Going into Dairanger I found myself with an assortment of different emotions. Having just come fresh off of Zyuranger, my expectations were considerably low. Obviously the two series should not be judged on each other’s merits, but the biting distaste that I had for Zyuranger hadn’t quite let up. That all said, I had heard a variety of good things about Dairanger and was, albeit only very slightly, hopeful that the series would turn out well.
Thankfully, it did. While I wouldn’t put this on many ‘Best of…’ lists, I can say that I enjoyed myself the majority of the time. The show displayed an interesting blend of tones, both serious and somewhat ridiculous, and managed to integrate a decent number of likable and entertaining characters. This, coupled with my general lack of knowledge on Dairanger’s plot prior to my watch through, led to an investing and overall very memorable experience.
I think I’ll actually start with the tone of the series this time around as it’s one of the more interesting aspects of the show. Dairanger follows a martial arts theme akin to that of older Chinese kung-fu flicks. This is shown in a variety of ways outside of the obvious use of martial arts. The film style of the show is noticeably different from the previous year’s Sentai, taking a somewhat pseudo film like appearance, utilizing effects and camera angles more commonly seen in martial arts films. Alongside this we have the usage of title cards displaying the combatants of various fights appearing intermittently throughout the show. The last one of note actually comes from the Jin story arc as many of the scenes act as partial homages to the genre itself with the most apparent being Jin’s warrior-like death at sunset.
Unlike the majority of Sentai that I’ve seen, Dairanger’s story is actually more of a compilation of different plot lines rather than one major one. While none of these plots get too terribly deep, they are all fairly well put together and are interspersed over the course of the series as opposed to simply being aired in one go and then forgotten. This is one of the strongest aspects of Dairanger’s story as, while it doesn’t deliver on one big arc, it does manage to intertwine its many smaller ones in a way so as not let any one of them become too overplayed.
For instance, the Kujaku story line is played out over the course of the series and is honestly one of my favorites from the show. Now the arc picks up for about one or two episodes at a time before shifting focus away to something else and because of that this story, which could have easily been a one off arc in any other series, became an investing plot line that managed to make me look forward to whenever it would pick back up. It managed to stay around long enough to make you care, but rarely got to a point where it became tedious or dull.
While there is a variety of stories to be seen within Dairanger, there are, of course, a couple that take precedence over the others. The major one of these is the arc surrounding Kou and his heritage. This arc actually took me somewhat by surprise as every previous experience of mine with toku child actors was an annoyingly soul crushing one. Kou, oddly enough, not only turned out to be a decent toku kid, but also one of the more interesting characters of the series. In fact this arc’s early stages impressed me quite a bit in terms of a sixth ranger arc, especially coming off of the almighty Burai bullshit that I sat through with Zyuranger. While credit may go to Burai for being the first regular sixth ranger, I’d say that more credit should probably fall to Dairanger and Kou for having the first competent sixth ranger story arc.
Of course, with every series there comes a handful of negatives. I really enjoyed Dairanger on a whole, but I still feel the need to be fair in my view of it. So with that said, I would like to clarify that any problems that I may have found that might resemble nitpicks are not presented out of hostility or any sort of desperate search for something to hate. Rather they’re presented in an attempt to cover all of my bases. To show all of the highs as well as the lows.
While the main cast is fun and have no real annoying quirks about them, they are fairly shallow when it comes to actual depth of character. Only a few of the characters really get any amount of growth and it’s very minimal at best. That being said, where the growth is applied is very welcome as the cast becomes a lot less hostile towards each other and a lot more team like as the series progresses.
As for the villains, they never really feel truly threatening and ended up falling more along the lines of just being dicks. While quite a few one-off villains were given very entertaining personas, they were unfortunately tied to some of the weaker filler episodes. This actually felt like quite a missed opportunity as a little bit of flair among the main cast of villains would have been greatly appreciated. Sadly the weaker characters such as Zydos and Gara found themselves in the roles of Generals while the funner and more interesting characters had much less screen time than they really deserved.
Carrying on, several of the story arcs displayed throughout the course of the series do run into the trouble of really knowing how to actually end. Despite my enjoyment of the overall set up to Dairanger, it ultimately felt like several of it’s story arcs had fairly lackluster endings. Going down the list; Kujaku’s arc felt very hindered by the inclusion of Gara’s back story and almost slipped into the realm of being laughable because of it. Jin’s final episode felt bizarrely out of place with it coming off as more comedic than the rest of the arc. In addition to this his story felt as if it had more room to grow, predominately because of Ryu and Jin’s mutual respect for each other having just been formed. Sadly Jin was quickly killed off and the arc overall felt less significant than it should have been. Despite my enjoyment of Kou’s story on a whole, it felt oddly stale towards the end and found itself for some reason completely missing its own character of focus with Kou having been removed for much of the final few episodes.
Of course this all brings us to the ending of the series itself. The final few episodes of the show reveal that not only were most of the Gouma nothing more than puppets made out of mud, but so too was the one that we had been led to believe was their creator, Shadam. Now a twist, I can handle. Truthfully the mud puppets thing was not as much an issue for me as the way it was handled was. The twist has no real build up. There’s literally no groundwork laid for this kind of revelation and really only results in bringing up more questions once a sensible amount of thought is put into it.
Now, credit where credit is due, the loose ties that this twist leaves behind do fit well with the final message of the series. That being, that as long as one side exists the other will always be there and the conflict will continue on eternally. This final message is probably the best note that we could have ended on with this kind of series. With the show being more of a string of story-lines as opposed to being one solid story, there was obviously going to be some difficultly giving it a definite end. To the show’s credit, it didn’t try to and really it didn’t have to.
Of course it also didn’t have to make its main characters dress up as old people and do a very gag-like epilogue set decades in the future, but c’est la vie.
So overall, while Dairanger certainly has its issues they never became so intensive to where they ended up ruining the series for me. Instead I find myself looking back fondly on the series as a whole and slowly, against my own better judgement, overlooking those little road bumps that we experienced along the way. When it comes to older Sentai it definitely sets its own tier and while it may not entirely stand up to some of what we have now there is no doubt that, to me, this one’s a star.