Home > 1, new stuff, reviews, sentai > Samurai Sentai Shinkenger Pilot – Not Your Average Sentai Series

Samurai Sentai Shinkenger Pilot – Not Your Average Sentai Series

I am no sentai fan. The sentai series I’ve watched are merely a handful and mostly old school like Bioman, Maskman, Jetman, Fiveman and Turboranger (mainly because they’re aired in our local TV channels). I have sporadically watched Magiranger, Gekiranger and Go-onger enough to know the story and to establish my thoughts towards the series but not enough to give conclusive and informative review of the series. So, you can say that I have next to no knowledge of sentai jargon and aesthetics. Please take this review with a grain of salt and take into consideration that I’m no expert at this genre.

Samurai Sentai Shinkenger is the first sentai series that I have actually flailed and obsessed about. I admit, I’m biased towards the series because it stars Aiba Hiroki, one of my favorite actors. It also appealed to me because the ‘samurai’ concept sounds new to me. I think ninjas have been done before, but not samurais. Still, I was planning to drop it from my watch list if I don’t like it, since my watching schedule’s already pretty crowded. I guess it is a good thing (or bad for my watch schedule) that Shinkenger is spurting with traditional yet novel ideas that are quite different from the older series (Gekiranger, Go-onger, and the likes).

From here on will contain spoilers to the series, so consider yourself warned. There will also be considerable Shinken-lingo, but most of them will be explained.

The summary on the main conflict of the story is given as follows: Eighteen years ago, the Gedoushu or spirits that once tried colonizing the human world, have been defeated by a samurai clan. However for some reason, the seal on them have been broken and they’re continuing their plan to take over the present human world. They ride on a pirate ship-like vessel that sails along Sanzu River, sending minions, called the Nanashi Company, to attack people and make the river overflow so they may attack the human world in full force. In order to stop them, the samurai house of Shiba trained their 18th descendant, Shiba Takeru, and enlisted the aid of four other warriors to stop the evil plans of the Gedoushu from solidifying.

The first episode revolved on introducing the characters. their backgrounds and their personalities. The main weapons and the henshin call, henshin sequence and origami sequences are also shown, although the main robot, the Shinken-Ou, was not shown. I will not linger on the story of the first episode since it’s mainly introductions, but rather I’d try to point out important things as well as samurai/traditional concepts applied to the series.

First off, let’s talk about the characters. Shiba Takeru (Shinken Red) is the first person shown in the episode in both human and senshi form. He is also the one who first used his origami (the smaller version of his mecha), a lion, to attack the enemy. Takeru is quite the proud master of the house who refuses to cooperate with other people. A rather cool person, he was prepared to fight alone because he thought he had the best abilities and at first refused any form of assistance from anyone, even from his would-be teammates. However, his guardian Kusakabe does not entertain his sentiments and convinced him to call on his vassals to aid him in battle. I have to note here that I’m a bit amused when he used his calligraphy extension to write the kanji for horse in the air and the horse appeared. I wonder what else he can conjure with that brush of his XD;.

Matsuzaka Toori, the actor who plays Shinken Red, looks too young for the role. He is also not that flashy when they are all standing together. However, his voice fits the role. He has a deep, commanding voice that sets his young looks aside. After a while, he grows on you and even though you think he’s not that conspicuous enough, you will change your mind when you hear him speak.

[point 01: It seems that the samurai-vassal system is followed here. I pretty much think that the other senshi are Red’s vassals, considering how much respect Blue and Yellow give him.]

[point 02: The arrow message system is also used. When there is a battle, Kusakabe sends out arrows with messages tied to them to the other members of the team. It’s quite old-fashioned, but I consider it a nice, elegant touch.]


Ikenami Ryuunosuke (Shinken Blue) is a budding kabuki actor, the one with lifestyle and lineage nearest to Takeru in my opinion. He had long been groomed to be one of Red’s vassals and he seemed to have devoted his whole life in being one. He is a little hot-blooded and eager to please Red, a little too dedicated as a vassal. Still, it’s amazing how he gathers the rest of the team when Red doesn’t give a damn about them. He is the only senshi who was shown to be given his origami.

Aiba Hiroki, who plays Shinken Blue, is one of my favorite actors, so I can’t help but be biased towards him. I was expecting his character to be another one of his widely-common narcissistic roles, and I am glad that I’m wrong for once. He does quite a good job acting as a non-complaining and loyal vassal to Red and it’s nice change from his usual roles. Still, I think he’s going to be one of the comic relief in this series, not that I am complaining. I mean, he ran out of the theater in just his kabuki costume (and make-up) and tabi socks.

[point 03: I think I don’t have to spell out that kabuki is also considered part of the theme. Ryuunosuke had a scene where he’s performing a part of kabuki before being called out to battle.]


Tani Chiaki (Shinken Green) is an easy-going student who frequents game centers (I don’t know if he cut class!). He’s the ‘normal, annoying’ guy and is a little too carefree, as he regretted not training enough during their battle. It could be that he is of samurai descent but he does not follow the tradition. It is said that he is the team’s strategist, although at times he screws up because he’s very laidback. He seems to not mind being a senshi but he seems bothered by the fact that he’s going to act as Red’s vassal. I sense conflict in the near future.

Suzuki Shougo who plays Shinken Green, doesn’t make an impression on me. It could be because he acts like a normal guy and doesn’t run around wearing bright orange wig or kabuki costumes :P. He looks like the comic relief of the team but can be pretty serious at times. I look forward to his interaction with Red and the other traditional people.

Hanaori Kotoha (Shinken Yellow) is a girl from Kyoto (hinted by her Kyoto-ben) who plays the flute. She seems to be a pure-hearted, gentle girl who is also looking forward to being Red’s vassal. There are info about her not the original Yellow and is just chosen as a replacement for her sister, but I can’t confirm them. She’s a little shy and withdrawn, but her loyalty to Red is apparent. I sense Yellow and Blue rivalries in the future.

Morita Suzuka who plays Shinken Yellow is very cute. I’m just surprised that she isn’t Pink. I’m too used to seeing Pink as the one who is gentle and musically-inclined. This is quite a change, and a pleasant one at that.

Shiraishi Mako (Shinken Pink) is either someone who is learning to be a teacher or just someone who loves children, since she is shown playing with kids in the park. She seems to be another normal character, but I am surprised when she receives the arrow message and is picked up by kuroku (the samurai henchmen dressed in black, named after kabuki stage hands). She is probably from a noble clan and treated as a princess? I personally think that while Kotoha is gentler and kinder-looking, Mako is more lady-like, hinting at her upbringing.

Takanashi Rin who plays Shinken Pink is typical Pink: long hair, lady-like nature. However, her pink is more tsundere-like and strong-willed. She’s also almost often left out with Green while Yellow and Blue chase after Red. I sense bouts between them in the future or with Pink acting stubborn.

[point 04: A norimono or palanquin was used by kuroku to fetch Mako and take her to the place of battle.]

Next, we come to the Henshin part, the most creative part, in my opinion. But before that, I have to thank the director of this series for not making the senshi wear color-coded uniforms outside their costume. I would love to enjoy the changes in wardrobe, thank you.

Amidst the confusion due to their first meeting, the senshi were given their Henshin Keitai Shodou Phones (or shoudou phones for short). Before their henshin, the kuroku appears to change the team members into kimonos, something I don’t really get the point of, but maybe it’s to make their first transformation memorable (also, since Shinken Blue’s kabuki costume is distractingly colorful). After the brief pose, each of them activates a calligraphy extension in the cellphone and uses the henshin call “Ippitsu Soujou!” By writing the kanji of his/her assigned element in the air, the henshin sequence begins, the suit forming first, then the sword (Shinkenmaru) forming at the side and then the written kanji embedding itself on the helmet. After the sequence, each introduces him/herself briefly with a unique sword pose.

I find the calligraphy flair to the henshin sequence really classy and different. The ceremony of writing out the kanji for the elements contrasts with the simplicity of the henshin sequence itself and the posing (no explosions, no weird hand gestures) which I think is a good thing to keep the samurai theme intact and not exaggerated.

The kanji on each helmet seems a little off (especially with pink) but I got used to it eventually. I was wondering why pink was not of the Wind element since Red = fire, Blue = water, Yellow = earth and Green = wood, but I guess it’s because the kanji for “kaze” (wind) has too many strokes, so they used “sky” as an alternative. I hope the kuroku do not appear that often, because I tend to get annoyed at all the flag-waving going on.

[point 05: Calligraphy brushes are used during the transformation by painting the kanji of the elements each senshi represents.]

[point 06: The henshin call “Ippitsu Soujou” stands for “A stroke of pen to report to the Emperor”.]

[point 07: The battle suit forms a Y at the chest, similar to how a kimono looks like when worn, emphasizing the samurai image.]


[point 08: Ryuunosuke’s (Shinken Blue’s) signature pose is a common pose in kabuki theater.]


[point 09: The belts worn by the senshi have the rising sun embossed on them.]

[point 10: Their basic weapons are all katanas, emphasizing the samurai theme.]


The senshi, though they all use Shinkenmaru to attack, have powers according to their elements. Their Shinkenmarus are powered up by Hidden Disks and these disks can also transform their Shinkenmaru to stronger weapons. Shinken Red has a large sword (like Ichigo’s zanpakutou), the rekka daizanto. It’s attack is called the Hyakka Ryouran (Profuse Blooming). Shinken Blue has the water arrow whose attack is called Meikyou Shisui (Clear Serenity). Shinken Green has the wood spear which has the attack Taiki Bansei (Talented Late Bloomer). Shinken Pink uses the heaven fan which has the attack Hakuryoku Manten (Full Impact). Shinken Yellow uses the land slicer (a large shuriken) to do the Funtou Doryoku (All Out Effort).

I just knew there was going to be someone who will be using a fan XD;. The kanji on their weapons are also a nice touch and stresses the importance of these elements in their abilities. I just don’t get why Red has a Japanese name for his weapon while the others do not. Is this because of the vassal thing? I’m also glad that while each weapon seems a bit intricately designed (LOL, just look at the uber large sword), they’re not that out of proportion. At least I think their sizes are normal, I’m kind of tired seeing extra-large bow and arrow. Also, I appreciate that it’s a guy using bow and arrows. Usually, it’s the Pink one using it, right? (Although if Blue is to use the fan, I wouldn’t complain, too, just that it’s not “watery” enough). I also have to point out that the way Red shouts “Rekkai Daizantou” is pretty cool, it’s making me squee.

Of course, the armaments wouldn’t be complete without their mecha, the origamis, which have two forms: emblem and animal. While they are movable and can attack in their smaller form, they can be made big enough to allow their owners to control them from the inside.

They can be changed by writing the kanji of “dai” (large) on the emblem form of the origami using the calligraphy extension of the Shodou Phone. Once in their dai-form, they can combine to form the ultimate robot, the Shinken-Ou.

Shinken Red has the Shishi Origami which is a pentagon in emblem form and a lion in animal form. It uses the Gokaku Daikaen attack where it charges the enemy with blazing fury. Shinken Blue has the Ryuu Origami which is a hexagon in emblem form and a dragon in animal form. It attacks the enemy using its Ryuu Bakufu, a shot of blue fire. Shinken Green has the Kuma Origami which is a square in emblem form and a bear in animal form. It uses its claws to attack the enemy. Shinken Yellow has the Saru Origami which is a triangle in emblem form and a monkey in animal form. It has powerful fists that can punch the enemy and can also lever itself up buildings. Shinken Pink has the Kame Origami which is a circle in emblem form and a turtle in animal form. It can spin very fast to create a hurricane or to hit the enemy.

Origami’s kanji is taken from a combination of “origami” (paper folding) and shikigami (familiars), hence the origamis are alive even though in small animal form. They look like folding pokemon, but that’s just me. It’s kind of awesome to see the small origami attack the monsters and it’s even more awesome to see them in action, in both emblem and animal form, while large. The animal sounds accompanying the animals are also cute and not intrusive. I admit that I lol’d at the part where the origami changed into emblems halfway during the fight and fell on the monster’s feet, especially since Pink’s origami looks like a can of tuna, but I have to say it’s a pretty cool idea and preserves the concept of origami where you can fold the paper and refold it in another way.

[point 11: Origami, the paper-folding art, is imbibed in the mecha, where each of the origami can transform from emblem to animal mode and vice-versa.]

[point 12: Shikigami, or familiars, are just what the small origami are: assisting their owners in battle and controlled to transform as their owners wish.]

The fight scenes (people version) are smoothly choreographed, although the dubbing seems a bit off since the actors have yet to get used to the dubbing thing. And I still think they casted a stocky person for Shinken Blue when Ryuunosuke is … not really stocky, but whatever XD;. The fight scenes (mecha mode) is not CG-fied and reminds me of old school mecha in a nice way. I really appreciated that and the lack of too much explosions. The mecha scene’s a little rough around the edges, though, but I guess it’ll get better once Shinken-Ou appears.

I don’t like the monsters in this series, though. I haven’t been fond of squid/tentacle monsters and the Nanashi company (the generic monsters) are creeping me out (and they’re so many). Not to mention that they can squeeze through cracks. The pirate ship of the Gedoushu is really cool and I like Dayu (voiced by Paku Romi) who plays the shamisen (I’ll ignore Blood Feast Doukoku, the cuttlefish ‘leader’ for now) , But I’ll keep off the Nanashi company. Anyway, as always, there is a main monster called the Ayakashi, usually based on legendary creatures and has two lives, the second one being the giant one.

[point 13: The female villain plays the shamisen, which is an instrument of the Edo period (and at present, too). The shamisen’s haunting melody can be heard during the scenes with the evil-looking pirate ship and the villains.]


Lastly, we go to the OP and ED sequences. Unfortunately, there is no opening sequence since the theme song played throughout Shinken Red’s first battle scene, but the theme song is catchy. The ED sequence is beautiful! I love it to bits. The song is catchy and fit to the scenes. There’s no choreographed dancing (which will be off in a samurai-themed series) and the artwork serving as the background is pretty and exudes traditional Japanese aura. I appreciated the part where the team is lined up and walking before the traditional background, since it gives them a rather royal and respectable look. The emphasis on each senshi with an artwork of their elemental animal in the background is a nice flourish, too. I think the best part in the ED for me is Aiba doing his usual kabuki movements.

PLUS:

This is a promising sentai series. I wasn’t too fond of Go-onger and Gekiranger’s stunts became old too easily. The concept is new and refreshing and the idea of mixing all these traditional stuff with sentai is appealing. The appearance of a cool leader/Red senshi is also appreciated, it’s been so long since we’ve had a leader who needed to be less serious instead of vice-versa. The personalities of the senshi are varied, but not that varied to exaggeration, and their interactions as either master-vassal or friends are greatly anticipated. I also wonder if there’s going to be a new senshi (will they complete the seven samurai theme or just stick to the fab five?). In any case, it’s too early to say anything else, but this series will probably get me hooked.

MINUS:

The monsters. I don’t like some of the monsters. I appreciate that the leaders of the Gedoushu can move their mouths while talking and are more mobile than most monsters but really, why does it have to be cuttlefish/sea creatures ;_;. Also, the dubbing needs to be more apt and fit to the scene, although I appreciate the lack of dubbing in the normal scenes. Other than that, I can’t think of anything not nice in the premise.

All in all, this is something I’ll be watching every week. Hopefully, it won’t become boring and repetitive towards the middle. :)

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  1. PT
    February 18, 2009 at 7:18 am

    good info, and lots of good points
    I luv it too.

    btw, any1 found the OP theme song?

  2. February 18, 2009 at 8:38 am

    PT,

    Thank you! Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s any OP or ED mp3 floating around. There is the LQ version of both, though, I think.

  3. Duckhams
    February 28, 2009 at 9:54 am

    Here’s a TV size OP of Shinkenger:
    rapidshare.com/files/201002741/Samurai_Sentai_Shinkenger_OP.mp3

    I hope a full OP will come out soon ^^

  4. February 28, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing! :) This sounds better than the one recorded during the con.

  5. Elmer
    March 1, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    It seemed to me that Takeru’s dialogue suggested he didn’t want to involve them to let them lead normal lives. He indicated in dialogue that it was an anachronism, the vassal thing, if I recall correctly.

  6. Duckhams
    March 2, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    Hey, it’s me again.
    Do you happen to have a full ED song? Or at least a TV version of it? ^^ It was a great ED song! Its instrumentals sounded good already (:

  7. March 2, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    I don’t have the full ED but I managed to record the TV version. It’s cut off suddenly towards the end, though. I can’t cut properly with the preview so close to the last note ^^;.

    hxxp://www.mediafire.com/?evnzh41med2

    :)

  8. Duckhams
    March 3, 2009 at 4:00 am

    It’s the OP you linked XD heheheh.

  9. March 3, 2009 at 7:57 am

    Argh. I messed up the links in my other blog, too D:.

    Here you go: mediafire.com/?lxx0nty3m42

    Sorry about that XD.

  10. March 5, 2009 at 7:02 am

    Just in case you were wondering, the translation for Ippitsu Shojou is “With the stroke of a pen, report to the Emperor!”

  11. edmoncu
    March 9, 2009 at 12:27 am

    I like the series! It’s a very refreshing change from Go Onger, which I can say that its exaggerated goofiness is based on Geki Red. I have been longing for replacing Gekirangers as my recent favorite sentai series and this one appears to be filling in quite nicely, starting from the very catchy opening song. I sure do hope the series won’t get boring midway as GekiRanger have been in some of the episodes (Go Onger is out of the question here as I honestly admit that the entire series isn’t up to sentai standards in terms of storyline and seriousness).

  12. March 9, 2009 at 8:11 am

    @ edmoncu, I agree about Go-Onger and it’s lack of usual sentai-feel. I think it’s bordering on crack too much :). Let’s hope Shinkenger will live up to the first episode. But so far, it’s amazing, isn’t it?

  13. March 10, 2009 at 10:26 am

    And throungh 4 episode, I’ve become more and more like ShinkenRed :D He has a very interesting characteristic, dont you think? And since he wore his so kawaii face when watching Pink-chan cook :x
    This Sentai’s good. And I love the OP too ^^

  14. no matter
    March 22, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    it’s like power rangers all over again

  15. edmoncu
    March 23, 2009 at 11:47 pm

    With the introduction of Kabuto disc, I was so impressed at the part at how Shinken Red transformed the Rekka Daizantou first time to Oozutsu Mode! I didn’t expected the Rekka Daizatnou to become a bazooka! Now I understand the reason for its humongous size! WOW!

  16. Duckhams
    March 31, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    I’ve found the Shinkenger Theme Song Singles: http://www.sendspace.com/file/dmbcsu
    The zip file contains full version of the OP, ED, Samurai Gattai! Shinkenoh and Tatakae! Shinkenjya.

    Just post something if there’s a problem, I’ll re-upload it =]

  17. April 1, 2009 at 10:10 am

    Thank you so much! They’re working, all right XD;.

  18. kamen ranger
    April 13, 2009 at 6:48 am

    Just a slight correction. You mentioned kana several times in your review, but it’s actually kanji that’s predominantly being used in this series.

  19. April 13, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    orz. You’re right. I’m sorry for the mishap >_<;

  20. cowsandlemonade
    April 17, 2009 at 2:38 am

    My kids saw this on youtube, but I’m wondering if you think it will start in the US, the US always make their own version of the PR series and this one seemed more appealing, though I don’t know how the US/Disney will mess it up for the American crowds. We have searched for their toys but they are oh so ever expensive, particularly the samurai/belt one….

  21. April 20, 2009 at 10:53 am

    @cowsandlemonade

    I have no idea how the American version will be, since Shinkenger has lot of Japanese tradition references, not to mention their symbols are in kanji. Still, it’ll be interesting to know how they are going to pull it off if they ever make a version of Shinkenger :).

    I have to agree on the expensive stuff :(. The keychains are hard to find and a little pricey, what more the belt and figures? ^^;;.

  22. Duckhams
    August 18, 2009 at 3:47 am

    Rumors has it that Disney won’t be making a Power Ranger version of Shinkenger, Power Rangers RPM will be the final Ranger Franchise. But you’ll never know, it’s just a rumor.

    Check this link:
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/entertainment/news/article.cfm?c_id=1501119&objectid=10560372

  23. cory
    October 19, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    I like the live action power rangers for “dads” to watch :P
    http://japansugoi.com/wordpress/sexy-japanese-bakunyu-sentai-pai-power-rangers/

  24. Vivastar
    December 17, 2009 at 4:32 am

    Duckhams :I’ve found the Shinkenger Theme Song Singles:  http://www.sendspace.com/file/dmbcsuThe zip file contains full version of the OP, ED, Samurai Gattai! Shinkenoh and Tatakae! Shinkenjya.
    Just post something if there’s a problem, I’ll re-upload it =]

    could you reupload this please, need the mp3 :)

  25. paul
    May 3, 2010 at 9:40 am

    the best thing about Samurai Sentai Shinkenger is Rin Takanashi!!!
    http://www.japansugoi.com/wordpress/rin-takanashi-sexy-pink-ranger/

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