a.k.a. Tentai Senshi Sunred
A constant battle wages between the forces of good and evil in Kawasaki City. The evil Florsheim Organization and their leader, General Vamp, want to conquer the world, but their efforts are stopped at every turn by the magnificent hero, Astro Fighter Sunred! Rather, that’s what would be going on if Florsheim didn’t consist of good-natured, somewhat inept monsters…and Sunred wasn’t such a lazy jerk.
summary by Ender
Highs: Funny premise; lovable characters; perfect length; good voice-acting
Lows: A one-trick pony
I’m not too sure what Ishinomori Shotaro would have thought of Astro Fighter Sunred, but a part of me can make a guess as to what he thought: now why didn’t I think of this first? A show that breaks down the very premise of the sentai creations Ishinomori made his name on, and somehow manages to be more than that. It’s easy to dismiss the show as a parody of 1970’s super-heroics, which is something many an anime have lampooned over the years. However, rather than constantly attack the same conventions over and over again; Sunred presents its rudimentary punchline as a springboard for funnier dynamics between heroes and villains.
This is not an off-the-wall sugar high like Excel Saga, it’s probably more on the lines of Azumanga Daioh in: restrained and approachable, but with a little bit of volatility bubbling underneath. Vamp and company talk about world-domination every once in a while, but most of them are more concerned with everyday problems: trying to cut back on smoking, worrying about rent, getting a child-hostage to his tutoring session on time, you know how it is. Then there’s Sunred: a lout who constantly borrows money from his girlfriend, Kayoko, and rarely contributes to chores — the fact that he walks around dressed like a slacker with a Power Rangers mask makes for subtle satire. Vamp constantly challenges the annoyed Sunred to fights, only to find himself apologizing profusely for inconveniencing the hero — he does this while exchanging recipes with Kayoko over the phone.
The monsters, heroes, and civilians are entirely likable characters, all voiced by charming actors. The line-delivery seems like everyday banter, it just so happens to be delivered by creatures who think that they’re human — at one point, one of the more grotesque-looking monsters opens it’s hideous mouth to reveal the voice of a pre-teen girl, then it proceeds to offer Sunred some relationship advice. Most comedies I’ve seen go out of their way to make their human characters sound like freakish, noisy animals, and here’s a show with freakish animals acting human. Bizarre. The viewer almost has no choice but to feel some sort of connection to these characters.
The only noticeable flaw I saw with Sunred is that it sometimes feels too obvious a sitcom. There’s no real depth beyond the premise and execution. This was not a problem for me, but I can see it upsetting viewers who: a) are looking for something deeper in their comedy; b) deliberately want a mindless parody. Fortunately, the show manages a perfect length (26 episodes at 12 minutes each), and hits compact and well-timed beats one episode at a time — which makes this all the better for either single episode viewings or marathons.
Sunred is a show that exhibits warm, relatable laughter above mindless parody, and manages to broaden it’s appeal in the process. Between the time I finished watching this series and the moment this review was published I have recommended it to everyone I know; the basic premise of a slacker Kamen Rider was more than enough to generate interest. They’re in for a surprise.
Astro Fighter Sunred can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.