Friday 28 December 2012

Series REVIEW: Power Rangers in Space

Power Rangers in Space

1997 was a very dark time for Power Rangers. With the failure of Power Rangers Turbo, it seemed like the its ride on the hype train had come to a stop and that very soon the franchise would come to a close. 1998's 43-episode series Power Rangers in Space was originally conceived to be the end, closing the curtain on six seasons worth of storylines and the ongoing saga of Zordon's teenage defenders. Bearing very little similarity to its Super Sentai counterpart Denji Sentai Megaranger, Power Rangers in Space was so popular that it breathed new life into the franchise, allowing it continue until this day.

The cast of Power Rangers in Space
The Astro Megaship crew - Carlos, Cassie, Andros, Ashley and TJ

Following on from the events of Turbo; TJ, Cassie, Ashley, Carlos and Alpha 6 have jetted off into space with the intent to save Zordon from Dark Specter and his United Alliance of Evil (including previous villains Zedd, Rita, the Machine Empire and Divatox). During their long space flight they are pulled onto the Astro Megaship and meet Andros, an alien from the space colony KO-35 and red space ranger. Though he has the same goal as the four Earth ranger, Andros is initially dismissive of the team and refuses to let them help him. Following an attack by Astronema, the new Princess of Evil, and her army of Quantrons, he presents the team with Astro morphers. Later they discover that the NASADA shuttle they travelled in can combine with the Astro Megaship to form the powerful Astro Megazord.

Together, the space rangers search the galaxy for Zordon while also defending the Earth from Astronema's attacks. Later they are aided by Zhane, the silver space ranger who has spent the last two years in cryogenic sleep. But their battles against Astronema take a turn for the worse when she is revealed to be Karone, Andros' younger sister who was taken away from him as a child.

The Space Rangers Meet The Ninja Turtles
Yes, this happened. Move along.

With viewers already familiar with the cast of Turbo, the majority of the character development goes to Andros. While his past with Zordon is never fully revealed, we learn a considerable amount about his traumatic childhood, battles alongside the silver ranger and then relationship with his lost sister. With a Zordon-type character absent for the first time, he also acts as a sort of mentor for the early episodes where the Earth rangers still get used to their new powers. That isn't to say the others don't get a fair share of focus though, and while there isn't a full team-episode due to the continued cast, Justin (as the Blue Turbo ranger) and Adam (as the original Black ranger and thus revealing the state of the dino power coins) return for two excellent episodes. There's also an early crossover with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (as Saban's Turtles: The Next Mutation was airing at that time), but the less said about that the better.

Power Rangers in Space Astronema
Astronema, in one of her many many wigs.

As if the appearance of nearly all the villains of Power Rangers past wasn't tantalising enough, Power Rangers in Space is also more than capable of holding its own when it comes to new villains. Leading the charge is Astronema, a ruthless empress raised in the ways of evil from a child. Her right-hand man, the loyal warrior Ecliptor, repeatedly clashes in an excellent rivalry with Darkonda, a treacherous alien responsible for Karone's kidnapping with goals of eventually taking the universe for himself. The quality of villains is so good here that Elgar needed to be brought back from Turbo to balance things out in terms of comic relief. The only real weak link is the "Grand Monarch of Evil" himself - Dark Specter. While the Maligore costume was excellent and severely underused in Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie, seeing it return feels lazy and doesn't really offer much apart from some observational gags from Divatox. The character is supposed to strike fear into both heroes and villains across the galaxy, but never properly meets the rangers themselves, never actually does anything except bark orders and then suffers a very cheap death. Arguably his background role allows the more important characters to shine, but given his title I expected a little more.

The Psycho Rangers
The Psycho Rangers

One of the best arcs of the season also involves the Psycho Rangers, finally giving fans what they wanted - PROPER evil Power Rangers. Relentless fighters and determined to destroy their respective colours, this story arc sees the space rangers completely overpowered and having to resort to new tactics in order to beat them. Great designs, both in ranger and monster forms, and among the most notable adversaries in Power Rangers history.

Power Rangers in Space does a number of things slightly differently to previous seasons', and the new zords are no exception. Instead of the usual five-vehicle combinations, the first two megazords (the Astro and Delta Megazords) are single spaceships that transform into complete robots (with the Astro Megaship also serving as the series base). It isn't until the Mega Voyager rolls around that individual vehicles appear again, and even then the combination is more innovative than the usual torso plus limbs format.

Power Rangers in Space Astro Megazord
The Astro Megaship

Finally we come to Bulk and Skull, who's character development draws to a close in the finest of ways. Appearing far less than they do in previous seasons - Skull in fact seems to have barely any lines, In Space sees the two teaming up with eccentric scientist Professor Phenomenus in search of aliens and UFOs (which is a little strange given Angel Grove has been under constant alien attack for the last six years). However it is the series finale that the two have their finest hour. As Astronema takes the city hostage and tells the rangers that if they don't reveal themselves the people will die, Bulk and Skull step forward proclaiming to be rangers and then later lead the citizens of Angel Grove against Astronema's forces. These are no longer the bullies they were at the beginning of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, proving that you don't need superpowers to be true heroes.

Bulk, Skull and Professor Phenomenus
Bulk & Skull with their new friend Professor Phenomenus

Had it truly been the end, Power Rangers in Space would have been the perfect end to the Power Rangers franchise. The stakes are higher, the format more innovative and the characters better developed. The two-part Countdown to Destruction remains the single best season finale the franchise has offered to date. Not only is it a satisfying close to the Zordon-era of Power Rangers, but an extremely enjoyable series that is able to stand on its own two feet.

Thursday 27 December 2012

Reviews in Time & Space: The Snowmen

Doctor Who The Snowmen

The Doctor Who Christmas specials are something I feel very mixed toward. While the now annual tradition of sitting down Christmas evening to watch a new episode is something I look forward to every year, the stories themselves often leave much to be desired. While the first one, The Christmas Invasion, was a brilliant story that introduced us to a brand new Doctor in the form of David Tennant, later offerings have often been bland, forgettable or even outright bad (looking at you The End of Time). Once again the Christmas special is being used to usher in a new status quo for Who, featuring the first proper appearance of the brand new companion, a new TARDIS interior and even a sparkly new opening (featuring the face of Matt Smith, a classic trait that's been absent since Who's revival). Could The Snowmen be the first Christmas special to win me over in a long time?

Doctor Who The Snowmen Killer Snowmen

The setting is 1842 England, where the Doctor has retired from saving the universe and is lamenting the death of Amy and Rory - much to the dismay of his friends Silurian detective Madam Vastra, her human wife Jenny Flint and Sontaran butler Strax. When a barmaid named Clara seeks the Doctor's help after uncovering a plot by Dr Simeon and his army of living snowmen, the Doctor must spring back into action to face off against an old enemy from his past and save the world.

The Snowmen isn't the first time we've met the Doctor mourning the loss of a companion, but perhaps is the most effective. The Doctor has every right to be upset - to him Amy and Rory essentially died in the events of The Angels Take Manhattan, and the character we see here seems very different to the happy-go-lucky Time Lord the 11th incarnation we are used to. But with the introduction of Clara, he gradually reverts into the Doctor we know and love, but with a slightly more determined attitude not to repeat the mistakes of the past. The big question leading up to The Snowmen was whether Jenna Louise Coleman would be playing the same character she did in Asylum of the Daleks, and in true Stephen Moffat style the answer isn't exactly clear. Clara Oswald's personality is significantly toned down in comparison to the (rather annoying at times) Oswin Oswald, but similarities between the two are clear as day - even down to the repeated lines. The mystery behind Clara is something that will hopefully propel the series forward, rather than keep the Doctor looking toward what was lost like Ten was with Rose Tyler. Fingers crossed.

Doctor Who The Snowmen Strax, Vastra & Jenny

But even with such an impressive debut, Clara was completely overshadowed by Strax who stole the show at every given opportunity. The not-so-bright Sontaran warrior's answers to problems often involved blowing things up, and lines such as "Stay calm, human scum" and "Please don't noogie me during combat prep" will undoubtedly go down as some of the best comedy Who has delivered in a long time. The only question is whether Strax has cost the Sontarans their credibility as a threat...not that The Two Doctors did much to prevent that in the classic series anyway. Vastra and Jenny are a little more underplayed than Strax, but its great to finally see them in their own setting after coming out of nowhere in A Good Man Goes to War. Its a shame the Doctor Who writers don't seem keen to try out an alien companion, because these three are proof that the concept could definitely work in the modern format.

Doctor Who The Snowmen Dr Simeon

This year's Christmas special was one that seemed to aim to appease Classic Who fans more than ever, and that stretched much further than a revamped title sequence. First we have the villain of the episode (voiced by none other than Ian McKellen), which is strongly hinted to be The Great Intelligence - the alien entity behind the robot Yeti in the Second Doctor episodes The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear. Rather than  reveal the character outright, the story keeps it distant enough for newer fans not feel alienated by the inclusion of a 1960s villain whose two stories no longer exists, but plays the references so closely that even the Doctor doesn't fully recognise who he's up against. With the story having been set before Troughton's outings chronologically, it plays a little more interesting than a standard "so we meet again!" encounter. As well as being backed up by a legion of living snowmen (not quite "abominable" just yet?), the Great Intelligence is aided by the sinister Dr Simeon, played by Who veteran Richard E Grant (although this is his most canonical appearance to date).

Doctor Who The Snowmen TARDIS

Next we have the new look TARDIS interior, which is closer to its classic counterpart(s) than ever before. Gone is the wide open space and console full of steampunk kitsch and household items, replaced with a gloriously retro console donned with Galifreyan symbols. It's a darker, more closed in console room which uses a blue lighting scheme rather than the usual yellow/orange, but this is perhaps more reflective of the Doctor's mood going into the episode. How long this console room will stick around is yet to be seen, but its certainly already left an impression.

I won't deny that the episode ended with the typical "emotions conquer all odds" that most Christmas specials end with, but even that didn't spoil an episode than managed to hit every right button. Combine everything I've mentioned with the perfect Christmas setting (snow in Victorian London), stunning fairytale-like visuals (the highlight being Clara's ascension up a spiral staircase to the TARDIS above the clouds) and you have the perfect set up to what looks like its going to be a brilliant second half to season seven. 

The Christmas Invasion, consider yourself dethroned. The bar has been raised for future specials.

Character Building Doctor Who Microfigures Series 3: Handibot, Ood and Vashta Nerada

Character Building Doctor Who Microfigures Series 3 Handibot, Ood and Vashta Nerada

We're back with more entries into series 3 of Character Building's Doctor Who microfigures, this time with a  look at a common figure, an uncommon figure and a rare one!

Character Building Doctor Who Microfigures Series 3 Handibot 01

Character Building Doctor Who Microfigures Series 3 Handibot 02

Character Building Doctor Who Microfigures Series 3 Handibot 03Character Building Doctor Who Microfigures Series 3 Handibot 04

From the common side of things we have the Handibot, which appeared in the episode The Girl Who Waited from season six. Its probably the blandest and least interesting figure in the wave, being almost entirely white and featureless. The stretched out palm is a nice touch, but its the only plus on what's otherwise a pretty boring figure.

Character Building Doctor Who Microfigures Series 3 Ood 01

Character Building Doctor Who Microfigures Series 3 Ood 02

Character Building Doctor Who Microfigures Series 3 Ood 03Character Building Doctor Who Microfigures Series 3 Ood 04

Secondly there's the Ood, an uncommon figure which has appeared numerous times since the show's relaunch, but most notably The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit from season two and Planet of the Ood from season four. The Ood face tentacles are moulded onto the face as a solid piece, and the figure comes with a translator device accessory.

Character Building Doctor Who Microfigures Series 3 Vashta Nerada 01

Character Building Doctor Who Microfigures Series 3 Vashta Nerada 02

Character Building Doctor Who Microfigures Series 3 Vashta Nerada 03Character Building Doctor Who Microfigures Series 3 Vashta Nerada 04

As for the rare figure, its none other than a Vashta Nerada from the season four 2-part episode Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead. I can't say the episodes are among my favourites, but I always thought the monster itself was pretty cool and this figure really reflects that. The skull paintjob is fantastic and really gives it a creepy ethereal look to it. The Vashta Nerada is definitely a contender for the surprise hit of the wave!

Custom Figure: 1965 Dalek Supreme

1965 Dalek Supreme 01

Its been a little while since I last painted a custom Dalek, but after receiving a second Classic Dalek set 2 for Christmas I found myself with three new Daleks ready for new paint jobs. The first was a pretty simple, but very effective job - the Dalek Supreme from 1965, appearing in both The Chase and The Daleks' Master Plan.

1965 Dalek Supreme 02

1965 Dalek Supreme 031965 Dalek Supreme 04

1965 Dalek Supreme 05

This custom was made from an Evil of the Daleks Emperor Guard Dalek, with the skirt section and eye piece painted with Citadel Chaos black. Like I say - not really a lot done to it, but not a variant Character Options will probably release any time soon.

Stay tuned for more Dalek customs soon, including a particularly big project that will please fans of Big Finish's audio adventures!

1965 Dalek Supreme 06

1965 Dalek Supreme 071965 Dalek Supreme 08

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Anime REVIEW: Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu

Full Metal Panic Fumoffu Kaname & Sousuke

As one of the biggest problems with the first Full Metal Panic season was its constant fluctuation between serious and comedic, the second instalment of the franchise makes sure this doesn't happen again. 2003's Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu is a 12 episode series which ditches the military/mecha aspects in favour of focussing purely on the relationship between high school student Kaname and military sergeant Sousuke, partticularly the latter's inability to use common sense amidst a high-school background. Unlike the first season which was made by Gonzo, Fumoffu was the first full length series animated by Kyoto Animation (which would move on to do Haruhi, Lucky Star and K-On!, among others).

Unlike the first season which featured an ongoing plot with various story arcs, each episode of Fumoffu (with the exception of episodes eight and nine) are completely standalone, with many of them split into two shorter stories. Plots range from standard high school anime fare such as club drama, dating angst and the obligatory beach episode. Without Sousuke, it would sound like every other generic anime of its type. What sets it apart is Sousuke, who continues to apply military logic to everyday situations just like we saw in the first Full Metal Panic season. From blowing up lockers to bringing biological warfare into class, there isn't a dull moment when Sousuke is left to his own devices - much to the dismay of Kaname. But unfortunately, once again Full Metal Panic's brand of humour proves inconsistent. The first episode is excellent - we see Sousuke go on a stakeout to after mistaking a love letter to be a terrorist threat, followed by him addressing a hostage situation by kidnapper the kidnapper's brother! After such a strong start, it's disappointing to see each episode become more mediocre than the last, with only brief moments of humour to prop them up.

Sousuke solves an arcade game by shooting it.
This is actually the answer to a lot of problems in the show

With the focus so squarely on Sousuke and Kaname, Fumoffu doesn't have a great deal of time for any other characters. Kaname's friends Kyoko, Mizuki and Ren, Shinji and teacher Eri Kagurazaka all make regular appearances, but have next to nothing in terms of episode focus. If you were hoping to see Mithril soldiers and first season regulars Tessa, Kurz and Mao you'll also find yourself disappointed as they only show up for two of the series' 12 episode run. New characters introduced include the calm and collected Student council president Atsunobo, and Issei Tsubaki - leader of the school's karate club and rival to Sousuke. Both have plenty of potential, but never really go anywhere.

Tessa's appearance in Full Metal Panic Fumoffu
Don't expect to see many old favourites often

So before we finish, where does the "Fumoffu" come from? With this series featuring no Arm Slaves or mecha action whatsoever, it turns to the cute and cuddly side of things for a mascot...with a different. The phrase comes from Bonta-kun, a theme park mascot whom Sousuke (in one of the series' most memorable sequences) takes the identity of to secretly protect Kaname. Later, the suit returns and has been modified into what is essentially a mini Arm Slave capable of only saying "Fumoffu" over and over...hence the title. The Bonta-kun segments usually offer a higher dosage of action, injecting a much needed bit of life in the show to keep it going.

Full Metal Panic Fumoffu's mascot Bonta-kun
Fu-mo-ffu M*********r

Just like the previous season's comedy antics, Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu is a show that starts on a high and then progressively gets worse as it goes along. Each episode is guaranteed at least one laugh out loud moment but the plots themselves are cliché and largely forgettable, while both the original side cast and new characters are completely underused in favour of Sousuke (who is the only reason people should really be watching anyway), Kaname and the one-shot characters. It would be interesting the see how Full Metal Panic fares as a straight-up military show, because as a straight comedy it leaves a lot to be desired.

Monday 17 December 2012

Series REVIEW: Power Rangers Samurai

The Power Rangers Samurai in-costume

Following the excellent Power Rangers RPM and the completely forgettable remaster of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers season one, the future of Power Rangers seemed bleak. Disney had completely lost interest in the franchise, so it was as good a time as any for it to return home. Saban Brands bought back Power Rangers and began work on Power Rangers Samurai, the 18th season and adapted from the Super Sentai series Samurai Sentai Shinkenger. What was different about Samurai to previous seasons is that it was split into two 20 episodes seasons (plus specials), with the second half/19th season taking the name Power Rangers Super Samurai.

Centuries ago the Power Rangers Samurai protected the Earth from the evil Master Xandred and his army of Nighloks, who planned to flood the world with the waters of despair from the Sanzu river. Although they managed to seal away Xandred, the Nighloks return in present day to continue what they started. Jayden, descendant of the Red Samurai ranger, must call together the ancestors of the remaining rangers - Kevin (Blue), Mike (Green), Mia (Pink) and Emily (Yellow) to defend the Earth from Nighlok attacks. Soon they are joined by Jayden's childhood friend Antonio, a fisherman who's trained himself in the Samurai ways to become the Gold ranger. But Jayden is carrying a secret from the other rangers, one that could change everything...

The cast of Power Rangers Samurai
Jayden, Emily, Kevin, Mike, Mia & Antonio: Rangers together, Samurai forever!

Those familiar with Shinkenger will know that Power Rangers Samurai is almost a straight adaptation of the source material, with very little actually changing other than certain elements to make it more kid-friendly for Western television. While originality is usually where Power Rangers thrives, straight adaptations can sometimes have their merits too. The problem when it comes to Power Rangers Samurai is that the source material is so inherently Japanese that not making too many changes makes the whole thing pretty ridiculous. The opening for each episode makes it pretty clear that the Samurai powers came from "ancient Japan", yet the five rangers are about as Western as you can get. Add the fact the red ranger has a distinctly Japanese surname (Jayden Shiba - taken after the Shinkenger red Takeru Shiba) and the concept feels less and less plausible. Not to mention rather racist.

The characters themselves would be reasonably passable, if not for the fact that Samurai boasts perhaps the weakest main cast in terms of acting ability of any Power Rangers show. This particularly relates to Mia and Emily, who are almost unbearable to watch. Thankfully things pick up dramatically with the arrival of Antonio (played by Steven Skyler), who is not only a joy to watch but also manages to bring out the best in the rest of the cast. Jayden grows into a somewhat more interesting character (especially in the final few episodes when his far worse sister is introduced), while Mike and Kevin become pretty likeable. Their mentor, Master Ji, is another character who will grow on you as the series progresses, although he never gets a chance to strut his stuff as much as he probably should.

Power Rangers Samurai Deker
Deker, who is probably about to talk about his sword Uramasa

Moving onto the villain side of things, the Nighloks aren't particularly great characters either. Master Xandred spends the majority of the series on his ship on the Sanzu river, complaining of a headache and doing very little to actually spur the plot along. It isn't until the final few episodes that he gets to come to Earth  and actually act like a threat. Octeroo is a little more active, but isn't a confrontational villain and has an incredibly annoying voice. Super Samurai introduces a contender to Xandred's throne in the form of Serrator, and he does indeed prove himself to be the more interesting villain.

The real strength (well, strength with Samurai's low standards in mind) comes from half human/half Nighlok Deker (played by Rick Medina Jr aka Cole in Power Rangers Wild Force) and (to a lesser extent) his past love Dayu. Deker's lust for a worthy challenge for him and his sword Uramasa (which he painfully/hysterically needs to remind viewers every second) spurs on some of Samurai's more impressive fight scenes and is beneficial to making Jayden a better character.

The Samurai Rangers in Mega Mode form
The criminally underused Mega Mode suits

The zord designs are great and there's a wide variety of combinations (with even the larger ones growing on me since the days of watching Shinkenger), but Samurai adds its own spin on things for the cockpit footage. When the rangers get ready to pilot their zords, they transform in mega mode - heavier armoured suits that add a silver mouthpiece to the helmet designs. The suits themselves are nicely designed and add a bit of much needed originality to Samurai, but the use of heavily armoured suits when they're piloting a giant robot is once again baffling. Had they been used perhaps as an alternative to the later super mode, then things might indeed have been a bit more interesting. This also applies to this season's battlizer - the Shogun mode. Only appearing outside of cockpit footage in the final episode, its a real shame because its without a doubt the finest battlizer Power Rangers has ever produced.

The Red Samurai Ranger in Shogun Mode
The even more criminally underused Shogun mode

Finally, just to make the return to Saban that little bit extra special Bulk has returned! Sadly once again its without Skull (although they are finally reunited in the final episode), instead looking after his best friend's son Spike and training him (and himself) in the way of the Samurai. Its great to see Bulk back again, but the segments with him and Spike are mostly either pointless or forgettable. Its the typical "Bulk gets covered in something" humour from the first season of MMPR, but mostly lacks any interaction with the rangers or acknowledgement of Bulk's past. His inclusion was exciting in concept, but subpar in execution.

Bulk reunites with Skull at long last
Probably the most satisfying moment of the entire series

The return to Saban was hopefully going to breath new life into Power Rangers, but for long time fans Power Rangers Samurai does not get this new era off to a great start. It has a lot of problems - dull characters played by terrible actors, a story that's often afraid to stray too far away from its source material when it really needs to and underused costumes. But however disappointing it may be, it has done a lot for the franchise where it counts - the toys sold well, children seemed to love it and Power Rangers is probably the biggest its been since the heyday of Mighty Morphin'. And underneath all the flaws there is a semi-decent, if very misguided show with great action sequences. A watered-down Shinkenger is still much better than the levels of Ninja Storm and Operation Overdrive...

Friday 14 December 2012

Series REVIEW: Chōjin Sentai Jetman

Chōjin Sentai Jetman

For what will probably be my last past tokusatsu review of 2012, we return to Super Sentai for a series that's widely regarded as one of the best the franchise has to offer. Chōjin Sentai Jetman is the 15th entry, following on from Chikyu Sentai Fiveman. It ran for a total of 51 episodes between 1991 and 1992. Some notable trivia includes the fact it was the last Super Sentai series to not have any form of Power Rangers adaptation, and its success in Japan led to it even receiving a (non-canon) manga sequel.

In the year 199X, a defence agency known as the Sky Force protect the peace on Earth. Among its officers are Ryu Tendoh, along with his fiancée Rei Aoi. The two were to be part of an experiment to create superhuman soldiers using "birdonic waves". However following Ryu's successful transformation into the first Jetman (Red Hawk), their ship is attacked by creatures from another dimension known as the Vyram, killing Rie and scattering the remaining four birdonic waves on Earth. Here the hit rich heiress Kaori Rokumeikan, gambling womaniser Gai Yuki, highschool student Ako Hayasaka and nature-loving gardener Raita Oishi.

Under the command of the project director Aya , Ryu recruits the four to become the remaining Jetman - White Swan, Black Condor, Blue Swallow and Yellow Owl. Using superhuman strength, hi-tech weapons and giant mecha, together they fight to put a stop the Vyram's dimensional beasts and their plot to conquer our dimension.

Chōjin Sentai Jetman cast: Ako, Kaori, Ryu, Raita and Gai
The cast of Jetman: Ako, Kaori, Ryu, Raita and Gai

One of the initial draws of Chōjin Sentai Jetman is its cast, who unlike many Super Sentai heroes have never met each other prior to the story. Each come from very different backgrounds and personalities often clash, with the team splitting up on more than one occasion. Ryu is a suitable Red Hawk in that he shares the "natural born leader" traits most Reds have, but also has flaws that run deep throughout the series. Already haunted by the death of Rie, these demons get a whole lot worse when she is revealed to have been brainwashed and made into a Vyram official. This also gets in the way of his relationship with Kaori, who falls in love with him and becomes the centre of a love triangle involving her, Ryu and Gai. Kaori herself starts out as perhaps the least likeable of the core cast, but some early focus episodes help evolve her character from a spoiled rich girl to a determined fighter who's been thrust into an unfamiliar world. Ako and Raita are much more light-hearted characters (getting significantly less deep development in the process), but their enjoyable personalities (Raita's good hearted but has low self-esteem, while Ako's a cheerful high schooler with a love for money) are enough to see them through even when they don't have the spotlight on them.

Chōjin Sentai Jetman Gai Yuki (Black Condor)
Gai Yuki: Drinker, smoker, saxman, warrior, hero, legend.

Then we come onto the subject of Gai, who's like no other Sentai team member that's come before him, and perhaps after either. A loner who fights dirty and hates being told what to do, he undergoes the most development in the duration of Jetman. His initial animosity toward Ryu for forcing him to join the team evolves into a rivalry as he fights for Kaori's love, before it turning into a true friendship. There isn't a character quite like Gai Yuki, and even 22 years later remains one of the best characters the franchise has ever produced.

Chōjin Sentai Jetman Vyram Radiguet, Maria, Tran and Grey
The Vyram watch events from their dimensional base.

The interesting cast dynamic is also carried through into the Vyram, who are at each others throats almost as much as they are with the Jetman. At the forefront is Radiguet, a badass with little time for anything but conquering. Being a child Tran offers a different kind of scheming, but is often looked down upon his fellow Vyram commanders for being so young...until he returns with a new look and powers to prove his worth. As mentioned earlier Maria is a resurrected Rie, devoid of her former memories and initially forced to serve Radiguet. Last but by no means least there's Grey, a robot with a taste for the finer things in life (he smokes, drinks and enjoys music) who shares an interesting dynamic with both of the lead Jetman characters. He's part of an alternate love triangle with Ryu due to his infatuation with Maria, and also shares a respected rivalry with Gai. He doesn't do much on the grand scheme of things in terms of plotting like Radiguet and Tran(za), but his onscreen presence is never forgotten.

Chōjin Sentai Jetman Great Icarus & Tetra Boy
The Great Icarus stands alongside Tetra Boy

With all these great characters, does the series fall short in any of the design areas? The suits show a clear influence from the anime series Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, replacing the long, flowing capes for unique underarm wings. The suit has a good balance of the core colour and white, and the bird theme shines through nicely. The mecha are the weakest element of the show, but even they are worthy of praise. The series' main robot, Jet Icarus, is the formation of five individual bird-like mecha that can also form into a separate giant vehicle named the Icarus Haken. For those who appreciate even a little bit of realism in their Super Sentai series, expect a good bit of size changing going on when Jet Icarus is formed. They are eventually joined by the Jet Garuda, a single robot notable for its unique bird head and giant talons in place of hands. Together these two are able to merge into the Great Icarus. Finally, the third robot is Tetra Boy, a rather energetic self aware machine that can transform into the Tetra Buster cannon for the main mecha to utilise. Jet Icarus is perhaps the last of the "boxy" looking Super Sentai robos, but still a great design and armed to the teeth with a sword, an axe and even a ball and chain.

Jetman comes from a time in Super Sentai where darker storyl ines were much more common and unhindered by toy advertising. Playing to these strengths, it features memorable protagonists with notable flaws, interesting villains and an underlying storyline which remains gripping even throughout its mostly episodic nature. Boasting one of the most memorable endings in Super Sentai, it is truly a series not to be missed.