I can still remember the mid 2000’s when my friends and I would look forward to running home from school to watch YouTube. It was an amazing discovery beyond the realm of standard programming. Whatever cartoons we wanted to watch and memories we wanted to revisit from the original comic book could all be found there. What these clips had represented for a lot of cartoon loving kids was not only a love for the humor of anime, but for the discovery of Japanese culture itself. A representation of Japan can be seen in the short film Rolling Bomber Special (2002), directed by Tetsuya Nakashima. Set as a parody to Super Sentai (the original the Power Rangers), is a Japanese anime in live action form.
The story is about Katori, an apathetic teen who gets involved with a group of masked superheroes on the street one day. He does not know why or what these people want from him, but only tell him that Lord Zaree must be stopped before he destroys the world. The masked men look like the Power Rangers you see today, each equipped with their own powers and abilities, but somehow miss every opportunity they get to defeat Katori, only to retreat when a bag of groceries knocks down one of its female members.
The film is on a plane of its own. Every scene is timed with such imperfection and cheese you would think you are being tricked by the action figures from the dollar store. You can start with the failed attempts of the rangers. You would think their combined powers could take down a regular guy on the street, but their Hurricane Beam attacks and cannon balls lack overall range and efficiency. After all is said and done, the main character just looks at the audience and make a meta cheer like everything is a joke. Which it is for all of its intended purpose.
And then there’s the scene where the pink ranger walks into a laundromat to wash her costume dressed like a part time student. Of course Katori can’t help but check her out when the other rangers suddenly jump out of nowhere for a secret attack. They take themselves very seriously and yell obscene comments at Katori. It’s like they want to be Kamen Rider or Ultraman, but they can’t do their jobs at all. The comedic timing and references are solid gold and make for great fun to laugh at.
The film is a representation of a media saturated age. The teenager Katori feeds himself with junk food, watches tv, and doesn’t think about anything else in life. The splashes of wild imagery are like the choices Kaori has to make as a young adult. He is a teenager in conflict with the world. He lays in his room by himself with a million other loose scatterbrained trinkets. He hangs out with the wrong crowd and doesn’t know the reasoning for his actions. But the rangers, who wear masks that pose as authority figures, force him to discover his true self no matter what the cost until the bitter end.
This short film is a representation of Otaku culture at its most absurd and its most humorous. The cinematography and the colors of the film display a dramatic and youthful world seen through the lens of a child. From the colorful costume to the pop punk soundtrack and the video game effects, the main character is a lover of all things urban. It is a reflection of culture at a time of rapid expansion that can be seen in the way Katori dresses and his tastes in music. The humor brings back influences to movies like Shaolin Soccer with its frugal slap stick humor to over the top anime/manga like Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo or One Piece.
The confusion of adolescence makes the journey all the more fun. The film not only a look at the medium of graphic style, but also at the audience who watch it to ultimately ask the question of, “Just what am I doing here?”