REVIEW: SAMURAI SENTAI SHINKENGER

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Starring

Tori Matsuzaka (Idaten)
Hiroki Aiba (The Prince of Tennis)
Rin Takanashi (Goth)
Shogo Suzuki (Kamen Rider Decade)
Suzuka Morita (Space Sheriff Gavan: The Movie)
Keisuke Sohma (Bad Boys J)
Goro Ibuki (Nichiren)
Runa Natsui (Kamen Rider Ex-Aid)
Kazuyuki Matsuzawa (Kitaro)
Mitsuru Karahashi (Ultraman X)
Rintarō Nishi (Cowboy Bebop)

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Kanji Tsuda (Sonatine)
Ryo Kamon (Kamen Rider Fourze)
Yoshiaki Miyagi (Fish Story)
Reika Shigehiro (Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger)
Gotaro Tsunashima (Japanese Story)
Kayoko Shibata (Ju-On: The Grudge)
Rika Nakamura (Kotoko)
Kimito Totani (Kamen Rider Decade)
Kenichiro Kikuchi (Kinyoubi no shokutaku)
Masahiro Inoue (Kamen Rider × Super Sentai: Super Hero Taisen)
Kanna Moriya (Dear Sister)
Renji Ishibashi (Audiion)
Masashi Goda (Chouriki Sentai Ohranger)
Tetsu Inada (Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger)
Kazue Itoh (Juken Sentai Gekiranger)
Masaya Matsukaze (Denji Sentai Megaranger)

Shinkenger_-_Cast_Poster_Crop_(583_x_557)The 33rd entry in Toei’s Super Sentai franchise. For eighteen generations, the Shiba household have protected the world from the evil forces of the Gedoushu – monsters that enter our world through cracks and plan to flood the world with water from the Sanzu river (which is essential to their survival). In present day, their leader Doukoku Chimatsuri is freed from his seal and intends to continue this ambition. Takeru Shiba, the youngest head of the Shiba clan and ShinkenRed, must gather together his four vassals (servants from other households) to fight the forces of the Gedoushu. Initially Takeru maintains aloof and detached from his vassals, preferring to fight alone. But as the story progresses and Takeru’s childhood friend Genta joins the Shinkengers as ShinkenGold, Takeru becomes far more comfortable around people, beginning to treat them as friends. But Takeru is different from the lords that have preceded him, and the vassals slowly learn that his dark secret may be the reason for the way he has acted.

Before I begin dissecting the plot, I have to say that Samurai Sentai Shinkenger is one of the most visually pleasing series I’ve watched in a while. I’m a huge fan of the costumes themselves – which give off a nice Samurai flavour without being too heavy or over the top,  and each have an unique symbol for the visor. Each are very distinct from each other, but maintain a very nice sense of uniform. The origami mecha are also very well done, despite being restricted by the shapes each of them need to be able to transform into. Their combination, Shinken-Oh, has quickly become one of my favourite Super Sentai mecha. It’s a lot less universal than perhaps other series are, but one of its strengths lie in how uniquely Japanese it is. Aside from a few jokes which I found difficult to follow as a Westerner (Ebi Origami) it was still completely enjoyable and understandable, while teaching me a lot of new things about Japan and Samurai culture.

The plot itself is relatively serious, but is not opposed to diverging into moments of comedy relief now and again (Genta’s arrival really brings a new light to the series, and this firmly placed him as easily my favourite Shinkenger). The Shinkengers display a wide variety of character types, Ryunosuke (ShinkenBlue) as a loyal servant to his lord, competitive Chiaki (ShinkenGreen), big-sister Mako (ShinkenPink) and the clumsy but good-hearted Kotoha (ShinkenYellow). A few members of the Gedoushu even receive an ample amount of development – particularly Juzo, who is far more than a generic monster villain.

Because of the length of the series, its only natural that quite of the few of the episodes just come across as filler. However each of these episodes neatly manages to focus on one or two members of the main cast, and so none go without providing some form of character insight or development.

Another issue I found with the series was Doukoku, who in comparison to some of the other Gedoushu (particularly Juzo and Dayu, but later also Shitari and Akumaro) seems rather undeveloped. For the majority of the series he seems to do very little other than drink sake, shout a lot and occasionally moan about a hangover. When he suddenly appears on Earth for the first time toward the end of the series we finally get a look at how powerful he really is, but this is quickly dampened by him disappearing for several episodes so that Akumaro can take centre stage. Only in Shinkenger’s final acts does Doukoku really come into his own and seem like a true threat. While head monsters often don’t seem to do very much until the final episodes, atleast they’re usually calling the shots.

Shinkenger is  an excellent series that any fans of the genre should check out.