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Avataro Sentai Donbrothers: Breaking Down Stereotypes


Avataro Sentai Donbrothers: Breaking Down Stereotypes

Toei Producer Shinichiro Shirakura talks about how the latest Super Sentai, Avataro Sentai Donbrothers, breaks down stereotypes.

Utilizing Avatars to Increase Impact

We have here the 46th Super Sentai series, and its motif is based on the fairy tale Momotaro. The story is about Don Momotaro (red), Saru Brother (blue), Inu Brother (black), Kiji Brother (Pink), and Oni Sister (Yellow) and their fight against the monsters born from human greed known as the hitotsugi, as well as the Nohto.

The previous entry, Kikai Sentai Zenkaiger, was the 45th anniversary series, so it was sort of a culimination of the Super Sentai Series, which we used to find its ultimate form.

The first thing that we focused on in Zenkaiger was the transformation. Like in Kamen Rider, the transformation is one of the highlights of the series. In fact, actors who’ve portrayed Kamen Riders are asked to transform on variety shows. This rarely happens for Super Sentai actors.

We worried that people don’t take Sentai‘s transformations seriously.

To be honest, with 45 series, the hero suits become harder to distinguish. That’s when we decided to look back at the first series, Himitsu Sentai Gorenger, and notice the difference in the characters’ silhouettes. I decided to go back to the idea of expressing the fun of a group of five people with different personalities through their transformations.

In the early years of Super Sentai, it was general practice to have the heroes transform only when the five members assembled (in civilian form). Because we see them before they transform, the impact on the audience isn’t impactful on them. To solve our problems in one go, we decided to use the idea of “avatars”.

In Donbrothers, the thing we first worked out was the hero design. They would transform with Avatar Data, or. Avatarou to transform. There are many big name hits such as Avatar and Ready Player One that utilize the concept of avatars. There are many people who create an avatar on their own while playing online. Whaf makes them special is the freedom to choose the shape of their face and even their gender. In this new series, Kiji Brother is 220 centimeters tall while Inu Brother is a meter tall, sizes uncommon among humans. We ended up having a five-character team of different shapes and sizes, something we’ve never seen before.  We also added it into the title as our coined word: Avataro.

Suit-acted action scenes is one of the selling points of Super Sentai, but even that has limitations. By incorporating CG into the post-transformation appearances, we gained more degrees of freedom.

A New Drama, Free From Color-Based Archetypes

We then thought about the impact of the five coming together. Before transforming, the Donbrothers act together without knowing each other’s faces, whereabouts, or even background. They change into there avatars when an enemy appears and are then instantly sent to the battlefield. Once the battle is over, they are sent back to their respective homes. For a while, the five won’t gather in civilian form. You’ll feel the catharsis when they finally do come together untransformed.

Our setting is very similar to our modern digital age where those who live far away from each other, not even knowing the other’s identity, get to know each other through social media or online gaming.

With the concept of avatars, the Donbrothers can transform into past Sentai heroes. For the first time in history, our pink ranger is now a male. And for example, if he Avatar Changes into Gosei Pink, he’d still retain his male-self, but he would have the physical appearance of a female.

On the Similarities to This Genderless Era

It’s not that we’re thinking of diversity or any other progressive ideas. Sentai just has a strong impression of stereotypes. Reds are hot-blooded, blue are calm and collected etc. Depending on the color, they’d be fitted for their stereotypical personalities. I feel like if we don’t get past this, then we’d have the same show over and over. The easiest to understand is always the pink, the female warrior. By changing up the formula, we are sending the message that we are not keeping to stereotypical archectypes.

When female warriors are pink, they would be the sole woman in the group and become the token female. This time, I wanted to portray pink as a lone character.  Likewise, yellow used to be for male heroes, but now female ones can choose them if they want to. We wanted to at least break the stereotype that men can’t be pink. They can be pink if they want to. I want to open the color palette up for them.

Pink is already freely available. Like with Kazuya Kamenashi and Taisuke Fujigaya from Johnny’s Entertainment groups.

Ten years ago, we had a discussion on whether or not we’d be incorporating the color pink into Kamen Rider Decade. But during that meeting, I looked to the side and saw that the next producer down was wearing a solid pink shirt (laughs). I thought to myself, “Men already wear pink”. The world had been doing this for at least ten years now, but maybe only Super Sentai was behind the times.

Not Wanting Children Set to Molds

Children become more aware of their own gender while observing adults. We shouldn’t interfere with their natural development. It is a modern means of overturning the stereotype that “pink is for women,” and instead of being bound by the gender roles of boy/girl based on the clothes they wear or the toys they are given, children should discover and choose for themselves “who they are” by whatever path they choose to take. I want them to grow up and be whoever they choose to be, instead of society forcing it on them.

Toshiki Inoue

Our theme this time is Momotaro. We went this route because the character relationships would be easy to understand. That said, it doesn’t mean that they would agree with Momotaro and go along with him. They are human. And Inoue is one who can write these characters as humans with their individual qualities. He’s also the type who is eager to break down stereotypes, so he’s not bound by the idea that “Super Sentai are a team of five who come together and share the same mind.”

On top of depicting the team known as “Sentai”, he doesn’t want children to learn a sense of totalitarianism. Freedom and diversity is what’s important, no matter what. To instill that message, I want Inoue to go full-Inoue (laughs).

That said, the previous lead Kaito Goshikida from Zenkaiger is also in this series. But his outlook on things are different. What role will he play, and why are Oni, the enemies in the Momotaro story, among his friends? This will be important to the story. I think adults can find this series entertaining. Please check out the 46th Super Sentai, a new starting point for the series. It will completely change the way you look at Super Sentai.

Source: The TV

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