Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Top Ten Super Sentai Series


Even if I haven't quite reviewed ten Super Sentai shows yet (more reviews are coming, I promise!) I've completed watching ten exactly.  When I have ten of something, my brain is compelled to rank them.  You probably see where this is going.

I have seen at least one episode of more than 30 Super Sentai shows.  Shortly after I kicked off my recent Super Sentai obsession, I sought out the first few episodes from every Super Sentai series dated 1987 and onward, and eventually watched a few episodes from before I was born.  I continued watching the shows that seemed the most fun or interesting, and gave up early on a few others.  So my first disclaimer is: these are the ten I actually liked enough to watch for 47+ episodes.  Sure, one of them is ranked 10th, but that doesn't mean I hated it.  I just liked nine other shows better!

And of course this list only represents my current feelings.  This is a snapshot of my opinion and feelings on Super Sentai at this moment.  It's subject to change, but it's consistent with my opinion as I write this over a period of a few days (or several days, as I'm not a very fast writer).  Will I eventually make a top fifteen or top twenty list of series when I reach those milestones?  Maybe!  But certainly not today.  And of course, since I'm terrible at counting to ten, I have some background shit and honorable mentions to get through before the real list begins.  So let's start there:

Hey, Those Aren't Super Sentai!
Kamen Rider OOO (pictured)
Kamen Rider Fourze
Kamen Rider Wizard
Kamen Rider Gaim
Kamen Rider Drive
Kamen Rider Ghost

Kamen Rider, Super Sentai's more-popular older brother, shares production studios and even Sunday morning TV blocks with Super Sentai.  I started watching a few Kamen Rider shows earlier this year, and, well, they're basically Super Sentai shows that focus around two or three individual heroes instead of a team of five-plus.  That's... definitely an unfair comparison (since Kamen Rider has its own traditions and concepts, most of which predate Super Sentai), but it's what came to mind as someone who was a fan of Power Rangers and Super Sentai before Kamen Rider.  The only one of the above series I've finished is OOO, and it was excellent - I'll have a review up on the blog in the next month or two.

Oh, I Haven't Finished These Yet!
Ninja Sentai Kakuranger
Seijuu Sentai Gingaman
Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger
Mahou Sentai Magiranger
Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger (pictured)

These are my ongoing "viewing projects" for Super Sentai, i.e. shows where I've seen at least five episodes and plan on continuing soon.  Gingaman is furthest along at around 35 episodes and Kakuranger is barely started at 5 episodes, but my favorite of the above is probably Zyuohger (which is ongoing and 22 episodes in).  Honestly I'm not sure where any of these would figure into a top ten list, because I need to finish them first.  How the ending shapes up is a major factor in how much I enjoy tokusatsu shows.  But that's enough foreplay, let's get to the real deal:

Sollosi's Top Ten Favorite Super Sentai Series

Honorable Mention
Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers

Bet you weren't expecting this here!  I haven't pontificated much on Power Rangers in my blog, but I definitely enjoyed it as a kid.  I watched most of the first three seasons, then saw the beginning of the Power Rangers Zeo season, then fell off the wagon.  That's when I was age 7 to age 10, which is right around the show's target audience.  Growing up, I continued to enjoy stories with colorful heroes and flashy spectacle, but that manifested in comic book superheroes and video games instead of more Power Rangers.  But here I am, a grown-ass adult, watching and writing about Super Sentai.  And my enjoyment of Sentai wouldn't be where it is without at least a kernel of Power Rangers nostalgia, so MMPR gets an honorable mention.  OK, now I'll start counting shit down.  

Number Ten
GoGo Sentai Boukenger

Boukenger has a really fun gimmick (adventurers searching for lost treasures from myth and folklore) and the cast is mostly appealing.  But I felt that Boukenger's lack of a major series-long story arc and disparate groups of villains were both weaknesses.  The ending arcs felt like regular episodes with the stakes slightly higher.  I also didn't love the suit or mecha combat in Boukenger relative to other series.  But the cast is decent, the production is solid, and there are a bunch of excellent episodes. I'm not a Boukenger hater, but... I'm not a Boukenger lover either.  

Number Nine
Kyouryuu Sentai Zyuranger

Zyuranger, the dinosaur-themed Super Sentai show adapted into the first season of Power Rangers, has strengths and weaknesses that are almost Boukenger's opposites.  Zyuranger has excellent mecha action, great villains, fantastic suit and monster designs, and and endgame that is both surprising and fulfilling.  The episodes focusing on the green sixth ranger are particularly great.  But the Zyurangers themselves are blandly-written, and the filler episodes (most of which involve rescuing children-of-the-week from a monster-of-the-week) aren't as good as those of other series.  But I definitely enjoyed the originator of those classic Power Rangers suits, especially the show's second half.

Number Eight
Ressha Sentai ToQger

ToQger is all about imagination, trains, rainbows, and childhood friendships.  Oh, and also inner darkness and twisted memories.  ToQger is an outwardly cheery Sentai show that seems almost too silly at first, but starts decent and finishes strong.  The fight gimmicks and enemy designs are occasionally super-cheesy, which I never found to be a problem.  I liked ToQger's main characters, and its story and action were quite good.  I wasn't expecting to enjoy ToQger as much as I did, but if you aren't turned off by rainbows and trains I totally recommend it.

Number Seven
Gekisou Sentai Carranger

Each show on this list features jokes and silly humor at times, but only Carranger steps into the realm of straight-up parody for its entire run.  Carranger's car constellations, absurd episode plots, and running gags are completely ridiculous, but also demonstrate a degree of self-awareness.  I loved just about all of it.  And comedic elements aside, Carranger is a fun Sentai show with good mecha and suit action, a likable main cast, and surprisingly emotional conclusions to its romance subplot and main story arc.  Carranger has consistently great laughs, and a pretty solid suite of 90s Sentai action to go with it.

Number Six
Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger

Fun space police gimmick, with REALLY strong individual episodes.  Dekaranger is similar to Kamen Rider shows of the 2000s in that it features a lot of two part episodes; the alien criminals of Dekaranger get more development than most Sentai monsters-of-the-week.  The Dekarangers themselves are a solid crew, with A+ mentor characters in Doggie and Swan.  I felt that the suit action was lacking (since it was mostly gunplay, which isn't my preference), but the mecha action was great and Dekaranger's gimmicks and concepts were excellent.  One of the best Sentai shows of the 2000s.

Number Five
Samurai Sentai Shinkenger

My first Super Sentai , and probably a subconscious mental benchmark for any other Sentai I watch.  I love Shinkenger's main characters, who are well-written and balance humor with seriousness in just the right amount.  The mecha action isn't the best, but the katana swordplay in suits is awesome and I love the suit and mecha designs.  The major story arcs are a mixed bag (Shinkenger's middle episodes are on the weak side for plot and pace reasons) but by the end it's a compelling Sentai story with several fun twists and turns.  It was my first, so I'm probably biased, but Shinkenger comes recommended.

Number Four
Gosei Sentai Dairanger

The Chinese martial arts fantasy set in 1993 Tokyo has possibly my favorite suit designs, favorite weapon designs, and favorite martial arts action in Super Sentai.  I love the gold helmet highlights, the Dairen Rod weapons, and the fluid movements of the fighters, plus the mechs and monsters look dope as fuck as well.  The main characters are all super-likable, with the exception of the white ranger (which is a shame).  Master Kaku is my favorite Sentai mentor character ever.  Dairanger's plot is all over the place, switching rapidly between comedy and serious with only a vague connecting story, but goes some pretty amazing places eventually and is bolstered by great action and a strong cast.  It would be my favorite 90s Sentai, if it weren't for...

Number Three
Choujin Sentai Jetman

If I was judging Sentai based solely on story and characters and not also on action, arsenal, designs, and gimmicks, then Jetman might be number one.  Jetman's core cast is great; the Vyram are among the all-time best Super Sentai villains; and the subplots that threaten to tear the Jetmen apart are well-executed.  The emotional clashes between the red, black, and white rangers are dramatic and memorable.  The Jetman suits and mecha look great, too.  However, I think the suit action is below par in Jetman, and it lacks variety of action and unity of design compared to my two favorites.  Still, being the best Super Sentai of the 90s isn't so bad. 

Number Two
Juken Sentai Gekiranger

Gekiranger draws inspiration from classic martial arts films, and has the best combination of suit martial arts and intense mecha battles of any Super Sentai show.  The combat choreography in both phases is just excellent.  Gekiranger has a compelling story, superior action, some really good design elements (although I don't love the super suits), and excellent characters.  Jan the jungle man is one of the most unique red rangers in Super Sentai, and Rio and Mele are two awesome villains whose growth and story roles are just as important as those of the heroes.  Hell of a show. 

Number One
Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger

Gokaiger is in the very top tier of Sentai for its main cast, suit combat, and badass suit and mecha designs.  Following a team of space pirate rogues in search of the Greatest Treasure in the Universe is a fun concept already; throw in the Ranger Keys gimmick, and you have more variety and more series callbacks than any Sentai ever.  Gokaiger is a Super Sentai history lesson in addition to being a standout show on its own.  For being the true tokusatsu total package, Gokaiger is my favorite Super Sentai and one of the most entertaining children's shows I've ever watched.

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I wrote this one pretty quickly, since I had been slowly devising a mental ranking of Super Sentai shows as I watched each of them and have had plenty of time to reflect.  Gokaiger was ranked number one basically from the moment I finished watching it, but every other spot in the rankings was in flux.  Zyuranger was 10th until I watched the last fifteen episodes or so.  Spots 5 through 7 changed a bunch of times.  I'm still not sure if I like Jetman more than Dairanger.  Oh well.  In the meantime, I still have to write reviews for Carranger, Zyuranger, Kamen Rider OOO, and like thirty video games if I want to get current.  We'll see how much of that I actually get to. 

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