Shout! Factory has given a Christmas present to fans of Japanese Henshin (transformation) shows: A region one release of Gosei Sentai Dairanger: The Complete Series. The seventeenth show in Toei's the long-running Super Sentai series, and the one just following Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger (the basis for the first season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (MMPR)), these episodes were used in the second season of MMPR (sort of... see below). But don't pick it up for that, get this set because it's a fun, energetic, and almost surreal TV series that is a blast to watch.
The series starts with a young man named Ryo having a really bad day. He's just a lowly dishwasher at a restaurant, but his boss still hassles him, he makes a mess that he has to clean up, and on top of that his little sister is attacked by a very long tentacle that drags her underground. As if that wasn't sucky enough, another tentacle attacks Ryo and would have captured him too, but at the last minute he's saved by a giant, red, flying, mechanical dragon who repels the monster.
The dragon then kidnaps Ryo.
The poor guy wakes up in a strange warehouse type place and immediately makes a run for it. He manages to get outside before three other young men stop him and ask him to return to his captor, which the nice-mannered Ryo is happy to do. He wouldn't want to make anyone upset, especially after they went to all that trouble to kidnap him.
He's then introduced to the other Dairangers, the three men who recaptured him, and their female member, Rin, who arrives from China. Kaku also explains why he's brought them together. Six thousand years ago there was a very advanced civilization living on Earth. They were taken over by the evil Gorma with their mastery of the power of Yo. Those villains would have ruled the world except for five heroic youths who used their high levels of Ch'i to imprison the Gorma. Now they have escaped and sent three of their members (Shadam, Gara, and Zydos, who all dress like S&M fetishists) have come to enslave mankind. Kaku has selected these five new youths, all descendants of the original heroes, to become the Dairangers and protect the Earth once again.
That first episode of Dairangers illustrates what's so great about this show and why henshin programs in particular are so well loved: it inhabits a world like ours, but just one giant step removed. Everything seems pretty normal, but it isn't. People's actions are just a bit off, like Ryo's reaction to being abducted. In another episode a 10-year-old orphan, Kou, makes friends with Rin (one of the Dairangers). Rin however is only slightly surprised when she and Kou arrive at her apartment one day to find Kou's guardians, his maternal grandparents, moving all of his stuff into Rin's place. They don't want to take care of him anymore, so they thought Rin should. She basically says 'yeah, okay.' My favorite example though is the prank the Dairangers play on Kou when he starts becoming obnoxious. One of them calls Rin's place, and disguising his voice, tells Kou that it's his long-lost mother who is coming back to live with him. She's at the airport and just needs someone to pick her up, so young Kou takes his skateboard to the airport for a disappointing surprise. Man, is that kid is going to need therapy.
The show is wonderfully surreal in a lot of ways, especially the monsters that the Dairangers battle. Instead of creating odd monsters like the ones Ultraman would battle, the Dairangers combat monsters that are based on everyday objects. There's a magnet Gorma beast, one that's a tombstone, and another is a tube of lipstick. Of course, they get weird too... those were just the normal ones. There's also a monster based on the wavy lines of heat that emanate from a hot road, a motorcycle monster who gets around by, yes, riding another motorcycle, and my favorite, a mirror that unleashes a long tongue and captures any woman who admires herself in it. These strange, off-kilter creatures add a lot of fun to the show.
Another aspect of the show that makes it so enjoyable is that there are mini-story arc sprinkled though the program. The Dairangers have to find the five heavenly stars, they have to aid in the birth of a Mythical Ch'i Beast, the fate of the reincarnation of the Peacock Buddah (a lovely warrior who was trapped by the Gorma for six thousand years and now wants revenge at any cost), and of course there's the mystery of the sword Byakkoshinken that is embedded in a rock and will stay there until it is removed by a person who will become the sixth Dairanger.
As was mentioned in the introduction, these episodes were used as part of the second season of MMPR... sort of. Instead of changing the costumes of the American Rangers, they kept the same uniforms that were used in the Japanese Zyuranger (the only exception was the addition of the Kiba Ranger's outfit as the White Ranger) and utilized only the battles after the monsters had grown. They also gave the American rangers new Zords (the Mystical Ch'i Beasts from this series) so that the footage would match. So, if you're looking for your favorite monster from season two of MMPR, it might not be here (Saban commissioned Toei to film fight scenes with brand-new monsters that they used for the end of season one and parts of season two). That's okay... what you'll discover in this set is great and you won't be disappointed.
The 50 episodes that comprise this series arrive on 10 DVDs housed in a double-width multi-disc clear case. There is an episode list on the reverse side of the cover art.
Presented with their original full-frame aspect ratio intact, the image on these shows is about what you'd expect for a 20-year old show that hasn't been restored. The picture is generally clean and clear, but the detail isn't as crisp as you'd get with a recent show and the colors are just a tad muted. Nothing wrong with it, just showing its age a bit.
The set arrives with the original Japanese stereo soundtrack that does the job. The audio is easy to hear and the music comes through well. It doesn't have the dynamic range that a show created today would have, but it's perfectly fine for a program dating back to 1992. There are optional English subtitles.
None. I was hoping that they would include the Gosei Sentai Dairange movie, but no such luck.
This was a great series. Wonderful surreal in parts and filled with exciting action, there's just enough continuity to carry viewers through the 50 episodes without getting bogged down with plot every installment. Shout! Factory has done a great job of bringing this series to the North American market. Let's hope they continue with Ninja Sentai Kakuranger and even go back and release some of Toei's earlier henshin shows. Highly Recommended.