2017/12/01

Wins, Opportunities, & Top 7 Episodes! Denji Sentai Megaranger Part 2 of 2


Welcome back to my revisiting of the 1997 Super Sentai series Denji Sentai Megaranger! Didn't catch Part 1? Fix this immediately by reading it here. In that part I talk about the majority of the characters that inhabit the series. I know I skipped some favorites like Koichiro's foil Ooiwa and the lame duo of Shintaro and Jiro...but really, who cares? Ooiwa was a cool drunk initially and was always supportive of his students, but he always felt shoehorned into situations later on.

I never really said whether or not I liked the show. I'll save my verdict until the very end, so keep that in mind as you read on. I really had to concentrate a little bit harder this time since, like I mentioned previously, I'm not entirely familiar with this show. As I watched, however, one glaring issue jumped out at me. It's something I talked about previously...and it's something that still bugs me about Super Sentai.

In no particular order I am now going through what I found to be the wins and opportunities this series had.

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Megaranger WINS

WIN: Suit Designs

Honestly, there are no bad Super Sentai team suits of the 90s. Well, except Jetman. I love the Megaranger suits. They're slick, uncomplicated, and fit the theme perfectly. There isn't a bad design among them and even Megasilver looks fantastic.

WIN: Yugande's Design

Awesome, awesome, awesome design. I needed to give this it's own shout out since I love it so damn much. Like I said, it's kind of a bummer that they gradually ruined it as the series progressed, but it is what it is.

WIN: Arsenal

Digitizers, Keitaizer, Battle Riser, Drill Saber, Multi Attack Rifle, Cybersliders, Silver Blazer, etc. All awesome. The only one that was weak was the Mega Sniper, which is a two-piece weapon that I think only once in the entire series was used as a two-piece. This series was surprisingly sparse with the gadgets.

WIN: Locations

To make up for the lack of real high-tech sets, the series used a number of really interesting locations to give the visuals and extra oomph. The quarry was VERY rarely shown. Some really neat architecture made up for the fact that they really couldn't show us a warped Nejirejia hellscape or a Megaranger digital experience. It was a nice trick, and it really paid off.

WIN: Characters/Acting

I liked everyone well enough in the series. I know I playfully dismissed a lot of behavior on both sides in the last post, but I enjoyed spending a year with pretty much everyone in the series. The acting was pretty good all around--not an obvious dud to drag everything down in sight. Personally I think Eri Tanaka was the best actor (or at least the most natural) even if we didn't get too much of her. Shigeru Kanai was a ham as Yuusaku, but a lovable ham.

WIN: GALAXYMEGA

I love Muteki Shogun. I love RV Robo. Third place for my favorite mecha design ever belongs to Galaxymega. The fact that it doubles as INET's base of operations means that it got plenty of screen time for a good portion of the series, but I feel like it kinda got left in the cold once Mega Voyager arrived. Yeah, I liked Delta Mega quite a bit as well. Mega Voyager and Mega Winger were half-assed looking next to Galaxy Mega. I mean, that's kinda par for the course when it comes to secondary mecha of the 90s...but the latter two mecha completely lacked the intricate little details of Galaxy Mega and Delta Mega.


Plus it had the best theme song ever. FIVE-FOUR-ONE, FIVE-FOUR-ONNNNNNE!

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Megaranger OPPORTUNITIES

OPP: Music/BGM

If you listen to the three Megaranger Music Collections, you'll be treated to some incredibly serviceable tunes. Really, listening to the CDs is enjoyable. There is some great action stuff and some nicely themed pieces scattered throughout. My big issue? How it was used in the series. A lot of fights use this really weak drumbeat track that had no business being part of the show. Even the eyecatches were almost intentionally bad. The early episodes used these really good little pieces to bring us to and from the commercial break. They inexplicably changed it up to these AWFUL horn pieces.

Experiencing the music through the show and through the CDs are two completely different experiences. In the show: Almost terrible. Through the CDs: Good, but not entirely impressive compared to the fierce competition of 90s Sentai music. Composer Keiichi Oku was a one-and-done composer for Super Sentai (he composed some vocal songs for Gingaman, Kamen Rider Kuuga, and Gaoranger but never composed a second series), but has acclaimed work elsewhere.

OPP: Nejirejia's Razor Thin Motive

I really had to bite my tongue in the previous post. Nejirejia is a joke. Some interesting yet unoriginal moments poked through when Dr. Hinelar just wanted to be a better scientist than Dr. Kubota. Outside of that, the world domination stuff was just done ridiculously. This wasn't even a problem until the end was in sight. Really, who cares about motivation on the bad side for the first forty episodes? The build-up to the ending is what justifies the previous nine months. Two words brought Nejirejia to a screeching halt...

Hinelar. City.

Seriously, I know I can write a lot of things that are easy to disagree with...but I challenge someone to defend this bullshit plotline. The only defense I can think of is maybe the whole idiotic data card thing being a metaphor for our digital lives being easier to manipulate and one that can potentially outlive our physical selves...but no, that's way too clever. This was 1997 after all, who was really thinking about that? Hinelar City was as flimsy as the time bomb that Yuusaku used to bring it down.

OPP: Runtime

I made a quicky post about this in the past. Beginning with the eighth episode of Megaranger, the timeslot moved from Friday nights to Sunday mornings. The move itself wasn't the problem, it was the additional five minutes the episodes gained in the process. Filling twenty-five minutes instead of twenty should have been absolutely perfect for Megaranger. We have a group of five interesting characters that we barely get to know over the course of the year. Granted, backstory doesn't sell toys...but I have a hard time placing what the hell they wasted the extra time on. It wasn't fight scenes (see next OPP), so where did that time go? The opening credits were a little bit longer...and the episode previews had a little more time...but that's only like thirty seconds added between those two.

I know this grievance is in the middle of the list, but this is one of my biggest disappointments with Megaranger. Ignoring the youth drama aspect in a series with actual youths is just daft. I feel like I know way more about the Zyuranger characters...and they were millions of years old bores! They weren't meant to be fun or interesting...they were warriors who woke up in 1992. A lot of what I wrote about the Megaranger gang in the previous post was speculation based on actions. I don't know for sure if Shun was icy because his mother died at some point in his eighteen years, I connected the dots based on what little I know about him.

I really just missed the laser-focus of the twenty minute episodes. On very rare occasions we got something fun like the extended Diet Crepe song, but most of the time the obvious struggle to fill time was embarrassing. I'll get to that later, though.

OPP: Action

I criticized Carranger for being very light on action with only a few standout scenes. Megaranger, however, has nothing memorable. There was like two Megared vs Yugande fights and pretty much any of the slick Megasilver fights were good. There really wasn't anything montage-worthy or anything of passing interest.

Much like Carranger, the out-of-suit stuff was very limited thanks to the secret identity aspect. Though both series had their reasons for keeping their identities a secret. Carranger had an excellent pay off at the end of the series while in Megaranger it was done to protect their friends and families.

OPP: Budget

This was a close one. Megaranger almost made it to the end of the series with a consistently good look. The budget noticeably fell off a cliff starting with the New Year's clip show (more on this fucker later). The complete lack of money made something as impossible as Hinelar City even more baffling.

OPP: Nejirejuu/Psycho Nejilar Designs

Yugande? Awesome. Shibolena wasn't a terrible design either. This is one of the blandest series for weekly monsters. Nothing from Nejirejia looked cool until the Nejirangers showed up...and even they weren't as cool looking as everyone makes them to be. Usually the best monster designs end up in the first eight episodes or so...but when you're leading off with an awful, uninspired stingray...eww....... This is like Golgom all over again...except Golgom worked.

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As a little bonus before I get to the Top 7 episodes from Megaranger, I want talk about three episodes that were absolutely horrible for completely different reasons. Unlike the WINS/OPPS, this list is in order. This series has fifty-one episodes, though it really should have been forty-eight...


03. Miseru ze! Aniki no Miracle Shoot (34)

The next two episodes I'll be talking about are awful for different reasons. This one is just terrible for an extra stupid story. Koichiro's younger brother is having a hard time playing soccer. His coach turns out to be a Psycho Nejilar called Yamaarashi Nejire who brainwashes the team to become his minions. The grand plan is to have them kick explosive-packed soccer balls into the grand stands during an upcoming game. This...is one of the lousiest plans in the history of Super Sentai.

Apparently this episode was written because Atsushi Ehara was pretty good at soccer. Sometimes episodes are written around talents/skills that the actors might have, but I think they may have been scraping a little too deep for this one.

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02. Imakoso! Inochi o kaketa cho gattai (21)

This episode was an absolute waste of time. Delta Mega debuted in the previous episode, but this is the one where they combine it with Galaxy Mega to form Super Galaxy Mega. It wasn't that simple, though. Delta Mega ends up getting taken over and to save it they have to perform the incredibly risky procedure of combining the two mecha together...which could potentially kill everyone on board.

Here is an extreme example of the struggle to pad out the five extra minutes. The story was weak enough to begin with...but what the hell was this crap about it being so risky? Ummm...these are robots that YOU designed and built, Kubota. It's true that Delta Mega wasn't in their control at the time, but I kinda gathered that the combination was a last ditch effort that should never need to be done. Whatever. Completely unnecessary.

Oh, and if you don't believe me about the padded runtime, pay close attention to the Henshin. If it were any more drawn out it could have been an episode of Dragonball Z.

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01. Okiraku! Kenta no toshikoshi sodo (44)

A clip show...and a BAD one. Normally I really don't mind clip shows, but this one had the most skeleton plot woven into it. Kenta loses his Digitizer (ugh) while taking photos of himself for New Years cards with his Cyberslider and Drill Saber. Naturally he had to do it in the Digiken, so his Digitizer was discovered almost immediately by his friends.

Words can't accurately describe how much I hate this episode. The title effects are even extra shitty. Considering the budget had pretty much evaporated in the episodes following this I really have to wonder why in the world they bothered. Take the week off... I mean, the complete lack of effort from everyone kinda suggests they did. Kenta had always been depicted as being a lousy student, but in this one he's practically brain dead. Nobody even bothered to do their hair or anything. Nejirejia doesn't appear at all... The big cop out is that the episode ends with the gang running off to deal with a fictitious Nejirejia attack.

Want to see how a clip show should be done? Kakuranger 39. They dug the storyteller from mothballs and even brought back the Jusho Fighters (well, Battle Saruda) one last time. It was less clip show and more retrospective. It even had a new story woven in.

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Top Seven Megaranger Episodes

For some reason this is the only capture I made from this episode. I must have been hungry.

07. Gekiyaba! Oretachi shinu no ka? (16)

Dokuga Nejire has poisoned thousands of people, leaving the infected with twenty-four hours to live. As it turns out, all five of the Megarangers were exposed to the poison as the moth's mark appears on all of them as well. The team kinda panics as they are now given a death sentence and they head out to live their remaining time to the fullest. While they are indulging, they notice that everyday people are talking about their future plans while completely unaware how little time they have left. The team is motivated to drop the shithead act and figure out a way to save everyone's lives. Koichiro manages to get a piece of Dokuga Nejire and gets it to INET, who was able to make an antidote. Dokuga Nejire is beaten and the day is saved just in time.

This was still early enough in the series for it to be expected for the team to let their youth to lead them to the rash decision to quit and slap together their bucket list together in their remaining time. While their true test would have to wait until the end of the series, this episode was a good example of what one might do once they are given a time limit.

Oh yeah, and Kenta finding his mark was hilarious. Hahaa.

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06. Bikkuri! Otonari wa Nejirejia (14)

A young boy named Shinya is being picked on after claiming to know Megapink. By sheer coincidence, the near-abandoned apartment building he lives in is slowly being inhabited by Kunekune for...reasons I don't quite remember. Shinya discovers this, but nobody believes him. Megaranger saves the day and Megapink makes an appearance to say hello to Shinya while he's with the neighborhood kids.


The real reason to like this one was for the absurdity of the Kunekunes dressed in everyday clothes as well as King Kunekune being an awesome monster design. It's just hundreds of Kunekune forming one gigantic, demented looking Kunekune. Obvious weak point be damned...

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05. Tsukamu ze! Oretachi no sotsugyoshosho (51)

The finale. I have to say, this was a decent episode to go out on.

With Yugande and Shibolena out of the picture, a delusional and rapidly weakening Dr. Hinelar launches an all-out final attack after transforming Death Nejiros into Grand Nejiros. With Delta Mega destroyed and Galaxy Mega and Mega Winger heavily damaged, the Megarangers are only able to hold off Hinelar with an also damaged Mega Voyager. Despite completely shunning the Megarangers after learning their identities, their classmates begin to cheer them on. This motivated them to carry on with their fight and to latch onto Grand Nejiros and fly off to safety as it exploded (come to think of it, didn't that stinkfest Dark Knight Rises end this way too??). Their classmates watch in horror as both Grand Nejiros and Mega Voyager are completely destroyed in the explosion.

Graduation day was somber as there was five glaring vacancies. As Kenta's name is called, the Megarangers arrive on their Cybersliders and all five of them collect their High School Diplomas. Dr. Kubota and Yuusaku both show up for the ceremony as well.

Like I said, it was a good finale. It would have been nice if we got a little personal time with the five of them at the very end...but it's all good. They survived AND they graduated. Well done!

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04. Yasetai! Miku no ayashii Diet (29)

Miku decides to go on a diet and comes across a vendor of a strange Diet Crepe. The vendor claims that eating one will result in rapid weight loss no matter how much you can eat. Naturally she tries one as a puzzled Yuusaku looks on. The diet crepe is a success and Miku loses quite a bit of weight. As it turns out, she fell into a Nejirejia plot as the diet crepe vendor is really Buta Nejire and the diet crepe itself causes insatiable hunger. As it turns out, the spell wears off after only twenty minutes without food (lame as ever, Nejirejia), which Miku manages to accomplish only after being tied down by Yuusaku and then falling into the sewer. Hilarity ensures and Buta Nejire is beaten.

This is one of the most gifable episodes of Super Sentai. Between Buta Nejire's henshin pose, Miku doubling back to the restaurant as the team runs off without her, and Galaxymega getting whacked over the head with a frying pan, there is a lot of fun to be had watching this one. Also...this...


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03. Dokuso! Giniro no New Face (24)

This episode is the standard "sixth hero debuts in a pinch" episode, but what makes it fun is the sixth hero himself--Yuusaku. He playfully teases the Megarangers earlier in the episode and finally jumps into battle when Buffalo Nejire proves to be too much since it has data on all of the existing Megarangers. His excitement to join the battle while basically everyone was scratching their head on who the hell this guy was made for a great episode.

As I mentioned in the previous post, Yuusaku is a fun character. He was a career INET engineer who created the Voyager Machines...but in secret he revived the prototype Megasuit, eventually made it useable, and then created a mecha for himself. Heh. Not bad for an egghead.

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02. Doshite! Chisato ga Oyaji-goe (37)

I kinda talked about this one in my write-up of Chisato. The talent show is coming up and this is Chisato's last shot at making her singing debut after not being able to perform the previous two years. On her way to the event she encounters Canary Nejilar, which Bibidebi sent without permission. Canary Nejilar steals Chisato's voice and replaces it with his own, which leaves her once again unable to participate in the talent show unless she can get her voice back. Ooiwa does his best to stall with a solo guitar performance while the team tries to defeat Canary Nejilar and get Chisato's voice back. After defeating Canary Nejilar in a mecha fight Chisato's voice returns and she is finally able to make her singing debut.

Wait...that didn't happen at all. After defeating Canary Nejilar, her voice doesn't go back to normal. Kubota chimes in and says that she is stuck with the old man voice until it wears off. The dejected team arrives at the talent show after everyone had gone home and is ambushed by Ooiwa and some classmates. Everyone cheers Chisato on to get her to perform anyway even if her voice is screwed up. As it turns out, it came back just in time and she is able to sing her character original song Watashi rashiku ashita e.


I like this one for a number of reasons. For starters, Chisato didn't really get too many good stories on her own. This was only one of like three focus episodes she got in the entire series, and the other two were pretty weak. This is the kind of episode I was hoping to see more of from this series. It was a great balance of Tokusatsu and drama. Not to mention, it had a decent life lesson wrapped into it at the very end. It might not be the most original story, but it feels at home here.

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01. Kireteru! Ao no Kyofu Nejiblue (41)

After Nejipink was defeated in the previous episode, Nejiblue is on a tear to kill Megablue. While Shun and Yuusaku were reviewing the previous battle footage on the moon base, the TV starts to go on the fritz. Yuusaku does like any guy would do and starts hitting it and fidgeting with the cables. The footage goes black and white which gives Shun a brilliant idea. As Nejiblue seeks out Megablue once again, Megablue arrives. So does Megablue, Megablue, Megablue and Megablue. This kinda causes chaos among the remaining Nejirangers as Nejiblue doesn't want anyone but himself to kill Megablue no matter how many there may be. To make matters weirder, Nejisilver suddenly appears. Naturally this turns out to be Yuusaku in disguise. Nejiblue becomes Nejibizzare and is taken out in a mecha battle.

What a fun episode. The Nejirangers were incredibly strong when they debuted, but started falling one by one because they really didn't have a grasp on Megaranger's biggest strength--teamwork. This time in particular Shun came up with a pretty solid plan thanks to the faulty TV. The plot of this episode is kinda Megaranger in a nutshell. Dr. Hinelar tries to one-up Kubota through brute strength, succeeds at first, and then is taken out by Megaranger as they continue on at their marathon pace. Plus it was just thoroughly enjoyable.

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So what do I think of Megaranger? It's alright. I understand why a lot of people really dig this series, but I feel like a lot was left on the table. I know I moan a lot about the five extra minutes, but it really was this show's biggest failing. This series was almost a sloppy experiment for the extended time slot and move to mornings. That said, I will give it props for at least pulling off filling the time better than a lot of newer Sentai series have. All that extra time these days has been filled with hanging around their shitty, over-lit sets with lots of mugging at the camera and going "eeeeehhhhhhhh!?!". Super Sentai, your anime days are drawing nearer and nearer...

Megaranger was still trying to keep the live action flame ablaze. I've always been more of a 90s Super Sentai fan, but I really enjoy the 80s as well. Maskman seemed to deal with criticism for the beginning in decline in the action factor in Super Sentai, but I really think that it only opened the door for us to get better balance in the 90s.

Remember in the first part of this Megaranger write-up when I mentioned that I tend to group Super Sentai into threes? The Ohranger-Carranger-Megaranger grouping just feels right as big changes were happening in those three years. Zyuranger-Dairanger-Kakuranger was about legacy and revenge. All of the heroes had their roots planted firmly in the past and were the chosen generation to suppress a recurring evil. Those three series started with that block of clay and molded the shows around that. Ohranger was a different beast, however. Sure, history plays a part in the plot...but change was happening. Carranger was a much needed break from the mold, but unique in a way that whatever followed it would benefit from tabula rasa. Megaranger certainly felt new and different by several metrics. I can't quite say I agree with the direction the franchise took following this, but it was far from the death of all that was familiar.

I will say this, though... It was nice to see a set of villains completely wiped out for a change. When was the last time? Jetman? Baranoia kinda got eliminated. Buldont's baby, Acha, and Kocha are still traveling space with Gunmajin. Good going, Megaranger. You killed an old man that was going to die on his own anyway. Hahaa.

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I hope you enjoyed this very, very long write-up. Not having ads on my site means I didn't have to dice this up into like twelve articles. Hahaa. I put together a special page with all of my past series overviews on it. If you're looking for more, check it out here. As of right now, I've covered Jetman-Megaranger. Up next? Gingaman. If the incredible Shout!Factory keeps to their schedule, we should all have our DVDs next month.

I'm sure you're done listening to me blab. There will be one more post in 2017. I hope you'll come back for my 2017 year end Top 7 list extravaganza!

Take care!

-CC

Install! Denji Sentai Megaranger Part 1 of 2
Super Sentai Series Reviews

2017/11/17

INSTALL! Denji Sentai Megaranger Part 1 of 2


It's that time again! For the third year in a row, our good GREAT friends at Shout!Factory have given us two Super Sentai DVD releases in one year. To finish off 2017, Denji Sentai Megaranger has recently been released in the Region 1 market. More good news, Gingaman has already been licensed/announced and will be the next series to get the DVD treatment in 2018.

I...kinda approached this series with a little bit of caution given that I have only watched it in it's entirety once in the past. The previous series that have been released on DVD I can almost recite lines from, but Megaranger...yeah, I never clicked with this show. That said, I was excited to give this one another whirl since it's been forever since I've watched Super Sentai chronologically and the last series I watched was Carranger.

What can you expect in this post? Characters... I know in my Carranger post I kicked it off with a big post on the production as a whole. Carranger is kind of a special circumstance though, as the series is unique in a number of ways. I've always grouped early Super Sentai series in threes since it seems to take that long before any noticeable change occurs. That leaves Ohranger-Carranger-Megaranger grouped together. There is some logic behind grouping those three series together...and it's something I hope to elaborate on in the next post. 

Megaranger turned twenty years old this year, but I feel like I still need to get the necessary *spoiler alert* out of the way just in case. You've been warned, lazy.

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Denji Sentai Megaranger

High School slacker Kenta Date is whisked away by INET executives after mastering the Megaranger arcade game. By coincidence, his friends and classmates from Moroboshi High School's Digiken club are investigating the secretive INET facilities. After sneaking in and running into Kenta, Nejirejia begins their attack forcing Dr. Kubota to give the young, but promising High Schoolers the ability to become Megarangers. From there, the five must balance their secret identities as Megarangers while also dealing with everyday High School life.

...or I can sum up the first episode as "I guess we're Megaranger now LOL". The conflict definitely came later on with couple of "I'm quitting LOL" episodes, but when exactly zero party is jazzed about who is wearing the suit, the only thing you can really think is "Where exactly as they going with this?". The cast is extremely likable however and, given the circumstances, probably were the best people for the job than say...the Jetman characters.

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Kenta / Megared

I kinda have a hard time placing Kenta. Of the core members, he is probably the one I like the most as a Megaranger. Like, he has zero interest in technology outside of playing the latest game at the arcade. That said, he took the whole assignment in stride and it really only took him until the very end to have his major "I quit" moment (if you can look past that time when he accidently punched a child). Really, though, outside of Miku he had the least ambition for the future which made him willing to risk himself (and his team) if he was in a life or death situation.

The only thing that really got me was that he was pretty close in personality to Kyosuke/Red Racer from Carranger. Having two similar Reds back to back was a little risky, but it at least set the wheels in motion for the series. Kyosuke suited Carranger far better than Kenta suited Megaranger.

I like Kenta, I just wish we got to know him better.

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Koichiro / Megablack

The kinda-sorta leader of Megaranger. Koichiro really had a habit of micromanaging and over-analyzing the tiniest of details, which usually backfired given how unpredictable Nejirejia could be at times. This usually put him in self-destruct mode whenever he did make mistakes. Luckily there was usually someone there to talk him down from the ledge--even if they did annoy him by being a little too carefree for his liking.

He is definitely one of the smarter Megarangers, but unlike Shun he relies on careful regiment and lots of studying to excel in school. When Koichiro is in one of his cooler moods, I really dig the guy. It's just a shame his laser focus on school AND being a Megaranger really leaves no room for a personality. We all know or knew someone like Koichiro...so I can't really hold that against the character.

Is it just me, or does Atsushi Ehara have a kinda/sorta/maybe passing resemblance to a Hiroshi Miyauchi? 

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Shun / Megablue

Could this dude have gotten any more head wounds during the series?

I kinda feel bad for Shun. He seems like a guy who, more than anything, has some real problems he probably needs to work out. While it's implied that he's really popular with the girls in school, we never really see him with one or even with a passing interest. Early in the series he is seen to be mourning his dead mother. It's probably more of a coincidence in the writing, but I kinda feel like this is why he was like "That's nice, I quit by the way...have fun being Megarangers". It was never fleshed out, but there is a little bit more to the guy and his hang-ups. I mean, he at least could have played off Miku a little bit.

Shun seems way out of place. Not so much as a Megaranger rather he almost seems like he's gifted but doesn't really apply himself outside of building a future career in computer graphics. He probably belongs in a better high school, but for one reason or another remains in class with his friends. 

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Chisato / Megayellow

Megaranger's dual threat. As she is very bright, she is often seen hanging around Koichiro...but she's also a girl so let's pair her up with Miku. It was a little bit of a curse since she was mostly along so that whoever was being focused on would have someone to talk to. I kinda feel like the whole talent show episode was a little bit of an apology for almost leaving her with nothing of her own outside of an overbearing Grandmother episode and making friends with a child whose Birthday is coming up.

She seemed to be the most reliable out of the Megarangers and the only one who really utilized their personal device feature through the series. I mean, the Digicam Search was a pretty neat feature. I'm not sure why she was Yellow, though. Her color really should have been chameleon based on how she blended in most of the time.

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Miku / Megapink

When a strained face is the result of assembling a thought...we must be talking about Miku.

Like any other Tokusatsu series, the stupidity was only ever played up when it was convenient for the plot. Really, though...is she *that* stupid? I don't think so. She isn't a great student, that's for sure...but who was the one who needed tutoring at the end of the series because they were in danger of not graduating? Kenta. Miku just seems like more of a fun ditz with little self-awareness than anything. She never really came up with any day-saving plans, but she could hold her own enough in a fight.

I kinda feel bad for Miku and her portrayal in Megaranger vs. Carranger. Yeah, she loves food...but if that was your only taste of Megaranger, you'll only know her as "Duuuur CAKE!". Kyosuke on the other hand ordering Katsudon matter-of-factly as if he were in a restaurant was pretty hilarious and expected. At least they made Miku much more fun in Gaoranger vs Super Sentai.

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Dr. Kubota

"Don't do it!!!!" *Does exactly what he said not to do, saves day* "Idiot!!! ......nice job"

Rinse... Lather... Repeat....

Dr. Kubota is the brilliant doctor who runs the Megaranger program within INET. He occasionally has reservations about sending fighters so young against Nejirejia...despite the fact that he planted the recruiting tool in an arcade, but whatever. Despite Kubota's ongoing clashes with the Megarangers and Yuusaku, he never fails to stick up for his team whenever upper management tries to pull the plug or make a drastic change. He also came up with some pretty rad designs and gadgets.

Like every other character, Kubota really doesn't have much to him outside of being into his trumpet, boxing, and his sweet Jaguar. There is only a little bit more to him we learn (see: Dr. Hinelar) but I feel like we really should have learned more...

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Yuusaku / Megasilver

The chief engineer at INET behind the Voyager Machines. I think making the Voyager Machines must have caused the dude to snap at some point. He abruptly showed up and transformed into the unfinished prototype Megasuit, Megasilver.

Leave it to the lone adult member of the team to bring the levity. Yuusaku saved the day a number of times either by sheer skill or through complex strategy. He's an easy-going guy and always itching to get into battle when he isn't either working on Mega Voyager or completing work on the Megasilver suit.

Jukou!

I really like Yuusaku. He's probably the closest any Super Sentai character got to City Hunter's Ryo Saeba. Hell, he even looks like him kinda. The only thing missing is the Mokkori powers...

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Jaden Okoku Nejirejia

Nejirejia are the villains of the show. Their motives are the usual, take over the world to make it their own personal playground. You think their dreams would be a strange digital hellscape...but the budget hit them pretty hard and they just wanted human slaves wearing either red, blue, or yellow jumpsuits.

With a razor-thin motive like that, let's just take a look at the individual players to see why they want to take over the world...

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Dr. Hinelar

The lead scientist of Nejirejia. He was once a colleague of Dr. Kubota known as Dr. Samejima, but after a devastating incident that resulted in the death of his daughter, he snapped and Tron'd himself into Nejirejia. He largely resides in Gran Nejiros during the series, but does make the occasional appearance to either taunt Kubota or see how his terrible plans are going.

In addition to taking over the world, he is also obsessed in proving that he is the better scientist than Kubota. Needless to say, this doesn't really work out...but he does develop some interesting technologies and hurdles for the Megarangers to overcome. By the end of the series, he becomes a full-blown mad scientist. He makes claims of immortality until the very end--even as his body begins to uncontrollably warp as a side effect to being a human in Nejirejia.

-------------------


Javious

The mysterious leader of Nejirejia. Seriously, though, don't even mind Javious. He is little more than the nagging force behind Hinelar's actions early on. I mean, he consistently lacked a design. At first he was an eyeball and later he was some pizza boxes stacked together. Someone likely suggested that there has to be something bigger than just Hinelar. 


-------------------

The thing burning? It's a Birthday cake...

Shibolena

The android recreation of Samejima's dead daughter. Maybe it isn't cool to lead off Shibolena's description with a major spoiler that wasn't revealed until the last episode, but who didn't see that coming? She eluded to being Hinelar's creation early-on...so nyeh. Also, this is Tokusatsu. Voluntary surgery equals death. Involuntary surgery? Kamen Rider.

Shibolena seems to have much more ground time/interactions early on. She is largely limited most of the series to dispatching the weekly Psycho Nejilars, though. She did have her uses when someone in Nejirejia needed to blend in with humans. She was also a fairly decent fighter on the occasions she did make it into battle.


-------------------


Yugande

One of the best designs in Super Sentai.......progressively ruined as the series went along. It's almost comical how many times Yugande was beaten. Let's take a look at all of his incarnations...

Yugande Relive...which isn't bad...

Yugande Strong...you're pushing it now...

Yugande Burning

He was a great fighter and was involved in pretty much all of the memorable battles in the series. He was created by Dr. Hinelar along with Shibolena and acts as more of the muscle/bodyguard.

Seriously, though, that original design is amazing. By the time we got to Burning Yugande...ugh...

-------------------


Bibidebi

The growth device of the series. Bibidebi is given an operation that gives him the ability to genetically modify the defeated Psycho Nejilar to become giant. One of the gags that I enjoyed that slowly got abandoned was how the Psycho Nejilar would scream "Waaah!" when Bibidebi bit them to begin the enlarging process.

Of pretty much everyone in Nejirejia, he actually pulled off the only time Nejireija did any permanent damage to the Megarangers. While nobody was looking he dispatched Canary Nejilar, which stole Chisato's voice and forced her to not be able to sing in the talent show. Pretty much every other time in the series the Megarangers were able save the day and continue with their lives unhindered. This was Chisato's last chance at singing in the talent show after being forced to miss it in previous years.

You think it's all going to work out, but it doesn't. Chisato misses her chance and her classmates pretend to be excited to see her show up way after the show. Damn you, Bibidebi!

Oh yeah...and what the hell happened to him anyway? Yugande died in battle, Shibolena died after breaking the news about Yugande to Hinelar, and Bibidebi booked a flight to the Bahamas because he knew shit was not going to last much long with just Hinelar left...

-------------------


Kunekune

The series grunts. My second favorite grunt design of the 90s right behind the Dorodoros from Kakuranger.

I have more to say...but I think I'll save that for next time.

-------------------


Guirail

"The boss sent me down from corporate to get you slackers in line!"-Every mid-series regular villain ever

Every series has one...few series try to make it interesting. Megaranger isn't one of them. Guirail is sent by Javious to get Hinelar and the others back on track. As with the usual middle-management bad guy he's super strong at first and then gets wiped out like a dozen episodes later.


Amid the turmoil he did do something at least a little bit interesting. He fused with Yugande to become Giga Guirail. Like the snake he is, he abandoned Yugande to get defeated once again by Megaranger. It did set the ball in motion for Hinelar's not giving a single shit about Javious when he Bomber-The-Great'd Guirail into Mad Guirail. Can't say I didn't see that coming.

-------------------


Nejiranger

Hinelar eventually finished the work that he initially began as Samejima--to create his own team. This time, however, it was more about being the better scientist than Kubota. At first, the Nejirangers gave the Megarangers a run for their money. Things quickly started to fall apart, however. The Nejiranger were quickly dimishing Javious' power--which is what was giving them life. The Nejirangers themselves almost seemed to mirror the personalities of their corresponding Megaranger. Nejired was impulsive while Nejiblack told him to cool it and wait for further instructions from Hinelar.


They later figured out they were basically on a suicide mission as Hinelar's goal was for the Nejirangers to both kill the Megarangers, Javious, and themselves in one swoop. This would leave Hinelar left at the top of the Nejirejia food chain and ruler of the world with any opposition gone. It wasn't a terrible plan, but the resulting battle only left the Nejirangers and Javious dead with his heart left behind.

This wasn't the complete end of the Nejirangers, though. Oh no. More on that next time...

-------------------

I have a lot of plans for the next post. I didn't want to make this a three-parter like I did with Carranger, but I'll be sure to go over everything I didn't get to in this post.

Especially that one critical point.....whether or not I even liked this show upon rewatch...or ever for that matter...

Stay tuned!

-CCLemon99



2017/11/04

The CD Collection--TM Network Original Singles 1984-1999 + BACKTRACKS


Welcome back to that wacky series where I talk about my horrible CD Collecting habit. On one hand, I always have something to listen to. On the other hand, have you ever tried to lift a box of CDs? Well...I have several. I love music, so what other options do I have?

This time on The CD Collection I'll be talking about TM Network. Whether you found out about them through their flirtation with anime theme songs or just through their sheer popularity, there is a good chance you've at least heard of them. While they're much less active today than they were in the 80s and 90s, they still perform and still know how to put on a show.

Earlier this year I reviewed the then-brand new GET WILD SONG MAFIA 4-CD set that was released on the 30th anniversary of that song. I recommend checking that post out as I give a little more insight into the band. Don't worry, there will be a reminder to check that post up the three times that Get Wild comes up in this post.

To cover the basics: Takashi Utsunomiya (vocals), Tetsuya Komuro (keyboard, mad scientist, super producer, also known as TK), and Naoto Kine (guitar, keyboard, sunglasses enthusiast) make up TM Network. They formed in 1983 after briefly playing together in a band called Speedway. They have all done solo work during their time as TM Network with TK becoming one of the biggest producers of 1990s JPOP.

With the intro out of the way, how about we dive into the body? (We say yeah!)


-------------------------

TM NETWORK ORIGINAL SINGLES 1984-1999



DISC ONE MHCL-20164


01. 1974 (16 konen no homonsha)

Oddly enough, the first track on this set is, well, not even their first single. 1974 is actually their second single...but maybe a little more fitting as the first track with this revisionist discography. 

1974 is such a good song. Really, there are so many layers to this damn song. It could have been nothing more than the blaring synths and it still would have been acceptable for the time (look at bands like Depeche Mode and their work from early 1984). More than any point in their career, the "TM" in TM Network stood for "Time Machine". TM Network in general reminds me of the DeLorean in Back To The Future Part 3. It's a 1981 vehicle, with 2015 upgrades, and 1955 wheels and tires. Futuristic, reminiscent, and completely of it's time. 1974 sums up TM Network perfectly. 

Even if it is the second single they released, it works as the lead track of this set. The band has expressed regret that this wasn't their lead single, so I guess it's OK to rewrite history. I mean, their name is Time Machine Network after all. 

Oh, and I should probably note that this set uses the far superior Single Version of this song. The version from their debut single, RAINBOW RAINBOW, is...off. Compare the two and you'll see what I mean. The edits made for the single really makes this song work.

02. Panoramagic (Astronauts no higeki)

The B-Side track to 1974. Panoramagic is fairly similar song to 1974, so it was a nice fit on the same wax. It's a little dreamier sounding and quite a bit less in-your-face. It's definitely good to have on in the background.

A quick note on the title...it's a bit of a tongue-twister, but it works well enough as a portmanteau.

03. Kinyobi no Lion (Take it to the Lucky)

HA........UH(bwahbwahbwahbwahbwaaahbwaaahbwaaaaah)

THIS is the debut single from TM Network. Personally I love this song...probably even more than 1974. Like 40% of the lyrics in this song are in English, but the whole thing comes across as bizarre blob. Even more bizarre is the music video...which was on Youtube for like ten years, I watched it last week, and now it's gone. Perfect. Just in time for this post. 


Crocodile Girl is sad that she had to wave goodbye to her video...

Take it to the Lucky is a little bit disjointed and sloppy, but still features the masterful producing from TK that really ensured TM Network would have been a success even if they had half as many hits as they managed to have early in their almost immediate popularity. Keep in mind, TM Network was only signed to flippin' Sony/Epic six months prior to this single. They debuted as label mates to Michael Jackson at the height of his career.

Unfortunately, the best version of this song isn't the single version that is included on this set. The album version from RAINBOW RAINBOW features this excellent and moody intro that I'm sure a lot of vaporwave dorks would rip-off if they ever found out about it. Outside of the clipped intro, the song is single version is the same as the album version. 

04. Crocodile Rap (Get Away)

Take it to the Lucky's B-side. It complements it perfectly. So far, all four of these tracks were also available on their debut album RAINBOW RAINBOW. These two singles, however feel like their on two different islands. If they really wanted to make things interesting they could have swapped B-Sides, but I see what they did with keeping the themes for both singles intact. 

Also...this song reminds me of Jermaine Jackson's Dynamite just a little bit. This isn't the first JPOP song that has had me making this connection. Dynamite is pretty solid song, but I have a feeling it was a much bigger deal in Japan. Akina Nakamori even covered it during her BITTER & SWEET tour... Or I could be making strange connections that aren't there.

05. Accident (ACCIDENT)

ACCIDENT is TM Network's third single and their first to come out in 1985. WOW. It's obviously the same band, but their sound had definitely become far tighter. The vocals are now dialed in and focused solely on the minty-fresh style of Utsunomiya. This is just a much better production all around...and it's a super catchy song to boot.

06. FANTASTIC VISION

The B-side for ACCIDENT. More of the TM in TM Network in action. This sound could have easily been released as-is a decade later and still been in step with the time. This definitely has some mid-90s chill to it, without getting too far ahead of the current sound. 

Apt title for this song. Hahaa.

07. DRAGON THE FESTIVAL (ZOO MIX)

I have mixed feelings on this one. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I think it is borderline dull. It definitely has an awesome title, I'll give it that. I appreciate it as a production just for being so strange. The chorus is...kinda meh. The singing in general is kinda flat and muddled. But...listening to it with the good headphones I hear all the little technically details more clearly. This is definitely one I enjoy a lot more on the Karaoke version of the set.

08. YOUR SONG ("D"Mix)

This song got a mix for the "D"...Vampire Hunter D. TK did the music for the Vampire Hunter D OVA from 1985 and this is the theme song. 

The synth bass is waaaay too heavy, but it actually matches the percussion perfectly. It's enough to hurt your teeth at times. I love it, though. Great singing and really a great debut for TM Network to make into the anison genre. Obviously this is far from their most memorable anison, however...

09. Come on Let's Dance (This is the FANKS DYNA-MIX)

1986. This single was released on the second anniversary of Take it to the Lucky and it marks yet another year of growth. The structure and energy is definitely early 90s, but this is also very much a mid-80s rock song. 

In two short years after their debut, this song is as tight as a drum. As great as their debut work was, it was from a young band that was still figuring it all out. This song is absolutely professional.

10. You Can Dance

Obviously this is the B-side to Come on Let's Dance. The title is basically doubling-down on your permission to dance. Let's dance...come on, you can dance...

Honestly, I can kinda leave this one. This is right around the time horns started to creep into JPOP songs. It works well for some songs, but sounds kinda lame for others. Sadly, this falls into the latter category. 

It doesn't help that it reminds me of Gloria a little bit. How did disco sneak it's way into TM Network?

11. GIRL

A somewhat slow jam that I can't really say I'm too fond of. It's a fairly straight-forward beat with "Girl, I love you." sung no less than forty times.

I should note that by this point TM Network had been all over the oricon charts with their singles. YOUR SONG was their biggest hit at 14th with other recent singles hovering around the same space. This single peaked at 32nd, which is right where they were with ACCIDENT. Maybe this single didn't quite need to happen.

12. Ame ni chikatte~SAINT RAIN~

A far better song than GIRL, it's A-side. This is an energetic rock song that is a little more on the generic side, but still a much needed jolt of energy. 

13. All-Right All-Night (No Tears No Blood)

Now that's a title...

So this is a dance song that is also a rock song. It's a pretty difficult feat to pull off something hyper-energetic like this without being overbearing or sloppy. I like this song quite a bit for being so different. Being a very fast rock song, the lyrics are almost rapped over the music. It all makes for a delightful combination.

That said, this song peaked at 41st. I might be alone in liking this one. Then again, TM Network is more of an album band. Pretty much every song mentioned so far has been on an album.

14. Self Control (Hakobune ni hikarete)

Catchy as all hell, that's all that really can be said about this upbeat rock song. 

Self Control is their first single of 1987...but definitely not the one people remember the most from TM Network that year. Most notable is that Naoto Kine removed his sunglasses for the cover image for the album of the same name...

15. Get Wild

If you really want to go down the rabbit hole, check out my post on the 4-Disc GET WILD SONG MAFIA set that I put together earlier this year. 

How can I sum this up quickly? City Hunter. Signature song. Lab experiment for decades to come...

16. Fighting (Kimi no Fighting)

A nice ballad that is a fitting B-side for the excellent Get Wild. Utsunomiya's singing really makes this one special.

-------------------------

DISC TWO MHCL-20165


01. Kiss You (Sekai wa uchuu to koi ni ochiru)

This one is a little bit different. The New York sound was fashionable at the time, but as far as I can work out this song was only inspired by a louder and more western sound without actually being recorded over here. Even if you've never heard this song, I bet you'll think it sounds familiar.

I like this one a lot. TK does the backing vocals, but they're almost loud enough that this song is almost a duet. The lyrics are sung in a light rap, which blends really well with the smooth beat.

02. RESISTANCE

RESISTANCE is TM Network's first single of 1988. I love this song and it's intense instrumentals, but I can't help but have a nagging feeling about how this song shouldn't really exist as it is. 

In 1992 TK released a self-cover of this song on his album of self-covers to select songs he produced called Hit Factory. His re-imagining of RESISTANCE is a very slow and emotional song. In reality, his version is more of an un-imagining as a demo version of RESISTANCE was later released. The demo, as you can imagine, sounded way more like TK's cover than the finished song. I wonder why there was such a drastic change...

Regardless, this is a great song.

03. Come Back To Asia

This is the B-side to RESISTANCE.

I admit, at this point I don't own every TM Network/TMN album. I've heard a lot of their songs, however, and they never really struck me as a band who was interested in taking any influence from any form of Asian music.

This song is very grand in an understated way. It has a very subtle Asian flavor with a somewhat cinematic feel. It kinda feels like a prototype to a song like trf's World Groove (trf being the 90s pop act that TK produced) or TK's theme song to the film Tentochito of the same name. 

04. BEYOND THE TIME (Mebius no uchuu o koete)

If you downloaded Gundam music from WinMX, you probably know this one...

This is TM Network's theme song to the film Kido Senshi Gundam: Gyakushuu no Char. BEYOND THE TIME is slick and well-produced track that has kinda gone on to live a life of it's own among popular Gundam songs. It's kinda weird when I ask people who know TM Network what brought them in. I did have a friend who loved this song and later heard the obligatory songs from City Hunter.

Utsunomiya's singing is very good on this song.

05. SEVEN DAYS WAR

Another movie theme song--this one shares it's title with the film. As TK did the music for this movie, it's only natural that his band perform the theme song. You know what, I really like this song even if it is a little bit of a lightweight. It's incredibly catchy.

06. GIRLFRIEND

This is the B-side to SEVEN DAYS WAR and is also included on the movie's soundtrack. This one...I don't like so much. The music fits in pretty well with the rest of the BGM from the movie, but you would never know that unless you heard the soundtrack of watched the movie. The chorus is pretty irritating, though. Ick.

07. COME ON EVERYBODY

Yessss. This is the TM Network I love. Just balls-to-the-wall hype music. I mean, you know what you're getting into just by the title of this song. Even as the 90s were approaching (this song was released in late 1988) TM Network was still challenging you to nonstop dancing in the guise of fast dance-rock.


08. JUST ONE VICTORY (Remix Version)

The first TM Network single of 1989. This is the remix version of JUST ONE VICTORY. While it sounds very of-it's-time, it almost sounds like the strings were later borrowed for GET WILD DECADE RUN. This remix of it is a little too disjointed and weird...it just makes me wish I listening to the actual song. It does one of those annoying false fades before blaring back into the song. 

09. STILL LOVE HER (Ushinawa reta fuukei)

The lesser-known TM Network City Hunter theme song. This was used as the second ending for the awesome City Hunter 2 (if you've never seen City Hunter, I can't recommend City Hunter 2 enough). The funny thing is, the second opening theme song from City Hunter 2 was the song SARA by Fence of Defense, which was pretty much made up of TM Network's touring band. City Hunter, City Hunter 2, and City Hunter 3 all had a strong connection to TM Network. Even the Japanese release of Jackie Chan's City Hunter-esque City Hunter movie featured a song from Utsunomiya. City Hunter '91 is invalid as far as I'm concerned...no TM Network...

The song itself? I love it. It's a beautifully done song and it works even better in context as the ending song that that particular arc of City Hunter. Seriously...this song brings fond memories of just some excellent television. Even the end credits were well done...despite being little more than stock footage of traffic, parks, and buildings with some characters lazily dropped in.

10. Get Wild '89

Hmmm I did talk about this one in my GET WILD SONG MAFIA review that you should totally check out...

[UPDATE] In my rush to skip this song, I totally forgot to point something out. The original single for Get Wild '89 features a second track--Fool On The Planet from the album Self Control. I have a theory as to why it wasn't included on this set. By the time this single was released it was kind of an older song. Maybe if it were a song from 1989 rather than 1987 it would have been included on this set. Otherwise...I have no idea...

11. KISS YOU (KISS JAPAN)

Didn't we get this one already? This is a remix of KISS YOU. The biggest differences here is that TK's backing vocals almost sound even louder and there is almost a Morris Day sound to it. I kinda prefer this version just for being just a little bit harder than the original.

12. COME ON EVERYBODY (with Nile Rodgers)

Another single of a remix of a previous single. Man, this back-to-back double-dip is pretty ballsy. I have to give them credit, though. This version does sound a lot less power-dance hit and more smooth 90s dance hit. That said, I enjoy the original FAR more than this one. 

13. DIVE INTO YOUR BODY

*cracks knuckles*

I've been waiting for this one. This isn't just my all-time favorite TM Network songs...it's one of my all-time favorite songs fullstop. This song is borderline assault with just how much they pack into it.

There is a parallel between this song and the just as incredible RUNNING TO HORIZON by TK. For starters, there were recorded at the same time. The LA-LA-LA-LA is only slightly different and both songs are of similar structure. While RUNNING TO HORIZON is the perfect pop song, DIVE INTO YOUR BODY is all that with a supercharger, turbocharger, and 100 shot of nitrous oxide. 

My favorite songs are usually the hardest to explain just because I think greatness needs no explanation. Musical taste is subjective, however, and this might sound like a crappy dance song to you. That's fine. I implore you to listen closely and at least try to explore how dense it really is. There are plenty of songs I don't like that are at the very minimum admirably produced.

When the song is rounding third base and starts breaking apart at the end...so good...

14. THE POINT OF LOVERS' NIGHT

The first single of 1990 and the final single released under the name TM Network. In fact, this song also appeared on the first TMN branded album Rhythm Red.

I have to say, for the bright future of the 1990s that TM Network was building up to...they kinda delivered the opposite of that for this song. Coming off of DIVE INTO YOUR BODY, this song is almost standing still. It doesn't have too much of a pulse.

BUT. It's a great song. Very catchy melody and hey...it's TM Network's first and only single to finish first on the oricon chart. Yeah, they got one in before they changed their name. TK was heavy into the synclavier at this point (See also: V2 single and Psychic Entertainment Sound) so that makes an appearance throughout the sound. If I can liken this to past TM Network songs...it's a little bit of BEYOND THE TIME meets Come Back To Asia. The results are great seeing as I like this better than both of those songs.

-------------------------

DISC THREE MHCL-20166



01. TIME TO COUNT DOWN

TMN's first single and it hit Number 1? Who are these up and coming bastards??

Holy hell, this song rules. It's basically speed metal that takes brief breaks for the chorus. Songs like this are never catchy, but this one still manages to be thanks to the chorus. An odd-duck of a song, but goddamn does it kick ass. The speed-piano at the beginning reminds me a lot of V2's Eyes Of Venus...which makes sense since half of V2 is TK.

02. WORLD'S END

TMN's rock based sound is also apparent on this B-side to TIME TO COUNT DOWN. It definitely has more of a prog-rock sound with only some of the speed of the previous track. A great song and a great match for it's partnered track.

03. RHYTHM RED BEAT BLACK

Part of the whole thing that got lost once they their name to TMN was the "TM" part of their name. So far the music has been great, but none of it really felt like it was delivered from the future. RHYTHM RED BEAT BLACK is my favorite of the TMN songs I've heard (most of them) but this song really can't exist outside of 1990. As a single...this song was released in December of 1990. They ran the risk of sounding dated for the first time ever...!

My favorite part of the song is 00:34-01:11. It's just awesome. I loooove any TM-related songs that have extended intros--RUNNING TO HORIZON comes to mind as well. For this song, it gives the perfect build-up.

Here is the part I was planning on talking about the music video for this song. Let me try to paint a picture... Utsunomiya is dancing in a hyper-rehearsed fashion with a bunch of dudes wearing either red or black. Meanwhile, TK is trapped between two keyboard on a platform. The most bizarre thing is Naoto Kine...where is he? He VERY briefly makes an appearance in a red suit and is almost completely obscure by a weird fade-effect. I...don't get it. Between the almost robotic dancing, captured TK, and absent Kine there has to be some kind of plot woven in.

The ghost of Naoto Kine...

04. DREAMS OF CHRISTMAS

Ugh. Here we go...

This is the B-side to RHYTHM RED BEAT BLACK. I've heard way worse Christmas songs, but when Utsunomiya is ill enough that others have to fill in for most of the singing duties...why even bother? TK's unique vocals are present along with Naoto Kine and occasional guitarist Tetsuya Katsuragi. 

Eh, but it was popular enough to make it into some ad campaigns...so what do I know?

05. Love Train

Remember all of those songs from the late 80s that TM Network made that sounded like they could be from the early 90s? Well, this one is riiiiight on time. It's a new song, I swear...but in 1991 they were releasing music that finally sounded like it belonged. Not only that, it sounds like tiny elements of many TM Network songs chopped up even further and spliced together to make one super song. I hear little split-second pieces of things like RUNNING TO HORIZON. Even the synclavier is back...

I like this one a lot...but whatever illness had Utsunomiya down at the end of 1990 is still present in his voice. It's not terrible, but he's obviously working at limited capacity.

06. We Love The EARTH

Heh. That title...

This is the B Side for Love Train. It's a decent song...this single is very reminiscent of earlier TM Network stuff. I mean that as a compliment. It all sounds great, but just a little but more modern.

07. WILD HEAVEN

Not a big fan of this one. It's upbeat to the post where it's almost a little irritating. I was hoping for the rock to stick around for a little while longer once they made the name change to TMN. Even the name isn't all that imaginative. They already have a song called Get Wild and hell, one of City Hunter's theme songs is called Go Go Heaven. A sloppy mash-up between those two songs would be more interesting than this.

It shouldn't really be much of a surprise, then, that they took nearly two years off following this single.

08. Ichizunakoi

OK, I like this one. TMN returns in late 1993 with a new dance single. It was kinda TMN-lite, though as Kine only provided chorus vocals. Strange. Regardless, this is a great song. Lots of energy, a great sound to it, and overall very catchy.

It's a little strange that this song has a Japanese title, no? If the title were in English, it would likely be "Everlasting Love", which is also the name of the comeback single from Akina Nakamori not to long before this. Probably just a coincidence...but it's not crazy to me. Is it crazy to you?

09. Nights Of The Knife

This is the final song of TMN. Released on the 10th anniversary of their debut, Nights Of The Knife is the farewell to TM Network and TMN. Well, as it turned out more of the farewell to TMN than anything. It's a slow song, but still has a beat. If this really were the complete end to TM Network, it would have been a great song to go out on. 

However, this end was only the end of a chapter... Five years later we got...

10. GET WILD DECADE RUN

I wouldn't mind talking about the other two versions of Get Wild on this set...but the less said about this stinker the better. That, and I also covered it in my review of GET WILD SONG MAFIA.

11. IT'S GONNA BE ALRIGHT

I mentioned in that GET WILD SONG MAFIA review that this song was the B-side to GET WILD DECADE RUN and that I actually preferred it to the title track. The beat is refreshingly simple-sounding but actually pretty complex the closer you listen to it. The janky guitar just means that this song is from the late 90s. While I like this one, it's easily just as satisfying to listen to the Karaoke version on the "Backtracks" version of this set.

12. 10 YEARS AFTER (BOB BLOCKMAN MIX)

Honestly, this song is very similar to IT'S GONNA BE ALRIGHT. Alarmingly so. It isn't a bad song, it just isn't much different from a song I just heard.

The title is a little bit perplexing. This song came out in 1999 and refers to the rebirth of TM Network after ten years. OK...but what about those five-ish years as TMN? You know...the five years where most of your Number 1 singles came from? Keep in mind, TM Network baaaaarely had one Number 1 hit. TMN? Five...out of seven. Pretty hard to ignore, eh? Hahaa.

13. 80's

Unusually this is actually the B-side of the single for Happiness x3 Loneliness x3, which I will be talking about next.

This is a pretty decent song to be perfectly honest. The singing is more group focused than centralized on Utsunomiya and the lyrics are actually pretty motivational. 

14. Happiness x3 Loneliness x3

This is actually the title track of this single. I'm a little bit murky on the details...but from what I gather the government requested an upbeat, motivational song for the kids to keep them off of drugs. The result...was this single. Uh yeah.

This song is pretty good, to be perfectly fair. Utsunomiya has minimal involvement with the vocals. I mean, he is drown out almost completely underneath the blaring latin-instrumentals and the female chorus. 

Did it work? Well, I didn't take any drugs today, so I'd say it's a rousing success!


-------------------------

TM NETWORK ORIGINAL SINGLES 1984-1999 BACKTRACKS


Honestly there isn't entirely to say about this set. I'm VERY glad that it exists since I love all things Karaoke and Instrumental.

Basically this set is the exact same thing as the set I reviewed above except it is Karaoke and Instrumental versions. Is it perfect? Nah, but close! Only one song is absent from the vocal set. 98% is something I could absolutely live with...especially since the song missing is one I was never crazy about. Outside of that, this set is a little bit cobbled together. Some of the versions of songs are different from the vocal set. Sometimes there are backing vocals, sometimes there aren't. If you're expecting a 1:1 match for the other set, it comes very close...

Right now you can get the BACKTRACKS version of this set for very cheap on Amazon Japan--way cheaper than the vocal version. I recommend picking both up since years from now this one will be sought after. Official Karaoke discs like this always end up being rare as they are typically printed in smaller batches.

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DISC ONE MHCL-2056


The only missing song from this set is on this disc. You Can Dance didn't make the cut for whatever reason. 

All versions of the songs on this disc contain backing vocals (Karaoke) except Self Control, which is the Instrumental version. Two songs here are short versions--DRAGON THE FESTIVAL (Zoo Mix) and Come on Let's Dance (This is the FANKS DYNA-MIX). I dig the Karaoke version of DRAGON THE FESTIVAL.

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DISC TWO MHCL-2057


There is a slightly better mix of Karaoke and Instrumental on this one. Three tracks (COME ON EVERYBODY, DIVE INTO YOUR BODY, and THE POINT OF LOVERS' NIGHT) and Instrumental, while the rest are Karaoke.

The version of Get Wild '89 here is a strange short version. Much of the intro is cut for no reason... If you are bored enough you can cut together a full version pretty easily which I may or may not have done with this song and Take It To The Lucky. The Karaoke version of STILL LOVE HER doesn't fade out like the vocal version does...so there is another one you can mix and match with some minor editing skills.


It also would have been cool to get another take of DIVE INTO YOUR BODY with the backing vocals as they're a pretty important part of the song. Either way...I love that damn song...

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DISC THREE MHCL-2058


The mix of Karaoke and Instrumental versions become great on this one. Five songs are Instrumental (Ichizunakoi, GET WILD DECADE RUN, IT'S GONNA BE ALRIGHT, 10 YEARS AFTER-BOB BLOCKMAN MIX-, and Happiness x3 Loneliness x3) and the rest are Karaoke versions. 

There really isn't too much to say about this disc as a lot of the material was previously available as these were all singles from the 90s. The only short version here is of 10 YEARS AFTER. I love the Karaoke version of RHYTHM RED BEAT BLACK.


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That does it for that. Unfortunately this post was Option C for what I was going to lead November with. I'm not far enough along in my re-watch of Denji Sentai Megaranger to talk about that and the other post...ummm, let's just say it fell apart. I've been traveling a ton recently and this set has gotten a lot of play from me. Write what you know, eh? Like I was saying...I highly recommend picking both of these sets up from Amazon Japan. I remember getting them for cheap only a few years ago. They're still available...so why not?

Be sure to check out my CD Collection page for more articles and reviews. Thanks for stopping by today!

-CC

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