Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Denshi Sentai Denziman Ep 1: Take the Express to the Super Fortress - Summary/Review


Here we are with the 4th Super Sentai and the second highest viewed one just under the original which ran from 1980 to 1981. Denshi Sentai Denziman which roughly translates to Electron Squadron Electromagnetic - Man. source Looks like we got a theme that involves ancestors from an ancient civilization. So, click "read more" and let's take a trip back to first 80s season.


The episode begins with a narrator explaining about how 3000 years ago a flying object, Denziland, arrived on Earth from Planet Denzi. Inside Denziland was a single dog in a long slumber.

Why does it feel like this writing choice was made based on available props?

Cutting ahead to modern times, the Denziland rock has gone mostly ignored as we see a couple casually trying to take a picture on it. However, this changes when an earthquake happens and all of a sudden a bunch of buttons and switches start moving on their own and some lights and radars go off inside of what appears to be a laboratory. A computer voice says the "Vader Clan" has arrived and we learn this dog is mechanical.

Wow! That is a bad effect. 

The dog wakes up, an alarm goes off, and now we get to see the rangers get recruited. First is Ippei Akagi who is practicing karate when he sees a building get blown up from a blast that came from a weird portal in the air. After this, the dog appears and shields him from the falling debris.

I would love to dismiss the lame effects as a product of their time, but this was 1980 not 1950. Also, fun fact, his last name, Akagi, contains Aka which is Japanese for Red.

After saving Ippei, the dog sends him a telepathic message that he has been chosen for Denzi Red. It is a real dog they used if you are wondering; and the high pitch voice they gave it does not match.

Cutting away, we see the only female Denziman, Akira Momoi

She is practicing tennis when another blast from a portal appears that hits her tennis coach causing him to burst into flames.

As this happens, the dog appears again. He ignores the burning coach and sends Akira the same telepathic message recruiting her to be Denzi Pink.

Momo is Japanese for Pink. Funny, I did not know Akira was considered a genderfluid name.

Tatsuya on the right with his Dad

Next we have Tatsuya Midorikawa. A detective who is investigating what appeared to be a meteor drop on a construction site. 

Mido is Japanese for Green.

On the very same site, we meet Jun Kiyama who is a scientist and one of the people investigating the meteorite. 

Ki is Japanese for Yellow.

Jun on the right
 The dog appears and sends the recruitment signal to Jun  to be Denzi Yellow. 

 In the meantime, this meteor is discovered to be alive and an egg.

Suddenly, while being examined, the egg hatches and whatever was inside escapes. Now, the episode feels like a slasher flick as the detectives and scientists search around a dark building with flashlights looking for this mystery alien. Why did the power go out? Eventually, a small pool of blood is found and a giant creature appears and attacks Tatsuya's father. 

Poor aliens, never get a chance at being a kid.

Tatsuya's father gets fatally injured and dies in Tatsuya's arms just as the dog appears to recruit him as Denzi Green. 

Why are any of them agreeing to become Denzimen so far? That dog has only helped Ippei so far. Also, why is a psychic dog not freaking them out?

Last up is Daigoro Oume. A circus acrobat who encounters the same giant monster from before at night in the circus. Once again, the dog appears for the telepathic recruitment.

Japanese for blue is Ao, which makes Daigoro the odd one out for that bit. Also, he is definitely not Gavan or Battle Kenya

Now, the whole team has been recruited and all of them cutaway before they could respond. Great time for the episode to introduce this Vader Clan they have been hyping up as the villains.

Queen Hedrian as the leader. Keller the Mirror is also introduced. (The girl in gold.)

Also introduced, General Hedora alongside the monster of the week, Flyingsquirrelar. It is revealed that this monster hatched faster then expected because of the carbon monoxide and nitrogen in Tokyo's air. 

Looks like we got a pollution themed season. 

Now, the monster, Flyingsquirrelar, goes on another rampage. It kills some people with toxic air, leaving them as only skeletons. Soon, the police show up and continually shoot the giant monster with various guns to no effect. Quickly, Flyingsquirrelar kills all the police and destroys some buildings and cars. 

Dang, those days when Sentai would show real guns being used and corpses on the ground. 

The dog, (whose name is still not revealed), summons the Denzimen using some melody in the air that only they can hear. All five of them show up in color appropriate clothes, (except Akira who wore blue instead of pink), and enter a base hidden in a mountain.

A voice from a computer starts talking to them. It explains that the planet Denziland was destroyed by the Vader clan and now they have recruited the five of them to prevent Earth from suffering the same fate with the help of their robot Daidenzin and dog Denzi Dog IC. Now the dog gets a name. A stupid name, Denzi Dog. Now, the computer gives them all a morpher changer. They are rings this season.


Now, it's henshin time!

It is oddly very amusing the way they adjust their helmets after henshining. And geez, the costumes pre-spandex look way less cool but much more comfortable.

We also get to see their vehicles via a screen on the computer. The Denzi Machines, cars, and the Denzi Tiger, a flying tank. Nice quick introductions all around. So, the hop in the Denzi Tiger and deploy.

A cockpit with seatbelts. How cute.

The Denzi Tiger takes flight back to the city , surprising many onlookers in the process. Cutting away, the Vader Clan sees Denzi Tiger on their surveillance, somehow already recognize it, and deploy fighter plans, Vader Fighters, to intercept. 

As much as I don't like the new CG effects, these low quality toys are not anymore immersive. 

The Vader Fighters circle around and blast at Denzi Tiger, but are shot down by missiles. Footage of Denzi Tiger's missiles hitting the fighters is re-used twice. Once the Fighters are destroyed, the Denzimen proceed on foot for some reason. Now, the rangers encounter the monster who has shrunk back to their size along with some grunts. A close up/zoom in shot is used for every ranger and the monster before the first proper roll-call begins.

That was almost motion sick inducing with the constant camera cutting away and zooming in really fast.

One roll-call later with even more zoom ins, the first ranger battle begins. The grunts teleport around the rangers using jump cuts that look terrible, but quickly some blows are exchanged. This fight is full of random moments where the background goes completely black and some heavily outdated effects.

Totally someone inside that costume being thrown.

Denzi Red defeats a bunch more of the grunts with his weapon, Denzi Punch, basically giant brass knuckles.

Not going to lie, I'm kind of into this weapon.

After the grunts lose, the monster begins to flee and the Denzimen give chase. The narrator states that Denziman can run 100 meters in 3 seconds, which they demonstrate with more jump cuts instead of sped up footage, and can jump 150 meters in the air. 

Every time they jump cut everything freezes for a brief moment, sometimes the music even pauses.

Soon, they corner the monster on top of a building. The monster tries to camouflage, they use a "Denzi Scope" to find it and knock the monster off the build. Denziman jumps off after it and the fight continues. (An excuse to get a long jumping shot.) Some more jump cuts, flipping around, and repeating shots later, Denziman prepare for a big attack.

That probably took a lot of rehearsal and practice. You don't see stunts like this anymore in current Sentai.

Sadly, this Denzi Tower amount to nothing. The five of them simply jump out of formation, roll on the ground, and all try to kick the monster who escapes with more warping jump cuts. Now, the finisher is revealed, the Denzi Boomerangs.  These jump cuts are really getting annoying to watch.

After being hit by the boomerang, the monster starts to explode and turns giant in the middle of it.

That is a decent explanation for growing giant. I've never seen one where the monsters freely control their size.

This of course leads to the Megazord Super Robo. Ippei summons the Denzi Fighter that transform into DaiDenzi.

Old school. Rangers did not always combine their personal mecha or zords in Sentai, the giant robot used to be its' own separate piece of arsenal. Although I like the old fashion simple design, it feels more like a transformer when done this way.

The Denzimen enter DaiDenzi through a little door and take an elevator up to the cockpit. Now, the first giant battle begins.

Okay, seeing an actual elevator used inside a Megazord was kind of funny. 

DaiDenzi fights with a really big boomerang and clashes blades with the monster. The boomerang gets knocked away, flies back and is smashed in midair to which the Denzimen replace it with a spikeball & chain or Denziball. This Denziball also fails and the Denzisword is summoned. 

These names are like a tongue-twister sometimes. 

Finally, the monster is defeated with the finishing sword swing, Electric Full-Moon Slash. Daidenzi draws a circle after glowing, then slashes through the circle. It is an iconic action that many Super Robo's will do in future seasons.

The monster's head gets slashed off, the rest offs over and goes boom, and the Vader Clan are furious. This episode ends with the announcer trying to tease future episodes by saying the secrets of planet Denzi and the Vader clan will be revealed in time. The End!

Final Thoughts

This episode is a product of its time that has aged badly. I can honestly forgive the cheap effects; while it is not completely excused for its time period, there is a certain charm to watching these old methods, for historical reasons. However, the editing is overly jumpy, the characters were all barely introduced with little dialogue, fight scenes were mediocre at best, and the setting, while interesting, relies a lot on a just go with it mentality. 

All the rangers are approached to be recruited for no apparent reason and agree to join without a single question, the villains goal of turning the Earth to "musk" begs an explanation, and there is a big overdependence on the narrator explaining things. 

Overall, this introduction episode did not hook. For historical and research reasons, I am still glad I saw it, but those are the only two reasons I could think to recommend this. I can honestly see someone disagreeing with me and enjoying this for its era, what ages badly for some is charming to others. However, while I respect that this season did a lot of firsts as far as staples to Super Sentai like the transforming giant robot and the lens visors, there is no arguing the bland and mediocrity of it now. Denziman set the stage for many great seasons to come; take that for what it is. Not too good, but a very important part of Super Sentai history. 2/5

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