Thursday 29 September 2011

Anime REVIEW: Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water

Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water is a 39 episode (and one movie) show that aired between 1990 and 1991. A joint venture between Toho and Gainax, it is notable for being based on a concept by Hayao Miyazaki (of Studio Ghibli fame) and directed by Hideaki Anno (Gunbuster, Neon Genesis Evangelion). The show is very loosely based on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne.

Set in 1889, it tells the story of Nadia - a mysterious girl with unknown origins. While working as a circus acrobat, she meets young French inventor Jean Roque Raltique, who saves her from a trio of jewel thieves attempting to steal her 'blue water' pendant. On their travels to find Nadia's homeland, they meet the equally mysterious Captain Nemo and his advanced submarine, the Nautilus. The pair become caught in a battle between Nemo and the Neo-Atlantean forces, inhabitants of the lost city of Atlantis who seek to dominate the world. As the battle unfolds, Jean and Nadia are joined by new friends as they learn the secret of the blue water gem and Nadia's mysterious past.

Initially, the story is near perfect. Characters are introduced well and the plot is equal parts gripping, action packed, heart-warming and heartbreaking (the introduction of Marie, an orphaned 4 year old girl who is taken in by Jean and Nadia had me in tears). While obviously being based on Verne's famous book, it still has its own distinct originality and (until episode 23, but we'll get to that in a moment) sticks to the story excellently without straying off on any tangents.

The characters are all fantastic, with all the main characters having their own distinct back stories that usually tie in the main plot somehow. Two particular favourites of mine were Marie - who is perhaps my new favourite 'child' character from ANY anime I've seen, and the Grandis gang, who made an excellent transition from bumbling antagonists to true heroes and worthy role models to the three main children. It's true that Nadia is extremely annoying at times, but the element of mystery to her character (along with Nemo) is particularly strong and she manages to frequently bounce back in terms of interest. Gargoyle, the leader of the Neo Atlanteans, is fairly one dimensional but has a fantastic evil presence, and also has quite a lot of mystery behind him, given that you don't see his true face until the very last episode. Even the side characters have a good role in the series, with some playing an important part in one the Nadia's more tragic episodes.

The art is beautiful, blending latter-day Victorian style with Ghibli-esque scenery and character design. The submarines and ships are also well designed, fitting for a Jules Verne story but perhaps not looking too out of place in Anno's other works. Fans of the Macross franchise might also notice that Captain Nemo bares a striking resemblance to Global from Super Dimension Fortress Macross.

But when you get to episode 23, that's where it all begins to fall apart. Due to the show's popularity, Nadia was expanded beyond the original episode count, and since the budget was running low the animation was sourced out elsewhere and Anno, who was already working overtime, handed over the director's chair. And boy does it show. While the early episodes are well crafted, excellent pieces of storytelling, this "Lincoln Island" arc (where Jean, Nadia and Marie are stranded...the rest of the cast do not appear aside from the Grandis gang who rejoin towards the end of the arc) is the complete opposite. The art style is cheap and nasty, the characters lose most of the development they'd had over the last 22 episodes and the style is completely different - often resembling a cheap comedy with lame gags and simple stories. Its not just bad, its among the worst anime I've ever seen in my life. The arc has ONE important piece of information that drives the plot forward, but other than that watching these episodes is a complete waste of time.

Nadia returns to its former glory for its final four episodes, providing some brilliant action alongside stunning visuals and glorious science fiction (plus an ending that couldn't be any more perfect) but by then it's perhaps little too late, and the sour taste from the previous 12 episodes never really leaves. And let's not get started on the movie, the less said about that the better...

To summarise, Nadia is the most diverse anime in terms of quality I have ever watched. 2/3s of it are brilliant, while the middle third and movie are simply awful. And for that I can only give it an average mark out of 5 at the best. In Japan there exists a condensed version of Nadia called "The Story of Nautilus" which apparently cuts all of the filler from the show. While I have not investigated this further, I can only the imagine the show benefits from the extensive work it would need to give Nadia the true brilliance the majority of it deserves.

Friday 23 September 2011

Toybox REVIEW: Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger mini-pla Furaimaru

Finally! Another Gokai machine has arrived! The bad news is, if you were planning on buying a case to get this guy, he's being sold with releases of all the other earlier Gokai Machines, and since Furaimaru only takes up 2 boxes you'll be getting quite a lot of excess figures. However, there are a few ebay sellers that are selling this guy separately at a more than reasonable price, so he's not too hard to find at all without the excess baggage. Anyway moving on, the new addition to the Gokaiger arsenal is none other than Furaimaru, who originally appeared in the series Ninpuu Sentai Hurricaneger. And when pirates and ninjas unite, the most powerful shuriken arsenal under heaven is made manifest...HurricaneGokaiOh!

Standalone the Furaimaru minipla is by far and large the best Gokai machine the line has presented so far, and one of the best in the Gokaiger range (Personally I think he's second only to Gozyujin). He has an excellent range of articulation (shoulders, elbows, hips, knees and feet) and comes with a a vast array of foldable shuriken. Also included is the giant one that he flies around on (I apologise if this has a name), which freely spins and can be fixed to the figure's back. Unlike any of the other figures in the line where I've felt paint SOMEWHERE could improve the figure, the stickers do everything they need to do and paint isn't really required for accuracy unless its a personal preference to paint rather than use stickers.

To create HurricaneGokaiOh, Furaimaru's components must be taken apart. The head crest is moved down over Furaimaru's face to create the HurricaneGokaiOh face/helmet, the torso is flipped around and plugged into GokaiOh's chest and the arms and legs are plugged into the corresponding sockets. Finally the shuriken weapons are unfolded to complete HurricaneGokaiOh. If you prefer HurricaneGokaiOh without the huge shuriken everywhere (something I dislike in the show, but I think the toy pulls it off pretty well), just use the chest component and arm HurricaneGokaiOh with the giant shuriken instead!

Again, like the individual component HurricaneGokaiOh is extremely satisfying. He has the same bulky, imposing look as ShinkenGokaiOh, but feels a lot less cumbersome, is easier to pose AND uses all of the GokaiOh components. Perhaps not my favourite GokaiOh combination, but all things considered probably the best.

I wasn't expecting to like Furaimaru as much as I do, and am completely blown away by how good he is. As one of the best figures in the line, I'd go as far as calling him an essential purchase. If you only get ONE Gokai machine minipla (although why would you since they're packed together), make it this one. Ninjas and pirates truly are a winning combination.

Tuesday 20 September 2011

Series REVIEW: Power Rangers Time Force

The final season to be produced by Saban, Power Rangers Time Force is the ninth season of the PR franchise and was adapted from the Super Sentai series Mirai Sentai Timeranger. Time Force is held in high regard among Power Rangers fans, and often praised for its darker, more mature storyline.

In the year 3000 a police organisation known as Time Force has tracked down and cryogenically frozen every criminal bar one - Ransik, a powerful mutant created in a chemical accident. Bent on crushing humanity in the name of mutant-kind, Ransik hijacks a prison full of convicts and escapes to the year 2001 with the intention of altering history, but not without taking down the Red Time Force ranger (Alex) before he leaves. The remaining 4 rangers - team leader Jenn (Pink), Trip (Green), Lucas (Blue) and Katie (Yellow) follow Ransik into the past. There, much to Jenn's initial dismay, they are joined by Alex's ancestor Wes, son of a rich industrialist. Wes is the only one who can take the mantle of the red ranger, due to the morpher being locked to Alex's DNA signature.

While protecting the city from Ransik's attacks, they are also faced with the problem of Wes' father Mr Collins, who has created his own for-profit protection group known as the Silver Guardian. After discovering his son to be the red ranger he offers him a place on the Silver Guardians as team leader, to which Wes declines, believing he should create his own destiny. Not only to the rangers have to struggle against Ransik, they also face the problem of Mr Collins' team of scientists making scientific breakthroughs early (thus upsetting the course of time) and the Silver Guardians own Time Force Ranger - Eric, who claims the Quantum powers and becomes the Quantum Ranger.

To start with, Time Force boasts one of the best lead casts in Power Rangers history. Each of the 6 rangers have very different personalities and interact with each other and the secondary cast well. Unlike other shows, each member of the cast receives ample screen time (while Lucas, Trip and Katie's development is overshadowed by the relationship between Jenn and Wes, they still feel like completely fleshed out characters). Eric's relationship with the main 5 Time Force Rangers is particularly of note because it isn't quite like anything that came before it - Eric is never presented as an evil or formerly evil character, he just initially belittles the rangers, choosing to work alone because he feels he can do a better job. His gradual acceptance of the Time Force team is one of the series' main strengths and cements his place as one of the best 'extra' rangers on Power Rangers. Jenn's grief over the loss of Alex (they became engaged at the beginning of the series and prior to his death) and growing relationship with Wes also comes very naturally and not forced unlike other Power Rangers relationships. On the subject of Jenn, she is a VERY different breed of pink ranger to anything that came before her - acting as the team's leader and a strong, determined woman. As the last pink ranger to appear until Power Rangers SPD four seasons later, she left a mark on what is usually considered the cliché 'girly' member of the team.

The antagonists I'm a little more mixed on. Ransik is widely considered to be a more sympathetic villain, and while this can be considered true there are also many reasons not to feel sorry for him in the course of the show. While its true that humans feared and shunned him due to his appearance, when he was finally shown kindness by a human he in turn murdered them in cold blood (this character would go on to become Frax, who I will get onto in a moment). While the cycle of hate is a prominent theme in the series (especially in the 3-part finale), Ransik's attitudes toward those trying to help him make him a character very hard to feel sorry for. That being said, he is a very different breed of main villain - more of a thug than all-powerful super villain. He is a very active villain, often actively participating in combat with the rangers and was also shown at times to be quite the calculating villain. Other than being there to be shown as the one thing Ransik truly cares about (which is actually critical to the plot), his daughter Nadira is a lot less interesting - a character often used for light hearted scenes and not particularly interesting until her excellent development in the finale.

Frax, a former human who saved Ransik's life by creating a serum keeping him alive after being fatally bitten by another mutant, is the stand-out 'tragic' character of the show. His origin is perhaps one of the darkest moments of Time Force - after being left for dead by Ransik, Dr Louis Ferricks turned himself into robot in order to save himself and worked alongside Ransik, eventually planning to take his revenge. Even when working alongside Ransik he is treated poorly, and plans to get rid of both humanity and mutants to create a world where robots rule. Following his eventual defection from Ransik he becomes a main villain in his own right, eventually being captured and meeting a particularly tragic ending.

The show's aesthetic is another thing I felt mixed about - while the ranger suits are excellent (and the only team to have visors in the ranger colour rather than black) there is very minimal difference between the red ranger and Quantum ranger suits. While from a narrative point of view the similarities do symbolise the rocky relationship between Wes and Eric, visually it can be confusing when the two appear onscreen together. And the less said about the Mega Battle and Battle Fire modes the better, as they are among the worst battlizers to come out of the franchise...and that's facing some stiff competition.

The main zords of the season are also particularly lackluster. While its quite interesting to have a megazord that has two different battle modes (blue for speed/projectile weaponry and red for power/physical weapons), the uniform colour scheme makes the Time Force Megazord seem like one robot rather than a combination of five (the uniform colours worked better in Power Rangers Zeo, where it was clearly made up of 5 different components). The addition of the Time Shadow (which looks excellent as a standalone zord, and perhaps should have been utilised more) to create the Shadow Force Megazord improve the overall look better and boast some excellent finishers, but it still feels a little underwhelming. On the other hand, the Quantasaurus- Rex (or Q-Rex) is an excellent zord - boasting both a dinosaur mode and a Megazord mode.

Finally I'd like to take a look at the claims of Time Force being a 'dark' series, which I feel are somewhat over-exaggerated. Certainly the series had some very dark themes present (such as the origins of both Ransik and Thrax) and the show still has some extremely light-hearted and goofy moments. The treatment of mutants by humans is never really fully explored (and mutants are shown to either be good or have worked for Time Force a number of times) and Ransik is never portrayed as some masterful villain. Episodes like 'Movie Madness' (which is a good episode nonetheless), 'The Legend of the Clock Tower', 'Beware the Knight' and 'Nadira's Dream Date' are all examples of Power Rangers cheese at its finest, and the latter episode also turns Ransik into a complete comedy relief character. Alex's death at the beginning of the show also loses a lot of impact after his miraculous recovery later in the series (a point which I feel should still have been down to the rangers altering the time line). A more mature Power Rangers series? Yes I'd agree there but darker? Not so much.

So while I think some fans may oversell Power Rangers Time Force a bit much I can't deny that it is an excellent series, and one of the best in the Power Rangers franchise. It has a gripping story, interesting and diverse characters, and some the best acting in the franchise to boot. However some of the design choices (I admit this is mostly down to the Sentai footage used) and odd balance between light and dark themes make Time Force just lose out on full marks. An absolutely brilliant series yes, but not a flawless one.

Sunday 11 September 2011

Custom Figure: The Only Good Dalek

With new paradigm Daleks currently cheap at both Tescos and Boots, I thought it was about time I picked up a Strategist and did a custom I've been planning for a long time now - Dalek #3 from the 2010 graphic novel 'The Only Good Dalek'. Dalek #3 is particularly significant to the latter part of the story (providing one of its main twists) and even graces the inside cover of the book.

To begin with I removed one of the side panels much like the battle damaged version in the story. In its place I put some some sturdy plastic mesh to create a sort of framework feel to the Dalek skirt. To give the mesh a bit more bulk and realism, I added some (painted) electrical wire to make the Dalek look properly damaged. The bumps around the removed panel were cut and filed (they were much thicker than I expected, which was a good thing) and repainted over. Finally the grey parts of the Dalek were given a watery-grey (the paint used was Citadel's Boltgun Metal) wash to give it a bit more of a worn effect as well as look much more like a sketch brought to life, and the '3' label was added to the head.

A simple custom, but one I'm extremely happy with. 'The Only Good Dalek' was a fantastic book, and I'm glad to own something from it in figure form.

Friday 9 September 2011

Anime REVIEW: Kore wa Zombie Desu ka?

Released in 2011, Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? is a 12 episode (plus one OVA) television series based on a series of light novels of the same name. Ayumu Aikawa is a zombie brought back to life by a necromancer named Eucliwood Hellscythe after he is brutally murdered by a serial killer. As he continues his day to day life as zombie he meets a magical girl named Haruna, who battles against surreal animal creatures called Megalos. Unfortunately, Ayumu inadvertently steals Haruna's powers, meaning that he has to become a magical girl in her place to fight the Megalos. Not much later he also crosses pathes with a vampire-ninja named Seraphim. With Eucliwood (Eu), Haruna and Seraphim all now living under his roof, Ayumu battles monsters while trying to solve the mystery behind his death.

As far as surreal anime comedies go, Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? couldn't have a better opening. Zombies, chainsaw-wielding magical girls and a giant talking lobster - need I say more? But once the hilarious yet bizarre image of a super-strong zombie crossing dressing as a magical girl to battle school uniform clad animals has settled in, this show begins to take a nosedive. Jokes are repetitive (there's only so many times you can hear Haruna and/or Seraphim call Ayumu disgusting or a pervert and it be funny) and the moe fanservice drives the show down into the depths of being a sub-standard harem anime. This is a shame, because the concept itself works extremely well as a comedy. There are occasions where the show tries to be creative with its jokes and scenarios, but often it's just lazy gags that have been done so many times before on (better) shows. Once the matter of Ayumu's death has been resolved (which does make for a pretty good plot twist), the actual 'serious' plot of the show is incredibly dull, and its reassuring that by the end of the series the creators have returned to the lunacy that drew my eye to the show in the first place.

Despite the often poor set-up, the chemistry between the cast is actually pretty good. While several of the characters start off as incredibly annoying, they do become a lot more tolerable as the series progresses. Ayumu's nonchalant attitude toward both his house-mates and being a zombie works well against the more hyperactive Haruna, silent Eu and insulting Seraphim. And despite the monotonous plot, a carefully timed offhand-line from Ayumu is a brilliant way for the show to maintain some balance between the serious and the comedy.

Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? is a mixed bag. At its best, it's a surreal comedy with plenty of amusing moments. At its worst it's a dull story spaced between bout of cliché harem anime conventions that have either been done to death, or been done much better by something else. Its biggest problem is perhaps that it tries to stretch into far too many different genres of anime, rather than making itself comfortable in one or two. The earlier episodes of the show are a delight, but as it goes on its clear that this zombie could possibly do with being laid to rest.

Wednesday 7 September 2011

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Shinken Red

For my 50th toy review on this site I come to yet another toyline I've been meaning to look into for a while - Bandai's S.H. Figuarts line. While many of the line's Kamen Rider figures have tempted me in the past, I currently lack the fan knowledge of Kamen Rider to jump on any impulse purchases (this WILL change in the future though), a Super Sentai figure was a whole different story. I originally planned to pass on Shinken Red (as Blue, Green, Yellow and Pink were all exclusives), but when it was revealed that Bandai had plans to do more Super Sentai figures in the line, Shinken Red became a necessary beginning to a collection of (hopefully) all the red Sentai. If you haven't guessed already by the way, Shinken Red is from the series Samurai Sentai Shinkenger.

While admittedly the suit is relatively simple in design, the sculpt of the figure is gorgeous. Every detail is perfect, and the matte finish both looks and feels beautiful. Some of the joints are quite obvious on the figure (such as the waist, shoulders and hips) but this in no way impedes on the overall aesthetic of the figure. It is quite possibly the best looking Super Sentai/Power Rangers toy to date.

As the line promises, Shinken Red boasts an incredible range of articulation. I apologise that my pictures do not truly express this, as the joints system in taking a little bit of getting used too...especially in the shoulders department. While the hinged shoulder pieces attached to ball-jointed arm pieces is a great feat of toy-engineering, it does at times feel like too much pressure will cause the shoulders to snap (this picture floated around the internet at the time of release, and I did not want a repeat of it). The rest of the figure doesn't suffer from the same problem, with the joints able to move about naturally and, dare I say it, almost lifelike. The hands can feel difficult to remove at first (quite a bit of force is sometimes required to pop the hand of the ball on the wrist) but after a while you come to realise that rather than it being a case of feeling like the figure is about the break, its more that the hands fit on nice and securely.

Other than the variety of extra hands, also included with Shinken Red is a ShinkenMaru (complete with removable disc), a shodophone, a folded and unfolded Shishi origami and of course, an enormous Rekka Daizantou. The sculpting and detailing on the Rekka Daizantou is just as good as Shinken Red himself (it even comes complete with a spinning disc attached), but can be a bit of a pain to pose with. Shinken Red is more than capable of hold the weapon freely if you're careful with posing, but some of the more action-y poses will certainly require the aid of a stand. And looking at the sheer size of Rekka Daizantou, this seems like a pretty fair trade-off.

I may still have to get used to the articulation a bit more for dynamic posing, but I am completely in love with this figure. The overall quality and attention to detail in the S.H. Figuarts line is simply staggering, and I certainly plan to buy a lot more figures from the line in the future. The Gokaigers are all on preorder (bar Gokai Silver, who is yet to be given a release date), with Gokai Red to be released this month. Following that, I hope the Super Sentai franchise has a long life within the Figuarts line, and that at the very least we eventually see all 35 red senshi. Shinken Red is a MUST HAVE figure for fans of the series and/or franchise, and also comes highly recommended to any Power Rangers fans looking for a high-end alternative to the Power Rangers Samurai fans that are currently hitting shelves across the globe.

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Toybox REVIEW: Nendoroid Panty

Nendoroids have always something I've been mixed on in the past - while they look like excellent super-deformed versions of popular characters that come with a pretty impressive set of accessories, the size and price (around 3333 yen/£26 RRP) has always been a bit of a turn off. However when Good Smile Company announced that they would be making nedoroids of Panty and Stocking (and thus, the first 'posable' toys for the characters) I felt it was time to finally check this line out. And since she was my favourite of the two, Panty was the first one to be purchased.

A standard nendoroid is about half the size of a figma/revoltech figure (I forgot to take a comparison picture, but this will illustrate the scale difference), with the bulk of the figure being in the oversized head. While small, the limbs do have some posability. In Panty's case, she is posable at the head, shoulders and hips. While her posability is somewhat limited, the variety of poses you can get out of mixing and matching the arm pieces (the hands are removable) mean that Panty is no short of dynamic poses - whether it be gunslinging or being the slut that she is.

As stated earlier, nendoroids usually come with a fair amount of accessories, and Panty is no exception. Included with her are three separate faces (which I can only describe as a maniacal grin, a mid-sentence face and a 'wink wink nudge nudge' face), two guns (Backlace and what I can only assume is Stocking's underwear), a variety of different arms and hands, a bent right leg, Chuck and (much to my amusement) two different crotch pieces - one with underwear and one without. One thing that also surprised me is that the guns have completely different decos (one lacks the bow on the barrel, and they both have the clear blue plastic detailing in different places) and that the bracelets are actually moveable on one of the arms. I'm slightly disappointed that Chuck has TINY legs and, therefore, unable to stand up on his own, but his tail's wide surface area means he looks pretty good standing leaned back. The face is replaced by removing the two hairpieces (which are attached in a similar fashion to most Figmas) and then pulling the head off of the torso. One thing that does irritate me is that due to the nature of the removable faces, the earrings are also removable. This wouldn't be a huge deal usually, but they're quite small and doing really fix to the ears properly (they clip onto small dents in the earlobes) - quite easy to lose if you like playing around with your toys.

Another thing that surprised me was the stand mechanism. Firstly, there's plenty of holes in the base for the arm piece to go in, and secondly the figure is attached to the stand via the power of MAGNETS! That's right, no holes in the figure for plugs or obvious claws around the figure - the nendoroid is simply held in place via a magnet in the head. While this does mean that the figure has to be attached to the stand at the head, the nendoroid proportions mean that its quite easily to hide when looking at the figure face on. And if it bothers you that much, Panty is more than capable of standing without the aid of the stand to hold her in place.

I'm still not completely sold on the size of nendoroids in comparison to their price, but I can't deny that Panty is one of the most lively figures that I own. Despite its limited posability, it just OOZES character. Stocking will definitely be bought soon (although, I never planned to have one without the other), as will the recently announced Sonic the Hedgehog. I can't say I have any desire to own any (currently) announced/released ones besides those, but this is certainly a line I will be keeping my eye on in future.

Friday 2 September 2011

Series REVIEW: Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger

Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger is the 28th entry into the Super Sentai franchise, following on from Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger and preceding Mahou Sentai Magiranger. The story begins when Banban Akaza (nicknamed Ban/DekaRed) is transferred to the Earth branch of the SPD (Special Police Dekaranger) and arrives in the city of Megalopolis. His teammates are Houji Tomasu (Hojo/DekaBlue), Sen'ichi Enari (Sen-chan/DekaGreen), Marika Reimon (Jasmine/Deka Yellow) and Koume Koudou (Umeko/DekaPink). Under the guidance of their chief, the Anubian alien Doggie Kruger and scientist Swan Shiratori the Dekarangers defend the city of alien criminals, known as alienizers. Midway through the series, they are also joined by Tekkan Aira (Tetsu/DekaBreak), an elite member of SPD's Tokkyou division.

The main cast are excellent, each having very contrasting personalities and thus being able to to bounce off each other well and each adding something different to the combined team. Between the 5 (or 6) of them there is no obvious leader, so the chain of command fluctuates episode to episode depending what the operation is. Despite the format of the show (which I'll get into next) each character has their background explored adequately and the relationships between them are properly expanded on.

What's instantly the most noticeable thing about Dekaranger is the format of the show. There's no evil witch/demon/empire trying to take over the world, no ongoing story about a team of heroes preventing the world from turning to ash etc. Instead, Dekaranger is an episodic series that deals with the SPD dealing with "low-key" criminals (well, on a Sentai scale anyway) such as murders and arms dealers. Most episodes are stand alone from each other (with multi-part episodes appearing every so often, usually when there's a new addition to the cast and/or arsenal) and a minimal amount of recurring antagonists. The variety of alienizers in the series is massive - there's everything from the standard hulking sentai monsters to small prop aliens, aliens in human clothing (the space mafia, complete in tuxedos, was a highlight of mine) to even humanoid villains with human faces. Not that all the aliens are villains of course, because the world of Dekaranger is one where aliens live among us, meaning there are plenty of 'ordinary citizen' alien characters too.

Midway-in the series does begin to sow seeds for its finale episodes, and the Dekaranger's main antagonist is revealed in full - Agent Abrella. As I said before, Abrella isn't the typical Sentai villain dealing in galactic conquest, he's only interested in one thing - money. From smuggling to developing weapons to sell on the black market, most one shot villains in the series have had some contact with Abrella. His minimal use in the majority of the series makes him a much more interesting character, and when he's eventually fully revealed its apparent how effective he is for a criminal with such simplistic aspirations. Certainly one of Sentai's most memorable offerings in the villain department.

The next thing to mention would be the impressive amount of rangers this series boasts - a total of 10. Besides the main 6, Doggie Kruger also has the ability to transform into the too-awesome-for-words DekaMaster, Swan makes a one-shot appearance as DekaSwan, and then there are also one-off appearances from DekaBright (the head of the Tokkyou division) and DekaGold (movie only). While appearances from the other rangers are scarce, its a rare treat to see more than 6 rangers outside of a team-up movie, and helps emphasise the larger scale of the SPD. DekaMaster is also without a doubt the highlight of the show, stealing every scene he's included in. If I had to recommend this series for a single reason, it would be for Doggie.

Finally, the other thing that sets Dekaranger apart from other Sentai series is its approach to mecha fights. Since the villains of this series are aliens rather than outright monsters, there's actually very little 'growing' in the show (some aliens do grow to fight the Dekaranger mecha, but that only happens a handful of times). What Dekaranger provides instead is some alienizer-piloted mecha (named Kaijuki in the show), giving us some genuine mecha vs mecha fights. The enemy mecha designs are varied at best (some are excellent, while others look like an after thought) and its not long before the same design starts appearing in different colour schemes but with the amount of character design that had to go into this show, its a pretty fair trade-off and an excellent change of pace. The episodes don't always end with 'giant monster/mecha fights Dekaranger Robo and is beaten' either - mecha fights often begin an episode rather than end it, and more often than not (well, until DekaWing Robo comes around) the alienizer is killed by the Dekarangers themselves rather than the robot. This mix-up of events helps the show be less formulaic than standard Sentai show, meaning you're not watching the same plot progression over and over again. The Dekaranger mecha themselves are all excellent, particularly Dekaranger Robo - individually looking like futuristic police vehicles and together having a nice uniform combination that at the same time stands out (its also nice to see a main mecha that doesn't use a sword as its main weapon). The later combination with Dekabreak's DekaBike is just as smooth, adding armour in all the right places to prevent it from looking like a mesh of vehicle parts. DekaWing Robo doesn't really have much focus as individual components, but more than makes up for it in combined mode (not only does it form a brilliant robot, but can also turn into a GIANT FREAKING GUN). Deka Base Robo (as the name suggests...the robot mode of the mobile part of Deka Base) is the weakest of the lineup, but its easy to let slide given both its gigantic size and that fact that (in-show) it was built to be more of a giant weapon than a mobile robot.

It may be small, but the show does suffer from one flaw - the narration. It's not so much that the narration is bad, more that it's horrifically repetitive. When certain key moments happen in the show (such as Jasmine's ESP powers, Sen's thinking pose and judgement time) narration appears over the show to explain what's happening. The only problem is, it does that for every single episode that moment appears, and as you can expect 'judgement time' happens EVERY EPISODE. Hearing the explanation in the first 10 episodes or so makes sense as its a chance to fully come to grasps with the concepts of the show (not that they're difficult to get anyway), but hearing them in episode 20, 40 or even 50 (that's right, the last episode) is ridiculous - no one would just jump on the show at that point, so what's the point of explaining it again?

Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger is a show that gets a lot of praise, and it deserves every single bit of it. The wide range of aesthetics and alien design really help create the impression of a world filled with alien life, the main team all work fantastically together and apart and it has a very minimal amount of forgettable episodes. Arguably one of the best Sentai Series of the noughties, and certainly a worthy contender for a top spot in the franchise's 35 year history.