Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger (Part 3)

SmilesOne of the things that took some adjusting for me when watching Gokaiger was getting a handle on a world view that I was unfamiliar to me. Now I love exploring world views. I love to get my head around how different people understand the world and their place in it. People look at me like I’m a freak (a title that I’m happy to hold) when I spend more time pulling apart the different world views in a movie than I do enjoying the explosions. Which by the way, if your movie doesn’t have explosions in it, you better bring your A Game because you’re going to have to work hard for my attention. So here I am watching Gokaiger. And it’s the first time I’ve seriously sat down to watch a long form Japanese kids show that hasn’t been reworked for Western audiences. And I’m in love with the costumes. And I’m in love with the characters. And yes, I’m in love with the explosions. But I’m also experiencing a new (to me) world view.

And it’s all about protecting smiles.

As seen in the big all-in battle at the start of episode one, the narrator points out that the big achievement of the previous 34 sentai teams is that they have protected the smiles of the people. Not saved lives or defeated bad guys or even maintained the status quo. No, they’re protecting smiles. And this is a phrase that comes up again and again in Gokaiger (as well as some other toku shows I’ve seen). Ultimately, the heroes fight not for their own glory or for duty or for honor, but to make sure the little kids keep a smile on their face.

Out of all the Gokaigers, it is Luka that demonstrates this the most. Her dream to pull together enough money to provide for all the orphans in the world is all about protecting smiles (the idea of dreams is also front and centre in Gokaiger, but I think I’ll look at that more closely when I get around to talking about Tensou Sentai Goseiger). The innocence and carefree-ness of childhood is what’s at stake here.

It’s a recurring motive, especially with the “kid of the week” episodes. Out of all the virtues in the world worth elevating to the top of the importance list, it’s happiness that scores the gold medal. So while the phrasing is new and interesting to me, the idea that happiness is of most importance is not. It’s one of the most prevalent world views here in the West. I grew up with the idea “That whatever makes you happy” underpinning everything I was taught. But I’m not sure “protecting the smiles” is the necessarily the same as seeking happiness. I’m wondering if where you find your smiles has something to add to this discussion. Could this “smiles” worldview be more about innocence or even contentment? This is something I’d love to know more about. Anyone with a better understanding of Japanese culture than me (which wouldn’t be hard if you know almost anything about Japanese culture) want to shed some light?

Whatever the cause of the smiles, it’s ultimately ephemeral and temporary if they are not based on something that is eternal. Whatever we find our satisfaction or happiness in will ultimately leave us looking for more, because it will eventually fade. The Christian faith points towards a superior source of fulfillment – Jesus. The Son of God who offers true satisfaction. Jesus alone brings freedom and salvation – an eternal gift of joy. Finding your smiles anywhere else than Jesus, while it may bring temporary joy, will eventually leave you wanting.

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About Joel A Moroney

Associate Minister at St Luke's Anglican Church, Liverpool (in the Sydney Diocese). A very strange man, but he usually has Pez, so that makes it okay.
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