So You Want To / Write the Next "Super Sentai"

Super Sentai has a simple enough concept: Live-Action series styled like anime about multicolored heroes in spandex with numerous weapons, including Humongous Combining Mecha, against an army of goons in rubber suits. However, just because it's campy doesn't mean you have to make it dumb. You can still make it work.

With that being said, let's get busy.


Necessary Tropes

Color-Coded Characters: You're gonna need to be able to tell each member apart somehow. How you do it is up to you, most Super Sentai shows have the entire suit in that colour bar a few other bits but in Tomica Hero Rescue Force they all wore orange with trim depending on the colours.

This usually also applies to their pre-henshin state, but as Chouriki Sentai Ohranger showed, you don't have to do that necessarily. It just helps. If they work for some form of group and have uniforms that they wear before transforming (See Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger) then it's slightly more likely that they'll have colour co-ordinated uniforms outside of battle.

Law of Chromatic Superiority: Red Is Heroic, so The Hero wears it; end of discussion. He usually gets the best stuff, the primary focus, etc. Don't sideline the others, though. However, the Red Ranger doesn't have to be the leader, nor does he have to be the most experienced.

Spandex, Latex, or Leather: Chances are, you're gonna be going with spandex; as much as some people deny it. Latex armor and leather-like materials aren't unheard-of, though. If the series has an additional, non-Ranger heroic ally, he'll probably have latex.

The Power of Friendship: Teamwork is a staple of the genre. It makes the kids happy, after all.

BFG: You're gonna need something to blow up the monster before you summon the...

Humongous Mecha: Specifically, Combining Mecha. The main weapon tends to be a sword for these ones. They are always Super Robots. Be sure to include a lot of them, you'll make some good money out of their toys.

Choices, Choices

Motif: Each season has some kind of overlaying motif to it. This motif is the inspiration for the heroes' costumes, their mecha, and sometimes even their weapons. Don't worry about repeating a motif that's already been done. After all, there were three car-themed seasons, three dinosaur-themed seasons, three ninja-themed seasons and plenty more where that came from. Give the motif a chance to rest before you dig it up again. 5 to 15 years sounds about right.

Central Theme: While the motif largely deals with the visual aspects of the season, you've also got to tell a story with it. What message do you want the audience to come away with? Courage, friendship, and family some of the more common ones; just keep it idealistic.

Tone: Do you want it to be a dark drama? Or a wacky comedy? Or even a ridiculous parody? This decision will affect how things look.

Number of Heroes: The minimum to a team is three members, usually in red, blue and yellow. One of the two non-red members is going to be a girl. Usually it's yellow, but sometimes it's blue. On at least one occasion both blue and yellow were girls, even.

The most common configuration is to have five members, consisting of the usual red, blue and yellow but with a pink/white and black/green member along with them. You don't have to have Two Girls to a Team, but you can if you want. Chances are, the guys adapting your series will want to turn the one that isn't pink/white into a girl for the sake of feminism, though.

Of course, just because you start out with three/five doesn't mean you have to have that many for the whole series. Choujuu Sentai Liveman introduced the concept of having two additional members join a three-member team, and Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger introduced the concept of a permanent Sixth Ranger joining the team later. If the concept of a Sixth Ranger just doesn't cut it, you can always bring in an Extra Hero that fits the theme of the show, but not the heroes' costumes. Heck, you can add as many members as you like (budget permitting, of course): several series have extra allied Rangers join the team at the end of the series or for special events like tie-in movies; Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger had recurring Guest Fighter Rangers appear for a total team size of ten (plus an eleventh enemy Ranger appearing in a movie), and Uchu Sentai Kyuranger grew to twelve Rangers, all of which were regular cast members.

Colors: All Sentai series have a Red and a Blue Ranger (and usually a Yellow Ranger - although there are four teams that don't); the other two members of the core five (if you are starting out with that number) are usually two of the four following colors: pink, green, white, black (most of the time, one is either black or green and the other is pink, but it's not a hard-and-fast rule). As stated above, red is reserved for The Hero, while pink is only worn by women; all other colors are rather flexible as to who wears them. For the Sixth Ranger(s), gold and silver are popular choices, as are whatever core team colors you didn't use already (except for pink). You can also repeat the red color for the Sixth, but make sure to give him a different title and costume to differentiate him from the Red Ranger you already have. And if you're going for a big roster a la Kyoryuger or Kyuranger, you'll need more colors; options that have been used in those series include purple, orange, grey, and cyan (aka "aqua" or "skyblue", this color has also been used for regular Blue Rangers in place of the usual darker shade on occasion).

Pitfalls

  • Avoid going overboard with Stuff Blowing Up during the fight scenes. Chances are, your audience will be more impressed by your actors' martial arts skills than the huge explosions constantly happening behind the heroes and villans. A much better use for huge explosions is to have one happen just after the rangers morph at the start of a critical battle or a team-up, because Awesomeness Is Volatile.
  • While Sentai is Merchandise-Drivennote , don't make it too blatant. It's a lot easier to get away with a lot more merchandise in a series with a collectible (i.e., keys, batteries, globes), but even then, it's still possible to go overboard with merchandise (see Tensou Sentai Goseiger, which had a card gimmick that was mainly to promote an arcade game, as an example). Consider how useful the collectible is as a way to determine how many times it should show up - a collectible that can allow the user to swim rapidly probably isn't gonna have much use if you're writing a series that takes place mostly on dry land, in the air, or in space, whereas a collectible that allows the user to generate a shield should appear multiple times. Same goes for the mecha - if you're going to include mecha, be sure to use the mechs you introduce a lot (for an example of how this can go wrong, look at Chikyuu Sentai Fiveman).

Potential Subversions

  • You don't have to include Black and White Morality. Feel free to make the heroes somewhat morally questionable or your villains not that evil. But regardless of a scenario its best to give the viewer a reason to root for the protagonist and not fall into Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy or make the protagonist bland enough that the viewer ends up Rooting for the Empire.

  • Explore the consequences of the existence of monsters and aliens existing. How much of an impact it can make? How involved will the military be now that monsters and aliens roam the planet?

  • Have the lead red ranger be female - while Shinkenger had a full-time red ranger in the form of Lady Kaoru, and in Gokaiger, the two female rangers could become red rangers if they used a red ranger key, the red ranger has always been male so far (although Magiranger almost had a female red ranger).


Writers' Lounge

Suggested Themes and Aesops

Justice. Resolve. Traffic safety. Keep it optimistic, even in the worst of times.

Potential Motifs

It all depends on the theme. Popular ones include dinosaurs, cars, police squadrons, ninja, and especially animals. When all else fails, go with a neutral vehicle theme.

Suggested Plots

Chances are, most of your episodes are gonna follow a similar formula: Monster attacks civilians, team faces off against monster but fails, focus member does something relevant to the episode, round two, heroes win, monster vs. robo, scene with group.

There are a series of plots that happen often, though.

  • A monster might attack brides, forcing the heroes to go undercover as a couple getting married.
  • A monster might make copies of the heroes.
    • Alternatively, the villains will bring in a team of evil rangers. Said team does not have to be human, and usually lasts for an arc.
  • A monster might not want to hurt anyone, but the team will usually end up having to blow him up anyway.

For the end of the season, raid the heroes' base, Trash the Set, and start blowing up mecha. Do anything to make the heroes' second wind awe-inspiring. Just don't go overboard.


Departments

Set Designer / Location Scout

There's a lot of places you can re-use. A city, a quarry, a grassy field, or other locations around Japan work great for regular-size battles, and there are specific sets for mecha battles.

Props Department

Well, there's the Transformation Trinket. The most common ones these days are wrist-mounted or cell phones.

A set of weapons that each member has, usually a gun, a sword, or gun that can turn into a sword are also a must.

Each member should have a unique weapon of their own. Red usually has a sword, the others you can vary. These weapons can most commonly combine into one BFG.

All the props can be turned into toys, the real source of your money.

Costume Design

Spandex is generally what you'll be using for the heroes' costumes when transformed. Everything else that isn't human will generally be rubber. Some female villains, however, will tend to have visible faces.

Casting Director

Start off with the Five-Man Band or Power Trio characterization and work your way from there. Your cast needs to slowly grow as characters over the course of the series. They need to be friendly towards each other.

The villains will usually be played by actors in suits, but that doesn't make them inconsequential. The monster can benefit with a quirky personality.

Child actors are optional, but they work good as support members or heroes. In at least one case, a child was even one of the villains!

Voice actors can also be counted on to do some roles for the series.

Also, it's a good idea to have a few scenes every now and then featuring the rangers removing their helmets or otherwise showing their faces while they're still morphed. It'll help build the illusion that it's really the characters inside the suits and not random stuntmen.

Stunt Department

Martial arts are the real draw of the series. Each member of the team needs to be a skilled fighter, and they need to look good. When all else fails, however, throw some wires in.


Extra Credit

Let's say you're not writing a Super Sentai series. Let's say you're adapting a Super Sentai show into a Power Rangers series. What are you going to do? It all depends on a few factors.

Factor one is Budget. You will probably have a reduced budget compared to Sentai. This will determine what you'll be able to add. Save most of your budget for blending the Sentai footage with your American actors. The good thing about adapting Super Sentai is that most of your work is done for you. You'll most likely have access to the most important costumes, like the Ranger suits or the suits for the main villains. If you have a good enough budget, you can add a Battlizer for the Red Ranger or some other vehicle. Don't go overboard with additions, though, or you'll be reduced to reverse-angle Stock Footage. The kids aren't that stupid. They can tell when they've seen something over and over. They can also tell when the foam shield is replaced by a cloth shield.

Factor two is Footage. You will be limited by a combination of what suits you have and what footage you use. However, don't think this is an excuse to just repeat the plot of the Sentai. The kids (and Linkara) won't notice, but the older fans will have access to the original Sentai a year or more before you adapt it, and they will notice, and only once has this type of adaptation been a fan favorite season. And they will let you know that they noticed. Loudly. Instead, think of the Sentai footage as sort of a guideline, a suggestion more than a rule. A nature-themed Sentai can just as easily be adapted into a space opera. A wacky comedy, with enough work, can be repurposed into a post-apocalyptic drama, but this can also be messed up. Simply cut the footage you can't use and make good use of the footage you can.

Other notes for adapting to Power Rangers:

Casting Department: You'll want Two Girls to a Team, even if the original Sentai didn't have it. You usually don't need to stress too much about the fact that the Stock Footage has a male. If the Sentai starts with only a Power Trio, though, you're free to ignore this.

You'll also want a Five-Token Band to make sure your cast isn't too monochromatic. It doesn't really matter which races are used or what roles they take, just make sure they're there. In a pinch; Xander, Flynn, Antonio, and Chase are evidence that you should never underestimate the power of an accent (and with production stationed in New Zealand these days, most of your cast will be faking American accents anyway).

Props Department: You'll usually be able to make your own additions to the arsenal used in Sentai. A Super Mode for the Red Ranger (complete with its own Transformation Trinket) is a popular choice, as is a Cool Bike or some other vehicle. A Canon Immigrant Sixth Ranger is possible, but you'll have to work around the fact that he wasn't present in the original Stock Footage. A new mecha is probably ill-advised; besides the same Stock Footage issues an original Sixth Ranger would face, you likely won't have access to a miniature set to film mecha battles on. That being said, you are more than welcome to link an original Sixth Ranger to an already existing mecha if you are willing to reshoot the cockpit footage.

Subversions:
  • Make your Power Ranger characters adults rather than teenagers. It helps reduce the possibility of your series involving child soldiers fighting the empire.
  • Make the team of rangers a family - while this has happened before in a few Sentai series, it has never happened in Power Rangers - at most, it's been 2 of the rangers are related or none of the rangers are related at all. However, you don't have to apply this to the Sixth Ranger(s).
  • Have the rangers go out of their way to search for and become rangers - traditionally, the rangers either are called by the team's mentor, start off as rangers, or are chosen by the powers.

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