The Classic Show Also Known as Samurai Troopers
In the mid-90s Ronin Warriors was first broadcast in English throughout North America. Originally released in the mid-80s and known in Japan as Legendary Armor Samurai Troopers (Or Yoroiden Samurai Troopers), Ronin Warriors ran for 39 episodes and spawned three animated sequels as well as manga and even audio dramas.
The story follows five youths who have been granted the power of legendary mystical armor as they battle the forces of ancient demonic forces looking to conquer the mortal world.
Ronin Warriors has somewhat of a sentai sensibility to it, similar to that of the Power Rangers franchise which was also going strong in America at the time. The Ronin Warriors focus on teamwork and working together to overcome foes.
As one can imagine there’s quite a bit of Japanese history and cultural concepts that are worked into the series as well, and each of the Ronin Warriors carries a specific characteristic about them that is related to Japanese history, particularly the era of samurai.
Samurai Troopers Has a Long List of Characters
One of the most recognizable characters from Ronin Warriors is Ryo Sanada. Ryo is somewhat the de-facto leader of the Ronin Warriors and wears the red Armor of Wildfire, which gives him command and protection from extreme heat and fire.
Each of the Ronin Warriors wields a specific weapon, and Ryo wields a pair of Wildfire Katana that attach to form a double-bladed weapon. As most characters associated with fire go, Ryo is notoriously impulsive and can be hotheaded.
He is guided by the virtue of “Jin” or righteousness. Ryo shares his last name “Sanada” with Sanada Yukimura, a legendary samurai who died a hero in 1615.
Ryo is most often seen with a white tiger known as White Blaze. Ryo claims that White Blaze comes from the Himalayas but other than that there’s little explanation as to why there’s a tiger following him around. White Blaze is also one of the first to attack foes but often to little effect.
Kento Rei Feng wears the orange Armor of Hardrock. Known as Xiu Li Huang in Japan, Kento is capable of feats of immense strength. Kento also has a personal rivalry with one of the Dark Warlords that serves Talpa, the demon lord of the Netherworld. Kento wields a naginata that separates into three pieces and sometimes uses them as nunchaku.
Sage Date wears the Armor of Halo, a green armor that represents the element of Light. His virtue in the original anime is Courtesy, sometimes Grace, but in English, it is translated as Wisdom. Sage also has a rivalry with one of the Dark Lords, Cale, and wields a Japanese broadsword. Sage’s last name comes from legendary samurai Date Masamune. He was known for being blind in one eye, and as such Sage is usually depicted with his hair covering one eye.
Cye Mouri wears the Armor of Torrent, which is light blue (Or cyan). He embodies the element of water and is guided by Trust. His main weapon is a Jumonji-yari, a spear with prongs at the spearhead. These prongs can also close, allowing him to grab enemies from far away. He also carries a knife and glaive, but rarely uses those.
He has a rivalry with Dark Warlord Sekhmet. Cye’s connection to Japanese history is his last name as well; Mouri Motonari was a 16th-century feudal daimyo known for his strategic prowess.
The indigo Armor of Strata is worn by Rowan Hashiba, who is guided by the virtue of Life. In the Japanese series and OVA Rowan was the warrior of Wisdom, but after switching Sage’s wisdom for the English dub, Rowan was given Life.
His element is of the air and sky and canonically has an incredibly high IQ, often making him the most level-headed and rational of the Warriors. Rowan uses a bow made of gold which is collapsible and comes with a seemingly unlimited supply of arrows.
His Dark Warlord rival is Anubis, one of the first Dark Warlords the Ronin Warriors face off against. Rowan’s surname of Hashiba likely comes from the original surname of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a major figure in Japanese history who succeeded Oda Nobunaga and unified Japan.
The Ronin Warriors are often assisted in their Ronin Warrior-ing by Ully (YOU-lee)Yamano and Mia Koji. Ully is a young boy who was separated from his parents in the initial attack on the mortal world by The Dynasty, the demon army controlled by Talpa.
He comes into his own in the second season but is largely there to be the plucky companion to the Warriors. Mia is extremely knowledgeable about ancient artifacts and mystical items, as she is currently studying them in college.
She largely looks after Ully and provides the Warriors with information. She became aware of the rise of Talpa just before it happened while she was working with her grandfather, and arrived in time to meet up with Ryo just before the city slipped into darkness.
The Ancient One is a legendary monk who defeated Talpa 1000 years ago to banish him to the Netherworld and created the armor worn by the Ronin Warriors and the Dark Warlords. He acts as a mentor to the Ronin Warriors and carries a special staff that performs feats of magic. He pops up in various episodes to assist the Warriors or defend Mia and Ully from danger.
Talpa, the Emperor of the Dynasty, is the primary antagonist. He seeks to conquer the Earth and succeeds in taking Tokyo. The armor worn by the Ronin Warriors and his Dark Warlords is made of his original armor, and he’s given his own magical armor to four humans who seek power, known as his Dark Warlords. He seeks to absorb the armor of the Ronin Warriors, along with his Dark Warlords, and resume his physical form.
Each of his Dark Warlords are named after Egyptian gods, and like the Ronin Warriors, each of them has their own thing going on. Anubis is the Dark Warlord of Cruelty. He uses a kusarigama, which is a scythe attached to a long chain with a weight on the end. The armor of the Dark Warlords also represents various virtues but is used for evil.
Anubis’ guiding virtue is Loyalty, and his armor represents Spring. Anubis is actually turned from Talpa’s influence and assumes the role of the Ancient One after the original monk falls fighting Talpa.
Cale is the Dark Warlord of Corruption, and in the original Japanese version, his name was originally Anubis before the characters were switched around. He wears the Armor of the Jackal, which represents Winter, and uses a nodachi like Sage Date. His virtue in the original anime was “filial piety” before having it changed to “obedience” in the English dub.
Dais is the Dark Warlord of Illusion and wears the Armor of the Spider. Appropriately enough, he carries six kamas on his back arranged to look like insect legs (Despite spiders having eight, but Dais isn’t concerned with that fact).
His armor allows him to spin webs and create illusions and represents Summer. His virtue is “to endure” in the Japanese anime, but was changed to “Serenity” in the English dub.
Sekhmet is the Dark Warlord of Venom and fights with six poison-tipped katanas that cause blindness. He, appropriately, wears the Armor of the Snake, which represents Fall. His guiding virtue was Obedience but was changed to Piety in the English dub.
Talpa’s forces also include Lady Kayura and Badamon. They appear much later in the series but have a role in shaping it as it develops. Lady Kayura was abducted by the Dynasty 1000 years ago during their first attack on Earth and was kept under Talpa’s control via a magical amulet.
She was raised to be the greatest weapon against the Ronin Warriors but was freed from Talpa’s influence after her amulet was broken. Badamon is the Lord of the Netherworld Spirits under Talpa and possessed Lady Kayura to keep her loyal to the Dynasty. This did not work and Badamon was destroyed by Ryo after he gained the Legendary Inferno Armor.
Toonami Helped Bring the Ronin Warriors to Kids in the 90s
When Ronin Warriors was broadcast in the US it was carried by the USA Network and Cartoon Network. It aired during Cartoon Network’s Toonami block, which in the 90s specifically showcased anime.
Cartoon Network during this time was largely geared towards children, and as a result, the myriad of characters and their special armors and weapons presented an opportunity for the marketing of toys and collectibles.
Playmates developed a line of Ronin Warriors toys in the 90s for kids, but other companies like Bandai have developed more piece-intensive and articulated action figures for more mature collectors.
Ronin Warriors was an introduction to anime for many an American child in the 90s. It featured plenty of flashy action, wicked character designs, and over-the-top battles to capture the imagination of kids during that time, and it also subtly introduced them to other aspects of Japanese culture.
While it never achieved the fame of Dragonball or Voltron, it was still an integral part of many an otaku’s anime awakening. Fans looking to recapture this sense of nostalgia can purchase the complete OVA series from Discotek Media, as it contains the English dub as well as the original Japanese version with English subtitles.