It is 199X A.D. In Kushiro, Hokkaido, three bodies of Dragonite appear. Possessing overwhelming destructive force, they attack the city. They also awaken the evil Jashin Drago from the holy seal he was trapped in. 200 years ago, Drago was trapped in the seal by a holy warrior with the tattooed mark of the Liger. Assuming that the warrior is dead, Drago and Empress Zara are free to conquer the Earth using their army of biomechanical beasts. Even the Japan Self-Defense Forces are no match for the Dragonites' awesome power. One of the people fleeing is the protagonist, a milquetoast 16 year old boy named Ken Taiga. Unbeknownst to the Dragonites, Ken realizes that he is the descendant of the Liger warrior! In a burst of anger, Ken's Liger birthmark appears, and he rises his palm into the air, shouting the henshin command, "LIGER!!!", which then covers him in demonic long-haired biomechanical armor. Ken transforms into Jushin Liger to fight the evil forces of the Dragonite!
One of Go Nagai's lesser known works, Jushin Liger follows the formula that most anime based on his works do, and it does so very well. I had always thought this show looked awesome, but it wound up exceeding my expectations. Being a 43 episode series based on 2 volumes of manga, it is not without its issues, but overall it is thoroughly entertaining and fans of this kind of thing are gonna love it.
Although it's technically a bio armor show, for all intents and purposes this is a monster of the week show. The bio armors are controlled G Gundam style, and are massive
and much more than a suit of armor. It doesn't excel in the character and plot departments, but it delivers awesome action and great episodes in spades. The story starts kicking right away and in the first episode we see the hero dawning the bio armor and fighting monsters. Characters basically appear out of nowhere and receive little development. It's the same way in the manga. But for me that didn't detract much, this show is all about delicious 80s vibes and monsters tearing each other to pieces. The characters aren't necessarily bad though, and in some cases do get development. There is a renegade-type henchman (fittingly enough he has blonde hair and wears red sunglasses) that by the end is a very different person, and one of the main character's sidekicks winds up being more than just the pointless goofball. Ryu (the renegade henchman) is the only character that stands out much on the antagonists side, and he was the most interesting character. As for the plot, it's pretty barebones stuff but we do see twists and turns here and there.
Now for what makes this show a joy to watch: the action and the music. The incredibly awesome OPs and EDs are among the best, and the soundtrack itself is pretty much just as good. 80s guitar riffs galore, and seemingly always present. The amazing soundtrack is one of the defining parts of this series. Watching Jushin Liger rip and tear through the opposition never once gets old, and being a late 80s show the budget seems to be fairly high. There is minimal use of stock footage (aside from combination sequences) and in general everything looks very high quality. Another thing that helps maintain a high level of episodic quality and helps to hold your attention is that things are always changing. Jushin Liger gets several upgrades and and multiple forms, and as the show progresses we get pilots that use actual mecha to support Jushin Liger, and previously useless comic relief characters become pilots. It goes from just following the titular robot to eventually having a competent military force around with new characters. The Jushin Liger continues to evolve until it attains its final form in the very last episode, a nice touch. Another interesting note about the art would be how it looks much more akin to typical 80s anime (the main character almost looks identical to Saint Seiya), and it drops the defining Nagai character design. As much as I like Go Nagai character design, I can't help but feel like the characters look better, more fitting, in the anime than they did in the manga.
The sheer brutality is another thing that really stood out. The show was quite violent, and in the first episode the main character watches his girlfriend get vaporized before his eyes. Human deaths are typically brutal, and when Jushin Liger destroys monsters it is extremely brutal and we see goo and body parts flying everywhere. The monster blood is green so I'm assuming that's why it is spilled so liberally. Although I'd label it as monster of the week, it was more like warzone of the week. Especially in the second half of the series, it felt like Japan was in constant warfare and under attack by demons 24/7. In stark contrast, the show is also big on sexual humor. If the main character isn't in combat, he's peeping on girls taking showers. So basically, lots of brutality and boobs. Pretty typical of Nagai stuff.
All in all it was a great watch that I would sit through again. Maybe not as good as the greats of the genre but damn close. If you like Go Nagai manga/anime, you will at least be entertained by this. Really solid action series with top notch animation and a phenomenal soundtrack.