When the Black Magma Machine Empire emerges in the North Pole and targets Japan for it's rich geothermal power, the Guardians of World Peace assembled a three-man team to be equipped with the most advanced technologies of the day to face this threat. Together, the members of that team are known as the Solar Squadron, Sun Vulcan!
Airing in 1981, Sun Vulcan is the fifth entry in the Super Sentai franchise, and being such an early-on entry, they were still figuring things out, still trying out new things. That's the only explanation I can come up with as to why the team is comprised of three men, no women at all. This is not to say that there is no female presence on the show, but I'll discuss that in depth down below. The other big experimental feature of this show is that it is a follow-up to the previous year's sentai, Denshi Sentai Denziman!...At least, nominally it is a follow-up; while one of the main villains is the Big Bad of Denziman, Queen Hedorian played by the eternally brilliant Machiko Soga, outside of one brilliant two-parter the show doesn't really use this fact, and furthermore never even brings back the Denziman team. It just strikes me as very odd.
( So, how does the no-women team work? )
Natsumi Hikari is haunted by a dream in which an army of Kamen Riders is engaged against an unknown enemy who wipes them all out. At the end of the dream she identifies the unknown enemy as Decade. She awakes from the dream, and has to deal with the trouble that the amnesiac Tsukasa Kadoya has gotten himself in yet again due to his uniquely terrible photographs. Then, the world all around them falls apart as monsters from past Kamen Rider shows arrive and wreak havoc. When all seems lost, a vision guides Natsumi to the lost DecaDriver which she delivers to Tsukasa, allowing him to transform into Kamen Rider Decade and fight off the enemies besieging them; however, no one man could fight off that many enemies, and so Wataru Kurenai, Kamen Rider Kiva, appears to them and explains that the stories of the Kamen Rider Worlds have become connected and thus the worlds are becoming one, and if not stopped all will be lost. Charging Decade with traveling to 9 worlds and killing the Riders of those worlds, Wataru returns them to the Hikari Photo Studio, and so begins the journey through the decade.
To start off, I freaking love meta stories, stories that are about stories are my favorite, narratives picking themselves apart to go into the nuts and bolts of the tropes that define those narratives, commentating on past stories, finding the thematic connections and logic between them…what I’m saying is that a Kamen Rider having to travel through Alternate Universe versions of past Rider shows and having to learn from them is something that was practically made for me.
( Opening the wrapping on this hand-crafted gift. )
Incorporeal beings called Imagins arrive from the future; by possessing a person and going through their imaginations they acquire a physical form. By forming a contract with that person and fulfilling their wish, they can use that person’s most important memory to travel back in time and change history to better suit their own monstrous purpose. One day, the singularly unlucky Nogami Ryoutaro is targeted by one of the Imagins, who he dubs Momotaros, but it turns out that he is a Singularity Point, allowing him to resist possession. At the same time he is also contacted by Hana, a woman who rides the time-travelling bullet train the DenLiner in a quest of vengeance against the Imagins for destroying the future that she came from. Long story short, Ryoutaro must now work with Momotaros and a host of other Imagins in order to protect the flow of time as Kamen Rider Den-O.
( Some spoilers, nothing big. )
The year is 2012 of the Anno Novi calendar, and modern life is supported by a new, clean energy known as Enetron. However, in the parallel universe of Hyperspace, the terrorist organization Vagras seeks to steal as much Enetron as it can to fuel its campaign of conquest and subjugation of humanity. 13 years ago the computer virus Messiah, the leader of Vagras, attempted to take over the Transport Labs and use its resources to consume the Earth; in desperation, the researchers inject their children with a vaccine program to empower and protect them, and transport them out of the lab before the entire facility was transported into Hyperspace to prevent Messiah’s victory. Now, in the present, those three children have grown up, and together must battle against the sinister Enter, agent and executer of Messiah’s will.
From the very start, Go-Busters presents itself as a very different show from its predecessors; the heroes are government agents in the mold of super-spies with cameras and binoculars that double as guns and knives, their suits are made of a pleather material rather than spandex, the giant robot battles are conducted with far more intensity and effort than has been seen in a long time, and the villainous cast is extremely small, most of the series being comprised only of the CGI-and-voice Messiah and face-actor Enter, and there is the later addition of Escape, herself also a face-actor as opposed to a rubber-suit as has been the norm. Combined with an overall more grounded tone and approach, this was a show that I was very excited for and intrigued by.
( Reality ensued, some spoilers regarding the ending. )
1999, a meteorite strikes Shibuya, reducing it to ruin. That, however, was only the beginning, for with the meteorite came the Worm, a hostile insect-like species of aliens with the ability to perfectly mimic humans, copying even their innermost secrets and memories. For seven years the Worm infiltrate human society, killing and replacing its members without fear, for they can also evolve into stronger forms and gain access to the Clock-up ability, allowing them to achieve speeds greater than the human eye can follow.
Enter ZECT, a secret organization dedicated to fighting the Worm threat. Through the Masked Rider Project they develop the Zecters, independently intelligent robot insects capable of joining with a human to grant them extraordinary power. However, rather than choosing Kagami Arata, a new member of ZECT eager to be able to fight the Worm, the Kabuto Zecter goes to a man named Tendou Souji, a walking god-complex who is pretty much perfect at doing whatever he feels like doing. And he’s not the only one outside of ZECT to get a Zecter, something ZECT is not happy about.
( Spoilers and strong opinions behind the cut. )
10,000 years ago, a group of immortal monsters known as the Undead faced off in an intense Battle Royale, each one representing a different species of life on Earth, to determine which species would become the dominant life on Earth. The Human Undead won, sealing all other Undead within playing cards, and thus was our civilization allowed to thrive. Now in the modern day the Undead have been released from their seals. The secret organization BOARD recruits Kenzaki Kazuma to fight as Kamen Rider Blade, fusing with the Category Ace of Spades Undead to use its power against the immortal monsters. However, it is not long before Sakuya Tachibana, who fuses with the Category Ace of Diamonds to become Kamen Rider Garren, betrays the organization. In the wake of that destruction only Kenzaki and Shiori Hirose emerge to continue the fight to defend humanity in the new Battle Royale.
( Detailed but non-spoilery thoughts on the show within. )
The Super Sentai for 1992, The evil Witch Bandora and her cronies are accidentally set free after being sealed away for 170 million years. Bandora wastes no time in setting about on getting her revenge upon the Earth in general and on children in particular. Fortunately, the ancient tribes that had sealed her away in the first place took precautions, and thus five of their greatest warriors revive to defend the Earth from Bandora's attack.
Zyuranger represented a significant change in how Sentai was done; before Zyuranger, every Super Sentai was a soft sci-fi show with a heavy military emphasis, even in those shows where our heroes do not work for the military or other government agency. There were mystical aspects here and there, but Zyuranger was the first show to fully embrace the factastic and mystical, drawing heavily upon folklore, mythology, and fairy tales to inspire and inform its episodes. This direction even extends to the giant robot of the series, DaiZyuJin, which is no mere robot but is in fact the Patron God of the Zyurangers and the source of all their powers.
Oh, and Zyuranger was also used as the source footage for Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Just wanted to get that out of the way.
( How does the Dinosaur Fantasy fare? )
( Show love for toys, get a new toy. Makes sense to me. )