Throughout anime’s lengthy history, the parody genre has been a long withstanding staple. Kid shows like Sgt. Frog parodies Gundam and Kamen Rider, the early 2000’s anime Panda-Z parodies Go-Nagai’s famous Mazinger Z, and the anime classic Project A-ko is a wholesale parody of seventies and eighties anime. But those are only the first trees of many in the forest that is anime parody. Tonight I will be reviewing a personal favorite of mine, a title that I believe like the many before that I have reviewed, has been forgotten with time. That title is Sentai hero parody, The Special Duty Combat Unit Shinesman (Shinesman for short), the two episode 1996’s OVA.
Shinesman was directed by Shinya Sadamitsu, whose works include the notable 1993 OVA Dragon Half, and the notable for the opposite reason, the 1984 OVA Birth (Planet Busters). Now that is what I call a perplexing degree of quality. Shinesman is actually an OVA tie in for a manga of the same name. Created by Kaim Tachibana, mangaka of both the late CMX manga Pieces of Spiral and the subtly titled Yaoi manga Boys Love (like calling a shojo manga “Young Romance” or a shonen manga “Action”), released starting in 1993. Something to note is that the character designs where done by Akiharu Ishii, who is credited for character designs in what seems to be the ever single animated representation of Prince of Tennis.
I want to start my review of Shinesman by first discussing the attention grabber, otherwise known by many as the opening theme. Performed by current Jam Project member Hironobu Kageyama, the Shinesman opening “You are the Hero” should perfectly encapsulate Shinesman for you. Shinesman details the life of Hiroya Matsumoto, by day an employee of the Right Trading Company. By night, he dons armor called a Pro-Suit and becomes Shinesman Red of the Shinesman team, along with his fellow employees Ryoichi Hayami: Shinesman Moss Green, Shogo Yamadera: Shinesman Grey, Riko Hidaka: Shinesman Salmon Pink, and finally Shotaro Ono: Sepia. Matsumoto fights for Head of the Special Duty Combat Unit and Manager, Kyoko Sakakibara. Their task, fight the evil alien Prince Saki, who with his trusted strategist Saki and bubbly anime-exclusive cousin Princess Shinna (might I add that they all dress like they stepped out of either Slayers or Record of Lodoss War), wishes to conquer Earth’s natural resources for the Planet Voice and defeat the Shinesman; all done by infiltrating the Japanese business world. That is the entire OVA’s plot in a nutshell.
As a Sentia parody, our heroes comically put an adult perspective on what a hero is inside and out. Outside of Matsumoto standard red (picked exclusively because of his younger brother Yota), everyone adorns older minded colors. This is a running gag compared to the shows’ more uniformly simple superhero team, the Greatman. This gives the characters room to break the fourth wall and comment on how lame they appear. As you could tell by the inclusion of the words “manager” and “company”, Shinesman is also a parody of nineties businessman life. Attack names like “Cuff Beam” and “Business Card Cutter” lampoon the shows’ business main theme. There is even a company sponsored commercial for a Shinesman kids’ shower set in episode one.
An important aspect of Shinesman is the dub. The dub involved changing bits and pieces of cultural references that at times completely changes the context of the jokes. It got to the point with me that I started re-watching parts with the sub track on, just to see where things were changed. Now this might be giving the impression that I have something against the dub, quite the opposite really, for this is one of a handful of dubs that I generally enjoy. The dub actors have a way of delivering lines that allows for the comedy to really work.
Pros: An all-around enjoyable comedy that is fun to watch with a group, even with a younger audience. Character designs evoke both then modern nineties business wear and nineties fantasy attire. Has an approachable sixty minute run time that does not demand a large time investment.
Cons: Sixty minutes is not enough time to develop character, so Shinna’s inclusion is there as a way to excuse away how thin the Shinesman are as characters. Cell panning is quite noticeable. The current release I have is a copy of an almost ten year old release, so the transfer quality left me thinking that this could look better with a digital restoration.
Well that is my opinion of The Special Duty Combat Unit Shinesman; it might have been longer if it was not so hard to review comedies. Media Blasters should still be keeping Shinesman in print, but only as the 2002 copy that I see sitting next to my computer. This DVD has something you do not see often in modern anime comedies, a cast filled with adults. That being said, it should appeal to an older crowd that I tend to keep in mind when I write these reviews. Shinesman is one of those purchases you watch more with a group of friends. And if that is not a big enough recommendation, then I do not know what is.