Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters (Special Operations Squadron Go-Busters) is the 36th entry in the long-running, cultural icon that is the Super Sentai Series by Toei and Bandai and aired on TV Asahi. For those who don’t know, Super Sentai has been the source material for the long-running beloved American franchise that is Power Rangers, with the very first season Mighty Morphin’ being an adaptation of Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger, the 16th Super Sentai Series. I was raised more on the former; however, now I’ve dived back into the original Japanese shows, and I am so happy that I did.
While the first Sentai series I finished completely was Samurai Sentai Shinkenger last year, I only just finished watching Go-Busters, and it has been one hell of an emotional trip. Much like Doctor Who and each individual Doctor, everyone has their own preferences to which Super Sentai Series they like; however, each one is popular in their own right and is wildly successful except for Go-Busters. The show feels more Westernised than others, using prominent Power Rangers catchphrases and a more mature tone, which led to a dip in toy sales and ratings. This resulted in the series being more divisive than expected.
While I can certainly understand some of that, I personally fell in love with the show. Centered around a catastrophe thirteen years before the series takes place, the show follows the Go-Busters in present day as a colourful trio of heroes, each paired with a robot partner or “Buddyroid.” Their job: Protect the city’s people, stop the mechanical monstrosities rampaging on a weekly basis, and maybe one day save their parents. It’s a bit of a slow burn; while the fight choreography is fantastic and action-packed, the show takes a bit to move along, and it’s incredibly plot-heavy.
That said, it’s a brilliant series. The heroes aren’t perfect humans; in fact, a lot of the themes in Go-Busters tackle just how imperfect people are. They cry, they scream, they lose their temper, and have their own individual weaknesses; however, they never treat these weak points like faults. They demonstrate that this allows them to work better as a team and makeshift family, taking care of each other every step of the way. Even essentially being orphans doesn’t hinder them. It’s not so ham-fistedly dwelled upon in cheap ways to force tears out of you. Instead, the show earns your emotional engagement with thoughtful presentations on how each person deals with loss. The series demonstrates that it’s okay to be emotional, that you shouldn’t feel ashamed for finding solace in a hug or outburst, and that anybody who does take advantage of that is in the wrong.
I feel superhero comics and TV shows can learn a lot from Go-Busters, and Super Sentai Series in general. A lot of it is aimed at kids, and it can be silly and farcical at times, but that doesn’t diminish its subject matter and impact. Just because one day they fight a vacuum cleaner monster, that doesn’t detract from the characters learning more about themselves or their limits as well as dreams.
It’s a show that makes you want to be a hero. It inspires you to take the good with the bad, to take the sadness you’ve experienced and make sure no one else has to go through something like that ever again. It’s not a perfect series; there are faults and some misgivings I have with it, but that’s just the thing: Nothing is perfect. Perfect is boring; it’s impossible. We’re not perfect, and that’s okay. We just have to know what shortcomings and mistakes we have and are in our control or not, and then work towards something better beyond that. And it makes me happy to see something teach that to younger audiences.