“On a search for adventure and excitement, these youths went on a journey through the universe. They faced the Space Empire Zangyack and took the title of ‘pirates’. They are…Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger!”
It’s high time Super Sentai made its way into this blog. For those who don’t know, it’s a Japanese tokusatsu show about teams of brightly-colored spandex heroes fighting with martial arts and colossal mecha. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the battle scenes are adapted for Power Rangers. It’s also much, much better. Starting with Himitsu Sentai Gorenger in 1975, a new pentachromatic team has battled the rubber-suited forces of evil every year. The show is currently celebrating it’s 40th anniversary (the 40th team, not 40th year) with Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger, and to commemorate the event, the animal task force will team up with the 35th anniversary’s team: Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger.
Gokaiger was the series that hooked me on Power Rangers’s superior Japanese counterpart. Instead of a plucky crew of teenagers saving the world, it stars a flippant band of alien space pirates who come to Earth in search of the Greatest Treasure in the Universe and get tangled up in a space empire’s invasion plot along the way. Oh, and they can transform into every other Ranger team. The Gokaigers themselves are all entertaining and badass, (most of) the villains are great, and the fight scenes and SFX are some of the best the tokusatsu genre has to offer.
Plus, it starts with this amazing scene featuring 200+ rangers:
As you might guess, if they’re being featured on the motivation and self improvement blog, they have some awesome lessons to teach us about seizing our own dreams.
A Marvelous Leader
The undeterred yet independent spirit of the Gokaiger team is epitomized by its stylish leader and red ranger, Captain Marvelous. He’s flippant, rude, and quick to violence, yet he’s also intensely curious, loyal to his crew, and never wavers once his mind is set on a new target. He does everything with flare, even down to his trademark battle cry, “Let’s make a show of it!”
In most modern Super Sentai series, red rangers typically go through ‘insecure n00b learning to lead’ arcs. Gokaiger takes a different route by showing Marvelous’s skill in leadership from the start. He respects and acknowledges the contributions of every team member (with the occasional good-natured ribbing). He has a natural eye for talent and brings it out in others through genuine encouragement and never flattery. The fastest way to get on Marvelous’s bad side is to threaten his team, as Basco (a former crewmate who betrayed Marvelous and their mentor AkaRed) found out when he nearly killed the rest of the team and gets single-handedly defeated by the Captain.
Despite all of this, Marvelous balances humility towards his team by never losing sight of the goal. He reminds the crew of their mission when they veer off course. He admits he doesn’t actually know what this mysterious Greatest Treasure in the Universe is. All he knows is that he wants it.
The pirates’ second-in-command, Joe, teaches us a different lesson. He reaches for his dreams not through reckless spontaneity, but through discipline and pushing his skills and strength forward every waking moment. He’s without a doubt the most talented swordsman on the team, and trained under one of the best in the galaxy (more on that in a moment). During scenes the rest of the team lounges around their ship, Joe is usually found doing pushups or practicing his swordsmanship. It pays off in dividends, too. An embarrassing defeat at the hands of an alien attacker drives him to create a five-sword fighting style. How’s that for innovation under pressure?
The dedication to perfection does not close him off to loved ones, though. He’s fiercely loyal to Marvelous after the captain saved his life from bounty hunters and that loyalty expanded to the rest of the Gokaigers. Once he discovered his assumed-dead best friend and mentor Sid had been twisted into a robotic servant for the Zangyack (known as Barizorg), Joe subjected himself to numerous beatings and defeats at the hands of the cyborg in the vain hope of rescuing him. The only release Joe can give Sid is death, but a thank you from the departing spirit gives him the closure he needed.
Reaching our dreams takes effort, discipline, and self improvement to overcome the odds. Joe exhibits these traits in spades.
Hedonism Comes in Yellow
Fans of Gokaiger will probably be wondering by now what kind of motivational lessons or upstanding morals I’ll derive from Luka. Greed drives her, an attitude arguably the most fitting of a pirate, after a childhood in squalor. Her entire reason for joining Marvelous’s crew was the allure of the most precious treasure in the universe, but the most valuable. She makes no secret her her desire to profit either, and acts more flippant and dismissive than Marvelous. So what are we supposed to learn from her?
Despite her love for money and jewels bordering on hedonism, there is an altruistic motive to it all. After losing her sister when the Zangyack attacked her home planet, she resolved to improve the lives of the orphaned survivors, even if it meant buying an entire planet to do so. All of the jewels and riches she steals have a purpose. When they reach the Greatest Treasure, she plans to create a planetary paradise for children orphaned by the Zangyack, even if she’ll probably keep a cache of jewels for herself.
To paraphrase that cheesy Phil Collins song from Tarzan, she takes strength from those that need her.
A Doc of Improvisation
With a crew that includes a charismatic outlaw captain, a master swordsman, a savage yet beautiful thief, and the princess of a destroyed world, it’s hard for for a dorky everyman to stand out. Such is the case of Don, AKA ‘Doc’, AKA Gokai Green. He fulfills the standard Super Sentai trope of the green ranger acting as the resident goober of the team. While Joe and Luka practice flashy swordfighting, Don’s fighting style looks more like Charlie Chaplin trained him in the art of martial slapstick. He’s clumsy, runs from fights if he has no teammate support, and uses the environment as a weapon more often than his Gokai Guns.
And yet, his lack of battle prowess never discourages him. His talents lie in ingenuity. In addition to cooking and cleaning the ship (a nightmarish job in itself), he repairs their technology. His improvised solutions have helped the team out of numerous tight spots against alien monsters. Don overcame his jealousy of Gai (Gokai Silver) to devise a special attack that combined the powers of fifteen rangers at once, something no one else on the team had thought possible.
On our undertakings and efforts in life, we find ourselves seemingly overshadowed by people with superior talent and skill. Don faces insecurity about his usefulness to the team often, but he uses it as impetus to find new ways to be useful. When best laid plans fail, ingenuity and improvisation shine.
The Heart Bleeds Pink
Don had the benefit of mechanical skills compensating for his lack of battle prowess, but princess Ahim of the doomed planet Famille (look at all that gracious, faux French) lacked even that. Her clumsiness made attempts at cooking and cleaning laughable. As you might expect of a former princess, she was also embarrassingly naiive. It may sound like she was recruited out of pity, but she quickly proved to have an invaluable contribution of her own.
Ahim quickly established herself as a peacemaker among the bickering crew. Her courteous attitude makes her a natural diplomat (especially when dealing with Earthlings) and she’s the most likely to resolve a conflict peacefully. This being a kids’ action show, that rarely works out, but it’s a nice contrast to the three stubborn hotheads and a coward she travels with.
Conflict in life is inevitable. Disagreements and incompatible goals happen. They cannot always be resolved, but a peaceful resolution leaves behind friends instead of enemies. A burnt bridge is awfully difficult to cross, and Ahim does her best to prevent her teammates from lighting the fires.
With the power to transform into any previous ranger, it’s only appropriate that a member of the Gokaiger crew be well-versed in Super Sentai history. Sixth ranger (and Earthling) Gai lives a diehard’s dream of becoming a ranger after a lifetime of obsessive admiration. Every veteran hero they meet is a fangirl moment for him, and he relishes every moment of fighting for peace and justice. More importantly though, his heroic tendencies predated his superpowers.
Marvelous did not gift Gai his Gokai powers. His powers came as a gift from fallen rangers as a reward for throwing himself in front of a car to save a little girl and nearly killing himself in the process. He jumped into a dangerous situation to do the right thing, just as the Sentai heroes he idealized did. He uses the example they set as inspiration and guidance for his own life.
Having heroes and idols to aspire to can give us guidance when we’re lost, a moral compass when we doubt our own, and inspiration to overcome obstacles like they did. Gai’s admiration of the Sentai teams that came before him gave him a higher calling, a source of betterment, and heroic aspirations that eventually helped save the world.
Let’s Go, Let’s Gokaiger!
You might guess, oh, they’re like any other Rangers or Sentai team and will expound justice, standing up for what’s right, and the occasional hippy environmental spiel. These space pirates are not your typical team. They’re ruthless, defiant of authority, mostly unconcerned with the fate of Earth, and openly state they’re there to hunt for treasure. Saving humans from monsters is incidental. They eventually come around to caring about Earth, but that never overtakes their desire to claim the Greatest Treasure.
They fight evil not to do good, but to seize their own dreams.
When the Gokaigers discover they must attain the ‘Greater Power’ of the thirty-four previous Sentai teams to capture the Greatest Treasure, they face a drawn-out ringer of moral lessons to impress a parade of past Ranger actor cameos. Usually, they had to learn some lesson that a prior team’s season epitomized, such as the kung fu-themed Gekiranger promoting discipline and dedication. Through the quest for something unrelated to heroics, they each become better people along the way.
Some would say this neutered the team from antihero pirates to stuffy do-gooders, but there is a wonderful lesson in all of these Aesops: In the journey to make our dreams reality, we improve ourselves. It’s like an RPG quest. We build new skills, make new connections, and learn things about ourselves in ways we wouldn’t have before. Very often, the self improvement we cultivated along the way is more valuable than whatever treasure or trinket awaits at the end of the road.
The moral of Gokaiger shines when the team discovers that they too have a Greater Power: the Power to Seize Dreams. Through hundreds of battles and thousands of foes, the team never deterred from their quest for the Greatest Treasure. They teach us to stick to our desires, blast away any obstacles or people in the way, do it with style and never let life’s bullshit shift you off course.
Sail on, Space Pirates.