Apr 252012

I kinda got a thing against the whole sentai hero genre.

It goes back to when Power Rangers first premiered on Fox. It was like that new kid that tries to interject himself at your cafeteria table. There’s nothing really wrong with the kid. He’s a nerd like you and he happened to overhear you talking about last Friday’s D&D session. But he’s the new kid. Even we nerds tend to shrink back at integrating outsiders to our cliques.

Power Rangers was in the same situation when it tried to get a seat at the Saturday Morning Cartoon table for peeps like me who had been reared on cartoons during Saturday mornings. We wholly rejected the “cool kids” like Saved by the Bell since it felt like some asshole trying to take over our shit, and we kinda saw Power Rangers in the same light. It’s live action nature made us think it was some vile plot to ruin our cartoons. It took me quite some time to realize that these guys and girls running around in spandex were no different from the crappy cartoons I inhaled wholesale. And even now, long after I got over that silly kneejerk reaction, I’m not too eager to try out these shows.

Despite all of that, I got duped into watching Akibarangers and I think  it’s kinda awesome so far.

What’s funny is that it’s playing off of a lot of the stuff I was blabbing about last week in that Otaku no Video post. It’s all about seeing strength in one’s delusional fanboy state.

A lot of what’s going down in Akibaranger isn’t new. The fans are feeling threatened by the corporate mainstream. Akibahara is being threatened by a “Blatantly Evil Guerrilla Marketing Firm” that wants to turn Akihabara into a second Shibuya district. All of the cannon fodder goons dress like generic corporate drones and the monsters of the week are basically middle management types who take the brunt of the “corporation’s” ills.

It’s the sort of “artist vs. business” rage that every fan experiences at some point in their fandom. We all get annoyed at how companies make bad decisions and screw up some of the movies and shows and games that we love, and at some point that manifests into a general disdain for “the money.” Most of us get over it for the most part, but there’s always that nagging part in the back of your head that wants to give all the suits the middle finger and Akibaranger is playing off of that impotent anger.

The catch is that, at least with fans here in the US, that rage usually manifests in the sort of insistence on “integrity” you see out of indie music and the like. That’s not the angle Akibaranger is going for. These characters still embrace the manufactured pop culture of Akihabara. Akihabara is mainstream geek culture in Japan. It isn’t about creating something that’s separated from the norm. It’s about embracing the norm with the sort of naive, delusional reverence that ignores reality.

Akibaranger’s fights all take place in the Grand Delusion. The show outright states that these sentai battles are a shared hallucination. It’s all a psychokinetic MMO. But this isn’t Paranoia Agent or that David Lynch movie eXistenz. At least not yet. This virtual reality isn’t being cast in a negative light, and the delusions of the main characters aren’t made out to be some social satire on the unwillingness to accept reality. The Akibarangers are being empowered by this shared delusion, and they just might save Akibahara by playing pretend. And on top of that, the second episode hints that this virtual world might be spilling over into reality, and this spilling over has positive effects.

Yeah. Much like that second episode of Otaku no Video, Akibarangers is all about embracing those blinders that we fans place over our eyes and using that narrowed perspective to make ourselves better in our own way.

If you fool yourself hard enough, maybe you can dropkick the economy out of the recession. If you dream hard enough, you can Moe Magnum all the terrorists until they give in. We need to elect Red as the next President.

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