This one was a long time coming. For any of you who have been readers for a while, you’ll know that Lupinranger vs Patoranger has been missing from the TTS News section for a while, but I’m here to bring it back for you.
Let’s kick things off with a quick review of the most recent story arc, which focuses on testing the bonds of loyalty within the teams, and even between them. Note: This review will cover episodes 26-32 of Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger vs Keisatsu Sentai Patoranger, and some minor spoilers may be discussed. Let’s dive right in. Shall we?
Episode 26 starts us off at an auction house for the criminal underworld. Items included in the Lupin Collection are on the block, which leads Noel and Umika to go undercover. There’s a certain amount of intrigue, like something out of a crime novel, as they try to discover who the Gangler is. Characters from all over the world make appearances, including an American who, notably, has no spoken lines. This contrasts greatly from someone like Hilltop, who is canonically American but speaks fluent Japanese, or even Noel, who is French. It is very nice, though, to see the global aspect of the GSPO emphasized in subtle ways like this, expanding the scope of the plot beyond Japan’s borders. When they do discover who the Gangler is, though, it comes as something of a twist for the team, having just gone based on Noel’s guesses up to this point.
It’s a safe bet to say Noel is an even mix of Arsene Lupin and Detective Hercule Poirot, the French Sherlock Holmes. Both sides come out in situations like this, when he throws together a crazy heist plan based on a Sherlockian theory, made based on analysing evidence. When it all comes together, it’s incredibly satisfying to see the scheme play out.
Episode 27 offers more of the same, this time a team-up between Touma and Sakuya. The focus in this episode is on a “Martial Arts” dojo that turns out to just be low-impact aerobics. What makes it interesting, though, is that the Gangler who runs the dojo is a cartoon villain straight out of Looney Tunes, complete with bombs wrapped in snacks and silly sequences of dancing. For this episode, we don’t get a lot of substance, but we do see Touma being a bit on the brooding side as Sakuya tries to get him to open up. Much of the dojo sequence is played for comedy, and the Gangler’s power is admittedly very understated, as something like mind control or suggestive influence could have been used so much more effectively in different hands.
Thankfully, episode 28 has a bit more to offer.
This episode gives us our first real glimpse into Umika’s family life, as her father comes to visit for her birthday. Latching onto Kairi in a comedic, over-the-top way at first, he thinks the Bistro is something more than it appears, as Umika was previously a bit of a princess or a spoiled child. The arc of the episode is in two parts, with Umika’s father first learning to trust Kairi, then seeing that Umika is now a woman grown, and able to take care of herself. It’s a bit about letting go, and about the bond between parent and child, but big on emotional beats nonetheless.
Episode 29 is another that is big on introspection, and the meaning of memory. In an experiment being performed by Gauche, Keiichiro loses his memories, and is only stirred out of his stupor by photos of the Lupinrangers. There is a certain amount of passion that comes along with anything that he does involving them, and that combined with the use of photos, manages to burn through Gauche’s haze to drive him to action when his team needs him. In this episode, there is a big action set piece in which Keiichiro becomes like a machine, using the Crane Trigger Machine as a replacement for his own arm at one point during a battle. It’s big, stupid fun in all the ways Super Sentai should be. There is even a moment where Keiichiro sees Hilltop, and thinks he is American actor Eddie Murphy, as seen below.
For episode 30, though, we get a big character development moment from Keiichiro, and the arc that starts from this episode begins a trend of these twists that continue over the next several episodes. On a paid vacation, Keiichiro takes a trip. Kairi, coincidentally, is at the same spot, and the two attempt to hang out as friends, neither knowing the other is their opposite Red Ranger. There’s a moment where they play off each other like a buddy-cop duo right out of a Hollywood film, with “K-man” playing the serious role juxtaposed against Kairi’s lighter humour. This, of course, all comes crashing down when Keiichiro manages to get sucked back into work to get a new VS Vehicle from a shady arms dealer, only to be ambushed at the scene.
After being rescued by Kairi, the two resume their normal fighting, going until Keiichiro decidedly has the upper hand in the fight over the new VS Vehicle. A call for emergency services ends the fight, with Keiichiro putting his trust in Kairi to do the right thing and help people, using the new VS Vehicle to put out the fires. Kairi does as he is asked, and keeps the Vehicle as a reward. It’s a big moment, and the emphasis is there, well and properly, right down to the music and shot composition. But this isn’t the end of new developments for Keiichiro or any of the police, as the next episode shows.
Episode 31 focuses on Tsukasa, and her bond with a Gangler who is seemingly deeply repentant for his crimes. Called Yoshii, the Gangler dreams of a peaceful life, fantasizing about an overly-romanticised home life with a family, casting Tsukasa in the husband role. The others are reluctant to trust this Gangler, naturally, and are even more so when he is offered a plea bargain in exchange for information. It’s through this deal, however, that they learn about a project Gauche is collecting the safes of defeated Ganglers for. Noel correctly predicts that something is off, and in a twist reveal at the end of the episode, he ends up coming to Tsukasa’s rescue as Yoshii’s true nature is revealed.
This entire episode serves as a credit to the skill of actress Okuyama Kazusa. She appears genuine, in most scenes, conveying an earnest nature and a desire to form a real connection with a potential ally. When the betrayal and the attempt on her life come near the end of the episode, her shock is palpable, as is the sense of defeat she seems to feel as she is proven wrong. In the end, though, the intel about Gauche’s experiment is proven correct as the setup of the next episode is put into place. Yoshii’s safe ends up being the fifth on a single Gangler, newly added to the battle.
Episode 32 focuses on this Gangler, and the lengths the team has to go to in order to defeat it. With five safes, it is mathematically impossible for one team to take it down, so Noel proposes the police and thieves work together. Sticking to his principles, Keiichiro refuses until he is challenged to a traditional duel against Noel, with the identity of the thieves and their freedom being Keiichiro’s prize if Noel fails. The battle plays out spectacularly and Keiichiro accepts help from the thieves at the end.
This episode marks the second appearance of the combined mecha made from Good Striker, X Emperor, and six VS Vehicles. The thing is an unwieldy monstrosity of a machine, but gets the job done in the end, and Keiichiro finally begins to see that sometimes the minor, personal victory needs to be set aside for the greater good. A lesson is learned, and he is better for it. When the episode ends, all of our characters are in a better place, and we are given a closer glimpse into what happened at the end of the duel, subverting certain expectations and what we believe we saw, expertly using camera angles and weighted, deliberate character choices.
What did you think of this arc? Leave your thoughts and let’s discuss!