Nov 1, 2023
Rainbow Sentai Robin is based on a shounen manga titled 'Rainbow Sentai', published in 1965. The manga was meant to complement the anime but, after a single volume release, it was quickly cancelled due to lack of popularity. Labelling the anime a direct adaptation of the brief one-shot manga is a stretch, considering its extensive 48-episode run. Consequently, the anime integrates significant original content, differentiating it from the source material.
The series kicks off with the trappings of a generic tokusatsu anime, an unsurprising—and uninspiring—choice given the genre's prominence across various forms of Japanese media during the 1960s and 1970s. However, Rainbow Sentai Robin distinguishes itself
from its contemporary tokusatsu peers such as Astro Boy, Space Ace, Gigantor, and Eighth Man. Unlike these shows, it succeeds in achieving a unique balance within its main cast. While the titular character Robin's name adorns the series, he doesn't bear the sole burden of action. Each member of Rainbow Sentai contributes significantly to the team, with all enjoying their fair share of screen time despite not necessarily driving the overarching plot.
Drawing from the 1960s, Rainbow Sentai Robin exudes the unmistakable aura of its era. Presented in black and white, its distinct lack of pretty colours is a hallmark of the time. The animation quality, influenced by the period's limitations, occasionally relies on recycled animation footage, a common occurrence throughout its 48-episode run. Given its historical context, these constraints are to be expected in an old anime series.
— MIDWAY CONCLUSION —
Unfortunately, the narrative structure falters in providing a satisfying conclusion. The real climax emerges around the midpoint (episode 26), leaving the latter segment of the series without proper closure. Ideally, the series could have wrapped up at episode 26, providing a more gratifying resolution to the overarching storyline. Despite that atrocious conclusion, this episode effectively achieves a fitting climax after a proper build-up. As for the actual final episode, it comes across as another filler episode that could fit anywhere in the series, failing to feel like a conclusive ending for the series.
— OFFENSIVE ELEMENTS OR DARK HUMOUR? —
The anime embodies elements reflective of its 1960s context, which may not align with modern sensitivities. Instances of violence towards animals and women, especially the portrayal of female characters as inept and unintelligent, evoke concerns of sexism. Additionally, the inclusion of stereotypical depictions of certain ethnicities like black Africans and Mexicans could potentially be perceived as racist. The protagonist, Robin, at times exhibits traits characteristic of a sociopathic hero, as seen in his cold murdering of villains, assaulting animals, and physical aggression towards women. He also employs ruthless pragmatic tactics to overcome his enemies without batting an eye. This type of unintentional contentious sociopathy, reminiscent of the infamous Speed Racer, might resonate with aficionados of dark humour, provided they approach it from an unserious perspective.
— CHARACTER DYNAMICS AND ATTRIBUTES —
The heart of Rainbow Sentai undeniably resides in its compelling cast of characters. Each main character contributes significantly to the show's appeal. Every member boasts a distinctive design, personality, and special abilities, all of which are utilised to foster teamwork and accomplish tasks. This synergy among the cast members is evident in their seamless cooperation and complementation. Robin, while occupying the lead role, doesn't monopolise the spotlight. His leadership entails intricate planning, coordination, and tactical strategy, enriching the show's dynamics.
— ROBIN —
The titular protagonist, Robin, serves as the sole human member and leader of Rainbow Sentai. Despite lacking extraordinary abilities, he's far from being a mere pushover. Agile and proficient in piloting his trusty Pegasus, he's also a skilled shooter. Robin's vulnerability as a human, being susceptible to injuries and temperature extremes, adds a touch of humanity to his character, which becomes especially noteworthy considering how other ostensibly robot characters deviate from robotic behaviour, whether in humuorous or serious scenes. His connection to the overarching plot emerges late—unfortunately, too late—revealing a rescue mission to free his parents from an evil, nazi-looking army force. Robin's stern demeanor and intolerance for mistakes often influence his interactions with teammates, inadvertently leading to strained relationships.
— PROFESSOR —
The Professor, a wise-looking short robot, plays a crucial role as an advisor. Exhibiting an air of arrogance and occasional comedic anger, he provides valuable scientific insights and hacking abilities, positioning him—implicitly—as the second-in-command. He's often seen beside Robin in important meetings, advising him, or even leading the team in Robin's absence. Similar to Robin, he's stern, but he's even more prone to getting angry, usually in a comically humuorous manner. At times, he acts arrogantly and tries to claim all the credit, yet beneath it all, he's genuinely kind and caring towards the other members. This is evident when he expresses concern for their well-being or shows relief when they survive challenging situations. To Robin, he serves as a father figure, not just because of his age and wisdom, but because he raised Robin from infancy, a time when Robin lost his biological parents.
— LILI —
Lili is the designated token female member of the team, designed with a nurse-like appearance. Her design is not solely driven by uniform fetishes but rather aligns with her role as the team's healer. She possesses the unique ability to swiftly mend human injuries and repair robot parts. Additionally, she played a nurturing role in Robin's upbringing, alongside Professor, and served as a mother figure—as mentioned in the anime. But she also displays a romantic interest in Robin; we have a figurative cyber-incest here everyone! Yay!
Anyway, Lili conforms to the archetype of the 'token girl', embodying certain gender-related stereotypes. She engages in activities stereotypically associated with girls, such as indulging in romantic daydreams, dancing and singing with joy, and having an affinity for shopping and fashion. On occasion, she makes awkward attempts to seduce Robin, which often end in failure. Paradoxically, she herself becomes the target of enemy spies' attempts at seduction, inadvertently placing the team in jeopardy. resulting Robin to get angry at her to the point of physically assaulting her.
Despite these idiosyncrasies, Lili is a very valuable asset to Rainbow Sentai, and one of my favourite characters in the show due to the funny situations that happens whenever she's involved.
— BELL —
Lili isn't the sole female character on the team. Another female presence is Bell, a female cat with a unique role as a radar for detecting enemy presence and suspicious activities. Bell also possesses the ability to project false images to deceive enemies or to create visual aids, akin to a slide show presentation. Additionally, she can record and play back events or cassette tapes.
Bell's character is marked by her sarcastic personality, which contributes to her humourous interactions but sadly was somewhat underutilised. She often accompanies Professor, likely due to her small size that allows her to fit into various places, like inside Benkei, the colossal robot. Her interactions with Professor frequently involve heated arguments.
— BENKEI —
Benkei, a colossal yet gentle robot, assumes the role of the team's muscle. His polite and apologetic demeanour contrasts his imposing appearance. His propensity for creating unintentional problems for the squad provides a source of humour, often resulting in angering Professor while poor Benkei keeps apologising. His role is to provide the necessary muscle for the team, or provide energy for the Professor when the old man is low on power, and by provide energy I meant breastfeeding him—I am not joking—.
— WOLF —
Wolf, the suave sharpshooter, adds a rule of cool to the team. Operating as both an espionage expert and formidable combatant, his tendency towards overconfidence often leads to entertaining predicaments. Sporting stylish sunglasses and dual-wielding a pair of guns, Wolf is undoubtedly the coolest member of the team. He boasts impressive speed, agility, and shooting skills, and can even disguise himself as objects like trees or furniture, and even imitate enemies. His primary role involves espionage and intelligence gathering, but he frequently takes on offensive tasks by leading the charge against the enemy. Despite his occasional overconfidence and recklessness that can get him into trouble, he remains a valuable tactician, positioning him as a strong contender for the third-in-command role due to his strategic prowess.
— PEGASUS —
I saved Pegasus for the last as he's the least interesting character in Rainbow Sentai. He serves as the supersonic aircraft piloted by Robin, capable of transforming into a rocket or a submarine as well. He doesn't engage extensively with the other team members, but it's understandable given his apparent disdain for being piloted by less skilled handlers like Lili, in a playful nod to the 'women can't drive' stereotype. Setting jokes aside, Pegasus falls on the less interesting side of the spectrum. He remains inconspicuous, which in my opinion is preferable to forcing interactions with a character who lacks a compelling personality. Offering him the modest screen time he warrants without attempting to flesh out his uninteresting persona was a prudent choice.
— CONCLUSION —
While Rainbow Sentai Robin stands out for its engaging character dynamics, enjoyable action sequences, as well as moments of slapstick comedy, I cannot recommend the anime. It's drawn-out, incohesively structred with a disappointing conclusion and second half. Those curious about black and white anime or 1960s anime, better alternatives can be found in its superior predecessor, Cyborg 009, or Dororo, which offer more serious and cohesive storytelling, artistic cinematic visuals, and meaningful themes.
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