Didja ever play the game Gradius? I’m a big fan of old school shoot em’ ups, and Gradius was one of the series I remember playing as a kid. I’m not even sure how this thought process came about, but one day I was thinking about the ships designs and how cool it would be to base armor off of them. The more I thought about it, the more the idea evolved, until I had a full fledged tokusatsu series in my head.
Our story tells the tale of a young boy who had lost his father a few years prior in a car crash. He clearly hasn’t gotten over it, and is constantly being bullied by kids at school. This all changes when he’s visited one night by a tiny space ship, calling itself the Salamander. After scanning his DNA, it relays a message from his father, which reveals that he was secretly working with the government on space missions of diplomacy. He did not die in a car crash, but in a fight between the local coalition of planets and a rebellious group that to take over each planet for resources. The hologram states that the boy (probably about 15 or so) can choose to join the fight or follow his own path if he desires.
The kid hesitates, since he still lives with his mother (who had no idea her husband was out patrolling the stars). The Salamander follows him around to school, as he tries to hide it. The bullies start to harass him again, but flee when the Salamander fires its lasers at them. Our main character starts to warm up to the machine a bit more after this, but still cannot make a choice.
This changes with the arrival of one of the rebels. He crash lands on the planet and tries taking over the town. The aliens bodies secrete spores that create foot soldiers when oxidized. Our “hero” thinks about escaping when he sees the bullies getting captured, but changes his mind when he thinks about his father (his dad was always a bit reckless, even without blowing his cover). Activating a command in the ship, it transforms and attaches itself to the boy. With this combined form, the boy has a jet on his back, bladed arms, and a laser firing chest. He takes out the bad guy, but upon hearing there will be more forces coming, decides to take on his father’s mission.
He reveals his plans to his mother, who surprisingly takes it all in stride. Playing the hologram for her seems to confirm suspicions she had about her late husband. She knows the problems he had in school and says something along the lines of “Maybe you were always meant to follow in his path.” With her approval, he sets off on his journey. He changes forms again, but this time, shifts into something that resembles more of a space ship (albeit human sized).
They meet up with a much larger ship that’s under attack. Salamander informs him that it is the Vic Viper, his father’s former ship. They defeat the attackers and board the ship. He is met with a LOT of head-bowing and awe-struck stares. Members of the crew tell him what an honor it is to have him on board and ferry him to the current captain. The captain (an older, bearded gentleman), introduces himself and his second in command (a female, who doesn’t appear to be too pleased to see the main character).
We quickly learn that the Vic Viper is the first line of defense against the rebel invaders. Whenever a planet is in need, the team is sent out to stop it. Missions consist of planetary AND space battles. The fight scenes jump between typical tokusatsu fights and something you’d see more in Star Trek.
As we meet more of the crew, we are introduced to more ships as well. Each has the Salamander-like ability to combine with it’s pilot. The second in command is also a central character. She was just an ensign when the main character’s father was captain, but she idolized him to no end. Meeting his more withdrawn son was almost a slap in the face, but she eventually warms up to him when she realizes what he’s capable of (can we say love interest?).
As the series progresses, the Salamander evolves via new equipment (like the weapon power-ups featured in the games). Some of the allied ships also combine into new forms. Toward the end of the series, all of the ships combine with the Vic Viper to form the Gradius, with the main character at the helm. I’m thinking the effect will be more like Gurren Lagann then Power Rangers, on terms of size. At the end of it all, they manage to take down the leader of the rebellion and bring peace to their star system.