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Welcome back for my third installment in what is proving to be the Infinite Jest of tokusatsu reviews, except I hope to not be dead by the time this thing is finally being read by more than 4 people.

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Haha! Jokes! But seriously, I am really quite sorry that things came to this. I thought to myself, ‘Oh hey, I’ll write up a quick and dirty thing about Kakuranger as a complimentary piece to the now ancient episode of Destroy All Podcasts DX that I appeared on as a special guest,’ and then it turned into a whole thing where I wanted to give at least a little more depth than just saying “HEY THIS IS GOOD AND YOU SHOULD WATCH IT’ because I’m a wordy asshole with nothing better to do than write on and on and on about a Japanese kids’ show from the 90s.

But babies, this is where it starts to get really good! SHO KOSUGI!

Revenge of the Ninja! (ep. 28-29, “A Superstar Comes to Japan” and “The First Super Battle in History”)

Obviously, if you were hoping that Kane Kosugi’s role in the show would result in an appearance by his father, the world’s only real living ninja, then prepare for Christmas in April, because I’ve got presents! Presents covered in armor and blades and blood!

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Sho well, shows up as Jiraiya’s sensei, Gali, the man who taught and practically raised Jiraiya after his father (a cop) was brutally murdered by a yokai! However, Jiraiya’s mentor has been carrying a dark secret, and now the two of them must do super ninja battle. Let me tell you, if you love Sho Kosugi, you truly have not lived until you have seen tokusatsu-ized Sho Kosugi!

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Our episode begins as Jiraiya has embarked on his quest for one of the ancient ninja scrolls that will give him control of his new mecha. Wait what

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[After Prince junior began the revival process of Daimaoh in the previous episodes, the Kakurangers were left without the help of Mighty Shogun, so they were sent on individual missions to each track down their respective Shinobi Scroll and new mecha, which will merge to form Kakure Shogun, aka Ninja Megazord. In the prior episodes we saw Jiraiya’s teammates face their own obstacles to gain new power. So there you go…]

Jiraiya, however, does get an assist in this two-parter from Sasuke, who randomly shows up early on as the two are lured to an old west set.

In a nod to Jiraiya’s introduction to the show as a skating cowboy from America, he and Sasuke skulk about the old west town (seems like Japan’s answer to Old Tucson Studios) until they come upon a band of yokai and dorodoros. But wait, who’s this new guy in the mix?

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GALI!

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I like that Gali is initially introduced in a nondescript black gi, allowing for the impac of Sho Kosugi’s visage to make you go, “OH SHIT, IT’S HIM!” with full effect.

Jiraiya is shocked to face his former mentor so far from home, and with Gali seemingly doing the bidding of Daimao’s goons. What could it mean???

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Jiraiya doesn’t get a moment to think much about it, because Gali swiftly beats the holy fuck out of him with his karate skills.

It’s not surprising that Sho appears, but it is interesting that he does so not as Jiraiya’s actual father, but as a replacement father figure just because Kane spent his childhood appearing as Sho’s son in a number of films.

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Anyway, we get the background on Jiraiya’s father and Gali. Jiraiya’s father was a cop in California, where he and Gali were close friends and trained at Gali’s studio. One rainy night, Jiraiya’s father was murdered in the street by an unseen, blade-wielding individual, whom Jiraiya assumed was a yokai.

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However, Gali has a terrible secret that he wishes to no longer hide, as he dons his new gear given to him by the yokai Nue.

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Along with the outfit (complete with tiger print accents) comes an arsenal of special attacks, a sai that shoots lasers, and a bladed claw, which Gali does not reveal until the climax of ep. 28, at which point he reveals the truth!

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THE ULTIMATE BETRAYAL!

All through the battle, Nue is hiding out in some slimy cave cheering the two combatants on, hoping they will kill each other mercilessly.

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Oh yeah, and Gali can throw hadokens like nobody’s business.

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But wait here comes Sasuke with a GUN!

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A lot more happens as the story carries over into ep. 29, in which Jiraiya and Gali have their final battle, complete with lots of blood and lots of really amazing dialogue, both of which come from Sho Kosugi’s mouth.

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We’re presented with a far more complex plot than what you’re used to in any of Sho’s usual faire: Instead of the typical revenge story featuring a father and son, we have Kane’s real father murdered and replaced by his killer, whom Kane must now kill to complete the cycle.

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That’s some fucking tragic shit right there, man.

Oh wait, I nearly forgot that Jiraiya does indeed retain the Shinobi Scroll, and with it he gets his new mecha, a giant robot frog.

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That jumps and shit.

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And spits out tiny mechanical fascimiles of itself that then latch onto the monster of the week (Nue) and blow him the fuck up.

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Jeremy and I have talked about some sentai shows making you look forward to the robot-monster fights because the human drama stuff isn’t particularly interesting. I think we both agreed that Jetman and Kakuranger don’t fall into that category of sentai series. In fact, this is an episode where the mecha fight probably isn’t even necessary. I’d be fine with the episode ending with Gali’s death and rolling the credits.

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But then we would miss out on Mufasa Gali, looking down upon Jiraiya and smiling. And who the fuck wants to be deprived of that?

And now, some more thoughts on Sho Kosugi and ninja dads…

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What’s it like having Sho Kosugi as your dad?

Through movies like Revenge of the Ninja and Pray for Death, and then going into this two-part episode of Kakuranger, I’m left wondering about ninja dads.

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Are ninja dads the best dads?

Is ninja fatherly love deeper than that of the non-ninja father?

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My first adult memory of Sho Kosugi was when I popped a Korean DVD of 9 Deaths of the Ninja in and saw the opening credits. I saw some of Kosugi’s ninja movies as a kid, but had nearly forgotten them altogether until I stumbled upon 9DotN in the electronics market in Seoul during my brief time as an ESL teacher.

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This would also be same timeframe during which I would watch Super Sentai and Metal Heroes shows for the first time on youtube. Chalk it up to having a lot of free time during non-work hours, which I filled with copious amounts of vegging on the mattress with my laptop and a cardboard bowl of instant kimchi ramen.

It was not unlike a religious experience, viewing these films and shows, and Sho Kosugi became a fatherly prophet of blood and vengeance, accompanied by the great senshi apostles of Toei.

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Hence my joy at the serendipitous marriage of Sho and Toei tokusatsu in the form of Jiraiya’s mentor.

Next time:

Hey guess what! Next time we’ll look at a Tsuruhime-centric episode! That’s right! And she’s bringing some old friends, the PUNISHMENT SAILOR SISTERS!

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Thanks for reading! Until next time…

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TBC

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Before he was the guy that made a dickzillion hit movies in the span of the past year, before he got his own reality competition show on TNT that I still can’t figure out the point of based on the commercials, even before he was making really awful kid-friendly dreck like The Tooth Fairy, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a mega-huge star in professional wrestling.
Apparently, at one point he was so popular that his popularity warranted an entire series of trading cards devoted just to him. And so you ended up with a set sure to capture the hearts of “the people,” full of Rock’s greatest moments.

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Now you’re probably expecting some great shots of The Great One laying the “smack” down on various “jabronis,” and those cards do show up, but Comic Images wanted to really beef this set up, and really make The Rock seem human. Because if there’s one thing you can point to as the reason for The Rock’s early popularity as a wrestler, it’s definitely his humanity.

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That up there is the common man known as The Rock, holding a thing some refer to as a “book,” which he totally wrote by himself, like any normal person does.
And now, here are the 5 stupidest, most bizarre cards in the set…

#5: Yay Babies

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Dude, baby! Look out! The Rock is going to hit you with a People’s Elbow!

#4: It’s the Shoes

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This is Dwayne Johnson looking at a shoe. Will he buy the shoe? The back of the card postulates that he may indeed add it to his wardrobe.

#3: Canned Pasta and Ridiculously Overpriced Cars

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This is The Rock holding a large can of Chef Boyardee Beef Ravioli while standing next to a Porsche with a Chef Boyardee license plate. Because nothing entices the “ladies” like the official Porsche of Chef Boyardee.

#2: Gone Fishin’

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That is The Rock fishing.

#1: The Rock Gets a Haircut

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No joke, this was the very first card I saw when I opened the first pack of these awful, awful cards.

I guess that horrible hairstyle doesn’t cut itself, huh?

I probably should not admit to anybody on Earth that I have spent most evenings for the past month watching VR Troopers on Netflix, and yet here we are. Even when I’m completely sober, I still want to watch it. And I swear, when I was a kid I didn’t feel like this.

In the period of time between then and now, my interest in Japanese “tokusatsu” shows has grown exponentially, mostly due to the internet and an increase in my awareness of such things.

As a kid, I figured out pretty quickly while watching my first episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers that the footage with the actual Rangers, Zord, and monster were not shot by the same people that shot all the stuff with the dumb teens and Bulk & Skull. Granted, I had prior exposure to Masked Rider and Kikaider when I was about 3 or 4, living in Honolulu, but my memories of that were barely existent by the time I saw Power Rangers; what mattered was that I associated this kind of stuff with Japan, so I pretty much put 2 and 2 together and figured out that Power Rangers was just Americanizing Japanese live action shows.

And let’s be honest: it is not unfair or wrong for me to make that kinda of connection. The television programs aired in Japan are so purely Japanese on just a basic cultural level, while Americans in the TV industry here were until recently not nearly that creative, and it was bizarre to see this kind of stuff on American television. Stuff that wasn’t made here still sticks out like a sore thumb.

So as a kid when this show was coming out, I only had a passing interest in it, and the only reason any existed was because I knew it was Japanese in origin. I only ever saw it when I was home, sick from school, and nothing else was on TV, and when I did, all I remember is the Japanese stuff.

Anyway, what am I getting at? Well, I guess I’ve been hammering on the fact that fans of Tokusatsu might have an interest in watching this, and should.

The other part? If you like things that are insanely bad, you should probably watch this as well.

While the awesome, cheesy, lower-image-quality parts of the show with Grimlord, all the robots/mutants, and such are what drew me in initially (and certainly entertain in that area), seeing the ways the American producers had to adapt the original material becomes even more entertaining.

See, for the first season, they took two distinct, separate Japanese series (Spielban and Metalder*), borrowed the action footage (all the stuff involving the metal hero in question and/or the various monsters) and then shot new footage with American actors to fill everything in-between (this is the same practice used for the Power Rangers series), creating new shows in the process. It was kind of a more extreme take on the method used to create Robotech. So right off the bat, whatever was going on in that footage, the American producers and writers had to make what they came up with connect with it. This gets really entertaining when you see the writers coming up with a subplot involving the Troopers’ alter egos that mirrors or parallels the plot of the original footage.

But better yet, it becomes more entertaining when the Japanese episode footage involves a kidnapping.

These episodes exist in every tokusatsu series, from Iron King to Go Ranger to Supaidaman to Power Rangers; somebody close to our hero is kidnapped by the bad guys, and the hero has to fight the baddies and rescue that person. Frequently that person is a potential love interest, while more often it is a child, perhaps a younger brother, nephew, cousin, or family member of a close friend. Since it’s Japanese, that person is pretty visibly Japanese as well.

That’s where the fun begins.

There are at least two episodes in the first season of VR Troopers that involve the kidnapping of a boy, and so each time you get to watch the folks at Saban find some way to introduce an Asian boy into the story. One episode, it’s just some Little League kid who’s some kind of baseball phenom who just happens to be asian; and the next, it’s Tao(the owner of the local dojo in the American footage)’s visiting nephew. Somebody was put in charge of dressing each kid in a costume that matched the costume worn by the kid in the Japanese footage.

Naturally, you could also assume that somebody was given the job of finding a kid that matched the kid in the Japanese footage. And that is where you would be wrong.

In particular, look at the episode “The Couch Potato Kid,” where you somehow end up with two child actors that look nothing alike. The only things they have in common are that they’re Asian and they’re boys. It’s actually pretty ridiculous how different they look.

It’s really quite beautiful, and I think it’s entertaining in the same way that watching stupid people try to function is. Added to that are the ridiculous premises of each episode. One episode sees the bad guy, Ziktor/Grimlord, kidnap a litter of puppies. Another sees him interfering with go kart racing, while yet another involves Grimlord creating an obstacle course for his minions to run because he was inspired by the Troopers doing the same thing for the local kids.

This is a show that will actually begin with the main character rescuing a stray kitten, and somehow have it lead to robot dudes fighting each other and blowing up.

But what makes it better is that it’s combined with that weird, crazy Japanese action sci-fi stuff, complete with dudes doing karate in crazy rubber and chrome suits. What’s not to love about that?

And the combination? It only gets better when the Japanese footage contains this many explosions. Seriously, shit blows up on this show. Ryan Steele/Metalder is jumping around in a nondescript rock quarry-esque set, dodging lasers and missiles, and then about 13 different explosives go off in the background. These dudes duel with laser swords and blaster guns, and then each fight shot is capped off with a handful of big, fiery explosions. Michael Bay wishes he was this efficient with pyro.

My recommendation is the aforementioned episode “The Couch Potato Kid,” because it also happens to be the coolest episode of the bunch. See, this episode shows the lead bad guy, Grimlord, making all of his mutant/robot/cyborg minions fight it out to determine who will have the honor of fighting the VR Troopers on Grimlord’s behalf. What you end up with is a crazy, kaijin-infested episode of Takeshi’s Castle, as all of the foam rubber robot monsters try to survive an obstacle course as they’re broken into Laff-A-Lympics-style teams. It’s pretty cool, especially when you think about how rarely you get to see all the cool monsters in any of these shows get this much screen time.

Is it good TV? Oh hell no, but it’s insane, and not in the same way that Toddlers and Tiaras is insane.

“What’s in the bag????”

Like Brad Pitt in the climax of Seven, I howled those words while sitting in the passenger seat of the Lady’s Honda. It is with the same anticipation that I sit down to write this.

Let’s go back. We’ll go back to where it starts, as I stand in line at the local Dollar Tree with a stack of comic book “value packs” in hand (we’ll be visiting those in later posts). I gaze out at the store at the various racks near the registers. The one nearest is loaded with various trading cards and stickers, most of them outdated (which sometimes makes them awesome, like when I picked up some 1989 Donruss baseball cards, packs filled with Will Clarks and Ricky Hendersons), which at this point have little of interest aside from Dinosaur King cards (dude, a card game devoted to making dinosaurs fight? If I were still 9 and had friends that were into that thing I’d be all over that; hell, I will occasionally buy them just to have cool spinosaurus bookmarks). But I look further down the row and that’s when my eyes meet with the mystery. There they sit, in neat little rows: brown paper bags emblazoned with “GRAB BAG” and announcing on their fronts, “A Surprise for a BOY.”

I’m cheap. This is something you will learn about me, despite how much of a snob I may seem to be. I love a good deal, even if that good deal isn’t so good in the end. I could make an off-color remark about how it’s from my Hebrew blood, but in reality it’s because I’ve spent most of my adult life dirt poor. But I like treating myself, perhaps a little too much.

But they grab me, these “grab bags.” At just a dollar apiece, I can’t help but wonder what may lie within their brown paper wombs. What surprise might I, a BOY, find inside? Could it be baseball cards? A Batman hand towel? Plastic ninja stars? Cheaply made luchadores? For only a dollar, I could learn the secrets of the ominous GRAB BAG!

At this point the bag is krackling with mysterious Kirby energy for me. I step out of line and pick up the first one on the rack, front and center, and toss it on the conveyer belt with my sure-to-be-disappointing polybags of 90s Superman and 80s Justice Machine comics.

When I get back home, the Lady begs me to open the mysterious bag. She knows I plan to write about it, so she apologizes for her impatience, but I can’t blame her. The BAG has me in its MYSTERO-GRIP! I must discover its contents! For the sake of all mankind!

Funnily enough, the bag is only “sealed” with three measly strips of scotch tape. A poor seal for a man such as I (and I can only imagine the animalistic little boys that I’m sure run around the store on any other day easily busting this open and throwing their unearned prizes all over the shop).

But I open it. I peer in. What do I find? It’s hard to tell at first. I see an open blister card…

I reach in and find these items:

First, a whoopee cushion. Not too bad, right? I’m a jokester like any good manchild, so this could be of use, especially in the office. But then, upon closer inspection, I discover…

A HOLE IN THE WHOOPEE CUSHION.

WHAT. THE. FUCK.

Okay, okay, okay… perhaps this first prize is about as bad as we all imagined getting coal in our stockings would be when we were kids. I’m sure Prize #2 will be better.

Second item: a plastic periscope. Ripped from its package, but still in one piece and functional. I’m sure I’d at least have gotten a good afternoon of fun out of this when I was kid, before dropping it on the cement in our back yard and shattering it, cheap plastic strewn about the patio.

And it works, to some extent. It’s not particularly great (as you can see from the view through the scope, it’s a little distorted and limited in its scale, barely giving a full view of the official Mustachiosaurus Mascot, Prof. Redford von Puggins). But hey, it’s at least not broken.

And what else? Nothing. Nada. Zip. Honestly, I did end up with two $1 dollar items for the price of one, but both items were unpackaged, and furthermore, one of those two items was of no use since IT HAD A HOLE IN IT.

Now I wonder if all the “mysterious” grab bags at Dollar Tree are like this. I know, I know, what should I expect from a dollar store? Well, you know, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect toys that aren’t ruined already. Call me crazy!

Imagine if you’re a kid. Imagine you’re at the Dollar Tree with your mom, and this is your special treat for being a good boy or girl. And then you get a useless whoopee cushion. This is a crime against not just childhood, but THE ART OF COMEDY.

Alright. That’s all I got. I am going to fight the urge to go back to the store and buy ALL of the grab bags to see if they all suck. And you know, I’ll be okay, because ONE, I’ve got plenty of comic book “value packs” to sort through (for entertainment purposes, and I don’t mean enjoying some good comics), and TWO, because, well, it’s a fucking dollar store. What should I expect?

Until then,

Keep on mustachin’

CSG

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