My 10 Favorite Super Sentai Openings

Blogger’s note: My last 2 posts were heavily-related to Power Rangers since I was still laying some of my blog’s groundwork. But this post is where my all-out Super Sentai blogging begins.😉

This is my first ‘Power Rankings’ entry. The topic for today: Super Sentai opening themes!

I recently heard a sample version of Go-Buster’s opening song and I think it’s pretty good.🙂

We are all very much aware that what makes Sentai so special is its storytelling, actors, unbelievable action and toy sales generated by an endless collection of mechs. But a Sentai series won’t be complete without some good music to go with it. A life without music is like having no sauce on pasta: it’s bland, dull and lifeless. So here are the ten Sentai openings I consider my personal favorites:

10. Chikyuu Sentai Fiveman

Nostalgia aside (the series aired in the Philippines between 1993 and 1994), Fiveman had one the better opening songs during the 90s. Just listen to all Sentai openings from 1990-1999 and you just might realize what I mean. It definitely deserves a spot on my top ten list.

9. Battle Fever J

The oldest entry in the list. Mainly due to the presence of awesome pyrometrics and some epic posing, watching the clip above for the first time really made me think that this became the template for most succeeding Sentai openings (probably because it was considered the first Sentai series for a brief period of time). This opening sequence also gave fans back then a preview of what it would be like to have a giant robot to help a Sentai defeat their enemies. Classic, groundbreaking and funny are surely the 3 best words to describe Battle Fever’s opening.

8. Chouriki Sentai Ohranger

Is it just me or does Tamao Sato looks like Vilma Santos in this video?🙂

The year 1995 was not a good one for Japan thanks to this and this. As a result, Ohranger was a season that didn’t enjoy a lot of positives. But one thing it had going was a nicely-executed and fiery opening sequence. It really leaves a lot of fans like me wondering how Ohranger would have turned out if the events during that year did not take place. Moving on…

7. Choujin Sentai Jetman

How can I not include this? Listening to the opening song not only makes you want to sing along, but gives you an idea of how awesome Jetman is. Imagine how awesome it would be to see those 5 jets flying over skyscrapers in real life!

6. KyuKyu Sentai GoGoFive

This probably has to be one of the most one-of-a-kind Sentai openings to date. Instead of seeing spandex-clad warriors doing aerial acrobatics, battling enemy foot soldiers or making their surroundings explode by posing (?), we see the heroes doing rescue operations to save lives for a change. Not to mention putting on display probably one of the coolest mechs Sentai ever had. Put all those elements together and you get one heck of an opening!

5. Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger

Not only did it have a fantastic song for an equally-fantastic season, but Dekaranger’s opening theme paid tribute to old-school Sentai. Why? As you can see, it did not rely too heavily on CGI which makes mecha sequences look silly when overdone. I also like the bit where the Dekarangers run as fast as they can during opening credits in their respective civilian forms. Now that’s a good way to stay fit while on the set!

4. Tensou Sentai Goseiger

For such a disappointing and underwhelming series, Goseiger’s opening does deserve a lot praise. I honestly started downloading Goseiger episodes immediately after watching the video above. It’s really that good! Any Sentai fan with no prior knowledge about Goseiger would definitely be enticed to watch the series judging from it’s opening sequence alone. After watching it, can anyone possibly blame them? I don’t think so.

3. Gosei Sentai Dairanger

The funny thing about this opening is that RyuSeiOh gets most of the spotlight. Did Noboru Sugimura invite some Chinese writers to help him with this masterpiece?🙂

A no-brainer here. This opening sequence is indeed like no other. I’m honestly at a loss for words in trying to describe it. So Dairanger fans, all together now: TENSHIN DAAAAAAA!!!! (WOAH WOAH WOAH WOAH) KIRYOKU DAAAAAAA!!!! (WOAH WOAH WOAH WOAH).

What’s not to love?😀

2. Juken Sentai Gekiranger

Like Goseiger’s, this opening sequence was what sold me on downloading and watching Gekiranger. The only difference was I wasn’t disappointed at all with the show this time around. The song, IMO, deserves to be in the Sentai Music Hall of Fame. Gekiranger’s opening has it all: epic posing, awesome martial arts, wonderfully weird costumes and giant cats – all of which I really love! Just hit play and you’ll find it hard to disagree with me.😉

This was supposed to be my favorite Super Sentai opening if not for this next one…

1. Mirai Sentai Timeranger

I can’t even begin to describe how badass and addicting this song is for me. It perfectly defines what Timeranger is; a dark and gritty series loaded with lots of tearjerking and dramatic episodes. The female vocalist (first and only in Super Sentai history thus far) really did a masterful job of singing the song that would, IMO, beat the crap out of any past and future Sentai opening songs ever made. To put it simply, it was Legendary.

Enough said.

Misconceptions about Power Rangers that some believe in.

As a kid, I was really impressed with how the Americans created their own version of a Japanese favorite like Maskman by introducing Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers to the entertainment world. Due to lots of groundbreaking and unique action it brought into television at that time, a lot of kids were instantly hooked. It was only during the ‘Internet age’ several years after MMPR’s debut that those kids (now probably young adults) found out what Haim Saban didn’t want them to find out. But not without them (including me) developing misconceptions that remained uncorrected for several years. So without further ado:

1. Super Sentai came AFTER Power Rangers.

Probably the biggest reason for this is almost no one outside of Japan knew or heard about Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger (as well the other Sentai seasons that followed it) while MMPR was being televised back in the day. Even fewer fans knew that pre-Zyuranger series such as Bioman, Changeman, Maskman and Jetman even existed before PR did. It was not until after almost a decade did adult non-Japanese fans realize that the PR franchise gets most of its material from various Sentai series and only mixes them with sequences containing English-speaking actors to help Americanize (and internationalize) it. This explains why people who watch Super Sentai for the first time refer to it as ‘Japanese Power Rangers’ when they should refer to Power Rangers as ‘Americanized Super Sentai’.

Moving forward…

Rita Repulsa is, without a doubt, the most iconic villain in the PR franchise. Did Machiko Soga know about this?😮

2. Rita Repulsa was played by an American actress in MMPR Season 1.

I honestly fell for this. Like I said in my previous post, I really thought that Rita Repulsa was not being dubbed by an American voice actress and it was her actual speaking voice in real life! Only after watching Zyuranger last year did I realize how clueless I was back then. For those who have been living under a rock all these years, Rita Repulsa’s actress (the late great Machiko Soga) was a FOOTAGE ONLY character whose sequences come from selected scenes involving The Witch Bandora – the main antagonist in Zyuranger.

Here is a scene involving Bandora in Zyuranger. This footage was never in used in MMPR for obvious reasons.😉

But I have to give lots of credit to Saban on this one. They very carefully picked out usable footage of Bandora while meticulously paying attention to detail. In order to help ‘trick’ children into believing Rita Repulsa didn’t come from stock footage, they opted to use Zyuranger scenes wherein Bandora didn’t speak too much or the camera wasn’t closely focused on her mouth. In scenes where they needed to see movement in her mouth, the writers made sure that the lines Barbara Goodson (Rita’s voice actress) would utter would closely match the movement of Bandora’s mouth. A good example of masterful footage selection is demonstrated on the clip below:

It’s around the 5:10 mark of the clip when Rita starts to summon Lokar.

One possible reason why they were able to use quite a lot of Bandora footage was that Machiko Soga didn’t look very Japanese. Well, it could either be that or her costume helped hide her Japanese facial features very well. But they eventually ran out of Bandora footage due to the conclusion of Zyuranger in Japan so they had to hire an American actress to continue portraying her from season 2 up to In Space while keeping the voice actress to help support the story.

Got it? Good.

GaoYellow; one of Super Sentai’s 17 male yellow rangers. Jetman nostalgia anyone?

3. There are more female than male yellow rangers in Super Sentai.

Yes, it may be true that there are more female yellow rangers than male in Power Rangers. But what is true in PR isn’t always in Super Sentai. In fact, there are MORE male yellow rangers than female in the Sentai franchise. Of the 33 Sentai yellow rangers (including YellowBuster from the upcoming series Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters), 17 of them are male and 16 are female. The male yellows may only be ahead by one but still, the females are outnumbered.

As I pointed out in my previous post, Trini’s Zyuranger counterpart is a boy named Boi. If the character’s name was a message for Saban to not make the character female in MMPR, then he clearly wasn’t listening.

For a PR fan with little Sentai knowledge, identifying the gender of the Sentai counterpart of a particular yellow ranger can be done using the 3 ways below:

  • Check if the yellow ranger costume has a skirt. If it does, then that yellow ranger is female.
  • If the yellow ranger has no skirt, check if anyone else in the team is wearing one. If another member is wearing a skirt, then that yellow ranger is male.
  • Only SPD has skirt-less female rangers in PR and their team has 2 females (excluding Kat Ranger, DekaSwan’s counterpart). That ought to make it easier for you.😀

Those who watched Zyuranger never got to see Goushi wearing Burai’s Dragon Shield.
But why?

4. All action sequences in MMPR Season 1 were solely taken from stock footage from the 50 episodes of Zyuranger.

The statement above would have been true if Season 1 of MMPR only lasted for 40 episodes. But it didn’t. Well, this was supposedly Saban’s original plan as he didn’t think that MMPR would instantly become a massive hit.

So in order to keep the ball rolling, Saban did the unthinkable by visiting Toei Company in Japan to order additional specially-made action footage involving the Zyuranger costumes, mecha and new monsters. Like the Zyuranger stock footage from the first 40 episodes, the new footage (popularly referred to as Zyu2) would be mixed with sequences with the American actors to help produce an additional 20 episodes for Season 1 and help create a transition going into Season 2.

Obtaining the Zyu2 footage is considered one of the wisest moves Saban ever made for the PR franchise. This helped them eliminate whatever held them back in terms of storytelling when they were limited to using Zyuranger stock footage. Zyu2 also helped prepare fans of what was to come in Season 2 – thus making sure that PR would be far from becoming a one-hit-wonder.

Speaking in behalf of Super Sentai fans worldwide, I wonder what Zyu2’s story would have been like if it had Geki, Goushi, Dan, Boi, Mei and Burai running the show instead of having Jason, Zack, Billy, Trini, Kimberly and Tommy? Perhaps we’ll never know.😦

Random thoughts on Power Rangers as a whole.

Being a really big Super Sentai fan really gives someone a tendency to repeatedly bash the Power Rangers franchise. I’m not gonna lie when I say that scrutinize PR pretty much every time I get the chance. I have a lot of reasons for doing this (most of them will be discussed in future posts) and I know that PR fans out there will most likely do what is expected of them: bash Super Sentai.

But this post has nothing to do about bashing Power Rangers (though I kind of already did >:-D ). I will instead be talking about some personal insights I have about PR based on all the facts I have gathered over the last several months since becoming a Sentai convert. Without further delay, here they are:

1. I absolutely thought that Power Rangers was an original American series that was only inspired by the Super Sentai Franchise.

When I first saw MMPR on TV as a kid, I honestly got hooked almost instantly. Not only did it remind me of my childhood Sentai favorites like Maskman and Jetman, but it was good to see English-speaking characters for a change since most of the Sentai shows I watched back then were dubbed in Tagalog. It was also really nice to see a really cool concept for ‘Zords’ that I have never seen before at that time. Seeing five/six/seven giant robot/animal hybrids combine to become one powerful Megazord was a really awesome way to get every child’s eye become glued to the TV. To put it shortly, I was a huge Power Rangers fan as a kid.

But as I said in my previous post, doing some research about Power Rangers years later really made me think otherwise about the franchise. The main reason was finding out that they were using stock footage and concepts from various Super Sentai series all this time. This, IMO, is probably the worst thing a clueless PR fan will know. No wonder the video quality and resolution of the scenes with the rangers in civilian form was very different from the ones involving the fight scenes and Zord battles.

Exhibit A:

Notice how the video quality suddenly changes once Jason, Zack, Billy, Trini and Kimberly are teleported to ‘Angel Grove’ in their ranger forms.

Exhibit B:

By carefully reading her lips, do you seriously think that’s exactly what Rita said? :p

No wonder there were a few times that Rita Repulsa’s words do not match the actual movement of her mouth (Machiko Soga, the Japanese actress who played Rita, was only a face character and did zero work for Power Rangers in the US). No wonder Trini, the first yellow ranger, did not wear a skirt but Kimberly, the first pink ranger, was wearing one (more on this later) when transformed. No wonder Billy, the blue ranger, fights really well in his ranger form but his civilian form can barely throw a proper punch.

This is probably the main reason why Power Rangers’ target market are children.

Side note: The act of combining stock footage with originally shot sequences reminds me a lot of The Game of Death, a film starring Bruce Lee that was already 1/3 complete when he abruptly died.😦

2. Haim Saban and the team behind Power Rangers are/were very creative geniuses.

A knowledgeable Sentai/PR fan would know that MMPR seasons 1-3 were based off 3 different Super Sentai Seasons. Season 1 used materials from Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger, Season 2 from Gosei Sentai Dairanger and Season 3 from Ninja Sentai Kakuranger. These 3 are very different Sentai seasons with 3 different sets of stories, costumes, mecha, villains and many more. It practically meant that getting some continuity to materialize using footage from the 3 series would be a very tall order, to say the least.

Yet Saban somehow made it work. After exhausting all the footage he had from Zyuranger and Zyu2, he was in need of a lot more Sentai footage given the overnight success MMPR had. So he obtained the rights to using the Dairanger and Kakuranger footage from Toei to keep the franchise going. But instead of relying heavily on the stock footage, he used a lot more original US-made action scenes (while still using the Zyuranger costumes) and only used the stock footage he had during the Megazord sequences. They would continue using the Zyuranger costumes until the end of season 3 (though they would adapt KibaRanger’s costume and footage from Dairanger and turn it into Tommy’s white ranger form in season 2 and 3). Then finally, Saban realized that PR needed a fresh start after TV ratings eventually started going down.

In seasons 2 and 3 of MMPR, fans got a taste of what it’s like to have action footage not taken from Super Sentai. And I have to say that they were pretty good at times. This brings me to my next insight..

3. If they were capable of producing good fight scenes on their own, I really don’t know why the creators Power Rangers didn’t create their all-original series in the first place.

There were probably a lot of hindrances that prevented Saban and co. from not relying on Sentai footage (lack of budget, inability to conceptualize as well as their Sentai counterparts, among others) but anyone with knowledge to the situation couldn’t help but wonder of what could have been. All I can do for now is speculate – nothing more.

4. Saban thinks that the thought of guys wearing yellow is too girly for American fans.

Power Rangers has a common habit of making a yellow ranger designated exclusively for female characters (except for Alien Rangers, Ninja Stom and Mystic Force). As I pointed out earlier, it’s a bit odd that some PR yellow rangers do not wear skirts but almost all pink rangers do. The reason for this is that all skirt-less yellow rangers in PR were portrayed by male actors in Super Sentai. That is why when looking at the yellow ranger’s costume in the photo above, it looks way more similar to the male rangers than the cheerleader-like pink ranger outfit.

Below is a list of PR seasons with female yellow rangers that had male Super Sentai counterparts:

  • MMPR
  • Lost Galaxy
  • Lightspeed Rescue
  • Time Force
  • Wild Force

Saban probably had his good reasons for doing this. Nonetheless, Super Sentai has proven time and again that tough guys (like the one pictured above) wear yellow.

5. Saban unintentionally did Toei a very huge favor by adapting Super Sentai into Powers Rangers in the US.

This is purely based on my opinion. But given how Super Sentai has gained a worldwide fanbase over the years (especially during post-Zyuranger seasons), it’s a possibility worth considering. Though Saban’s main purpose was probably to make a ton of money (which he really did) by creating a whole new viewing experience for children in the US, long term effects had a lot left to be desired. As PR’s popularity continued to grow, so did the curiosity of several fans. Most of them probably asked themselves; “From what foreign series does all these footage come from?” The curiosity might have reached a point where ‘they really had to watch the series where each PR season got based off’ just to compare what the story was really meant to be like in the original Japanese source. So fans from the US (arguably the world’s biggest market) started watching English-subbed Super Sentai series online. Eventually, TV-Nihon was born which made sure that all 21st century Sentai (starting from Dekaranger) would get subbed in English. These events might have hurt PR’s popularity that the Disney-era PR had to be cancelled at the end of 2009. In other words, the adaptation of Sentai to PR only made them more popular. The fact that Sentai’s target audience is not limited to kids (which appears to be PR’s ONLY market) only helped increase its popularity. Additionally, Sentai already had an established fanbase in France, Brazil, South Korea, Hong Kong, Span, Italy and The Philippines even before PR began. Fortunately, Saban bought back the PR franchise and is currently attempting (with so-so results) to revive the good times it had during the 90s.

Overall, I still wish Saban and the rest of the people behind Power Rangers all the best. There’s still a part deep inside of me hoping that PR recaptures the magic that captivated fans worldwide almost 20 years ago.

How it all started…

So how did my Super Sentai fandom start?

Actually, I’m not really sure when I first saw a Sentai show on TV. But I think I was about 6 or 7 years old when first saw some random episodes of a Tagalog-dubbed Hikari Sentai Maskman being broadcast on IBC 13 in the Philippines. Seeing the show’s dynamics made me really curious and gave a few outstanding first impressions:

  1. Five civilians who become silky-colored suits and weird-looking helmets wearing ‘heroes’ when transformed. “This ought to be cool”; I said to myself back then.
  2. Monsters becoming giants when they are seemingly killed by the Shot Bomber/Jet Cannon only to become a giant afterwards. How in the world is that possible???
  3. Giant robots that finish off the giant monsters. As they say, the good always wins over the bad.
  4. Most of all, Japanese actors speaking tagalog?!? It actually took me a very long time to realize that Filipino voice actors only dubbed the entire show and none of the Japanese actors speak the language. The dubbers even went as to change the Maskmen’s names (Takeru – Michael Joe, Akira – Adrian, etc.) which probably helped reinforce my misconception.

So Maskman was the very first Sentai series I ever watched. It was shortly followed by Bioman, Turboranger, Fiveman and Jetman. Sometime after Jetman concluded, no other series followed as the franchise was replaced by Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers in all Philippine TV networks. It made me think that Jetman was the last Sentai series and the franchise folded after it ended.

It was only last year when I realized how wrong I really was.

I really love browsing through Wikipedia articles. That’s why one day, I typed in ‘Maskman’ on the sites’ search bar. When I read the article’s introduction, I found out that Maskman was the ‘eleventh entry of the Super Sentai Series’. This came as a bit of a shock to me as I absolutely thought that Sentai ‘lasted only for a few years before it was totally replaced by Power Rangers’. I then clicked to Super Sentai’s main Wikipedia article and was even more surprised that the franchise has already produced 35 seasons to date! I then went on to check the chronology of the seasons to particularly find out what series came after Jetman, which was a seemingly obscure show called ‘Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger’. I said to myself; “Why haven’t I seen this one before?” Out of curiosity, I clicked on the link to read the show’s article.

What I saw totally blew my mind.

The first one I looked at was who the Zyurangers are. As I read on, I saw entries like ‘Tyranno Ranger, Tricera Ranger, Ptera Ranger and Dragon Ranger. These designations really reminded me a lot of MMPR and I just had to find out more!

Below is an image I found at the Zyurangers Wikipedia page that immediately made me a Super Sentai convert:

After seeing it, I remember viewing and sharing this video on my Facebook. I even referred to the Zyurangers as the ‘Japanese Power Rangers’ back then:

I then continued my Wikipedia browsing. Reading through various related articles made me realize that Power Rangers was really not a purely American-made franchise that was inspired by Super Sentai, but Power Rangers IS Super Sentai. Haim Saban and the other people responsible for PR only borrowed stock footage from Sentai seasons starting from Zyuranger to combine them with scenes from American actors and create a whole new story. Very creative, indeed!

But no matter how clever or copycat-ish (depending on your perspective) the creation of Power Rangers was, it still doesn’t change the fact that all original materials and majority of the concepts come from Super Sentai. Japanese actors also portray their roles a lot better than their American counterparts IMO. Furthermore, Sentai writers are more versatile when it comes to making an effort to connect with their audience (mostly kids and young adults). The only advantage IMO PR has over Sentai is having English-speaking actors. But that’s exactly why TV-Nihon was created.

To date, I have already watched and finished the following series (in order):

  • Hikari Sentai Maskman
  • Chojin Sentai Jetman
  • Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger
  • Gosei Sentai Dairanger
  • Mirai Sentai Timeranger
  • Juken Sentai Gekiranger
  • Bakuryu Sentai Abaranger
  • Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger
  • Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger (Episode 47 and counting)

Note: I really hope that SOPA won’t stop me (and everybody else for that matter) from watching previously-aired Sentai series. I’m certainly hoping and praying that this matter will be resolved very soon.