Although most North American audiences are familiar with the Power Rangers series, which has been a mainstay of kids television since the mid '90s, the original Japanese series from which it uses footage is a lot less popular on this side of the Pacific. The Super Sentai franchise started back in 1975, but it took almost another 20 years before someone came up with the inspired idea of creating a localized version in the U.S. by combining new scenes with existing filmed battles. No matter how popular Power Rangers became, though, it was never as unique or special as Super Sentai was — and still is.
Super Sentai's storylines are more complex, reflecting the feudal history and many legends of Japan, but most importantly, there's a lot more weirdness that just wouldn't have translated into a mainstream U.S. program. Gosei Sentai Dairanger was the 17th in the series, and it stands out for quite a few reasons, most of them good. The plot finds the Gorma Tribe, one of three that made up the Daos Empire in Ancient China, trying to take over the world and, naturally, the only thing that can stop them is a team of kids with special powers — the Dairangers. In this case, the Dairangers are assembled by Master Kaku and are picked because of their high levels of Ch'I, which allows them to control powerful mythical beasts.
Like all the other series, Gosei Sentai Dairanger features lots and lots of fight scenes (which are the bits used in Power Rangers), but it still stands out because of the great battles with the magnificent mecha robots and some seriously weird monsters. It has a uniquely deep level of character development. Every one of the Dairangers has a fleshed-out backstory, and as the episodes progress, proceedings take some unexpectedly dark turns. There really aren't any moments where the story drags, either.
The one issue comes via the introduction of a sixth Dairanger close to the midway point — Kou, or Kiba Ranger. Adding new characters isn't always problematic, but when he's a lecherous nine-year-old, it veers dangerously close to Cousin Oliver territory. His talking tiger sword adds some light relief, but Kou is the weakest part of what is otherwise a great series of Super Sentai.
There's no denying that there's a certain amount of goofiness to Gosei Sentai Dairanger, which makes it best for watching in bite-sized chunks — not a problem, since episodes clock in at about 20 minutes. The 50 episodes are spread over 10 DVDs, and there's nothing in the way of extras at all — it's as bare bones as it gets. That said, this is only the second series of the original Japanese show to get a North American release, so it's better than nothing. (Shout! Factory)