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November 2004

Local Action Heroes

Suginami Sentai Irenja
Suginami Sentai Irenja (Suginami City, Tokyo)

Action heroes that are active in a specific region are popping up across Japan. One example is the Suginami Sentai Irenja (Suginami Task Force Rangers) of Tokyo's Suginami Ward, the members of which are clad in red, blue, yellow, green, and pink suits. The mission of these heroes is to encourage people to conserve resources by using their own shopping bags instead of the plastic bags given out at supermarkets and convenience stores. Originally introduced as characters in a publicity video made by Suginami Ward, the characters were so popular that they now show up in environmental campaigns and other events in the ward. They're so famous that practically every Suginami resident is familiar with them.

The Irenja are modeled after a TV series that began in 1975 under the title of Himitsu Sentai Gorenja (Secret Task Force Goranger). The go of Goranger means five. The series depicted the story of five young people who protect the earth together by transforming themselves into heroes with names like Aka Renja (Red Ranger) and Ao Renja (Blue Ranger) and fighting enemies who plot to conquer the world. More of these "super task force" series have been made since then, and the series that is currently on the air, Tokuso Sentai Dekarenja (Special Investigation Task Force Dekaranger), is the twenty-eighth series in the line.

Local hero groups created in imitation of these series are usually given names in the form of Something Sentai Something Ranger. They typically consist of three to five members, each of whom is assigned a different color and task, and who work together to achieve a mission specific to that region.

The city of Hirado in Nagasaki Prefecture is home to the Hirado Boei Sentai Hiradoshiman (Hirado Defense Task Force Hiradoshiman). Members of the local board of trade, all in their thirties, formed the group to promote the development of the city and protect it from the enemy called depopulation. They are immensely popular with children, as they engage in many charity activities, like visiting children at hospitals in the Christmas season and posing for snapshots with visitors at special events.

Terebi Shin Hiro TSS
Terebi Shin Hiro TSS (Shin Hiroshima Telecasting Co., Ltd.)

Some heroes have been created by local TV stations. For example, the Terebi Shin Hiro TSS (TV New Hero TSS) is a trio invented in 2000 to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Shin Hiroshima Telecasting (TSS) in Hiroshima Prefecture. TV New Hero fever has spawned a CD of the theme song and various products featuring the characters. The trio protects the children of Hiroshima from the "misdeed waves" emitted by the evil General Noise.

More than 130 kinds of local heroes now exist throughout Japan. When you include hero rangers that are created temporarily at school festivals and parties, the number is almost infinite. Maybe your town will soon have its own local heroes too.