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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!|