Image source: STUDIO4℃のC子 (C-ko) on Twitter

Sentai Hero Sukiyaki Force: The Season of Hoping for Peace in Gunma is a concentrated mashup of all things weird and wonderful: Sentai Hero (think Power Rangers) motif parodies, self-deprecating local culture gags, and regional promotion. And it’s all packed in a tiny five-minute-per-episode package. Let’s try to break it down.

Image source: ポチッとくん(群馬テレビ公式) on Twitter

The regional government of Gunma Prefecture describes its area as “the kitchen for the capital.” It prides itself on the high quality of its local produce and how its agricultural efforts help sustain the workers of Tokyo. A major culinary delight of Japan, sukiyaki, is the representative dish of the area.

Sukiyaki is a “hot-pot” dish, basically a bunch of vegetables and meat boiled together and infused with flavor; essentially a variation on typical Japanese onabe-style dishes. Sukiyaki’s characteristics are its sweetly nuanced taste and the raw egg on the side that one dips the beef into to infuse a further, richer flavor, just before putting it into the mouth. This means that no two helpings are ever the same.

The Gunma Prefectural Bureau of Tourism even has an English-language (and Thai, Chinese, and Korean) homepage specifically targeted towards foreign visitors to promote their food culture, with sukiyaki proudly headlining it.

So it would stand to reason that the next step is to have an anime based on sukiyaki, right? Well, obviously so, since they have gone and created just that!

The brainchild of a collaboration between Studio 4℃ (Memories, Mind Game, Tekkon Kinkreet) and local television station Gunma Terebi, Sentai Hero Sukiyaki Force: The Season of Hoping for Peace in Gunma is a gag anime, in the style of SengokuChojyugiga and Pepepepengiin (both of which I covered in earlier articles) with each episode lasting just a few minutes.

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It was reported that deputy director-general of Gunma TV Shinichiro Nakagawa called up 4℃ head Eiko Tanaka, who is originally from Shibukawa in Gunma, and proposed the possibility of a show about Gunma. Things began to take shape when they received a grant for production costs by the Kanto Bureau of Economy, Trade, and Industry for the purposes of regional revitalization. It turns out that many of the staff come from Gunma; even, coincidentally, the person from the Bureau in charge of the project! No doubt this helped in the production process and gave the show its almost inside-joke-like flair.

Hailing from the city of Maebashi in Gunma himself, scriptwriter Masato Hori is no stranger to short-form comedy animated shows, having been behind the rapid-fire joke-filled dialogue of both Ohayō Ninja-tai Gatchaman (2011-2013) and Mazinger ZIP! (2013-2014). The shows were Flash-animated parodies of the phenomenally (and globally) successful Tatsunoko Pro and Gō Nagai creations, respectively, that were already household names, which played as part of the daily morning news and entertainment show ZIP! on NTV.

Sukiyaki Force follows the same basic template: A ragtag band of heroes are often arguing with each other over ridiculous matters while a crazy antagonist tries to take over the world. In this case, the bad guy is “Kiraida” and he intends to rule the world, starting with Gunma because “it’s easier.” As you can tell, while the essential goal is of course to promote Gunma as a potential tourist destination and showcase the fine aspects of the local culture, much of the humor is also self-deprecating by design. The heroes are all ingredients for a great sukiyaki nabe, and all have their trademark battlecries, just like in typical sentai shows, but not everything goes smoothly. For example, there are two women, and they are both “Pink,” which is pointed out as a problem. Sometimes the timing is off for their call-outs. All manner of slip-ups cause internal bickering, and, by extension, great frustration for Kiraida, who is desperately trying to get people’s attention as the ominous evil.

Image source: ポチッとくん(群馬テレビ公式) on Twitter

I myself would not hesitate to wholeheartedly recommend anybody reading this who is in Japan or planning a trip there and has never tried sukiyaki to take the opportunity to do so. It is one of my favorite dishes, personally! But if you don’t believe me, then let the Sukiyaki Force convince you. In fact, Nakagawa himself has gone on the record stating that, if successful, the show will be marketed overseas, too, to get more foreign tourism into Gunma.

Sukiyaki Force is airing terrestrially exclusively on Gunma TV, with one episode running five days a week, and a new episode every week. However, it is also now available on Nico Nico, with the first and latest episodes currently being streamed free.

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