"Hiding from people and slashing evil! Ninja Sentai! Kakuranger, revealed!"
Ninja Sentai Kakuranger (Ninja Squadron Stealth Rangersnote Kakuranger is a portmanteau of Kakure, which means "hidden", and Ranger) is the eighteenth installment in the Super Sentai franchise, airing from 1994 to 1995.400 years ago, a band of Yōkai battled a group of ninjas, led by the legendary Sarutobi Sasuke. He and four other ninjas sealed the Yōkai away behind a magical door. In the present day, the Yōkai are set free when two of those ninjas' descendants, Sasuke and Saizō, are tricked into opening the door. Now, they and the three descendants of the other ninjas must put the Yōkai away as the Kakurangers.This is the first Super Sentai with a Ninja motif; its characters are also compared to the leads of Journey to the West. It was also the first Sentai to feature a female as its leader, and the first to have a non-human ally as a Sixth Ranger. Part of its charm is the distinct Post Modernism feel it has - The Narrator, and later the Youkai themselves, make a point of introducing their past selves directly to the audience, whilst being characters in the show, for example.It was adapted into America as the third season of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. Notably, the suits were used for the Aquitian Rangers, who protected the Earth during the "Alien Rangers" story arc when the Mighty Morphin team were de-aged.
The Kakurangers are:
Sasuke/Ninja Red: The hot-bloodedHero of the story. Parallels to Sun Wukong.
Tsuruhime/Ninja White: The Chick and Smart Guy. She's technically the leader, but Sasuke's the P.O.V.-character. Parallels to Xuanzang.
Ninjaman: Sixth Ranger, a disciple of the Sanshinshō who was imprisoned in a magic bottle after he was tricked into attacking humans. He can enlarge himself to fight giant Yokais and has the ability to transform into Samuraiman when angered.
Hana no Kunoichi Guminote The Flower Kunoichi Gang: The Yōkai's All-Femaleband of fighters; their names are Ayame, Sakura, Suiren, Yuri, and Ran. They were once ordinary cats until transformed by Gashadokuro.
Cool Bike: The Shark Machines, much like the Goranger Machines and the Zaurer Machines, consisted of one solo bike for Red (the Shark Bridder) and two sidecar-equipped bikes for the rest of the team (Blue's Shark Slider shared with White, and Yellow's Shark Launcher shared with Black). They could be combined to form a Finishing Move called the Shark Driver.
Cool Car: The Nekomaru van, a sentient van with the face of cat.
Crossover: Super Sentai World, a short 3D film where the Kakuranger team fought alongside the four previous Sentai teams (Fiveman, Jetman, Zyuranger and Dairanger). The main giant robot of each team were also present. This short film served as a predecessor to the annual Versus movies that began the following year.
Eyecatch: The eyecatch before the break features a Kakuranger by a black background slashing the screen. All 5 Kakurangers are then seen in the open turning to the camera. After the break, the eyecatch features the Kyodai Jūshō (the Three God Generals and Ninjaman from eps. 36 onwards).
Finishing Move: The Raiko Naminote Lightning Wave, an energy blast with the Kakuremaru.
Humongous Mecha: The first Sentai series to feature two sets of combining mechas for the main team rather than just one. The team's Sixth Ranger also functioned as a third humanoid robot.
A Mech by Any Other Name: The Sanshinshōnote Three Divine Generals and their components, the Kyodai Jūshōnote Giant Beast Generals and the Chōninjūnote Super Stealth Beasts. Tsubasamaru gets the unique classification of Seininjūnote Holy Stealth Beast.
Animal Mecha: The Kyodai Jūshō (and by proxy, the Jūshō Fighters) have humanoid forms with anthropomorphic characteristics, while the Chōninjū and Tsubasamaru are all animal-shaped. The name of each Kakuranger's mecha is a pun on the animal it's based on.
"Saruder" = saru (ape)
"Kark" = kaku (crane)
"Rogan" = garō (wolf)
"Kumard" = kuma (bear)
"Gammer" = gamagaeru (Japanese toad)
Combining Mecha: The Jūshō are the components of the Muteki Shōgun, while the Chōninjū are the ones for the Kakure Daishōgun.
Red Saruder + White Kark + Blue Rogan + Yellow Kumard + Black Gammer = Muteki Shōgun
God Saruder + God Kark + God Rogan + God Kumard + God Gammer = Kakure Daishōgun
Averted with the Jūshō Fighters, which are lightweight versions of the standard Jūshō that make up for their inability to combine with greater speed and flexibilitynote Their names are just like the others, only they all begin with "Battle" (i.e. Battle Saruder, Battle Kark, ect.).
Psycho Rangers: The Flower Kunoichi Gang, introduced in Episode 15, is an all-female variant. Notably, they were also the first team of Psycho Rangers who weren't simply Evil Knockoffs of the heroic rangers.
The Smurfette Principle: Ninja White, who unlike previous girls, is actually the leader of the team (although Ninja Red is still the lead character).
The Atoner: Gali, Jiraiya's master, murdered his father after being forced to do so by a Yōkai. He then spent the following years training Jiraiya to kill him one day.
Berserk Button: Don't call Ninjaman "Blue Squirt"note It's a pun: "Blue Squirt" is the direct word-by-word translation of "Aonisai", which can has varying meanings between "Novice", "Greenhorn" and "Sucker", or else you'll meet Samuraiman!
(YOU CALLED ME) BLUE SQUIRT???!!! EXPLOSION OF ANGER!!!
Bicep-Polishing Gesture: Saizō and Seikai both do this in episode 13, one after the other, in the space of a couple of seconds - thing is, Saizō does it to the fleeing Kanedama ('up yours!'), and Seikai does it to everyone else ('alright!').
Big Damn Heroes: In mecha fights, sometimes Tsubasamaru, and later Muteki Shogun would show up out of nowhere.
Mood Whiplash: Midway of the series, however, the Narrator is gone, and the series started getting edgy and dramatic, particularly the episodes to get their final scrolls.
Credits Gag: If the Youkai has a human form, the actor is credited under that role instead. For example, the (voice) actors for Kappa and Rokurokubi are in the credits as "Glasses Man" and "Sunglasses Woman".note Also examples of Hey, It's That Guy!, as they were ridiculously prolific actors at the time
Fun with Subtitles: The subtitles that name the Youkai will always be accompanied by an arrow pointing towards the Youkai. "This guy" —>, because clearly there is a possibility that they will be mistaken for someone else.
Gratuitous English: Averted by Jiraiya, played so straight that it hurts by Kappa and Rokurokubi.
Kappa: Oru-kay! Hai yew! Rook oba he-yah!
Heroic Lineage: The modern Kakurangers are descendents of the originals, some 24 generations down the line (in Tsuruhime's case). The modern ones all get to meet their ancestors when they get their Doron Changers - and we find out that the ancestors aren't exactly thrilled with their descendents' lifestyles.
Highly-Visible Ninja: The team goes out and fights monsters in BROAD DAYLIGHT, and summons giants to fight giant monsters. At one point, a TV Crew documents one of their battles. They have to be the most visible ninjas ever.
Their Kakuranger gear is intended for use during battles with Youkai, which are almost always highly public. Their actual ninja gear is much more subdued and what you'd expect - black gear, shin guard, bracers - except for Tsuruhime, who wears white... but even that's not so visible inside a dark office building.
And then there's Ninjaman... who subverts this with Voluntary Shapeshifting. Kinda hard to see a 8-centimeter-tall ninja, even if he's Ninjaman.
The Hit Flash: Of the Batman "POW!" "WHAM!" type. (In English, of course.) This is the likely reason why not much Kakuranger footage was used for Power Rangers. Frequently appears over the picture, rather than as a separate card, and is most often used when they throw their shuriken.
When we first see Oboro-guruma (Eps. 3), he's working as a cabbie and having a spectacularly bad day. He's had his ear pulled on by a kid, his cab soiled by a nauseous drunk, and his fare meter ripped out by an ungrateful customer - at which point he snaps and changes into his Youkai form, chasing down that last guy.
Limited Wardrobe: Justified by the fact that the Kakurangers are traveling in a bus... But they all appear to have at least one change of clothes (Seikai tried to sell their laundry at a flea market once) and they switch to summer outfits once it's warm enough.
Clothes Make the Legend: Their ninja gear is very limited (largely to facilitate the henshin sequence, it seems), but has apparently been passed down through the ages and is utterly distinctive.
Amusingly, Sasuke seems to subvert this - his outfit changes every so often, much more than the others, but because it's always the same kind of clothes it's hard to see.
Kouta: "Striking at evil from the midst of shadows!"
Yousuke: "Ninpuu Sentai..."
Yousukenote The line is not limited for him alone though: "... has arrived!"
At one point Junior performs a ritual to Zashiki-Warashi evil, with the incantation "Daichi no akuryou tachi yo. Ikeru momo no subete no ikari to nikushimi wo atsume, kono zashiki-warashi ni aku no chikara wo atae yo"note Evil spirits that dwell within the earth, gather the anger and hatred of all living things, and grant evil power unto Zashiki Warashi This is very close to Bandora's Make My Monster Grow incantation in Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger, "Daichi ni nemuru akuryou-tachi yo. (monster's name) ni chikara wo atae yo."note "Evil spirits that dwell within the earth, grant power unto (monster's name.)"
Never Say "Die": You can probably count on one hand the number of times the Youkai directly say they're going to kill someone. They're usually content just to send someone to hell, or defeat them, etc. (Justified on a meta level by how they themselves don't necessarily 'die'.)
No Fourth Wall: Beginning with Episode 25 (following the departure of the narrator), the monsters begin to explain to the audience themselves the mythology behind them.
Incidentally, the narrator is an in-universe character to begin with. He at one point has to move his narration stage to avoid getting caught up in the Kakuranger's training, and on one occasion got caught up in Enra-enra's laughing gas (who then proceeds to do his own explanation).
Only One Name: The Kakurangers are never given family names on the show.
Perpetual Poverty: Averted. They're hardly middle-class, but working a crepe stand through Nekomaru apparently provides enough money for five adults to survive day-to-day on. The key word there being 'survive', as Saizo buying a Kei-car or Seikai selling off a change of their clothes at a flea market is a clear source of concern for them.
Outright discussed and justified by The Narrator at one point, who notes that as a traveling band of Youkai hunters, they can't just stop and work normal jobs for money.
It appears that, prior to becoming scouted (read: shanghaied) by Tsuruhime, this was how Sasuke and Saizou were living.
Portmantitle: Kakuranger is a combination of kakure (the Japanese word for "hiding") and renja ("ranger").
Post-Modern Magik: The Youkai have evolved with the times, and take on forms more relevant to the era the show takes place in or are jokes on the legend surrounding the Youkai. Kappa wears swimming goggles, Rokurokubi is a punk rocker, Oboroguruma is a cab driver in human and Youkai forms...
The design theme for them was, apparently, "Bronx Yōkai".
Reika's participation in battle alongside Sasuke gives tribute to Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger battles. Reika herself is an homage to Mei (who was played by her actress), her twin daggers are a nod to Boi (that team's Yellow), and unlike the Kakurangers' attacks, her blows strike Sword Sparks off the Dorodoros. What may be another Zyuranger nod are the non-urban shots of the Super Stealth Beasts running together.
Episode 35, the one with the Punishment Sailor Sisters, is a shout-out to Sailor Moon. The villains' plot is Sailor Moon-esque compared to the other episodes, the girls' Sailor costumes (Tsuruhime also gets to wear one) are a blatant visual reference, Tsuruhime and the Sisters confront the episode's Yōkai with an In the Name of the Moon speech worded quite similarly to the Trope Namer's, and it's Tsuruhime (the female leader of the team and who is a colour match for Usagi more or less) who finishes off the Yōkai single-handedly.
Stock Ninja Weaponry: Shuriken show up, wielded by all of the rangers. Most are of them are small. Each ranger has unique shuriken which resemble their ranger symbol. NinjaRed also has a Fuuma Shuriken, with his first Humongous Mecha wielding a bigger version (it can double as a shield) that it rolls at enemies to kill them. The rangers also use Caltrops on a few occasions. Each of them has a wakizashi in Ranger form, and finally NinjaRed's third Humongous Mecha wields a pair of ninja-to.
Surprisingly Good English: Jiraiya is played by American-born Kane Kosugi, so his English is free of the usual Japanese accent. This is most jarring in the roll call, where he pronounces "Ninja Black" in an American accent (specifically he has a Californian accent).
In episode 3, his introduction, he says a buttload of things in perfect English.
Most of his dialogue in that episode is in flawless English, and even later episodes have him slipping into it.
Synchronization: If Daradara is injured, Ninjaman is injured instead. He can only be injured instead if Daimaou is injured.
Team Pet: Nekomaru, their... bus. He even has its own theme song.
Theme Naming: Each Kakuranger is named after a ninja from actual Japanese folklore. Justified - they're all descended from said ninjas, and their names are taken from their ancestors.
Sasuke: Named after Sarutobi Sasuke.
Jiraiya: Named after the hero of the folktale Jiraiya Goketsu Monogatari.
Saizō: Named after Kirigakure Saizō.
Seikai: Named after Miyoshi Seikai.
Tsuruhime: Named after Ōhōri Tsuruhime. (referred to as Shodai Tsuruhime)
Also applies to the Flower Kunoichi Gang, where every one of them has a flower name (Ayame = iris, Sakura = cherry flower, Suiren = water lily, Yuri = lily - the regular kind - , Ran = orchid)
Vanity License Plate: Nekomaru's license plate is "Shinagawa-56 Go 5656" - '56' can be read as 'goro', and 'goro-goro' is the Japanese onomatopoeia for 'purring'.
Similarly, Oboro-guruma has 459HEL (which wouldn't be legal in Japan...). '459' = 'shigoku' = 'Jigoku' = Hell. Kind of a blink-and-you-miss-it, since it's only really visible when he's giant-sized.
Weaksauce Weakness: Noppe'rabou is a Flesh Golem in the modern age, and can revive himself by rejoining his individual parts. Then Samuraiman steps on his abdominal flap, resulting in his reviving normally... and he explodes and dies, apparently feeling the chill through his belly.
Worst News Judgment Ever: Mokumokuren and Nurikabe's purchasing expensive jewelry with potatoes temporarily turned into cash, makes the paper. However, the show takes it a few steps further, by making it Jiraiya's English-language newspapernote Aluminum Christmas Trees is at work here - foreign newspapers wouldn't be too hard to find in Tokyo and putting the article in the world news section.
Youkai: The villains are all these. Every major one of them, sans Yugami and the Flower Kunoichi Gang, refers to a creature of Japanese myth.