Go! Go! Loser Ranger!

Go! Go! Loser Ranger! Is Metafictive Anime at Its Very Best

Dept. of Kaiju Metafiction

Those who grew up with Ultraman and Power Rangers will fondly recall watching their favourite “superheroes” fighting a monster-of-the-week. Everybody loves a good battle. But what if the showdowns turned out to be a sham orchestrated by the heroes? What if the heroes we loved were addicted to fame? What if the monsters were actually the victims? Which is exactly what happens in Go! Go! Loser Ranger!

In this anime based on the manga by Negi Haruba, the beloved Dragon Keepers are the world’s greatest superheroes. Thirteen years ago, when a floating fortress appeared and threatened to unleash monsters upon humanity, the Dragon Keepers vanquished the big bads, called the Executives. Unknown to the rest of the world, however, the Dragon Keepers spared and enslaved the remaining foot soldier monsters, called Dusters, for a twisted reason: to maintain their celebrity status by staging fake monster-of-the-week fights. Because the Dusters can regenerate and shapeshift into anything imaginable, they are forced each Sunday to create a new monster and battle the Dragon Keepers in televised spectacles.

Go! Go! Loser Ranger!

As per a very one-sided agreement, the Dusters are expected to accept defeat during each battle. But after twelve years of weekly pain and humiliation, one plucky Duster called Fighter D decides enough is enough. Determined to liberate his kind, D disguises himself as a Ranger cadet to infiltrate the Dragon Keeper organisation, hoping to get close enough to kill their enemies.

But being human isn’t as easy as it seems, and D is constantly bewildered by the shifting allegiances among the Rangers and Dragon Keepers. The Dusters may be shapeshifters, but it is really among the humans that we see the most deception. Nobody is what they appear to be. Everyone has a hidden agenda. Everyone has an axe to grind against someone else. What’s a monster to do? 

Go! Go! Loser Ranger!

I love how this anime scrutinises the cult of celebrity. The Dragon Keepers did save the world, but they’re painfully aware that this is old news, which means they must constantly maintain their public relevance. When D challenges the Red Ranger, Sousei Akabane, he won’t fight D until a camera crew arrives. Why do anything cool, like defeat a monster, with no audience cheering?

The Dragon Keepers may be glory hounds, but it’s the fans who enable and fuel their pathological behaviour. At the academy, D meets an aspiring Ranger named Sakurama, who at first seems like the biggest Dragon Keeper fanboy. Sakurama shares that growing up, he was terribly conflicted because his father never approved of his son hero-worshipping the Dragon Keepers, who he considered too violent. Sakurama’s dad was right about the violence. Like any organisation where hierarchies exist, the Rangers academy is rife with bullying. It’s shocking how the Dragon Keepers, humanity’s defenders, casually abuse their juniors. And there’s plenty of political jockeying and aggressive backstabbing (figurative and literal) as everyone tries climbing the Ranger ladder. 

Go! Go! Loser Ranger!

Japan is famed for its intensely cut-throat corporate culture, which the Ranger academy resembles. The flip side of that is soul-crushing boredom, which the Dusters experience. Each week, they have pointless meetings where they try desperately to meet their KPIs – inventing new monsters they know are doomed to failure. What could be more frustrating than knowing your work is meaningless? 

It’s easy to see the Dusters as corporate slaves. The Dragon Keepers even point out that they all look the same, like anonymous drones. It’s also fitting that the Dusters’ defeated boss monsters were called “Executives.” Now the Dusters suffer under the thumb of an even worse management – the human Rangers. It’s no wonder that D rebels. 

Another thing I enjoyed about Go! Go! Loser Ranger! is how playfully meta-fictive it gets. It’s always poking fun at the anime genre. There are plenty of tongue-in-cheek references. Like the weird hairstyles that anime characters sport. Or when D gets seriously steamed when a title card suddenly appears on screen to introduce him, cutting him off, and blocking half his face.

Go! Go! Loser Ranger!

Even if you’re not into super-sentai shows, Go! Go! Loser Ranger! has something for everyone. We rarely get to see things from the monster’s point of view, and it’s even rarer that foot soldiers get to be individuals. D may have plans for world domination, but he’s got more humanity than the Dragon Keepers, who wear the masks of grotesque heroism. 

Why do so many people love watching monsters, and battles with monsters? One Duster suggests that “There’s a sense of catharsis that comes from defeating scary monsters.” That’s probably true, but I also think the answer is a lot simpler: monsters are just damn cool. 

Go! Go! Loser Ranger! is now streaming on Disney Plus Hotstar.

Dr Matthew Yap is a writer, editor, and educator. He graduated with a PhD in Literature from Monash University, where he also taught Film Studies. Matthew thinks watching good shows is one of life’s greatest pleasures. If watching TV is like eating, Matthew enjoys an international buffet of programmes across genres, from Sense8 to Alice in Borderland and Derry Girls.

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