Power Rangers: My Journey
By: Ben Taylor
Hey everyone, this is Ben, letting you know I didn’t write today’s column. In fact today’s column was written by Brian Massey, one of the other hosts of Voices from the Grid. It is part one of a column where Brian talks about his favorite Sentai series.
Yup, that’s right, this column is about an actual Sentai ToQger. Before I get way out of my depth, I’ll turn it over to Brian.
Brian’s Super Sentai Shenanigans.
Ressha Sentai ToQger.
“It’s about IMAGINATION!”
Hi Everyone, Yellow Ranger Brian here, and welcome to my first guest article! As a member of the VftG Podcast, I often talk about and dissect Power Rangers with the crew, and I inevitably wind up mentioning, you guessed it, “Super Sentai.” To be fair, I grew up a giant fan of MMPR, and I stuck around until Turbo. When Tommy left, I left. Call it peer pressure or wanting to fit in, but I was 6 when MMPR debuted, and by the time Turbo came around, I was entering middle school and wanted to seem “cool.” I was getting more into comic books, anime, sports, what have you. As I got older, my nostalgia for Power Rangers came back, and I started trying to watch around the time Dino Charge was being broadcast. It was around this time that I started learning that the show I loved and was rabid for as a child. originated…IN JAPAN.
I’m not gonna go into the whole backstory of Super Sentai, or how it wasn’t even considered “SUPER” Sentai until after the Japanese Spider-Man series inspired Toei to put a giant robot in their series “Battle Fever J,” but I will say that the series does go back all the way to 1975 with Shotaro Ishinomori’s “Himitsu Sentai Gorenger” (we also have Ishinomori to thank for Kamen Rider, but that’s a different topic, maybe for another time), and it has been running since then, with a small gap in between J.A.K.Q.’s abrupt cancellation and Toei rebooting of Battle Fever J, albeit without Ishinomori’s input.
Going all the way forward into 2020, “Mashin Sentai Kiramager” is Toei’s 44th Super Sentai series, and next year, Super Sentai will be celebrating its 45th Anniversary! Not bad for a show about five heroes wearing primary colors, fighting rubber suit monsters. Every season of Super Sentai is unique, be it Gokaiger’s Pirate gimmick with the Ranger Keys allowing them to utilize the powers of the past 34 sentai teams before them, Goseiger’s guardian angel theme, or Zyuranger’s dino warriors who have to…protect dino eggs…from a witch…okay, but still… ToQger was one of the first Super Sentai shows that I really took notice of once I was more familiar with the series overall, and I honestly think it stands out as one of the most unique and interesting seasons.
Ressha Sentai ToQger (Translated as “Train Squadron Limited Express Ranger”) is the 38th Super Sentai Season, which debuted February 16th, 2014, replacing Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger. It joined Kamen Rider Gaim as part of the Super Hero Hour in Japan (typically, new episodes of Super Sentai aired once a week at 7:30 am on Sundays, followed by a new episode of Kamen Rider at 8:00 am).
This season follows five childhood friends who travel on the Rainbow Line, a train that can only be seen with those who possess a strong imagination. Their problems are triple fold, in that the Rainbow Line will often arrive at a train station only for them to find it has been taken over by the evil Shadow Line, our main villains for the season. On top of that, they can’t remember anything beyond their childhood memories, and they’ve been tasked as ToQgers to find lost Resshas (Trains) before the Shadow Line lays claim to them.
Our main characters this season are:
Toq1 (Ichigo, Red): Right Suzuki is the leader of the ToQgers and ever the optimist of the group. Right has optimism flying out of his ears, and can often envision victory against the Shadow Line, which leads the ToQgers to win, no matter how rough the fight may be.
ToQ2 (Niigou, Blue): Haru Tokashiki, aka Tokatti. Often put in the role of second in command, Tokatti is not the average ‘stern, intimidating, no nonsense’ Blue Ranger that we often find in Japan. Tokatti is actually kind of shy, and can get intimidated by anything from fighting a monster to expressing his true feelings for a girl. He’s often seen fixing his glasses (which leads to a funny moment with his helmet later on in the season).
ToQ3 (Sangou, Yellow): Mio Natsume is the tomboy of the group. She can be hard, cold, and stern at times, even kind of filling that role that Tokatti should be undertaking, but she’s also very sweet and has a kindness to her that she only lets people she’s very comfortable around see. Don’t let that fool you though, she could totally kick your…erm, butt.
ToQ4 (Yongou, Green): Hikari Nonomura. Very stern. Very cold. Always…playing with his Kendama (it’s like a harder version of the ball in the cup game). He often goes along with Mio and listens to her, and teases Kagura quite a bit. He’s an excellent fighter and loves detective stories, leading him to become the “Kendama Deka” in a few episodes, which rank among some of my favorites in this series. Oh, Deka stands for Detective. Wait, is THAT what the Deka in ‘Dekaranger’ stands for?!
ToQ4 (GoGo, Pink): Kagura Izumi. Kagura is probably one of my favorite Pink Rangers ever. Her imagination is only second to Right’s, but she tends to take negative directions with her power, which leads to unforeseen consequences. She is often the weakest of the Rangers, that is unless she taps into her imagination and becomes “Super Girl” (no, not THAT Supergirl).
She becomes an unbeatable warrior, but her imagination is so strong that she can lose sight of reality and forget about her body’s limitations (she almost drowned because of this in one episode).
ToQ6 (Rokugou, Orange): Akira Nijino. This is easily one of my most favorite Ranger characters ever in either Super Sentai OR Power Rangers. Akira was originally a Shadow Line operative named Zaram, and his power was to create rain powerful enough to ruin good days, which led to sorrow and sadness being cast over the town (something that the Shadow Line needs to happen prior to their conquering of it). Zaram was allies with General Schwartz, one of the main enemies of the Rainbow Line and the ToQgers. He left the Shadow Line after seeing a rainbow for the first time, a rainbow so beautiful that he vowed to protect them all. He works on the Rainbow Line, hoping to make up for his past atrocities. His past and his power haunts him, with a literal rain cloud hanging over his head, and he’s cursed to walk in the rain forever (until he becomes a ToQger anyway). He forsakes the name Zaram, though the Shadow Line refuse to call him Akira. His catch-phase is, “So…this is where I die,” and it’s so off-brand from the other optimistic ToQgers that it honestly never fails to get a laugh out of me. Akira gets his new name from the ToQgers, and uses an Applichanger Henshin device instead of the wrist mounted ToQchanger (the Applichanger looks like an orange smartphone).
While I’m on the subject, let’s talk about the Henshin devices for just a second. One of the really cool gimmicks this season is the ability for the Rangers to do a ‘Line Change.’ Each of the five Rangers has a miniature Ressha that correlates to their designated number and color. The Henshin, or morph, is done by pressing one of three buttons on the side of the device, lifting the railroad crossing gate on the top, and sliding the Ressha in. The second button can call the zords, but the third button allows color/power transfers ON THE FLY.
Let’s say Right and Tokatti needed each other’s weapons (Right uses a sword, Tokatti uses a gun type weapon). They press the third button, exchange Resshas, morph again, and suddenly Tokatti is wearing Red and Right is wearing Blue, but their numbers remain the same! This is why they go by number designation instead of color designation in this season.
Going back to characters, there are a few allies of the Rainbow Line and ToQgers that aid them practically every episode:
The Conductor: An eccentric and enigmatic man who knows about the ToQgers past, but refuses to tell them anything about it. He carries around a puppet named, Ticket.
Ticket: A monkey hand puppet controlled by The Conductor, and technically the Orange Ranger prior to the Applichanger being handed to Akira (being stuck on the Conductor’s hand made being a Ranger difficult, if not impossible for Ticket). Ticket is surprisingly no nonsense and by the book with the ToQgers, whereas The Conductor can be lenient. Right and the rest of the ToQgers suspect that Ticket is the Conductor’s way of being nice to them, but still laying down the law. (Real talk, the dynamic between The Conductor and Ticket is VERY similar to that of Mr. Garrison and Mr. Hat in VERY early episodes of South Park).
Wagon: A robotic assistant who sells meals to the team and helps keep the train clean. Nobody really knows much about her, but she’s often seen taking photos of herself in, um…very provocative poses. She’s kind of got a latex fetish thing going on with her, and she literally has a handle on her head and very pronounced lips, so, I don’t know WHAT they were smoking at Toei when she was approved, but, she’s definitely there to try and add sex appeal to the show.
The kind of the bizarre thing about this show, is that there is stuff CLEARLY meant for adults, despite the meat and potatoes of the story being about childlike innocence, imagination, and fighting the dark with light. That’s not to say that this is the only show with suggestive content. Heck, in Dairanger, the White Ranger was a pervy kid who used Saba to lift up girls skirts while passing by.
I did want to get into the meat and potatoes of the story and some of the villains (who somehow ‘outshine’ the main cast in certain regards; you’ll see why I said that later if you don’t know), but I’m gonna leave this as part 1. Be on the lookout for part 2 soon!
On behalf of all of us at Voices from the Grid, may the power protect you all!
-Yellow Ranger signing out.
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Okay, Ben back again just to say a big thank you to Brian. I’m looking forward to reading about the Shadow Line and some of the other parts of the season in the next special, but that will not be in the next column… Oh no… that is because things are back on track (THAT WAS A PUN, GETTIT?). See you next time, which it really IS Time for… TIME FORCE.
If you want to discuss things more or follow me, you can find me on Twitter @BobTGoldfish, or tune in to hear me co-hosting Voices from the Grid (or VftG)’s sister show, Awesome Mania, where Mike and I talk about things in the world of professional wrestling. I also do Twitch streams over at twitch.tv/321_tv, which we announce on Twitter beforehand. Of course you can find episodes of Voices from the Grid at txhthockey.com/vftg and you can find us on Twitter @VFTG_PR.
Until Then –
Guys, Gals, and Non-aligned Pals, in the words of the sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, “Be Excellent to each other and Party On Non-gender specific honorifics!”