Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Gaoranger Series Review

Warning. Major Spoilers Ahead.

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This time instead of making brief reviews, I decided to give my reviews a new look with a longer analysis. I may do the same with some of my older reviews, depending on how much time I have.

Info/Synopsis
Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger, (百獣戦隊ガオレンジャー, Hyakujū Sentai Gaorenjā), translated into English as 100-Beast Squadron Gaoranger, was the 25th anniversary installment of Super Sentai. The series uses a beast-themed motif and its power rangers counterpart is Power Rangers Wild Force.

One thousand years ago, a war raged between humans and the demonic Org race. With the help of the Power Animals, the ancient Gao Warriors were able to defeat the Org's leader, Hyakkimaru, and seal the Orgs.

Today, the Orgs have begun to revive, and five warriors have been chosen by the Power Animals. They must abandon their current lives and give up their names to become the new generation of Gaorangers to protect the life of earth. The current five warriors are called by their color.

My Review
Similar to Goseiger or Magiranger, Gaoranger has several different "Big Bad" villains, each of which come in after the previous one had been defeated. Thus, Gaoranger's plot can be divided up into multiple story arcs depending on who's the main villain at the time. All of which are from the same villain group (the Orgs), and two Duke Orgs, TsueTsue and Yabaiba, are present throughout the series.

The first arc begins under Highness Duke Org Shuten, and lasts 14 episodes. Shuten as a villain doesn't really do much but is pretty cool and badass thanks to the voice acting of Tetsu Inada (Doggie Krugar of Dekaranger). Shuten lasts for 14 episodes before being defeated. However, it's during these first 14 episodes that some of the series' best character development episodes occur. I particularly liked the episodes during this arc that focused on Kakeru, Gaku, and Sae. Later on Soutarou has a good focus episode involving a girl he liked at a flower shop. I should also mention that the characters are referred to their colors and rarely are called by name. This is understandable due to their mission to defeat the orgs but on the other hand it makes it difficult trying to remember their actual names.

The Shuten arc is followed with the Ura arc. The Ura arc is where there's the most action and the best plots during the series. My favorite happens to be the Rouki sub-arc. Rouki is an ancient demon who's revived by Ura and wants revenge for his defeat to the Gaorangers over 1,000 years ago. However, Rouki isn't an ordinary demon. He's able to wield his own power animals, much to the Gaorangers' surpise. Rouki also shows several complex emotions, including tending to an injured Sae and being conflicted with vague memories. Eventually Rouki is revealed to be Shirogane (born Tsukumaro Oogami), an ancient warrior who used Rouki's mask to try to use the three power animals. However, after becoming Rouki himself, he has the Gaorangers of that time period seal him away. Eventually Tsukumaro's memories are recovered, and he becomes GaoSilver. I felt that this arc was the best in the series. Furthermore, Rouki was by far the best villain in the series, being both badass and having a complex variety of emotions.

Among the Highness Duke Orgs, I think Ura was the best. He's the only one that actually had any kind of plan to defeat the Gaorangers, and took action. This included reviving Rouki and then later using Tsukumaro and Rouki's wolf mask to revive Rouki again. The Ura arc ends with a two-parter involving episodes 30 and 31. Ura kills Kai, Sae, Soutarou, and Gaku. However, they're revived by a mysterious kid and are able to help Kakeru and Tsukumaro defeat Ura. However, this is where the lack of realism creeps in. Ura was easily able to kill Kai, Sae, Soutarou, and Gaku, but spent nearly all of episode 31 fighting Kakeru and Tsukumaro but neither of them never looked like they were in danger. Ura for the rest of the episode isn't nearly as menacing and at times seems like he's uninterested in finishing the job.

Up to this point, I felt that Gaoranger was pretty solid. It was overall pretty well written, with some solid character development early on followed by a good storyline with Rouki. However, after this point, Gaoranger just kinda loses it's intensity.

Taking over for Ura is Rasetsu, whom I have to say is one of the lamest villains ever. All he/she wants to do is eat and nearly all of his plans circle around him trying to kidnap Tetomu to try to make her, his personal cook. Also, at this time I felt it would have been appropriate to give some more character development to the Gaoranger characters. Instead they spend most of the arc running around with this bratty kid named Futaro (whom happens to be Gao God in disguise). To Futaro's credit, he's the one that actually did revive the Gaorangers after initially being killed by Ura. However, this arc really loses the drama and the action that were present during the first 31 episodes.

It doesn't really get better again until Rasetsu uses TsueTsue as a body shield, leading to her death. However, TsueTsue is revived by Yabaiba a few episodes after Rasetsu is defeated. However, Yabaiba also accidentally revives the three Highness Duke Orgs as well. After all three are defeated, Ultimate Org Senki is created with the Org Heart and the remnants of the Highness Duke Orgs. Eventually Senki is defeated, while TsueTsue and Yabaiba apparently survive. Overall, I felt this was an ok ending to the series.

Overall I feel the first half of Gaoranger is pretty good while the second half is mixed. The first half brought some good character development and story arcs, but I feel that the show after the midpoint begins to become too arc driven and loses sight of character development later on.

Characters
For me, the Gaoranger cast has three characters that I like (Sae, Gaku, and Kakeru) and three that I felt were ok. Sae was pretty cool. She's a tough fighter. Although not as badass as Sakura for example, I thought she's one of the better fighters among 21st century female Sentai senshi. I liked her level headed personality as well, and her focus episode involving her father was one of the best in the show. It was kinda disappointing that they didn't do more later on in regards to her relationship with her father.

Gaku I felt was pretty similar to Domon/TimeYellow in many ways. Like Domon, Gaku is a tough, badass fighter yet has somewhat of a quirky personality. The major difference between the two is that Gaku isn't as hot blooded as Domon, but Gaku was still awesome.

Kakeru I felt was pretty interesting being a veterinarian. Which kinda makes sense because of the beast theme of the series and the fact that their mechas are actual living beings. I really enjoyed the episode where he lost his memory and went back to being a veterinarian, before gathering the guts to fight with the other Gaorangers despite not having his memory. In that episode we got to see two sides. One, that the Gaorangers really needed him, and also that the other Gaorangers saw what he meant to his own community.

Tsukumaro for me is a tough egg to crack. He gets the most character development among the Gaorangers, but at times I feel he gets a little too much focus. I like his backstory as Rouki, but after he becomes human again (and GaoSilver) he doesn't really do much and doesn't have a lot of personality.

Soutarou I felt had one of the better focus episodes with Shi-Chan. Although their relationship does go somewhere (unlike a lot of Sentai relationships), it was a little disappointing that they didn't do anything with their relationship between Shi-Chan's first and second/last appearances. Other than his relationship with Shi-Chan, there's not a lot that comes to mind about Soutarou.

Kai I felt was kinda on the bland side. He lacked character development and the writers didn't do a whole lot with his character, other than his friendship with Soutarou. He's not the worst Sentai character ever, but it felt like the writers kinda ignored him.

Tetomu is another hard egg for me to crack. Unlike her power rangers counterpart, Shayla, Tetomu does show the ability to fight back both at the beginning and end of the series. She's a more tolerable character than Shayla, and her singing is much better as well. However, like Shayla, she often falls into the same damsel in distress cliche. She also tends to be very forgetful, though I guess it's understandable when you're over 1,000 years old.

Mechas
For me the mechas are mixed. There are over 20 individual mechas in this season but for me that's not the problem. Unlike more recent seasons, the mechas don't have a bunch of cluster mecha formations of nine to a gazillion components. Instead, usually if one set of mechas are damaged (or injured) they use others as back-ups or replacements, which is pretty smart. I also liked that the mechas had animal spirits and living souls. For me the issue with the mechas is the terrible CGI. Gaoranger was the first Sentai to use CGI mecha's extensively. The problem was that it looked CGI, and really fake. It's not as bad as the CGI in MMPR the Movie, but for me it still wasn't very good.

Music
The music was also mixed. I really love the ending theme song, Healing You. It's one of the better ending themes among 21st Century Sentai's. I also liked the song sung by Tetomu to Gao Deer. However, I really hate the main theme song. It has a poor mix of a jazz-like background music, and the singer singing in a heavy metal tone. Furthermore, I felt that the singer couldn't sing at all.

My Rating
7/10- Overall, Gaoranger is an ok series. It had some good moments here and there, and a couple not so good moments.

9 comments:

  1. I do like this new style since it feels more organized and it also gives a more thought out and detailed view and more reasons for why a certain element was good or bad, if there is one thing that I liked from the old way you did these reviews is the list of episodes you put after you give your rating, but i you don't want to do that, I respect your decision.

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  2. I do agree about the music though. I don't know why people like the Gaoranger music, I think it's one of the worst.

    However, the Henshin music is really awesome!

    Great, if different review.

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  3. So who do you think is the worst sentai character of all time? (I wouldn't be surprised if you picked any of the Goseiger, I wouldn't blame you)

    Anyway, Gao is a decent series, but enjoyable. We can agree that the show stars running out of stream after Ura's defeat, but I tended to enjoy Gao a lot of more during the pre-Gao Silver days. Most of its memorable episodes came from the first half of the show, didn't they?

    @ChrisX
    Are we specifically talking about its BGM or song collections? Because music is a pretty broad term in this case...

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  4. @rescuesoldier24: I was picking on the Opening. Sorry, should've been broader

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  5. I love Gaoranger. Gaku is my favorite character. I think Gaku is different from Domon, however. Gaku is a leader (or was the leader), more serious, smarter, and not a flirt. As well, he's more of a sword user than a fists user. (Domon's fists are lethal weapons). Essentially, Gaku is closer to Yuuri, based off of personality.

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  6. I like this long detailed review of the series. But I wonder it will a bit longer to post another review. You don't mind if I ask how popular is this series in japan compare to the other sentai series post 2000?

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  7. @excalipoor

    I know that when Gaoranger first aired it was pretty popular. It had the highest TV rating and toy sales of any 2000's Sentai series. I don't know how popular it is now though.

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  8. Awesome review as always, Mr. Smith. ^__^

    Anyway, I really love Gaoranger. IMO, it's one of the better 2000s Sentai, and frankly I feel it's one of the more under appreciated ones of the decade (much like Aba and Geki). I can perfectly understand why people would be mixed about it, but when looking into the show, honestly, I think it's easily one of the better made sentai of the 2000s. And after 11 years, I think gao has aged very well.

    Yeah, I agree that Gao loses some steam after the Ura arc. But luckily, it doesn't get far from being enjoyable. ^__^ And I actually think Rasetsu does fine as a villain. Honestly, Rasetsu actually did his/her dirty work more than Ura and Shuten did. Yeah, Rasetsu's intentions were pretty meh, but then again, he's an Org with very evil desires, so why not? At least it brought some originality to the villain. Plus, Rasetsu was pretty vicious when he got serious.

    I think the eps during the Rasetsu arc was pretty enjoyable. Sure, there was better earlier, but I think they were still fun. And I don't think Fuutaro is a terrible character either. In fact, I think he was quite enjoyable with his interactions with characters like Kai and Gaku. The only part of Gaoranger's story that I think was rather unoriginal was the two-parter that wrapped up the Fuutaro arc. Other than that, I think the show was overall pretty solid. Everything builds up to Senki (being the recreation of Hyakkimaru). I know the ending is a bit of a deus ex machina, but I like how intense things got (Senki killed over 20 Power Animals!), and the ending at least stayed true to the title of 100 animals.

    I know that most people say that Timeranger was the last season to have a 90s feel, but I think Gaoranger also had many traces of the 90s feel in it. The main characters are cut away from society and have to fight Orgs with the power of nature and animals. These are various elements found in other 20th century Heisei Sentai like Turboranger, Dairanger, Kakuranger, and Gingaman. And I really loved the cellphone and text fonts that was added to the overall style of the show, as the new century took off. Regardless of what people say, I think Gao was truly a season made only for it's time. =)

    Gaku to me always felt like a slightly deeper and more natural version of Hoji (Dekablue). So he was lots of fun to watch.

    I like Sae too. She kicks all sorts of butt. And Kakeru is a very fun loving Red as well. Soutarou is basically the tough guy with a weak heart and Kai is the immature kid who wants to prove he's more than he seems. Soutarou and Kai's characters have been done before, but I think what makes them unique is their relationship and basically how their actors deliver. And honestly, I think Gaoranger has one of the better cast of actors in the 2000s (imo only losing to Aba and maybe Time). And I love Tetomu too. She's such a fun loving mentor character, and we rarely ever get a character like her. It's great to see how involved she is in the story and how she has to suffer along with the other Gaorangers.

    I agree that Tsukumaro is a complex one. He's rather stoic. And he makes the Gaorangers worry for him more than he really should've let happen. I like how he's constantly haunted by his past and I loved how he takes care of it at the end of the Ura arc. After that, yeah, he's mostly just there. But at least his actor does a good job and he still kicks butt! =D I also like some of the scenes he has with Tetomu and Sae.

    The character development and team dynamics were definitely at their best during the first half. there was lots of conflict between the characters. During the second half, they get more comfortable with each otehr, which I think is fine, since it shows their growth (kinda like Kakuranger). I do agree it's not the best thing ever, but I'm not really gonna complain.

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  9. I'm gonna disagree on the CGI part. I think Gaoranger was one of the seasons with better CGI in the franchise. Yeah, it's not the best, but for a toku in 2001, it was pretty impressive. I do agree that the choreography wasn't the best, but I still found them to be enjoyable. Especially compared to Hurricaneger's mecha fights which I thought were just boring.

    I'm also gonna have to disagree with both you and ChrisX on the theme song. I think the Gaoranger theme song is actually one of the more better scripted and sung theme songs in not just the 21st century sentai, but the entire franchise in general. I'm not the biggest fan, but I disagree that it's anywhere near bad. I think it's one of the more unique themes out there.

    I think Gaoranger has an awesome soundtrack (BGMs). I love the tribal and modernized feel that it has to illustrate the war between Power Animals and Orgs in the modern era.

    Btw, how Gaoranger's reception is now, it's pretty much just another sentai season that has come and gone and has now given many people precious memories who grew up on it. =)

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