You know, I never expected to actually cover Ultraman in my archives before getting to the somewhat more beloved franchise Super Sentai. So because of this your clever and devoted writer had decided to remedy this by instilling another of his character polls. This poll consisted of four Sentai that the majority of this audience has, hopefully, watched. The fifth was a what I expected to be the honorable mention of the list, a show that I had not thought would be chosen over the more recent and commonly watched series‘. Well clearly I underestimated my dear audience as they went right ahead and chose the choice that I thought would be far overlooked. So, let’s get into Chojin Sentai Jetman shall we?
Before we do get into this, however, I want to state that Sentai was a franchise I had put off till now for more or less a single reason. The sheer quantity of characters. Yeah, it’s no secret that Sentai definitely has a lot of characters that could be chosen from, be they Senshi or not, but because of that it wasn’t easy picking just one character to go off of for this series. So I just decided on all five. Yes for the month of December I shall be covering all five Senshi of the Jetman team starting with their leader, Tendou Ryu.
-Warning: There are things past this point that are spoilers. You’ve been warned, so don’t come complaining if something gets spoiled for you.-
Right away Ryu demonstrates an abundance of strong qualities including an unmatched level of determination, an upstanding and professional attitude, and a great potential for leadership. It was these very qualities that allowed him to be chosen to command a special team of soldiers to be infused with heightened physical abilities. Ryu accepted the position without any fear for himself and took up the role of Red Hawk, the leader of the Jetman team. Using his previously mentioned qualities he manages to stand as a more than capable and well placed leader.
Due to an unexpected attack from the evil organization known as Vyram the rest of the heightened abilities were transferred into random citizens. It’s because of this that Ryu stands as the only member of the Jetman team that has any profession training, a fact that becomes a great help for his leadership over the team as he is able to guide the others with the knowledge and skills he has in place. As the leader he takes on several responsibilities including the construction, training and management of his team. He does this with relative ease having a good sense of responsibility that is showcased in full through his actions. While he is an effective leader he is of course strict at times and on several occasion has to resort to pulling rank over the various members of the team when things get out of hand. Despite this he acts as a strong and positive motivator for them, being able to push the usually disorganized team in the right direction through the toughest battles.
Over the course of the series Ryu shows off traits of not only a capable leader but a generally good person. To his core he is essentially a very “boy scout” kind of character showing relatively no vices to speak of and is a downright helpful and kind person. He is the kind of man that manages to see the good in people even being able to turn around the rebellious Gai and tends to put a lot of trust in his team, showcasing a strong sense of loyalty as well. While this is undoubtedly good it does, however, render Ryu a bit oblivious to certain things. From time to time he comes off as being oblivious to the subtle emotional cues being shown by his team and while this does stem somewhat from being overly trusting of them it is predominately a product of his more professional nature. Being as bit strict and professional as he is, Ryu often doesn’t attach too emotionally to others and as a result shows off a somewhat detached personality from the others. While this is a minor flaw with him it is not an overly inhibiting one and he still remains a kind person and a pillar to lean on for the team. The slight emotional detachment may seem like a major flaw on a personal level but it does in fact allow him to remain just distant enough to stay as a dependable leader.
Though I attribute a lot of his lack of understanding towards the more emotional side of his team to his professionalism there is in fact another matter that contributes to this attribute. Before the start of the series Ryu was in love with a woman known as Rie, his partner in his prior job and one of the original choices for the team. Unfortunately she was thought to be killed in the midst of the attack from Vyram, leaving deep emotional scars on Ryu. While his professionalism allows him to mask much of this pain he is nevertheless deeply affected by the event throughout the series. As such a lot of the romantic cues stemming from his teammate Kaori become overlooked or ignored. While this could be viewed as an active response because of Rie’s death, Ryu’s surprise at the eventual confession from Kaori would indicate that it is more likely a subconscious act in order to protect himself emotionally or even to keep himself from a feeling of betrayal towards Rie. Since Ryu is such a strong leader it is a detriment to be caught up emotionally in events that take place around him, otherwise he would begin to lose focus on what needs to be done. Since he has essentially forced himself to ignore these feeling for the sake of his job it has eventually developed as a subconscious habit as apposed to an immediate active response. As such this remains as more of a compulsive habit and is something that is buried within Ryu rather than a something that he outright chooses.
In addition to having the effect of emotional distance, Rie’s death also instilled other negative effects on Ryu. On several occasions Ryu is haunted by the images of her death causing a noticeably visceral reaction. The memory of Rie is something that is shown as being of constant presence within Ryu’s mind as well as something that causes several self inhibiting choices when it comes to his personal relationships. This presence even affects Ryu’s actions towards people in love as he often become very protective of them, to the extent that he would willingly put himself in harms way for their happiness. Overall this memory is displayed as being a haunting one and an attachment that Ryu hasn’t fully gotten over, though in retrospect the fact that Ryu buries these thoughts and emotions deep down for the sake of his duty only attributes and exacerbates his inability to overcome the terrifying memories.
While the memory of Rie brings up a noticeable reaction of fear within Ryu he is nevertheless a rather courageous person. Ryu’s natural dedication towards doing what is right allows him to ignore the basic instinct of fear in most cases. This once again helps to contribute to his role as leader as well as sets him apart from a few of his comrades. While some of his teammates may respond quickly to fear Ryu always remains strong and courageous keeping together the panicking team and allowing them to overcome their trials. Still Ryu isn’t completely without fear, obviously, as he as been shown to fall prone to a few situations. One event in particular saw Ryu plunge into Hell, literally, a situation that caused him to freeze up several times as well as fall into an uncharacteristic state of panic. While this is a noticeable moment of fear within Ryu’s character it isn’t one that I would say stems too deeply from his character as the very idea of Hell is meant to be a terrifying one to any person, courageous or not, and it’s not a detriment overall towards Ryu for falling victim to this.
Over the course of the series Ryu definitely shows some development with his character showing at times a more laid back demeanor with his teammates when outside of battle. Slowly Ryu begins to let others like Kaori into his life but always makes sure to remain at a distance for quite some time while still under the grief of losing Rie. He manages to connect more with his fellow teammates, often spending time with them outside of work and slowly forms very strong and long lasting friendships with most of them. While he does open up more he is no less of a leader because of it and still remains firm in his belief of removing personal issues from his work with the Jetman team and on several occasions he even urges the others to do so as well.
While Ryu certainly develops throughout the series it had almost become all for naught by the revelation that Rie was in fact an elite soldier of Vyram. With his love suddenly alive again Ryu succumbed to the conflict within himself over the idea of having to fight against Rie. This conflict caused him to become impulsive and rash until sinking into a state of depression and eventually denial which in turn caused him to even lose his grip on reality and hallucinate the image of Rie. It was only through the intervention from Gai of all people that eventually brought Ryu’s mind back into reality, an emotionally pivotal point for the two. The end of this incident resulted in Ryu finally being able to move past the haunting memory of Rie with full determination to take down Vyram and free her from it’s control.
“I think that this is the real beginning to our five man team.”
Unfortunately in the world of the Jetman team things rarely work out for the best as Rie dies at the hands of Vyram’s other elite soldiers. Ryu breaks down after this, for the second time he has lost the person he loves most. This event breaks down all of Ryu’s emotional walls causing him to fall to tears every time the very thought of Rie crosses his mind even reinforcing the previous hallucinatory state that he had experienced. His emotional state drives him to such an extent that he foregoes not only the team but nearly his own life in order to seek vengeance against Vyram. The scars on Ryu certainly tread deeper but with time and Kaori’s help he’s slowly capable of leaving behind all thoughts of revenge and focus solely on the protection of Earth. With himself pulled together Ryu went into the final fight and in true fashion selflessly risked his own well being in order to take down Vyram. Out of the rubble Ryu stood together with his team as the sun set on a peaceful world.
Of Ryu’s relationships with his teammates two truly stood out among the rest, the first and foremost being his relation with Gai. In the beginning the two definitely started off on harsh grounds and the tensions only seemed to get worse throughout their early days working together. From the Ryu side of things he saw Gai originally as a troublemaker and not suited for the team but nevertheless was forced to work with him. While things were certainly tense at first Ryu continued in an attempt to motivate Gai towards helping the team, actions that were not well received at times. Still despite this Ryu attempted to forge some amount of partnership between them and clearly displayed signs of respect for Gai as time went on. It eventually became evident that their teammate Kaori, whom Gai had feelings for, had instead had feelings for Ryu. This resulted in an unwanted competitiveness between the two, something Ryu would often try his best to remedy. While the two remained in conflict for quite some time out of work, within combat they proved to be a fearsome duo being able to keep up with each other and read each other step for step. It was during the revelation of Rie being alive that Gai finally admitted to holding an appreciation towards Ryu and in turn it was Gai that managed to bring Ryu back from the depths to which he sank. It was from this moment forward that the two became invaluable partners to one another and quickly developed a strong bond and friendship. The partnership between Ryu and Gai is without a doubt the strongest within the team and a companionship that would prove to be one of the biggest contributions to their fight against Vyram.
The other major relationship Ryu had with one of his teammates is the one shared between himself and Kaori. During the early days of the team Ryu would be the one to push and help Kaori the most. This was reciprocated with much affection from Kaori though at first it comes without notice from Ryu and eventually quite a bit of shock and discomfort. While he didn’t initially carry the same amount of affection for her he nevertheless held a bit of respect for her as he does for all of his team, trusting in her words during his darker moments of the series. Though he never expressed much emotion towards her during their time as a team three years after the invasion of Vyram the two were happily married.
When explaining Ryu’s character I keep using the word strong and really it’s probably the best way to describe him. I do this because Ryu is easily one of the most strong willed, kind hearted and upstanding characters that I have analyzed thus far. While he carries shades of last week’s focus Hayata with his leadership qualities and responsibilities he certainly displays more of a character and displays a slightly more hands on approach to managing his team. I mentioned earlier that he’s a “boy-scout” kind of character, what I usually mean by this is that he displays qualities many of innocence as he usually holds no sense of grudges or vengeances until his later days in battle. Through and through he came off as an upstanding individual, showing an unending urge to do what is right without bring harm to others. While at his core he may not seem like the most complex character he is, however, a very investing character showing off shades of heartbreak and an amazing integrity. Through it all Ryu’s determination, and yes strength, makes him one of the most heroic and investing characters that I have been able to discuss and is one I will look back at fondly.