action Zero Jump: A Lengthy Review of Kamen Rider Den-O

It's probably been a while since I posted anything.  I guess I can chalk it up to a combination of work, travel, and laziness.  However, I've been catching up on a lot of toku lately, mostly Rider shows.  I've blown through Faiz, Kabuto, and Den-O in a fairly short span of time.  This means that I've been neglecting my Sentai, Ultraman, and mecha shows, so I'll probably take the Rider-watching down a notch or two.

Anyway, moving onward.  I'm going to admit that my initial impressions of Kamen Rider Den-O a couple of years ago were a bit mixed.  At the time, I hadn't seen very many Heisei-era Rider shows and I ended up watching the first couple of episodes.  I was dumbfounded and underwhelmed by the main character's timid personality and horrible luck.  Also, the whole Imagin possession and time travel aspects were just...weird to me.  After watching many more Heisei-era shows, I started running out of subbed Kamen Rider options, so I decided to revisit Den-O and watch it all the way through.  Let me just say this to start:  Man, were my initial impressions dumb.


The plot of Kamen Rider Den-O revolves around Ryotaro Nogami as he finds himself wrapped up in the extermination of Imagin, visitors from an alternate future that tunnel through people's memories with the goal of wrecking havoc in the past.  In order to battle the Imagin, he bonds with several of his own Imagin and lets them possess him so he can utilize their abilities.  In true Rider fashion, the hero's powers are derived from the same thing as the enemies'.  Of course,  he needs some assistance dealing with the Imagin's time shenanigans, so he boards a time-traveling train, complete with a waitress and a strange owner.


These Imagin form a contract with a human and work to grant their wish.  Of course, in true Wishmaster fashion, they often have a very loose interpretation of how to fulfill that wish.  Regardless, if they succeed, it opens a tunnel through the contract-holder's memories, allowing them to go to the past.  It remains a mystery for most of the show why they even bother going to the past to wreck stuff when they could just do it in the present.

Ryotaro does his best to protect the contract holders and fix the past for the best possible outcome with the help of his Imagin and Hana, a young woman whose time was destroyed.  Things get more complicated as we learn that Ryotaro's sister, Airi, has lost some of her memory and that her fiance, Yuto Sakurai, who had disappeared, is always mysteriously present when Ryotaro goes to the past.  Furthermore, a younger version of Sakurai eventually appears to fight the Imagin, armed with the power to become Kamen Rider Zeronos, complete with his own time-traveling train, ZeroLiner.

The younger Yuto Sakurai

 Things get complicated as the source of Zeronos's power is revealed, the mastermind behind the Imagin's actions emerges, the nature of the older Sakurai's disappearance is discovered, etc.  There's quite a bit to Den-O's plot, and it becomes a bit convoluted as more and more is revealed.  Unfortunately, the whole time-travel thing is hit or miss.  Anytime you mess with time travel, you're just asking for paradoxes and logic problems.  Den-O tends to pass off many events as the effects of time shenanigans, but it does so in a somewhat inconsistent way.  If you really sit down and think about how time travel and its effects are handled, your mind will become bogged down with all sorts of issues.  I won't go into all of them here because it would take a separate lengthy post to do so.  Essentially, it is best if you turn off your brain and just enjoy the ride.  Something strange happens?  It's time-magic.


Let's go back to Ryotaro.  He is quite unique among Kamen Rider main characters.  He's wimpy, has horrible luck, and is a poor fighter.  When I saw his first transformation, instead of a cool, JUSTICE-filled, "HENSHIN!", I got an anemic, "H-henshin!..."  I think this is why Ryotaro rubbed me the wrong way at first.  However, after I watched many of the other Rider shows, I really came to appreciate how refreshing and different he is as a main character.  He's gentle, yet tries his absolute hardest to save people.  He endures a lot of pain and fatigue, yet never gives up, and he has a remarkably strong will.  I found the rare occasion when Ryotaro actually gets angry to be absolutely chilling.  It's a quiet, yet very firm, threatening, and palpable anger.

Ryotaro transforms for the first time.

I honestly think that part of the reason Ryotaro works so well is due to Takeru Sato's acting.  I mean, the guy had to play quite a few distinct personalities.  (Ryotaro, the four main Taros, Sieg, and a few others even.)  For each Imagin that possesses him, he does an amazing job of changing his overall demeanor, expression, and body language to match the role.  After watching all of Den-O, I can safely say that Ryotaro is my favorite main Rider character.

Of course, we also have the four Taros, the Imagins that have partnered with Ryotaro to fight as Den-O.  Here's a brief rundown for anyone not familiar with these guys.
  • Momotaros:  A fiery and feisty oni that is the first to bond with Ryotaro.  He constantly craves a fight and is Den-O's sword form.  He is the butt of many jokes, and he initially hates his appearance and name because of Ryotaro's poor sense.  I think that he's my favorite Imagin just because he's so fun to watch.

  • Urataros:  A turtle-based Imagin with a silk tongue, he is Den-O's rod form.  He likes to pick up ladies and is a habitual liar.  His calm demeanor and social skills are useful for gathering information or getting out of sticky situations

  • Kintaros:  A strong, bear-like Imagin that empowers Den-O with its axe form.  He is more noble and polite than the rest of the four main Taros.  He has the humorous habit of accidentally breaking things, and he is a bit of a narcoleptic.

  • Ryutaros:  Den-O's gun form is a bratty kid with draconic features.  He loves dancing and animals, and can even control humans to some extent.  He develops a childish attachment to Airi Nogami and dislikes anybody attempting to harm or woo her, which leads him to initially harbor a strong hatred toward Yuto.  He is harder to keep under control than the other Taros.

The interaction the Taros have with Ryotaro, and each other especially, is part of what makes Kamen Rider Den-O so entertaining.  Granted, there's a lot of slapstick and silliness, but it is almost always consistent and fun, unlike some other Rider shows where humor can seem random, inappropriately-timed, or out of place.

Moving on.  As mentioned before, Hana is a young woman from a destroyed future.  She is much stronger physically than Ryotaro and can often be seen keeping the Taros in line.  One must wonder why she couldn't become Den-O herself, considering she is a singularity point like Ryotaro.  They might have explained that, but I can't remember.  At some point in the series, the actress that plays Hana got sick, and so they replaced her with a little girl version of Hana, using time-BS to thicken the plot and write-off the actress's absence.  It's a little jarring, but it's not too bad, even if it is obvious.  The DenLiner's colorful cast is completed by Owner, the mysterious and goofy owner of the time-traveling train and Naomi, the cheery waitress (played by a delicious, grown-up Rina Akiyama, who played Mana in Kamen Rider Agito).

Delicious Naomi.
Owner being silly.

And then we have Yuto as Kamen Rider Zeronos and his Imagin, Deneb.  Deneb is polite, caring, and faithful like a butler, yet absurdly derpy.  Yuto is a bit abrasive when dealing with other people, so Deneb tries his hardest to make people like him, often giving them Deneb Candy.  I love how the Taros butcher Deneb's name, calling him Odebu (fatty, tubby, etc.).


When things serious the hell up, Yuto and Deneb make a powerful team.  I was pleased to see that Zeronos doesn't job too often against enemies like some secondary Riders do. *cough* Birth *cough*  Of course, his powers come at a horrible, depressing price, so I guess he'd better be pretty powerful.  I think after watching Den-O that Zeronos is perhaps my favorite secondary Rider.  I'm not too sure that many people are with me on that one, since I don't see that opinion expressed very often.  It's worth mentioning that Yuto's interactions with Airi are some of the most enthralling scenes in the show, and for good reason.

Zeronos Altair Form

The main villain, Kai, is a fun guy to watch.  He's delightfully insane, but at the same time, he's not terribly deep.  His motivations seem a little shallow, and he's a bit hard to relate to.  That's not necessarily a problem, but I guess I like to relate to my villains a little bit.  He's definitely not the most memorable Rider antagonist.

There are several fun side characters and contract-holders-of-the-week, but they aren't really important enough to talk about in length.  They fill their roles adequately. 


The fights in Kamen Rider Den-O are a treat to watch.  They are often fun and action-packed.  It also helps that the four Taros have very different approaches to fighting, so not only does Ryotaro use different forms, but he has several different fighting styles at his disposal as well.  This way, things remain varied and interesting.

Den-O Liner Form.

I enjoyed the Den-O henshin sequence and form switching very much, and I think the sound effects from the belt are really cool.  Same goes for Zeronos.   The suits themselves look a bit strange at first, especially Den-O's sword form.  It took me a little bit to realize what the suit design was based off of.  You have the more obvious train motif, but then you have the peach-like "eyes" descending and splitting in two, a clever and appropriate approach to Momotaros's form, considering the tale that his name references.  The derpiest thing was the "Moooo" sound during the Zeronos transformation.  I almost facepalmed at it, but it's kinda funny.  I grew to appreciate it eventually.

Zeronos Vega Form

In addition, I am pretty fond of the four Taros, Sieg's, and Deneb's designs.  They are just cool enough to take seriously, but are kind of cute in a way.  The other Imagin are not as memorable in terms of design.  I don't really remember ever thinking, "Man that guy looks really cool."


The music in Den-O is much like most other things in the show:  Fun.    The BGM is a little jazzy, with heavy use of brass instrumentation.   There are a couple of stand-out string-heavy dramatic tunes as well.  The opening theme by AAA is great, but the ending themes are some of my favorites.  Double Action Sword Form and Action Zero rank up there for me as far as awesome Rider ending themes go.

The Den-O Movies

So before I give my final thoughts, let me mention the Den-O movies.  The first movie is practically a must-see, because it is tied into an arc in the series, so if you want the conclusion, you have to watch it.  There's also a Dickeido crossover, which I haven't watched yet (and may not).  Decade-related movies have a history of being kinda meh to me.

The third Den-O movie was pretty interesting.  It introduces Kotaro Nogami, Ryotaro's grandson, who becomes New Den-O.  He is joined by his Imagin partner, Teddy, who can transform into a gun/machete thing.  I was surprised at how easily I ended up accepting Kotaro and New Den-O.  Teddy is great.  He is extra-polite, but much less derpy than Deneb.  The four Taros butcher his name, of course, calling him Tendon.

New Den-O and Teddy

There's also the Chou Den-O Trilogy.  I was especially excited about Episode Red, which seemed to promise tying up some loose ends for Yuto and Airi.  Unfortunately, by the time these movies were made, Takeru Sato was no longer acting as Ryotaro, so they got the kid that played young Ryotaro in the first Den-O movie to play him.  I was not terribly thrilled about this, though I see why they did it.  It didn't help that Episode Red had way too much Ryotaro and gang when it really needed to be focusing on Zeronos.  If they had just somehow left Not-Ryotaro out or at least kept his presence to a minimum, I think I would have enjoyed it more.  The ending was pretty touching, though. 


I also viewed Episode Blue, which focuses on New Den-O and Teddy.  It still has Not-Ryotaro and gang, but I didn't feel like they stole the spotlight or anything.  It was quite enjoyable and a bit stronger than Episode Red.   I have not viewed Episode Yellow yet, though I do know it focuses quite a bit on Kamen Rider Diend.  I think I will need to see more Dickedo before I watch it.


Whew, I know this was a very long-winded look at Den-O.   I guess I had a lot of thoughts on it.  It doesn't help that I also tend to write informatively for those who haven't seen the show yet and just want an opinion/review on it before delving into things.

Overall Kamen Rider Den-O is a great show.  It is by far the silliest and most light-hearted Heisei Rider show that I have ever seen, and yet I don't have a problem with that.  It was very entertaining, and if you like FUN, then you should like Den-O.  Just don't go into it with unfair expectations, and give it a chance.  You won't regret it.