This was one of the first anime I ever watched, and so it shall always hold a special place in my heart, even if I know that it is, like Power Rangers, much better for the kids than it is for the adults, as campy and cliche as it is. Indeed, it’s yet another one of those knock-offs – one of the earliest knock-offs, in fact – with a group of youths who transform into color-coded mystical armor of elemental power, to fight back the nefarious forces of an evil, otherworldly emperor, returned to exact revenge, conquest, and destruction after his defeat a thousand years ago at the hands of the warriors’ wise mentor figure.
Where Sailor Moon was the all-girl rip-off, Ronin Warriors was the all-boy rip-off, and I loved it.
With two seasons, totaling thirty-nine episodes, followed by three OVA series which are a bit less geared towards children – especially the five-part “Message” series which is intensely philosophical and introspective – Ronin Warriors is one of the simpler shows I’ve ever reviewed. Indeed, its plot is so simple that it repeats itself more than once. First the warriors are together, then they’re scattered apart, then they’re back together, then most of them are taken by the villain until there’s only one left, and then they’re all together again, and they divide themselves and several of them are captured, and they’re all prisoners, and they’re free, and they’re captured, and good grief! There may be five of them, but one of these is clearly the Goku figure who is the real lead of the show! (Heh, this was in the early days of DBZ in the USA, too!)
The one particular mystery of this show that I have never known the answer to is why the translators changed the names so much. I can understand changing the title from the original Japanese – Legendary Armor Samurai Troopers – to something shorter like Ronin Warriors, though that led to an interesting intellectual awakening when I learned that a ronin, being a masterless samurai, had some rather negative connotations in Japan, a bit like the Western black knight, both of which have now been somewhat romanticized by storytellers. But they changed the names of most of the primary characters, often in ways which frankly make no sense to me. Turning Seiji into Sage, for instance, as if the kids wouldn’t be able to grasp that last syllable. Or a more drastic change, like naming the primary warlord Anubis, when they already had another Anubis warlord, so they had to rename the original Anubis as well, making him Cale. Where was the sense in that? Or turning the demon emperor from Arago to Talpa. I mean, why?
Side-note: why did they avoid calling him “demon” emperor in English? Did they think either kids or their parents would care that much about it?
I will say, I did appreciate the journey of Anubis – the English Anubis, not the original Japanese Anubis – as he went from menacing enemy to redeemed villain, then taking up the mantle of the mentor who started him on that path, eventually bearing the burden of his armor one last time to liberate and redeem another fan-favorite villain, the beautiful and deadly Lady Kayura. This was back in the day when redeeming villains was still relatively new, rather than the norm that it has become, so to redeem one, and then have him redeem another, and so on, was actually fairly epic, especially for a kids’ show. Hm, actually, as I think about it, I can’t readily recall more than two or three instances I have seen where they’ve gone that particular route, using one redeemed villain to redeem another. I may have to look into that sometime.
And, yes, I will admit that as a kid I very much enjoyed the action, such being riddled with explosions, and considered it an achievement of memory to be able to recite off the names of the various armors as well as their singular special attacks. Ah, the things that kids take pride in, heh.
The one thing that I still enjoy the most, however, is the music. Even as an adult, some pieces from that soundtrack still move me, and it’s far easier to move a child like that. Lady Kayura’s theme played no small role in how appealing her character was, that’s for sure! And things became rather emotionally intense in “The Message” as things escalated, partially because of how masterful the music was. People seem to forget quite often just how much the soundtrack comes into play, but that was one lesson this anime remembers quite well. It wasn’t quite as pivotal in my viewing of the anime as DBZ’s was, but it was close.
I suppose I can recommend Ronin Warriors for those who’d want a classic, older anime for the kids, though, on that score, I’d hold back on the OVAs for awhile. It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s not so bad, either.
Rating: 8 stars out of 10.
Grade: this is the very definition of a B-Grade anime. 😉