Thez’s Note: This was originally written over a month ago, when Akibaranger finished. I didn’t feel like it was ready at the time, and have now rewritten a lot of it. Enjoy!
Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger has finished, the officially unofficial parody of Japanese Power Rangers and otaku culture that has had many people, including myself, losing their shit on a weekly basis.
For the past 13 weeks I’ve been following the adventures of the Akibarangers, three Japanese otaku who (presumably) live, work, or go to school in the Akihabara district in Tokyo. This centre of nerd and geek culture in Japan is under attack from the neighbouring districts, who wish to cleanse Tokyo of Akiba and it’s otaku, with only the Akibarangers in the way of the self titled “Blatantly Evil Guerilla Marketers”. Only, it’s all in their heads.
The show’s amazing entertainment stems from the self-aware nature of the characters, people living in the real world where Power Rangers and its Japanese originator Super Sentai are just TV shows. The Red Akibaranger, Nobuo Akagi, is a Sentai Otaku. Thanks to his obsession with the Super Sentai series, he’s constantly referencing the tropes in each of the episodes, coming up with cliche solutions to all of them. The tropes aren’t just centred around specific Power Rangers stuff either, with a lot of generic fiction cliches not safe from parody. Brainwashing, imposters, monologuing, and even Chekhov’s guns are called out and addressed appropriately.
The team of three rangers is rounded out with Akiba Blue, Mitsuki Aoyagi, and Akiba Yellow, Yumeria Moegi. Mitsuki is a high school Martial Artist, with a secret love of the show-within-a-show Anime Z-Cune Aoi, a popular cartoon in the world of Akibaranger. She starts off reluctant to properly join in on the poses and roll calls commonly used in Sentai, before warming up over the course of the show.
Yumeria is a young office worker who is obsessed with cosplay, appearing in a different costume in almost every episode. She also draws fan work, doujinshi, which usually involves her love of homosexual men. It’s a great mixture of stereotypes that are a lot more realistic than the haphazard concoction found in something like the Big Bang Theory.
The powers of the Akibaranger are derived from their “delusions”, their day dreams as nerds. Thanks to their active imaginations, they constantly attribute trivial aspects of day to day life to being the work of their imaginary foes. Thanks to their limited edition Z-Cune Aoi action figures, they can mentally link their fantasies and morph into their ranger forms – at least in their minds. It’s just like being on the playground again, although this time nobody’s arguing over who gets to be the Red Ranger.
If you’ve read this far, you may be wondering how long such a premise can last before they run out of jokes. You’d be right to worry about this, and that is why over the course of this relatively short show (one fifth of a normal super sentai season of 50ish episodes) there are enough twists and turns to keep you constantly on the edge of your seat. It’s an amazing show, combining story and humour in such a way that you never know what’s going to happen next – even if you think you do.
What now though that Akiabranger is over? For those that have seen it, you’ll understand when I say it’s difficult to continue without perhaps retreading old ground. For the moment, there’s a secret episode that will come out on DVD by the end of the year, and the cast are doing a Radio Show about their time on the series which is quite interesting. I myself have sent an email to the radio show (in mangled Japanese) praising it, and would be interested in seeing a Power Rangers adaptation of it.
Is that enough now? Sure, I’d love to see more, but I also don’t want my time with the show ruined with a needless sequel. For now though, I urge anyone with even the merest hint of Power Rangers nostalgia to give it a watch.