Thousands of years ago, the evil emperor Talpa attempted to conquer the Earth. Defeated, he was banished to the Nether Realm and his armor was divided into 9 separate suits. Now, he has returned to conquer Earth, having reclaimed 4 of the suits. The other 5 are in the possesion of those who are the only hope of stopping him: The Ronin Warriors.
#1: "Faraway" by Mariko Uranishi #2: "Chizu no Nai Tabi e (地図のない旅へ) by Daiki Nakamura, Takeshi Kusao, Tomohiro Nishimura, Shigezou Sasaoka, Nozomu Sasaki, Norio Wakamoto, Kaori Kusakabe #3: "Be Free" by Hiroko Moriguchi
Honestly: Ronin Warriors is kind of an awful series. The story is rambling and at times nonsensical [especially the English adaptation], which consistently wonky art and animation. The sound tends to be ridiculous [evil theme music precedes every villian ever] and totally period-80s. The characters are maybe the best out of all of the series' points, with mulleted teenage boys and ridiculous villians that are dopey and endearing. The voice-acting has a few gems: in Japanese, Takeshi Kusao voices the main character, Ryo, and Nozomu Sasaki voices Shin; in English there's Matt Hill as Ryo and Scott McNeil as the warlord Kale. However, the English
dub also has voice-actors doubling up on roles [Cye and Sage, Rowen and Sekmet, Anubis and other random villians], which makes for a few ridiculous moments where it's so, so obvious.
Also honestly: I love all of those flaws so, so much. I grew up with Ronin Warriors. It's one of the first anime I ever saw, and when I was 11, I was in love with it. Almost 10 years later, I have such a huge spot in my heart for it, I can't do much else except keep loving it. It can be so silly, so strangely suggestive, and yet, so pure and innocent. You can laugh at it for being bad--I do. I very much do. But I also love it because it embraces everything it's trying to be, and it does nothing halfway. If two characters are going to be the embodiment of mere helpless humans that the Ronin Warriors have to continually protect, then they're going to be the most irritating things in the world. If a villain is going to have his heart set on engulfing Japan in darkness, then he's going to cast a massive shadow over Shinjuku and laugh maniacally for a full minute. If a character decides he's going to sacrifice himself for the good of mankind, then by god, his comrades are going to cry gratuitous shoujo-tears while dealing killing blows in an inexplicably naked fashion.
Welcome to one of the original modern day cult classics of anime. The licensors originally intended to keep its true title, Yoroiden Samurai Troopers, but because of Saban Entertainment’s two big name titles at the time: Super Human Samurai Cyber Squad and VR Troopers having the names in their titles, they feared a law suit. I know it’s stupid, but this is America we’re talking about. But I think Ronin Warriors is also an appropriate title for our cast of characters. Despite the title and name changes, as well as some other ones in context to the story, it maintains a substantial amount of faithfulness
in presentation with character interaction, development, and themes such as friendship and unity. But for what it’s worth, the story is appropriately paced and stunningly engaging. I was really captivated by how much Ryo values his friendship with his teammates, and it was also an anime that had death scenes and showed a naked woman on early after noon television. So some of those qualities were just unique to me during that one summer vacation of 1995. But beyond that, I also loved its approach to the concept of what defines good and evil in a way that my 11-year-old mind at the time could handle.
Of course some major flaws and issues people will have is that the team doesn’t have an official back-story. Such as how and why they got their armors. In the Japanese version, some of the characters are descended from samurai which does give some indication that they were bounded by blood or destiny to become so. But I heard there are some manga material and drama cds that do give some elaboration to this.
Well, to some people the style may not really be unique, but to me when I was getting into anime, seeing the art alone was enough to tell me that I should watch this show. To me, the art was fresh, sharp, original, and distinctive. And for some reason, I still have some of those same impressions to this day though it’s not as strong as it was 13 years ago. Granted the multi-color scheme was very Power Rangers-ish for that time period, I just thought the designs of both the Ronin and Dynasty Warriors brought out a really retro and original approach to the style. I was truly frightened with what the bad guys’ armors looked like and the power it had. And even though the attacks relied on recycled footage, I just love how dramatic they were and how much detail they put into the movement and expressions. The fights at the time were very exciting and high octane for me because like I said, it was something new and it just pulled me in. But I did notice the use of hyper space backgrounds and ever since then as well as in other anime, they still bother me to this day. I want to say more but I’ll leave what I say in relation to this topic for my overall commentary.
OK, the English opening theme was cheesy, but I just loved the guitars. Granted it didn’t have a Japanese feel to it, but I thought it was still hypnotic. But I do appreciate that the dub still kept the original background music soundtrack. I always loved the guitar edition of the first ending theme, Far Away, and I thought it was always appropriately used and it always stuck out to me, as well as other background mixes of the other songs such as Stardust Eyes and Samurai Heart. But when you hear the actual theme songs, they have this certain Japanese authenticity to the show.
The dub may sound cheesy and lame to some people, but I personally still love it to this day. I think the dub is appropriately 90s and I think the accents for some of the characters truly reflected their personalities. I liked Cye’s or Shin’s or whoever you want to call him’s British accent. I think it perfectly brings out his gentle and happy nature. I also loved Jason Gray Stafford as Kento or Xiu. He brought out his party animal personality and I also enjoyed Matt Hill as Ryo or Raioh or whatever pronunciation you want to use. I recognized his voice as Captain N the first time I heard it and I just simply liked him for the role. And the dub voices of the Warlords were excellent and they just brought out the true evil in them. But I also think the Japanese version is also excellent in its own right. I truly enjoyed Kusao Takeshi’s Ryo as well and brought out his qualities in his own right as well as being passionate and commanding. And Wakamoto Norio, who voiced Cell in DBZ I thought was also great as Kaos or The Ancient One, and the English voice actor, Michael Dobson brought a great charisma to that role as well. I say watch both English and Japanese versions not to see which version is better, but to just overall enjoy it.
Well, as you can tell by this review, every time I watch and talk about this anime, the inner child inside me who first watched comes out and talks about his impressions after watching it the first time. I was officially watching anime for barely six months at that point and I thought it was unique to see anime on TV at the time. Keep in mind that shortly after, DBZ and Sailor Moon would soon follow, but would have yet find any mainstream success. The reason why I feel I can’t be outraged over what was changed and edited is not really over the legal circumstances, but I felt that despite whatever changes were made, I personally felt that this anime still had all of its qualities that made it likeable as an anime. I mean, it’s not like any direct Japanese references were cut out. I was captured by how the story wasn’t traditionally episodic as I grew up with American cartoons. I loved the art, the action, the development, the characters.
Since I have lately focused on largely forgotten anime that actually did air on American TV, I decided I really had to do Yoroiden Samurai Troopers AKA Ronin Warriors. This show aired on Toonami in the afternoon alongside DBZ, Gundam Wing, and Sailor Moon. What made this one stick out is that it is several years older than most of the anime from Toonami and really has that vintage 1980s look and feel to it. Although it certainly has some flaws, it is a cheesy fun experience that still commands a cult following in 2014. Actually, it was recently announced that this series is going
to be re-released on blu-ray!
Plot and characters: 4/10
The plot is that an evil demon was defeated over 1,000 years ago and his mighty armor was divided into 9 separate suits, each having a different element and virtue that it represents. Of course this means that 5 suits end up being used by the good guys and 4 by bad guys because it is fucking MANDATORY for every anime and Sentai (NOT hentai you pervs) show in this genre to feature a 5 man team. It is also pretty much required for each member to have a different color and element, and to strike cool group poses all the time. Of course there is also an animal sidekick and chick to be the team's cheerleader. Even the unconventional 4 man Ninja Turtles had to have April O'Neal. This show really used a cookie cutter 80s formula that will give modern viewers a good look at how pretty much all childrens' action shows looked and felt at that time period. When the armors of fire, water, wind, earth, and void combine together, they summon Captain Planet! Wait! They summon the Inferno Armor! Inferno Armor is what I meant to say! One interesting thing the show did was that even the 4 "Dark Warlords" each had a virtue that they followed. This at least gave it a small bit of moral complexity and not just pure good vs. evil.
Art and sound 4/10
Ronin Warriors featured the same "finisher moves" in every episode which each had the same few minutes of animation used over and over. This meant that an average episode would be 20 minutes with 10 minutes of new footage and 10 minutes of recycled animation used in all 39 episodes. Even shows with larger budgets like Sailor Moon used LOTS of recycled animation at this period, so this was simply accepted as the norm by anime fans. Today we are far more spoiled and would never simply accept a show being this fucking lazy and cheap. The soundtrack is allright, although if you are expecting cheesy 80s songs like Top Gun or Rocky 4 than you will be sadly disappointed.
I gave it an extra point for nostalgia and cheesyness. This isn't a good show, but it was a fun little show back in the late 1990s when I was 10 years old. I'm sure if a kid today watched it, he or she would be like..."The fuck was that shit?!" However, it still holds a special place for me as a silly bit of my childhood.
Here is what is considered a “cult-classic.” Produced by Sunrise Studio 2 (Zeta Gundam), Yoroiden Samurai Troopers or Ronin Warriors has the backing to be a decent anime at worst. Even the staff involved such as director Masashi Ikeda (Gundam Wing, Inuyasha) and with Shinji Takamatsu (After War Gundam X, Gintama) doing storyboard and episode directing, Ronin Warriors has all of the tools to succeed. Finally, the voice acting, both English and Japanese are all known actors in the anime industry.
However, even with a strong company and a strong staff, with terrible writing beyond imagination, this anime cannot make up for it. The plot is
incredibly simplistic. A demon, Talpa, was defeated in the past, and is coming back with his four evil henchmen to conquer the mortal world. Now, five warriors must stand in his way to defeat him. Going a bit further, each hero possesses an armor of different elements with a virtue, as well as the four bad guys.
Ronin Warriors has typical uninspiring repetitive music, with constantly recycled poorly done animation sequences. For example, the transformations and powers are used over and over again in every episode making up for about 40% of each episode. The rest of the episode consists of no explanation to anything, only the fact that evil is taking over and must be defeated.
What this shows lacks the most is, nothing is original at all. It’s a hero team of five, with a useless female teacher, a useless boy whom always gets in the way, and a crazy animal sidekick (white tiger) that their entire function is to basically be sideline annoyances.
With little to no back-story, awful character development, poor animation, bland music, and horrible writing, Ronin Warriors is a show that must be skipped. Anyone with nostalgia for this show must stay way clear in fear of ruining childhood memories.