Meet Powa Ranjuru, a fighting angel from the Tokyo suburbs who battles evil-doers like Uchu Chu the Space Bug, Kung-Fu Chicken Noodle, and Dr. Cube using moves like the “mallet protector beat down” and the “ultra-pain back hand.” She’s also an MIT alumna.
More specifically, the person behind the mask is Amy Shui ’02, who performs as Powa Ranjuru for the entertainment group Kaiju Big Battel.
“Kaiju Big Battel spoofs professional wrestling and old Japanese movies like Godzilla,” Shui says. “The good guys are trying to stop the evil factions from taking over the world. Powa Ranjuru is known for flying in and saving the day.”
Shui began performing as Ranjuru in 2004, about two years after graduating from MIT. After attending a Kaiju show earlier that year, she was captivated and knew her athletic experience would translate perfectly to the ring.
Powa Ranjuru versus Uchu Chu
“I had done gymnastics for 17 years, so so I was pretty sure I could learn some wrestling moves,” Shui says. “I was so excited I emailed the studio and told them I wanted to be one of their performers. A few months later, I was on a plane to Los Angeles for my first show.”
Kaiju originated in Boston, but the troupe performs all over the U.S. Since first donning Ranjuru’s trademark mystical red mask, Shui has performed in LA, New York, Philadelphia, the Mojave Desert, and at a West Virginia music festival where Big Battel performed with the Flaming Lips.
“It’s been amazing to perform in all of these different places,” she says. “We’ve performed outdoors at 4 a.m. and in front of hostile crowds that threw mud in the ring. It’s so much fun to be a part of.”
Shui was a varsity gymnast at MIT for four years, and the strength, flexibility, and acrobatics were essential to her career in Kaiju Big Battel.
“If I hadn’t done gymnastics at MIT, I wouldn’t have been able to use my gymnastics training after college,” she says. “There are lots of similarities. You have to overcome performance anxiety, remember scripted moves, and be able to improvise on the spot. We used to joke about starting full-contact gymnastics when I was on the MIT team. That would have prepared me even more!”
Although saving the world from evil is a heavy task, it’s not a full-time job. Shui, a Course 18 major, is a biostatistician by day who focuses on autism and ALS research.
“MIT taught me that it’s OK, or even encouraged, to deviate from a standard path,” Shui says. “MIT people and Kaiju people can be very similar. Plus, science nerds and art school nerds usually get along pretty well.”
After a one-year hiatus, Powa Ranjuru returns to Boston when Kaiju Big Battel presents “The Danger Awakens” at Cuisine en Locale in Somerville, MA, on Saturday, November 21. Shui’s band, Hula School, will also perform during the show.