Posted February 21, 2012 by Mikael Angelo Francisco in Anime/Manga

Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger – Skulls, Crossbones and Color-coded Explosions

If you were to tell me a year ago that I would religiously watch a show about pirates (pretty much the only mainstays in both history and literary fiction that I have approximately zero interest in) I would have gently scoffed and waved my hand in your direction, doing my best “oh you” impression. Even more so, if you had told me that I would get into Super Sentai again – the source of stock footage of the freaking Power Rangers television shows, of all things – I would have mockingly done my best “It’s Morphin’ Time!” pose while screaming “Compsognathus!” or some random dinosaur no one cares about. Aaaand then I’d go back to reading Transmetropolitan.

Call it elitism if you will, but for the last few years I thought I was already over the whole “color-coded heroes in ridiculous poses, screaming the names of every technique and weapon they use” phase of my life. Sure, I loved Bioman, Maskman, Fiveman and Jetman as a kid, and I think I saw every episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and even the first season of Power Rangers Zeo (I gave up when they made Blue Ranger an annoying little twit in the Power Rangers Turbo movie) – but that was when I was a kid. Also, let’s face it – it IS kind of difficult to admit to watching such shows in a society that still has not fully accepted toy collecting, comics reading, cosplaying, and being an irresistibly sexy geek (I’m guilty of three of those – I don’t cosplay).  Let me clarify, though, that I don’t share this derogatory opinion about Super Sentai; in fact, some of my close friends are into the most recent incarnations of these teams (the cars-with-souls-themed Go-Onger, the samurai-themed Shinkenger and the card-games-and-angels-themed Goseiger).

Enter Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger, the 35th team under the long-running Super Sentai franchise. Gokaiger follows the Earth-bound adventures of five suspiciously Asian-looking alien pirates (and, as the series progresses, a sixth pirate – an Earthling) as they search the planet for the Greatest Treasure in the Universe. Things get complicated when they inadvertently get in the way of the Zangyack, an intergalactic empire bent on conquering everything in the cosmos. Initially with no regard for Earth’s welfare and focused only on finding the treasure, the Gokaiger team gradually comes to love the planet, as the crew members grow into their roles as part of the newest task force defending Earth.

The pirates transform using Mobirates (Mobile Pirates), a cellphone-type device activated by uniformly-shaped Ranger keys decorated according to the costume of each Ranger. Additionally, they can all transform into Rangers from ALL the previous Super Sentai teams, with full access to their gadgets and special moves, by inserting the corresponding Ranger keys. Each Super Sentai team – Gokaiger itself included – has a Great Power (example: Jetman’s Great Power is a phoenix-style combat finisher) usable only when members of the corresponding Sentai teams allow access to them via their Keys. The Gokaigers need to get every Great Power in order to unlock the secret of the Greatest Treasure. This involves meeting members of the previous Sentai teams and proving their worth to them (or doing ridiculous things like taking traffic safety lessons to appease Red Racer of Carranger – oh, how I wish I were making this up).

The gaudy costumes and flashy moves are enough for some people to dismiss the series as little more than a kids’ show. However, as with the previous SS series (Liveman being a prime example), Gokaiger bears a ton of emotional weight. The leader, Captain Marvelous (Gokai Red) shows a devil-may-care attitude that hides a heart carrying a life debt and a selfless desire to fulfill a mentor’s dying wish. Joe Gibken (Gokai Blue), the team’s second-in-command, started out as one of the bad guys, and is now fighting to save a friend who was pretty much his only family. Luka Millfy (Gokai Yellow)’s immeasurable love for material wealth is balanced by emotional scars from a tragic past and a sister lost. The resident science geek of the team, “Hakase” (Doc) Don Dogoier (Gokai Green), struggles with the knowledge that he is the weakest of the crew, and has no idea who he used to be. Ahim de Famille (Gokai Pink) is like Princess Leia –  the last known survivor of her planet’s royal family. Add the biggest, most obsessive, and most dedicated Super Sentai fanboy EVER to the mix – Ikari Gai (Gokai Silver) – and you have a lovable crew of reluctant heroes.

Plus, the fight scenes are cool. You’ve gotta give them that. And where else will you see a badass using 5 swords at the same time, like THIS:

The true appeal of KSG, however, lies in the very core of what it essentially is: A giant sandbox full of toys from years past. When I was a kid, I didn’t realize that Bioman, Maskman, Fiveman and Jetman were from the same franchise; I thought they were imitations of each other. Which is why I used to wonder how, say, Blue Mask would fare against Blue Three, or how cool it would be if Red Hawk and FiveRed could join forces and beat the crap out of a hideously deformed Monster Of The Week. KSG answers this adequately, and with as much flavor and as many explosions as you’d expect from a color-coded team series. Seriously, take a look at the next photo. Just LOOK AT IT.

The series had a run of 51 episodes, spanning three movies (about to be four, and not counting their “first appearance” in Goseiger VS Shinkenger) and a ton of merchandise. The final episode aired just last Sunday in Japan. This series is well worth tracking down – this is the only live-action series I felt compelled to see from start to finish in years. Anyone who has ever sat through countless Regent commercials on a lazy Sunday morning, just to see what would happen to the Bioman team after the first Yellow Four died, SHOULD watch this.

Hade ni ikuze!


Mikael Angelo Francisco