Exceedraft is action-packed right from the start, and is much darker than I initially expected for a series with hero suits that look as relatively goofy as these ones do. As the third part of Toei’s Rescue Police trilogy, it’s clear this series had a bigger budget than even some of its contemporaries of the time, Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger and the film Shin Kamen Rider. The stunt work is great, and action scenes are well choreographed. Unlike a lot of tokusatsu shows aimed at younger audiences, Exceedraft does not shy away from more realistic depictions of violence, including having its human villains use real guns and regularly do things that would cause widespread harm or even death. The stunt work is like something out of an 80s action movie, and in a few moments even includes the kind of cheesy sight gags that wouldn’t be out of place in Beverly Hills Cop or 21 Jump Street.
The setup of the first episode involves a terrorist attack in which a bus full of kindergartners is hijacked by a group who stole a force field device in the episode’s opening. As the heroes chase the bus down, action movie cliches abound and the slow chase plays out a bit like the movie Speed, albeit with more overpasses and gas stations getting blown up. There’s not much thought given to establishing the characters or team, as this is meant to be the third season of a franchise and the characters would have already been familiar to audiences at the time.
One change I found I enjoyed, without expecting to, was the transformation sequence being very different from most other toku. By this, I mean there really isn’t one. The team, made up of Redder, Blues, and Yellow, utilize power armour of the Iron Man variety, which they carry in boxes in their field vehicle and have to manually equip like clothing. Their weapons, likewise, can’t be teleported to them and are either mounted on their truck directly, or carried in storage containers on it.
Throughout this first pair of episodes, there’s a real commitment to practical effects whenever possible. Scenes involving a lot of water end up spraying it directly on the camera, stunt crew and vehicles appear to be interacting with real fire when it’s called for and the hero actors even make appearances in their suits, helmets off and faces fully visible. The armour itself looks a little cheap in these close-up shots, but in motion looks fine. The budget clearly went to setting up the action pieces across these first two episodes. In fact, the only special effects piece that noticeably looks far worse than the rest is the Special Rescue squad’s GPS satellite, which appears to be a cheap replica of the Justice League’s Watchtower satellite, ripped straight from the pages of DC Comics into a slightly sub-par mould and thrown against a black background.
Overall, Exceedraft was a really nice surprise. I got a lot more than I was expecting out of it, and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the series being uploaded to Toei’s YouTube channel in the months to come. Like any other Showa-era tokusatsu series, it has its flaws, poor effects and hammy acting, but the whole package comes together to create something really unique that fans of early Kamen Rider or Metal Heroes will enjoy.
The first two episodes of Exceedraft are available now from Toei Tokusatsu World Official on YouTube.