Wednesday 27 August 2014

Series REVIEW: Kanpai Senshi After V

Kanpai Senshi After V

Super Sentai and superhero tokusatsu in general are perfect for parody, especially the classic shows of the 70s and 80s. Not only are full to the brim with tropes, but there's so many unanswered questions or things that go on behind the scenes that you could build a whole series around just that. Toei had their own licensed go with Akibaranger, but plenty of other studios have done similar things in live-action, anime and manga. In 2014 it was the turn of a little series that goes by the name of Kanpai Senshi After V, which wasn't quite about the heroic exploits of the superhero team in question.

As the series introduction tells us, the Golden Warriors Treasure V are a team of combat specialists put together to battle the forces of evil that overwhelmed the Japanese police and army. However, it wasn't long before the team was more renowned for their after-battle drinking sessions than the battles themselves, earning them the nickname of the Kanpai Senshi After V (which translates as 'Cheers Warriors After V'.

Taking place entirely in a Japanese bar and karaoke booth, the series documents many of these infamous drinking sessions. We join Red, Blue, Yellow, Green and Pink as they discuss everything from the commendable scientific prowess of their enemies to why they don't just start every fight by unleashing their giant robot. Soon they're facing much bigger problems, such as the dangers of social media, a replacement team member and even their boss invading their drinking time! But from the shadows (well, the kitchen), the evil Commander and his henchman Ee are watching and waiting...

Treasure V kick off their drinking activities
How the night starts...

As a modern Super Sentai parody, many viewers are likely to immediately start drawing comparisons to Akibaranger. However let it be known that After V and Akibaranger are almost nothing alike. While the latter featured the 'official' heroes, fiction becoming reality and a whole lot of crazy self-awareness, After V is a much more subdued show where our heroes are exactly what the opening tells us they are. Outside of the fantastically retro opening song, there isn't any fighting, giant robots or superheroes just genuinely kicking ass. It's a show who's humour is largely situational and relies on dialogue, plonking a stereotypical Sentai team into a drinking environment and seeing what they get up to in their after hours. If you go in expecting a series like Akibaranger you're going to be sorely disappointed, but give After V's brand of humour a chance and you'll soon see that even though its very different it works just as well.

After V doesn't feature any previous Super Sentai actors amongst its cast, but the core five all come from different backgrounds and gel together really well as a unit. Previous toku actors include Ryouto Murai (Yuusuke/Kamen Rider Kuuga in Kamen Rider Decade) and Kazuki Kato (Daisuke/Kamen Rider Drake in Kamen Rider Kabuto and Shiro/Kamen Rider V3 in Kamen Rider The Next), who play Red and Blue respectively. Yellow and Green are played by comedians Buuffalo Goro A and Tsubasa Tobinhaga, while Pink is played by singer/idol Yu Kikkawa. That's the kind of variety you'd expect to see in a real tokusatsu superhero production, and the cast fit really well into their roles even if they're about as far from normal superheroes as you'd expect.

Ending the night on a song
...and usually how it ends.

Because behind closed doors, Treasure V aren't your standard "warriors of justice types". Red is a young man who grew up idolising heroes but now doesn't seem to get any respect, Blue is the strong silent type because it seems he doesn't always have anything clever to say, Yellow is an old man who has trouble lifting his arms for the roll call pose, Green is a meek gaming nerd and Pink is far from cute and innocent. This show isn't about the heroes, its about the people behind the masks and to them being in Treasure V is just a job. The audience see the cast as real people and that is what makes the comedy so successful even if it can be a little slow paced at times.

The evil Commander in Chef
Evil is waiting to take your order

Of course, with Treasure V proving to be not quite what you'd expect the same naturally goes for the evil Commander as well. By day he may be scheming to take over the world and unleashing combatants and monsters across Japan, but here he's like a guardian angel to Treasure V - secretly helping them out when they're in a jam and proving not to be quite a bad guy after all. He also clearly cares for his underlings, as his relationship with combatant/waiter Ee seems to suggest.

Learning the follies of social media
Quite possibly a real account

As I mentioned in the introduction tropes are aplenty in Super Sentai, so naturally this series aims to both cover and deconstruct a few of them. Yellow liking curry is one of the more obvious ones to spring up, but others include having a member replaced (a plot which continues for multiple episodes), a sixth member who doesn't quite feel like part of the team (in this case - Treasure V's commander in chief Lamé Gold), having the team shrunk down to just three members and more. Treasure V also learn the dangers of what and what not to tweet (how topical!) and why Green should never be allowed to get drunk. Its setting may be extremely limited and the conversation usually taking place over beers, food and karaoke, but you'd be surprised how much topic coverage you can get out of 12 episodes.

Kanpai Senshi After V might not be the most frantic and fast-paced parody out there, but its relaxed setting makes for some excellent comedy revolving around just the characters themselves. It somehow manages to be both wonderfully retro and relevant at the time, while also being funny and also a little heartwarming at the end too. Its unofficial status means it will probably be overlooked by many, which is a shame because this is a really enjoyable little show that deserves recognition.

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