Women of Tokusatsu Part 1: Early Super Sentai
Over the years, several female tokusatsu characters left a lasting impact with their stories shared on-screen. For the first entry of this article series, we talk about the influential women of early Super Sentai and how they changed the series.
Created by the late Shotaro Ishinomori, the Sentai series premiered on April 5, 1975, with its first team, Himitsu Sentai Gorenger. When the world is threatened by an evil organization, the Black Cross Army, a team of five young recruits are gathered to defend Japan. They are given special battle suits, which enhance the wearer with superhuman abilities along with various powerful weapons.
Gorenger featured our first sentai heroine, Peggy Matsuyama/Momorenger, played by Lisa Komaki. Peggy was an eighteen-year-old chemical analyst and special weapons engineer with a focus in explosive devices. She had a Eurasian heritage as her father was a Swiss national and her mother was Japanese. This would make her the first of many mixed female rangers to come.
In the show, she was often portrayed as serious and lethal as she was a master of disguise. With her expertise in explosive devices, her heart-shaped earrings were designed as high-impact bombs that she would hurl at enemies during battle. Peggy set the standard for future Sentai heroines to be portrayed as strong and highly intelligent.
The eighth season, Choudenshi Bioman, made history in Super Sentai by debuting the first female Yellow Ranger, Mika Koizumi/Yellow4, played by Yuki Yajima. Bioman centers around a team of five young people, infused with Bio Particles, tasked with protecting the earth from the evil organization, Neo Empire Gear, led by Doctor Man. Mika was an 18-year-old wildlife photographer who was initially hesitant to fight but soon joined the Biomen to protect the animals of Africa. She transformed into Yellow4 and proved herself skillful in battle. Though she was often stubborn, she had a good heart and was loyal to her team.
Yellow4 became an iconic character in the series due to her tragic death in the show. While fighting Mason, one of Doctor Man’s allies, she sacrificed herself to protect her teammates and was killed by the villain’s Bio Killer Gun. The infamous funeral scene depicts the Biomen and their ally, Peebo, mourning the loss of their teammate.
This was the first on-screen death of a female ranger, which shocked many fans at the time. Jun Yabuki, played by Sumiko Tanaka, eventually became the new Yellow4, but Mika’s impact as a character would remain in the series.
Following after Bioman was the ninth season, Dengeki Sentai Changeman, which debuted in 1985. Changeman aired with the first ever female White ranger, Sayaka Nagisa/ChangeMermaid, played by Hiroko Nishimoto. The Changemen were former members of the Japanese military selected by the Earth Defense Force to defeat the Great Star League Gozma. Sayaka was a former Earth Defense Force officer known for being a genius inventor. She was always able to calmly analyze a situation and plan a strategy.
It was often said in the show that she had the brain of a computer. Sayaka became a fan-favorite in Changeman and popularized the “Clear Headed” heroine personality. With her character’s influence on the series, future female rangers would be written as calm and capable women who could solve any problem.
Hikari Sentai Maskman, the 11th season of Super Sentai, centered around the team fighting the evil underground organization, the Royal Underground Empire Tube. Earth Imperial Prince Igam, played by Mina Asami, changed the narrative of female villains when she revealed her true gender in Maskman.
Igam was raised as a male in order to take the throne of the Igam Royal Family Kingdom and assumed her identity as a man throughout the show. She quickly became a commander in the Royal Underground Empire Tube, serving Emperor Zeba until she could personally take the throne, and proved to be a powerful opponent against the Maskmen.
During a battle with the Maskmen in episode 44, she was shot with a large Aura blast and in her weakened state, revealed her true gender as a woman, which shocked the team. Even with her gender revealed, she continued to fight the Maskmen and plotted to still take the throne. By the end of the show, she allied herself with the team and saved her twin sister, Princess Ial, before defeating Zeba. Igam’s character is notable in Sentai due to the way her character was written to be strong no matter what gender she assumed.
While there are much more amazing female characters in the early seasons of Super Sentai, these characters changed the narrative of the series and should be remembered in the history of the franchise. The next article series will cover modern Sentai characters and their impact.
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