Monday, December 20, 2010

Engine Sentai Go-onger - Year End Cleaning

If you need any background on what Super Sentai is, feel free to swing over to the Jetman review.

Every Sentai show was a little different, but the one unleashed in 1996 was really different. While there had been spoofs of the posturing superheroes with their phony-looking giant robots before, Gekisou Sentai Carranger was the first actual Sentai to be a parody of itself. And it was glorious. My favorite example’s probably when Green Racer kills a monster then, while trying to come up with an appropriately cool victory pose, accidentally has his henshin bracelet fly off his wrist and fails to notice.

In 2008 the series seemed to be trying to cover that territory again in Engine Sentai Go-onger, the story of goofy robotic villains trying to pollute Earth to make it more suitable for inhabitation by their kind, and giant sentient cars (Engines) from another dimension who partnered with a team of equally silly humans to stop them.

This is a monster from this show. It's made of bendy straws.

Did it succeed? Well, opinion’s divided. Some fans were charmed by the quirky show, while others were turned off as it didn’t stick to the drama-heavy stories they were used to. I originally fell into the second camp, but after I gave Go-onger a chance, it grew on me. It still has some glaring flaws, but it’s by no means the stinker some make it out to be.

Open on the island headquarters of the Gaiark, the aforementioned robotic bad guys. A mysterious pair of boots enters, scaring Kitaneidas and Kegaresia, the villain leaders. A few episodes earlier they’d lost their third member when a big scheme went south and they’d fallen into a rut, so if somebody new’s showing up it’s probably for the best. Both for them and the audience.

The owner of the boots shoots at them with a shotgun and introduces himself as the Cleaning Minister (the leaders of Gaiark all having the title “minister”), Kireizki. He’s “cleaned up” three parallel worlds already and is here to make it four. And he has nothing against pulling weapons on his own teammates. Gee, the Go-ongers could actually be in trouble here. Believe it or not, most Sentai aren’t afraid of having villains that are actually kind of scary for guys in rubber suits. By and large Gaiark was more like the bad guys in Pokemon than Jetman.

The Go-ongers are setting up their Christmas decorations outside the camper van they live in when Bomper, the little robot who tells them when monsters show up, well, tells them a monster’s shown up. They run off to take care of this malcontent fast so they can enjoy the holiday, but are more than a little surprised to learn it’s actually a new Minister looking for a fight.

Kireizki has some terrifyingly powerful weapons he rolls out when the Go-ongers attack him, like the rag grenade that sucks up the energy from their own shots and blows them up with it. Not only that, it paralyzes the chips holding their Engines, cutting the Go-ongers off from their strongest attacks. The blast also happens to shoot down a sleigh flying overhead…

Kireizki’s weapons are so powerful Sousuke, who wears the red suit, is sent flying out of sight from a barrage of sword-strokes. The sixth and seventh Rangers appear and tell the others to run for it while they hold him off.

You know how a lot of Sentai start with five members and add a sixth one later on, when the villains start getting tougher? Who are then gradually surpassed and exist to let the villains have someone whose butt they can kick before the main group saves the day? This show had two, the Go-on Wings. So named because instead of cars their partners are talking aircraft.

When they were introduced they were one of the biggest black marks against show. They were basically Mary Sues, being psychic brother and sister prodigies who were so much more formidable than anyone else in the show, even the new Gaiark member they debuted to counter, it literally wasn’t even funny. They would swoop down and either annihilate the monster giving the other guys trouble, or be forced to let it get away to save those useless Go-ongers.

Thankfully the writers stopped worshipping them after a while, but there was a period where I honestly wondered if the feud between the Wings and Hiramechimedes would ever end.

The Wings get Worfed, and are sent flying over the hills by Kireizki’s attacks too.

Sousuke, who’s kind of a dope, tries to run back to the fight even though the explosion shorted out his Engine buddy’s powers, but gets tripped by Santa. He thinks it’s just some guy who works at the mall until Santa reaches into his empty bag and pulls out a present for Sousuke. It’s a toy racecar. The exact same one he asked for as a kid. The one that convinced him to hold onto his dream of being a racer even though everyone said he could never make it.

Not only is this Santa the actual Santa, he’s from a parallel dimension devoted entirely to Christmas. Which we actually got to see when they teamed up with Shinkenger. And boy, do they not screw around when it comes to transit security.

Kireizki shows up at the camper van and attacks the remaining Go-ongers, who fight back but are overwhelmed without being able to add the Engines’ powers to their attacks.

In the woods Sousuke’s trying to get Santa to take it easy (he hurt his leg falling out of the sleigh), but he can’t because it’s almost Christmas. Saint Nick’s determination convinces Sousuke to do his part to make Christmas go well no matter what, and he swears to beat Kireizki before the bad guy can ruin the holiday.

Sousuke, Santa and the Wings make it back to the camper van to find their Christmas decorations in ruins (yeah, he left without doing anything besides wrecking their decorations). The others are depressed because Kireizki seems invincible, but Santa gives them the favorite toys he gave them as kids. The toys they got for believing they could make a positive difference. They have to stop Kireizki from taking Christmas away, Sousuke says. Ren, the blue guy and the brainiac, thinks they might just be able to do it with help from Santa’s bag.

Is that why the Wings stopped being so effective?

Over cocktails at the evil island, Kireizki tells the other ministers beating up the Go-ongers was just for starters. He has a plan in mind that’ll devastate the entire world…

...but before he gets a chance to put it in motion Sousuke shows up behind him on a rooftop and tells him no way, no how. Kireizki gets ready to use his rag bomb again, but right then everyone else jumps out of Santa’s TARDIS bag and grabs him so he can’t use it before Sousuke destroys it with his sword.

Able to use their full power at last, the Go-ongers indulge in their over-the-top introduction sequence before getting to work on Kireizki. I especially like the Wings’ entrance with the sparkly confetti in the background and weird dive moves. It’s ridiculous, yes, but if you can’t get into that you shouldn’t watch Sentai.

They destroy his other weapons by using all their heavy-duty attacks, and, it seems, Kireizki himself. That is, until he shows them how he hid inside another of his secret weapons, an interdimensional garbage can…

Be back on Christmas Eve Morning for the exciting conclusion!

Screencaps taken from the fansubs released by TV-Nihon.

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