It’s safe to say that the Western reaction to the new Power Rangers film has been… less than enthusiastic. From the moment Hollywood revealed the new suits, fans wrote hot take after hot take. The suits were “wrong,” or it didn’t have the same “feel.” And in terms of televised Power Rangers, we still make some serious judgment calls.
And yet, Japan seems to be welcoming these modernized heroes with open arms. Arguably we’re seeing some heavy front-facing marketing, sure, but is that all? Even fan-run news sources are overjoyed at the impending Japanese release of Hollywood’s Power Rangers. But if it’s so off-tone… why? What are we missing?
Why Is Japan Happy?
Read enough articles and it’s pretty clear how Japan’s taking this Hollywood reboot. Or rather, it’s clear how they’re taking its Japanese release. Most articles talk about a “local hero” coming home. Considering there were a good two decades when super sentai was solely Japanese in its fandom, that’s understandable.
Thanks to Power Rangers, the franchise — a children’s franchise, despite what many may say — has a worldwide fan base. Multiple generations in multiple countries have grown up with it, and have felt connected to it. And really, that’s a big deal. Especially considering it’s still going.
So for many Japanese fans, Hollywood’s Power Rangers coming home is kind of like your kid going off to study abroad and coming back all grown up. And for a group of islands in a big wide world of entertainment? That’s a huge deal.
Why Aren’t We Happy?
And yet, while famous anison singers are belting “Go Go Power Rangers” and Nagoya is planting commemorative rice fields, the West isn’t satisfied. It’s not just this latest release; adaptations, dubs, reimaginings… all of them are heavily scrutinized and deemed “inferior” to their Japanese counterparts simply by existing.
Now, this isn’t to say that Japanese fans never do this. Read a comment thread on a news site and you’ll see that this is absolutely not the case. Fans may enjoy things, but fandom is never satisfied. When it comes to Western consumption of Eastern product, we put ourselves on a far lower pedestal. For many hardcore otaku, anything American or Americanized is automatically inferior. Changing names in a dub, choosing this series over that one, or even daring to touch anything from Japan beyond a direct translation is some level of fan treason.
As for why? It’s hard to say. It’s healthy for fans to question and critique what they ingest, of course. But building walls against what they consider “impurities” blocks out a great deal of fun. Ace Attorney, for example, a series that relies largely on puns. Or the new Power Rangers film — not a masterwork of cinema, but still something to do with young relatives.
Perhaps it’s time for us to be as welcoming of our take on Japan’s entertainment as Japan is.
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