Officially unofficial sentai themed late night drama06 June, 2013 by Chad
Akibaranger is a difficult show to explain. Even the series’ name is a bit of a misnomer, and despite being called “unofficial” the show is created by the same people at Toei who’ve made some of the beloved Sentai and Kamen Rider tokusatsu. But instead of being the usual low-budget, live-action superhero flicks targeted at children, the team uses the tokusatsu idea loosely to deliver a novel, at many times hilarious after hours comedy.
Unofficial Sentai Akibaranger has been out for quite a while, a whole year to be precise but it’s only recently that I’ve been starting to go through some of the tokusatsu series. Having exhausted most of the newer rider series, I decided to give this whimsical show a try, and wasn’t disappointed.
Like most tokusatsu, Akibaranger stars a token D-Boy, Wada Masato, together with an assortment of model actresses. Akibaranger ups the ante though by including Hinami Kyoko, Ogino Karin, Uchida Maaya, Aikawa Kozue and Honoka (yes, that Honoka). Given its late night timeslot, the show includes its fare share of fan service, though surprisingly less so than others. Instead, the staff at Toei have taken this opportunity to tackle many interesting topics, that would had been otherwise impossible in a standard tokusatsu.
At its core, Akibaranger is a parody of tokusatsu. The entire series story is based around the drama’s heroes being unofficial sentai rangers, thus the name. Since it’s an official Toei production, it makes plenty of direct references to older sentai series but because it isn’t part of the usual sentai continuity, the producers have plenty of freedom to play around with the idea. The show pokes fun at tokusatsu, film making conventions and the production staff of the show itself. It’s nice to see the folks at Toei not taking themselves too seriously.
But the fun doesn’t stop there. Thanks to the format of the show, its able to get away with a much more abstract plot then conventional dramas. The producers use this to their advantage to provide satire on not just tokusatsu, but also otaku, internet and Japanese culture. While fans of tokusatsu might pick up on more hidden references, the majority of the show allows that anyone with a general understanding of Japan should find Akibaranger quite enjoyable.
To call Unofficial Sentai Akibaranger as simply a parody or sentai for adults would not be giving it full credit. Despite being a parody, the show’s ideas come across as really fresh. Akibaranger begins looking like a tokusatsu, but delves increasingly further away as the show progresses. There’s also a surprising amount of depth and Akibaranger actually brings up some heavy topics that will have you thinking. In the end, it would be best to tackle the show from the perspective of a late night drama, and in this aspect, it shines. So much that it has warranted a second season which is nearing completion as well. It airs at 2.30 past midnight on BS Asahi every Friday.
In an entirely unconventional move, Bandai has made the entire first season of Unofficial Sentai Akibaranger available on YouTube to Asian countries outside Japan for free. They’ve even been conveniently been subbed into Chinese and English for viewers. Do check it out if you have the chance! Like most Japanese dramas, the first episode is mostly just there to establish the show’s premise and characters, so may a bit dull, but the series picks up pace quickly after.
Here’s the playlist for the full episodes of the entire season one of Unofficial Sentai Akibaranger with English subtitles. It ate up an entire 5-6 hours of my Sunday afternoon.