“A tiny paradise amongst a sea of skyscrapers: Akihabara. There we find three warriors who believe pain is power and who fight battles that exist entirely in their heads. They are…Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger!” With these words we open this amazing Sentai Show that I just finished the first season off entirely and I adore it. It’s basically Power Rangers..but instead of do gooder teenagers we get low life Otaku with Deadpool powers.
The word Hikonin stands for unofficial. When this show came out in 2012, it originally aired at a different time slot than any other Ranger show. It was not a morning show for kids.. no this was a tribute show to all Sentai Geeks who have loved the genre for all their life. This was a show designed for Otaku.. but since it veered away to much from the base formula, it was set in another world…our world… but not really. Where Super Sentai is just a show, where the main characters in this show could recognise former power rangers as both the ranger or the actor. So the tag unofficial as added.. and it became a plot point.
This show is about as fourth wall breaking as it gets. Let me try to set up the basic plot. Three Otaku get recruited by a mysterious woman named Hiroyo Hakasa, who gives them devices called Moe Moe Z-Cune’s which allows to transform them into the Unofficial Sentai, Akibarangers. With these new powers they have to stop the Blatantly Evil Marketing Firm (rough translation) from turning Akihabara into a dull commercial wasteland. Fighting the good fight, the rangers hope the be one day be acknowledged as actual rangers and be official and marketable. There is one problem however, they aren’t actually fighting evil.. they are just Otaku imagining they are fighting through the power of delusion/imagination.
The Moe Moe Z-Cune allows people to share imaginations with each other and thus can create powerful delusions that Hakase studies. Also seemingly using the sense of the Otaku people to sense evil.. to let the police do the actual work. So while our heroes are fighting in their suits, the real world only sees them punching in the air as if they are pretending to rangers. This pain apparently has some sort of power… yet a mysterious chain of events bring these two worlds of Akihabara closer together..with serious consequences.
Fourth debries pile
That was the most sober description of Akibaranger I could muster because this show is completely and utterly INSANE and I love it! These rangers powered by the power of delusions for example do not fight with their strength and determination, no their main way of combating evil is to trigger “victory flags”. They are so Otaku they know how these shows go, stats do not matter. If the main bad guy teleports away and tells the other villain “take care of this” the victory flag has been raised and the rangers become unbeatable. On the other hand if such flags are not triggered or they miss to acknowledge it they can’t really win either. A fighting style that is quite different from the usual shows and that works as hilarious tool to understand what makes this genre so lovable. If you loved Power Rangers, you see these guys as your peers. These guys look at the show through the eyes of the audience which can create a surreal experience.
The early episodes are focussed on the three heroes trying to figure out “which episode/which story structure” will apply so they can trigger their story flags. For example in an episode that focus on the training of one Ranger they have to get the spotlight. In an episode where a ranger leaves the team for a bit, the victory flag can only be triggered by having them rejoin this fight. The problem of such an episode is not the monster fight but making a phone call ..with flippy phones, to call up the last ranger to come and share a delusion with her friends. There is a beauty in how low-key this all can be and how simple the solutions actually are. As they grow the rangers learn more and more to break the fourth wall until they accidently shatter it…. literally.
Oddly enough this show has an amazing progressive curve but since episode 1 starts out weird, episode 10 and mostly episode 12 are completely out there. While I will not completely spoil this show to you all because I really recommend watching this the final fight the rangers have to conquer is quite literally “the end” . The thirteenth episode is a clipshow with commentary episode.. set IN UNIVERSE. The characters realise the series creator Saburo Hatte has set them up to make a lame last season episode in the end. Other examples include that the rangers have the power to hit their opponent who is far away with melee punches as long as it on camera looks like you are punishing them or by imagining older rangers they can make them show up and take their weapons, and even combine cross series weapons into a new super weapon. Oh and don’t forget.. once they break the confines of their fictional fourth wall.. they also break that new set ups fourth wall into ours. .. so that the 5th wall or the 8th wall they break?
Red Yellow and Blue
Let’s step back a bit and let me introduce you to the three Sentai making up the team and take a bit of a closer look at their powers and their abilities. To maybe make some sense of this.
The first ranger I want to talk with you about is Nobuo Akagi, who is better known as Akiba Red.He is a 29 year old man who still lives at home and has a job as a part time delivery boy, which he uses to finance buying Sentai Toys and figurines of the popular anime Z-Cune Aoi. His trope is that of the super otaku. He knows all tropes of Sentai shows and can quote every line of it. He is desperately in love with this girl he often has to bring deliveries too, but because he usually just imagines kissing her ..nothing ever happens between them. (Pre show) His name Akagi has “Aka” in it which is Japanese for Red because he knows so much about the genre he is the leader but the other two rangers keep calling him Old Man.. because he is a 29 year old living with his parents. He also complains that his mother nearly threw away his Aoi Dakimakura.
When he transforms he becomes Akiba Red.. his suit is based on the anime protagonist haircut. A black lighting shaped visor goes across the helm that has the “anime protagonist” haircut modeled on top. As he is the most delusional of the three rangers he is also the strongest, he can summon red rangers of the past to fight with them for a while usualing heading them a weapon. These include a pair of giant handcuffs a giant shovel and a flight suit that also can be shot forward as a launcher. He is also the first ranger that is so delusional and otaku that he is able to transform in reality as well as he is first ranger that realises he is just a character in a tv show. His signature is shouting out Super Sentai trivia during their Ranger Roll Call.
The second ranger in the first season is called Mitsuki Aoyagi , with Aoi representing as a word. She is takes on the role of the Closet Otaku. She fell in love with the Z-Cune anime because of the strength she displays, Mitsuki is a martial artist and trough that passion she discovers the art of fight choreography and anime and steps into Otakuism showing a deep but hidden love for it. Because of the fact she keep her geekism hidden she has seen significantly less tropes than her peers and is the worst at things like ranger roll call until she discovers martial artistry is her thing.
She also is the youngest character, stating she is underage to drink and can not drive. Her age is never fully disclosed. In the second season (which I will review later) the creator makes a retcon to get her to leave the show. Yet her development in the first season was amazing we see her embracing her hobbies more and more as she makes friends accepting of that hobby.
As Akiba Blue she starts of as the ranger with the most fighting potential, but is not very good at recognising tropes, costing them a few battles. She is the first ranger to be able to use cameras to make punches connect while not actually making an impact and she is very potent with the shovel weapon the group takes from BoukenRanger Red. She can not drive .. so she is the one ranger who is not able to control their “zord/mecha’ Machine Itasha. Her suit is based on the classic ponytail anime trope. Her rollcall is usually a kata of fighting moves and she has the most consistent and professional one.
Yumeria Moegi is the yellow ranger, which apparently has something of yellow it as well. Her real name is Yuko Yamada though, as Yumeria is just her cosplay name. As such Yumeria is the cosplay Otaku and my favorite character. Her personality changes depending on what cosplay she is wearing. Usually this means her voice changes and she has an anime sentence ending. If she cosplays a catgirl she ends sentences with Nya and if she plays a Warlord she ends sentences with De Gozaru for example. Over all she seems to be bubbly but can be Tsundere as well if it its her cosplay. She creates Yaoi Doujin and seems to be romantically interested in monsters. However she mostly is drawn by Seme characters. Having a great weakness for anime smut and Seme characters she can even faint at the sight of them.
As Akiba Yellow she has less stand out features as the other two rangers. Though her delusional powers do outclass that of the others at several times, allowing her to imagine Yaoi scenes that create a stunlock for everyone involved. She is quite versed in Sentai lore and is idolised by many in the city, when the rangers appear in reality she becomes the most popular one. Her suit is based on the anime trope of twintail characters. Her roll call just as her ramble on conventions, cosplays or discussions until she is interrupted. This character made me cry with sadness, in the fifth episode of the first season and her story .. as well as the other rangers is pretty fleshed out. She needs to be together with the other rangers to be inspired as a Yaoi creator because if she is alone she tends to fall back in the same type of delusions. This is reflected in her delusion themes coming back numerous occasions showing she has some dominance in that.
While this show is really low-brow comedy, it succeeds way too well in making a great show. The first season is SOOOOO well paced it is insane. The rangers actually grow at a pace that makes sense, even in this weird setting. The moment where the rangers are able to break the fourth wall and fall into reality makes so much sense! There is actual build up to it, foreshadowing as well. While the twelfth and final real episode bulrushes you with insanity and weird twists, it is actually a plot point. This show is so incredibly meta that the final villain basically is the plot itself, again that is not completely true but you can watch this for yourself to discover the full details.
Every single character, except for the one that is made to be bland gets story, character development and interesting opportunities. This includes the main villain, but even the secondary villain , and no that is not a spoiler because everything that happens in any other sentai show will happen here it is designed like that. It is easy for fourth wall breaking shows to go stale.. but this one doesn’t .. because it knows when to change it’s pacing. I had a Megu-Nee cry moment in episode 5. I really felt inspired by episode 7. I felt nostalgia , I laughed and I felt confused. This is a show is set in reality but realises that it still would be fiction thus not would be set in reality and the characters realise this in time as well?! It almost feels like inception.. but campy and with deadpool. There should be no way this should work this well, it’s to campy for this to work so well yet it does.
The show is meta enough to suddenly shift tones and you can be taken aback by it, things suddenly becoming really cool and epic in terms of fighting, keeping you engaged. When you are fed up with the main character, he suddenly becomes someone much more respectable.. when we grow to like him he has to leave, it plays with all these set ups and throws it in your face that it does yet it succeeds so well in them that this show to me surprised me all the way throughout In one episode for example (major spoilers for episode 8) they encounter a super weak alpaca monster named Tsukishimaalpaca (All Monsters have very long or tricky names the rangers instantly remember). Because they want to show themselves in the real word to the real Sentai producing head honcho, they need to move through the fourth wall again which they are only able to do with a strong monster.
We see them try to train up the Apaca in which they learn he just wants to sell street food, they take him to a theme park to conquer his fear, cook with him to hone his craft and also make him stronger. We see them bond and they suspect it might become the monster turns extra ranger trope or a switching side pattern! Yet in the end they decide it should be a reward him for his effort and make a tragic decision pattern as they murder their new friend by blowing him up with a new super weapon. While it flies of to explode it congratulates his friends for using him as a stepping stone… I did not expect that. The way this is paced is just so well done.. I felt really heartwarmed when the heroes hugged the Alpaca and just when I think.. well this is going to be hard to write yourself out off, they misinterpret a trope to end the deadlock.. surprising me.
In the first episode we see a monster called Shibuyaseitakaawadachisohidenagaaburamushi face of against the Akibarangers, a standard corporate monster villian that is defeated by the power of the Moe Moe Magnum, in the second they fight Shibuyakouzorinahigenagaaburamushi a monster that looks exactly the same.. but deems this racist and he tells the rangers there is a big difference between them. He has the power to induce nudeness in people.. but not like regular.. in real life he sells these sort of bubble screens that are skin coloured that you can lay over a the Aoi Tan anime character movie so it covers up her clothes so it seems nude.. he can create these screens for everyone! Trying to turn official dvd’s into bootleg versions of themselves and kill Akihabara’s degeneracy like that. However it is never revealed what the difference is. Until the Clip Show episode where the characters finally realise! The slow burn joke really made me cough up some soda. It would be kinda funny to reveal they actually have a difference but making the character realise after the season was so much better.
The mecha being a giant weeb car, the morpher being a anime figurine all seem like jokes but this all actually is somewhat believable interwoven in a story between father and child… because obviously the main villain is someone’s father..it’s a trope. Despite how weird the show is except for the twelfth episode it never really makes weird story stretches. Reveals in episode 9 make sense since there were hints since episode 1. Despite how utterly random the show feels all episodes have a part in the story and a place where the need to be and I was really amazed by it all. I felt like this was made for me and I very much look forward to delve further into season 2. I only know one spoiler for it! In this season they can harness the power of their Waifu.