I don’t even know why I am writing this. The anime concerned is 20 years old, nobody (?) is actively talking about it, so what I write here should not make any significant impact. Yet this is the 20th anniversary of the anime airing in my place, and I also learned that there has been a resurgence of this anime in the Western world since 2015, so oddly enough I think a Featured Article on this anime is not entirely out of place. More importantly, discussions on this anime in English seems to be very limited, so I think an article on my blog could be of some help in terms of promotion. One more voice on the internet for this anime should make the anime somewhat more prominent to the anime world, right?
Although I generally expect readers of my blog to have watched at least part of the anime before reading my article (after all, you are stepping into a piece that is full, FULL, of spoilers; in other words, run away now if you don’t want to be so thoroughly spoiled), I would make a slight exception for this anime, simply because it is a 20-year-old anime with no official Western export. Reading the entries on Wikipedia and TV Tropes would certainly help, but here is my brief introduction of the anime.
In the beginning there was the running race…The story of Juuni Senshi Bakuretsu Eto Ranger (十二戦支 爆烈エトレンジャー) was set on Mugen (Dreamland, so to speak), on which our main cast, the animal spirits, lived. Six years before the story proper, Princess Aura, the ruler of Mugen, decided that twelve warriors should be selected as protectors of their land. The selection process turned out to be a running race, of which all participants must run to her palace from their home at midnight on 1 January. The first twelve spirits arrived would be appointed the twelve Eto Rangers.
If it sounds very similar to the tale of the Chinese zodiac to you, you are not wrong: this was just a creative retelling of the tale which served the plot of the anime. Two outcomes of the running race set tune for the plot. Firstly, the twelve Eto Rangers were selected in the following order: rat (Bakumaru; commonly referenced to as a mouse), ox (Hols), tiger (Gaoh), rabbit (Cream), dragon (Drago), snake (Nyorori), horse (Pakaracchi), goat (Soufflé), monkey (Monk), rooster (Tart; a hen), dog (Pochiro), and pig (Urii; he would argue that he was a boar). Secondly, a cat (Chocolat) was disqualified; while the account of the original tale varies, in the anime it was due to her jumping the gun (town bell, actually) for a good five minutes.
Top: Bakumaru, Hols, Gaoh, Cream;
Middle: Drago, Nyorori, Pakaracchi, Soufflé;
Bottom: Monk, Tart, Pochiro, Urii.
Unknown to both Princess Aura and the Eto Rangers back then, Chocolat was actually tricked by the Demon God Baki, who disguised as Princess Aura to tell Chocolat that she could have a special allowance to start her race five minutes before all others, so that she could make sure she would be number one. Of course, the real Princess Aura did not say anything like that, and Chocolat – who indeed arrived first thanks to her early start – was denied passing through the goal line. Feeling betrayed and humiliated, Chocolat turned to Baki for power to take revenge on Princess Aura, and took the name Nyanma (meow-demon, so to speak).
For some reason Nyanma took her revenge some six years later, although her plan was rather simple. As Mugen was supported by the Novel Worlds, Nyanma would send demons called Jyarei Monsters (demon spirit monsters, so to speak) to twist the content of the Novel Worlds in order to destroy them.
Consider the Jyarei Monsters as fanfiction writers, and you get the idea. The Eto Rangers were tasked by Princess Aura to search for the Jyarei Monsters in the Novel Worlds and cleanse them with the power of Kirinda (the battleship of the Eto Rangers, in a sense). Since the entire team was considered too big for an adventure, a roulette by Kirinda would decide which Eto Rangers were to be sent into a Novel World for the mission. The roulette was actually so random that it was almost impossible to find a pattern, except for the fact that it almost always picked Bakumaru. A maximum of two more members can be summoned to join the team if necessary , but that’s not the point here...
On “Main Heroine”
Before we go on, here’s the question: what makes a girl the main heroine of a show? People nowadays seem to assume that the official partner of the main character (usually male…) would be the main heroine. Hence we see arguments (mainly in China…) on whether Nagi or Athena is the main heroine of Hayate no Gotoku!, surrounding solely on which girl did Hayate love. Yet two very prominent examples would be enough to rebuke this concept: Chi-Chi is the wife of Son Goku, but Bulma is the main heroine of Dragonballs; Ginny Weasley is the wife of Harry Potter, but Hermione Granger is the main heroine of the Harry Potter series. Official couple status does not grant a girl the main heroine status, and vice versa. A main heroine should have a heavy influence on the plot of the show in her own right.Now, there should be no question that Bakumaru and Cream are an official couple (dubbed adorably as “Bacreamaru”), but by the logic displayed above, Cream should not be guaranteed the “main heroine” title simply because of this. The question is, does Cream have an influence heavy enough on the plot? In other words, is Cream significant enough for the story in her own right? Our headache is, Cream’s situation is rather complicated.
Juuni Senshi Bakuretsu Eto Ranger is an anime of 39 episodes. For the first 22 episodes, Cream had an unquestionably heavy influence on the plot. She was picked 11 times out of 18 missions (61%) – second only to Bakuramu himself (100%…) – and while she had (seriously) zero combat abilities, she contributed to every mission she was on with her keen perceptions and wit, often assisted to drive forward the search for Jyarei Monsters. The pinnacle of her performance is definitely Episode 16, which is really loved by Bacreamaru fans. Even her love story with Bakumaru was essential for the plot, as it was ultimately his determination to save her that led Bakuramu to master his ultimate move. Cream was much more than a cute rabbit on the team; she was indispensible.Perhaps the producers decided that they had shown us enough Cream (bad mistake if true!), things took a nosedive for her in the next 15 episodes or so. Cream only appeared in 5 of the 12 remaining missions (42%), of which she was only influential in two. She was first overshadowed by Soufflé (who took over leadership from Bakumaru when he was not assigned on mission for the first time) and then by Tart. In the case of the latter, Tart was heavily involved in the plot when she found herself in a love triangle between herself, Gaoh and Chocolat, who was revealed to be Gaoh’s longtime love interest. Some commentators pointed out that Gaoh was essentially the main character of the show in Episodes 30-38, while Tart was the main heroine. While Bakumaru was still very important to the story in those episodes, Cream was demoted to a supporting role, most of the time doing no support at all.
Worse still, there came the final four battles against the major bad guys: two minor evil cat spirits called Roran and Juken, Nyanma, and Baki. While Cream alone held the impossible record of suffering zero injury in all the four fights, she also did nothing (not including the two times she used the Juuni Senshi Combination Beam with the team) in terms of fighting. While Tart held her ground and Soufflé charged towards Roran
only to be beaten in a hit, Cream was only seen standing there, sitting by Bakumaru when he was hurt, running for her life, and crying. In terms of fighting, she had the dishonour of being the least useful (or, most useless) Eto Ranger. Surely, this is not something that a main heroine should be known of?
The beginning that was brought to the end
Let’s go back to Chocolat’s tragic backstory – God must I say, I would turn evil as well if I were in her position. The Eto Rangers were actually told of Chocolat’s disqualification in Episode 33. While Princess Aura and the Eto Rangers never knew exactly what happened that turned Chocolat into Nyanma, they managed to deduce that it was all staged by Baki just to lure Chocolat to the dark side. Genre savvy viewers would expect this information to be vital in their final confrontation against Nyanma/Chocolat: their mission was not to kill Nyanma, but to convince her that she had been tricked into hating the wrong person. Yet when the final battles came, none of the Eto Rangers actually thought of doing so – except Cream.This seems understandable when things turned so, so ugly in the last four episodes. After the Eto Rangers defeated Roran with their first Combination Beam, the building they were all in collapsed, killing Hols (God damn it, my zodiac spirit was killed in the stupidest way possible!) and Drago (by very, very far the strongest Eto Ranger in terms of fighting). When Juken – Nyanma’s conscience in a way – decided to help the Eto Rangers, Nyanma set up a trap that killed Nyorori, Pakaracchi and Soufflé, and then she absorbed Juken. Then it was Pochiro and Monk’s turn to face Nyanma and get killed. Gaoh confronted his former lover one last time, but he hesitated to finish her off and got himself blown away. Tart tried to save him without success, and they ended up falling to their deaths together. By four minutes into the commercial break in Episode 38, the twelve Eto Rangers were reduced to three: Bakumaru, Cream and Urii.
Three things can be noted from the slaughter outlined above. Firstly, Nyanma was in full murder mode, and the deaths happened too fast for the Eto Rangers to do anything other than getting killed or saving their own asses. Secondly, whenever the Eto Rangers found their feet, at least one of them would immediately fight Nyanma, without exception. Thirdly, every one of them other than Gaoh called their enemy “Nyanma”, consciously refusing to recognise that this was Chocolat, who was once their friend.
These are all in sharp contrast to Cream, when it was finally her turn to confront Nyanma.Whenever you see a shot just like the above, it always means that the owner of these legs is going to do something epic. If it were the other Eto Rangers (minus Soufflé, perhaps), you would expect them to jump at Nyanma and fight her. Yet when Cream turned around, she started to do the only thing she could do, which arguably should have been the one thing everyone should have done: talking. Cream appealed to the good nature remaining in Nyanma’s heart, and unfailingly called the demon by her real name: “Chocolat”. In Episodes 38 and 39 Cream addressed the cat spirit eight times, and she called her “Chocolat” every single time.
The impact of her talk was significant, as Nyanma stopped fighting and actually talked back – although it was still essentially an argument, the battle started switching from physical to verbal (and mental). Urii and Bakumaru (the latter would have preferred fighting to talking) then joined Cream in reasoning with Nyanma, and bit by bit they drove home the point everyone should have made to her in the first place: that Princess Aura was not at fault for her disqualification, and that – once again, Cream was the one who hit this home run – Baki was actually the one who was responsible.The talk started by Cream led to two direct consequences. Firstly, when Nyanma had had enough of Bakumaru (who ended up insulting Nyanma’s intelligence, although he was not in the mood of talking anyway) and started attacking him, Juken (who was convinced by the three Eto Rangers) restrained Nyanma from within long enough for Bakumaru to beat her. Secondly, Baki finally showed up and – most helpfully – abandoned Nyanma immediately. Cream didn’t skip a beat to be the Captain Obvious for once: “Don’t you see, Chocolat? You have only been used by Baki!” Finally, finally, the message got through. The title of Episode 38 was “The End of Anger and Hatred”, and now you know that it was Cream who brought about that “end”.
Remember, all twelve Eto Rangers were told the story of Chocolat’s corruption. They all came to the conclusion that Baki was behind it all along. Yet, somehow, nobody before Cream thought of trying to talk to Nyanma, and they confronted her with deep hostility. Special mention should go to Gaoh, who arguably should have been the one talking to Nyanma (the fact that he briefly awoke Chocolat’s consciousness, and that he got her pinned down, should also have helped), but he didn’t. In the end, this specific task was handled by Cream, and she did her job exceptionally well. For the past hour of screen time, the Eto Rangers had been hunted down one by one while causing next to no harm to Nyanma; a mere ten minutes into the talk initiated by Cream, Nyanma was defeated while nobody was killed. Surely, this should count as signifiant contribution to the plot?
The best part? We are not even done yet.
Return of ChocolatThen came Episode 39, when Baki started blasting the three Eto Rangers and Nyanma with Imperial Stormtrooper level marksmanship (although, to be fair, the Eto Rangers were first and foremost fast runners). Note that Bakumaru was fighting (or, dodging) Baki while Cream took care of Nyanma before they all started to run, but as they all emerged from the dust Bakumaru and Cream were dragging Nyanma along together, so essentially it was Bakumaru helping Cream to bring Nyanma to safety.
Neither Nyanma nor Bakumaru seemed to understand why they were doing this, and it was understandable: after all, Nyanma had been the enemy of the Eto Rangers for the entire series, and she was responsible for the death of nine of them. Nyanma’s question (“Why save me?”) was appropriate; Bakumaru’s answer (“The hell I know? I don’t know either!”), while truthful, wasn’t helpful. So, moments later, Nyanma asked Cream again why she helped her. Somehow I found it quite touching that Nyanma called Cream by her name, something she hadn’t done for the other Eto Rangers except Gaoh (her old lover) and Bakumaru (her old… plaything).Cream did not respond to the question with a direct answer, but we can figure out what she conveyed to Nyanma while hugging her. Again, it was “Chocolat” to her, not “Nyanma”; in contrast, while Bakumaru used the name “Chocolat” twice in Episode 38, here he reverted back to “Nyanma” again. What Cream saw was not the enemy “Nyanma” whom she should hate, but her friend “Chocolat” who went astray and was tricked and hurt. So, what did Cream tell her lost friend? “Come home, Chocolat,” she said. “Come back to Mugen with us. Everyone is waiting for you, Princess Aura too.”
We can see that Cream was on the verge of crying as she said this. After all, she has lost too many friends already, her beloved Princess was unconscious, her homeland was about to sink, and she could hear Bakumaru screaming in pain as he confronted Baki again. All she wanted at the point, most probably, was to go home with her friends who were still alive, and that included Chocolat. After being rejected by Princess Aura for such a long time, Nyanma finally found acceptance from one of her representatives. Finally Nyanma broke into tears and whispered “Aura Hime-sama” (Princess Aura).Note that before Chocolat was corrupted by Baki, she loved Princess Aura just as much as the Eto Rangers did, and all of them called the Princess “Aura Hime-sama”. Nyanma dropped the “-sama” honorific when she was led to hate Princess Aura, and simply went with “Aura Hime”. Now that Nyanma found acceptance instead of rejection from Cream, she reverted to calling the Princess “Aura Hime-sama” again. Finally, Nyanma was no more; Chocolat returned.
Once again, Cream was doing a job that arguably should have been done by Gaoh. An intimate love relationship should make it more justifiable for Gaoh to firmly believe that there was still good in Nyanma, and it would be more convincing if he were the one who brought reconciliation to her. Yet it was Cream who ended up brining Chocolat back with a casual friendship, and we never found out what convinced Cream that Nyanma was not pure evil, unless we hand-wave the whole thing with “Cream was just an amazingly forgiving and kind girl”.
Well, it would work for me, but…
What I have been trying to establish in the long, long article above is that Cream had made a vital contribution to the grand finale of the show. Sure, she had been put on the bench for a very long time. Sure, she made absolutely no physical participation in any of the fights (again, ignoring the Combination Beams) as she delivered zero damage and also received zero damage along the way – some fans actually said that it was a miracle. Yet she contributed to the team’s victory in her unique way, and achieved the most important thing in terms of the plot that nobody else – Bakumaru himself included – did (or even thought of): bring back Chocolat. In my opinion, Cream had done more than enough to earn herself the title of “main heroine”.And what a well-rounded main heroine we have here. While she couldn’t beat an enemy to save her own life (well, she did knock out two mooks with a log in Episode 16), she used her smarts and abilities to help finding Jyarei Monsters and solving problems. Her relationship with Bakuramu was a joy to watch. She had been sacrificed in terms of screen time later in the series so that other girls had a chance to shine, so we cannot even complain that “Cream is a spotlight thief”. She survived long enough to finally step up and save Chocolat – and by extension, the world.
What else could we ask of Cream? Em… just a little more screen time in mid-series, maybe? Certainly, a few flashbacks of her friendship with Chocolat, or at least a few comments on Nyanma from her, would help. Unfortunately, there seems no way that any new official work would be made (well, new stuff is still coming out of Dragonball!), so we can only rely on fan works I guess.
No, I won’t be writing those; I am too lazy.