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.
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!
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!
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
[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?
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???
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Oh yeah, and Gali can throw hadokens like nobody’s business.
But wait here comes Sasuke with a GUN!
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.
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.
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.
That jumps and shit.
And spits out tiny mechanical fascimiles of itself that then latch onto the monster of the week (Nue) and blow him the fuck up.
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.
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…
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.
Are ninja dads the best dads?
Is ninja fatherly love deeper than that of the non-ninja father?
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.
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.
Hence my joy at the serendipitous marriage of Sho and Toei tokusatsu in the form of Jiraiya’s mentor.
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!
Thanks for reading! Until next time…