Tokusatsu 101: Power Rangers vs. Super Sentai

Greetings, geeks of all ages! Welcome back to another article in the Tokusatsu 101 series. In this article, I’ll be covering the differences between the American Power Rangers series and the original Japanese Super Sentai. This year is the 45th Anniversary of the Super Sentai series. As such, I think it is fitting we begin our deep dive into Super Sentai. Of course, for the western audience, many of you will know the series as Power Rangers. However, are they really the same thing? I’m Zach J., TD (not a real doctorate), your guide to the wonderful world of Tokusatsu. Join me as I answer this question and more.

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What is Super Sentai?

First, let’s answer this question for the people who only know Power Rangers. What exactly is Super Sentai? At its core, Super Sentai is about a superhero team protecting the world from the evils that would destroy or conquer it. This team normally consists of five individuals who come together from all different walks of life. And, because red is the color of the hero in Japan, the group is typically lead by the Red Ranger.

Isn’t that the same as Power Rangers?

While certain aspects of the original Super Sentai format are retained, many things changed to appeal to a Western audience. One of the biggest changes for the Western audience is just how interconnected the Rangers are within the series. While Power Rangers has each team aware of the previous ones, the Super Sentai teams are generally unaware of the teams before them. In fact, while each Super Sentai team is different in each season, Power Rangers followed the same team throughout different seasons led by Zordon.

Not only that, a good amount of the more serious aspects of Super Sentai are toned down as well. For being a kids’ show, you’d be surprised to know that it also features copious amounts of blood, use of alcohol, and character deaths. Power Rangers typically tries to play around this due to FCC regulations on what is generally acceptable to show to kids. Now, this is not discounting the major character deaths that do happen in PR. What I am saying is that comparatively, Super Sentai features these deaths more frequently.

But the toys are still the same, right?

Unfortunately, no. Many of the toys sold over here typically have a lot less features compared to the Super Sentai versions. While the sounds would have to be changed to match the Power Rangers version, in many cases, the toys are simplified or outright changed for something else. This is more common with the more recent toy releases for the current shows. It is a shame too, since, for the most part, these changes are entirely unnecessary.

Is one better than the other?

Honestly, that’s really just personal preference. In my case, as someone who more readily consumes translated Japanese media, I’m more into Super Sentai. Though, I do still have fond memories of watching Power Rangers as a kid. I even have fond memories of playing with those toys I was bad mouthing earlier. All of that is to say that whether you look Power Rangers or Super Sentai, I think we can both agree that this series has a special place in my heart as being a big part of forming who I am today.

In any case, I hope this article sparked an interest in you to check out the Super Sentai series. As I mentioned in the beginning, this year marks the 45th anniversary of the series, and as such, the upcoming season is set up as a celebration of the series as a whole. I hope you’ll give it a shot and watch along as it comes out. Additionally, if you’re interested in reading the other articles in my Tokusatsu 101 series, feel free to read them at the following links:

Intro to Tokusatsu and Kamen Rider
Eras of Kamen Rider
Seasons of the Heisei Era – Part 1
Seasons of the Heisei Era – Part 2

While they are primarily focused on the Kamen Rider series, I intend to write more about the Super Sentai series and other Tokusatsu series in the months to come. I hope you’ll read along as they come out.


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