Akibaranger – A Season of Pain

It was about this time last year that Akibaranger finished its first season. I wrote about how the Power Rangers/Super Sentai parody was one of the finest tributes to this or any other franchise and how it wormed its way into my cold, mechanical heart-like organ. When season two was announced earlier this year I completely flipped my shit, ignoring the alarm bells in the back of my mind and the accompanying whisper of skepticism.

First Warning: If you have not seen the first season of Akibaranger, I highly suggest you go do so now. Not only is it fantastic television, but I will also be spoiling it from this point onwards.

The way the first season developed, I was having trouble seeing how the show could carry on. They faced literally ultimate threat: the creator of their universe. It turned the fun, lighthearted parody into something a lot more serious after a handful of episodes, culminating in a wonderful and complete reversal by the final episode. I mentioned in my review of last series that the lighthearted parodies were sort of cut-off before they got a bit boring, predictable or repetitive. Parody elements persisted, but they consisted a lot more of meta-humour regarding behind-the-scenes production and executive meddling, where each episode managed to incorporate a twist that escalated this. It was perfectly paced, smartly written and had myself and many others yearning for more.

The skeptic inside me wondered how the new season could work. I knew from pre-release material that it would be set in an “alternate reality”, and there’d be a new villain working with last season’s villainess Malshina. This made sense to a degree: if the stakes couldn’t be raised any further, I feared that the character’s knowledge of being inside a show would grow tiring and navel gazing quite quickly.

A screencap of new villain, General Pain

Best character

What I didn’t expect was for season two to so expertly use my own over-analysing nature against me. We know that Saburo Hatte exists, even if the characters do not, and we know how he manipulates the world of Akibaranger. As weird as that sounds when technically this is true of all TV, what it resulted in was me pouring over every twist, cliffhanger and story beat between episodes trying to figure out what THE ANGLE™ was. Each episode left me thinking about some new theory for the world, going over the details and trying to fit what I saw as a jigsaw puzzle together.

While this was great at the start to get me hooked into the new season, by episode six it had lost it. I mean exactly episode six; I didn’t notice at first as I’d become used to the new formula of the show. This new formula – while different from the first season’s overall arc – basically carried on the types of stories from the first few episode of Akibaranger by playing on the pure story tropes of the Super Sentai series/general fiction.

Unfortunately, what I had feared with the first series ended up coming true. These type of stories started to get a little stale without the same mind-blowing cliffhangers or revelations from the first season, and although they added little bits to very subtly foreshadow the ending, the final plan was set in motion far too late. By the time the last episode or two aired it felt more like they had to quickly wrap it up, forgoing the excellent sense of pace from the previous season. While the final episode was quite good, it didn’t really make up for the rest of the season.

Not to say it was awful! I very much enjoyed watching season two. It just never reached the highs of the first season.

The author in cosplay representing cardboard version of Akiba Red's super mode costume

I liked season two! I even did cosplay inspired by it.

Second Warning: If you feel I’ve been going into spoiler territory already, then stop reading now and watch season two. I will be going into some specifics. My main point though will be that I do not want a season three.

As the Akibarangers said right at the end, a season three could come around if the producers feel like it. While season two was not as well executed as season one, it at the very least showed they could do something to bring it back. The reason I don’t want a season three can be explained with events that occurred in season two.

Although I don’t know the reason, and I don’t think there’s any information regarding it, replacing Mitsuki with Luna as Akiba Blue was my least favourite part of the show. I can see why from as story perspective: her character arc was done, she was now basically a proper Sentai otaku and they could no longer have her as a surrogate for the audience to explain Super Sentai knowledge to. I much preferred Mitsuki’s character though and she brought a good balance to the team as the best fighter. Super Sentai is usually so poorly gender-balanced that it was nice to have a mostly female cast, and for one of them to be technically the most competent ranger. Sure, on a couple of occasions it was down to Nobuo to save the day and he was the leader, however equally she saved the day at least the same number of times. Compare this to the current Sentai series Kyoryuger with 10 males rangers and two female rangers that barely get to do anything, and it’s a giant step forward.

The cast of the live action Sailor Moon TV show

More like Bishoujo Sentai Sailoranger please

While the addition of Luna meant they could play up the comedy aspects of the fight scenes a little more, this did end up with more situations where Nobuo had to save the day, especially as he was the only one with a super mode. Generally I don’t think the fights were as good this time, relying more on tributes and reference-heavy fight scenes that, while excellent, were also very short.

Replacing Luna means that with the Akibaranger dead they could probably replace the entire cast. Give them new morphers, sell more toys. I’m fine with the sell more toys thing, whatever helps finance the show, but there’d always be parallels and comparisons to the original and the writing could easily deteriorate further.

As Chris Nolan’s Batman said, you either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain. In the case of TV, finishing on a high note would be great.

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