Back in the 80s and 90s when I was a kid, I've seen many different anime cartoons that I've come to know and love. Some of my personal favorite anime shows of all time range from Speed Racer, Kimba the White Lion, 8-Man, Mazinger Z, Voltron, Robotech, Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics, Yu Yu Hakusho, Slayers, Cowboy Bebop, and countless other titles that come to mind. But for this review, I'm going to be talking about a specific TV show that I haven't seen in years, and I actually have a lot to say about. The show I'm talking about, is of course, Ronin Warriors. In Japan, the show is called "Yoroiden Samurai Troopers" (鎧伝サムライトルーパー, lit. Legendary Armored Samurai Troopers). It was created by Hajime Yatate, and produced by Sunrise; the same company that gave us Outlaw Star, Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, Inuyasha, Wild Knights Gulkeeva (which sadly never got a US release), and the numerous installments of the Gundam series. Ronin Warriors was originally broadcast in Japan in 1988, the same year that saw the releases of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", "Die Hard", and "Akira". But the show was not released to America until the summer of 1995. By then, this show was seven years old, and that was when I came to know it for the first time.
Now, what is there to say about Ronin Warriors? It was one of my favorite anime shows as a kid back in the 90s. And it still has a great level of nostalgic value for me to this day. Like many other shows I've come to know, it has influenced my imagination greatly, and it re-sparked my interest in anime and the Japanese culture in general. Of course, since the show didn't come to the United States until seven years after its broadcast in Japan, many American fans considered it a 90s cartoon at first. But as I've already pointed out, Ronin Warriors actually came out in the 80s. So technically its not a 90s cartoon. But age doesn't really matter in this case. So anyway, when it first came to America, Ronin Warriors was first shown on several channels including the USA Network and UPN 20. The channel known as UPN 20 was where I first learned about the anime. And I have to admit Ronin Warriors sure had me hooked. Hell, I watched the entire series through and through, and I ended up loving it. The show ran two seasons, and lasted for a total of 39 episodes. There were even Ronin Warriors action figures which were localized and sold in stores in America to accompany the series' US release. Not too long after its run on the USA Network and UPN 20, the show was then brought over to Cartoon Network in 1999, just shortly before the dawn of the 21st century. The series was released on DVD in 2002, and came with the English dub on one side of the disk, and even includes the original Japanese version with English subtitles on the reverse side of the disc. Today, Ronin Warriors has a huge fanbase even though the series hasn't been touched in a number of years.
In the US version, the intro and outro sequences along with the eyecatches were replaced with new ones, and the Japanese title cards were removed; there were no substantial cuts or narritive flows to the episodes. However, the show retained most of the original music, with the exception of the original Japanese intro song "Stardust Eyes", and the outro song "Faraway". Shortly after the original series ended in Japan, three direct-to-video sequels were produced: Gaiden (Side Story), Kikoutei Densetsu (The Legend of the Inferno Armor) and Message. There is also a Yoroiden Samurai Troopers manga as well as numerous novels and audio dramas based on the series. While all the sequels have been released on DVD, the manga and audio dramas have not been made available in English, which is unfortunate considering the show's popularity among fans.
Now its understandable that not many people of today's generation have heard of Ronin Warriors. And chances are, some people who have seen the show during the 90s may have forgotten about it by now. But that's perfectly understandable seeing as its been years since it came to America. But anyway, for those of you who may not have heard of such a show until now, you might ask "What was Ronin Warriors about?" Well, that's what I'm about to go over right now. To some people, Ronin Warriors was considered to be the "male equivalent" to Sailor Moon. Some people told me that the show attracted more female audiences than male audiences. But I doubt that's true. Because I know for a fact that this show has as many male fans as well. And I just so happen to be one of them. Ronin Warriors in my point of view was like the samurai version of Power Rangers and the Super Sentai series. Only without the vehicles that merge to form a giant robot. But this show is quite special and unique, and it has its fair share of defining moments that really stood out for me. Like a lot of other anime shows that were out at the time, Ronin Warriors had a very catchy and addictive soundtrack with it's J-Pop and 80s style rock and roll music. Which is to be expected since this anime came out in the 80s. Besides, rock music is a rarity these days. One of my favorite songs in the entire soundtrack is "Stardust Eyes", performed by Mariko Uranishi, which plays in the intro for the Japanese version. Now, one interesting thing worth pointing out is that the term "Ronin" in the US title (浪人), refers to a masterless or unemployed samurai. So literally, the Ronin Warriors would be called "The Unemployed Warriors" or "The Masterless Warriors". One thing I really loved about this show besides the music and the animation, are the characters. In fact, this show featured characters who were pretty likable, sympathetic, and relatable, which is quite unusual seeing as most anime cartoons from the last several years or so had characters who are either emo dicks or complete assholes (a good example being Inuyasha). Ronin Warriors is one of those rare exceptions were the characters were actually likable and tolerable. One of the elements of this show that really struck my fancy is the concept it had about the mystical suits of armor that the good guys and the bad guys wore. The Ronins and the Warlords both had what is called "subarmor", which covers almost their entire bodies except for their heads and their faces. They also have "full suits of armor" which they can summon by calling out the name or their armor and their virtues, and striking a dramatic pose. This is often accompanied by a flashy display of Japanese wallpapers which spring out in all directions on a black background, and then turn into cherry blossoms. The armor magically appears on the characters, and then they strike dramatic poses taken from different camera angles. In fact, as I stated in my "Top 7 Overused Anime Cliches" list, Ronin Warriors is one of those shows that makes use of the "Long Transformation Sequences". Not that it's a bad thing of course; I just felt like pointing that out. One interesting thing worth mentioning is that in the English version of the TV series, they would chant the name of their armor, and then shout out their virtue as they donned their suits. For example, when Ryo summons his Wildfire Armor, he says "Armor of Wildfire! Dao Jin!" However, in the Japanese version, he says "Bussou! Rekka!" which loosely means the same thing in English, but translates slightly differently. In the OVAs however, this was replaced with "To Arms!" which I thought was weird.
To start with the original TV show, the story of Ronin Warriors involves the classic good vs. evil premise. It all began back in the feudal era during the age of the samurai, when Japan was ruled by a Demon Emperor named Talpa (Arago in Japan). Cruel and ruthless, Talpa has slaughtered many warriors who dared to oppose him. But in his quest to rule the world, he was defeated by the Ancient One (Kaos in Japan), and was bannished to the Nether Realm. However, even though the Ancient emerged victorious, Talpa's armor remained in the world of the living. But it was from his armor, that nine mystical suits of armor were created. The Ancient had even bestowed upon them the several Bushido virtues; Benevolence, Justice, Faith, Respect, Wisdom, Loyalty, Piety, Elderly Reverence, and Endurance. After a thousand years of exile, Talpa returned from the Nether Realm to reclaim the world as his own, starting with the city of Tokyo by enslaving its inhabitants, and leaving the city dark, deserted, and desolate. Four of the suits of armor which were forged from Talpa are worn by the four Dark Warlords (魔将, Masho - Demon Generals) who serve him; Anubis, the Warlord of Cruelty, Sekhmet, the Warlord of Venom, Cale, the Warlord of Corruption, and Dais, the Warlord of Illusion. But the other five suits of armor are donned by five young warriors known as the "Ronins" (鎧戦士, Yoroi Senshi, Armored Warriors, or Samurai Troopers as they're called in the Japanese version). Though, how and where the Ronins obtained the suits of armor is never revealed to the audience. One interesting thing to note is that the Ronin's virtues reflect the code of Bushido deliberately. While the Warlords have virtues taken from Confucian philosophy.
As far as I know, Ryo is perhaps one of the only characters in the entire show who retains his name in both the English and Japanese versions of the show respectively. He was voiced by Takeshi Kusao in Japanese and by Matt Hill in English. Interestingly, Matt Hill was the same actor who did the voice of Kevin from "Captain N", and Eddy from "Ed, Edd, and Eddy". In the English dub, Ryo speaks with a sort of surfer accent, similar to that of Kevin. Ryo is perhaps the unofficial leader of the Ronins sense he tends to take the lead a lot of the time. I always thought that Ryo bared a strong resemblance to Keith from Voltron. Mainly because of his crazy hairstyle and because he wears red. Another interesting thing to note is that Ryo's name was mispronounced in the English version of the show as "Rai-O". This is not particularly surprising since the name Ryu was also mispronounced. Only in the OVAs is Ryo's name pronounced correctly. But anyway, moving on, Ryo's armor is the "Wildfire Armor", (烈火の鎧, Rekka no Yoroi), which grants him with the power of fire. His weapons are twin katana blades which he holds in protective sheathes mounted on his back. Ryo can even merge the handles of his swords together to form a staff-like weapon, and can perform his ultimate attack, Double Flame Slash (双炎斬 Sou En Zan). In the English version of the show, Ryo says "Flare Up Now!" when he performs the move. But in the OVAs, he says "Fury of Wildfire!". Ryo also has an alternate suit of armor known as the "White Armor of Inferno" (白い輝煌帝) (Shiroi Kikoutei no Yoroi), which was introduced in episode 19; "Wildfire's Fight Against Fate". This armor is accessible to him only when the other four Ronins give him their power. In this form, Ryo is more powerful, and with the Swords of Fervor that he acquired from Lord Saber Strike in episode 23, "White Blaze's Sacrifice", he can perform an even more powerful version of his ultimate attack; "Super Ballistic Double Flame Slash" (超弾動双炎斬, Choudendo Souenzan). Ryo's virtue is "Benevolence". However, it was mistranslated as simply "Virtue" in the English dub for some reason. The crest on Ryo's armor is actually a slightly stylized version the family symbol of the Takeda clan. Judging by his last name, Ryo is most likely a descendent of Yukimura Sanada, a real historical samurai warrior from the late 16th century and early 17th century. As far as I know, Ryo Sanada is perhaps one of the few anime characters I know of who actually has a likable and tolerable personality. Unlike some other anime protagonists I know of who are complete jackasses, Ryo is a very caring, polite, sensitive, and compassionate person; he's always willing to make friends, even with his most dangerous enemies. But only if they prove worthy of his trust.
Known as "Touma Hashiba" in Japan, Rowen is perhaps the wisest and the most sensible of the Ronins. He is close friends with Sage, who shares similar level of wisdom and common sense. Rowen and Sage are in someway, the true leaders of the Ronins given their high IQ. Rowen's armor is the "Strata Armor" (天空の鎧, Tenkuu no Yoroi), and his weapon is a bow staff and arrows. Rowen's virtue is "Wisdom". Though it was translated as "Life Force" in the English dub for some reason. On Rowen's back, is a small metallic quiver, from which a seemingly unlimited amount of arrows can be drawn from. His ultimate attack is "Arrow Shock Wave" (真空波 Shinkuuha in Japanese). He was portrayed having a thick Brooklyn accent in the TV series, but he lacked such an accent in the OVAs. Rowen is said to have a father named Genichirou, who was said to be a "mad scientist" and is often too busy to spend time with his son. He also has a mother (whose name is unknown or not given), who is a journalist who travels a lot and doesn't see her ex-husband or her son very much, treating them both as friends rather than family. Therefore, Rowen considers the Ronins to be his true family. Due to Rowen's strengths, standards, and wisdom, he is considered by many fans to be a big brother figure to the entire team. Especially towards Mia and Yulie. He was voiced by Hiroshi Takemura in Japanese, and Ward Perry in English. Rowen's family name "Hashiba" most likely came from Toyotomi Hideyoshi's original surname, Hashiba. Centuries ago, Toyotomi was Oda Nobunaga's successor, and unified Japan under his rule for a short time.
Known as "Shu Lei-Faun" in Japan, Kento is probably the most brash and wreckless of the Ronins. He is also physically the strongest of the team, as he is often seen performing feats like stopping speeding trucks with the greatest of ease. In fact, Kento seems to be a cross between Colossus from X-Men, and Michelangelo from TMNT in terms of his strength and his childlike personality. He has a short temper and is quick to anger when provoked, but he also has the biggest heart, and is a loyal friend when push comes to shove. Kento likes to eat, and he has a rather big appetite. His armor is the "Hardrock Armor" (金剛の鎧, Kongo no Yoroi). His weapon is a combination of a three-section staff and a naginata, and he sometimes wields the sanketsukon like a pair of nunchakus in close combat. His ultimate attack is "Iron Rock Crusher" (岩鉄砕 Gantetsuzai in Japanese). In episode 13, "Fate of the Ronin Armor", Dais tells Kento that his Hardrock Armor is the most violent of the suits. Kento's virtue is "Justice". Interestingly, Kento's virtue remains the same in both the English dub and the Japanese versions of the show respectively. Another interesting thing to note is that Kento is the only member of the Ronins who is not actually Japanese. Judging by his family name "Lei-Faun", Kento is obviously Chinese. He is also said to have the largest family of the Ronins, and is the oldest of five siblings. He has two sisters, Rinfi and Chun Fa, and two brothers, Mei Liu and Yun. Kento's parents (Chan Run and an unnamed mother) own a successful restaurant business in Yokohama. As a result of this, his family is quite wealthy, although Kento doesn't really care too much about being rich. He is good friends with Cye. In fact, they are a lot like siblings who are often seen rooming together while staying at Mia's house, and they go surfing together in at the beginning of Kikoutei Densetsu. Kento was voiced by Tomohiro Nishimura in Japanese, and by Jason Gray Stanford in English. One thing that got me thinking is that Kento's US name sounds similar to "Ken", but with a "To" added to the end. In Japanese, Kento's name can translate as "Sword Blade" or something like that. And also, Ryo's name is similar to Ryu. So as I made this connection, this got me thinking that Ryo and Kento are kind of like the show's equivalent of "Ryu and Ken".
Known as "Seiji Date" in Japan, this guy is definitely the character who looks the least bit Japanese in comparison to the rest of the team. Sage is most recognizable by his fluffy blonde hair which covers one eye. He bares a strong resemblance to Shin Kazama from Area 88. Sage is considered to be the most level-headed, but he is also the most aloof member of the team. He's not exactly as mature as Rowen is. Because of his serious and aloof attitude, Sage can be distrustful, and it takes him a while to open up to others. But once he gets to know you, he can be your best friend. Kind of like Reynard from the Sonic universe. Sage's armor is the "Halo Armor" (光輪の鎧, Kourin no Yoroi), and his weapon is a large broadsword known as a "daito" or a "nodachi". Sage's ultimate attack is "Thunderbolt Cut", (雷光斬, Raikouzan, Lightning Slash in Japanese). His virtue is "Respect", but it was translated as "Wisdom", which is actually Rowen's virtue in the Japanese version. Judging by his last name, Date (pronounced Dah-Teh), Sage is most likely a decedent of Masamune Date, a samurai from the late 16th century and early 17th century. Interestingly, Sage and Ryo both share the same family names of real historical warriors from ancient Japan. Fitting to his mastery of swordsmanship, Sage is a master of Kendo (Way of the Sword). There is an interesting little story about Sage and it seems that he was vice-president of the Kendo club at his high school in ninth grade, and the president in tenth grade. Because of the battle with Talpa, which occurred during the spring (that would be his second resurgence), Sage did not attend the Kendo tournament. A young man named Shingo (who apparently is a friendly rival to Sage in the sport) won the championship that year and later wrote a letter to Sage, hoping that they'll meet in the next tournament. Another interesting thing to note is that Sage's US name has several different meanings in English. The term "Sage" is used to refer to a stoic wise person, or a sorcerer/wizard like character class in the Final Fantasy series. Sage was voiced by Daiki Nakamura in Japanese and by Michael Donovan in English.
Known as "Shin Mouri" in Japan, Cye is said to be the oldest of the Ronins, and therefore the one who is the most calm and tranquil. He was voiced by Nozomu Sasaki in Japanese, and by Michael Donovan in English. Interestingly, Michael Donovan also did the voice of Sage as well. And also, Nozomu Sasaki was the voice of Tetsuo Shima for the Japanese version of Akira. In the English dub, Cye spoke with an Australian accent. His armor is the "Torrent Armor" (水滸の鎧, Suiko no Yoroi), which grants him with the power of water. His weapon is a trident that has prongs that open and close, allowing him to grab opponents from afar or cut through obstacles. His armor is also equipped with a tantō dagger and a claw-like weapon on the gauntlet, but apparently he has never used either of those at any point in the series. Cye's armor also allows him to swim and breathe underwater. His virtue is "Faith", but was translated as "Trust" in the English dub. His ultimate attack is "Super Wave Smasher" (超流破 Chouryuha in Japanese). In the TV series, his main rival is Sekhmet, the Warlord of Venom. Cye is generally the friendliest and the most easy going of the Ronins, and is also a bit of a pacifist, which means he clearly detests fighting and violence. But he doesn't hesitate to fight when necessary. In Kikoutei Densetsu, Cye had conflicting feelings about his responsibility as a Ronin, and refused to engage in battle even when Mukala abducted Ryo and Sage, and brought them to Africa. His behavior became so irrational, that he physically assaulted Rowen and Kento, and left the team. Running away from his responsibility, Cye deserted the Torrent Armor out of his desire to live an ordinary life, and to never fight again. But eventually, Cye once again gains the strength to continue his duty as a Ronin. Thus, he reaquires his armor, and helps his freinds in their fight against Mukala and the Black Inferno Armor. Cye's family name, "Mouri", possibly came from the real-life Japanese daimyo "Motonari Mouri".
Known as Nasuti Yagyu in Japan, she was voiced by Kaori Kusakabe in Japanese, and by Lalainia Lindbjerg in English. An expert in computers and gathering information, Mia aids the Ronins throughout their quest against the forces of evil in the TV series, and all three of the OVAs. Not much is known about her past, except that she is half French and half Japanese, and was visiting her grandfather when Talpa's invasion began. Unlike the Ronins, Mia has no super powers or weapons. However, she is extremely knowledgeable about the mystical suits of armor and various ancient artifacts. Therefore, she is a crucial and important part of the team. She provides vital information to the Ronins and acts as a big sister figure to Yulie. Over time, she becomes like an older sister to the Ronins as well. Mia had only one known relative seen in the anime; her grandfather Dr. Koji (Dr. Yagyu in Japan), who died shortly after being possessed by an evil spirit from the Nether Realm. At the beginning of the TV series, Mia is 17 years old. In Gaiden, she is 19, and in Kikoutei Densetsu and Message, she is around her early 20s. But she seems to age gracefully along with everybody else. It's unknown as to whether or not Mia has any sort of romantic interest in any of the Ronins or if she already had a boy friend who was never seen or mentioned. But in the early half of the series, I for some reason got the impression that she might have had the hots for Ryo. But that's just me making speculations. I wouldn't know since I didn't create the series. One interesting note is that Mia's surname in the Japanese version, Yagyu, is the family name of the famous samurai warrior "Jubei Yagyu", who served the Tokugawa government in the 17th century.
Known as Jun Yamano in Japan, he was voiced by Kumiko Watanabe in Japanese, and by Chris Turner in English. Yulie made his first appearance at the very beginning of the series as an 8 year old child. He was first seen with his mother and father shopping for a skateboard in the city of Tokyo. At that time, Talpa's empire had returned; a dark cloud covers the sky, and during the chaos, Yulie was separated from his parents, and was left alone. Later, he stumbled upon a confrontation between Ryo, White Blaze, and a dynasty soldier, to where he was nearly killed but Mia saved him just in time. It would be one of many rescues he would endure throughout the series. However, Yulie did have some value to the series. In fact, he has in fact, helped the Ronins time and time again with his bravery and cheerful optimism. He looks up to the Ronins as his heroes and as his brothers. But he looks up to Ryo as his prominent big brother figure. Ryo has an equal level of fondness and love for the boy, and sees him as a little brother. However, there was that one part in episode 11; During the second season of the TV series, Yulie became the wearer of the Jewel of Life, which can be used to destroy all that which is evil, and in the last episode of the TV series, he used it to destroy Talpa, and save Ryo. But after that, the Jewel of Life is no longer in his possession, and it becomes a glowing ball of light that everybody uses to play around with as the episode ends. In The last episode of the OVA "Message", Yulie is shown (it was his only appearance in the entire OVA) as being 11 years old, and a kendo champion of Sakura Hill Junior High School.
Known as "Byakuen" in Japan, White Blaze is a white tiger who was once the Ancient One's pet centuries ago. How he survived up to the present day is never explained. But he eventually becomes Ryo's companion sometime after the Ancient mysteriously disappeared. According to Ryo, White Blaze is said to be from the Himalayas. He often tries to help the Ronin Warriors in fights. Sometimes he gets swatted easily, but other times he proves himself to be a good ally. He is always willing to help out even in the most dire of moments. In episode 23, "White Blaze's Sacrifice", White Blaze dies in his attempt to retrieve one of the swords from Saber Strike's pet tiger Black Blaze, who fatally wounds him by clawing at his neck. Before dying, White Blaze hands over one of the swords to Ryo after successfully retrieving it. After Ryo defeats Saber Strike and acquires both swords, Saber Strike orders Black Blaze to become one with White Blaze. As a result, White Blaze is reborn, and Black Blaze becomes his alter ego. He can transform into Black Blaze at will, carrying the swords of fervor for Ryo to use when he dons the White Inferno Armor. One interesting thing to note is that White Blaze's Japanese name "Byakuen" (白炎) literally means "White Fire", or "White Flame". So basically, his US name "White Blaze", is not really a name change so much as a translation from Japanese to English.
Known as Kaos in Japan, he was voiced by Norio Wakamoto in Japanese, and by David Kaye in English. He is a mysterious monk who wears a straw hat that covers his unseen eyes, and he carries with him a shakujo, a staff with ring-shaped chimes set atop it. Whenever he appears on screen, his staff makes a strange clinking noise to let others know of his presence. Centuries ago, during the Sengoku era, the Ancient One was a samurai warrior who defeated Talpa. He acts as a mentor and a father figure to the Ronins. The staff that he carries around is a potent talisman, and is used by both the Ancient and the reformed Anubis to perform feats of magic. It is also used briefly by Mia and Yulie. In the flashback to the Ancient defeating Talpa in episode 19, "Wildfire's Fight Against Fate", it is revealed that the gold part can be removed from its base and be used as a sword as well, though this has only been seen in the flashback. He is responsible for the creation of the nine mystical suits of armor, which he forged from Talpa's discarded armor after defeating him. In episode 15, "The Ancient's Battle", when it came time for the Ronins to make their assault on Talpa's castle, the Ancient battled Talpa and lost. But in his last act, he sacrificed himself by turning himself into the bridge to Talpa's castle. However, even in spirit form, he continued to help the Ronins, destroying the Nether Spirits trying to stop them from reaching the castle, and later showing Ryo how he defeated Talpa and created the suits to show him what led to this point in the story, and to try to restore his faith. Later, the Ancient appeared to the Ronins in their dreams to send them each on a quest to the locations where their armor was created to get them to tap their full potential. The Ancient One makes one final appearance in the 3rd OVA, "Message". During various flashbacks, he was seen during World War II at the ruins of an ancient temple. He discovered the sealed box that contained the Strata Armor and it was there he discovered the ghost-child, Suzunagi. He felt sorry for the girl because she was filled with hatred and revenge; however, he knew she was trouble when she attacked him, claiming that the suits he made were pure evil. He, along with the newly revived Strata Armor, chased Suzunagi away and with that, the Ancient mysteriously vanished.