Do you like:
Villains dressed in pseudo-GWAR armor that wail on guitars and transform into skeleton dudes?
GIANT-ASS SKULLS MADE FROM THE SOULS OF CHILDREN???
If you answered ‘Yes’ to any or all of the above, then I have the show for you!
N I N J A S E N T A I K A K U R A N G E R ! ! !
Fairly recently, I had the awesome opportunity to discuss Ninja Sentai Kakuranger with my good friend and creative partner Jeremy on Destroy All Podcasts DX. If you have not listened to it, do yourself a favor and GO DOWNLOAD IT RIGHT NOW…
Okay, finished? No? Well then fine. Let’s get into where I even started with this.
Now, I love me some tokusatsu, and after initially getting my Sentai feet wet with Choujin Sentai Jetman (entry coming soon), I took it upon myself to pick another Super Sentai series. But wait!
With pretty much all of the Power Rangers series now available streaming via Amazon Prime and Netflix, I had, on late nights when subtitles are worthless whilst doing work, taken to watching some of those rather… unique takes on Toei’s properties, and forced myself to watch Alien Rangers (the short span of MMPR episodes that utilized Kakuranger costumes and the original set of mecha). I use the word “forced” intentionally, because guys, Alien Rangers is really, really bad.
Watching Alien Rangers made me curious about what we all missed out on with the original source material, and thankfully, I was able to easily locate fansubs of Kakuranger.
Again, I am very intentional about word choice here. I am exceedingly thankful about finding Kakuranger, because life is better with Kakuranger in it.
Anybody who tuned into my guest appearance on Destroy All Podcasts got a pretty good idea of what there is to love in just the first few episodes of Kakuranger, but believe me, there is more. Those first few episodes are but a taste of what the show becomes, and even when it seems like it’s about to abandon all those fun things you grow attached to in the first half of the series, it still tops itself again and again.
Super brief synopsis if you haven’t listened to the podcast: Hundreds of years ago, five great ninja fought the evil yokai and their master, and sealed them away using magic. Flash forward to the present day (early 90s Japan) where we meet the descendants of the ninja, now living carefree (and money-free) lives as teenagers with attitude. Thanks to the scheming of a kappa (turtle-like yokai) disguised as an old man, two of our soon-to-be-heroes accidentally release the rest of the monsters, and are quickly recruited by Tsuruhime (Kakuranger White) to join her in the fight against the evil yokai.
(Again, please go listen to the show, because Jeremy did some outstanding research on the famous pop culture icons that the Kakuranger members are based upon, essentially Japanese pulp heroes that have been used again and again in anime and live action productions; plus, he and I both have super cool voices and we’re very charming people!)
The show, of course, follows the Super Sentai formula of a team of heroes that henshin into spandex-clad super-ninjas that pilot robots and blow monsters the fuck up. BUT THAT’S NOT ALL!
Fitting with a few other Toei series, the central villain changes over the course of the series, with heavy metal mofo Prince Junior eventually giving way to his father, Daimaou (Master Vile in Power Rangers), while the heroes go on a quest to gain bigger and badder mecha to fight evil.
After replacing their initial mecha – the Giant Beast Generals (aka Shogunzords) – with the slimmer Jusho Fighters – the Rangers must go on a quest to revive and control the Super Ninja Beasts (aka Ninjazords) and form Kakure Daishogun!
“But do I have to watch the whole show?”
YES! Er, well, actually, you can do whatever you want. And if you just want to see some of the most exciting key episodes, I’ve put together some highlights of my favorite episodes to watch after the initial four.
A Love Song for Kunoichi Gangs (Ep. 20, “The Flower Kunoichi Gang”)
Jeremy and I did talk just a small bit about the Flower Kunoichi Gang (or Flowered Kunoichi Team, depending on the translation), which for the uninitiated, is a Sentai-like team of evil female assassins.
The gang (I’m going with gang because everybody knows girl gangs are the best and “team” just sounds like kid stuff) makes several more appearances, including my favorite in episode 20, where they harass and bully a child in a San Francisco 49ers shirt just to get to Sasuke.
The child isn’t safe even when he goes home to his mother!
But the gang takes it all to whole other level when they ramp up their attacks, going so far as to chase Sasuke and the kid while riding the Kunoichi Missile!
And then SHOOTING AT THEM WITH MACHINE GUNS!
These cat/flower-themed ninja badasses won’t stop until all of Kakuranger are dead, but even worse, they’re just plain mean mothers.
That’s it for now, but next time in Part 2, we’ll look at Skull Castles, The True Power of Evil Heavy Metal, Sho Kosugi, Teen Girl Heroes, and possibly most importantly, my love for Ninjaman (hint to podcast listeners: turns out Ninjaman is a gajillion times better than Ninjor)!