Monday, February 15, 2016

Tokusatsu Review: Chōjin Sentai Jetman Part 1: Happy 25th Birthday!!! (to me!)

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 25 years ago today Toei released the first episode of the final Super Sentai before the franchise was regularly adapted into Power Rangers, Chōjin Sentai Jetman.  I've heard all the praise; I've seen several reviews and yet with anything the best way to judge something is to see it for yourself. Though before I even get started on this show I have a promise to keep and get some things off my chest by talking about the man responsible for the writing for this series.

The man I (and many others) consider to be the Japanese Frank Miller who has about as much reused cliches and tropes as Stephen King.
 I've mentioned this before but Inoue and Franky boy have more then a few similarities with each other. First off they were good writers when they started but have been on a downward spiral since. Though Inoue's decline has been far slower then Franks. While in recent years Inoue could at least make something enjoyable (I personally liked Kiva) everything Frank touches turns to complete and utter crap these days. They both are sexiest but on completely opposite ends of the spectrum, in Franks world every woman over the age of 18 is a whore, by that I mean every female character that's over 18 he writes; sex is in someway a part of their characterization or are drawn/depicted in ways involving sex.

 Examples include Catwoman in Batman Year One, where she was a Dominatrix inspired by Batman (Aka Crazy Steve), Bruno in The Dark Knight Returns is a Neo Nazi who walks around topless and wears swastikas as nipple pasties; and last but not least every female character in the movie adaptation of The Spirit that he directed. In Inoue town if you have a vagina then 9 times out of 10 you're either a horrible person, an idiot, or an abuse victim that wandered off the set of a Lifetime channel original movie. They also have their problems when it comes to restraint in their works but in different areas, see Inoue's problem is when he works on Kamen Rider or something that is targeted to generally older audiences he tends to indulge in creating asshole characters and have a more depressing and anger inducing tone for his shows. The worst examples of this from what I've seen is in Kamen Rider Agito and Kamen Rider Faiz, in Agito everyone is a raging Asshole that would fit right at home in one of those trashy housewives shows, where as in Faiz it's not as bad but for that show he went for quality over quantity and created the undeniably worst character in the history of the franchise to this day.
Ten years after he died and I would still rather teach Shakespeare to a pissed off mountain gorilla then deal with this guy.
  But when Inoue is writing Sentai or something that could be targeted for kids he tends to hold back due to the target audience. In Franks case his restraint problems comes down to his politics, his stories tend to reflect his political views which were faaaar more restrained when he started out, however since 9/11 (which he was in New Your City during the events of that day) his politics have been creeping in more and more eventually culminating into a 120 page Donald Trump campaign speech which he decided to call "Holy Terror". Also the two are recently getting back into the spotlight around the same time, Inoue is going to be cowriting the 45th anniversary Kamen Rider Movie and Miller is working on a Third Dark Knight book.

 But all in all I'd take Inoue over Miller any day mostly because Inoue can still make something good once in a while, knows when to hold himself back and isn't a racist, fascist piece of garbage. But enough about that; time to talk about the show itself and to make with the funny already. Our show starts off in the year 199X (aka 1991 for those who looked on Wikipedia) where we see an orbital space station that's owned by the military organization Skyforce whose job is to oversee the earth for any disturbances to peace. They detect that a robot has gone nuts and is attacking a civilian area.

 But instead of sending down X or Zero to stop it they instead send down two of their agents to deal with the Maverick. They stop the bot and their commanding officer comes into the monitor room and asks for their names which are Ryu Tendo and Rie Aio. She then says that she wants them for the J Project. Later when Rie asks what the J Project is exactly the commanding officer says that those who are treated with "Birdonic Waves" that Skyforce has created would get superpowers; which would somehow lead to helping maintain world peace. Because that's what the world needs, to live in fear of five super powered weirdos dressed in bird themed spandex.

 Ryu is concerned however that if the two are brought in on this project that they'd be assigned to different units, the commander however assures them that the Jetmen are a five man team and that they're in no danger of being separated. We then cut to the fortress of our villains.
Which looks like a hellish red eye in the bottom of the ocean.
 Back at the satellite we see Ryu being the first to get his DNA scrambled with to become a Jetman. I'm guessing this must have been what inspired Hartford to give the Overdrive Rangers their powers. After Ryu has an acid trip and gains a savory cherry flavor the base is attacked by the Vyrock and incoming message from the big giant head!
Kneel before Zod!
No this is actually Count Radiguet one of the members of the Dimensional War Party Vyram and he proclaims that they're here take over the world and shit on your couch because they're big blue motherfuckers and that's how they roll!
And apparently they're in league with Saruman!
 Though the fact that he's apparently broadcasting to the whole world with his declaration of conquest does raise the question of whether he knows that Earth has more then one language? I mean he's clearly speaking Japanese so does he think that's what the dominant language is for Earth despite the vast and different cultures and environments that humanity has created/adapted too? I joked about Zod before but even in Man of Steel when Zod was sending his demands to the world they were translated to each countries' primary language. I mean if aliens are going to try and conquer us the least they could do is scout ahead and see our various methods of communication. Wow Jetman not even one episode in and your villains are showing less knowledge of us then the Psychlos from Battlefield Earth and one of them thought that humans can fly!

 So to prove that he's not fucking around Radiguet says that the first target is the Skyforce space base. The staff evacuates but Rie gets sucked out through a hull breach and is sucked into space despite Ryu's attempt to save her, the CO gut checks Ryu and knocks him out due him becoming hysteric and takes him to a ship to escape the facility. Meanwhile the device that infused Ryu with the Birdonic Waves shatters and the remaining four waves then scatter across Japan and infuse four random people with a lemon, coconut, black licorice and blueberry flavor respectively. After laughing his ass off Radiguet then sends down a monster to attack the city.

 The CO and Ryu land at their base, the Sky Camp and when Ryu wakes up screaming that he has to look for Rie. The CO cuts the crap and tells him that she's dead, Vyram killed her get used to it. Ryu is of course emotionally unstable and asks her how the hell he's supposed to fight something that can destroy the Earthbase in one shot. She tells them that he's already a Jetman and that they have to find his teammates. Um Ma'am maybe you should go and look for them while Ryu recovers, grieves and starts to accept Rie's death at his own pace? I mean I know that Vyram is right on your doorstep and what not but you do want humanity's defenders to be in a right, sane state of mind right? You don't want him to die in battle due to him having a grief stricken psychotic episode? No, ok then, there just goes me and my logic again.

 In the city we see the monster that Radiguet sent out.
The Dimensional Bug.
 It starts its spree by eating people to fill its egg sack! Yep first monster and it's eating people whole and leaving only their clothes behind.

 While Proto-Cell gorges; the CO and Ryu make their first stop to a mansion to meet the young lady of the manor; Kaori who at first is confused by all of this. Making things worse is Ryu basically barking at her telling her to become a warrior since Rie, oh I'm sorry the "world" is at stake. I'll get into this later when I talk about the characters but suffice to say Ryu is basically stuck like this for the rest of the show. The CO tells Ryu to back off and she explains things in a much more calm manner to Kaori. She then agrees to join if only because her inner Disney princess is acting up and she wanted out of her boring, stagnant lifestyle. Our heroes everyone Japanese Roy Harper and a lady who treats saving the world like a vacation.

 Hero #3 Raita is just as bad as he's a farmer who even when he's told that the world is in danger of being destroyed by the Vyram he just still tells them that he's a pacifist and to fuck off. Kaori offers to stay and convince him while Ryu and the CO go find the last two. She manages to butter him up by playing on his pride in how much care he gives his vegetables. What seals the deal is when Radiguet sends down his foot solders to destroy Raita's crops.
Meet 1991's foot solder model the Grinams.
 After Raita demonstrates that he graduated from the Philionel El Di Saillune school of pacifism the two get overwhelmed by the Grinams and call for help from Ryu, who heads back to the Skycamp and deploys in his personal mech the Jet Hawk to back the two newbies up. I could go on about how many ways from Sunday him flying the mech in the city low enough to go between buildings is ungodly stupid, dangerous and illegal but need less to say it still paints our Red as an asshole. 

 Porto-Cell corners Raita and Kaori in a nearby rock quarry (because in Sentai there's always a nearby rock quarry) but Ryu swoops in from his mech and finally transforms into Red Hawk, cleans house with the grunts and tosses Raita his Cross-changer. But before he can show them how to transform Proto-Cell tries to drink him.
YOU WANNA SEE ME DRINK THIS GUY?!
 Raita and Kaori fall off a cliff and almost die but they manage to transform just in time and fly back up. Though some members can clearly handle themselves better then others they do manage to survive their first fight and force Proto-Cell to retreat. The CO stresses that they need to find the last two Jetman or else Vyram is going to walk all over them. Back on the Vyrock we see Radiguet asking his two comrades who the hell the Jetman are. So we end the first episode by seeing the other three leading members of Vyram.
First is their robot Hitman Grey, who's basically a badass, cultured version of Bender.
The technological wunderkind Tran who looks like he took lipstick application tips from Bruce Payne from the Dungeons and Dragons movie.
And there's the token woman Maria.
Who we have never seen before!
 We start the second episode in the second paragraph of Journey's "Don't stop believing" where we see The Fonz' long lost cousin cheating at poker but gives his winnings and his own chips to his female opponent to charm his way into her pants. As he's walking out with her the club bouncer of course notices his cheating and is about to beat his ass like a drum when Fonzie knocks him out with one punch like he was Popeye after finishing a Spanakopita. He's completely shocked by this sudden burst of strength and runs off.

 Meanwhile the three Jetmen are searching for the last two, Ryu searching from the sky in his Jet Hawk while Raita and Kaori search by car. We cut to a high school where a girl is apparently summoning the evil from Evil Dead, but she snaps out of it and decides to jump the high jump and aces it. This is Ako Hayasaka and the gym teacher is so impressed that he asks her to participate in the school sports competition. Of course since she has a brain in her head she'll gladly do it, for 2000 yen.
 Both parties manage to find Birdonic Waves, while on the Vyrock Proto-Cell has started to lay eggs. Radiguet picks one up which hatches into a large Spider called a Dimension Insect, he then teleports the Insect to the jet that the CO was flying which transforms into a monster.
 However this brings up another problem with Vyram for me. So if I've got this right the Bug Mother is the only creature that can spawn these Dimension Insects. So...why did you send this thing into combat against the Jetmen?! You have no freaking clue what their capabilities are, what weapons they have and if your Bug is strong enough to even kill them. These Insects are going to be the source of the M.O.W so if I were the one running the show I would make keeping the Bug Mother alive one of my top priorities, along with regular abductions to keep feeding her thus giving me more Insects and thus more Monsters.

 Let's take this a step further here, first I'd send out a Dimensional Beast to keep the Jetmen busy while I have another group working on kidnapping thousands of people to feed the Bug Mother, for every 1 I lose I'll gain about 20. Then once I have enough I'll release them all on mass all over the world and then BAM total conquest! You know for someone who claims to be the new gods of earth and who have apparently conquered other worlds before this you'd think that they would at least come up with a strategy so simple!? But then again this is the same guy that thinks the leader of the world should look like if the Phantom of the Opera joined the blue man group wearing a spiked cornucopia on his head so there you go.
 Ok, rant over, the CO manages to eject from Fighter Dimension before it starts to attack Ryu. Meanwhile Raita and Kaori manage to find Ako while Fonzie is turning up his coolness factor by playing the saxophone but trips out and accidentally crushes his sax like it was tinfoil; but Ryu and the CO manage to get to him. Back with Vyram Radiguet once again shows how SMRT he is by telling Proto-Cell to go on a rampage after it detaches its egg sack. Back with Fonzie after the CO tells him that he's a Jetman and that she wants him to use that power to protect the earth he gives a few reasons why humanity sucks, they're racist, stupid, self-destructive, pollute and from his view are just a cut string away from being whipped out by their own arrogance. This of course pisses off Ryu who gives his "value of life" crap but of course when dealing with a guy like this is the exact wrong way of going about recruiting him.

 Fonzie of course sees through Ryu's crap and tells him to piss off. But of course after Ryu keeps spewing his bull about saving the earth Fonz just head butts him right in the face and walks off.
And I just love the look on his face as he head butts him. This is the face of a man who does not give even a microscopic amount of a fuck.
 Which leads to our calm, cool and collected Red Ranger grabbing him and punching him right in the jaw, um Ryu what was it you said earlier about putting personal matters aside? I'll get into more of this later but for now lets run down this scenario. Somebody doesn't do what you want which they have no clear interest in helping you with. So what do you do? You punch them in the face; up yours Ryu. Yet I still prefer you over Right from Toqger or Takaharu from Ninninger, and that's just sad.

 As for the CO, she does absolutely nothing about stoping this, she just sighs and shakes her head, our Mentor everyone! I mean I know nothing about military code of conduct but let me see here, an officer under your command is assaulting a civilian who you are giving top priority to recruit and yet you're doing absolutely nothing to stop him. Now I may not know but I think a President, General and a Colonel can give you a suggestion.

 We cut from this episode of Japan's funniest drafts to Kaori and Raita trying to persuade Ako to join. As demonstrated before she can be bought off for the right price and lucky-lucky that the rich girl is here so she cuts off a 10 Million Yen check!!! Which back then would equal about 76.881.600 american dollars which today with inflation would reach about 89.135.900 American dollars!!! Now I might be wrong since math is not my forte but suffice to say Ako is undoubtably thinking one thing right now.

 So Ako is now a Jetman and just in time as Proto-Cell begins attacking the three. They call in Ryu for back up with Fonzie chasing after the two since he's not through with him yet. Ryu takes the Jet Hawk to the three but is intercepted by Fighter Dimension who engages him in a dogfight so ridiculous that even Maverick from Top Gun is telling him he's out of his mind. Meanwhile Gai (that's his name Gai Yuki the only reason I haven't said it is because the show hasn't yet, yeah the second episode and only Ryu and Ako had had their names spoken aloud) has lost Ryu but gets abducted by Fighter Dimension probably due to them both giving off Birdonic waves. Of course since Gai is a hostage Ryu can't shoot the monster down but he does manage to shoot the arms forcing the monster to let Gai go and crash.

 Ryu manages to give Gai his Cross Changer and they both transform saving themselves by flying down to safety. Raita, Kaori and Ako transform too and meet with the others, at last the team has been gathered, but Fighter Dimension isn't done yet and assumes a humanoid form.
Apparently on top of working for Vyram it was also a Decepticon.
 So the team engages the enemy forces with the team doing rather well Ryu even manages to destroy Fighter Dimension by shooting a fuel leak on the monsters body. However Proto-Cell is still hungry but is quickly dealt with. The four Vyram leaders then decide to start a game, the first one to kill the Jetmen will be the true leader of the group.

 So we wrap up with Ako giving Kaori back the check saying that she'll join them for free.
 As for Gai, he gives his own response to Ryu's offer to join the team with a way that's just as fresh as he is.

 Yeah the only reason he helped in the first place was to get revenge on the monsters that attacked him and now that they're gone he has no reason to stick around with an asshole he can't stand the sight of let alone listen too. So he tosses them his Cross Changer and drives off. So those were the first two episodes of Jetman, tune in next time where I give my thought of the season over all, the heroes, the mechs, the villains and anything else that deserves mention. Also Happy 25th Birthday Jetman and me!

Super Sentai is owned by Ishinomori Productions, Toei Productions, and Bandai.
Kamen Rider is owned by Ishinomori Productions, Toei Productions, and Bandai.
Power Rangers is owned by is owned by Saban Entertainment, Haim Saban, Renaissance Atlantic Entertainment, Toei Company, Ltd. and MMPR Productions, Inc.
Heartbeeps is owned by Allan Arkush, and Universal Pictures.
Dragon Ball, Dragonball Z and Dragonball GT is owned by Funnimation, Toei animation, Fuji TV and Akira Toriyama.
Dragonball Z abridged is owned by Team Four Star. 
The Dark Knight is owned by Christopher Nolan, Legendary Pictures, Syncopy, DC Comics and Warner Bros. Pictures.
Patton is owned by Franklin J. Schaffner, 20th Century Fox and based on Patton: Ordeal and Triumph by Ladislas Farago and A Soldier's Story by Omar Bradley
Spaceballs is owned by Mel Brooks, Brooksfilms and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.
Chappelle's Show is owned by Dave Chappelle, Comedy Central, MGM Television and Comedy Partners.