Although the Power Rangers are thankfully a relic of mass marketing at this point, nostalgia holds many superhero teams not far different from them. Any late twenty-something probably remembers playing in the schoolyard as a member of G-Force or another team who worked together to combine powers and save the universe, then running home each day to catch the latest episode of Battle of the Planets. For those of us with those fond memories, Shinesman is an enjoyable comedy, not only in that it satirizes the silly conventions of all Mighty Morphing Ones (tm) but also recalls a less cynical, perhaps more earnest age of animated storytelling. It's too slight to be a classic, but too fun not to watch.
Matsumoto appears to be just another executive drone, but he is in fact one of the five members of the Special Duty Combat Unit Shinesman. The Right Trading Company may have a legitimate business empire, but the Shinesman are there to protect their corporate interests and save the world when necessary. And indeed, the world does need saving, as unwanted guests from the planet Voice show up, planning to set up an invasion. The bad guys have created a theme park as a front, and the Shinesman team gets involved when Sheena, a rogue princess planning to take on humanity herself, gets carried away and starts bringing monsters onto the scene. Of course, everybody else thinks that all these weird happenings are just part of the amusements, so the Shinesman can do their business without giving themselves away. As if that mattered. The Shinesman are quite possibly the most ill-planned group of superheroes ever, from wearing tacky colors (moss green and sepia) to having useless weaponry (like tie tack bombs); yet, everyone knows they must succeed. After all, the bad guys are always the best dressed anyway.
Shinesman has been seen primarily as a parody on the Power Rangers, which is only partially true and diminishes its impact. The whole concept of the superhero team (otherwise known as the "senpai" show) was a huge part of Japanese (and American) animated television in the late 70s, and the Power Rangers were merely a live-action variant that stumbled into popularity. Why Shinesman works is that it tells a story while it blasts away at the old conventions. Like Dragon Half and Project A-Ko before it, the parody isn't the whole, just a broad context for the action. In a way, Shinesman is an homage to all those old shows as much as it is a parody: the fights are still won by the team coming together as one, the thoughts of loved ones drives them on to fight, etc. As it mocks, it pays tribute. Despite a desperate animation budget that renders shots beautiful yet almost completely motionless, Shinesman's humor is almost all dialogue based, so there's little need for more. If anything, the show's biggest fault is that it leaves some very minor plot strands unfulfilled, but that's minor overall. One might also call it for being too earnest at times, sometimes making the viewer wonder if the line between parody and cheese just got crossed, but that happens only twice to my recollection.
The additional perk with the show is that its dub presents a unique experience worthy of viewing all on its own. Dubs haunt me, normally, as they tear apart a show's original meaning, rewriting great lines with filler trying to match lip flap and replacing superb voiceovers with acting that would have failed community college. However, the dub here is certainly competent at the voice acting level, and the dialogue (though straying from the original) has some priceless lines an anime fan cannot afford to miss. Where else can you hear somebody insulted with the line, "She's one OVA short of a series"? And unlike other shows where rewrites hurt the feel of the show, the English dialogue makes some otherwise mediocre moments hilarious. At the same time, the sub has its own unique jokes and flavor, and so it's the rare anime worth seeing in both languages to get everything.
It doesn't really matter if you've loved or hated superhero team shows--Shinesman has something for both camps. Though too short and goofy to be considered a must-see, Shinesman is an excellent laugh and an enjoyable parody tribute.
Shinesman -- mild violence -- A-