Ramble Review: Chojin Sentai Jetman
Author’s Note: These are my opinions. My opinions are vastly different than most of the fandom 90% of the time. I also wrote this late at night where my mind was certainly in an incredibly satirical mood. If you disagree with what I’m saying below, hurray! Let me know your thoughts on the show in the comments.
There WILL BE SPOILERS. I sum up the show, reveal the fates of characters, and several other things. If you don’t wish to be spoiled, close the review, go watch the show, and come back when you’re ready. I REPEAT: THERE ARE SPOILERS HERE.
Anyway, spoiler warning completed. Enjoy the review, and look forward to more reviews as I watch new Toku in 2013. This is really fun to do.
To many in the fandom, Chojin Sentai Jetman is regarded as the best of the best in terms of Sentai. I’m sitting here browsing the internet seeing Keith Justice jizz his pants over every other episode while the flock of HJUians spam his Facebook post talking about how Jetman is so dark and serious. After all, it’s the Sentai that RUINS ALL OTHER SENTAI. Yes folks, this show is so dark and serious, it features them fighting a Ramen monster, a Tomato King, and a teddy bear made out of garbage. I went into this show expecting to see something that could give Gekiranger (my current favorite that just might get edged out by Go-Busters) a run for its money. What I got instead was a series that was, as Dosm put it, “aggressively mediocre.” Jetman to me was a lot like Tensou Sentai Goseiger. Yes, I just compared Jetman to Goseiger. Come at me bro, but hear me out. Both series featured characters that had very little development, both teams didn’t get along at the start of their shows, and most importantly, both shows had a thinly written plot that never picked up until roughly episode 40. Also like Goseiger, I came out of this viewing experience enjoying the show, but remembering next to nothing about most of the episodes overall, and just finding the overall watch experience to be something that was moderately interesting mostly because it was Sentai.
Jetman has a basic run of the mill Sentai plot. Sky Force, a military organization that really loves birds has a base orbiting the Earth. Ryu Tendo and his girlfriend partner lady Rie are chosen to become Jetmen. Ryu is successfully exposed to the “Birdonic Waves” and gains superhuman abilities like being Japanese Jason. Before Rie has a chance to try her luck at becoming Hawk Girl, the Earth Base is attacked by Vyram, who have no motivation whatsoever other than being giant assholes that want to conquer the “Front Dimension” after getting bored of the “Back Dimension.” A whole is blown into the side of the ship and Rie goes flying out which sends Ryu into fits of depression that spring up occasionally throughout the show whenever him being upset is relevant to the plot. The remaining four Birdonic Waves traveled down to Earth and were absorbed by four completely random people. The rest of the show revolves around Gai Yuki and Kaori Rokumeikan (Seriously? That’s a name?) joining Ryu in his fight against Vyram. They are also joined by two other Jetmen that don’t matter to the story whatsoever: Raita Oishi and Ako Hayasaka.
The Jetmen continue to fight Vyram episode after episode, while occasionally plot would pop up involving a love triangle between Ryu, Gai, and Kaori. Kaori loves Ryu. Ryu doesn’t love Kaori because he’s still hard up for his dead girlfriend turned Vyram Commander (Rie into Maria), Gai loves Kaori. Raita also loves Kaori, but there’s no room for him in the triangle so that point is dropped once Raita realizes a triangle doesn’t have four edges. I feel like this is honestly the core story of Jetman, and literally the only thing that is really meaningful in the entire show. It’s also the reason I feel as though Raita and Ako are on the team simply because five members is the norm. Sure, Raita and Ako did get some focus episodes every now and then, but their episodes were generally filler and never impacted the story. Heck, one of Raita’s most memorable episodes is an episode where he gets sent back in time and falls in love with a cavewoman that looks like Kaori. It is then he basically realizes that he can’t have Kaori. That’s honestly kind of depressing. Keep in mind Raita had a childhood friend who was actually more attractive (and probably a better person but she was barely in the show so we have no idea) than Kaori, but I think Raita just lives on the edge by lusting for things he can’t have.
- Ryu Tendo is Red Hawk and the leader of the Jetmen. He’s a very serious, mission based character having been in the Sky Force previously. His entire character story basically consist of trying to revenge Rie’s death/capture on top of saving the planet from Vyram. Despite being written early on as an “anti-fun” sort of guy, he does warm up as the serious progresses when the plot doesn’t call for him to be sulking about Rie. He also does a terrific job at being a Japanese Jason. They’re like twins. Honestly though, for being what could be a main character of this show, and having the core story be centered around him, I feel like he’s an incredibly forgetful guy.
- Gai Yuki is Black Condor. While not a second in command directly, he can easily be pegged as the secondary main character of the show, and is an absolute direct foil to Ryu. Gai is obnoxious, a womanizer, and genuinely doesn’t give a shit about anyone except Kaori. Of course, as the show progresses, he also gets a lot warmer and accepts Ryu as his best friend. He is still a womanizer though, that part doesn’t change. Gai is known for his frequent smoking and drinking in the show. That makes him so edgy! Lastly, after saving the world from deathly dangerous aliens, he gets stabbed by a pick-pocket and dies while smoking on a park bench. Yep. Honestly THAT will make me remember him more than anything he did in the show.
- Kaori Rokumeikan is White Swan and the third point in the Jetman Love Triangle. She was a rich socialite that eventually broke off her marriage and decided she didn’t need the ritz and glamor and accepted her role as White Swan. She’s madly in love with Ryu, but once she finally excepts the fact that Ryu is incredibly emo for Rie, she falls for Gai instead. This is the woman who went up to Ryu and said “I’ll take all of your memories of Rie out of your heart!” or something really bitchy like that. The guy’s trying to cope over his lost girlfriend who just got brainwashed into a mushroom hat wearing lion tamer and you have the nerve to say that? Oddly enough she convinces Ryu to move on after Rie actually does legit die and they end up getting married three years later. I feel that being the catalyst in every ounce of character growth this show had would make her important, but in the end that’s all she was. Her character changed happened early on (pushing away her riches), leaving her as a plot device to push the story between Ryu and Gai. The sudden change from Ryu to Gai in terms of love interest also made her come across as a bit of a whore who just wanted to be in love. Granted it’s not supposed to come across like that, but that’s honestly how I felt when I was watching since it was so sudden, just like everything else in this show.
- Raita Oishi is Yellow Owl. He’s an overweight farmer and the powerhouse of the Jetmen. His special ability is fighting poorly and throwing rocks at people. When in the Jet Owl he also attacks with rocks, even while in the city. That’s quite a feat. Raita’s main story development involved him being in love with Kaori, realizing there was no room in the triangle, forgetting he was in love with Kaori, and just accepting the fact that he’s a bit of a loser. I really like Raita because I loved his fighting style, he was a big guy, and had glasses. Other than having a memorable fighting style, and being the focus of the Tomato King episode, Raita unfortunately had little involvement in the overall story of the show and might as well have been a background character just like…
- Ako Hayasaka, Blue Swallow. Like Raita she literally did nothing. She began the show as a smart ass high school student that would do anything to earn a quick buck, and agrees to join the Jetmen if she gets paid for saving the world. By episode 3 this character trait is overcome once she realizes that saving the world is actually a big deal. Her character doesn’t change an ounce after that. At least Raita changed a little. After the show ends, she becomes an idol singer, touching upon the one character trait she had: being in the choir with her friend Kyoko. She possibly doubled as a street corner prostitute judging by her idol outfit, but I won’t touch upon that.
- Other characters include the Commander, Aya Odagiri. She has no relation to Hal Jordan’s cray cray AI or Kuuga’s douchebag actor. She obviously had no character development at all, and served as the mentor to the Jetman. Her most memorable duty was speaking into a weird remote control thing while talking to the Jetmen. There was also Japanese Hitler (the Neo Jetman’s commander), the Neo Jetman themselves, and some random characters from the Back Dimension. None of them really matter at all.
Like I said before, the story is just thinly paced. The Jetman team never really felt in danger, and when they did, the danger only lasted a few minutes and the case would be resolved rather quickly (a problem I think Kamen Rider Wizard is currently suffering from) so you never really felt on your seat. The love triangle between Ryu, Gai, and Kaori was interesting, but never really felt worth it. Even when Kaori did submit to Gai’s charming ways, you knew she still liked Ryu more. Ryu’s story with Rie was something that could easily have been built into far more than it was. Rie was now a Vyram Commander. They could have easily written her to have a stronger grudge against Red Hawk, or build Ryu into having an issue with fighting Maria. Hell, have him bent on this mission to kidnap Maria throughout the entire show. As it stood, the plot was only brought up when it needed to be. It was hard to feel an emotional attachment to Ryu and Rie during the last few episodes of the story. Sure, the story was flushed out quite a bit in the last few episodes, but by then it just felt like too little too late. Ryu’s revenge candle never really lit until Maria turned back into Rie for one episode. Another dropped plot I have issue with is Radiguet. He was banished to be a human by Juuza where he fell in love with a human girl. Here you think he’s going to be redeemed and silently written off the show. Instead his anger reignites for no real reason, he kills the girl, and goes back to being an asshole. An episode I THOUGHT was going to be relevant and game changing ended up being a filler episode at the core. A lot of small storied popped up during the course of Jetman, but none of them really mattered unless it involved the RyuGaiKaori Triangle.
As much as I would like to go further about the story or characters, there really isn’t too much else to say. The Vyram takeover was the basis of the story, but the villains never actually DID anything to impact the plot. Every time something major happened, it only lasted roughly 2-3 episodes and left no impact on the characters. Vyram was simply there to fight and be evil. This is a stark contrast to my preferred style of villain; characters like Enter who’s evil genius is incredibly interesting to watch and keeps the heroes on edge, or characters like Rio and Mele who have their own dynamic and story that ads to the story already going on with the main characters. Vyram consisted of Dead Rie (Maria), a robot (Grey), a kid with a Power Glove (Tran), and Raticate (Radiguet). There was also an additional character, Empress Juuza. She came into the story in episode 17. I fully expected her to be a rough foil to the other villains, but she got her ass kicked in episode 18. So much for that large shake up. Instead we got a shake up when Tran got really pissed and turned into an adult: Tranza. While the villains had a slightly new dynamic with Tranza now being the strongest and Radiguet trying to scheme behind his back, it didn’t change the core plot of the show. Instead it simply made two villains yell at each other more and make Tran look even more ridiculous than he already did. Meanwhile Grey just sits there and smokes while idolizing Maria’s mushroom hat. The villains just never really had a story other than seeing who could out-asshole the others. Juuza seemed like a game changer, but she died an early death and only served as a method of introducing Semimaru, who was only introduced to introduce Jet Garuda. Tranza did bring a nice change of pace to the villains, but it ultimately didn’t change how they worked. They still attacked Earth, they were still assholes, just three of the assholes were now bitter against the forth asshole. Several months from now I’m sure I won’t remember a thing about Vyram. The only thing I will easily remember is that Tranza thought it was cool to name a giant death robot that was fueled off people Veronica. That is clearly a name that strikes evil into the hearts of humans.
I won’t really get to deep in the art of music for this series. I really love the theme. It’s fun, catchy, and reeks of 90s in Japan. The background music is pretty plain, but considering it was 1992, it’s hard to really expect some groundbreaking score or fun character songs like we have today. The ending theme was relatively forgettable. I often skipped it.
The effects of the show are archaic. It’s hard to think that this was the standard back then, but it’s also hard to think that Jetman is over 20 years old. When you sit down and watch Go-Busters every week, it’s really hard to go back and watch something from 1992, where we have weak laser effects, odd transitions, and no CGI whatsoever. The retro feel has its charms, but as a digital artist, sometimes it’s really difficult for me to fully enjoy a show that doesn’t have nearly as much artistic value as something we have today. That being said, some of the effects did give me a good chuckle, and I appreciate them. I’ll never forget Veronica’s snake penis puncturing Great Icarus and seeing the chest cavity just collapse like cardboard. Woo 90s!
Lastly, I want to touch upon the fan dynamic that Jetman brings with it. My lack of full enjoyment from this show could possibly have been from the sheer hype. Now I’m not the type of person that gives into hype, as I always enter a show, film, or game with an open mind. The hype is always IN my mind, but I’ve been let down by hyped things before, so I try not to let it get to me. This is one of the cases where it got to me, but it didn’t. The hype made me believe Jetman was going to be a god tier show. The best of the best. Deep characters, a decent story, great villains. What I got instead was a show with thinly written characters, next to no story that actually mattered, and villains an amateur writer could probably come up with. Part of it has to do with the age. This was sadly the norm 20 years ago, and I’m suddenly remembering why people felt like Goseiger was a nod to retro Sentai, since it was certainly written and paced like one. While there was never any times I was flat out bored with Jetman, there was certainly never any times where I sat there and went “Well THAT was awesome! I need more!” As I mentioned before, the lack of attention grabbing effects that draw me in was a factor as well. It’s the same reason I haven’t dived into Showa Rider or retro Doctor Who. Old things bore me. As both an artist and a writer, I admire the special effects, character depth, and plot that is present in most of today’s Toku (I use “most” loosely). Watching older shows, my mind begins to wander as there’s nothing visually on screen that appeals to me, and the characters are generally bland based purely on the fact that it was the normal back then. These shows generally didn’t have huge character depth or plot. They were shows made to appeal to kids and sell toys. Thankfully the youth of today are a bit smarter and thus the shows content can be more up my alley. I see a lot of people say that Jetman ruined other Sentai for them, because nothing can be as dark and enjoyable as Jetman. I’m in a reverse camp here. I think other Sentai ruined Jetman for me. The special effects, character and villain depth, and story of things like Gekiranger and Go-Busters outweighs anything older series could bring for me. I also sort of feel like people think Jetman is edgy because it has a character that smokes and drinks. That’s not edgy, that’s just something that wasn’t a big deal at the time it was made. It’s so dark because people got stabbed, and there was a bunch of blood! That doesn’t make it edgy. Again, that level of violence and blood was acceptable at the time. Things like that don’t make it dark and edgy. It’s hard to be dark and edgy when you’re most memorable monsters were a bowl of Ramen, the teddy bear made out of trash, and a guy in green spandex with a giant tomato for a face. There was also a vending machine monster at one point, and a hair dryer that wanted to be a good guy.
Just like I can’t understand how people can possibly hate Go-Busters, I can’t understand how people can be in love so deeply with Jetman. Jetman had some great designs, a couple decent characters, and a premise that would have been really great if handled better and given a significant writing boost. As it stands, Jetman was an experience I will walk away from neutrally. I enjoyed the experience overall, but I feel like I will forget a majority of what I watched rather quickly, and shuffle most of the characters and villains out of my mind as I begin watching Zyuranger and Kyoryuger begins airing. While I went into the viewing with a lot of hype behind me, none of the hype could be lived up to for me, and I was digging pretty deep to find something redeemable. I certainly didn’t hate it, but Jetman doesn’t even break my top five. I certainly recommend the viewing to anyone who likes this era of Sentai. However if you’re looking for a show that has deep characters and a fulfilling story, Jetman isn’t your next stop on the Sentai train. It was fun while it lasted Jetman, but I’m ready to move on.
As I stated, these are my opinions, and my opinions only. You may love Jetman and now hate me forever. That’s fine, I honestly don’t care. Your entitled to your opinion! Hell, post a comment defending the show. I’m more than looking forward to seeing the reasons people actually like the show. Don’t take any of my review as fact, and if you haven’t watched Jetman yet, don’t let this review influence you. Hell, I urge you to push ALL the hype away and watch with a 100% open mind. If you do decide to watch, happy viewing, and please let me know what you think.