Kamen Rider Decade Vs Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger Part 1
So here comes my big piece comparing the Tokusatsu anniversary shows Kamen Rider Decade and Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger. its a lengthy read so I’ll be splitting it into two posts for more managed reading. Anyway its pretty spoiler heavy so be warned if you’ve not seen Decade or are not up to date with Gokaiger
(This is Part 1.. Part 2 is here:)
With the Gokaiger series coming to the end and future movies notwithstanding, I thought it was a good time to look over this and the Decade series and see which of the two is better… OK that’s a bit redundant as I think the vast majority of you is going to go with Gokaiger as a far superior series and while I’m going to agree with you on most counts however I think it’s important to look back and see where each series succeeded and failed.
DECADE VS GOKAIGER
—– THE PREMISE: RIDER WAR VS THE SEARCH FOR THE GREATEST TREASURE
Both series are anniversary series and as such over the course of their run they interact with protagonists and antagonists from each series respective pasts. So to quickly sum up the story for each; Decade features Tsukasa Kadoya travelling between alternative universes to save the previous 9 Kamen Rider’s worlds from merging and being destroyed, Gokaiger on the other hand features Captain Marvelous and crew hunting down previous Sentai teams to obtain the their great powers to obtain the greatest treasure in the universe. That’s a simple summing up but I’ll go into more detail with each one, first off we’ll look at Kamen Rider Decade.
Decade as a show faces quite the handicap before it even starts in the story, while the Showa era Riders shows all took places in the same universe, featuring team ups of the Riders all the way up to Black RX when all previous Riders made an appearance. While the Heisei era riders all take place in different universe, Kuuga and Agito not withstanding, and the plot has to be based around getting all these universes to interact with each other. So the plot of worlds merging is created to force the interaction of these characters and the worlds begins to merge, life is threatened and Tsukasa becomes Kamen Rider Decade after being told he can help. Now given the series is now a few years old I see no reason to hold back on spoilers, the whole premises of the show is a lie, not just to the main character but the audience as well. Viewers expected to be seeing Decade interact with previous Rider characters, not just Rider forms. Obviously from a production standpoint the reuse of suits and props is easy, while getting actors to return isn’t so much, this is where Gokaiger has an obvious advantage given the Sentai series has a much larger back catalogue of ex cast to work with, but more the that later on.
What we get in Decade is a bunch of universes that are brand new, alternative worlds to the Riders we know where we see the same Riders but different people behind the rider suits, sharing similar names and character traits and life styles, with the occasional actual returning actor playing what I guess can be seen as a A.U. (alternative universe) twin. If this seems confusing it’s because it really is! Rarely within the show does it ever seem to make sense, even after the exploring the A.U. universes even more are introduced that throw in new stories not based on previous seasons of from before Kuuga was broadcast Rider Series or entirely new scenarios purely based at providing even more fan service. So what about story progression both overall and as episodic stories? Well it feels pointless to really look at Decade as a show with a great overarching story, what we get in that respect is 3 episodes; 1, 30 and 31. That’s only when we really get any resolutions to any part of the story, and what we get isn’t particularity good and actually leaves a ton of open questions that future movies don’t even address.
The first 2/3 of the series revolve around travelling across the proposed 9 A.U. Worlds, each 2 episodes having an arc for a world, with the occasional guest actor or voice returning… antagonists I’ll deal with at another point. The A.U. Worlds seem purely based around fan service, while the stories themselves aren’t always bad, allowing decade to use rider powers against particular riders e.g. Kamen Rider Knight vs. Kiva for example; the opening Rider War fight is essentially nothing but fan service and for the most part is completely ignored when the Rider war is referred to in later episodes. After the 9 worlds the others that are presented are actually quite interesting in themselves but provide very little in terms of overall narrative. It may seem like I’m just listing flaws of the show so let’s compare all this to Gokaiger and see why that succeeds in this respect.
The Sentai universe is set in stone, each team generally returning to help the following team in cross overs and anniversary movies, so there is already a history of returning actors, while Kamen Rider had only really seen suited riders return for the most part. But that’s not what’s important here, the writers do one thing here that really sets a promise that Gokaiger won’t be a repeat of Decade in its opening war scene, while a mirror of Decade in a way, it’s not so full of fan service other than showing all core ranger teams up to this point, it sets up the story buy having all 34 teams give up their power, so you know that from the start that when you see returning Sentai members they’ll have to be their actors in person and suit less, there’s no adding extra elements like A.U. Worlds to write away when actors can’t be obtained. Though the show has a much bigger history to draw from, while Decade mostly focused on the core riders of each show, and then only really delivering on getting some to return for minor parts in the series Gokaiger doesn’t always focus on returning characters, there are still plots focused on character development for the core Gokaigers as well as focusing on previous Sentai who weren’t Red or even the odd support character. While it’s true that Gokaiger had the benefit of time to learn from the mistakes made in Decade the fault should lie in the production of Decade for expecting fans to put up and even relate to the A.U. Riders when there not the original actors or even characters recast, two episodes for each means we never really get time to care for any of them, very important that given the fate of these worlds. When an actual actor did return it was great but if they were never going to be able to get main cast to return to the show then simple don’t write those characters into the show, don’t fill the episodes with poor replacement archetypes for them. It really is an all or nothing case.
—– PROTAGONISTS: RESIDENTS OF THE HIKARI STUDIO AND GOKAI GALLEON
- DECADE/GOKAI RED
The character of Decade are a mixed bunch, they don’t all seem to have a purpose in the story, obviously the first place to start is Decade himself; Tsukasa Kadoya. Now Tsukasa starts the series with no knowledge of where he comes from, little is revealed about him other than that he’s a crap photographer and a bit of a dick… OK a big dick, being generally put in his place by Natsumi (the counter to his attitude and balance everything out). After the warning from Wataru and becoming Decade he never really requires much persuasion into helping to save the worlds, while he’s almost always a complete ass to any fellow Rider he meets clearly believing himself to be the better off whoever he comes across this is made a worse character trait by the fact that whatever he does he tends to be excellent, even when he does something another character would be considered an expert at, despite having no real memory of his history in the series opening episode. It feels like her never really evolves (I’m excluding character development in the films.. notably the Daishocker one), he will lose a fight sometimes, make someone else learn a lesson to obtain their power, if there was a way to put a more positive spin on this you could say that Tsukasa is very empathetic despite acting as like an ass he does use it as a medium to push people to achieve their potential, generally the A.U. Riders but he himself doesn’t change, also despite being perfect at almost everything he does spend almost the whole series essentially be manipulated by others, the original Riders themselves, represented by Wataru and later Kenzaki in the finale of the series, again not to go into the movies but once free to actually be whatever he wants to be after the manipulation and consequences of his actions are revealed he just ends up becoming what everyone believes him to be, the destroyer of worlds, at least until his re birth mid-way through the Decade/W Movie wars.
In contrast to this we have Gokaigers Captain Marvelous, our Red Ranger and leader of the Gokaigers; he’s alien in the planet of Earth, only coming to the planet in search of the ultimate treasure. As a leader he’s perfect, inspiring loyalty in his crew and leading them into battle valiantly. Maybe his biggest character flaw is in whom he is, he’s a pirate, as everyone else is though his crew weren’t pirates before their contact with him. There are two sides to Marvelous; the pirate side that’s focused on their main objective and the more compassionate side, which he takes great lengths to hide. As a leader of a pirate crew any unselfish acts that he wishes to take has to be seen to be rooted in a pirate façade, for example the decision to defend a bunch of earth people from the first major attack is on Earth is justified by Marvelous as having his lunch ruined, making it look an act of revenge rather than concern for people’s safety. As a character he receives a lot of personal development from reference to events in his past, the Death of Aka Red while saving him and the betrayal of Basco, a fellow Red Pirate from his past, giving him a revenge vendetta against him as well as a rival, as he also seeks the greatest treasure. With the series not quite over yet it will be interesting to see if this trait of hiding his compassion is more directly address when they obtain the great treasure and are faced with defending the earth once they have no need to be there any more.
- DIEND / GOKAI SILVER
Introduced at the start of the second ‘act’ of each show is the secondary main rider/ 6th team member for Sentai, in this case Kaito Daiki (KR Diend) and Ikari Gai (Gokai Silver). Now these characters often get the second most development of the protagonists, and that especially true for KR usually with less main cast as a rule; so there being rated higher as characters then the rest of either; their team (Gokai) and Kuuga (Decade) who travels with Decade. While not always a team member or even team player the plot tends to take a more series change with the introduction of these characters, symbolising the team being in a new high of strength or the threat upped that the main Rider just can’t compete at the current status quo.
Kaito is introduced while Decade is in the A.U. Blade world but doesn’t transform into DiEnd until the A.U. Faiz world. It’s made clear that he knows more about Tsukasa then Tsukasa does. They have a past of sorts but will mostly refuses to share what it is, he’s a thief that steals items he believes are they the treasures of each world, while he is occasionally successful in the escapades there’s never any use of them after each worlds arc. As a person he is similar to Tsukasa as well, there’s no great comparison between them unlike; say Shotaro and Ryu (W and Accel) or Tendou and Kagami (Kabuto and Gatack). There generally dicks to each other and everyone they meet, they have a lot of character traits they share but these traits stop them from being friends, for the duration of the series at least. DiEnd’s powers rival that of Decades, while he can’t transform into other riders he can summon them and usually does rather than fight himself. This style of combat is more akin to a villain then one of the protagonists, and while he’s almost introduced at such to start off with he does fight when he wants to when he believes the upper hand… I suppose that does fit his nature as a thief. They both have access to the Final Form Ride cards but have the bonus of being able to summon a rider to use them on unlike Decade. When you do eventually see where Kaito comes from he finally get some character development and begins to change and become more one of the team, even though he keeps up his thieving ways as usual in every world, he interacts with everyone more and is more helpful.
Ikari Gai doesn’t share any character traits with Kaito generally other than being the second act addition to the main cast. Even from their first meeting he tries to help out the Gokaigers and prove that he’s worthy of being part of the team. Guy is an Earthling, in contrast to the rest of the Gokaigers and tends to be understood by Doc and Ahim (Pink and Green) being the more compassionate team members and lesser fighters of the group. He’s a very hyper individual and is always trying to help and joins the team as soon as they allow him to, unlike a lot of previous Sentai 6th members. His story is explained early on and small hints that not all is as it seems with him are dropped in between episodes which is a nice lead up to the finale is these parts are addressed. After risking his life to save a child he ended up in hospital and in his dreams is visited by the spirits of Abare Killer, Dragon Ranger and Time Fire, who give him the power of Gokai Silver and their own ultimate powers in the form of his mecha. When it comes to small hints about his character everything is done subtlety which is great as it makes you work for knowledge about him, if you don’t know your history on the Sentai you miss nothing either as normal hints are also dropped and if you don’t pick up on them you’ll just get the surprise if these things are addressed, for example the 3 rangers that give him the power are all additional members who died, as Gokai Silver his attacks all seem to have the word ‘dream’ in the name, the same for only having to wish about ranger keys and he’s able to create them al la Go-on Wings and Gokai Christmas and finally his in-ability to see other dead Sentai like the Jetman Sentai; Black Condor. There’s a lot of expansion here that’s done bit by bit, he’s really a character for the fans with his extreme knowledge of past Sentai he’s a valued asset to the Gokaigers as well as the viewer in explaining the history of other teams, informing everyone in the most energetic of ways, everything he does is literally fan service!
In comparison to DiEnd; Gai is the superior character, the person the viewers who grew up with Sentai will relate to most as he appeals to the inner child of everyone, just running around and striking Sentai poses. DiEnd provides very little to the overall plot outside of his own world’s story in Decade, while he’s created to a lot provide fan service in the form of summoning secondary Riders into combat he’s underused as a character and just purely used to fill the slot of summing those Riders. Even his role as a thief isn’t really justified, to what purpose does he really want all these treasures? Also given he never really wants to be part of the solution of the world’s colliding that Decade is trying to solve does he really not explain everything to him about his past and the consequences of his actions? Given that as a thief he allows his compassion and sense of honour to make him give up his items yet it doesn’t affect him on a grand lifesaving scale. Gai on the other hand wears his heart of his sleeves and takes every chance to help everyone out who needs help, generally forcing the other Gokaigers into helping to as they don’t understand why he wants to help, usually make them grow and evolve themselves and humanising them as well.
- OTHER PROTAGONISTS
Now the rest of the main casts of each show get unfortunately lumped here, as I’ll go on forever and I think it’s better to treat the rest of the characters as groups for their respective show as it brings up better comparisons between the two shows. So for Decade we have Natsumi, Eijiero, and Yuusuke and to an extent Kivala (She’ll get a half mention here and half with Villains). On the Gokaiger side we have the Green, Blue, Yellow and Pink Gokaigers (Doc, Ahim, Joe and Luka) and Navi.
This time I’m starting with Gokaiger as for what they do different; as every Sentai team generally has some sort of support group that helps them out, a team/ friends/ headquarters. However Gokaiger as a show condenses on this as much as possible. Theme of the series is pure nostalgia and with so much to get in from the past it makes perfect sense to cut back on things that can be gone by without using, or condensed into 1 characters part. For example there is no external group to help the Gokaigers save for Navi, who’s presence is purely as a McGuffin (Albeit a talking one) She spouts clues about where the next ultimate power is, which anything could really do and never really gets much use outside of this role, though the occasional bit of help in a few episodes). The same can be said for the Gokai Galleon, which is a mecha and contains bunch of mecha inside it. So everything they need to function as a team is there, the ability to fight giant monsters, search for treasure and travel the galaxy 80% of the times if fulfilled by one thing! The individual mecha outside the ship never get or need an explanation and the Gokai-Oh never gets replaced during the show,, while it does get a ton of upgrades through various Sentai ultimate powers which is something that harks back to Sentai teams before Kakuranger.
Most Sentai teams, and Power Ranger equivalents tend to follow a general formula when it comes to the personalities of each member, generally being extremes of whatever character trait they embellish, for example the blond girly-girl or technical genius.. If you want a near perfect example of this the watch the first season of Digimon which has the 8 kids all displaying different character types dialled to their specific extremes. But getting back on track their core Gokaigers don’t generally follow this formula. Their personalities aren’t set at extremes and most have character flaws that are expanded on, again unlike most teams the Gokaigers are pre-established and have known each other for a while before the series opener which means they are all friends and work as a team, complementing each other’s strengths and working together to overcome limits as well as having undertones and surprising backgrounds that get fully explored, Joe’s history as part of Zangyack, Ahim’s wanting to be a pirate as a symbol to her fallen planet’s where she was a princess, Doc’s following through on his promises, even when being lied to and attempt to better himself as a fighter and Luka’s past and love of material possessions and money… or anything of value. The point is that again having a pre-established team with a history that’s explored throughout the series allows time to add far more time to deal with guest stories, and being an anniversary show knowing how the previous Sentai have changed over the years is just as important.
Now let’s look a Decade’s cast of misfits, Tsukasa travels through the worlds with the family that took him in when he appeared with no memory of where he came from; will address Natsumi first as the lead girl of the show. She’s haunted by dreams that Decade will destroy the worlds, something that all villains in the show try to drive home to her; she also acts as a moral ground for Tsukasa to put him in his place when he’s being an ass, though he never really manages to make him stop for long. Every Rider series has a supporting female, Natsumi falls into the strong moral grounded type, despite everyone (even her dreams) telling her Tsukasa is evil she believes in him, it’s hard to say there’s much more to her then this, she rarely acts out on her own aside from in a few worlds they visit where she gets a bigger focus. Like Tsukasa her development is limited for the series, saving it for the movies instead. u very possibly gets the most development throughout the Decade series, he’s the A.U. Version of Kamen Rider Kuuga, he is the Tertiary Rider of the series, while only rarely will he Henshin, and also become Kamen Rider G3 for a while in Agito’s A.U. World, he’s introduced at the end of the first episode when Decade ends up in his world first, which makes the first few episodes devoted to him, Agito is essentially devoted to him as well when characters in that world resemble people he knew from before (remember in the normal world Kuuga and Agito share the same universe) Aside from that because as a Rider he also embodies the spirit of going it alone he’s content to wander off in world’s on his own, having his own mini arcs within the A.U. Worlds, developing him further as you get to see his opinions which often don’t match that of other riders, while still always being at decade’s side when needed in a fight. I would say that Yuusuke is the closest we get to the character the audience relates too in Decade, you get to see his reaction to Decade ‘invading’ his world from his perspective as he only knows him as the destroyer of worlds yet decides to travel with him and help him in the other worlds. Kuuga was probably chosen as the first of the new generation of Riders, again to provide fan service. Next up is Kivala, the series trade make half CG half on set toy character, Navi also fills this role for Gokaiger, yet Kivala isn’t a true protagonist, her motives are shrouded in mystery, she’s a spy but it’s never explained to what ends, given what happens in the later movies its assumed that she eventually warms to Decade and the gang, I’ll cover her more with Narutaki later though. So finally we get to Eijiero, the wise old man of the group and Natsumi’s Grandfather, though he’s only occasionally wise and more just a nice person (in the movies its up for debate), he’s the owner of the Hikari studio but never seems to extend to being any actual use, I can’t even remember him leaving the place in the series. He does nothing for the plot and even in the movie it makes no sense why he’s part of Dai Shocker, does that make him Evil in some degree? Why does he side with them? Is the first Decade movie the same as the second where it’s the Shinigami memory that makes him do all the bad? None of this gets an explanation and I doubt it ever will.
But how do these two teams compare when you compare them against each other. While first off you have to note the dynamics of the two teams wildly differ, as Gokaiger all go into battles together the Decade household generally doesn’t always see Tsukasa fight, sometimes with him returning in a bloody state, this causes more rifts when handled by someone who has to see the fighting but never gets to help out. At least that would be the normal case for a Rider series; however this isn’t quite the case in Decade as Tsukasa rarely loses his fights being an example of the unbeatable warrior as he retains his ability to use the Decade Rider powers despite losing his memory. While Natsumi’s character seems out of place, given that everyone seems to think he’ll destroy the world it should probably inspire more faith in him as a fighter at the very least, Eijiero actually is the one who does this more often than not, akin to Tendou’s little sister in Kabuto who never worries and always believes in him. There is always an element of tension with personal issues within the group, and while these issues are dramatic, they are never the focus of the show, the world their currently visiting each which given that there all recast rider’s playing different versions of the characters it’s pointless as were never going to care about the A.U. worlds inhabitants as (save for Kuuga) never get development and never hang around aside from a few cameos in the finale, they should have focused on either one or the other. Gokaiger on the other hand knows where its strengths lie, the core team just that; a team. They live together, fight together and loose together; making them stronger as a whole and when it comes to doing a character focused episode that’s on one of the Gokaigers this episode is generally free of previous Sentai cameos in favour of that core team character development, yet still finds a way to provide fan service. It manages to pull off both aspects of what Decade was trying to do by simple dedicating them to their own episodes and not mixing them in with other stories.
[that's it for the first half of the review, In Part 2 I cover the antagonists of the shows and how each one ends]
Posted on 02/08/2012, in Articles, Toku Review and tagged akaranged, akared, apollo geist, basco, black rx, dai shocker, decade, diend, go-onger, gokai silver, gokaiger, ikari gai, kabuto, kaizoku, kamen, kiva, kuuga, marvellous, marvelous, pirate ranger, power rangers, Reviews, rider, ryatta, ryuki, sentai, Shinkenger, tsukasa kadoya, yuusuke ondora, zangyack, zyuranger. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.