Shinesman Anime Review
Tokumu Sentai Shainsuman)
US Release By
Power Rangers Parody
2 30-minute episodes
What's In It
- Superpowered Fistfights
- Ugly Monsters
- Cute Kid Brothers
- Corporate Superheroes
- Alien Corporate Buyout
- Quotable Lines ("Shiina, get in the vortex")
- Color-coded Battlesuits
- A Neat Aerial Chase
- Violence: 1 (mild)
- Nudity: 1 (mild)
- Sex: 0 (none)
- Language: 0 (none)
Earth. Now. The king of planet Voice has declared war on Earth and its inhabitants, with the intention of claiming the planet and its natural resources for his own. To this end, he has sent the prince of Voice, Sasaki, and a strategist, Seki, as the vanguard. The only thing standing between this invasion and the unsuspecting inhabitants of Earth is the Right Trading Company's Special Duty Combat Unit Shinesman, a team of five carefully selected individuals equipped with Prosuits, the most advanced combat armor on the planet. The people of Earth would cower in fear and cheer their heroes, if they even knew it was happening, but the alien invaders have a most devious plan--they will pose as normal humans and build a business empire. Of course, it's not a particularly evil business empire--their corporation, Science Electronics, funds theme parks and the popular TV show Greatman. The prince of Voice doesn't think too much of this plan, but gross margins are up, and kids everywhere have memorized every Greatman formation.
The Shinesman team has problems of its own; effective or not, Business Card Cutters and Tie Clip Bombs aren't exactly the coolest weapons in the superhero arsenal, and Moss Green and Sepia lack panache. Oh well.
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Special Duty Combat Unit: Shinesman is a low-key sentai-show parody of the best kind: It is what it mocks. It has a functional plot and a reasonably sympathetic cast of characters, but instead of cheesy heroics hero and villain alike are cursed with odd personality quirks, unpopular costume colors, and lame corporate-themed weapons. Better yet, they know how lame they are, and there are plenty of offhanded comments to that effect. The dub, thanks to its eminently quotable script, has a slight humor edge over the notably different but also very funny subtitled version, but you win either way and might as well watch both for even more fun. There are only two downsides: The minor annoyance of somewhat weak art, and the outright tragedy that the story is cut short after only two episodes.
Don't come looking for over the top slapstick, but if slightly more subtle humor is your thing and you're willing to look beyond lackluster art, an apparently weak premise, and a frustrating end after two episodes, Shinesman is quite simply among the best anime parodies, period.
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Special Duty Combat Unit: Shinesman looks like a poorly-done, semi-funny Voltron/Gatchaman/Power Rangers rip-off. For the first minute or two, you might still think that, because that's exactly the genre it offhandedly parodies. What Shinesman actually is, though, is low-key hilarity. It ranks near the top of my personal favorite anime parodies, as strange as it feels to say that as a longtime fan of Project A-ko.
Like the best parodies, instead of taking individual scenes or elements of a target and spoofing them to death, Shinesman is what it mocks. It has its own functional reality, a passable plot, and a reasonably sympathetic set of characters--not just caricatures, but people with at least a modicum of personality. While it has enough substance to play it straight as a so-so action show, the main characters are stricken with odd personality quirks and a sorry set of circumstances--Tie Clip Bombs, lousy colors, corporate espionage, and overheated Godzilla suits, to name a few. What takes Shinesman one step farther and makes it so funny is that the characters realize that they're losers; the kids don't like the lame colors (or "regal, manly colors," to quote a Shinesman), and the heroes are the first to lament the corporate-themed weapons they're armed with.
Be warned that the jokes are rather low-key, but this offhanded, self-deprecating humor is what sets Shinesman apart from the average parody. The most similar show I can think of is actually an American one, The Tick (my all-time favorite from the States). The Tick is weirder and funnier, but there are definite similarities.
(As an aside, there is one bit of outrageous, over-the-top humor--a short and absolutely hilarious Shinesman merchandise commercial in the middle of the video. Watch for it.)
The one thing I'm torn about is which is funnier--the original Japanese or the eminently quotable dub, a hard comparison for me to make as a longtime sub fan. I will say that this is only the second time I haven't been bothered at all by only seeing a dub.1
It's not that the acting in the dub is so good, but that the writing is so funny. The only "problem" with this is that the dub writers took some creative license and added a lot of jokes... and as hard as it is for me to admit, they probably made it better. From anime in-jokes ("She's one OVA short of a series.") to a collection of great offhanded remarks ("Shiina, get in the glowing green square."), a significant percentage of the lines just begging to be repeated are exclusive to the dub script.
The Japanese version has its own strengths. Some parts are generally funnier, the comic timing is a bit tighter, and it has some jokes that didn't make it into the dub (plus a few that don't translate at all).
The acting is another toss-up. The Japanese cast is filled with big names (all of which are shared by their characters, another in-joke), the casting fits well, and the acting is quite good, with a particularly funny performance by Yoshiko Sakakibara as the slightly deranged boss of the team. The dub loses some humor due to the acting (that same character, for example, isn't notably funny), but it gains elsewhere thanks to sarcastic and offhanded comments. The acting in the dub varies from decent to good (somewhat surprising coming from AnimeWorks), and even the minor characters sound okay. The casting is also quite good for the most part, particularly the kids--I had no problem believing little Yota, a relative rarity in a dub.
Which is better overall? I'd say the balance is in favor of the dub, but thanks to the magic of bilingual DVDs there's no need to choose. You basically get two different experiences--both funny--out of a single series.
My only real real complaint about the series is a particularly painful one: Production was cut off after only two 30-minute OAVs. It's sad enough that such a funny series is so short, and it's particularly galling here since Shinesman actually has a plot, and it definitely isn't concluded at the end. Who knows, maybe someone will pick up the ball some day (fan poll, anybody?), and there is an (as yet unavailable in English) manga version.
Artistically, Shinesman doesn't stand out--the art and backgrounds are a bit simple, and the coloring tends toward weak pastels. On the positive side, I would go so far as to say that sort of adds to the feel--it looks just like the older superhero anime that it spoofs. The animation is about average for a slightly older OAV series; it's good (or not bad) enough not to be noticeable one way or the other, and there is one decent action scene near the end. The somewhat angular character designs have a slight shoujo-style look to them, which enhances the contrast between superstudly surface and lame reality. On the down side, the guys all look kind of similar, which isn't helped any by the less-than-easy-to-remember Japanese names (it does help that everybody but Red wears a business suit the same color as his costume). The costumes and monsters are, likewise, unremarkable but good enough.
The music is much like the art: plain. When there is any, that is; Shinesman is almost completely devoid of noticeable background music. The opening theme, on the other hand, sounds exactly like some of the classic, heroic anime themes (Dragonball and the like), replete with corporate-sponsored-hero-appropriate lyrics ("tax-free justice" and such).
Summing up, Shinesman is a very low-key, very funny parody of Power Rangers and its sentai anime kin. It has a hilarious blend of off-beat humor, cheesy superhero action, quirky characters, and anime in-jokes. Don't come looking for over-the-top slapstick, but if slightly more subtle parody is your thing and you're willing to look beyond lackluster art, an apparently weak premise, and a frustrating end after two episodes, Shinesman is among the best. I am tempted to recommend the dub, though--it's probably funnier, and at the least has some darned good additions. Better yet, watch both.
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Has the basic theme in common to Project A-ko, which is in any case another top-notch anime parody. If you enjoyed Shinesman, you might want to give The Tick a serious look. Yes, it was an American Saturday morning cartoon, but even so, it is what I consider to be the single funniest TV show ever made (in any country, animated or otherwise). This may sound odd coming from an anime fan, but the humor is inspired, and gets better the more you watch.
Notes and Trivia
Shinesman is based on a manga series of the same name by Kaimu (aka Kaim) Tachibana; it's not available in English as of 2012. It's mild shoujo, and as the story progresses it goes farther than the anime has a chance to in giving real personality to the characters, despite its status as a parody.
The title of the series is actually a very funny pun. The "Shine" in "Shinesman" (more accurately "Shainsuman") is a play on the Japanese word "shain," meaning "corporate employee." Therefore, Shinesman means something like "Corporate-man." At least it's more original than "Superman," and I'd say fittingly lame for this team.
If the names of some of the characters sound a bit familiar, it's no coincidence--every one of the characters shares a name with his/her (Japanese) voice actor.
Shinesman was a relatively early show animated by Production I.G, which has since gained fame for their fancy computer-enhanced animation on series like Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.
Footnote 1: The first, if you're wondering, was the "Presence" segment of Robot Carnival.
US DVD Review
The budget-priced DVD is surprisingly good, particularly for an early AnimeWorks production. To start with, the video is a very sharp transfer, and both audio tracks are clean and crisp. Another positive given the significant differences between the Japanese and dub scripts, it includes both a properly translated subtitle track and a caption track for the English version. The disc also includes a small art gallery, and has both the English and Japanese casts. The only annoyance is that the opening credits aren't on their own chapter stop, so (if you're so inclined) you have to fast forward through them instead of hitting the skip button. Also, in a change from the VHS release, the commercial for Shinesman bath goods is stuck at the commercial break point in the first episode on the DVD, rather than between the two episodes. I thought this made more sense, even if it breaks the flow a bit.
Not much to find objectionable; maybe 10-up for a bit of underwear and some mildly serious violence, though 7-up is not unreasonable.
Violence: 1 - They off a couple of monsters, and get into a couple of fights, but nothing very serious.
Nudity: 1 - One (totally non erotic) scene with some women's underwear... and a Godzilla suit.
Sex/Mature Themes: 0 - Nada.
Language: 0 - Almost nothing above a "darn."
Staff & Cast
(Note: Japanese names appear family name first.)
Matsumoto Hiroya (Shinesman Red): Matsumoto Yasunori
Hayami Ryoichi (Shinesman Moss Green): Hayami Sho
Yamadera Shogo (Shinesman Grey): Yamadera Kouichi
Ono Shoutaro (Shinesman Sepia): Ono Kenichi
Hidaka Riko (Shinesman Salmon Pink): Hidaka Noriko
Matsumoto Youta: Matsumoto Rica
Sakakibara Kyoko: Sakakibara Yoshiko
Kasahara Hitomi: Kasahara Hiroko
Nakamura Shi: Nakamura Daiki
Seki Shujin: Seki Toshihiko
Prince Sasaki Sugura: Sasaki Nozomu
Princess Shiina: Shiina Hekiru
English Dub Cast
Matsumoto Hiroya (Shinesman Red): Scott Simpson
Hayami Ryoichi (Shinesman Moss Green): David Wade
Yamadera Shogo (Shinesman Grey): Rick Forrester
Ono Shoutaro (Shinesman Sepia): Justin Smith
Hidaka Riko (Shinesman Salmon Pink): Tamara Burnham
Matsumoto Youta: Nick Prange
Sakakibara Kyoko: Tracie Dinwiddie
Kasahara Hitomi: Juliet Cesario
Nakamura Shi: Ed Cord
Seki Shujin: Michael Granberry
Prince Sasaki Sugura: Grey Hawks
Princess Shiina: Pamela Weidner
Available in North America on bilingual DVD from AnimeWorks. Was originally available on subtitled and dubbed VHS, now out of print.