This week’s Lupinranger vs Patoranger opens on a distinctly lighter tone than Kamen Rider counterpart, Build, as we see a moment of comedic and heartfelt awkwardness play out in the middle of Jurer, with the whole of both Ranger teams in view. Keiichiro is talking to a beautiful woman, Mana, who gives him flowers, and after a brief exchange, she invites him over. He refuses and his teammates spend a while after trying to make him see that Mana is romantically interested in him. Umika consoles Mana, somewhere far away, only to be interrupted by this week’s Gangler. It attacks a crowd, and Umika pulls Mana to safety while calling Kairi for help.
The Gangler’s power is to take humans into a deep sleep, filled with sweet dreams, and once affected, they remain essentially comatose, with their minds stuck in a dream world. This Gangler, in that sense, doesn’t have the most detrimental ability the Rangers have run across up to this point. It does, however, do a lot of good to set up a way for Mana to express her feelings to Keiichiro, or for him to see her for what she is.
As it turns out, Mana’s attempts to get through to Keiichiro were a last ditch effort before she is set to leave Japan and go to school in Austria.
With Sakuya’s help, Umika arranges a date between Mana and Keiichiro, and the pair take the time to try to make Keiichiro understand Mana’s feelings. It’s almost painful to see how oblivious this decorated police detective is to another person’s motives and mindset, but it serves the plot well, and when Keiichiro literally stands up and salutes Mana, the soundtrack almost screams for a sad trombone. The awkwardness is almost painful.
Keiichiro’s explanation is that he wasn’t so oblivious, but played it off that way due to his duty to defeat Ganglers. He tells Umika that he cannot allow himself any distractions, which is reinforced in other parts of the episode later. Shortly after entering the battle, four of the six rangers are drawn into the dream world set up by the Gangler, and we learn from Umika’s arrival that the Dream world is shared.
One man eats all the ramen he can, Tsukasa finds herself surrounded by stuffed animals, and the life energy is visibly drained away from both to fuel the dream world and the Gangler. Sakuya, when he appears, asks Umika to sign an idol photo book of herself, and Keiichiro appears at his happiest as a bicycle cop. Seemingly, Umika is the only one in this world who has the free will to fight the control the dream has. She begins to sing to Keiichiro, the same song he’d recommended to Mana when he gave her the record in the beginning. The shot is artistically cut between Umika singing, and Mana playing the song on her piano as leaves float over the screen. Things begin to cut back and forth, and he finally puts it all together.
This was always going to be a police episode, so it’s no surprise when Good Striker goes to the Patrens. They make quick work of the Gangler, Nero, but not before Kairi can get his item.
There are a lot of romantic overtones in this episode, even through Keiichiro’s awkwardness, and it eventually becomes clear that he does care deeply for Mana, in his own way. As the battle ends we see Mana in the airport, and begin to expect Keiichiro will show up and make some big speech to stop her at the gate, and keep her from leaving or at least keep her thinking of him. Instead, she leaves for Austria uneventfully, and Umika scolds him for hurting her friend so deeply. As she walks off, Keiichiro begins to question how she was in the dream world, even going so far as to ask his partners if they were truly certain they’d ruled out the Jurer trio as the Lupinrangers.
After a cliffhanger finish, we are given a preview of next week, which will seemingly focus on a battle over Good Striker and answer some questions about the Lupin Collection.
Overall, this is a solid, well written episode that rides the waves of emotions and subverts expectations equally well, including a lot of symbolism of Mana as an angel. From the initial previews, I had expected Mana herself to be the archetypal tsundere, the sadistic or insane girl who cares only for love and violence. Instead, the writers went completely the other direction and made her nearly angelic; kind, beautiful, and musically gifted, she is the kind of woman we are meant to believe a hard-boiled detective like Keiichiro could easily fall in love with.
What did you think of this episode? Leave a comment and let’s discuss!