Sunday, August 06, 2006

[Tokusatsu Review] Genseishin Justiriser

Genseishin Justiriser

I've procastinated writing in general for several weeks now but writing this review is one of top ten things on my to-write list. Anyone who knows me should know that, among other things, I'm a fan of anime and manga. What most people don't know, however, is that I'm also a fan of tokusatsu, the Japanese term for live-action. Filipinos are familiar with tokusatsu, most notably the super sentai show Bioman or Metal Hero Shaider.

Anyway, I accidentally discovered Justiriser after watching its predecessor, Choseishin Gransazer on TV. Justiriser is actually the middle child in a trilogy of similarly-themed shows, but it's really a gem that outclasses the shows that preceded it and followed after. To describe how good it is, whereas my gaming friends and livejournal friends were mesmerized with Nickolodeon's Avatar: The Last Airbender, I was fascinated with Justiriser for the same reasons they were with Avatar.

Let's put everything in context though. Justiriser is originally a kiddie show. It's Toho's (the company that brought you Godzilla) version of Power Rangers, with children as intentionally the target audience. The show's predecessor, Gransazer, interested me because it's the only show that featured twelve transforming heroes on screen at the same time. However, with such a huge cast of protagonists, a lot of them become redundant, and character development suffers. Justiriser seems to solve this problem as the heroes are cut down to three, in addition to their supporting cast.

What really surprised me was that all three characters plus their supporting cast matures through the series. And you'd think the excitement will mellow done over the course of the series (it's a whopping 51 episode series after all) but you thought wrong as Justiriser can neatly be identified with its story arcs that have a tight and cohesive focus.

Another thing that impressed me was the show's subtlety. The relationships between the characters slowly unfold and aren't blatantly stated. In fact, if you're not perceptive enough, the latter resolutions might surprise you.

Most of the episodes are self-contained, although awaiting the next episode is just as compelling. One thing going for the show is that the villains don't suffer from the evil overlord syndrome (a common occurence in this genre), and they actually do stuff you expect any respectable villain would do so. Because villains are usually smart here, there are several recurring antagonists who flee to fight another day, so it's more than just the expected monster-of-the-week fight.

There are also giant monster battles (kaiju) in the series, but they don't happen every episode. Similarly, the giant robots of the protagonists don't always appear, and this is also one of the rare series when the heroes attempt to fight kaiji without their vehicles.

Yet despite all these praises I have for the show, it manages to stay focused on its theme and target audience. It's still a children's show, yet adults can appreciate it. The themes that were present in Gransazer is also present here, namely that of peace and unity. Speaking of Gransazers, fans of the previous show can also look forward to cameos of certain characters, but their roles range from trivial to vital, yet they never overshadow the main characters of the series.

If there's anything detrimental I can say about the show, it's that there's the occassional break in consistency. For example, somewhere around episode 25 until 29, inappropriate slapstick moments are thrown in, and all the subtlety that was built up in the previous episodes were thrown out the window. This only happens in those particular episodes though, and the rest of the shows are solid and great.

Again, Justirisers is such a terrific Tokusatsu show that exceeded my expectations for it, especially after watching its campy predecessor Gransazers. Each episode makes me marvel at what the writers did for the show, especially with the constraints they had, and how it became a compelling show with respectable villains and admirable protagonists.


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