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Himitsu Sentai Gorenger

Entry updated 3 May 2021. Tagged: TV.

Japanese live-action tv series (1975-1977; vt Five Rangers; vt Star Rangers; vt Secret Battleteam Five-Ranger). Created by Shotaro Ishinomori. Toei Company. Directors include Katsuhiko Taguchi, Koichi Takemoto and Minoru Yamada. Writers include Hirohisa Soda, Susumu Takaku and Shozo Uehara. Voice cast includes Mitsuo Andō, Baku Hatakeyama, Hiroshi Miyauchi, Yukio Itō, Lisa Komaki, Naoya Makoto and Nobuo Yana. Eighty-four 25 minute episodes. Colour.

This was the first of the Super Sentai series, a Superhero franchise in the Tokusatsu genre that also includes the Power Rangers (1993-current).

The Black Cross Army, led by the Black Cross Führer (Andō/Yana), wish to take over the world; with their efforts hindered by the Earth Guard League (aka EAGLE), they try to eradicate EAGLE's five Japanese bases. Their success is nearly complete, with only one survivor at each base: Kenji Asuka (Itō), Tsuyoshi Kaijo (Makoto), Peggy Matsuyama (Komaki), Daita Oiwa (Hatakeyama) and Akira Shinmei (Miyauchi). However, the Black Cross Army's rejoicing proves precipitate, as EAGLE persuade the five to become the Himitsu Sentai Gorenger (which translates as Secret Squadron Five Rangers), who are able to transform at a moment's notice into colour coded battlesuits – in effect, Powered Armour resembling motorcycling gear, including a helmet and cape. Akira becomes blue Aorenger; Daita, yellow Kirenger; Kenji, green Midorenger, Peggy, pink Momorenger and Tsuyoshi, red Akarenger. They are athletic, with martial arts skills and individual weaponry – such as a whip, boomerang, bow and arrow and an exploding football.

Episodes usually centre on a Black Cross Army scheme, which are often mundane (designing nuclear and biological weapons, attacking EAGLE, assassination, kidnapping Scientists and invading Japan), but are sometimes more exotic (demolishing the Van Allen belt, freezing the planet, desertification of the Earth, using metal eating bacteria and finding the airship that sunk Atlantis so as to sink Japan). These operations are usually led by one the Black Cross Führer's Superpowered masked agents. The Gorengers then investigate, with the story culminating in a battle from which they emerge victorious. There are occasional atypical stories, such as when Peggy (who is as formidable a fighter as her male cohorts, and a chemist and explosives expert) visits a village afflicted by a Vampire snake woman.

The basic spy thriller plots and characterization are unremarkable, the special effects dated; but there is some amusing dialogue and much deliberate absurdity to enjoy – particularly the designs of the Black Cross Army's masked antagonists. The verve of the action scenes is also memorable (if very repetitive), with all the stops being pulled out to create the appearance of excitement – jump cuts, odd camera angles, sound effects, explosions, coloured smoke and quick zooms.

Given there are nearly ninety masked antagonists in the series, the inventiveness of many of the designs (and some accompanying uniforms) can impress, with highlights being the pleasing Sun Halo Mask and Crescent Moon Mask, the bizarre Telephone Mask and Poison Gas Mask and the literal Locomotive Mask and Fallen Leaves Mask. Though the action is generally comical, there are many violent on-screen deaths (but no blood) and occasional unnerving elements, such as the appearance of Poison Fang Mask and Skull Mask, whilst one episode has people brainwashed to be robotic, synchronized suicide bombers. The evil of the Black Cross Army is made clear from episode one: after placing a time bomb in a warehouse, they then – for no obvious reason – send in a bus full of children (who are rescued).

There were also six films, though four were simply theatrical versions of television episodes – Himitsu Sentai Gorenger: The Movie (1975; original title Himitsu Sentai Gorenjā: Gekijō-ban); Himitsu Sentai Gorenger: The Blue Fortress (1975; original title Himitsu Sentai Gorenjā: Aoi Daiyōsai); Himitsu Sentai Gorenger: The Red Death Match (1976; original title Himitsu Sentai Gorenjā: Makka na Mōshingeki!) and Himitsu Sentai Gorenger: The Volcano's Last Big Eruption (1976; original title Himitsu Sentai Gorenjā: Hi no Yama Saigo no Daifunka). The two original films were Himitsu Sentai Gorenger: The Bomb Hurricane (1976; original title Himitsu Sentai Gorenjā: Bakudan Harikēn; vt [seemingly IMDb only] Go Ranger: The Hurrican) and a crossover with the J.A.K.Q. Dengekitai series (see below), J.A.K.Q. Dengekitai vs. Gorenger (1978).

The show's success meant a sequel quickly followed: J.A.K.Q. Dengekitai (1977; vt The Jackers; vt J.A.K.Q. Blitzkrieg Squad; 35 episodes), also created by Ishinomori. Possibly influenced by The Six Million Dollar Man (1973-1978), it tells the story of the International Science Special Investigation Squad's (ISSIS) battle with an organized crime syndicate called Crime (which is run by an alien). ISSIS surgically enhance four test subjects, creating Cyborgs named Jack, Ace, King and Queen (their boss is called Joker, though he's eventually replaced by a fifth cyborg, named The Big One, who becomes the main character); they wear similar colour coded suits to the protagonists of Himitsu Sentai Gorenger. Crime's agents are mainly robots called Devils, who tend to be less colourful than the Black Cross Army's Masks – probably the most memorable is Führer Crocodile, a Nazi crocodile who sets up a concentration camp. The show attempted to target an older audience, but was much less popular than its predecessor – an attempt to be more child-friendly in later episodes (including a talking, loose-bladdered hamster) did not improve the ratings. [SP]


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