Television: Pirate Sentai Gokaiger

Pirate Sentai GokaigerI’ve been meaning to write about Gokaiger since I started watching it in the middle of last year, then I decided to just wait until the end before writing about the show. Which ended last February. It’s April now. Huh. So it’s been more than a month since I started writing here?

Before I go into Gokaiger, I do want to apologize first about the lack of updates here. The blog is called Taking a Break. I haven’t been updating because I haven’t had any chance to take any breaks. In fact, in the last couple of months (since the last update), I’ve read a grand total of four books and watched three films. The rest of the time was spent working or sleeping. Oh yeah, and the failed gym project. But I’m not here to discuss my personal life, so let’s get on to Gokaiger!

Pirate Sentai Gokaiger is the thirty-fifth Super Sentai series in Japan, and what drew me to the program was its gimmick of using past teams to defeat enemies. For an 80’s kid like me who grew up watching Bioman, Maskman, Fiveman, Jetman, and the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers adaptations, this was heaven. I get to see past heroes fighting again–in glorious HD! But the gimmick can only take you so far. It came to a point, somewhere in the middle of the series, that I grew tired of the protagonists’ quest for the ultimate treasure (by collecting the grand powers of previous sentai teams). But I continued to watch. Because by then, I already started caring about the characters.

When Power Rangers came into the picture, the clamor for Super Sentai in the Philippines petered out. When the first Power Ranger team came out, the Filipinos were being treated to yet another rerun of Bioman and Maskman. It wasn’t until Power Rangers became an actual hit before a competing television network decided to air Fiveman and Jetman. Both of which preceded the program that was adapted into the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. I was ten at the time, if I’m not mistaken. So my memories of the soap-y stories of Bioman and Maskman were soon replaced by the more after-school-friendly approach of Power Rangers. And though I do still have memories of both Fiveman and Jetman, it’s drowned out by my love for everything Power Rangers. Until the major cast overhaul in Power Rangers Turbo anyway.

So when I started watching Gokaiger, I was surprised at how character-centric the stories are, and how much like a soap the story is. In the series, we get a flawed leader in Captain Marvelous. He is the last remaining Red Pirate, and at the beginning of the series, we already see him with his current crew. Joe, the second-in-command, is a traitor to the evil empire; a former soldier who turned against his superiors when his mentor is turned into a science experiment. Luka, the thief, comes off as brash and greedy at first, but as we peel of layers from her character, we are made witness to the tragic life that led her to becoming a pirate–starting with the night she watched her younger sister die. Don is the crew mechanic/cook who provides comic relief in and out of battle. And although we don’t really learn a lot about his past, we do see him come to his own in the course of the series. And Ahim, the princess, starts out as a person to round out the team into a very integral part of it. Oh, and then there’s Gai, the ultimate fanboy of Super Sentai who gets to live out his dreams.

These six individuals are as different as can be, but they are tied together by fate–and loyalty. It’s an amazing family dynamic at work in the show, as we see how a group of strong-willed individuals work out their quirks and learn to co-exist into a formidable enemy against an evil empire. But the thing that really stood out the most in the series for me is this: the Gokaigers don’t start out as heroes. They are pirates. They take what they want with no regard for who gets hurt. And yet, by the last episode, they are willing to die for the people of Earth. If you watch the first episode and the last one, you get to see the parallels of the team before and after they collect the Super Sentai grand powers–but you’ll also note that it’s not the same set of individuals anymore. And yet, watching the series episode by episode, you would never question how a thief would suddenly become selfless; how a “worthless” princess would turn out to be the most important player in a team of ruthless pirates; how a belittled comic relief can be the saviour of the team–

If there is one thing Gokaiger excels in, it’s in bringing out the hero in the common person. And looking back at all the episodes of the program, it’s what sets it apart from Power Rangers (save for the RPM seasoon) and some of the Super Sentai teams that came out after Jetman. More importance is usually given to eye-candy, and while Gokaiger is also guilty of this, in its case, the eye-candy is spread over meaty storylines. And though you’re brought in by the flash and the pretty, the heartwarming and heartwrenching stories would be the one to keep you coming back for more.

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