Every now and then we need something to help us take our minds off the stresses of the world. For whatever reason, there are a few shows in the world of tokusatsu that do this flawlessly.
When I talk about a “comfy” or “comfort food” show, I’m talking about something that I enjoy unabashedly. This is to say, despite the flaws of the shows, however glaring they may be, I enjoy it for what it is and what it makes me feel. Heck, I’ll probably be one of the first to point out all of a specific show’s faults and still hold the thing close to my heart.
So, hey, let’s talk about these shows and why I enjoy them. (keep in mind, the following list is in no real specific order)
Tensou Sentai Goseiger
The Sentai of 2010 was this strange little show about five young, naive angels stuck on earth. It’s the first modern-day Sentai to be rigid in its story structure to the point that we’re given entirely new factions every 14 episodes or so. It’s an interesting endeavor. Being the show right before the big anniversary, “Gokaiger”, I’ve always thought the staff on this one were allowed to do their own thing. There’s a freshness to the action that I don’t feel in a lot of Sentai, making this one of the rare times I anticipate action scenes in Sentai. (not to say I dread them other times, but they’re usually just “there” for me) The cast is very unpolished but they all manage to shine from time to time, Yudai Chiba as Arata / GoseiRed being the highlight of the show. It’s so rare that we’re given a Red who doesn’t fall into any overly specific category. Arata is kind and gentle yet aggressive and overprotective of his friends when they’re in danger. The team usually finds themselves in some sort of lighthearted antics that tie into the main plot of the story, rather than those antics being a “filler” for the danger that is to come. I’ve said it time and again but, to me, Goseiger is exactly what a “slice of life” Sentai should feel like.
Ressha Sentai ToQger
The current (oh boy, that’s going to be outdated soon) Sentai! I think I might enjoy this one a bit more than “Goseiger”. The cast is much more polished and although I feel there’s a trade off in the series returning to your standard fare of Sentai action, typical fights with a few standout moments, it’s a trade off I’m willing to accept. There’s a span of episodes I’m not particularly fond of after a major villain is introduced, but that isn’t a lot to stop me from enjoying the series. It’s been said that the villains are the best part of the show and I will admit they do make it a compelling watch, but this is a true ensemble to me. Remove any singular part of the program and you’ve got something that will only feel lacking in the end. As far as my comfort food shows go, “ToQger” is definitely my favorite – I feel fully confident saying this despite the show still running. You’ve got dramatic tension and backstabbing all the time with the villains, a search to find their hometown for the heroes, and interesting personalities clashing all over the place. I was incredibly surprised to find myself enjoy this one primarily because of the work the creative staff had done in the past. Shows like Samurai Sentai Shinkenger, Kamen Rider Wizard, and Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger, have all been very hit and miss for me, but everyone struck it out of the park with this show. For someone who has written tokusatsu as often and as long as head writer Yasuko Kobayashi has, I think she’s delivered her absolute best effort with this year’s Sentai.
Madan Senki Ryukendo
Heeeey, doesn’t anyone else remember this show? Anyone? No? That’s fine. “Ryukendo” was a little known show that aired in 2006 and, for me, offered a much needed alternative to Kamen Rider Kabuto and GoGo Sentai Boukenger. This one’s a show from TakaraTomy, Bandai’s biggest competitor. Despite the show’s toy line delivering a rather lackluster performance, this seemed to be one of those shows executives didn’t meddle around with too much. Here’s a show with a lot of heart, fun plots, and great action to boot. I was in love with the visuals of the show before I even saw the first episode. The suits look so dramatically different from anything that I had ever seen before from Toei’s outings and that helped hook me into watching the first episode. What I found in this show was a gigantic cast of supporting characters in the small town the heroes call home as their battle to defend the citizens against the strange Jamanga demons. Now, this show gives you a lot of toys. Like, crazy amounts. I think there’s a new toy in every one of the first 20 episodes. But despite that, the show doesn’t shove it in your face as much as one would it expect. On top of that, the show takes the time and care necessary to make one enjoy rooting for the heroes, all of whom have their own distinctive personalities. I’m endamored by the final 10 episodes of the show, specifically the final two. “Ryukendo” ran for 52 episodes but you find that the villain is defeated in episode 50. What do you do next? Explore the relationships with the remaining characters! And although it never got a proper sequel, TakaraTomy did eventually confirm this show, along with Tomica Hero Rescue Force and Tomica Hero Rescue Fire, take place in a shared world. It’s been a while since we’ve had a TakaraTomy-backed tokusatsu series and I can only hope it won’t be much longer before we get another one.
Chousei Kantai Sazer-X
Another show that aired in 2006, “Sazer-X” was the final entry in TOHO’s greater “Super Star God” series of shows that unfortunately came to a close with this show’s conclusion. While the previous shows, “Gransazer” and “Justiriser”, each had promise, there were also flaws that kept me from fully enjoying them. None of those problems are found here. Surprisingly enough, “Sazer-X” was cancelled and does feel as if it was cancelled. Plots are changed with enough time that, although you can tell the conclusions weren’t the original intention, they still worked, perhaps for the better. The show starts out as a comedy and maintains a lot of that tone throughout its run but don’t let that fool you. “Sazer-X” is a well-written show that delivers smart comedy, better than what I’ve seen in nearly any other tokusatsu series. When the show needs to ramp things up, believe me, there are some high stakes to be had for the heroes. This is another show that, unfortunately, people were quick to stop following thanks to the tone of the first couple of episodes. (which are, admittedly, a little rough) And, again, like with a lot of tokusatsu shows, this one quickly evens out. One wouldn’t think this to be the cast coming from a comedy, but this show delivered incredibly heart-wrenching moments for the heroes and gave what I thought was a strong and actually pretty mature ending, much stronger than I imagined possible based on the first few episodes. Also, I don’t care what anyone says, the Sazers themselves in this one are among some of my favorite tokusatsu hero designs.
Tomica Hero Rescue Force
Hey, look, another one of those TakaraTomy shows! “Rescue Force” comes to us with the premise that the heroes are looking to rescue people rather than outright battle villains. It’s another one of those rare tokusatsu shows where the characters feel bigger than whatever else is at stake, and I love that about it. Towards the end of its run, the show becomes a very thoughtful exploration into what might become of our heroes in life after they’ve finished battling the threat they’ve been faced against for the last year or so. The production team learned a lot from “Ryukendo” and were able to hit the ground running, although I will admit the first couple of episodes had trouble balancing our heroes out-of-suit compared the incredible amount of screen time they had in-suit, but all that changes very quickly.