One hour to midnight. The tanuki had resisted every attack from the new Akibaranger team. Nitori, Sakura and Ena felt energy in their respective colors swirling around them. The MMZs fell to the ground with a dull thud.
“We’re going to need a miracle,” said Nitori.
“Miracle? We don’t need any miracles, we can do this on our own!” Sakura said, picking up Katsuobushi. “Miso, Bu, where are you, punks?”
“It’s not too late to save Fuuri, isn’t it?” said Ena, collapsing onto a railing. Her jacket was covered in dirt, and her body was bruised.
On the other side of the barrier, a miniature stage had been set up above the Future Gadget Lab. A set of modified speakers and the karaoke machines, both connected to the inside of the lab by long cables, faced the streets below. Faris and Okabe stood side by side, checking their microphones. Feedback warbled across the night sky.
Nobuo had gotten into his best producer mode. He held his hands up like a camera lens, checking Faris and Okabe’s position in a nonexistent frame. “You’re looking good,” he shifted his hand lens over to Itaru. “Hashida! Why aren’t you wearing the alpaca?”
“What does the alpaca have to do with anything?” asked Itaru, taking out a necklace. A painted miniature mold of the four legged furry creature dangled on the end.
“It’s part of the scene!” Nobuo said.
“Akagi-P!” Faris said, “I haven’t really memorized the lyrics.”
“You don’t need to worry about that,” Nobuo said coolly, “The lyrics will appear at the bottom of the frame when the music begins. Our show is aimed at a young... ish audience, so inviting kids and nerds to sing along is welcomed. It makes it so much easier for them to post it on Nico Nico Video.”
“Okay!” said Faris happily.
Nobuo gripped Axanael in his hands. He pulled down the trigger and loaded a single bullet into the revolver. Sugoroku and Mizuha’s words resonated in his head. Nobuo closed his eyes and spun the cylinder. It clicked to a stop. Nobuo tried to think of the safest place on his body to hold it, just in case the bullet was waiting for him.
“Anywhere near the head is too dangerous,” he said, shifting the gun downward, “the chest isn’t going to work either. Maybe I should point it at my ass. Would the gun allow me to do that?”
“Why are you pointing a gun butt at your butt?” asked Itaru. “Weirdo.”
“I’m doing this to ensure my own safety,” Nobuo said. “If this works, I might be able to get back. I can’t thank you guys enough for all the help, even if I can’t remember what game you came from. The 2D world is so much better than my own.”
“Who are you calling 2D?” asked Kurisu. “Ju-just because we’re odd, that doesn’t mean we’re not real.”
Nobuo pressed the play button on the karaoke machine. The chiptune beat of the Akibaranger theme song kicked in. Lyrics, in pink and yellow, instantly appeared just out of Faris and Okabe’s line of vision. She titled her head to catch the words before they disappeared. Nobuo’s mind was put at ease from a song he knew all too well.
A burning gaze stirs the air
Does the planet’s voice tremble with fear?
Looks like it’s the beginning of a heroic adventure
They’re not afraid of being hurt or killed
When it’s time to shoot down the hated enemy
Brace for spectacular failure,
and throw yourself into a crimson inferno!
Nobuo held Axanael against his foot. The cold metal of the gun clicked against shoe. Beads of sweat dripped from his forehead. The beating of his heart drowned out his theme music in the background. He could see Mayuri clapping along with the song out of the corner of his eye, and trying to get Kurisu to join in.
The mysterious heroes of Electric Town!
(We are Akibaranger!)
Trigger the flag for victory!
Okabe let out a load roar. This was the part of the song where he joined in. He sung with all his breath, nearly drowning out Faris in the process. Nobuo was snapped back to his senses. His finger slid into Axanael’s trigger.
A! A! Ah, that was close...
Ki! Ki! Take your keyboard and...
Ba! Ba! Bash into it as you crash asleep and drool everywhere!
A! A! Already mad about hateful posts
Ki! Ki! Keeping me so tense that
Ba! Ba! It feels like I’m going to barf soon!
We may sing toku karaoke alone
but we can really belt it out!
Stop-LOL-here comes the staff-LOLOL
Don’t come in here now! LOL
Akibaranger! The Unofficial Sentai
Nobuo pulled the trigger on Axanael. The barrel clicked. He closed his eyes, and waited for the results. The gun barrel burst forth with a pure white flash of light. Nobuo concentrated on the wish in his head. “Let us become Akibaranger again and get back home.” The light radiated across the rooftop and beyond the barrier.
It reached the edge of the tanuki’s battlefield. The MMZs were lifted into the air and, as if propelled by a giant magnet, flew across the night sky. Trails of green energy streaked behind them. Nobuo’s landed in his hand. He clutched Aoi’s waist, and nuzzled the plastic girl’s form against his cheek.
The wish granting light dropped Yumeria and Mitsuki’s devices in their hands as well. The girls looked up to the top of the Future Gadget Labs. MItsuki nodded her head. “You did a good job, old man.”
“Alright, Daru, this is the part where you come in! When I transform, I want you to shout my name, real loud!” said Nobuo. “We may not get Ranger Keys, but this is the next best thing. In the 2D world, being a Sentai hero is reality! Here we go!
Yumeria and Mitsuki felt their MMZs start to vibrate. When one was in use, it alerted the others. They went through the motions. Yumeria added an extra flair to hers, brandishing the gun barrel stuck to Aoi’s leg like it was a pirate’s blunderbuss.
Itaru cleared his throat and let out a hot blooded scream. This man needed no microphone. With all of his being, he shouted to the stars. “AKIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIbaranger!”
That was the first time Nobuo’s transformation was done in realtime. He knew that when the heroes are freed from the constraints of stock footage, it means the budget is being put towards something meant to be big. Nobuo’s scarf blew in the wind. He posed against the moon, as expected of a hero.
“So is this Z-Cune Aoi anything like Blood Tune?” asked Itaru.
“Shut up, I’m posing,” Nobuo said.
Yumeria and Mitsuki faded into the scene. They had donned their Akibaranger suits as well. The yellow pirate jumped on Nobuo and gave him a large hug. Mitsuki hesitated for a moment, but she was laughing joyously beneath her helmet.
“Wow, they’re like real heroes!” said Mayuri.
“We’re local heroes,” said Mitsuki.
“But we won’t let our ship be attacked by scallywags like that!” said Yumeria.
“Farewell, Faris, Kyouma,” said Nobuo, saluting. “Thanks for saving me. Now it’s my turn to save the world.”
“It’s just Akihabara,” said Itaru.
“You fool! Akihabara is the world to us!” said Okabe.
One jump cut later, the Akibaranger were on the other side of the barrier. They stepped in front of Nitori, Sakura and Ena. Noko descended onto the roof. She reached into her dress and produced her box cutter, holding it up to Nobuo’s neck.
“Give me Axanael,” she said dryly.
“Here you go,” Nobuo said, placing the gun in the pale girl’s hand, “The only gun I need is right here. Aoi, let’s go!”
Nobuo carried himself with an exaggerated pose. He held one arm upward and the other forward. “My Sentai brother in soul is Gooooooookai Silver! Akiba Red!”
Mitsuki went through an elaborate acrobatics routine before coming back to her favorite fighting stance. “Akiba Blue!”
Yumeria spun her gun around in her hand. “Almost all shipping be delusions anyway, so why not go all out? Nobuo wants to see Aoi and Jeanne make out, just as I want to...”
“Pain is power!” Nobuo shouted. “Unofficial Sentai...”
Fireworks exploded behind the trio as they hit their final pose. The falling lights momentarily took the shape of the Akibaranger logo.
Nobuo pointed his MMZ at the tanuki, and launched a barrage of shots. The tanuki looked like it had actually been affected by this. Mitsuki jumped off the roof and held her right leg forward. She slammed into the outside of the tanuki’s sack. Her foot impacted one of his giant balls. The creature woke up. It began running away from the destruction it had already created, clutching its giant, swinging balls between its legs.
Sakura had began running shortly after the explosion. She regrouped with her buddies. She barely came up the tanuki’s knee, but if these guys needed some help, she was willing to lend it. The red one seemed to know what a doujinbo was. Sakura stabbed her wooden sword into the tanuki’s foot. It let out a howl of pain.
“That’s as far as you go,” she said. “Boys, let’s tell ‘im who he’s dealing with.”
“Special Attack Commander, Miso the Strong!” said the one with the pompadour.
“Staff Officer, Crasher Bu!” said the afroed one.
Sakura pulled her sword over her shoulders. “And the head! Tsukiyano Sakura! We’re blooming wildly and rampaging across Koriyama, the Momonosekku Gang!”
“Nice to meet you!” said the three in unison. Sakura cast her glance to the sky. “Akiba Blue, you’re the one that filled in for me, right? Good work. Now give him hell!”
Mitsuki nodded in response.
“Captain, prepare to draw upon our special weapon!” said Yumeria. “Buster Shades!”
The giant orange pair of sunglasses materialized in the hands of the three Rangers. They charged it with their energy, and sent the sunglasses off like a boomerang. A tail of energy in the three colors followed behind it. The tanuki was struck on the back of his neck by the shades, becoming momentarily stunned.
The shades returned to Nobuo’s hand, and contorted themselves into the lightning bolt shape of his visor. Akiba Red’s visor shone green for a brief moment.
Nobuo raised his hand to the sky. “Deploy, Machine Itasshar!”
The portal that led to the Future Gadget Labs disappeared. Another green, swirling vortex took its place in the sky. The car, its Z-Cune Aoi decals reflecting the glow of the city lights, dropped onto the street. Green sparkling energy ran up its form, making it look like cel-shaded CGI. The car crashed on the crowded street, narrowly missing pedestrians. It honked for its owners.
Yumeria held her hand up to Machine Itasshar. “It looks more solid than we are,” she said.
“That’s the way animation works these days,” Nobuo said, “It’s cheaper to render stuff like this in CGI than draw every frame. It’s still fully functional. I wonder if we can get stock footage in this world...”
Nobuo held his hand to his ear and listened. The CD he had left back at the lab was still playing. Faris and Okabe had moved onto Machine Itasshar’s theme song, and were currently trying to outsing each other.
“Unofficial Transformation!” the three said at the same time.
A rainbow colored sphere of light wrapped itself around Itasshar. The car’s parts split and folded over on each other, giving it a pseudo-humanoid shape. Unlike most Sentai robots, it lacked a face, opting to make the head a weapons platform. Nobuo jumped into the rainbow aura and sat himself in the head seat. Yumeria and Mitsuki followed after him. The rainbow effects dissolved, leaving the new form in place.
“Complete, Itasshar Robo!” they said together.
“Captain Nobuo, we still have a problem!” said Yumeria.
Itasshar Robo still only came up to the tanuki’s stomach. Nobuo pressed on the trigger, and fired a laser blast from Itasshar Robo’s head-mounted cannon. The tanuki was pushed back onto a nearby pile of rubble.
“Even if we’re not to scale, that’s okay!” Nobuo said. “The size of robots is never consistent in Super Sentai!”
“This isn’t a Sentai, it’s something else!” said MItsuki.
“It doesn’t matter! We can still win! Fire, Itamachine Gun!” Nobuo shouted.
Itasshar Robo’s gun turrets lit up. Bullets poured into the tanuki’s skin, but most of them bounced off. The few that did pierce its skin didn’t make it deep enough to do any significant damage. Mitsuki grabbed the controls.
“Old man, how many weapons does this thing have?” asked Mitsuki.
“I know there’s a lot of firearms, but most main Sentai robots get a sword. Maybe we could turn something around here into one...” he was cut off in mid sentence. Mitsuki was steering the robot towards Animate, intending to yank off its sign.
Noko swooped down from the sky and flew alongside the trio, keeping pace with Itasshar Robo with ease. “Don’t wreck the scenery more. I want a chance to atone for my sins, so on behalf of Nitori and I... use this.”
Itasshar Robo grabbed hold of Noko’s box cutter. The delusional power flowing through its gas tank surrounded the cutter and enlarged it several times in size. The box cutter was cranked up to its maximum length. Itasshar Robo gripped its weapon like a pirate as another burst of color, this one in shades of black and red, burst out behind it.
“Mental Cutter!” shouted Yumeria. “We can do a lot of damage with this.”
“I was expecting something more heroic sounding,” said Nobuo.
“Leave the rest up to me,” said Mitsuki. “Itasshar Robo, You’re The Only I Need Slash!” The robot held the box cutter above its head and moved it in a half circle. Phantom images of the makeshift sword appeared in the air, followed by a diagonal slash directly across the tanuki’s torso.
Nobuo and Yumeria applauded. The crowd watching the fight did the same. Ena had regrouped with her family and Chiaki, and already put in a word to Mizuha and Sei. The tanuki had endurance and a will to fight, but the Akibaranger were using the scenery to their advantage. Akihabara was still their home, no matter what version.
Sakura loaded Axanael with a bullet. She slid her hand down the cylinder, and the gun clicked through its chambers. She pointed the gun up at the tanuki. “I can end all of this now! I’m willing to take this chance! If I can get a miracle, now would be a really good time for it!”
“Boss...” Miso and Bu said together.
Mizuha, safer than the others, approached the scene. She shouted towards Nobuo. “Old man, did you use Axanael?”
“It worked!” Nobuo said. “We’ve already triggered the flag for this victory. I can already see the ending.” Nobuo pushed his fingers up against his nose, sliding a pair of imaginary glasses.
“I didn’t think it would work with rubber bullets,” said Mizuha. “You were never in any danger. Now, the bullet that Sakura has is real, but you weren’t betting your life at all.”
Itasshar Robo ceased movement. The tanuki swung its tail around, knocking the miniature robot into the side of a building. “I can’t even be an official character in this game? Then what was that bad end about?”
“Just another delusion,” said Sei solemnly.
Nobuo laughed. “Who cares? This is the most exciting thing we’ve done! Sakura, Nitori, we’ll subdue the tanuki, and you can blast away. I’m going to bring this to a good ending.”
“Yet not a single blow to his body. What do you propose we do, cap’n?” asked Yumeria.
“The same thing we did for the Megazord. We launch Itasshar through it,” said Nobuo. “Cancel transformation!”
Itasshar Robo reverted back to its car form, ejecting the trio before opening up its roof to let them in. They landed in the seats with a loud thud. Nobuo gripped the wheel and put his feet to the pedals. A ramp deluded itself out of the haze just before Machine Itasshar reached it. The car launched itself over the ramp. The wheels continued to spin as it soared through the air. It felt like time had stopped.
“Itasshar Fire!” Nobuo shouted, spinning the steering wheel around.
The front of the car rammed into the tanuki. It pushed against the tanuki’s fur, breaking through to its flesh. Sakura fired a shot from Axanael at that moment. A white flash of light echoed from the gun. At the intersection of Itasshar’s headlights and the gun’s shot, a swirling purple portal opened up.
Itasshar flew through the aftermath of the Megazord battle. The Cellphonezord’s remains were being picked up by the EMC, but this sight wouldn’t linger in their vision for long. Another portal appeared, and Itasshar landed in the middle of traffic in Akihabara.
Keiji Fujiwara was walking out of a recording studio, checking his watch. “They told me to be there for the event today, but at this rate I’m not going to make it.” Machine Itasshar pulled up in front of him. Yumeria opened the backseat door.
“Would you like a ride?” she asked. “Our next stop is the Secret Base.”
“Secret Base...” Fujiwara examined the business card, “That thing you gave me says I’m supposed to go there. Can we make it in time?”
“The traffic’s cleared up by now. Everyone’s back at work,” said Nobuo. “Let’s driving!”
Fujiwara made it to the cafe on time. The Akibaranger caught a glimpse of themselves out of the corner of their eye, and instantly returned to their own bodies. Fujiwara shook Katsuhiro Suzuki’s hand heartily. The two broke out into an acapella rendition of “One wish, one day” just as Nobuo returned to consciousness.
“What were you doing?” whispered Hiroyo. “I haven’t been able to contact you for a long time. I’m glad you made it out of that delusion, but don’t do something stupid like that again. Kozkoz can’t entertain our guests forever.”
“We’re one step closer to the Most Ridiculous Treasure in the Universe...” Nobuo said sleepily.
Hiroyo handed him a drink. “Go on, join the party.”
Yumeria was already making small talk with Tatsuhisa Suzuki, and Mitsuki was asking about stunt work. He had so many questions he wanted to ask. Any one of them would be a good place to start. He should enjoy these peaceful days. Even a delusional wannabe hero needs peace and quiet to appreciate the things he’s fighting for.