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Anime Reviews: Astro Fighter Sunred
Simultaneously subtle and ridiculously flamboyant, Astro Fighter Sunred is a one-trick pony whose trick is delivering comedy gold.
Title: Astro Fighter Sunred a.k.a. Tentai Senshi Sunred
Production: AIC A.S.T.A.
Series Length: 52 episodes
Air Dates: 10/3/2008 to 3/27/2009 and 10/3/2009 to 3/27/2010
Age Rating: 3+ (brief mild language)
Summary: It's the classic tale of good versus evil, as the heroic Astro Fighter, Sunred, uses his radiant fire powers to save the world from the nefarious Lord Vamp and his horde of monsters that make up the evil organization of Florsheim. However, things are a little bit more complex than that, because the nefarious Lord Vamp spends most of his free time perfecting his cooking skills, grocery shopping, reporting miscreants to the local neighborhood watch, and helping out his neighbors when they need a hand. Our glorious hero Sunred, on the other hand, loafs around at home and ditches his girlfriend's chores to hit the Pachinko arcade. But nevertheless, the endless battle between good and evil happens...sometimes! It's true!
The Good: Crude animation style fits the show perfectly; hilarious parody with an equally funny look at mundane middle-class Japanese life; dozens of lovable characters
The Bad: If you don't like the style of humor then there's nothing for you
The Ugly: How the hell has Sunred avoided being dumped this long?
It did not take long at all for me to want to check out Sunred. I mean, look at the summary I wrote! How could that not be comedic gold? I, like many other kids, grew up watching Power Rangers and, inevitably, you'd realize the show's a load of crap because, in real life, you wouldn't have time to take over the world in-between keeping track of your underlings and their personal lives and maintaining order in your hou--er, secret base. And now, finally, our little brain thoughts have been cultivated, and this is the result, Is it any good? Well, that's a very good question. The answer is yes.
The first thing about Sunred that tickles me in all the right places is its art and animation style. The character designs are appropriately over-the-top and garish, but they're drawn in a bright and cheery fashion. Even the hideous, ravenous ceiling monster that lives above the ceiling boards. The animation, save for the few scenes where the series pretends it's a legitimate action series and pours in money like it's no object, is minimalistic and goofy, with characters' heads bobbing and tilting when they talk and their movements occurring suddenly with no in-between animation. This style both replicates the feel of the original manga and gives us the feeling we're watching a no-budget Super Sentai TV series, and I wouldn't have it any other way. It wouldn't feel right any other way.
The animation style also drives home the fact that, primarily, this series is a parody of those ever-popular Super Sentai shows. Our hero isn't an upstanding guy like your typical Red Ranger--he's a jerk and a slob! And the fact that it all takes place in Japan just adds to the absurdity of the existence of these costumed heroes and grotesque monsters, especially when you've got a giant armor-clad tiger squeezed into a small apartment and a six-armed bug man working as a cashier. At the same time we're getting a parody of Power Rangers-type shows, we're also getting a few jabs in at the Japanese culture, which hinges so critically on politeness and courtesy that the image of Lord Vamp and his giant face bobbing up and down, apologizing profusely to a store clerk for dropping something, becomes even funnier. I imagine it's just as funny to the Japanese people, too, because it's hard to take yourself seriously when society expects you to look at a scary squid man and not scream bloody murder.
Speaking of scary squid men and the like, there are a veritable mountain of characters in Astro Fighter Sunred, and they're all funny in their own ways. I've already mentioned Sunred and Vamp and how unorthodox they are, but the evil organization of Florsheim is just full of lovable monsters. Combat Goons #1 and #2 are just normal guys who try to help out when they can, but they're not too terribly bright. Khamenman is a mummy monster who is 4002 years old and he loves his brand new car like it's his child. Geiras is a flying squid monster, one of the few who can fly, and he uses his powers to...help Sunred move into a new apartment. Ant Killer is Khamenman's younger brother and has troubles quitting smoking. And most lovable of them all are the Animal Soldiers: Usacots the bionic plush rabbit, Devil Cat the nervous plush kitty, and P-chan Custom the robotic nuclear arsenal rubber ducky. And those really are only to name a few. There are a lot of characters to learn, but you've got plenty of time to do so.
But sadly, there is one glaring flaw with Astro Fighter Sunred: If the above doesn't sound very funny to you, or if it doesn't sound interesting whatsoever, then there is absolutely nothing I can say to convert you. This anime is a bit of a one-trick pony, basically boiling down to Azumanga Daioh, but with sentai heroes and monsters, and if that doesn't pique your interest at all, it's not gonna do anything for you even if you do check it out. I'd still say check out the first two or three episodes anyway (each episode is only 15 minutes long, so it's not a huge investment), just to be sure it's not for you.
But for those of us whom this anime was made for, it's nothing short of a joy to watch. It's got a humorous visual style, a great premise, and lots of lovable, relatable characters to follow. Even if you're just looking for a straight, mellow comedy with a dash of absurdity thrown into the pot, then Vamp and his family--that is, underlings, have a delightful dish just waiting for you to devour~
Final Score: 9 out of 10. Though its brand of humor may not appeal to everyone, Astro Fighter Sunred is simultaneously a smart, humorous parody of the Super Sentai genre of TV shows that many have grown up with and a tongue-in-cheek look at the Japanese culture.