"This is the story of the battle between good and evil, which takes place in the city of Kawasaki!" - Opening Narration

If you were around and paying attention during the 1990's, you may have caught sight of a little show (and several subsequent spinoffs) called "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers". This show featured five teenagers who, in between learning lessons about life, put on some totally radical color-coordinated costumes and fought a new monster every single week. Not so many people know that this show format was merely one example of a massive genre known in Japan as "tokusatsu sentai"1 (not to be confused with a certain other genre). There's hundreds of variations on the theme, but the basic format is that the hero (or team of heroes, as is more likely) has to deal with both a problem in their regular life, such as a sad girlfriend or a classmate cheating on a test, and the monster of the week, who usually has some sort of ridiculous theme such as giant drills or peeled shrimp.

'Astro Fighter Sunred' (aka 'Tentai Senshi Sun Red' if you want to Google it) is to the sentai genre as Shawn Of The Dead is to zombie films or The Colbert Report is to conservative news shows. Sunred is a brash, chain-smoking layabout who lives off of his girlfriend Kayoko while General Vamp, the leader of the local Florsheim branch, is extremely polite and spends his time sorting the recycling or running a cooking class for the locals when not trying to destroy Sunred. Vamp's monster soldiers spend their time moonlighting as chefs or writing blogs about ramen.

"I'm not going to stop until I've defeated a robot I built myself!" - Sunred

As someone who grew up pretending to be the Red Power Ranger and who owned at least one VR Troopers action figure, this show is fantastic. It's very much an homage through parody. If you're not familiar with the tokusatsu genre, I'd still recommend checking the show out: the formula is pretty recognizable because of how archetypical it is. If nothing else, the surrealism of the whole situation is a comedy goldmine. No one ever seems to treat giant monsters any different from regular people; one particular episode ends with a drooling pterodactyl monster in a construction coverall laughing with his new human buddies over beers after a shift. If that mental image doesn't strike you as funny, I don't know how much you'd get out of the series.

The manga is written and illustrated by Makoto Kubota, and is still ongoing. The anime has 52 short episodes across two seasons, none of which appears to have been officially translated. Fortunately, at least one fansub group has gone to the trouble of getting it translated; if you want to watch it, you'll have to use Bittorrent to pick up the episodes.

"Don't you know that we only buy the screw-in type of lightbulbs at this base?!" - General Vamp
1'Tokusatsu' refers to the cheesy effects, giant rubber costumes, and monster-of-the-week format; 'sentai' indicates that there's a 'task force' or team of good guys fightin' the good fight.

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