“Pain is Power!” Unofficial Sentai Akibaranger Review

Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers was one of those shows that essentially shaped me into the manchild I admit to being today. It had the kind of gratuitous imitatable violence that made soccer moms everywhere help push for the current parental guidance ratings and in general was just something nice and campy you could watch with your brain turned off. But while the Power Rangers have gone strong through a current total of (checks Wikipedia) 18 different series, I think we can all say that it’s dwindled in popularity since the Mighty Morphin’ era. Thankfully the guys at Toei have found a way to bring in old fans of the show in the form of parody series Unofficial Sentai Akibaranger.

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For the uninitiated, the Power Rangers franchise is based on Japan’s long(er) running Super Sentai franchise. With nearly 40 Super Sentai series and counting, it’s made a clear impact on Japan’s pop culture, dating as far back as the ‘70s. Unofficial Sentai Akibaranger takes that cultural impact and uses it to tell a compelling story, while poking around at the general idea of what makes Super Sentai so appealing… and not so appealing resulting in some of the funniest scenes I’ve watched in a while. And with Toei having access to all 36 Sentai series prior, they pretty much pulled all the stops to ensure a top notch series. Like, imagine if a YouTube abridger had direct access to and feedback from the creators of the works they spoof and had a TV series budget, then you’d have a decent idea of the direction the series takes.

To better illustrate (and since I haven’t gotten to explaining the series’ plot after two paragraphs) Akibaranger tells the story of Nobuo Akagi—a 29 year-old Super Sentai fan with delusions of becoming the next Red Ranger. Alongside a 23 year-old cosplayer girl and a closet-otaku high schooler, Nobuo’s roped into a professor’s experiment involving taking one’s delusions and turning them into something one can act out. As one may expect, since the main cast averages out to be in their twenties, some occasional adult-oriented humor ensues, from awkward groping to drunken madness. It’s the kind of series that’s fully aware that man/womanchildren are becoming more commonplace considering recent cultures, and embraces that fact.

But what separates the good parody series from the great ones (yes I’m using that segue) isn’t the amount of comedic moments it’s able to pull off, but the amount of pure knowledge about the series/franchise they’re able to get away with teaching in the process. My knowledge of Super Sentai stops at the bits and pieces of Power Rangers episodes I remember while growing up, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the show any less. If anything, I actually felt the need to further look into some of the references thrown into the series since I was just that enthralled while watching. Looking into minor things like how Akiba Yellow and Blue are gravure models in real life, similar to previous female Sentai members, and how series villain Malshina was erm… the step above gravure idol in her career was interesting to say the least. Additional easter eggs like finding out that the professor was the voice actress for the main lead in Chuunibyou were simply mind-blowing upon realization. Just knowing that in-jokes like these have been snuck into the series is a testament to the creative team’s hard work in making it.

While I finished Akibaranger within a week of finding out its existence, it was one of those shows that have still been on my mind just because of the sheer amount of trope deconstruction the series was able to do via comedy. So when I found that a second season has just started, you can say I was pretty excited. Even if your knowledge of Super Sentai stops at Power Rangers, I highly recommend this series.

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About daemoncorps
Gabe (daemoncorps) has been writing about anime and the like since 2005, but has been babysat by it for much longer. He primarily spends his days distracting himself on twitter or writing for Fandom Post until he realizes he has a weekly webcomic (tapastic.com/series/scramblebouquet) to work on. He also just finished writing his first full-length graphic novel about unemployment (https://tapastic.com/episode/293804).

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