Thursday, July 14, 2011
Last night, my mind was idly wandering, and I somehow got to thinking about the sentai series LIVEMAN. Specifically, I found myself wondering about the process that went into the mecha Land Lion (pictured). I'm not sure anyone realized it, but Land Lion was something of an innovation. In fact, it was the precursor to a whole new type of sentai machine.
I'm not so much talking about the Land Lion toy (seen here), but more the portrayal of Land Lion in the show itself. Prior to LIVEMAN, the component vehicles were portrayed strictly as vehicles. They might have been vehicles of questionable practical design, but they were recognizably vehicles. Land Lion is the first time I can recall where one of the sentai component mecha was presented as something that blurred the line between vehicle and robot.
Think about it. Land Lion has legs. Instead of moving on wheels, it runs. It was also capable of a range of motion not previously seen. I'll bet it was quite the challenge for Nobuo Yajima and his crew!
What's funny is that this radical new approach was not immediately followed up on in subsequent sentai. TURBORANGER, FIVEMAN, and JETMAN returned to mecha motifs that were strictly vehicle-based. It wasn't until ZYURANGER and its Guardian Beasts that the idea of component mecha that were ALSO robots reappeared. The Saber Tiger was realized in a method very similar to Land Lion, while the Tyrannosaurus was a straight-up man in a suit.
You can point to ZYURANGER as the series that truly changed the approach to sentai mecha for good. However, let's remember that it was Land Lion that blazed the trail. I wish I could have seen the meetings leading up to his creation.