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[R1 DVD art]
AKA: 鎧伝サムライトルーパー (Yoroiden Samurai Troopers)
Genre: Historical fantasy action adventure
Length: Television series, 39 episodes, 24 minutes each
Distributor: Currently licensed by Discotek Media.
Content Rating: PG (mild violence)
Related Series: Ronin Warriors / Samurai Troopers OAV Series 1-3 (Gaiden, Inferno, Message)
Also Recommended: Saint Seiya
Notes: The character names differ somewhat between the English and Japanese versions -- this review largely focuses on the Japanese.
Rating: Four StarsFour StarsFour StarsFour Stars
 

Ronin Warriors / Samurai Troopers TV

Synopsis

(borrowed from Theria's "Introduction to Yoroiden Samurai Troopers," at her website: http://theria.net/yst/intro.html. Used with permission. Minor edits have been performed by THEM staff.)

One thousand years ago, the barriers between the human world and the youja (supernatural) world were broken by a very powerful youja called Arago. He had brought most of the youja world under his control and now had his eyes on the human world. Many humans fell to his troops and his power. Near the end though, a solitary armed man and a white tiger came and challenged Arago. The unnamed human defeated the youja emperor, banishing him and all of his youja back to their realm. However, Arago's yoroi (armor) remained and the man knew that that as long as the yoroi existed, Arago could use it to once again cross the two worlds.

The warrior became a monk, his sword a shukenja. Using long forgotten mystic arts, he broke down Arago's yoroi into nine separate suits of armor. Each was forged from a different source, and each was bound with a virtue from the five Confucian virtues and four Bushido virtues. He gave these yoroi to certain families to protect.

400 hundred years ago, Arago's power had increased but he was still unable to create a gate into the human world. He could observe it though and he found four of the yoroi. Their possessors were still ignorant of the yoroi and its powers. Arago easily lured them to his side with promises of power and wealth. Once in his power, he helped them gain and control their yoroi.

Kaosu, the name of the monk who defeated Arago and created the nine yoroi, was nothing more than a spirit. But he sensed Arago's growing power. The year before Arago's invasion, he traveled to the five families of the five remaining yoroi. He watched as each of the yoroi tested their potential bearers. Each of the five passed their tests, and to each, Kaosu appeared, telling them to prepare for the battle that was soon to come.


Review

Awakened after centuries of limbo, an evil ancient emperor unleashes his wrath upon modern-day Japan. Aided by four sinister warlords with supernatural armors, this menace is threatening to conquer modern-day Japan. A young woman named Yagyu Nasuti, accompanied by the slightly obnoxious little boy Jun, offers refuge to the only force that can stand up to this merciless tyrant: a force in the form of five teenaged warriors with a mystic past. With the guidance of a Buddhist monk and the anthropological research of Nasuti's late grandfather, these young samurai take on armies of tremendous foes and challenges, putting their very lives on the line for the sake of the future.

Popular sentai shows (live action five-member superhero teams) were on the rise in the late 80s to early 90s, and animation studios were cashing in on the trend with titles such as King of the Beasts Golion (aka Voltron: Defender of the Universe) and Saint Seiya (aka Knights of the Zodiac). But while these other two titles were centered around outer space and Greco-Roman mythology, Samurai Troopers brings the elements of classical Edo-style folklore to a healthy genre of superhero shows.

Unlike most modern anime titles, heavy on stereotypes and cliches, the characters of Samurai Troopers are less overdramatic without compromising their youthfulness. The series is action-adventure at its purest, and while it can get light-hearted, there isn't a cheap joke in sight.

One of the best things about this series are the characters themselves. Never have I come across such a cohesive team in animation that didn't didn't sacrifice their individuality. The characters are distinct without ever being tough to swallow. In the classic Japanese way, they put the team before self, and it shows in how their personalities harmonize with each other. Ryo is passionate, but never so hot-headed as to pick a fight with the others. Seiiji is stoic and detached, but not cold (though, perhaps sometimes to Nasuti and Jun, whom he sees as a liability), Touma is the brainiac--but not reclusive or a nerd. Shin is the sweet sensitive oldest character, but he's silly, not a wimp. His pal Shuu is also silly and prideful, but he's the brotherly tough-guy, and gets along great with little Jun.

The supporting cast gets just as much attention as the stars of this show. The evil warlords have nearly as large a fan base as the troopers do ... especially the multi-dimensional tortured soul Shutendouji, whose story could have been a series all its own. Additionally, the leading lady Nasuti is mature and strong, and not once ever the target of any romantic interest. How refreshing. (That doesn't stop fans from speculating, though!)

Another strength of this series is the unpredictability. Sure, there is stock footage for the boys' attacks and henshin sequences, but the show varies so drastically episode to episode it is hardly noticeable. The show spreads over two seasons but you never see the second season coming following the first, and the introduction of a new villianess is quite welcome.

Before Gundam Wing and Weiss Kreuz, Samurai Troopers dominated the doujinshi scene. The manga team CLAMP dedicated a lot of their early skills to creating doujinshi of the Troopers and several other mangaka cut their teeth on this series as well. That's probably because Samurai Troopers gives us such likable, interesting characters without oversaturating our senses with too much of any one thing, therefore leaving our imaginations to wander.

But at the same time this can be annoying. Just what are these guys like when the world isn't being threatened? What happens beyond their call to duty? There are so many thoughts and understandings that are never acknowledge (I have a particular alliance in mind that I dare not spoil), and the conclusions given to the antagonists feel a bit rushed to me. The series finale really came full circle, and things were wrapped up almost too neatly. (A little more tribute to the deceased would have been nice.)

Though quite dated in music and animation, the production itself boasts what I find to be some of the greatest voice talent of the time. This goes for both tracks. The television adaptation was so loyal to the original--and for the early 90s (and even today) that is beyond shocking. There is blood. There are demons. More than once, people die. That's a lot for a kid's show. With strong voice-overs in English by Vancouver's Ocean Group, I strongly feel nothing is missed by watching the dub. (Though fans should note that the second episode was used as a test pilot episode, and thus the voices for a number of the cast are changed.)

Samurai Troopers is a fine piece of entertainment. Had it been more than a fluffy action series for boys (and a lot of girls), it probably would have gotten five stars. If you're wanting more character development (a la Rurouni Kenshin), you'll have to look elsewhere--for these guys are ancient warriors, and they have had centuries to develop. (Thus the success of their backstory drama CDs. Ho-hum.)

A little too lacking in character drama / comedy to be as substantially rich as a five star series. If bunches of pretty boys fighting is your thing, or you're a fan of Saint Seiya, add a star. Hate? Take away a star. Melissa Sternenberg

Recommended Audience: Best for younger boys and teenage girls, though anyone who likes to watch a good butt-kicking show or loves brotherhood and comraderie will appreciate this too, especially the second season.



Version(s) Viewed: Television broadcast (English dub), raw Japanese VHS
Review Status: Full (39/39)
Ronin Warriors / Samurai Troopers TV © 1988 Sunrise / Nagoya TV
 
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