You ever hear of a film or television show referred to as being “So bad it’s good”? Honestly, it’s a phrase that I’ve see get tossed around quite a bit as of recently. Basically, it implies that a movie/show can be enjoyed not because of its technical merits, but because it is so tremendously bad. Whether it is because the thing that you’re viewing is so over-the-top or just downright insane, you’re still enjoying yourself even if the story and characters are poor. Does it make the show good? Well, from a technical standpoint, no. You may not be able to find any sort of redeeming quality with the show from an intellectual standpoint, but you still might be entertained by it.
To make a long intro short, when I say “It’s good because it’s so terrible” I don’t really mean that the show is any good. In fact, the show I’ll be discussing is pretty bad. What I mean is that I find joy in how ridiculously bad it is. It amuses me. Does that mean I’ll look back fondly on the show that I have in mind? Well, not in the way that most people would anticipate. I won’t look back on this as being a well written show or a series with a lot of emotion and impact. No, when I look back on this show I’ll remember the time when a teenage boy was impregnated with an evil space vagina’s green caterpillar baby.
Liveman is stupid.
That’s kind of the best summary that I could really give for this kind of show. It’s not really a series that offers much complexity in terms of plot and it’s characters are incredibly underwhelming. A lot of any kind of amusement from this show stems solely from how absurd every single thing is. And that’s not necessarily bad.
OK, yeah, obviously it’s pretty terrible on a technical scale. In fact, this falls pretty darn low in terms of actual quality. To start, the story is woefully simple. It follows three students whose friends were murdered by three of their fellow classmates. The fifty or so episodes that follow are more or less just their path to revenge. With the exception of Green Sai and Black Bison’s introduction(which results in about two episodes worth of actual plot) that’s pretty much the whole story.
The rest is, unfortunately, filler. We get the occasional flashback here and there, which goes towards establishing why the betrayal of their classmates was such a big deal. Well, aside from the killing part, of course. Most… All, of these are attempts to humanize the three antagonists and are pretty laughably bad. One villain’s entire redeeming quality is the fact that he was nice to a puppy once. Yeah, forget the murder of our long time friends, this guy really likes dogs. As you can see, some of them don’t make a whole lot of sense, but that said, this is a series that sees the leader of a gang dressed as a caveman who utilizes vampire gorillas in order to rob local businesses. So, logic discarded.
About midway through, we get a bit of a shake up as one of the antagonists, Mr. Puppies, is actually rehabilitated to a certain extent(if you call being turned into a drooling man-child rehabilitated). With one enemy gone, two more take his place and all is pretty much back as it was. And there’s the problem with the plot. Well, one of them. The whole thing basically has Umeko Syndrome. Now, I use Umeko(DekaPink) because she is pretty much what I view as being the perfect example of a waste of focus. Every episode to involve Umeko served to pretty much hold up the plot and keep it from moving. Further more, everything that she may have learned or everything that developed with her as a character was reset by the following episode, furthering the uselessness of her focus.
That is more or less what happens every time there is any sort of attempt to move the plot along in Liveman. Someone may have a flashback or a character may come back from their past and we’ll get a small push towards the story as well as another glimpse into the lives(and potential rehabilitation) of the enemies. Then it goes away. We hit the reset button on everyone’s intelligence and put the important stuff on hold until the next episode or two of plot somewhere much further down the road. It’s little more than a means to extend a simple, poorly thought out idea into fifty episodes.
The characters are also no real help. I’d complain about development, but lets be blunt here, there’s not really much character to develop in these guys. You could say they’re an assortment of tropes, but even that might be pushing it as none of them really do a whole lot. I mean, they obviously do something or else you just wouldn’t have a show, but they never really feel like they’re accomplishing anything of interest. They’re blank slates that almost have the illusion of being stereotypes. I mean, I’ve sat here thinking about what kind of characters they were, but the only things I could come up with were very loose descriptions of their appearances. Yusuke wears a red jacket, is the leader and is supposed to be this upstanding dependable type. Megumi wears those stupid suit jackets, likes animals and dressed as a nun that one time. Joh has a skateboard. There should be more to them, but sadly there just isn’t.
So why am I being so hard on Liveman when I had previously been pretty(ahem) lively about it? I mean, for God’s sake I compared it to Umeko of all things. Well, part of it is to obviously attempt a fair review and let you know some of the issues that I found with the show. The other part is to avoid misconceptions. All too often it seems that whenever a person says that they like something then others immediately jump to the conclusion that they must like everything about the show. That’s almost never the case. A show can be enjoyed despite its flaws just as much as a show’s flaws should not be overlooked despite the time and love a person invests into it. I like Liveman, but in no way do I want you to think that I like everything about Liveman.
Why then, do I like it? Well, it stems back to my opening bit about things being so bad that they’re good. There are a decent number of bad Sentai that I’ve watched and Liveman is included in that round up. What keeps me from hating Liveman despite its terribleness, though, really is its terribleness. Somehow, someway Liveman managed to pull together just the right amount of awful acting, awful effects, awful story and incredibly absurd moments to actually make itself a pretty fun watch.
Unlike something like Zyuranger or Go-Onger, I never really found myself annoyed by what was happening. By no means is it investing, but it’s a delightful compilation of madness that throws all sense of logic and rationale out the window in favor of the most ludicrous story lines that I’ve ever seen in a Sentai. I almost never felt bored or frustrated as I did with Zyuranger and I never felt like things were overly generic as they most certainly were not. It’s not a good show, but at a certain point, whether the writers meant to or not, you begin to convince yourself that this unbelievable usage of anti-logic is almost intentional.
And that’s great! It’s fun, it’s entertaining, it’s insane and you’re just right there with it, taking it all in. So, no, Liveman isn’t a good show. I’m not even sure that I’d recommend it to someone looking for a quality Sentai to watch. When you’re in the mood for the more irrational side of the Sentai spectrum, though, then by all means fire away. I had a fantastic time watching this shitty little show, and whether you think it’s good or agree that it’s bad, either way you’re in for quite an experience.