As a kid, I grew up to watching super sentai shows. There was Maskman, with its amazing Tagalog OP, and Bioman, which scarred me for life by killing off one of the characters early on. I latched heavily into Power Rangers, too, but I promptly forgot about super sentai right around the late 90s.
Akibaranger is a 13-episode show that’s ostensibly made for me, children who grew up watching super sentai. When it first came out, I was skeptical, especially with regards to the comment that it was “an anime in the guise of a live-action show”. I don’t watch Japanese live-action shows, because I find their acting cringe-worthy. But Akibaranger uses this to its advantage.
Akibaranger is, at its core, an affectionate parody of super sentai. The so-called Akibarangers only fight evil in their delusions. They use a moe character toy to transform. They ride an itasha Prius that turns into a wacky robot. They fight monster alpacas, monster hosts, monster theater directors. The plot starts kicking in at around halfway through, and pushes the barriers of what a super sentai show could do. I don’t want to spoil, because it gets really, really interesting. Just take my word for it!
The show puts its encyclopedic knowledge of tropes to use, with hilarious results. In episode one, the Akibarangers defeat the enemy, and wait for the giant version to spawn, but no such thing happens. Akiba Red, the super sentai otaku, would often claim the current situation to be patterned after well-trod tropes, like a team member suddenly going off on a trip (to never be seen again), or a new and formidable enemy appearing (to increase the stakes in the middle of the show).
Perhaps this was the show my sentai-loving self was waiting for all these years. As its target audience isn’t kids, but otaku who grew up loving super sentai, Akibaranger is smart, while retaining that adorable, self-deprecating otaku attitude. There are also genuinely heartfelt moments, like episodes 5 and 8.
What also added to my enjoyment were the people who worked on this show: seiyuu Maaya Uchida played Professor Hiroyo, Hikaru Midorikawa and Tomokazu Seki voiced some of the more interesting villains, and old-timer Kazuki Yao played Doctor Z. On the staff side, Keiichi Satou did the character designs for Z-Cune Aoi, while Kenji Kawai composed the music.
I wouldn’t call myself a super sentai fan again, but it was great watching this show. If time permits, maybe I could watch the newer ones! Until then, good children shouldn’t watch!