Tuesday 10 May 2011

Series REVIEW: Mahou Sentai Magiranger

Magic, it is a sacred power.
Magic, it is an adventure into the unknown.
Magic, and it is the proof of courage!

2005’s Mahou Sentai Magiranger is the 29th entry into Toei’s Super Sentai franchise, and would later be adapted in the West as Power Rangers Mystic Force. The story follows the aftermath of a war between the magical world of Magitopia and the underground Hades Empire of Infershia. 15 years after Magitopia defeated Infershia and sealed them underground, they reawaken to exact their revenge and cause havoc on the surface world. When the 5 siblings of the Ozu family witness their mother transform into the Magician of the White (Magi Mother) in front of them, they are given magiphones to grant them the ability to turn into the legendary magicians of the five colours. When their mother is struck down in the battle against the evil dark magic knight Wolzard, the siblings are left alone to discover their new powers and defeat the forces of Infershia.

The first noteworthy thing to discuss would be the dynamic of Magiranger. As mentioned in the synopsis, the team of Magiranger are not friends or coworkers, but a family. There’s the eldest son Makito (Magi Green/earth element), eldest daughter Houka (Magi Pink/air element), youngest daughter/middle child Urara (Magi Blue/water element), middle son Tsubasa (Magi Yellow/ Lightning element) and youngest son Kai (Magi Red/fire element). Due to this and the ages of the Magirangers, there never really feels like there’s a proper leader to the team (Kai shows the most potential and courage of the team at times as he is a red ranger, but I’d never call him a fully-fledged leader) and so the element of teamwork between them feels that much stronger. Each brother/sister has their own strengths and weaknesses and bring something different to the table. They are eventually joined by the heavenly saint Sungel (who takes on the name Hikaru while one Earth) who teaches them the ways of magic as the 6th Magiranger Magi Shine (light element). Even then, while he takes the role of a teacher he’s not really in charge either, as it eventually comes to light that he has just as much to learn from the Ozu family as they do from him.

Magiranger manages to maintain a perfect balance between slapstick and seriousness. When the series begins, the rangers imagination when it comes to their magical powers is very clear – Houka turns herself into a variety of the things to battle (a fan, a cannon etc) and the sisters also engage in a particularly strange dance routine to defeat one of the monsters. The rangers are initially guided by a talking Magitopian plant named Mandora Boy, and Magi Shine’s partner is a talking cat genie named Smoky (Magi Shine’s weapon is a genie lamp, which needs to be rubbed before it can work…complete with DJ turntable noises). The series morphers are the magiphones – mobile phones where the screens flip to become more traditional magic wands. I’ve never been the biggest fan of mobile phone morphers, but this series certainly has one of the better uses of them. As you can probably guess, the style of magic is takes a very traditional approach – magic wands, potions, spells etc. but as the series progresses and the plot becomes more series, the slapstick is toned down (but not lost altogether so that Magiranger can retain its charm). The villains are an excellent bunch – main antagonist N Ma remaining mysterious until the very end, and the main general changing a good few times, each bringing different things to the series. The monster costumes really excel in this series – particularly Meemy and the 10 Hades Gods (especially Dagon and Cyclops). Wolzard’s dark magician armour gives off a nice evil sentai vibe.

Next we come to the mecha, which are also very different in Magiranger. Aside from Magi Shine’s Travelion (a flying train that can transform into a robot) the rangers themselves actually use their magic spells to BECOME the mecha. Initially they take the forms of Magi Phoenix (red), Magi Garuda (Yellow), Magi Mermaid (Blue), Magi Fairy (Pink) and Magi Taurus (Green). One of the interesting things is the sheer size difference between them (Magi Taurus is the biggest, while Magi Fairy is positively tiny by comparison, often perching on its shoulder). Garuda, Fairy, Mermaid and Taurus are able to combine into the Magi Dragon, and then the 5 together can also become Magi King, the main mecha for the series. Magi King has one of the more interesting transformations, as the size different between the individual components means the basic “torso + limbs” formation isn’t an option, and the end result is definitely one of the best Sentai mecha I’ve seen – complete with a colossal wing span. When the Magirangers attain their legend forms, Magi Red also gains the ability to become the Magi Firebird, while the others form the Magi Lion. These two then combine into Magi Legend (which, while has an impressive transformation sequence, isn’t much more than a humanoid lion robot with a bird head and wings). As they actually become the mecha, sadly an epic Magi King/Magi Legend tag team battle isn’t possible, but thankfully the rangers still make decent use of Magi King once they have the legend powers (something I was afraid of).

However, it’s very rare to find a series without any sort of flaws, and Magiranger sadly is not an exception. The romance between Urara and Hikaru isn’t developed particularly well – their initial meeting shows signs of a potential romance blossoming, and while there are some moments sprinkled throughout the series it doesn’t come back up properly until they truly proclaim their feelings for each other, and then get married in the SAME episode. The whole scene itself plays second fiddle to the build-up of the final battle, and probably would have been better off as part of the series’ wonderful epilogue. More minor complaints include the repetition of magic spells (they learn a new one pretty much every episode, and they themselves are always variations of the same three words) and the show’s main twist – Wolzard’s identity. While the revelation is well handled, his identity is obvious 2 episodes in, and it doesn’t actually happen until episode 33.

Magiranger isn’t perfect, but it’s damn well near it. The different dynamic is really refreshing and nice change of pace, and its perfect balance between story and comedy really keeps the story flowing. If you’re a fan of Super Sentai or Power Rangers then you need to check this series out, and if you aren’t this is the perfect series to introduce the franchise to you. It is, to put it simply, magical.


Anonymous said...

Just found your blog, and I have to say that I largely agree with what you have to say about Magiranger. Personally, I think the wedding had to take place when it did, because Hikaru had been convinced that he was going to die and this was his big way of denying that, affirming that he had something to live for, but I can understand where you're coming from.

Stephen Cassat said...

Magiranger was awesome. It could have been a close contender for the best show about magic next to Harry Potter. But they somehow make a category of their own and make it one of the best Sentai ever.

Unknown said...

Magiranger is my favourite sentai. It is really really special and the different dynamics it follows made the series unique. Family theme has been used in many sentai series but I feel it is best done in magiranger. All the characters have depth and the writers also focused on the villains well. The changing villain concept was well handled and the overall story is very dramatic which made it a fun series to watch.