Sunday 7 July 2013

Series REVIEW: Hikōnin Sentai Akibaranger Season 2

Hikōnin Sentai Akibaranger Season 2 Unofficial Super Sentai

When Hikōnin Sentai Akibaranger first hit television screens in April last year, I don't think anyone knew quite what to expect. But as it turned out what we get was not only a Super Sentai parody that was hilariously funny on a meta level, but one that was clearly a love letter to the official heroes that both appeared and were mentioned. In the year that past the merchandising drive has been pretty huge, and with fans left wanting more from the unofficial Sentai it seems Toei were more than happy to oblige. Akibaranger Season 2 (or Tsuu, which also doubles as "pain") returned exactly a year later for a further 13 episodes, promising more delusion chaos.

Hikōnin Sentai Akibaranger Season 2 Luna Iwashimizu Akiba Blue Super Sentai Unofficial
Meet your new Akiba Blue

The season opens with the events of Akibaranger season one rewritten by its manipulative creator Hatte Saburo. The Akibarangers never became self aware that they were in a TV show, Dr Z and the Delusional Empire never happened, Mitsuki (Akiba Blue) was the one picked up by the Pentagon and the Akibarangers defeated Malshina and DeluKnight in a huge climactic battle. As Mitsuki left for America and Yumeria prepared for married life, the Akibarangers went their separate ways and returned to normal life.

However things changed when somehow Akibaranger became an official Sentai, replacing Dairanger as the 17th Super Sentai series. While reminding RyuRanger (now China Red of Chinaman) who he was, the Akibarangers discovered Malshina has returned as part of a new organisation - The New Dimensional Intellect Remodeling Underground True Empire Baros LOL. Led by the mysterious General Pain, a Super Sentai villain otaku, the effects on they create on the Delusion World have begun to alter history in the real world! With the help of a new Akiba Blue, wannabe idol Luna Iwashimizu, the Akibarangers reform to put an end to Baros LOL's schemes and return the official heroes to their former glory.

Hikōnin Sentai Akibaranger Season 2 General Pain Unofficial Super Sentai
General Pain - yes, he walks around like this in public

Not much has changed with the returning cast of Akibaranger. Nobuo is as nerdy as ever and Yumeria's marriage hasn't got in the way of her love for cosplay and yaoi. Hakasa and Kozkoz are also still around, with Kozkoz taking up a bigger role in this season. Malshina is still kicking too of course, and even more "adult" than ever.

Then we have our two new characters - brand new Akiba Blue Luna and Baros LOL leader General Pain. Although she was the most normal of the three Akibarangers, Mitsuki filled an important place in the team so I was very sorry to hear she wouldn't be returning for season two. With that in mind, Luna had some big shoes to fill and it took me quite a while to get used to the drastic character change. Gone was the tough martial artist, replaced by a slightly ditzy but loveable wannabe idol. In the event that you aren't initially sold on Luna keep watching, because she just keeps getting better and better throughout the show - eventually surpassing her predecessor and feeling perfect in the role of Akiba Blue.

General Pain on the other hand is a fantastic character from the get-go. He's the villain version of Nobuo, a die-hard Sentai otaku and able to battle the Akibarangers' knowledge of Super Sentai with his own encyclopaedic brain. In no way does he replace the utterly brilliant Malshina (who also just keeps getting better and better), but he adds a very welcome extra bit of nerdiness to the show allowing for even more glorious references and parodies. 

Hikōnin Sentai Akibaranger Season 2 Anime Aoi-Tan Akiba Red Nobuo Akagi

Of course, it wouldn't be Akibaranger without the inclusion of their show within a show, Nijiyome Academy Z-Cune Aoi! With the cast eagerly awaiting the brand new Aoi-tan film throughout the course of the show, Aoi-tan herself is blessed with a slightly new redesign. We also see Nobuo's love for the 2D character reach new heights, as his love for his waifu allows him to unlock new powers in the form of Cho Akiba Red, a super form with the armour being made up by the animated character lovingly embracing him. It's very weird and undoubtedly a little bit creepy, but perfect for Akibaranger's brand of humour.

Hikōnin Sentai Akibaranger Season 2 Powerful Rangers Zyuranger Super Sentai Mighty Morphin
Scarily close to the truth

While there are a huge number of Super Sentai references from all over it's 37 year history, once again Akibaranger chooses three particular shows for proper episode focus. This time it's Zyuranger, Dairanger and Hurricanger's turn. These parodies are particularly special, as they play upon real-life things that happened to bring an even bigger sense of meta to the Akibaranger world. The Dairangers become Chinaman (the now-debunked but rumoured original title for the series) while the Gouraigers gain their apparently proposed third member. Best of all however is the Zyuranger episodes, featuring the "Powerful Rangers", a parody of...well, you can figure it out. Clad in star spangled banners and speaking Japanese in hilarious American accents, these are among the best episodes Akibaranger has put out. And with so many good episodes in both seasons, that is quite the accomplishment.

Hikōnin Sentai Akibaranger Season 2 Official Heroes Jetman Zyuranger Dairanger Hurricaneger Dekaranger Boukenger
Wonder how many of these will have Figuarts before the year is out?

Akibaranger has done it once again. Season 2 proved to be every bit as good as the first, often even surpassing it. The retooling might seem a bit throwing at first, but it gives way to a season that's every bit as funny as the original, but also feels different enough to stand on its own ground. But of course nothing is ever that simple where Akibaranger and Hatte Saburo are concerned, with the events of the original eventually shining through in a way that can only be seen to be believed. Akibaranger is a show quite like no other, and these 13 episode bursts ensure that the show constantly stays fresh and among some of the best quality Sentai shows there are...and they aren't even official heroes. 

1 comment:

Ronnie Lane said...

I honestly must disagree with your call of the Powerful Rangers episode. Unless that was Bulk and Skull as Red and Green, nothing in that episode actually parodied Power Rangers, instead opting to be a glorified hatefic at best and 'look at those silly foreigners and their stupid ripoff that has no merit because they're not our nationality!' at worst. There is a lot of stupid in Power Rangers to make fun of- too bad Akibaranger didn't try.