Fans of Japanese super heroes like the Super Sentai or Kamen Rider franchises are often treated with great toys for the adults who never quite grow up. My latest example of such is the S.H. Figuarts release of Red Hawk, the stalwart leader of the 1991 Super Sentai series Choujin Sentai Jetman. Jetman is one of my favorite series (you can read my review of the series here), and while my favorite ranger from that series is actually Gai Yuuki, the Black Condor, I prefer Ryū Tendo’s Red Hawk for this figure’s sake due to color aesthetic and availability.
I have to give a shout out to The Great Escape – Madison in Madison, TN for having this guy. This branch of Great Escape often has some good toy selection, in addition to some good deals on used trades and movies. I recommend anyone in the area to check them out. I also have friends who work there, so there’s that disclosure.
S.H. Figuarts is a line of premium action figures. They can be pricey. Some figures, like this one, are in the $40 range, with more exclusive ones even higher. The line is known for design accuracy to the show’s design, superb poseability, and selection of accessories. Red Hawk exemplifies all of this, with reasons below.
As you can see, Red Hawk is loaded down with accessories. He has five pairs of interchangeable hands that allow for a huge variety in gesturing. He’s also armed to the teeth, or the beak as the case may be. S.H. Figurarts tends to give the figure’s owner as many options as possible for how you might want your figure posed, and that shows here.
Red Hawk comes with an impressive arsenal. His weapons include the Bird Blaster, Bringer Sword, Wing Gauntlet, and Jet Hand Cannon (not shown above). He comes with attachable holsters to store his Bird Blaster and a separate Bringer Sword handle for what is a retractable blade in the series. The holsters are oversized and bulky. The weapons are loose in them, and they themselves are loosely attached to the figure. I’ve elected to keep them detached for the sleeker look.
My weapon of choice for this figure is the Wing Gauntlet. It is a separate right hand in addition to the several interchangeable ones he already has. It’s my favorite personal weapon of the series, a simple powered fist. You can change out the red wings from folded to open, but I just keep in the default closed set. Too bad I have no idea how to get my camera to change focus from the figure to the gauntlet.
All S.H. Figuarts I’ve gotten my hands on have been extremely poseable, thanks to each figure’s impressive array of joint movement. This one is no exception. Incredible motion on shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, and even the tippy toes make Red Hawk simple to place in whatever hero pose you’d like. I wish for more motion in the head, but I can deal without.
One of the notable aspects of the Jetman team is that they’re a bird-based team and can all fly with retractable wings. After all, what kind of Gatchaman tribute wouldn’t be able to fly? Understandably, S.H. Figuarts opted to make the wings part of a swapable back plate, which both avoids any bulky wing housing permanently affixed to the figure and allows a cool sight into the inner workings of the figure. Stands sold separately can keep the figure posed in a mid-flight position, but until I get one, I’m forced to settle with flying him around by hand and making wooshing noises (which are not optional).
Red Hawk is an impressive figure with outstanding poseability and a great set of accessories. With his wings out and Wing Gauntlet ready for action, he makes an excellent addition to my toy shelf.
What’s your current favorite toy in your collection?
This past weekend, for me, has been a shining example of why I love Japanese tokusatsu super hero shows. If you’re new to reading me, “tokusatsu” is Japanese for “special effects.” This generally applies to the genre of live-action monster movies (example: the Godzilla franchise) and super hero shows (example: the Super Sentai franchise, where Power Rangers comes from). This weekend in particular, I finished two series I’ve been following for a while and have thoroughly enjoyed: Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger and Kamen Rider Black.
This weekend saw the end of the then-current 35th Super Sentai series - Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger (Pirate Task Force Gokaiger). The theme of the show is two-fold. One, it’s pirates, and who can’t get behind a team of pirate super heroes. Two, and more importantly, it’s an anniversary series. The Gokaiger team has the ability to transform into past rangers, and most episodes focus on a specific past team. The series even opens with every ranger of the previous 34 series fighting an army of bad guys. Point of reference, Power Rangers didn’t come about until the 16th Super Sentai series, so imagine basically doubling every power ranger ever.
The series isn’t terribly deep or complex. This pirate team brought together by their captain/red ranger Captain Marvelous (love the names) fight against the galactic, evil Zangyack Empire in the unconquered backwaters of the universe (meaning Earth). A year earlier, all 34 previous Sentai teams spent all their powers to drive back the Zangyack Empire from Earth, and now they’ve returned just as the Gokaiger team is on Earth looking for the Universe’s Greatest Treasures. Their journeys have lead them to the powers of their predecessors, and through actually meeting them on Earth, they gain more powerful abilities and a greater understanding of what it is to be a Super Sentai.
The series doesn’t necessarily require prior knowledge of any of the past shows. It’s made mostly for young kids who couldn’t have seen shows from the ’80s or ’90s, but their parents and a certain nostalgia market would. A superficial familiarity will suffice (see: Wikipedia).
The characters are all fun and generally light-hearted, which surprisingly hides a fairly dark past for most of them. Gai/GokaiSilver seems to be a fan favorite because he is the audience. He’s the Super Sentai fanboy who always wanted to be one of his heroes, and suddenly he is. Along side a team that originally doesn’t care about being heroes.
The reason to like this isn’t a hard one to grasp. It’s a tribute to the past, one that any fan of a previous series can enjoy. The characters are cool. The action is incredibly well done. It’s just an overall fun show to watch as it ramps up all the way throughout it’s explosive and exciting ending.
I also finished the series Kamen Rider Black this weekend. It is the 8th Kamen Rider series, running between 1987-1988, and I’ve been following it on and off for about three years. The story is of a young man named Kotaro Minami who is abducted with his surrogate brother on their 19th birthday by an evil cult called Golgom. Golgom plan on using these two to fulfill a prophesy by becoming mystic cyborgs and fight for the right to be their new leader and control their armies of animal mutants to wipe out humanity and rule the world. Something goes wrong in the brainwashing phase, and Kotaro breaks free and spends 51 episodes using the abilities Golgom gives him to fight against them and protect humanity as Kamen Rider Black.
It’s pretty episodic and formulaic (it is a kid’s show, after all), with most episodes featuring some kid stumbling upon a Golgom plot and Kotaro/Kamen Rider Black then stumbling upon the kid and having to take down Golgom’s latest anime mutant and teach the kid a life lesson at the same time. It also shows its age, with 80s style everywhere and heavily reused stock effects and footage. Once you’ve seen Kamen Rider Black do a Rider Punch and Rider Kick once, you’ve seen how it’s done throughout the entire show.
Where the show excels is in the acting of Tetsuo Kurata, who portrays Kotaro/Kamen Rider Black. Kurata does an amazing job conveying his emotions to the audience. Sure, those emotions are usually limited to worried desperation and serious responsibility, but he does it so well. Most of Golgom’s plots are either silly or absurd, but how Kotaro takes them seriously makes the audience take them seriously. The camaraderie and respect Kotaro feels for his few allies, especially his semi-sentient motorcycle Battle Hopper, are so genuine that the audience shares them. While his villains are often comical, his struggle feels so real that the audience believes it.
This is a guy who loses most of this family and is later forced to fight the one person he is closest with in the whole world, and the conflicting senses of sorrow and duty add a character depth that gives this children’s action drama some meat. The last ten episodes alone are just a great roller coaster ride leading up to the final climatic battle and emotional finish.
Plus aside from the aforementioned stock effects, the actual action and combat are often captivating. If you’re a fan of super hero action and tons of emotional melodrama, and you can sit through repetitive plot lines, then Kamen Rider Black is a great series to pick up. One of my favorite Rider series, if not THE favorite.
That’s my tokusatsu fandom for the weekend. What have you been into lately?
The 35th anniversary Super Sentai series – Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger – premiered this past weekend. Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger (Pirate Strike Force Gokaiger) is a team of space pirates coming to Earth for the universe’s greatest treasure. On the way, they run into the evil space empire Zangyack, with bounties on each of the rangers’ heads.
No, this isn’t about the annual Vs. team up between Super Sentai teams (that would be the other way around with the current series first).
If you haven’t heard, Saban has bought back the rights to Power Rangers from the cold clutches of the Mouse. In addition to moving the 700-episode reruns over to the premium channel Nicktoons (hopefully original first season instead of the remastered crap), Saban is in talks to start a new 18th season of the franchise on Nicktoons and its older sibling network Nickelodeon later this year.
Here is where the question lies. With this year gap in the franchise, will Saban pick up with the series next in line after its last adaptation – Samurai Sentai Shinkenger (Shinkenger followed Go-Onger, the basis for Power Rangers RPM), or will it go with the current (less obviously Japanese but more lackluster) Super Sentai series Tensou Sentai Goseiger? Or maybe, just maybe, it’ll be something…original. *gasp* (Or it’ll go with Jetman)
Hit the poll below
First reaction – I like the costumes and weapons, but I don’t care for the helmets. Going back to silver lips. Very ’80s. Usually seeing the suits in action tend to affect my decision though.
Once upon a time, back in 1991, there were manly men and courageous women fighting the forces of evil. Some fought for duty and righteous, some fought in spite of their own self interests, some fought one another, but all fought to protect the world. One such team made of these individuals appeared before teenagers with attitude rose up from Angel Grove. Their exploits are chronicled in the 15th Super Sentai series – Choujin Sentai Jetman.
Choujin Sentai Jetman, or Birdman Squadron Jetman, is a story about the struggle of the five-man team Jetman to protect the Earth fro the Back Dimensional conquerors called the Vyram. Originally, the plan is for the Jetman team to be composed of highly-trained soldiers of Sky Force bathed in birdonic rays to have enhanced abilities and the power to transform into the Jetman.
Things don’t go quite as planned as the Vyram attack sooner than expected. Only soldier Ryū Tendo gets the ray treatment, gaining the abilities of Red Hawk (Jetman’s red ranger). An accident showers birdonic rays onto four random civilians, eventually making up the Jetman team.