Up ahead are my musing over Go-Busters and its ratings – not just its overall ratings, but how it’s doing with kids. (hint: it’s not good)
Lately, there has been an increased discussion over ratings and whether or not they really matter to tokusatsu. I’ve always been of the mind that they do and that people can be a little too quick to write them off, but they’re a necessity. Why? You need to know who your audience is and whether or not your show is doing well with the intended audiences. There are two kinds of ratings, the bare rating that gives you the rating of the episode and the demographic ratings. Demographic ratings split the viewing audience into groups based on age, the group Sentai is aimed at is kids, obviously. By looking at demographic numbers, you can see which shows kids tune in and out of over the course of years. While it’s quite true that toy sales matter a lot, Toei is not in the toy business, they are in the TV business. Toei gets some of the money that Bandai makes from the toy line, Bandai foots some of the TV show bill, and Toei makes the TV show to promote the toys.

The question I’ve always asked is…what happens when Bandai realizes, “Hey! No one is watching this show and we’re still making a truck load of money. Let’s stop paying for it and just make our own brand of Sentai toys!”? Go-Busters is doing well as a toy brand, no doubt about that, but as a TV show? Sentai’s never seen worse, purely based on numbers. I’ll make a parallel to Kamen Rider Fourze. That show is the least viewed Kamen Rider series ever, just like Go-Busters will be. The difference that keeps Toei and Bandai happy there? The core audience of kids is about the same as OOO and Double, it’s the older viewers that tuned out. Go-Busters, on the other hand, is a different story. To help provide some context for people following ratings, I’ve compiled the series average for the kids demographic in the first 21 episodes – which is all that’s available for Go-Busters right now. I’ve also compiled that same average for the last ten years of shows.

Demographic Ratings – KIDS
Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters – 6.9%
Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger – 11.8%
Tensou Sentai Goseiger – 11.3%
Samurai Sentai Shinkenger – 11.4%
Engine Sentai Go-Onger – 10.9%
Juuken Sentai Gekiranger – 14.2
GoGo Sentai Boukenger – 14.4%
Mahou Sentai Magiranger – 18.2%
Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger – 17.4%
Bakuryu Sentai Abaranger – 18.4%

It’s clear to see, kids are not watching Go-Busters. That franchise series average low wouldn’t be so much of a problem if the kids demo was big, but it isn’t. In the last ten years, Sentai has lost over 10% of the viewing audience in kids. Even Gekiranger, which was faced off against a Pokemon variety show throughout its entire run, barely dropped from Boukenger in that area. Toei sees this problem and I think it’s obvious that they’re doing anything they can to bring kids in. Inject more comedy into the show, a last minute opening change to make it seem fresh. Heck, even the upcoming Gavan cameo strikes me as more of a desperate ratings ploy than proper movie advertising.

So, what is it about Go-Busters that kids don’t like? It’s hard to say really.  The show set out to be different from any Sentai before it, but this was purely visual. Naomi Takebe, a long time Kamen Rider producer, was brought on to do Sentai in the capacity of head producer for the first time in her career. We’ve got a much more realistic look concerning the suits, amped up mecha action, probably the best Sentai will ever see, but beyond that? Go-Busters isn’t very different from the shows before it. I think we’ve finally entered that era where Toei needs to change Sentai if it’s going to survive. Visuals just aren’t enough, they need to have something fundamentally different. At the rate Sentai is going, I don’t believe it’s going to last another five years if nothing is done. As a member of this fandom for ages, I’ve always seen the idea that Metal Heroes would one day return and replace Kamen Rider. But what if it’s Super Sentai it replaces one day? That’s just a totally wild guess, but I think it could happen if these trends continue.

We’re in an era where nothing is safe, Super Sentai included. Toei has the capacity to change things and they should. I think, even for just a year, a Sentai that goes all the way in trying to mimic modern day Kamen Rider would be an interesting experiment.