Toku Tuesday, Round 6, Start!
Choujyu Sentai Liveman
Today, I’m taking it back to 1988. Academia is a school for the most gifted and promising students in the world. Their collective goal is to design, construct, and launch a space station for scientific research. Unfortunately, there are three students that don’t find their work to be very stimulating. They just happen to be three of the best, too. Tsukikage, Senda, and Omura all decide that they can find better use of their great minds if they accept the invitation of an intergalactic, evil super-genius. The three deserters leave the planet, angry and willing to throw away their humanity, so much so that they kill two of their classmates: Yano Takuji and Aikawa Mari.
Two years later, three close friends of Takuji and Mari – Yuusuke, Jou, and Megumi – confront the emerging evil that is Volt, led by the super genius, Bias, and his three apprentices: Kempu, Mazenda, and Obular. It turns out that these three are – you guessed it – the three students that turned on the Academia. Bearing the pain of losing great friends at the hands of their former comrades, and with the lives all the other students at stake, Yuusuke and company reveal the project they have been working on since the day they watched their friends die; in a flash, the trio become Liveman, Super-Beast Task Force.
So far, I’ve watched 14 episodes, and I’m hooked. This is not a very light series; people die, and they do so often. If you noticed my tweets, I believe there may be more deaths in just the first two episodes as there have been in the last 5 or so sentai series combined. The whole notion that this a children’s program seems a little awkward by today’s standards, but we must remember that despite the scary monster designs, the frank murdering, strange sexual innuendos involving robot boobies, and the overall dark story, this is a Japanese kids show from the Eighties. That means there’s blood, bullets fired from guns, and heroes that actually fight outside of costume regularly – YEAH!
Speaking of the costumes, the ranger suits are very well done. Red Falcon, Yellow Lion, and Blue Dolphin are very memorable and the overall design has oft been referenced in later shows, most recently in Go-Onger. The monsters are also kinda clever. Each one is themed around whatever “experiment” Bias has approved for the day in his efforts to show humanity that there is something more than, well, humanity.
It’s actually this aspect of the show, the villains and their motivation, that lacks the most polish. Why exactly is Bias even in our solar system? If he’s such a genius, why does he have three lesser geniuses do his dirty work? And why does he let them fail so horribly time after time? I like Bias, to be honest. He seems so calm and cool all the time, as if he has a secret agenda that he is keeping from his subordinates. The thing is, if the guy is so smart, why the hell does it take him nearly 12 episodes to make his first move, and that just to make a fourth apprentice?
The action here is very formulaic. Many fights are a collection of stock footage shoots and reused sets – like watching John Cena in a main event match-up. The great thing is, while the fights tend to be short and predictable, they are rarely boring, and the tendency to mysteriously change locations before and sometimes during a fight never ceases to amuse me. The mecha battles are actually the most disappointing here; they are absolutely guarenteed to go one way:
1) Monster is defeated with the Bimotion Buster
2) Guardnoid shows up out of nowhere and revives the monster, making it grow
3) the Liveman fail to stop Guardniod by just Triple Live Buster-ing his ass before he gets to do his thing
4) the Red Falcon calls Machine Buffalo (regardless of whether or not Colon had called/used it earlier)
5) the Jet Falcon, Aqua Dolphin, and Land Lion launch and form Live Robo in all its badassery
6) Live Robo gets hit a few times and MIGHT retaliate with some basic sparing
7) Live Robo uses its Live Robo Beam
8)Live Robo then calls it’s badass sword and proceeds directly into its final attack, Super Live Crash
9) Super Live Crash lands and the monster dies
All of this in 2 minutes or less.
Maybe I’ve grown too accustomed to the elaborate battles of the more recent era, but I find this treatment of the first combining giant robo made of mecha beasts in a Sentai series a little bland. Regardless, Live Robo is pretty cool despite being so cheated in screen time and I imagine Super Live Robo (formed when the two new members, Black Bison and Green Rhino, join the team) is even better.
I am going to continue watching this great series. i have a few gripes obviously, but they are minor in light how much awesome this show has. There is a reason this considered one of the best Super Sentai series of all time. I say it’s up there with Kamen Rider Black/RX for best tokusatsu…