I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Isao Sasaki & Mitsuko Horie with Columbia Yurikago Kai -- Susume! Gorenger (進め! ゴレンジャー)

Today I spent the day with some friends for lunch and a movie, the latter being "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" starring Tom Cruise. I had seen most of the first Jack Reacher movie on TV and wasn't particularly thrown over the moon with it, so it was nice that I actually enjoyed "Never Go Back" a bit more. However, I still thought the movie was rather paint-by-the-numbers. It could have been any of the episodes of "NCIS" with Jethro Gibbs played by Cruise instead of Mark Harmon.

As for my thoughts on the annual rash of superhero blockbusters, it was also as hit-and-miss as "Never Go Back". "Captain America: Civil War" was fine although the story became increasingly sadder, while the earlier "Superman v. Batman" was disappointingly dire. "X-Men: Apocalypse" was also another missed opportunity and I didn't even bother with "Suicide Squad" due to the unhappy reviews despite all of the hoopla of last year's filming of a pivotal chase scene down on Toronto's Yonge Street. I'm hoping that "Doctor Strange" will end this year on a high note and from what I've heard from the early reviews is that it will be good if not spectacular.

In a year when the thought of a superhero team on the Hollywood screen was probably a mere dot of out-there-in-left-field fantasy, I had heard that Japan concocted a live-action show of a group of five human superheroes in contrast with the lone warrior of Kamen Rider(仮面ライダー)and the gigantic Ultraman (ウルトラマン) along with the anime Gatchaman (ガッチャマン). The 1975 show was "Himitsu Sentai Gorenger"(秘密戦隊ゴレンジャー...Secret Task Force Five Rangers), produced by Toei Company and televised on TV Asahi as the first of the long-running Super Sentai series. One of its descendants ended up getting over to America in the early 1990s and transformed into the "Power Rangers" series.

But going back to "Gorenger", I first saw this team on those thick children's readers that were sold in the front of the Furuya Japanese food shop in Chinatown, and boy, did I want to know about these guys. I was amazed by the costumes and the weapons that were miraculously stored in their masks such as the whip in leader Red Ranger's mask and the bow-and-arrow setup in Blue Ranger's mask. However, the 1970s were the pre-Internet, pre-VCR prehistoric age so the best I could do was read one manga involving the team when they were going up against a villainous skeleton with a long cape. Fairly disappointed was I.

Things are obviously quite different now, but when I finally got over to Japan again in 1981, there wasn't any mention of any Super Sentai series and my interest had already waned down to a nub by that point. Still, I could find that little bit of the Gorenger in action above.

Also, there is the theme song, "Susume! Gorenger" (Go! Five Rangers) as sung by Isao Sasaki (ささきいさお) and Mitsuko Horie(堀江美都子)with the chorus group Columbia Yurikago Kai (コロムビアゆりかご会). Of course with Sasaki, I've always seen him as the king of the songs used in the "Uchuu Senkan Yamato"(宇宙戦艦ヤマト)franchise, and Horie has also contributed one or two songs to the adventures of the Yamato. But I think this is the first time I've heard them sing a good ol' tokusatsu tune.

And what a heroic tune it is. There is the urgent first part before the melody gives way to something hopeful with the combination of horns and plucky electric guitar. I've heard "Susume! Gorenger" used in parodies of the Super Sentai format by various comedians over the years but never knew that it had been the theme song for the pioneer show. Shotaro Ishinomori(石森章太郎)wrote the lyrics while Chumei Watanabe(渡辺宙明)took care of the music.

Missed opportunity, to be sure. But at least, I get to see some of what made the show so popular with the kiddies and my parents were able to save a ton of dough and frustration toward me for demanding that I get one of the team costumes.

Also, have a look at JTM's playlist for tokusatsu theme songs since he also mentions about the ending theme for "Gorenger" among some of his other favourite tunes from the genre.

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