Culture

Tokusatsu and me part 3

Nowadays many are used to a yearly (or biannual) change in Power Rangers. The first time it happened was a big deal for us. We were children and 3 years seemed far longer back then to us so the Power Rangers with 3 seasons had been a fixture in our childhood, and now they were moving into a new age with ZEO.

It was still the age when Power Rangers was shown as part of children’s morning TV which meant we missed it due to many reasons but it was an enjoyable show. I did note however that out of the Rangers cast only Tommy now remained from the original series as the Blue Ranger Billy had become a supporting role before leaving the series all together (there is apparently some sad things that went on behind the camera). The villains had also sadly switched out which was a shame as I really liked Zedd (he still has an amazing theme) though the Machine Empire wasn’t bad and they did a good job making them feel a threat.

I couldn’t help feel though part of the magic was missing. I wasn’t a fan of the big robots this season and for some reason some of the plots were starting to bug me. There was one episode where they were doing a computing program and the original design was a beatem up yet the more “proper” person changed it to just questions? I was thinking to myself, surely the beatem up required more complicated programming than a simple yes or no followed by animation. Plus there were several changes in the leadership of the Machine Empire that due to missing an episode or two randomly left me very confused. Previously when big changes happened even in a season there was a big lead up and so we knew to watch but with ZEO they just happened, suddenly the king was gone and a living missile was in charge, then it was the king’s older son… only one I remember watching was when the king came back.

It’s sad that this is probably at that point in the 90s everyone cites as… the 90s. Those fun Saturday morning cartoons as people call them, were now gone. Killed by the new wave of shows heralded by the Power Rangers. Maybe I could catch a repeat now and then but the new shows were all trying to be “extreme” and “cool”. This usually resulted in some person in bland clothes that stood about and didn’t care about things but was apparently a nice person…. UGH I hated those they were so boring, I had grown up seeing robots that transform into all sorts of things: villains with glowing veins; Ninja warlords fighting Mutant Turtles –  and yet those bland sunglass wearing people were meant to be cool? It’s also worth mentioning that the original series of the Turtles had tried to be darker and edgier to survive the Rangers and it died… Probably not helped they got rid of Shredder for some darker and edgier villain that no one cares about… The crossover episodes where they brought back the older cast was the best moments of that Red Sky era. Oh they will be back later.

HOWEVER, it wasn’t just Power Rangers I was watching at this point. While other Tokusatsu shows Saban brought over had died back there was one that was proving popular so much so that the Power Rangers people were feeling threatened by something from their own company. Big Bad Beetleborgs.

Given my previous statements about the annoyance of throwing small kids into shows and being outright annoying because of it, you will be surprised to hear me say that Beetleborgs had its main characters as kids yet I enjoyed this one. Maybe it was the main meeting place of a haunted house filled with examples of classic movie monsters. Maybe it was just how over the top it could be. Maybe it was that it didn’t seem to be forcing a small kid into distracting the focus away from what we wanted. It played up the insanity given the designs for the characters came from a comic book that the magical phantasm Flabber gave to the kids after being freed (as well as accidently freeing the villains of the comic).

The show even got a second season called Big Bad Beetleborgs Metallics, though that one, while I caught the beginning and end of, I did miss out on a fair few episodes in the middle… especially ones around the sudden acquisition of some giant robots. The series was still really enjoyable, they even added a new character to the cast of the haunted house with this little Jawa like figure that was I think a girl but we never see the face and when they show it to people even the other monsters are terrified.

Evidently Saban felt so threatened by… themselves, that the next Power Rangers season, Turbo had one of its main characters as a child. I barely watched Turbo and I never saw the movie that lead up into it. I can’t fully recall why, mayhaps at the time the changes were getting so extreme, or perhaps I was growing out of the series… maybe the villains were crap (they were, to this day I say you don’t go from ancient evils and evil emperors to some random pirates or thugs) or maybe that the theme of cars was not something that interested me. After all I, as a kid, was into dinosaurs, big into them.

I do wonder why at the time Turbo hadn’t really gripped me. While I had moments where I missed a bunch of Zero I still watched it when I could and remember clearly the final episode. Mayhaps the disconnect was what didn’t grip me. After all Turbo was set after a movie I never watched. When I recall watching the series proper I remember just how bad the opening was. Tonally these really didn’t seem like the characters or show anymore. People suddenly interested in and doing things they weren’t at the end of ZEO. I’d say it was the lack of the lead in like Mighty Morphin had to ZEO but from what I’ve seen of the movie from people reviewing it online I can’t say it would have helped. Maybe I was just starting to get older. By this point Toys were no longer the thing I sought out for childish glee as much (except Lego). Video games had become the thing I prioritized and would continue on until I gained disposable income of my own. Perhaps it was once again the problem of how it was broadcast over here and would continue to be that way until a few seasons later.

So it seemed after 5 years my interest in the 5 (often 6) teenagers with attitude had faded as had the entire original cast. But Tokusatsu is more than just one group of teens fighting a monster of the week. Remember that big dinosaur that I mentioned last time from watching an old cartoon series from Hanna Barbera? Well Godzilla was about to start becoming a lot more important with my life. (For those reading yes this means the Power Rangers dominated part of this look into my past is now over) Plus Godzilla wasn’t going to be alone in what came from Japan, and for far more people what would come would be the next big shake up in children’s TV since the Rangers all those years ago.

Also in this series:

Sgathaich: Tokusatsu and me part 2

Tokusatsu and me: Part 1

Categories: Culture, Views

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