I’m glad to say my favorite tokusatsu series of 2009 hits close to home – Power Rangers RPM. Undoubtedly the best Power Rangers series in recent years, Power Rangers RPM is sadly the final entry in the 16-year-old franchise for the foreseeable future. Disney is giving Power Rangers a break, beginning with re-airing the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers series in its place. Remarkably enough, RPM ended its run on the last Saturday of the year and decade, as well as on the 700th episode of the franchise.
The series harks back to older Power Ranger series by taking a Super Sentai show’s stock footage to make a story that has nothing to do with the original Super Sentai series. With Earth facing Armageddon, our last hope in the single human city left is the Power Rangers RPM team. The series mixes drama and comedy into a compelling plot that somehow never forgets its a kids’ show. Just as they stood at the edge of humanity, the show stood at the edge of Saturday-morning live-action hero series and fought the good fight as long as it could. Hopefully the franchise itself will embrace the finale’s hint that the good fight is not quite over.
For a rarity, I get to even pick a specifically favorite Kamen Rider series. 2009 featured three series premiers – Kamen Rider Decade, Kamen Rider W and the American adaptation Kamen Rider Dragon Knight. Kamen Rider W (pronounced “double”) outshines both in terms of plot, characters and entertainment.
Premiering in September after the end of Decade, W is a refreshing throwback to the franchise’s original superhero feel with a good mix of seriousness and silliness and mystery in each story. The main characters and villains’ chemistry meshes well. Each episode has been consistently good since it began.
Unfortunately, despite a large amount of promise and potential in being the Kamen Rider Crisis on Infinite Earths, Kamen Rider Decade just falls short. Kamen Rider Dragon Knight, while an okay attempt at starting an American Kamen Rider franchise (and being far superior to Saban’s mid-‘90s Masked Rider), was plagued with a slow climb at the start for the actors to get into their roles and diverging plot lines leading to unfulfilled plot threads.
However, despite its failings, Decade has my favorite moment of the year, thanks to an old ‘80s show I’ve been catching up on. That’s right – Tetsuo Kurata returning as Kotaro Minami/Kamen Rider BLACK/Kamen Rider BLACK RX in episodes 26 and 27 of Kamen Rider Decade. Thanks to finding copies of the original 1987 Kamen Rider BLACK series, I’ve been spending the year slowly catching up. Sure, that particular arc isn’t necessarily cohesive or makes much sense when you try to think about it. Still, you sometimes have to make certain cerebral compromises for amazing moments.
Next year brings us the new Super Sentai series Tensou Sentai Goseiger, continuing of Kamen Rider W and re-airing of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers in the States. No new Japanese tokusatsu super heroes in the US is depressing, but hopefully a short dry spell will reinvigorate the market for 2011.
Favorite New Show:
Power Rangers RPM
Favorite New Kamen Rider Series:
Kamen Rider W
Kamen Riders BLACK and BLACK RX in Kamen Rider Decade
Best Looking Forward:
Buying re-releases of MMPR Megazord and Dragonzord