2016/11/01

Choriki Henshin! ~Ohranger Part 1 of 3~


This is the first in my series of posts covering Choriki Sentai Ohranger. I've been putting this one off for what feels like years at this point. I did actually have a write-up for the show prior to my most recent viewing, but decided to scrap it in favor of a new approach. Kinda fitting, no? This post is going to be a stream of consciousness. Next time, I'm going to be breaking the characters down similar to what I did in my Jetman posts (1, 2). The third and final part will be...Top 7 lists! All three posts will be in November. Consider the extra post this month my little bonus for being loyal readers in this year of growth of CCLemon99.com

I wasn't happy with what I had written in my previous attempt, so I decided to wait until Shout Factory released their DVD set of the series. Even though they claimed they weren't going to ship direct preorders early this time around, I ended up getting my set way early--almost three weeks to be exact. So much so, that I had a problem with a disc and still got a replacement before the series had it's general release. Shout Factory is the best... I *highly* recommend purchasing direct from them. Extraordinary customer service and getting the early release really helped motivate me into getting this post finished.


Choriki Sentai Ohranger... This is the series that people like to talk shit on without ever seeing it. You hear the same buzzy crap every single time "the mood changed due to terrorist attacks", "toy sales were down", "ratings were down", etc. Whether or not any of that is true (I'm not entirely sure any of it is, honestly) is useless drivel. If you liked any of the three previous Sentai series, there is something for you here. That may act as a detriment to the series as a whole since it probably wasn't what it set out to accomplish, but at the end of the day this series is extremely watchable to all Super Sentai fans. I've always felt this way and really get annoyed whenever someone is clearly regurgitating negativity on the show without ever seeing even the opening credits.

Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself here...how about going back to the beginning? Better yet, let's go back before the series even started...

1995 was the year of Super Sentai. The most congratulatory Toei has ever gotten about Super Sentai was the trailer for the Ohranger movie. Not only was this the first celebration since Himitsu Sentai Goranger and JAKQ Dengekitai was brought into the Super Sentai franchise in 1994, but they felt the need to tout how the franchise had taken America by storm. That's right...America fuck you, France/Brazil/Philippines/Korea/any other country that aired it....America!!!. Seriously, I reviewed the Ohranger movie in the past, but I don't think I ever mentioned the trailer that's tacked on to the front of it. It's kinda awesome in a way. Not only were Goranger and JAKQ in the club now (so much so that they cast Hiroshi Miyauchi, an actual Goranger AND...ummm JAKQ, to play the Commander of the new team) but their show had become a massive hit in 'the States! 


None of this "Turboranger is the 10th anniversary" BS anymore...

I can't say for sure what was going on behind-the-scenes, but I kinda feel like there was a push to kinda make things different. I wrote about the theme song debacle in the past, but that wasn't the only big change they were trying to make with the music. Seiji Yokoyama, whose previous Tokusatsu work includes Megaloman, Koseidon, Metalder, and Winspector replaces Eiji Kawamura as series composer. This, I believe, is what causes the confusing tone for series. While Yokoyama's music is opulent and downright beautiful at times (Everything on the Symphonic Suite disc was recorded in France in late 1994), it does the series no favors as it progresses. I kinda feel like I'm getting ahead of myself since I haven't reviewed the three music collection CDs or the series proper yet, but the music just doesn't have as much variety as Eiji Kawamura's work. Kawamura had something for every situation in every episode of the five Tokusatsu series he composed (BLACK, BLACK RX, Dairanger, Kakuranger, and B-Fighter). Yokoyama's work is fantastic, but doesn't fit very well beyond the eighth episode or so.

The premise of the series is an ambitious one. We're introduced to an invasion already in progress. The year is 1999 and Machine Teikoku Baranoia has been targeting the largest cities in the world with the demand that the human race surrender and become it's slaves. Japan, however, has a card up it's sleeve. United Airforce Overtech Hardware, has managed to harness the mysterious Choriki in a project spearheaded by Commander Naoyuki Miura. In preparation for the invasion, Ohranger was formed. However, the team had only been given the assignment just before the invasion which lead to the leader, Captain Goro Hoshino to resist the first wave on his own...




The first episode of Ohranger is probably my favorite debut episode of any Super Sentai. Not only does it set up the story perfectly, but it does it in fantastic style. Coming off of Dairanger and Kakuranger, a series where the leadership is...debatable for the majority of the series, we get a first episode that puts it all on front street. Goro is in charge -fullstop-. This isn't up for debate. It's his job to be in charge. Not only is he in charge, but he's been waiting for this. Baranoia has been tormenting the planet for some time now and one man catches them with their pants down. It's incredible. I know I said earlier that this show can be enjoyed by anyone, but the first episode is a must-see for all. 


So what's the deal with the writing, anyway? The series had a murderer's row of well-established writers. This was head writer Noboru Sugimura's fourth consecutive Sentai series (he had been writing non-stop for Toei since Seiun Kamen Machineman in 1984). Of the four Sentai series he was head writer of, this one is probably his least represented work. Of the 48 episodes, he only wrote 23. In my opinion, he wrote some of the better, plot-driven episodes of the series. The first four episodes? All him. King Ranger's debut? Yep. The finale? Yes! There were a couple lame ones with his name on it like the one with the crying babies (did he really write a baby peeing in Juri's face into his script? C'mon, man!).

When the show practically becomes Kakuranger II, some of the stranger scripts (including the movie) can be traced back to Shozo Uehara. The boring scripts were from Toshiki Inoue (no lie, his best work is on the 1982 Dr, Slump "Hoyoyo! Space Adventure" film). The rest of the scripts were by Hirohisa Soda and Susumu Takaku. I would say that Soda was the only other writer to come close to writing any other plot-driven stories in addition to the blahfest known as Ohranger vs Kakuranger. Takaku wrote only two scripts (both Momo-themed episodes) that otherwise would've basically left Momo as "the other girl" (her popularity baffles me).

"Wasshoi!" -Uehara (when he was writing this episode)

The tone of the show takes a noticeable turn with the ninth episode. The steampunk invasion was basically replaced with both sides slipping into the status quo. Who knows exactly why the show changed so quickly. It could be in response to national incidents, but I don't think it was that simple. After this particular viewing of the series, it kinda hit me. They didn't have a full year of episodes like the debut. Episodes 2-4 end basically exactly the same way. The team looking up at the sky angrily at Baranoia. Imagine 48 episodes of that... I want to say that someone was like "Lighten up, man." more than any changes being a knee-jerk reaction to current events. Realistically, do you think the show could have sustained it's bleak tone for an entire year? I don't. Should it have gone as light as it did at times? Not at all. There was a perfect middle ground that they zoomed right passed on their way to ending up at making Kakuranger-esque episodes again.

Final Frame of 4th Episode

Final Frame of 9th Episode...yeah...

In closing (I'm actually writing this post in one sitting, which is pretty rare...I really wanted this to be as honest as possible) I feel that this is a series that unfairly gets dismissed by people who have no intentions in seeing it in the first place. It does have a sizable fanbase for a reason. This is a good show. Above all else, it is very watchable and extremely entertaining. The action is great, the mecha scenes (as unique as they are) aren't dull and the characters are worth rooting for even if we don't learn a whole lot about them. Definitely check Ohranger out if you haven't already. Given that it is making it's way to DVD in 'the States as this goes live on my site, I have a feeling that it will gain some new fans. The series is finally living up to the hype of the movie's trailer...taking over America......


Thank you for reading. I hope you'll come back November 11th for Part 2 in my Ohranger series. In the meantime, check out my previous two Ohranger-inspired posts...

U.A.O.H. & Machine Teikoku Baranoia ~Ohranger Part 2 of 3~

See ya soon!

-CC


UPDATE: OK, so I wrote the above post some time ago, but I feel that I have to include a little update regarding the breaking controversy regarding Shout Factory's subtitles. As I write this update on October 31st, news has broken that the subtitles were lifted from Million Fold Curiosity (who mentioned See You Again in their Ohranger-removal post.......nice!) Here is what I think happened...

Shout Factory came across a strange key after they licensed Ohranger for release. After inserting the key into an equally strange statue they found near by, a strange man named Kazaam Gunmajin appeared and offered to grant them any wish as his new master. Given the magnitude of the job of translating a year's worth of a television series, they wished for Gunmajin to translate Ohranger for them. Little did they know, this Gunmajin fellow doesn't quite rely on magic to grant wishes, but rather uses muscle. He flexed his Google-Muscle hard and was able to translate the series...or at least provide Shout with translations to the series. Since this Gunmajin is such a frustrating halfwit, he got the job done...but at the cost of a legitimately good company's reputation...

Jokes aside, I don't think the truth is too far off from that. If you read this interview on The Tokusatsu Network with Shout's Brian Ward, he details the process of how the shows are licensed and subtitled. Shout does not do translations in house--they outsource them. 

I genuinely hope this doesn't diminish the chances of further series being licensed. I subscribe to the school of thought that people who are boycotting (and really have no reason to be i.e., not associated with MFC) were probably never going to buy the sets to begin with. So...who knows... A "why bother?" on future series is the worst thing that can happen.

As someone who gets ripped off on the internet all the friggin time, I understand exactly how frustrating it is to see your passion projects get monitized by someone else. Maybe I haven't had it happen with a legit company, but the malice is all the same. The only problem here is...Shout really isn't at fault. They hired a company to complete a task and got absolutely hosed in the process. You could say that they should have checked the translations they got back versus the fansubs. Even there, I can't really fault them. They're not in the business of looking over fansubber's shoulders. I know that may sound cold, but I can almost say for certain based on the interviews on The Tokusatsu Network that the shows aren't even watched until the translations start rolling in.

As of right now, Shout Factory is aware of the situation. They have proven themselves to be an outstanding company thus far, so I feel confident that this will all be worked out in the end. 

...and I hope they get a refund from the dirtbags that caused this mess...

5 comments:

  1. Although I'm not a Sugimura fan, I think you're right that he's the one who wrote the...better Ohranger episodes. (Soda disappointingly recycles a lot of ideas he did better in his previous shows; he also wrote that stupid one with the kendama robot, which disappoints me as a Soda fan.) I get the impression Sugimura had to have been reaching the burn-out stage by Ohranger, and I think that's what might have led to him writing fairly straightforward episodes of the show, rather than relying on weirdness. (He gets all of that out in just one episode, the Bara Nightmare one.)

    I once had a post of my own about Ohranger written up, but I deleted it, because it went all over the place -- it was a mess, just like the show itself. But I basically came to disregard letting the show off the hook for the supposed lightening of it as a result of real life tragedies. B-Fighter didn't change. Toei still saw fit to release the villain-is-the-hero Hakaider that year. I think Sugimura basically reached his limit, and all of the other writers are of such varying styles that it all just blew up in Toei's face. On paper, it's a cool idea to get each Sentai show's main writer, but...they needed to be wrangled.

    Sadly, I'd probably be able to tolerate Ohranger more if the Baranoia didn't have such dumb designs. That's a huge, huge issue for me. The overly serious manner of the heroes in those early episodes doesn't mesh with the Baranoia's designs or characterizations. They're from two totally different shows. For Ohranger to work as it was, I always thought the Baranoia shouldn't have been seen. The Machine Beasts of the week are released and it's a series-long mystery of what the Baranoia Empire exactly is and where these machines come from. Reveal a head honcho at the end, but don't have such lighthearted and silly regular villains. I think the reason the first episode works so well -- hey, I don't like Ohranger, but that's a fantastic first episode -- is because the Baranoia regulars don't appear.

    I know people are like "Sentai villains always look dumb" or whatever, but...come on, you have to admit that the Baranoia royal family are some of the weakest villain designs in the entire franchise. And the voice-acting tanks it, too. They're putting on these dumb and cartoony voices for these dumb and cartoony designs. (There's probably meant to be something disconcerting about these cutesy looking and sounding robots who are so vicious to humanity and each other, but it doesn't work for me the way Ohranger attempts it.) So, tell me how serious Ohranger could have possibly been, Toei? Admit your mistake in lousy designs and burned out writers and producers! (There's a reason why they cleaned house for Carranger.)

    Looking forward to parts 2 and 3!

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    1. It's so weird that you mention Bara Nightmare. I have quite a lot to say about episode 32...probably more than most episodes. I'll get to that soon...

      Without getting into too much on Baranoia, I can say that I didn't mind them too much. It's odd that we seem to know more about Baranoia by the end of the series than any of the Ohrangers. Probably for the better, though. When we finally learned something it was that Shohei likes ramen and Yuji has like $40 to his name. Damn...dude needs to take out a loan to afford a DX Ohrangerrobo.

      Yeah, I have to agree about the Kendama Robot episode. Weak as all hell. Oh Yuji, you'll be getting your very own robot in ten episodes or so. Just sit tight...

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  2. It’s nice that Ohranger finally got a DVD release by good ol’ Shout Factory, thus complete Noboru Sugimura Sentai Quadrilogy (Zyuranger, Dairanger, Kakuranger, and Ohranger)!
    I’ve mentioned briefly regarding my thoughts on the series on Ohranger and B-Fighter movie post, so I’m going to share by overall thought of the series.

    When the show was airing back in 1995, I was REALLY into the series, because of action (particularly mecha) and music (which I will get into).
    At the time, I thought it was considered to be the best sentai/toku show ever, despite watching most of the episodes in random order. lol
    I had no idea that series itself wasn’t received well back then; especially this was the time where internet was on infancy (dial-up!), so there’s absolutely no way to know about.
    It wasn’t until decade later, where internet has become common I found out that series itself was so bad, that it nearly “killed” the franchise, which was very shocking and overly exaggerated.

    After seeing series again with older perspective, I can understand the criticism and problem it had.
    From I gather the series had suffered a lot of production problems, where actors and crews had very mixed feeling. I could definitely tell that by watching series from start to end.
    I think the major problem is that that show was trying too hard, since it’s the first anniversary sentai series, so they wanted to make it “special” as possible; unfortunately, that mentality somewhat backfired and ended up with mixed results.
    I personally think show needed a better balance and consistency of tone.
    I also think character and villains should have written better.
    I also agree with many that Sugimura burned up at this point, especially working since 1984, which is whopping 11 years!
    Despite that problem, among the anniversary series that came later, this is my favorite (yes, I like it better than Gokaiger! lol)

    Thinking it over, I compare Ohranger with Alien 3, which also had production problems, which ended up with very mixed results.
    Cast and crew (particularly David Fincher, the writer), didn’t get along very well; granted Ohranger wasn’t THAT bad in comparison.
    To this day, David Fincher still disowned Alien 3 and don’t want to talk about it.
    I’m curious how Sugimura felt about the series 20 years later, if he was still alive.
    If he attended at convention/panel, would he be willing to discuss about his memory or refuse/ignore it entirely?

    It’s kind of shame Sugimura left tokusatsu after this.
    I wished he wrote few Heisei Rider series, had he not passed away in mid-2000s (2005).
    He was such a great toku writer of 80s~90s.
    Long Live Sugimura!

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  3. One thing that REALLY stood out for the series is music, which hands down one of the best among 90s toku series.
    Kentarou Hayami did a GREAT job with OP/ED song (including Nijiiro no Crystal Sky).
    It’s still beat later anniversary songs any day (take that Gokaiger!).
    It was also nice that Kageyama provided few songs as well.
    I’ve mentioned before that Kageyama golden age is from 1985~1995, and this marked the last time Kageyama being “great/epic/awesome”, where he starts to deteriorate gradually in later year.
    I did like Robotack OP and rest of the 90s, but it never felt the same.
    I also like the BGM and score, which was very good.
    Still baffled me that Symphonic Suite was recorded in France; I guess Toei/Colombia really wanted to give music a deluxe treatment for anniversary series.

    I also like the mecha action, even though it became way over the top and overly saturated.
    The boxing match of Red Puncher is probably my favorite among it.
    Hard to believe show has become such a bargain sale of mecha, where OhBlocker, Tackle Boy, and Gunmajin came out consecutively in short time frame!
    It’s no wonder it has the highest toy sales EVER (as of 2016; second highest is Kyoryuger (2013)… yeah, whatever).

    To sum it up, Ohranger is a mixed bag, but I’m going to lean mostly positive.
    When it’s good it’s very entertaining, when it’s bad… it’s really awkward. lol
    It has a big nostalgia of childhood, especially since it’s the first series I got sentai toy (Ohranger Robo), which I played the heck out of it.

    Is Ohranger, the WORST sentai ever made? No (I’ve seen worse later on)
    Is it the BEST sentai ever made? No (I would put in on middle tier)
    Is it one of Sugimura’s weakest sentai/tokusatsu works? Yes (unfortunately)
    On scale from 1~10, I give this a 6 (mid-6 to be precise); I would have given 8~9 back in 1995; which may be too high, but due to nostalgia, I really can’t give it lower.

    Here’s my rating for other Sugimura sentai:
    Zyuranger – 7 (mid/low 7)
    Dairanger – 9~10 (9.5 to be precise)
    Kakuranger – 9~10 (same as Dairanger, but Dairanger barely wins by hair IMO)

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    1. I give Kageyama a pass until 1998. His songs for the N64 Goemon games were great along with a few other things from the year. His start date should really be going back to the 70s with Lazy. He was fantastic right out of the gate. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCcdFhxuBkA

      As much as I like Red Puncher, I think the mecha action got better once the Blocker Robos debuted. It's definitely the highlight of the later episodes.

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