Following our previous article “Does Joe Odagiri hate Kuuga?“, we look at the next popular fan rumor, did Carranger save Sentai?
A fan rumor that has been circling longer than most of our readers may have been active in the fandom is that Sentai ratings were desperately low in the early 90’s and the series faced cancellation. Then, in 1996, along came Gekisou Sentai Carranger with a different change of pace fans have often referred to as a Sentai “spoof” and improved ratings and toy sales. The staff went into the show thinking it would be the last season and wanted to have fun, which unintentionally guaranteed its survival. This idea has been told for so long that it’s now thought of as fact. But, is it?
This is quite a simple one: it’s FALSE. There is simply no evidence to support that this rumor is true; there are no direct quotes from staff at Toei or actors from the show itself. Personally speaking to one of the actors from Carranger itself, Red Racer’s Yuji Kishi, who had never heard anything about it. Even speaking to actors from other shows of that era, none were aware of this rumor. However, in the 90’s, Sentai really did face cancellation and was saved by a show, but it wasn’t Carranger.
It was Jetman.
During the 80’s era of Sentai, there was one major writer: Hirohisa Soda. He was considered head writer from Goggle V to Fiveman, writing around 70% of each series. Sentai was on a ratings and toy sale decline during this period. Flashman had an average rating of 12.3%, and 4 years later, this dropped to 6.5% with Fiveman. Fans thought the show and format had grown stale and mixed reports stated that Fiveman’s toy sales were very low, commenting that shelves brimmed of unsold Max Magma toys; maybe because it appeared in two episodes and got destroyed in its second appearance.
At that point in time, Toei came to a decision to put an end to Sentai. This wasn’t the first time Toei had finished one of their franchises. Kamen Rider stopped a number of times and Black RX had also just finished. It wouldn’t end with Fiveman. However, they would make one last series, which became Choujin Sentai Jetman.
Toei producer Takeyuki Suzuki promised sponsors that they would daringly reform the brand this time, starting with selecting a main director who had not directed before, Keita Amemiya. At what stage was it known that Jetman would be the last season is not 100% certain, but it was at least in the early stages of filming. Takeyuki felt that choosing so many young (and inexperienced) crew members may have been out of desperation. TV Asahi producer, Atsushi Kaji, infamously informed staff that, “It’s not true that Sentai will continue on forever.”
In our interview with Toshihide Wakamatsu, aka Black Condor, he stated that from going into the series, they were aware it was going to be the last. This was a show which they could do something different, something people wouldn’t expect and go down hard.
Jetman ended up a hit and revitalized the franchise. Due to the change in themes, producer Kaji said that he got voices of surprise and worry from people in the business, but fans’ criticism, “didn’t really come at all.” The viewing figures for non-children were high, especially with mothers who liked Black Condor’s character and the use of elements like a love triangle, which even led to the creation of a petition for Gai not to die at the end, despite being planned from the start. The viewing figures were back up (7.1% average) and so were the toy sales (unfortunately, there are no definitive numbers during this period). Sentai would then continue with Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger and carry on for another 25 years, without a break.
This wasn’t to say that Sentai was out of the firing line. It needed to continue on being a success to secure its place on television. Zyuranger thankfully did, as did Dairanger, Kakuranger, and so on. There was even a reference to this in the second season of Unofficial Sentai Akibaranger, in the “Powerful Rangers” episode to help them turn back to normal– “Thanks to your efforts, sales were boasted and the franchise was saved from possible cancellation.”
Given the evidence above we can confirm certain things:
- Did Carranger save Sentai – FALSE
- Did Jetman save Sentai – TRUE
- Did Fiveman kill Sentai – NEARLY