Unofficial Sentai Akibaranger: A Love Letter to Fans of the Genre

Title card shot of Hikounin Sentai Akibaranger

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!

Angry guy holding an illustration of a girl in power armor

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.

The Akibarangers beseeching you, the viewer, to help them get a second season!

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!

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11 Responses to Unofficial Sentai Akibaranger: A Love Letter to Fans of the Genre

  1. r042 says:

    I forgot how 70s low budget tv they made the flashback!

  2. Shinmaru says:

    I was curious about this a while back when I saw some folks on Twitter talking about it while it aired … maybe I’ll watch it if I ever find the time.

  3. Digibro says:

    One of my buddies watched this show obsessively when it was on. We made him an Akiba Red cake for a party, and he sometimes refers to himself as the “Red ranger” (this may sound dorky, but we’re talking about this cool, handsome, muscular dude who when dressed like a punk for a joke actually looks like he walked out of an 80s action movie). His favorite part was how hot the pornstar villain was. My favorite part was how hot the professor was.

  4. Reid says:

    I sorta-kinda liked (actually really enjoyed) what I’ve seen of Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters. The fights are probably the best in sentai history.

  5. sadakups says:

    I love this shit. It’s like a Super Sentai fan’s wet dream becoming true. I’m not much into Super Sentai than I am a fan of Kamen Rider, but this show really had me laughing. I love how it pokes fun out of the whole genre as well as otaku culture.

    I just wish that Kamen Rider had a similar type of show.

  6. Pingback: Saori, Owner of a Lonely Heart (Still the Best Kind of Fan) | Continuing World

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