Thursday, September 13, 2018

My Favorite Sentai Series; TATTOOED TEENAGE ALIEN FIGHTERS FROM BEVERLY HILLS

The Galactic Sentinels; Scorpio (Green), Taurus (Black), Centaur (Purple), and Apollo (Yellow)

There are some shows I thought I would never see again in their entirety, and this is definitely one of them. During the Power Ranger craze of the early to mid 1990's, this show popped up on Sundays on the USA network, and I was pretty hooked to it. To my knowledge, it might still be the only truly original American sentai series. If i'm not mistaken, most serious sentai fans just sneer and shrug this series off, but actually really enjoy it. It's abnormally low budget, making the original 1960's Land of the Lost look like Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park, and the sets are very obviously sets. Some of the locations look inherited from failed sitcoms and stage productions. Unlike Power Rangers, nothing seems to have been shot in a public park or on location anywhere, and most scenes take place in the same handful of locations; coffee house, backyard pool, high school hallway, cave, desert, and space. There are occasionally battles in the "city", but nothing is ever destroyed. Actually, no citywide destruction ever occurs, and at the most you'll sometime witness a small fake tree being burned. It might lack the bigger budgets of other sentai shows, but I can't help but love Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters from Beverly Hills. 

Nimbar and the Trans-O-Discs ("Transactional Time Space Re-generator Discs")

Aesthetically, this show looks like any other sentai show. A group of teenagers who brought together by an alien force to confront and defend against that attacks of another alien force with evil intentions. But unlike other shows, this show feels closer to a sitcom than it does to an action series for kids. It really is a sort of Saved by the Bell sentai show.Set in beautiful Beverly Hills, in the 1990's, we have all the archetypes for a time capsule of that era; a privileged yuppie, a grunge era poet and non conformist, an over achiever, and a studious super nerd. None know how to fight, and they aren't even friends really. They're just a group of classmates who happened to be summoned to take part as "Galactic Sentinels" against their will. They work together quite well, but when not on duty they are constantly arguing with each other. 

Garganus and his evil pet, Lechner

When the evil emperor of space, Garganus, comes to conquer the Earth because of the planets qualifications as a "Power Portal focal point", Nimbar (a blob from space who is the Head Protector of the Power Portals and Consulate of the Galactic Sentinels) summons a group of eccentric teenagers from a local Beverly Hills high school to assume the roles and take on the responsibilities as Galactic Sentinels, so that the Earth might have a fighting chance against Garganus and his army of monsters. Garganus is after all of the Power Portals so that his conquest of the universe will be swift, and unstoppable. Luckily, Garganus' plans always fall short thanks to a team of bickering teenagers and their space blob leader. 

Ninjabot, the Samurai Robot Monster from Space


As I stated earlier, the teenagers chosen have no fighting skills of their own, so thankfully when they transform into Galactic Sentinels they inherit all the acquired skills and fighting techniques that their new identities have accumulated before they reached them. Their Sentinel powers are activated when Nimbar lights up their glowing space tattoos, and they stand on the "Trans-O-Discs". After they transform, they are transported to face the monster wherever they might be in California, and do battle on a titanic scale. There is no point on this show where they fight as normal size humans first, then gain robots to battle a giant monster; at all times the Sentinels and the monster are at a colossal height. There are no giant robots, or "make my monster grow!" spells. It's pretty epic, but also a tad bit disappointing. This show does lack any evil henchmen like the "Putties" to fight, but at least the stories move at a quick pace, and we don't have to wait too long for a nice monster fight. The fights are pretty well choreographed, but as I stated earlier there's none of the usual sentai property damage. And most lazer beams look really, really cheap. Like they were drawn onto the fight scene using the earliest version of Microsoft Paint.


Knightron

And, as the Galactic Sentinels battle monsters in Garganus' army, if they ever need an extra boost of power to defeat it, the can unite their powers to form the amazingly power, but unfortunately finite, Knightron. Knightron wields the might "Megacalibur" sword, which happens to be the most powerful weapon in the galaxy. Usually, Knightron will use Megacalibur to fire blasts of energy to obliterate the monster, and save the day.

The mighty Megacalibur! 

And I have to talk about the monsters that appear, and what a rogues gallery of weirdos they are. They range from being being somewhat awful like "Ninjabot, the Samurai Robot Monster", to being absolutely cool like "Meragula, the Brain Monster" (who looks like a creature straight out of Resident Evil. It really is a hit or miss, but that was kind of the same with any of the old Power Ranger shows. One episode we'd have some awesome creature like "Eye Guy", then we'd have the lamer"Pungy Pig". So at least in this regard, it delivers exactly what we want to see; giant good guys fighting giant monsters. I've not been let down yet by the creatures on this show.

Menagular

As for the writing for the show, it really surprises me. Because it was the 1990's, the show was pretty influenced by the counter culture of that time. Even the soundtrack to the show is nothing but grunge and rock music from that time! And it's common to see some of the characters talking about gender roles, philosophical concepts about conformity in society, talking about the problem of pollution, alternative eating habits like veganism, and even the affects of peer pressure on modern youths; which were all hot topics back in that decade. And it wasn't done in a hokey way, even though it could have. Somehow this show respected it's audience enough to not dumb down it's dialogue for children, and that's pretty rare. The acting is okay given the context of the show, and I'm sure the actors involved had trouble finding a balance in their roles. Some actors come across more naturally than others, but sometimes the characters themselves can be reduced to just being their archetype and not their character. What I found pretty cool about this interpretation of a sentai team, was that there was no leader; it really was just a team. No one Sentinel had more attention than the others. There were of course episodes where the plot would revolve a particular individual, but there was never a point where I was like "Well, Taraus is the leader!" or "Scorpio is the leader!". Not even the wise Nimbar takes the role of a leader, but more as an adviser. I actually find Nimbar to be a lot more charming as a character than Zordon from Power Rangers. His voice, provided by the late Glenn Shadix, is so soothing, and even though Nimbar has no true shape or form, some how that voice alone is enough to give him a very strong presence on the show.



Currently the complete 40 episode run of the series is available from Mills Creek Direct for a low cost. If you love this genre and want to see something particularly rare and special, then this right novelty item for your collection. There were no true products for fans of this show when it was on television. There are no toys to collect, but every so often you can find a Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters lunchbox on eBay. For me, owning this series brings back a lot of great Sunday morning memories, and I plan on watching the Galactic Sentinels fight the evil forces of Garganus, over and over again.

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