Chōjū Sentai Liveman (Super Beast Squadron Liveman) is the twelfth Super Sentai show, airing from 1988 to 1989.Three students from Academia Island, an elite school funded by the U.N. for the purpose of researching space flight, are tempted by promises of power from the evil Great Professor Bias. They flee Academia Island, killing two of their classmates in cold blood during their escape.Two years later they return as officers of "Volt", a evil cult who believe humanity should be conquered by the intelligent. Having changed their bodies, minds and names, they use their new powers to destroy Academia.In response, three of their former classmates use cutting-edge power suits (originally designed as a new form of space suit) to fight against Volt as Liveman. They are later joined by two additional members: the siblings of the two classmates that died at Volt's hands, out for revenge.
The Livemen are:
Yuusuke Amamiya/Red Falcon: The team's leader- initially a hothead, he grew into a more capable hero.
Jun'ichi Aikawa/Green Sai: The youngest team member, a high school student and the younger brother of Mari Aikawa.
Provides examples of:
Alas, Poor Villain: This happens to almost every Volt member except Gou/Oblar, who survived. Unusually for a Sentai series, none of them are directly killed by Liveman, who grasp at every chance to save them. Bias and Gash are subversions, as their death scene is not portrayed sympathetically and is in fact a Karmic Death, with the heroes actually celebrating when they die. Kemp, interestingly, was a subversion until Gaoranger vs Super Sentai, where it was revealed that Yuusuke regularly mourns him. Mazenda, Ashura, Guildos, and especially Butchy played it straight.
Even if they never become more sympathetic, I still defy you to not cry at Bias and Gash during Bias's death scene. Even Gash shows a bit of sentiment for the first time ever. Also, the final end title is flashback scenes projected by Gash just before he goes offline instead of the usual credits. It's noted sadly by one of the Rangers that in all Gash's memories there was nothing beautiful. Mind you, it was more like This Explains So Much than "poor Gash," but... well, it is hard to hate someone for being evil when they never had a choice, having never, ever been exposed to good. As for Kemp, we find out all the evil he'd done was based on Undying Loyalty to his leader, not cruelty, to the point that when he finds out what the Brain Bank really is and what Bias intends for him, he is willing to give his life for Bias' plans. He really believes that Bias' world will be a better one, and is no less quick to give his life for it than Takuji's and Mari's in the premiere. The Rangers try to reach Bias' heart and don't... but within the Brain Bank, we find that Kemp is still alive in And I Must Scream condition, and he was reached, but too late to save himself. However, by resisting, he and the other Brain Bank brains are able to deprive Bias of his power-up... their final act. Part of what makes this series so powerful is how it'll make you weep for guys you thought you'd cheer to see dead.
All Your Powers Combined: The core team's individual weapons combine to form the Triple Bazooka. However, this seldom actually finished a monster off, permanently or temporarily to need the Giga Phantom treatment. The Biomotion Buster was the giant cannon that existed only to do that.
By the Power of Grayskull!: "Liveman!" Or, you guessed it, their individual names. (Generally "Liveman!" when transforming as a group, and their name individually.)
Color-Coded Characters: The codenames for the Livemen consists of having their respective colors as the head word and their animals as the tail, a pattern later used by Choujin Sentai Jetman. Liveman is also notable for being the first Sentai series to feature:
A female blue ranger (all the previous teams with female members had at least one pink, with the occasional female yellow and only one white)
Cool Airship: The Machine Buffalo, which was the last time that there was a single-purpose carrier for individual mecha. After this, they could combine or had alternative purposes, like the Vic-Trailer and Giga Bitus.
Cool Bike: The Moto Machines, a set of three bike (one for each of the original trio).
Cool Car: The Live Cougar jeep, originally built for the team in general, it later becomes the signature vehicle for Black Bison and Green Sai.
Eye Catch: A 360-degree shot of the Live Robo (looking ready to kick some giant ass) going out; the Liveman logo superimposed over a shot of Earth before the team appears below coming in. Both with their own little jingle.
Finishing Move: The Biomotion Buster, even after the Triple Bazooka was introduced.
Live Robo has the Super Live Crash, which is notable for how quick it is; the whole sequence appears to have been extended (starting with eps. 6) just to make it fit the kickass Ear Worm of a theme that was written for it.
Live Boxer has the Miracle Big Blow.
And Super Live Robo has the Super Big Burst.
Five-Man Band: Double Subversion. The series starts off with five young students working on the same project together, but two of them are killed off during the very first episode, leaving them as a three-man team. However, the surviving three are later joined by their deceased friends' younger siblings.
Home Base: The tortoise shaped GranTortoise. It's friggin' big, too - proportionately at least twice the size of the Humongous Mecha stages available at the time.
Humongous Mecha: For the first time in Super Sentai, two giant robots could combine into a stronger giant robot. The Live Robo wasn't originally designed to combine with anything else, so the fact that the toy designers were able to make it work at all is amazing.
Animal Mecha: Introduced the concept to Super Sentai. Jet Falcon and Aqua Dolphin resemble their namesakes only somewhat. Land Lion, on the other hand, looks exactly like a giant lion with guns on its back. Averted with the Bison Liner and Sai Fire, which were just semi-trailer trucks with tractor units resembling the heads of their respective namesakes.
Combining Mecha: One for the original trio and another one for the two latecomers.
Jet Falcon (Red) + Land Lion (Yellow) + Aqua Dolphin (Blue) = Live Robo
Bison Liner (Black, with Red and Yellow co-piloting occasionally) + Sai Fire (Green, with Blue) = Live Boxer
Make My Monster Grow: Guardnoid Gash fulfills this role with his Giga Phantom cannon. (The giant MOTWs seem to lose its ability to talk, growling and focusing entirely on combat.) Without some external assistance, only Chaos Phantom Energy-powered entities (=Brain Beasts) will grow giant - but Gash still fires through Liveman, who dive out of the way.
Monster of the Week: The Brain Beasts or Zunōjū, using the "(theme)-Zuno" naming pattern. In keeping with the series theme, a number of them are tests or experiments or realizations of a theory first, and fighters second if at all. The show is commander-geared, so while the individual Brain Beasts can speak and have personalities, they are only rarely given any characterization beyond being a walking prop or plot device (increasingly so as time passes).
Mook Mobile: The Boffler fighters, which resemble headless dragonflies and are also capable of land and underwater movement as well.
Mooks: The Jimmers note Jin = Person, Ma = Machine. In something of a departure from formula, they are consistently depicted as being rather tough, and Liveman (in and out of uniform) initially has some trouble fighting them. There are also 'Dummyman' variants who can take on a superficial human form.
Robot Buddy: Colon, though she subverts it by having few built-in functions and relying heavily on external devices.
The Smurfette Principle: Unlike the last four teams, Liveman only had one girl (Blue Dolphin), partly because the roster originally consisted of three members and the fourth and fifth members (both male) were added later on. However, Liveman did provide the franchise its first female blue ranger (and the only one who wears a normal shade of blue as well, since subsequent female blues like Blue Swallow and Hurricane Blue wore lighter shades). You can also make an argument for counting Colon as the show's second heroine, as she occasionally assists the team in combat.
Absentee Actor: Tooru Sakai (who plays the human form of Gō Omura) only appears in nine episodes, despite being shown prominently in the opening intro during the first few seconds. From the third episode and onward, Omura assumes a monster form called "Beastman Obuler" (a costumed character voiced by another actor) and remains that way during the remainder of his tenure in Volt. When Omura reverts back to his human form, he leaves Volt and only shows up for a few guest appearances afterward.
Action Girl: Colon. Actually, until Tetsuya and Junichi join, she's basically all the backup Liveman has.
Affably Evil: Great Professor Bias until about 3/4 of the way through. Then the "affable" goes right out the airlock.
AI is a Crapshoot: Butchy... does not take finding out he's a robot, and that all of his (apparently happy) memories of being a Chibuchi resident were fake, very well. He is destroyed just after (arguably) completing a Heel-Face Turn.
There's also Mister Tanaka, a malfunctioning Dummyman who fell in love with Colon.
Anatomy Arsenal: Dr. Mazenda outfits her cyborg body with a ridiculous amount of weaponry, including at least three different Arm Cannons in her fingers, palms, and elbows.
And I Must Scream: Dr. Kemp has his brain removed from his head while he's still alive, so it can be used in Bias' Fountain of Youth. His body turns into a mindless Brain Beast, and his consciousness remains alive in the immobile brain, unable to see, hear, feel or do anything.
Anyone Can Die: Provided you're not human or if you're in Volt. The only one to survive is Goh Omura/Dr. Obular.
Badass Normal: Arashi Busujima. A tough-as-nails gang leader, he beat one Brain Beast into submission and blew up a weapon/attack-absorbing one with a suicide charge.
Bound and Gagged: The first literal happening in Sentai (previous titles didn't use gags), in which Megumi is the victim (when she's taken hostage to force Yuusuke fight a swordsman-type Monster of the Week)
Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Played straightish, but subverted towards the end. Dr. Mazenda willingly made herself more cybernetic, embracing its dehumanizing effects to preserve her youth and beauty, and then becoming robot-below-the-neck 'Machine Mazenda' afterwards to better defeat Liveman. Though eventually she reconsiders - ironically, it's only after she becomes Robo Mazenda that she recovers her humanity.
Darker and Edgier: Overall, the first three-quarters of the series a bit (especially compared to the Heisei shows), but not so much they can't crack jokes from time to time; even then, happiness is fleeting and rare, compared to the tragedy that at least half the episodes end on. The last quarter or so, starting with the return of Goh Omura and the first big hints at Bias's true agenda, is one long dark story arc - no humor, lots of death and explosions.
Deus ex Machina: Kemp, of all possible people, reverses Bias's Fountain Of Youth in the end.
Devil in Plain Sight: You'd think people would less surprised at Mazenda and Kemp joining Volt considering every conversation with them was about how humanity in general was inferior to them.
Dragon-in-Chief: Professor Bias is rendered senile in the finale, so Gash has to fight the Livemen by himself. After they are defeated and the base explodes he gives Bias a False Reassurance: the explosions he hears are actually fireworks to celebrate the conquest of Earth.
"Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: The opening and ending tunes are sung by Daisuke Shima, who plays Red Falcon. (See the Characters page for more.)
Dumb Muscle: Busujima Arashi was this prior to his education at the hands of Bias, to the point of not being able to do math that went higher than he had fingers - 8+4 in particular stumps him. (The actor pulls this off so well that Arashi and Ashura are completely different characters.)
Dynamic Entry: several times during the show - especially the mecha - but also something Colon has to do by default owing to her lack of firepower.
The Eighties: Much of the show, but the theme song especially. The end of the opening sequence has a moonwalking Colon. Not to mention the early CGI wireframes seen in the transformation and Bimotion Buster sequences.
Engrish: The Live Blasters are labelled "Librastar".
Everyone Went to School Together: The other main hook of the show - the original three Liveman members and Volt generals are pretty familiar with each other, if never out-and-out friends. Often played up for drama, once or twice for humor.
Evil Is Visceral: Not as prominent as in most examples, but Volt often invokes this style.
Evil Will Fail: Played unusually straight for a Super Sentai; notably, Liveman doesn't defeat Volt so much as outlast it. (It's worth noting that, given when it was made, this isn't a metaphor for the Cold War so much as the ruthlessly competitive element of then-modern society.) The ways in which Bias squandered his (at first) loyal Lieutenants' time with competition rather than coordination and cooperation - all the way up to just before the finale - pretty much made Volt's ultimate self-implosion inevitable.
Glass Cannon: Quite a few of the MOTWs are this in practice - on a few occasions, the heroes spend more time fighting the Jimmers - as they aren't always built with combat in mind. You'd think the enlarged ones would be tougher, but they all tend to go down fairly quickly.
Hammerspace: It's possible to summon up just a Liblaster from a Twin Brace, but this is only done once when Yuusuke needs to point a gun at a possible intruder.
Hand Cannon: While Mazenda literally has cannons in her hand(s), Gash has his Gashgun. The handle and barrel are practically in a straight line, and whatever ammo it uses is enough to knock a Liveman onto their back. And is apparently too powerful to use on someone he plans on taking a brain from...
Actually, all the Volt commanders make some form of this, with the exception of Guildos - Omura is just the only one who lives. Butchy gains some form of friendship with Megumi and tells her goodbye before dying, Arashi actively fights against Volt and does a suicide run on a Brain Beast, Mazenda changes herself into a robot and drops herself off of a cliff as a final middle finger to Bias, and in his last moments Kemp (reduced to a brain in a jar) rebels.
Heel Face Door Slam: Just as he was reforming and about to dance with Megumi to solidify it, Bias activated Butchy's self destruct.
Heroic Sacrifice: The only character who actually dies this way is Busujima Arashi, formerly Dr. Ashura. Colon is aware of her status as a robot, and pulls something close to this about once every 10 episodes or so, but she survives until the end.
Homage: The original trio have the same colors and similar animal motifs as their counterparts from Sun Vulcan.
Vul Eagle and Red Falcon are both based on birds of prey.
Vul Shark and Blue Dolphin are both based on large aquatic animals.
Vul Panther and Yellow Lion are both based on big cats.
Hoist by His Own Petard: Yes, Bias, make Gash, the only person who you trust with your true plan, walk incredibly slowly. Surely it won't cause, oh, I don't know, one of your enemies following him into your lair right as you're about to initiate Mass Hypnosis, sparing the enemy because he's not on Earth.
Hope Spot: For a second, it looks like Colon might actually beat Kemp-zuno and save the day in the Live Robo. Then she discovers that she can't operate it effectively by herself...
If It Swims, It Flies: Averted by Aqua Dolphin (which uses tank treads on land, although it can also make dolphin-like jumps out of the water and land safely) and Gran Tortoise (never leaves the water). ...Then then there's the flying Machine Buffalo.
Immortality Immorality: Mazenda (part of her motivation for turning herself into a cyborg was so that she would remain beautiful forever) and, to a greater extent, Bias, who manipulated everything so that he could extend his immortality. Naturally, they get subverted towards the end.
Improbably High IQ: All the members of Volt have ridiculously high IQs. In fact, Bias' goal is to raise their IQs to 1000.
There's a problem with this, though - those numbers are Bias' scores for their brains (he wants a 'thousand-point brain'), and it seems that they're closer to test scores.
Karmic Death: Impressively, ONLY Bias and Gash die this way, when a senile Bias ignited the Zuno Base's thrusters when there was no chance of getting off the ground. The show is notable in that none of the generals are directly killed by Liveman, who do their damnedest to save them somehow.
Late-Arrival Spoiler: Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger vs. Super Sentai spoil that Kemp and Mazenda die, which also gives away Obular's survival. Of course, it's possible to come to entirely the wrong conclusion if your introduction to Liveman is seeing its Red Ranger standing at the graves of two men and two women.
Let Them Die Happy: As the crashed Brain Base explodes around them, Gush tells the now senile Bias that the explosions are fireworks celebrating his conquest of the Earth.
Limited Wardrobe: Their casual clothes. Averted in the middle of the series, when they were given different clothing, but later returned to their original clothes in the final episodes. (It's never justified or explained in-show, but they were forced to leave Academia in a 'clothes on their backs' sort of way.)
Also new weapons for Red and Yellow that can combine with Blue's weapon to form another BFG. Possibly subverted since the BFG is smaller and weaker than their first one - but apparently faster to combine and fire than the Bimotion Buster - and Red's new weapon is basically his old one with a longer, flashier looking handle (allowing him to do a two-hand grip and the "Falcon Break" attack).
Oh, Crap: Kemp, when he sees the Five-Man Band assembled for the first time. And Ashura, when he sees the Super Live Robo for the first time.
Only Sane Man: When Bias temporarily mind-controls everyone on Earth towards the end, only Yuusuke, untransformed and aboard the Brain Base, can stop him.
Colon, on the other hand, gets ready to mix it up in the Live Robo.
Phlebotinum Breakdown: After Yuusuke succeeds in stopping Bias, then in the midst of planet-wide mind control, with a Falcon Blade to the gut and several Liblaster shots to his Brain Room, Bias grows really, really old, having artificially prolonged his life with the brains there. Somehow. This marks the point where the already dark ending arc starts getting really dark.
Phlebotinum Induced Stupidity: shows up from time to time - Ashura's extra intelligence makes him a slightly less effective face-to-face fighter than Arashi, for example. Bias accidentally turning into a child after using Kemp's brain to rejuvenate himself is the most notable though - he's not any less intelligent, but instead has the recklessness you'd expect from that form.
Redemption Equals Death: Dr. Mazenda and Arashi. Kemp, in his last few seconds of life, comes round as well. Butchy doesn't get as far as Redemption, but his last moments makes it clear that he would have, if not for Bias blowing him up.
Redemption Equals Life: Gou. It's not mentioned what his lifespan is, but he's apparently retained his superhuman-ness in human form as a bonus - karma pays off nicely in this show.
Ridiculously Human Robots: Colon. She's obviously mechanical, but it's kinda hard to tell if she's giving exposition or reminding the audience when she announces, towards the end, that she's a robot and therefore immune to planetary mind control.
"Human" might not be the right word here, but Guildos and Butchy were sufficiently lifelike enough to fool the three super-geniuses in Volt and Liveman.
Robot Girl: Colon. Not Mazenda, until she turns herself into Robo Mazenda, specifically to keep Bias from taking her brain.
Shut Up, Hannibal!: When Bias got younger and gloats his Evil Plan... Megumi is the one that tells that his plan is just full of bullshit.
Small Girl, Big Gun: The rangers are under the sway of a mind-control gas early on. Colon saves them with the antidote... fired from a bazooka.
The Smart Guy: Initially averted - the protagonists and antagonists all qualify for the trope - and then deconstructed, more or less starting with Obular's breakdown.
Volt as a whole kinda shows what happens when you let this trope be the thing by which everything is measured.
That said, Yuusuke and Jou were near the bottom academically - and yet they still built their own mecha.
Megumi totally plays this straight, though.
Special Effects Evolution: The quadrupedal Land Lion looks awesome for 1988, and is the first of its kind in Sentai Mecha. Your impression upon seeing it in the first episode will be "YES".
Stock Footage: From episode 18 onwards, the Live Robo (and Live Boxer) combination sequences started getting cut sometimes, apparently to make room for more story. No in-universe explanation is givennote you could argue that it happens more when it seems unlikely that the plan of the week will involve Boffler fighters, so it looks like they can suddenly summon the mecha fully combined - either Fridge Logic or Fridge Brilliance, since the manual combination sequence isn't necessary for a successful combination.
Otherwise played straight with the Bimotion Buster and Gash's Giga Phantom sequences (though it wasn't long before they cut his walk back from firing it.
Stone Wall: Colon has no offensive weaponry, but once took a hit to save Yuusuke and give him the morale kick he needed.
Stunt Double: A notable exception in Yutaka Hirose, who played Dr. Kemp. Hirose is a trained stunt actor and did all of his own stunts, including those as Beauty Beast Kemp and Fear Beast Kemp.
Techno Babble: The explanation given for Chaos Phantom Energy, which apparently powers Volt's stuff. (The way it's shot - the camera closes in on Kemp's lips and twitches as he gives a manic description of it - is the "Babble" part of it.)
Basically, Chaos Phantom Energy is given off when... stuff blows up. Really.
The Cameo: Dorothée, not that you'll care if you're not French.
Took a Level in Badass: Given that he's the youngest of the five and that there wasn't much to show that he could do this, it's very surprising to see Jun'ichi/Green Sai continuously destroy Guildos' personal Guild-zuno until Guildos himself basically self-destructs from the strain of reviving himnote Specifically, of the 9 times Guildos does his Cast From HP thing, Jun'ichi forced 6 of them on his own. Of the other 3, Colon got in one kill, the other four did a combination attack, and there was the obligatory Bimotion Buster kill..
Transhumanism: Every human member of Volt adheres to this somehow. However, and with the exception of Bias himself, it's always a means to an end rather than the end itself.
Unstoppable Rage: Dr Kemp created a Brain Beast that runs on this at one point, which it drained off from nearby sources - Liveman, innocent bystanders, Dr Kemp... The only solution turned out to be to not fight Volt with entirely justified rage, and fight to protect people. ...and for Kemp to stay a good distance away from Ikari-Zuno (Rage-Brain) during battle.
Villains Act, Heroes React: Justified, for once. Liveman is an Oddly Small Organization early on (Volt has an enormous HR advantage), making an effective defense difficult, and don't seem to even be aware that the Brain Base is in space, making a proactive attack impossible.
Villainous Breakdown: ALL of the Volt members save Gash get this one way or another, for certain definitions of 'breakdown':
Obular finally gives in to the humanity inside him, and forces a million-to-one transformation back to human.
Guildos is reduced to confused wandering after learning his true nature.
Butchy, realizing he is a robot like Guildos, is forced to continue working for Bias against his will. He ultimately decides that being in Volt is absolutely horrible and tries to leave, only for Bias to kill him.
Ashura reverts back into Arashi and, as a final middle finger to Bias, makes a suicide charge into the Monster of the Week.
Mazenda, after realizing Bias and Gash were using her the whole time, flees and turns herself into a complete robot. Interestingly, this breakdown was built up through the entire series.
Kemp, who prided himself on being Bias' star pupil, is surpassed by everyone in Volt and only regains his spot by default when he is the last Volt commander remaining. His obsession with being the best- and a delusional belief that he was "special" in the eyes of Bias- leads him to willingly offer himself to Bias, only to be betrayed and sacrificed.
Bias is reduced to an old man and suffers a Karmic Death - for a certain value of 'Karmic'.
Wherein we learn that Guildos and Butchy are robots. This is where the show changes course and starts getting dark.
This is in-universe as well. Liveman notwithstanding, even the Volt commanders look uncomfortable at this revelation (Mazenda particularly) and Butchy is sobbing after learning that they were robots. Yes, Bias gave him the ability to cry. We find it out when he's using an attack projected from his eyes; we find it's weakening because even as he fights, his tears are distorting it.
What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Colon is generally treated like a human female for plot purposes (the ludicrously high level of her AI isn't touched on), albeit one with the added benefit of being mechanical, and therefore more chances at Heroic Near-Sacrifices.
With the exception of Dr. Oblar, all the (formerly) human Volt doctors stay on as face characters and are all humanized in one way or other when they "leave" Volt.
Even Butchy gets an episode to prove this, and he's non-human by every definition of the phrase.
A general rule of thumb is, if it's not Colon, it's not surviving the show.
Wicked Cultured: Bias and Kemp shoot for this. The former succeeds far more than the latter.
You Can't Thwart Stage One: The Liveman barely thwart ANYTHING. Bias even succeeds in his ultimate plan of Mass Hypnosis, making him one of the few, if not only, Sentai villains who succeeded in their plans. The only reason he was stopped was because Yuusuke was able to get onto Zuno Base before everything was ready and Kemp rebelled at the last minute.
You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Bias has a habit of doing this, but only towards the end - he's surprisingly forgiving for most of the show. He destroys Guidos and Butchy when they discover their true nature. He strips Ashura of his intelligence when he discovers sensitive documents in the Volt mainframe hinting at Bias' true goal. And finally, he sends Gash out to kill Mazenda and Kemp when they achieve scores of 1000, since he needs their brains to power his Fountain of Youth.
You Killed My Father: Black Bison and Green Sai are the younger siblings of the two who developed the power suits and were killed by Volt. By the time they're introduced, the original three have long since been fighting to protect everyone from Volt, but Tetsuya and Jun'ichi are really just out for blood.
Zettai Ryouiki: Megumi in her original civilian outfit. It's not touched on terribly often, and the jacket she wears gives it a 'business wear' feel.