Review: How Samurai Sentai Shinkenger Helped Fill My Power Rangers Void

Image from TV-Nihon subbed episodes
It’s March and usually by this time, a new season of the spandex wearing Power Rangers would have begun airing. Alas, Disney has given up (more or less) on producing new seasons of the suited heroes, but has instead begun re-airing a ruined embellished version of the very first Power Rangers team, Mighty Morphin.

I was a huge fan of the show when it first debuted. I was six years old. I lost touch with the show two or three years into its run but randomly found it again in 2002 and since then, (with the exception of the 2nd half of SPD) I have not missed an episode.

Like any television series, there’s good seasons and bad seasons. But it was a nice little guilty pleasure, and sometimes even good television.

Now that the show is dead, I found myself looking for a fix. Watching my favorite Power Rangers seasons (DinoThunder and RPM by the way) was an option, but I decided why not check out the series from which Power Rangers was born; Super Sentai.

The Japanese series, a Sunday morning fixture in Japan for more than 30 years, is what Haim Saban first adapted for American audiences in 1993 by dubbing the suited action sequences and filming new footage of American teens for the story portions.

You never appreciate things until they’re gone right? Well, I guess I never realized Power Rangers would leave such a gaping hole in my TV life. So I decided on checking Sentai out.

My only previous experience with Super Sentai was the “Lost and Found in Translation” episode of Power Rangers DinoThunder. The episode was a tongue-in-cheek reference to Power Rangers‘ origins and featured the three Rangers watching what was supposed to be a Japanese dramatization of their lives, but in essence a satirical English dubbing of Bakuryū Sentai Abaranger, the Sentai season from which DinoThunder was based on.

The impression that episode left on me was that Sentai was as wacky as a Japanese game show. And a lot of fan comments online reinforced my feeling over the years.

Even so, I had no expectations when I chose to start my Sentai viewing with the season that was supposed to be Power Rangers 2010, Samurai Sentai Shinkenger.

Thanks to the magic of the internets, after a weeklong marathon of all 49 Shinkenger episodes, its two crossover episodes with Kamen Rider Decade (another Sunday morning Japanese fixture), the special toy commercial DVD, and the Shinkenger movie (which is actually shorter than a regular episode of the series), I think I’ve found a new favorite show.

I didn’t expect to, but I did. Shinkenger was dramatic, amusing, emotional, and most importantly, fun.

I still have the annual Sentai team-up to watch, this year it’s Shinkenger meeting last year’s Go-Onger, and I am definitely looking forward to it now. Not only that, but it seems I’m pretty lucky to have started with Shinkenger as my Sentai introduction. The series seems to have been well-received, more than some recent Sentai series, so much so they’re releasing a special direct-to-video special to be released in June.

Watching Shinkenger, I see so many of the elements that make Power Rangers, Power Rangers; the villains, the monsters of the week, the fights, and the inevitable zord/mecha battle to finish the episode. There aren’t that many differences between Sentai and Power Rangers (judging from only Shinkenger of course). Even the frustrations of story development and unrealized story potential, as well as being allergic to any kind of romantic feelings between our heroes!

The only thing I do see is how more mature Sentai seems to treat its audience, even though it is still geared towards the kiddies. Or maybe it’s just Japanese Culture.

Nonetheless, though they could’ve done a lot more, Shinkenger has a satisfying and enjoyable story. Its theme is samurai and Japanese culture.

The series tells the story of Takeru Shiba, the 18th head of the Shiba clan who have been fighting the evil Gedoushu who feed on human tears and despair. Teams of samurais from the Shiba House have defended Earth for those 18 generations and now it is time for Takeru and his four vassals to team up and defeat the Gedoushu once and for all.

Takeru, his four vassals (Ryunosuke, Mako, Chiaki, and Kotoha), and later Takeru’s childhood friend Genta together as the Samurai Sentai Shinkenger face the monsters of the week and use their mecha (or zords) Origami to defeat those monsters when they inevitably embiggen.

There are lots of twists and turns through the 49 episodes, like any genre show, with an intricately woven mythology. We see the relationships between the samurai develop, relationships between the villains, and even get to see some very good backstory on both our heroes and the villains. Shinkenger has a great cast, very likable, and made their characters people you’d want to spend time with.

It was very refreshing watching Shinkenger, almost like a reboot of Power Rangers itself for me personally. A little more exciting, a little deeper, a little more action than your typical Power Rangers.

Like I credit Wild Force with bringing me back to Power Rangers after so many years, Shinkenger will now always hold a special place in my TV heart as the series that brought me into the world of Super Sentai.

I know many Power Rangers fans have already discovered Sentai and have followed it for a while. But for anyone looking for something to fill the void left by Power Rangers, Super Sentai is a good place to turn to. I’ll definitely recommend Shinkenger, but I’m sure if one season of Sentai isn’t for you, you’ll find one that you might enjoy more.

Watching the Shinkenger crossover with Kamen Rider Decade has even gotten me interested in checking that series out. (The American adaptation of Kamen Rider, Dragon Knight was recently canceled on The CW after one season. It was not surprising if you actually saw it.)

So Power Rangers may live on in repeats and on DVD, but if you’re looking for something new, definitely do a quick Google and give Sentai a look.

7 thoughts on “Review: How Samurai Sentai Shinkenger Helped Fill My Power Rangers Void

  1. Hi so you’re a fellow Shinkenger fan. I would really like to say that Shinkenger has become of my favorites though it will never match up to my liking of the Soda era.

  2. Considering this season was written by Yasuko Kobayashi, is it good?

    I’m just wondering, since I ditched it after three episodes.

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