Original Run: February 21st, 1992 – February 12th, 1993 (Japan)
Created by: Toei Company
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Akihiko Yoshida
Cast: Yūta Mochizuki, Seiju Umon, Hideki Fujiwara, Takumi Hashimoto, Reiko Chiba, Shiro Izumi, Machiko Soga
Toei Company, 50 Episodes, 25 Minutes (per episode)
I was never a really big fan of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, as it came out just after the right age for me. I had cousins that were really into it but at the time, I saw it as a poor attempt to mix Saved By The Bell with some sort of live-action Voltron versus kaiju hybrid. Sure, I was aware that it was pieced together with new footage of American actors edited into some Japanese children’s action adventure show, it just didn’t grab me. But I was also becoming a teenager in pursuit of heavier and harder stuff to watch. Although, I always thought the toys were kind of cool. And some of the monsters looked pretty sweet.
As the years went on and I wanted to expand my knowledge of tokusatsu beyond the Ultraman franchise, Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot and the little bit of Kamen Rider stuff that I was able to see, I figured that I would give Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger a real shot. I also thought that even though it was the sixteenth series in the long-running Super Sentai franchise, it was a good starting point, as it was the series that the original Power Rangers got its action material from.
Initially, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Zyuranger but I was pleasantly surprised by it and I’m glad I gave it a watch. It is often times cheesy and pretty ridiculous but what tokusatsu program isn’t? Especially programming generally geared towards kids?
The fact is, beyond the cheese and at the heart of the series, is a really good epic tale. It was well-written and well-executed by the directors and the cast. I was pulled into a delightful world were I really felt invested in the characters, even the minor ones. The show also did a good job of staying true to certain tokusatsu tropes but still took chances and veered off into unexpected directions.
It is a better written show than its American counterpart and all the Rangers are interesting characters that don’t feel like they are forced into predetermined generic roles, ala Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
I have since watched other Super Sentai shows, as this one was so good and I wanted to be able to see where the quality stands among its siblings. Out of the handful I have watched, Zyuranger is top notch. Not to say the others aren’t good, they are. But I can see why this one was initially chosen to spin-off into the original Power Rangers for American audiences.
In the beginning, I was unsure of this show but it quickly grew on me and I ended up flying through the fifty episodes in under two weeks.
Unlike American children’s television, Japanese tokusatsu shows aren’t afraid to tread dark territory. Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger went to some pretty dark places at times but it came across as intelligent and well executed for the story. Often times, even as a kid, I felt like my American shows tried to handle their young audiences with too much care, too afraid to let kids experience the more serious aspects of life. Maybe Japanese kids are just raised to be a tougher lot with more awareness of all sides of life. This could also be why I seemed to gravitate more towards Japanese entertainment, as a kid, even before I realized that the stuff I liked was Japanese.
Watching Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger was a really interesting experience. I was glad that it was my first Sentai show and it really made me a fan of the franchise overall. I have since tried to give Mighty Morphin Power Rangers a shot again but it still doesn’t do much for me. Maybe I should check out some of the more modern series to see if it was able to improve and find its footing. But side by side, if you are going to watch one or the other, Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger is the better option, as long as you don’t mind reading subtitles for fifty episodes.