English, Please!: Tokumu Sentai Shinesman
January 6, 2012
Kaim Tachibana – Gakken/Futabasha – 1993 – 9 volumes
I have a special place in my heart for manga about sentai and tokusatsu. Sentai manga aren’t released in English nearly enough, so I don’t get to talk about it much. I can count the ones I’ve read on one hand – Duklyon: CLAMP School Defenders, Heroes are Extinct, Ratman, Dokkoida, and Imperfect Hero. It’s a tragedy that these series are never more popular (Ratman and Heroes Are Extinct, in particular, are fantastic), because they are among the few series that actually make me laugh out loud. Most sentai manga I run across are comedies that poke fun at the inherent strangeness that is a team of color-coordinated superheroes beating up giant monsters. It’s really hard to make jokes about sentai fall flat, and easy to come up with increasingly ridiculous situations for them to be in. Serious tokusatsu-type/superhero series exist (Kikaider Code 02, MD Geist, maybe Apocalypse Zero), but they are way less fun than the sentai humor variety.
Kaim Tachibana, the mangaka, is a shoujo artist with a long career, though we have seen very little of her work in English (only Boy’s Love and Pieces of a Spiral). It appears she was most prolific during the 90s, and specializes in shoujo comedies and light shounen ai. I honestly don’t know that much about her, but there is a fun fan site dedicated to her if you are so inclined.
Shinesman was serialized in Comic NORA, a magazine that seems to… uh, share an audience with Champion Red, in that it publishes a lot of borderline skeevy sci-fi and romance manga. I’m not sure if this is a shounen or seinen publication, but I would probably classify Shinesman as a shounen manga, as it seems to lack the H factor
Matsumoto’s dream is to become a successful salaryman that can support his mother and little brother. That’s why, immediately after high school graduation, he finds himself a job at a large corporation named Right Company. Though it sounds like a good career move, this is not a regular corporation, and Matsumoto soon finds out the results of his physical and exams land him in a special department. With no fanfare, Matsumoto is dumped into a red power suit and becomes the leader of a team of businessman/heroes (the name “Shinesman” is a Japanese pun, and still means “businessman”). He and his team members Shinesman Grey, Shinesman Moss Green, Shinesman Sepia, and Shinesman Salmon Pink fight aliens that are bent on world domination, as usual. Except these aliens don’t like to fight battles that destroy the Earth, so they decide to use corporate espionage as the tool for their domination. Of course, the Shinesman fight them in their sentai suits as well, but they all have secret identities as business rivals, which is part of the fun of the series.
I’ve only read a tiny bit of the manga, but the anime adaptation of this series was my first taste of sentai comedy, and I’ve never looked back. The dub is hilarious, and I still get a big kick out of watching it twelve years after I first saw it. It’s only two episodes long, and probably only covers content from the first volume of the manga, but it’s still awesome. It was actually Tiger & Bunny that made me remember the anime, which then reminded me I should write up the Shinesman manga for one of these license requests. Tiger & Bunny is worth your time as well, but the Shinesman OAV is a real classic.
That reminds me, the manga differs from the anime slightly. In the anime, Matsumoto catches a glimpse of an alien named Shiima in the buff, who decides that she must either kill or marry Matsumoto in order to make up this offense. In the manga, it is the alien prince Sasaki that Matsumoto accidentally sees naked, and he’s got the same rule as Shiima. As I said, Tachibana dabbles in BL, and this is apparently a reoccurring joke between Shinesman Red and the alien prince throughout the series. I don’t think it actually goes in a romantic direction, though.
I’m sure the art and humor in this are extremely dated, and I’m also sure that it’s not nearly as funny as I’ve been imagining all these years (it’ll be hard to live up to the OAV dub). But then again, I believe it’s one of the cornerstones of the sentai parody/humor genre, and at nine volumes, I bet it’s a lot of painfully campy fun. From what I’ve seen, the art looks more utilitarian than dated, which may be a point in its favor, but it also lacks some of the polish that Tachibana gained later in her career. The parts I’ve read have some pacing and composition issues. But I’ve only seen the first volume, and this was one of Tachibana’s very first series, so I’m sure the art gets better as the series goes on, as her later art is quite lovely.
But, more or less, you can pretty much guarantee I’ll read any sentai humor manga in English. I’d write up a license request for pretty much any sentai manga. From what I can tell, though, Shinesman is one of the very best, and I would love to read it.