Here’s the Thing – That Old Super Sentai Magic

A monthly glimpse into whatever gaming bugaboo Rob’s got on his mind.

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This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #92. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.

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I gave up on Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers shortly after seeing the first movie in theaters. From what I can remember, it was a combination of being disappointed with that travesty as well as outgrowing the series as a whole. I was around 13 to 14 at the time, so I wanted to distance myself from all that kid stuff because “I’m an adult now,” dammit.

Of course, as a young fan, I owned the original Megazord, Dragonzord and Titanus toys. I even went so far as to get hold of the Red Dragon Thunderzord (but not any of the others in that series). I liked them well enough, but eventually decided to sell them off via yard sales and whatnot. Then I more or less forgot that these toys, and any that came after, existed – up until the tail end of 2016. That’s when my renewed interest in Transformers began to overlap with Power Rangers and a whole other can of worms I didn’t even realize existed had been open.

Now I love me my Transformers, I do, but here’s the thing: there’s something downright magical about super sentai (i.e. Power Rangers) toys that Transformers have yet to tap into. They’re more fun in a tactile sense due to their general size, sturdiness and the oh-so-satisfying clicking sounds they often make as parts slide around and lock into various places. There are some noticeable differences between the American and Japanese versions, though, as the American toys tend to be a bit smaller, less dense, and not as detailed (though they are cheaper). The transformations are usually simplistic, but large chunks of robot/train/animal/what-have-you shift in interesting ways that trump the typical “rotate waist 180 degrees, flip car hood down over chest, etc” motions that are far too common for both Autobots and Decepticons.

All that matters is that they’re fun to play with and they look fucking rad. 

The sheer level of creativity found in these toys is incredible. Take Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger, for example. I’ve been in awe of just how much the designers have been able to do with cubes ever since I handled my first set, which can transform into several cube animals and combine to make larger more humanoid mecha. Placing a cube in a particular spot can suddenly make small molded fist details stand out solely due to contextual positioning – usually accompanied by a very satisfying “thunk” as everything clicks together. Shift pieces around to change a silhouette slightly and a box becomes a shark.

It goes much deeper than this, of course. Remember, I’ve missed out on over 20 years worth of toys. Ressha Sentai ToQger cleverly locks trains together to create large and colorful robots, as well as weapons and other accessories for them. The Astro Megazord from Power Rangers in Space evokes a classic (like wind-up and made of tin classic) toy robot aesthetic that I can’t help but adore. Samurai Sentai Shinkenger uses an origami/folded paper motif to great effect, includes a few robot sea creatures (I’m especially fond of the giant lobster) and Daikai Shinken-Oh is possibly the most regal-looking sentai mecha I’ve ever seen.

The playfulness and imagination that’s gone into these designs, as well as several others I haven’t mentioned because otherwise we’d be here all day, is second to none. They are absolutely simpler than most (emphasis on most) other Transformers toys, but that simplicity is inspiring. I don’t care if their transformations aren’t meticulous or that these robots are functionally bricks with barely any articulation or poseability. All that matters is that they’re fun to play with and they look fucking rad.

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Rob Rich has loved videogames since the 80s and has the good fortune to be able to write about them. Catch his rants on Twitter at @RobsteinOne

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Ad Free, Commentary, Here's The Thing, Toys
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