Originally I was going to talk about Evil Dead and start off a series of post listing off current things I am watching or playing or just listing off my favorite things. I just happened to notice that Carranger has been announced for the next DVD set from Shout Factory! Carranger is up there as one of my favorite Toku shows in general. It is my second favorite Sentai series, right behind Dairanger. There is easily one thing about Carranger is that it is unique in the best way possible. This show aired in 1996 and Power Ranger fans know this show as Power Rangers Turbo. One big reason why Turbo did not succeed was because of the source material. Carranger’s footage is not easy to use and I think Turbo’s mood just lead to this falling of a show. Carranger is probably the most legit parody and actually being the actual product as well. Carranger shows off how silly this franchise can be and that is why people love it!
The cast of characters for Carranger are up there with Dairanger, Dekaranger, and Gokaiger as some of my favorites. The main five heroes were strong with one of the best reds, one of the best yellows, the best extra hero, and the best green hero around. Dappu is pretty close to one of my favorite mentor characters since his introduction episode just made me love and hate the little guy. Poor little Dappu lost his mother and home planet to the villains of the show. Of course someone would feel bad for him, but you start to laugh and hate the little guy when he starts dragging the heroes into battle and pretending to be dead to motivate the heroes. Overall though he has a fun story with his quest for a bit of peace of being with a family and does help out at multiple times. My favorite time being giving Minoru the electric eel.
For the main cast of heroes there is Kosuke aka Red Racer and man what a blast this character was. First the actor does a great job of portraying this hot-headed and not the brightest man. Kosuke even gets one of the best love stories in the franchise where this begins the trend of alien girls just wanting him. Natsumi is a tough girl and I love her just do it attitude. She does have some trouble saying whatever is on her mind like the time she wanted a little brother to wrestle and was going to make Blue Racer into that. Minoru has I said before my all time favorite green hero right behind Daigo (Shishi Ranger). Now Daigo is a strong fighter that even punched himself out of a fire monster, out of suit I might add. What makes Minoru my favorite green and just lovable guy in general is that he is hilarious! Most of the case is funny, but Yoshihiro Fukuda just knows how to present himself. I feel like he takes a strong improv sense to his acting since this guy just surprises me anytime he is on-screen. I remember the episode where people are getting mad at Kosuke because of his wish on the tree while mostly everyone was just closing in on him, Minoru takes the tree and starts barking at their leader. This just amuses me in so many ways because he took the initiative to pick up the tree and taunt the red with it. Then he just barks, I mean what is up with that?
Now since I started picking at the comedy I am simply going to do it more. Carranger’s comedy is probably some of the most fun I had critiquing comedy. It is up there with Edgar Wright’s films. The key to Carranger’s success is that the comedy breaks norms and while that has been done before, but considering we are dealing with suited heroes that get into robots to fight off mutants, aliens, or whatever opposing force there is. How could things really get strange? It is pretty easy actually, Carranger has this strong mixture of working with the silliness of Sentai and yet put the wrong parts of reality in. By that, that has to do with how some characters react to certain situations. There is a little kid by the name of Ichitaro and this kid character is incredibly brave or just does not care at all. When he sees a giant monster he just gives this huge pout about it and whenever there is monster related things he just gets his father to help him. There is even one time when he is captured with other kids and when things are looking bad he just gives the kids the command to cry. I feel like this kid just has the director’s notes and that is why he acts like this.
Another strange comedy method would be the villains. Usually you got this hungry powered villains that want something out of Earth or to dominate with an iron fist. The space biker gang is quite different though. They do want to destroy the Earth which that has been a common goal for some villains. The reason is where we draw the huge line though. The leader of this gang simply just want to use Earth as a firework to impress a chick in his gang. The other thing is that there is no hiding the sexual tension the leader has for this chick, he even tried licking her butt (first episode)! Then the individual members of the group have one decisive talent and use that to fight. We get one member that makes cars go into a symphony like matter to cause noise to tick off aliens. Another that orders products online to use as weapons. A bicyclist that wanted to form a new gang and yes she rides a bicycle not a motorcycle. Even one of the main villains just wants to make an intergalactic highway. There are many insane plot lines for this show and yet the show has this funny and serious way of doing things. One episode with Minoru loses his bracelet because he was goofing off leads to him being a warrior in the truest sense. That episode also contains an incredibly badass moment where Minoru defeats two monsters with his little car machine. An episode where numbers are being messed around with also causes Pink to have a figure issue and that anger defeats the monster of the week.
More incredible episodes come around the holiday season where we get to meet VRV Master. He is a masked hero that has access to new mechs for the team and while his training methods can be odd they truly do help the team. VRV Master even has some little tics that make him this cool and silly fellow. My favorite being his fascination with iced coffee and still going to a barber even with the helmet on. The villain Richihiker was a simple tutor for the biker gang and also turns out to become a serious villain thanks to an insane amount of evil energy entering his body. Even the main two villains, Zelmoda and Gynamo are awesome as Zelmoda fights his fears and unlocks the power of a thunder-god and Gynamo is simply the true hero of the show. Signalman is the extra hero for the series and not an actual member of the team he is one of the best additional heroes around. Signalman will stop anyone breaking any traffic laws even the heroes and I loved how cocky he was in the beginning because with skills he had I am not surprised he felt over-confident. I remember the episode where he was tricked by a pizza monster that there were evil pizzas breaking the laws leading to the best line, “I must arrest those pizzas at once!”
What is great too is that even if there can be these incredibly silly episodes there is still legit character building going on. The girl that hangs around with the biker gang, Zonette falls in love with Red Racer, not Kosuke, Red Racer. Yes the villains think that the Carrangers just look like they do in suit which makes sense the more I think about it. What ends up transpiring though is that she tries a bit too hard to get Red Racer’s attention and yet Kosuke did see this as her turning a new leaf. I loved it when Zonette tried to learn the meaning of love from a manga. This soon turns into hatred because she gets rejected by Red Racer mostly because he is too scared of the thought, but opens up to the idea too late. Zonette still holds those feelings for the hero and acts on those feelings. She even does learn about who Red Racer actually is and then winning her over was hard, but Kosuke did it! That episode with the cupid monster is still one of the best red ranger moments because of how the two interact with each other and how brave Kosuke was. VRV Master has great moments with Dappu as one starts to figure out who he is. Even the villains get a change of heart because of what was transpiring behind the scenes and even before that these guys have awesome and touching moments. Zelmoda felt ashamed that he could not face his fears originally and Gynamo reignited his courage through a heart warming speech about how these two will keep making their gang bigger and stronger.
There are just amazing characters all around in this show and sorry for not mentioning about our little blue here so here are a few moments for him as well. Blue Racer gets to train with cycling and even beats the bicycle gang leader thanks to intense training. Blue even finds out tricks to a special spray paint and uses car washing techniques to defeat him. I will easily say that Blue has some of the best action bits too with those intense kicks he has. Which leads us to the action of the show (see what I did there, I didn’t actually forget about our Blue, but used it as a segue… not impressed… moving on) and it is strong. There are still silly moments happening as I said before with Blue using car washing moves to defeat a monster. There is even a time where Minoru eats the electric eel and that actually beats his fear of lightning thus leading him to be able to withstand any lightning attack. Green even straights up throw the thunder-god while being on his motorcycle! While out of suit, Kosuke takes a barrage of attacks and still runs straight through to pierce a monster with a sword. Yellow goes to extreme racing lengths to get her special wrench back and even fighting grunts out of suit. With Pink I established that with her anger she single handily defeated a monster and usually she out classes many monsters in strength and style.
Then we get to the mechs and this is the first time I get to say it here and that is the 90’s eras of mechs are the best. The machines themselves are well designed and the fights they have are amazing. Carranger’s biggest asset is the use of miniatures and probably some of the best I have seen. Having little mini cars driving all around crashing into each other or making incredibly hard jumps that makes Fast and the Furious jealous. The main mechs in the show would be RV Robo, Sirender, and VRV Robo and these three are fantastic. RV Robo has a great build and one of the best finishing moves around and by watching it fight in general, it looks as one of the best suit to perform in. RV Robo does many tricks that other robots simply cannot do. Sirender is Signalman’s mech and I love the sequence it has for its transformation. Going into a tunnel and then flying into the sky to transform and makes the landing. VRV Robo is my favorite of the three because of how much it can do. First there are the VRV Fighters as each member gets a humanoid mech to battle with, it is like if the team just grew big, I always love that concept of a team of humanoid mechs. Then VRV Robo itself is a powerhouse with two huge weapons one being a Gatling gun and the other being a bazooka. The mechs on their own are mostly cars before any transformations and as I said before the miniatures are awesome. There are so many sequences that I love with one being the combination of RV Robo and the constant car clashes with the villains. VRV machines have great use of the area thanks to how they are built, the best being blue’s car being able to take a hit, use that momentum to increase speed, and leading to jumping off some road to perform a kick! There is so much attention given to how these machines work and it really rivals Dairanger as my overall favorite use of mechs.
There is so much more I can talk about with Carranger, but I must stop here. Carranger is overall one of the best Sentai series around. It is incredibly silly and yet also incredibly badass! The show has a strange nature and yet the show stays consistent with the comedy. Everything just feels right since everything is strange. The heroes are strange, the villains are strange, and even many side characters are strange. This show really plays with what a superhero show can actually do, have, or even be. Even if Carranger is part of the Sentai series and works with tropes from that franchise, it still feels completely original. There is nothing like Carranger and that is saying something when the show aired in 1996. Again those DVD’s are up for preorder right now and will be released in late April. I highly recommend them to anyone interested in Super Sentai. I do feel it can be a hard sell for someone’s first show into the series, but if you do fall in love with it I think you are ready for many other things this franchise can do.