7 Essential Sentai Teams
by Lynzee Loveridge,
Superhero teams like The Avengers or The Justice League are comic book staples. These crossover works bring together the genre's most powerful fighters for an 'ultimate team' to face off against imminent doom on a planetary scale; Batman and Superman put aside their feud to take down the likes of Doomsday or Parallax. Japan has its own version of this that's existed since the mid 1960s.
Sentai isn't exactly the same as its Western counterpart; just because superheroes are in a group doesn't automatically mean they're a Sentai team. But Sentai can often be recognized by one component: color-coordinated outfits. You could argue that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles qualify as a Sentai team, for instance. Themes of these outfits can vary, like in the Gen Urobuchi-written Kamen Rider Gaim, the live-action tokusatsu show that based its superheroes around fruit. This week's List doesn't feature anything quite so fruity, but office supplies and desserts are still on the table.
Cyborg 009 This series is one of the earliest iterations of Shotaro Ishinomori's team of scientifically-modified multinational humans. After rejecting their creators, the cyborgs come together to overthrow the evil Black Ghost corporation that created them and also prevent the next large-scale war. However, as far as Sentai teams go, the Cyborg 009 crew doesn't employ the now standard "same outfit but with color variations"; each wears the same two-piece red suit and dramatic yellow scarf. Ishinomori's character designs focused more on individual characteristics instead, using different body types and skin color to set the international cast apart.
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Sailor Moon was groundbreaking for being one of the very first magical girl shows to incorporate the already established Sentai Team trope. Wedding Peach is technically first with its red-blue-and-yellow trio, but Sailor Moon is more widely known and can easily be credited for opening up the entire genre to magical female teams. There is no Tokyo Mew Mew, Mermaid Melody: Pichi Pichi Pitch, or Yuki Yuna Is a Hero without Sailor Moon.
Bubblegum Crisis If a Sentai team can consist of middle school girls in stylized school uniforms, then why can't it also be women in power suits? This sci-fi take has rogue robot battles, biker gangs, and pseudo-vampires running amok in the post-earthquake-torn Japan of 2032. The Knight Sabers, the power-suited mercenaries taking up Japan's new array of techno-problems, include many of what would become team personality staples: the calculating Sylia, the brooding outcast Priss, the everywoman Linna, and the childish and naive Nene.
Science Ninja Team Gatchaman Before power suits, all the cool science heroes were dressed as birds. Protecting the environment from the evil terrorist organization Galactor and its army of giant monsters is all in a day's work for the four teens and one kid who is up way past his bedtime. Expanding on the bird theme are transforming vehicles that activate when a member shouts "Bird, Go!" These transformations are truly magical and must be witnessed.
Saint Seiya These Greek-inspired knights continue to get repackaged even after 20 years. The most recent iterations include an upcoming Netflix-produced reboot and a Saint Seiya: Saintia Shō adaptation that focuses on female knights. Like Sailor Moon, Saint Seiya is credited for stamping its own particular brand on the genre: attractive guys in armor. This would help pull in audiences across the pure shōnen action aisle. The team stars hot-blooded action boy Seiya, his rival Shiryu, the collected Christian Hyoga, gentle yet fierce Shun, and Ikki the Undying.
Shinesman Sentai and Tokusatsu series can definitely be campy, with many live-action series focusing on dynamic gesticulation, cheap effects, and absurd monster suits. Sentai anime can be the same. Scenes meant to look cool miss the mark and often end up in parody land. Shinesman is at that level of parody and its dub is even more so. The OVA has the typical alien invasion premise but instead of trying to wipe out mankind or farm Earth's resources, this alien invasion wants to rule society by launching a successful corporation. More specifically, they want to produce a successful tokusatsu show. The Shinesmen work for a rival tokusatsu company, and things only get more meta from there. All the characters were named with specific voice actors in mind, and all their attacks are business-based, like throwing name cards and exploding tie clips.
Pretty Cure Sailor Moon might have laid the groundwork, but the Pretty Cure franchise is the inescapable successor to its legacy. What started out as a frilly action duo expanded into a color-coded quintet in Yes! Precure 5 and has never looked back. Each new iteration changes up the magic theme, including nature, music, fairy tales, witches, and most recently desserts. Much of Precure still isn't available stateside, which is unfortunate because there's some real talent working on what could easily be a phoned-in kids' franchise.
Who is this season's best hero?
The old poll: Who is this summer season's best heroine? The results were:
- Made in the Abyss: Riko
- Princess Principal: Ange
- New Game!: Aoba Suzukaze
- Fate/Apocrypha: Saber of Red
- Gamers!: Karen Tendou
- Kakegurui: Yumeko Jabami
- Fate/Apocrypha: Ruler
- Fate/Apocrypha: Rider of Black
- Restaurant to Another World: Aletta
- Welcome to the Ballroom: Mako Akagi
- Aho Girl: Yoshiko Hanabatake
- My First Girlfriend is a Gal: Yukana Yame
- Princess Principal: Dorothy
- Classroom of the Elite: Suzune Horikita
- Magical Circle Guru-Guru: Kukuri
- Gamers!: Aguri
- Gamers!: Chiaki Hoshinomori
- Fate/Apocrypha: Berserker of Black
- Love & Lies: Ririna Sanada
- Welcome to the Ballroom: Shizuku Hanaoka
When she isn't compiling lists of tropes, topics, and characters, Lynzee works as the Managing Interest Editor for Anime News Network and posts pictures of her sons on Twitter @ANN_Lynzee.
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