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Samurai Troopers article published in Animerica Vol. 10, No. 5, May 2002
This article was written by and is copyrighted to Patricia Duffield and may not be reproduced in part or whole without permission.

Good-looking, earnest young men fighting for victory by magically adorning themselves with sparkling armor of legendary power! Like 'em or leave 'em, such series are a product of the 1980's. One of the most beloved, and arguably the best, was Yoroiden Samurai Troopers (Legendary Armor Samurai Troopers). Brought to the U.S. as Ronin Warriors, the enthusiasm for this action-packed series never seems to wane.

A millennia ago, the evil lord Yos/jatei-O (both o's long) Arago opened a door between his dimension and Earth, intent on conquering our world. A mighty warrior mage defeated Arago, sending the evil lord back to his own world and closing the dimensional door. Although Arago was banished, his armor remained. Knowing the door between the dimensions might one day open again, the mage meditated on the virtues of Confucianism and Bushido (long o), and thus divided Arago's powerful armor into nine different suits.

INTRODUCTIONS

It all begins on a sunny day in modern-day Shinjuku. Strange clouds form, and a boy and his "pet" white tiger are spotted. When the news reports this, a professor of ancient Japanese armor and legends recognizes the boy as a Samurai Trooper. Concerned the boy's appearance is a harbinger of doom, he sends his granddaughter to bring the boy to him. En route, the granddaughter, Naste (accent over e), has car problems. But it's not just her --everyone's motor has died! Stealing a police bike, she pedals her way to the eye of the gathering storm.

The boy and his tiger find themselves surrounded by police when the first flash of lightening crashes down from the unnatural clouds above. A mysterious set of armor materializes, intent on cutting the boy down. The tiger's warning is enough for the boy to mostly dodge the blow. The boy's shirt is cut, exposing red armor underneath. Removing his regular clothes, the boy reveals he's wearing form-fitting armor and announces he is "Rekka no Ryo" (Ryo of the Raging Fire). As Ryo and his opponent battle, around them, Shinjuku gets ripped apart.

Amidst the chaos, a little boy named Jun has lost his parents. Naste (accent over e) arrives at the scene in time to save Jun and see the dramatic arrival of the other four Samurai Troopers --Toma, Shu, Shin and Seiji. When she sees the five of them are not making any progress against their single opponent, she yells at them to put on their full armor. Even with their true Samurai Trooper armor on, they barely manage to stumble across a way of defeating their opponent. Then four men in armor similiar to theirs appear and introduce themselves --Shiten, Anubis, Rajura and Naaza. They are not allies but Masho (long o), enemies in service to the evil lord Arago. They say they'll be back then disappear as the clouds part to reveal an enormous castle floating in the stormy sky. It is Arago's castle, and he has come to gain control of the Earth.

ROUND ONE

The boys aren't given long to meet each other before Arago sends Shiten to attack them. With the secret help of a mysterious man in Buddhist monk's robes, the Samurai Troopers not only start to succeed against Shiten, but their spirits begin to unite. Observing this, Arago attacks directly, but he only succeeds in scattering them across Japan. Luckily, Ryo's tiger, Byakuen, has an idea where Ryo is. Carrying the sword Ryo dropped during the fight, Naste (accent over e) and Jun follow Byakuen to the rim of Mt. Fuji, which has become active. Ryo is inside the volcano, the fires of which restore him. After another encounter with Shiten, our heroes decide they need help in figuring out where the other Samurai Troopers have ended up.

They head back to Tokyo to seek the aid of Naste's (accent over e) grandfather, but they are too late. Arago has had Naaza poison the professor. The only clue left to our heroes is a poem full of hidden double meanings. Fortunately, Naste (accent over e) is both knowledgeable and smart enough to decipher the poem. Despite intense opposition by the Masho (long o), one by one the others are restored as Ryo was. Along the way, the mysterious monk makes repeated appearances to guide and advise our heroes.

While the Samurai Troopers have been wandering about Japan to save their comrades, Arago has established a firm hold on Shinjuku. Once our heroes return, they discover four gateways and foolishly decide to enter them. Using his newly created evil priests in tandem with his Masho (long o), Arago plays the Samurai Troopers like fiddles, bringing them to their knees. Once again the mysterious white-haired monk helps out by lending Naste (accent over e) his staff. As a result, she helps the boys save themselves. But Arago has them on the ropes and wants to keep them that way. He harrows them with hordes of demon soldiers and regular attacks by the Masho (long o), trying to undermine their confidence and unity.

Throughout, Arago is always working to keep the Samurai Troopers separated, for only as a united team do they have a chance of defeating him. Each hero must confront and overcome various difficulties in order to master the abilities of his armor. With guidance from the mysterious monk, they eventually figure out how to truly unite their power, causing Ryo's red Rekka armor to transform into the much more powerful white Kikotei (long o) (the Sun Armor). By doing so, they have the power to send Arago back to his own realm.

ROUND TWO

In aiding the Samurai Troopers, the monk Kaos seemingly gave his life, but he found an unexpected replacement --Shiten. Arago, who has been beaten but has not left town, replaces Shiten with a girl named Kayura. He doesn't give the boys long to recover from their last battle before he starts plaguing them with new threats. The Samurai Troopers manage to overcome their various trials, gaining knowledge, ability and unity with each dilemma. Eventually, they figure out they have to defeat Arago on his own turf if they want to keep him from ever returning to Earth.

It turns out Arago has been experimenting with them. With the help of his chief priest, Badamon, Arago attempts to decipher the mysteries of their armor so he might nullify the threat. He decides he wants the Samurai Troopers captured alive so he might harness their energy for himself. Soon Seiji, Shin and Shu become captives, leaving Ryo and Toma to figure out how to get them back. They eventually learn about Kaos' replacement, but Shiten doesn't have the ability to create a bridge between Earth and Arago's dimension with his own powers, as Kaos could. Instead, he uses the power of Kayura's attack to bridge the worlds, and Ryo, Toma, and Byakuen take off.

Fighting against an evil magical being in his own territory is no easy task, especially when he's got the power of three of your buddies to aid him. Worse, with only Toma to help, Ryo has no way of calling Kikotei (long o), his only chance of succeeding against Arago's forces. Fortunately, Toma uses the bond between the different Samurai Trooper armor to locate the others and shoots a hole through a wall of their prison. This allows them to share their spirits with Ryo who summons Kikotei (long o) and defeats Dara, one of Arago's demon commanders. Despite this success, they haven't even reached Arago's castle yet.

Once Ryo and Toma get inside the first wall of the castle, Arago sends another army lead by Anubis, Rajura and Naaza. It's actually a plot to use the Masho (long o) armor to activate Kikotei (long o). This is how Ryo and Toma find out the Masho have virtues like themselves. Using magic sand, Kayura enthralls the Masho (long o), Toma, Ryo, and even Byakuen. Although Kikotei (long o) is summoned, the strength of their spirits allows the samurai to break free. Unfortunately, Arago is able to use the power of Kikotei's (long o) special Senkozan (long o) (Brilliant Flash) attack to punch a very large hole between his dimension and Earth. Arago's invasion begins anew.

Meanwhile, Naste (accent over e) has dug up reference of an artifact that can aid in Arago's destruction. Despite interference from Arago's minions, she, Shiten and Jun recover the "Inochi no Magatama," (the Bead of Life) and head for Arago's dimension. They arrive just in time to save Ryo and Toma from Kayura. During the heat of battle, Toma figures out his best chance to rejoin the others is to be captured, himself. He barely succeeds, but once the five are reunited, they're ready to take on Arago. Kayura and the Masho (long o) try to stop them, but once again, Shiten saves them.

Throughout all this, Kayura's part becomes complicated. Kaos' staff will not harm her, and once she loses her strange necklace, she recalls her childhood, centuries ago, in a town devoted to Kaos and his followers. Then, to confront the samurai and the Bead of Life, Badamon possesses Kayura. In an unexpected move, Kaos' staff becomes the helmet of Shiten's armor, then Shiten, the Masho (long o) and the Samurai Troopers are ensconced in nine towers Badamon's been constructing throughout this story arc. The towers will allow a union of the two worlds.

Because of Shiten's connection to Kaos, he is able to separate from his armor and escape with Kaos' staff. Once more he confronts Kayura, and by giving his life, he drives out Badamon, giving Kayura her freedom and his armor. As Kaos' latest replacement, Kayura goes after Arago, leaving the rescuing of the Samurai Troopers to Byakuen and Jun who have the Bead to protect them. Jun frees them, but too late, the worlds have been joined.

The final confrontation takes place in Shinjuku. Ryo gives Arago what he wants, the Kikotei (long o) armor, however, it's a dire scheme. Once inside Arago, Ryo can hold him defenseless for the others to destroy. Although they hesitate, they eventually accept Ryo's sacrifice and destroy Arago. Then, the power of the Bead can at last be fulfilled, for it saves Ryo's life. With Arago's destruction, the union of the worlds dissolves, the demons, the Masho (long o) and Kayura return to the other dimension, and all becomes right with the world.

OVAS

Yoroiden Samurai Troopers Gaiden (Legendary Armor Samurai Troopers Supplemental)
The story begins rather darkly with Seiji's Korin (long o) armor staggering puppet-like through the streets of New York City, oozing villainous fuchsia steam and killing any who oppose it. Why would Seiji do such a thing? He wouldn't. On a trip to Cambridge to examine an ancient samurai sword, Seiji was shanghaied by a demon wizard named Shikaisen. With the help of an evil scientist, Shikaisen is controlling the Korin (long o) armor to bait the others so he might become master of them all. While the heroes struggle to uncover this information, they stumble across different elements of the plot, including the murder of a photojournalist and a young girl's quest to avenge her brother who was killed in the Korin (long o) armor's opening attack.

Released shortly after the TV series ended, this first OVA series is a two-parter set mainly in the U.S. With less than an hour to tell the story, the result is a densely packed, slightly simple plot with plenty of action. There are also ample amounts of character development and other fan service: numerous little candid scenes of the boys in their civies; the introduction of an uncle of Shu's; and even the actualization of one of the fun scenarios from the TV show's ending credits --a classy birthday party for Ryo in a Shinjuku highrise. There's plenty to please fans, and despite the somewhat hasty pace, the story is engaging enough for people new to the series to enjoy.

Yoroiden Samurai Troopers Kikotei (long o) Densetsu (Legendary Armor Samurai Troopers Legend of Kikotei (long o))
The summer heat changes from benign to sinister when a scorching wind blows through Shinjuku. Then the cityscape merges oddly with jungle and veldt, sending the people running. The Samurai Troopers arrive shortly, only to discover their opponent wears a black version of Kikotei (long o). They try to awaken Ryo's Kikotei (long o), but Shin's reluctance to fight costs them their chance. Following the black Kikotei (long o), the Rekka armor, with Ryo inside, is drawn into a swirling void. Seiji, who tries to stop it, is also sucked in. The others are left trying to figure out where the void has taken them.

It turns out the mysterious warrior is from Tanzania. There, Ryo and Seiji find an unexpected ally. Naria is the fiancÚ of Mukara, the wearer of the black Kikotei (long o), and like Shin, she doesn't want any more fighting. Why is there a black Kikotei (long o) --in Africa no less? Solving that mystery and deciding how to deal with it is what this series is all about.

At four episodes, this second OVA series has the time to tell a reasonable story. With plenty of dramatic poses, pretty action and tasty personal conflicts, fans should enjoy it, but as though over-compensating for the first video, this one moves almost too slowly. The poky pace and white- and aqua-haired Africans might deter some people from watching through to the touching, climactic ending.

Samurai Troopers in Message
It's fair to say this series is an elaborate recap. After having returned to normal lives --without magical armor-- one by one the boys are called into the presence of a mysterious young woman named Suzunagi. Although she alternates between a child and an adult, Suzunagi has some serious powers. She succeeds in convincing each hero into a new armor. Amidst endless, though prettily selected and arranged older footage, and a great deal of emotional, metaphysical pontification about the meaning and truth about the armor, slowly Suzunagi's motivations are revealed.

This final video series is five episodes long and suffers plainly from a lack of budget. Even fans can have trouble sitting through this, but the magnificent new armor at the end almost makes it worth it. If Evangelion can reedit old footage and sell it as something new, why not Samurai Troopers?

CHARACTER PROFILES

SAMURAI TROOPERS

Ryo Sanada
Trooper Name: Rekka no Ryo, or Ryo of the Wildfire
Element: fire
Virtue: "jin," meaning "benevolence" or "righteousness"
Special Attack: Soenzan (long o) (Fury of Wildfire)
Leader of the Samurai Troopers, Ryo has a kind, sensitive heart. He also can have a bit of a temper.

Toma Hashiba
Trooper Name: Tenku (long u) no Toma, or Toma of the Heavens
Element: air
Virtue: "chi," meaning "wisdom"
Special Attack: Shinkuha (long u) (Heavens Shockwave)
As his virtue suggests, Toma is wise and smart. He is Ryo's tactician and second hand man when it comes to leadership. He enjoys reading, kyudo (long u, long o) (traditional Japanese archery) and strategic games such as chess.

Seiji Date
Trooper Name: Korin (long o) no Seiji, or Seiji of the Nimbus
Element: spirit
Virtue: "rai," meaning "courtesy" or "grace"
Special Attack: Raikozan (long o) (Lightening Strike)
Usually serious and somewhat laconic, Seiji is a very polite, well mannered young man. This could be because he comes from a wealthy family which practices Japanese traditions, including kendo (long o) and meditation. Although he tends to be the most reserved of the lot, he doesn't hesitate to speak his mind on important issues.

Shu Fei Lan
Trooper Name: Kongo (last o long) no Shu, or Shu of the Stone
Element: earth
Virtue: "gi," meaning "justice"
Special Attack: Gantessai (Iron Rock Crusher)
Impulsive, feisty and courageous, Shu is a gregarious, likable fellow. He enjoys kung fu, eating, working out, and playing with his friends. Although he has no accent, Shu is of Chinese descent.

Shin Mori (long o)
Trooper Name: Suiko no Shin, or Shin of the Torrent
Element: water
Virtue: "shin," meaning "faith" or "trust"
Special Attack: Choryuha (long o, long u) (Wave Crusher)
Shin is the sweet, friendly, easy-going one. He enjoys water sports and doesn't like to initiate fights.

MASHO (long o) (WARLORDS)

Shiten Masho (long o)
Name: Oni Masho (long o) Shiten, or Shiten, Warlord of Demons
Virtue: "chu," (long u) meaning "loyality"
Special Attack: Koraisen (long o) (Red Thunder Strike)
Least liked among his peers, Shiten is possibly the most powerful of the Masho (long o), for he takes on all five of the Samurai Troopers at once on more than one occasion. Once human, he was recruited by Arago four centuries ago but regains his humanity thanks to Kaos.

Anubis Masho (long o)
Name: Yami Masho (long o) Anubis, or Anubis, Warlord of Darkness
Virtue: "ko," (long o) meaning "obedience"
Special Attack: Ankokuchogiri (second o long) (Darkness Strike)

Naaza Masho (long o)
Name: Doku Masho (long o) Naaza, or Naaza, Warlord of Venom
Virtue: "tei," meaning "service"
Special Attack: Jagaken (Snake Fang Strike)

Rajura Masho (long o)
Name: Gen Masho (long o) Rajura, or Rajura, Warlord of Illusion
Virtue: "nin," meaning "endurance"
Special Attack: Tochimo (both o's long) (Web of Deception)

OTHERS

Yos/jatei-O (both o's long) Arago
This evil lord from another dimension is intent on conquering Earth, and he has a good shot at it. Aside from countless demon soldiers, evil priests, and his quartet of once-human, magical-armored samurai, wherever Arago's influence is strong, modern technology stops working. This is why the world needs the Samurai Troopers for help, because a modern military has no chance against Arago.

Kaos
Hidden beneath his hat, Kaos' youthful face seems to contradict his white hair. This mysterious Buddhist monk tries to guide the Samurai Troopers in their quest to understand their powers and defeat Arago. His shakujo (long o) (monk's staff) is more powerful than the weapons of the Masho (long o) and Samurai Troopers. Kaos is the only one Arago seriously considers a threat.

Byakuen
Being a tiger, Byakuen is a powerful and useful aide to the Samurai Troopers. As Ryo's "pet," he has a strong bond with Ryo. He fights, tracks, carries people around, plus he's one smart feline. Eventually he gains his own armor to compliment Ryo's transformation into Kikotei (long o).

Naste (accent over e) Yagyu
Smart and diligent, Naste (accent over e) is a research assistant to her grandfather and a bit of a computer wiz. She uses these skills to uncover the mysteries of the Samurai Troopers and guide them in their fight against Arago. She is usually cool and level-headed, despite the dangerous and surreal events she must deal with. Naste (accent over e) is half French.

Professor Yagyu
Naste's (accent over e) grandfather is an authority on ancient samurai armor. His knowledge and his mountain mansion come in quite handy as our heroes try to figure out what's going on. Appreciating his knowledge is a threat, Arago has the professor poisoned.

Jun Yamano
Shortly after bumping into Byakuen and Ryo, Jun loses his parents in the chaos surrounding Arago's first manifestation. Naste (accent over e) saves him, and since he has no where else to go, stays with her. A cute and earnest kid, Jun occasionally makes himself useful, but is primarily a mascot for the Samurai Troopers.

Kenbukyo (long o)
Arago's unwilling servan, he is ordered to confront Kikotei (long o). At that time, the heroes realize the Kikotei (long o) armor is destroying the Rekka armor's swords. Kenbukyo (long o) gets to the legendary Goretsu (long o) (Strong Fury) swords before the heroes do, and ends up shattering the Rekka swords in battle. But Byakuen snags a Goretsu (long o) blade for Ryo from the armor of Kenbukyo's (long o) black tiger, giving his life in the process. The team help Ryo attain Kikotei (long o), thus defeating Kenbukyo (long o). The dying Kenbukyo (long o) asks his tiger to give its life force to Byakuen to aid the Samurai Troopers in defeating Arago.

Kayura
Special Attack: Ranseizan (Star Storm)
Shiten's replacement among the Masho (long o), Kayura has her own special building in Arago's castle. She is exceptionally powerful, able to take on several magical-armored opponents at one time. She is not like the others in that her armor is extremely different, and she seems to represent no virtue. Also, her personality seems split. When in armor, she is quite brash, but when out of it, she is rather demure.

SIDEBARS

HISTORY AND CULTURE

There's usually some kind of legend behind the armor of magical armor series --Greek myths for Saint Seiya, Hindu legends for Tenku (long u) Senki Shurato (Divine War Records Shurato), etc. Although it's not played up in the show, one of the elements which makes the characters of Samurai Troopers so interesting is that they're loosely connected to historical legends, not mythical ones. The legendary Hideyoshi Toyotomo, one of the three men responsible for the end of Japan's Warring States Period and the beginning of the peaceful Tokugawa Era, was originally called Hideyoshi Hashiba. Masumune Date was one of Tokugawa's prominent allies, and Sanada and Mori are also significant names of that era.

Samurai Troopers also draws upon cultural aspects of Japan. Aside from the Asian virtues the samurai represent and the magnificent cherry blossom and silk transformations, the locations where the Samurai Troopers ended up when they were initially separated are culturally significant. On a clear day, Mt. Fuji can be seen by vast amounts of central Japan. Akiyoshi-dai, where Seiji was found, is home to the largest narutal cave system in Japan, one of the largest in the world. The Daisetsu mountian range, where Shu is found, contains Hokkaido's (last o long) tallest peaks. Shin was sunk within the famous whirlpools off Naruto, close to one of the world's largest bridges which connects Japan's main island of Honshu (long u) to Shikoku. The last major island, Kyushu (both u's long), is where Toma was found, floating above the historic city of Kumamoto and its magnificent black castle. These historic and cultural connections add a depth to Samurai Troopers, which makes the series all the more enjoyable.

FRIENDSHIP AND SELF-SACRIFICE

Samurai Troopers may have some of the best transformation scenes ever, and lots of beautifully choreographed fights, but it is the powerful friendship between the heroes and their willingness to do what must be done to save each other and the world which makes this series so appealing. While searching for Seiji in Akiyoshi-dai, even when blinded by Naaza, Ryo doesn't give up trying to find his fellow Samurai Trooper. In the other dimension, when Ryo is helpless after all of his power has been drained by evil magic, Toma uses every ounce of energy left in him to protect him. Emotionally potent story elements like these are one of the keys to this series' long-lived popularity.

MODERN DAY FANTASY

One of the qualities that makes Samurai Troopers unique is that a great deal of the story takes place in modern day Japan. Although Arago and his minions are otherworldly, the story doesn't focus on that dimension until nearly halfway through the second story. When the Samurai Troopers first fight, it's in the streets of Shinjuku, a popular place to shop for millions. The buildings being damaged by the battle are familiar to anyone who's ever been there. It is Japan's SDF (Self Defense Force) which attempts and fails to drive off Arago's evil influence. Later, when the boys are scattered across Japan, it's to real national landmarks Naste (accent over the e) and the others must travel. And how do they get there? Not by magic means but in Naste's (accent over the e) jeep! The series may be a fantasy, but the story has extra impact because so much of it is tied to modern day Japan.

 

NOTES

I used the Bandai names, etc. whenever they were available. I wanted to keep the Confucian virtues intact, so whenever they conflicted with Bandai's interpretation of their virtues, I listed both. Charles didn't have Arago's title; he used translations instead of transcriptions of titles. So if you can find out if it's Yojatei-O (both o's long) or Yosatei-O (both o's long), that'd be great.

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