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The Sentai Show
Ah, the sentai show. You can be forgiven for having no clue what I'm talking about, but most all of you will have probably watched sentai at some point in your life. Pronounced "sen-TIE," this has become an otaku phenomenon in Japan, as well as a success worldwide.
Basically, the sentai show is a subgenre of Japanese and American fantasy, trademarked by a group of heroes, wearing matching outfits of different colors, fighting bad guys in what has been termed as "villain of the week" formula shows.
The show that really brought out the sentai craze in Japan is called Super Sentai. While the show has gone through numerous incarnations, it basically surrounds five teenagers wearing different color spandex and matching plastic helmets. An evil overlord then sends out a different monster each week to get beaten up by the Super Sentai team. Just as the Super Sentai team is about to lose, they call upon some assistance, usually in the form of a giant robot or a sixth team member who saves the day while the five members take all of the credit.
Sound familiar? Of course it should. There's a North American version called Power Rangers. But Sentai had already touched down in North America before then. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles could also be considered a member of the sentai club. Let's go through the list:
- Costumes: Sentai shows feature the central characters in the same costume. Generally you wouldn't be able to tell them apart aside from the color of their uniform. Turtles? I wouldn't know Leonardo from Raphael if it weren't for the blue and red headbands.
- Villain of the Week: Power Rangers had "Putties." Turtles has "the Foot Clan." Not to mention Klang and Shredders minions, BeBop, Rocksteady, Baxter, and a host of other mutants that would get the tar beaten out of them and sent home with their - ahem - tails between their legs.
- A Helping Hand: Casey Jones, April, Splinter, some other aliens from Dimension X whose names currently escape me. There was no shortage of help when the going got tough.
Of course, Turtles was still distinctly western in terms of storyline and serialisation, but nonetheless, it contained the essentials of the classic sentai formula.
Other sentai shows include Samurai Pizza Cats, in which three anthropomorphic felines don white, red, and blue armor to fight off Big Cheese, Bad Bird, and their many robotic monstrosities. And when they needed help, they would call in "The General, on the double." Of course, the Pizza Cats would take all the credit.
Sailor Moon is one of the few sentai shows to successfully target women, using the different colored sailor uniforms, the villain of the week formula, and Tuxedo Mask as the role of the helping hand.