Time to go back to 1975 for the VERY FIRST Super Sentai season ever Himitsu Sentai Gorenger or Secret Squadron Fiveranger. A very straight forward name for a season with no prior expectations to live up too. How did this long running show begin? Click "read more" for the full article. Also, before you ask, I have no idea why this season uses the name "Renger" instead of "Ranger", it is the only Sentai season to do it.
Fun Fact! Originally, this season and the second Sentai were not counted as part of the Super Sentai timeline but was later changed in 1995. Meaning for 20 years this was not technically a Super Sentai but just a Sentai.
Extra: The Intro; The theme song is as old school as it gets and defiantly feels like a 70s super hero show. Mostly motorcycles and explosions are used in the intro with a catchy tune. Honestly, it is hard to criticize given how much more work these intros must have been in the 70s. That being said, the theme song and intro are action packed and exciting and any fan of retro tunes will love it.
The episode begins with a soccer game that is instantly interrupted by a black cross being thrown in the ball which one of the players identifies as the "mark of the Black Cross Army", and then we get to see our villains. Less than a minute in and the bad guys show up. Here is a season that doesn't beat around the bush.
|Golden Mask. What more do you need from a villain costume?|
Turns out this soccer game was being played one some type of military-like base. Kanto Branch of the International Peace Organization EAGLE. Kanto before Pokemon? The Black Cross Army attack the fields with bombs and machine guns, killing all but one person and destroying a few buildings. Yup, that is the crazy dark nature of the old school Sentai.
This lone survivor is named Tsuyoshi Kaijou. Want to take a wild guess and say he will be one of the Gorengers?
Following these graphic events, the episode cuts to a snow filled area where EAGLE's Tohoku branch is doing some training. Once again, the Black Cross Army appearance, launches an attack filled with bombs, and kills all but one person. This time, the attack was lead by another villain named Warrior Mask.
Akira Shinmei is the sole survivor of this attack. Were audiences this numb to repetition back in the mid 70s?
The exact same thing happens three more times at three more EAGLE branches so, just to speed through them;
Bronze Mask attacks a branch with a karate dojo, one survivor.
Jade Mask attacks a branch that has a horse track. One survivor.
Poison Gas Mask attacks a branch with gas instead of explosions like the last 4. This time, the survivor didn't live through willpower, but because he was away, busy taking care of the units doves.
|They did that freeze frame not me|
As silly as it was to use the same backstory 5 times, it is over pretty quickly so little harm is done.
We now get to see the Black Cross Army's base. Here, they talk about their success believing they have defeated all resistance and will soon take over all of Japan. Interesting that the villains only care about Japan.
|Scary. Like an underground cult|
The next thing we see is each Gorenger, one by one, doing some training in costume as Akarenger (Tsuyoshi Kaijou) appears on his motorcycle to complement them and give them a message that says "Snack Gon"which is the name of a restaurant that they are all to meet in. I'm loving the blunt names. Also, each color for each survivor is revealed; Akira Shinmei is Aorenger, Daita Ooiwa is Kirenger, Peggy Matsuyama is Momorenger, and Kenji Asuka is Midorenger. No explanation is given as to how they got their powers.
If you are wondering what the names before "renger" mean, they are just the colors in Japanese. Ex. Aka means Red, Momo means pink. Oddly, they would not use the Japanese names for colors again until 2015. Forty years later.
One at a time, all the Gorengers arrive at Snake Gon. Each one as a brief moment where the show tries to establish characteristics for them like, Daita ordering 4 large curries for himself, Kenji being quiet and a loner, and Peggy being a mother figure to her kid brother and giving him allowance. I figure these traits will be relevant later so they were worth mentioning. Eventually, all except Shenmei arrive and they head down a secret pathway. Once they reach the bottom, Shenmei is there, waiting for him with his guitar. The cool mysterious one I suppose. Now, with all 5, they unlock the door to their secret base.
|And you thought the Command Center looked dated|
Once inside the secret base, a voice from the machine announces himself as the Gorenger Commander and tells them that Golden Mask has captured kindergarten kids and used them as hostages to invade a gunpowder factory. They say such grave things so casually. Well, now the plot is set, 3 of the Gorengers hop on Motorcycles while Shenmei and Daita take their helicopter thing.
|I miss the toy special effects|
At the gunpowder factory, the failed rescue attempt was made before the Gorengers arrived. Many officers were gunned down. The violence in these old seasons never stop being crazy
What makes a real Ranger? Whose foot soldiers had live ammo machine guns?
Finally, the Gorengers arrive. (Casually driving past a bunch of corpses.) The teacher of the hostage children tells the Gorengers that they are trapped inside the factory where a time-bomb is set to blow.
Why on Earth did the Black Cross set that up? What do they gain from blowing up a bunch of kids and the gunpowder factory they spent so much time invading? Also, if they wanted an explosion why don't they just use those grenades they were throwing all of the place this entire episode?
Shenmei and Daita come to the rescue on this crisis. They use a crane from the helicopter, break through the building roof, and pull the school bus to safety.
|That is totally a real bus|
Now, all that is left is the battle. Akarenger chases after Golden Mask and is later joined by the other 4 where we get the first every Super Sentai Roll Call. This fight scene is very slow paced by today's standards. Most of the foot soldiers (which are called Zolders) abandoned their machine guns for swords and do a lot of standing still waiting to get hit as the Gorengers jump through the air a lot. The Gorenger's weapons appear from their visors using some simple cuts, most of them are simple arranging from a whip, boomerang, bow & arrow, no weapon for Kiranger, and a mirror. What?
So, yellow gets nothing and pink gets a stupid little heart-shaped mirror? Not even with powers, all it does is glare a light in the enemies eyes. Can it get any lamer? For the finishing move, they used the Gorenger storm where they all passed a soccer ball around and kicked it onto Golden Mask's head which made him explode. It got lamer. This is before giant battles.
The episode ends back at the Black Cross Armies Base where the other 4 invades all volunteer to be the one to fight the Gorengers. Meanwhile, the Gorengers are riding away on their motorcycles with a narrator hyping them up. THE END.
This episode is a massive trip. Between the violence, the many plot-holes, and un-focused narrative, it is very hard to comprehend what was seen. The 5 Gorengers are given just barely enough development to establish their characters for future episodes, the enemies go from very threatening, to an easy win out of nowhere, and it is never explained why the Black Cross set up that time-bomb, where the Gorenger powers came from, how any of them have it, or even how the 5 survivors of very similar attacks even know about each other. However, despite all the heavy flaws, I loved every minute of it. What we have here is one of those amazing cases where something is so bad, it is great. Nobody can intentionally cause this effect, at no point was this episode uninteresting or did it do anything you lose your attention. To simplify, this episode is a product of its time and just needs to be witnessed. One can only expect that the rest of this Sentai's episodes are similar.
To clarify, that is not hate, I highly recommend this. Anything below a 0 is better than a 0 because it falls into the "enjoyably bad" category. A rare case of getting a perfect score for all the wrong reasons.