Remembering the Time Super Sentai Stole One Piece’s Homework
Looking back at this beloved season!
As they had done for the past 35 years, in 2011, the Super Sentai franchise introduced a new season to the long-running show. With each season came a new theme for the multicoloured heroes to adhere to, and with Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger, a pirate theme was chosen.
Swashbuckling and completely off the wall as far as typical Super Sentai teams were concerned, Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger was an immediate hit thanks to this unique approach to heroism as well as its celebration of the franchise as a whole.
While pirates aren’t typically depicted as heroes, things definitely shifted in the early 2000s with the popularity of The Pirates of the Caribbean films and the hit manga and anime One Piece. The latter in particular drew heavy comparisons to Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger upon release.
So did Super Sentai copy One Piece’s homework when it came to developing Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger? Was it riding on the coattails of the biggest manga and anime franchise in the world? Let’s take a closer look.
Space Pirates Appear
Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger centers around the eponymous pirate team, led by Captain Marvellous, as they battled the evil Zangyack empire that seeks to conquer Earth. The previous 34 Super Sentai teams have faced these invaders before but they have returned for revenge.
As such, Red Ranger Captain Marvellous along with Blue Ranger Joe Gibken, Yellow Ranger Luka Millfy, Green Ranger Don “Doc” Dogoier, Pink Ranger Ahim de Famille, and eventually, Silver Ranger Gai Ikari must seek the greatest treasure and defeat the Zangyack.
This greatest treasure, in particular, is in fact the fabled Ranger Keys, which are mystical keys that turn the Gokaigers into previous Super Sentai teams and give access to their predecessor’s powers and arsenal.
So while these pirates were more concerned with being loveable show-offs in battle and getting their hands on the Ranger Keys, they do come together to become Earth’s saviours just like any other Super Sentai team.
The Pirate King
A persistent rumour among the fandom during this period of time in 2011 is how One Piece was stealing the core audience of Super Sentai by being in the time slot. It seemed that the creators behind Super Sentai chose to join them if they couldn’t beat them.
Previous Super Sentai teams have fought pirates before, with the 22nd season Seijuu Sentai Gingaman, in particular, having pirates as the lead villain. With a show that was all about teaching kids about being good, pirates were a little out of the ordinary.
The main characters also drew comparisons to the main characters of One Piece, with Captain Marvellous’ impulsive behaviour being a lot like Monkey D. Luffy, Joe Gibken being the sword-wielding first mate lines up with Roronoa Zoro, and Luka’s eye for money is exactly like Nami.
One Piece’s usage of heavy world-building also came naturally to Gokaiger, with its extensive history of Super Sentai serving the same purpose in many regards. So as much as the general pirate theming was similar, Gokaiger made good use of One Piece’s best qualities as well.
The Greatest Treasure
Now does it really matter if Super Sentai copied One Piece? Not at all, in fact, the wider Toei Company owns the Super Sentai franchise and the One Piece anime, so it is very much a win-win for the company regardless.
If anything, this was another way for Super Sentai to incorporate cultural zeitgeists of the time into their seasonal theming. Maho Sentai Magiranger, for example, was practically the franchise’s take on the Harry Potter franchise.
On the other side of things, One Piece has paid homage to Super Sentai in a variety of ways, with Sanji’s family, the colour-coordinated military unit Germa 66 being the best example, as well as Franky’s usage of combining machines into a giant robot.
This all went full circle when the mini-series that succeeded Gokaiger, Unofficial Sentai Akibaranger, featured both the voice actors for Sanji and Franky as the main supervillains.
Even after a decade since their debut, the Gokaigers remain to be one of the most popular Super Sentai teams of all time and have returned in new episodes and movies. Needless to say, taking what made One Piece work and putting it into Super Sentai was a worthy gamble.