Go! Go! Loser Ranger! – Episode 1

By: Vrai Kaiser April 9, 20240 Comments
a group of low level sentai villains listening to a radio in their evil base

What’s it about? For the past 13 years, the Dragon Keepers have fought to keep humanity safe from the invading fortress in the sky. Their battles rage in the same arena every Sunday, and it’s….kind of gotten old, actually. At least for the Dusters, the immortal foot soldiers who’ve been busting their butts to keep up this charade-based truce ever since the Keepers wiped out their leadership. Most of them are resigned to just getting through, but Fighter D still feels a burning drive to be a real threat.

I think at this point in my life I might have seen more parodies of sentai shows than actual original-flavor sentai. Like most Americans alive in the ‘90s, I osmosed a bit of Power Rangers despite being banned from watching it, and I lived and died for Sailor Moon and its overlapping sensibilities about a team of monster fighters. But the childhood reverence never took hold, and so as an adult (not to mention a magical girl fan who’s been through this Hot Take avalanche from the other side) I sometimes wonder to what degree I’m looking at a reflection of a reflection of a reflection.

Basically, I feel a little like a charlatan saying that, despite leaning hard into the absurdity of its premise, Go! Go! Loser Ranger! feels like it has some earnest regard for the genre it’s parodying. I’m pretty confident about the kick-ass action direction though. Turns out that when you’re making a show about sentai heroes who’re actually a pack of Booster Golds, getting the Tiger & Bunny guy is a good idea. He even brought that show’s horn section.

the five color-coded Dragon Keepers standing up inspirationally

The first half of the episode treads familiar ground for super sentai parodies, with its self-aggrandizing heroes and villains at their wits end trying to come up with new monster designs. It’s well done stuff; in fact, the level of stylistic variation and sheer energy in the execution sort of sadly underscores how often anime make it to air like it took everything they had to crawl across the finish line, all while showing every bit of that exhaustion in their visuals. Loser Ranger doesn’t just have some nebulous concept of “sakuga” where anime is as good as its frames per second: it has intent behind its stylistic decisions that feel tied to its creative vision, which should be a baseline in some better world where anime creatives aren’t being sucked dry and then tossed out.

But the real joy is in watching the show pull out its actual concept: Fighter D is tired of being part of a rote mob that gets mowed down every week, and he’s going to do what it takes to make himself a genuine threat to the heroes. It’s a good plot hook for sure, but it’s also a great opening to looking at how these popular genres struggle to stay relevant, the problem of long-running franchises, and genre expectations regarding villain-writing over the years. The image of the one weird little kid cheering D and the other Dusters on? It honestly got to the little Team Rocket fan in me.   

a truck with tiger ears and eyes for headlights

What gives me pause is Ochi Keiichiro’s name in the series composer slot. Ochi’s body of work is what one might politely call “workmanlike.” There’s another genre parody that’s generally well received, a smattering of rom-coms and horny harem shows, scripts for a bunch of unmemorable seasonal slurry, and long-running children’s franchises. Now, at least two of those are pretty relevant here, so with the addition of a talented director it might be worth giving him the benefit of the doubt. But boy are there a lot of duds, including titles that had good source material to work with.

The biggest disappointment will be if the heroes stay two-dimensional. Even if they’re meant to be antagonists, shounen and seinen titles about misunderstood losers going up against beloved heroes who are secretly assholes can verge pretty quickly into incel rhetoric; more than that, it’s just not compelling drama. I’ve also got my fingers crossed to see more female characters in the spotlight. So far we have the requisite Pink Ranger and the mysterious junior Keeper who connects with D, but there’s so much going on that it’s too soon to call whether they’ll get to play a role besides support for the male leads. I’ve seen an action shounen, is what I’m saying. But this is so stylish, so bursting with creativity, that I’ll be giving it three episodes regardless.

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