Thursday, April 24, 2008

Super Sentai And His Children

Animé has a history of color coded teams. Voltron. Sailor Moon. Rayearth. Some may immediatly recognize the origins as "Super Sentai Series."

Short definition: Power Rangers.

Long Definition:
Super Sentai was a series of tokusatsu shows. Tokusatsu, meaning "special effects" applies to the genre of Japanese films including the monster movies like Godzilla and the hero movies such as Kamen Rider and Ultraman. Scale models, pyrotechnics, outrageous costumes, and transformation sequences all constitute the genre. Super Sentai is the "team" type series that we are most familiar with through Bandai/Saban's Power Rangers. Approximately five recurring characters, each assigned a color, and sometimes also an element, a specific type of power or prowess, and of course, a part of a Zord. I mean, giant robot mech. Silly me.

I want to talk about the appeal of Sentai genre. Primarily: market brilliance. I'm going to use Sailor Moon as my case study because I know more about it than Voltron.

In a single-hero story, your hero has a hair color, body type, and disposition. Often a characteristic that makes him a hero: often physical strength, possibly for some kind of magic, perhaps an important destiny. What if you had a choice?

Thats what Sentai gives you. Sailor Moon is the kindhearted klutz. If the show was just about a kindhearted klutz that fights for love and justice... yeah, that would be great, and its certainly been done. But instead, you get five heroines. A klutz, a brain, a toughie, an idol, and a priestess. Two long-haired blondes, a short and long brunette, and a long black haired one. A Pisces, a Leo, a Virgo... the point is that now there are numerous routes of sympathization. I happened to be an Aquarian questioning my sexuality and my gender role. Woh, so was Sailor Uranus.

"That character is just like me," she says. More types, more options, more chances to find a story about you.

The "team" theme is much more diluted now, but its fair to say its an animé staple. Fushigi Yuugi is an example of a team that isn't so Sentai. No colors or robots, but distinct roles and personalities. Consider harem anime/game: will you choose the girl next store, the lolita, the kemonomimi, the glasses-type, or your sister? Oi.

My current work references Animé openings that flash a sequence of characters or personas on screen, as in the beginning of New Cutey Honey, or later in Neon Genesis Evangelion (skip to 1:11), and especially in Sailor Moon (2nd R opening here, try skipping to 34 seconds in.)

Sigh. If I may, I remember being excited that in Sailor Moon S Series, there were two opening theme animations. The first not including Sailor Uranus and Neptune because they hadn't been identified in teh series yet, and then they appeared in the seconds version of the opening once they were introduced. Neat.

Originally the piece was focused more on The Cutey Honey/Transformation Pen aspect: you can have lots of costumes and skills. But I'd be lying if this work isn't a little about Super Sentai.

I wonder if I should or should not mention Bokutachi Wa Yami Ja Nai here, but an ongoing side project with the fine folks at Neko-Jin Designs is an attempt to force as many animé character stereotypes into a BL type comic of that title. It has three main characters that eventually allude to a group of five, represented by each element. So there you go. Its an on-again, off again project, not on the front burner right now, but shows up once and a while (like in the last post.)

See my "Animé opening" animation here. (Links to a MOV file.)

No comments: