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Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger vs Keisatsu Sentai Patoranger Episode 26-32 Review

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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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What did you think of this arc? Leave your thoughts and let’s discuss!

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Ultraman R/B Episode 6 and 7 Review

The most fresh and fun Ultraman series of a generation continues strong with these two, semi-linked episodes and we finally get to see Aizen actually acting like a villain beyond summoning random kaiju!

Episode 6

In this episode, we open with Aizen observing a battle between the Ultra brothers and this week’s kaiju, Mecha Gomora, to learn about the pair and remarks that Katsumi should stick to playing baseball, while Isami seems like a child. The brothers, for their part, are met by an old family friend called Koma, who is a world-traveling chef and uses a lot Spanish phrases in her speech. She dresses extravagantly, in purple and bright yellows and blues, and is said to return to Ayaka City every four years to check in on the city’s children.

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For such a brief introduction to a character, a lot of emphasis is put on building up Koma as a fixture of Ayaka City, the same way certain businesses or landmarks would be. The brothers even openly reminisce with fond memories of playing janken (rock, paper, scissors) with Koma and Isami having been defeated 100 times four years ago. Naturally, after meeting her, Aizen decides to target Koma this week to lure the brothers out into the fight.

She ends up strapped into Mecha Gomora like a pilot, and we get to see some creative uses of new powers and teamwork before the episode concludes. For this episode, most of the substance is built in around Koma and her place in the world of Ultraman R/B, but it pays off in the end and the brothers are left better for the experience.

 

 

Episode 7

Fourth wall breaks and dropped spaghetti abound in this episode. As Katsumi, Asahi, and their father are being interviewed for a local TV news special inside Quattro M, Isami is out and about and spots a Kaiju attacking Ayaka City. He tries to engage in the fight after Katsumi says he can’t make it, and this turns into a running gag where the brothers will talk to each other and ignore the Kaiju, or Isami will talk directly to the Kaiju, making it wait impatiently, but politely, for the fight to begin. It’s silly and breaks the fourth wall in the best ways, and serves as an excellent showcase of the humour this show can convey when it wants to.

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When Aizen shows up, his anger is over the top, on par with that of a Looney Tunes character in his facial expressions and the way he speaks. He is upset about their squabble, and vows to take them on head-on. It’s here we get a clear shot of him holding a R/B Gyro and carrying the Ultraman Orb Dark crystal together for the first time. Cutting away from that, the brothers begin to argue more openly about why one Gyro works and the other doesn’t, with Isami insisting they take them apart to examine the mechanical bits.

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As always, the two lead actors play off each other incredibly well, and the episode keeps its over-the-top tone throughout, even as they try to balance the humour with the gravity of their actions as Ultramen leading to things like Koma’s injuries in episode 6, or parts of the city being destroyed by the fighting. After a hit taken in the fourth-wall-breaking fight earlier in the episode, Katsumi is left with a mark on his face, leading everyone to think that Isami is the one who hit him.

Koma returns this week, still in the hospital, and being visited by Aizen when Katsumi goes to see her. Katsumi seems to have no idea Aizen is behind the repeated attacks on the city, and somehow neither does Isami. This is a point to Aizen’s credit, as he has been acting strictly behind the scenes up to this point, with the only hint at his true nature being that he seems to always know more than he lets on when he talks to the brothers.

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It’s the mark of a well-crafted villain to know when to play his hand, and though it has been previously confirmed that Aizen will be transforming into Ultraman Orb Dark in the next episode, it’s a wonder the brothers haven’t picked up so much as a hint after all this time. He knows when to act and does not hesitate when the time comes, as he declares while summoning this week’s Kaiju from the hospital roof. As soon as this second appearance of Grugio Bone happens, though, all the levity is fittingly dropped in favour of the atmosphere of crisis an attack on an urban area by a kaiju should ellicit.

As always, Ultraman R/B blends humour and serious topics in an excellent way this week. Do you agree? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or on social media! Stay tuned for more.

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Kamen Rider Build Episode 41 Review

In an interesting turn, Evolt opens this week’s episode by actually trying to recruit Build. This turn is somewhat unexpected, but what’s not is the response. Evol Phase 1 and Build Genius are evenly matched, and we get our first hint of what is to come from the final showdown. After a brief encounter, we begin to see the next part of Evolt’s plan take hold.

A call from Banjou does a good job of setting up the rest of the episode in fitting, dramatic fashion. Currently, we are less than ten episodes from the end of the series, and the endgame plot has begun to come together in recent weeks. The payoff is starting to become more clear with episode 41, though. Katsuragi Shinobu is alive, and this episode is where we begin to see the ripple effect that one narrative choice has on the rest of Build’s world.

After talking with the smuggler Reika, Team Build is given a USB Drive full of research data, passed on from Katsuragi Shinobu, and begin to try to decipher everything. Going through the research notes, we see a page written in English explaining the Lost Bottles.

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The gravitas of the scene is undercut by Gentoku and Kazumin goofing off like children, but fits well to ham up an otherwise serious scene. Misora, thankfully, is there to keep them on track and we get an exposition dump for those who need a refresher on the plot up to now.

This time, the plot summary includes the instance of Katsuragi Shinobu repairing the Evol Driver. Otherwise, none of this is anything fans of the show haven’t seen before. The most interesting part of this recap, easily, is hearing the various characters interject their own thoughts and opinions for each various plot point. There is a lot of comedy to be had from the way they all interact, including Kazumin and Misora having a yelling exchange over his Inner Voice. As the recap draws to a close, the music and shot composition take a decidedly more dramatic turn once again, and we see Evolt going over his plots and plans.

As Misora cares for Isurugi, who is in a hospital bed, she and Sento talk about the Best Matches. The idea for Best Matches, as we know them, was drawn from Isurugi Souichi’s memories with a much younger Misora.

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This was Evolt’s first experience with human emotion, and led to the formation of the animal-item format for Best Match bottles that has been the series’ staple. Another internal dialogue between Sento and Katsuragi Takumi leads to a new theory about why Best Matches follow the same conventions for Build that they do for Evol, fittingly turning human emotions against the alien threat.

This conversation happens while Build is waiting to make contact with an old colleague of Katsuragi Shinobu, who decides to attack on sight, saying that he needs to defeat Build or be killed by Evol.

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This new Smash is leaner than the others before him, and looks more like a new kind of Rider. Because Sento is using Genius form, the battle ends quickly and the man’s Smash essence is removed, leaving him as just a man. Then they talk briefly about Katsuragi Shinobu before the former lab assistant is killed by Evol.

As the battle continues, we see Evol begin to feel genuine rage for the first time. He overpowers Sento and gains two new Lost Bottles as a result, leading to the reveal that Katsuragi Shinobu is Evol’s lead researcher, the mysterious man in the gas mask who has been seen previously in the background of Evol’s plans.

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Overall, this episode is solid, if largely serving as a plot dump. There is a lot of exposition ham-fistedly handed to the viewer, but it may help to make sense of the plot thus far to those who missed the finer details in previous episodes.

What did you guys think of this week’s Build? Leave a comment and let’s discuss!

 

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Road to Shattered Grid

The Morphin Grid is in danger. A power and a force that no one has ever seen before is coming to destroy it and it’s going to take the combined might of 25 years worth of Power Rangers to stop it. How has this happened? What dark power could possibly shatter the very foundations of Rangerhood? And who will answer the ultimate call; It’s Morphin Time?

Welcome, my friends, to the Road to Shattered Grid.

To say that Boom! Studios have done for Power Rangers comics what IDW Publishing did for the Transformers franchise would be an apt comparison. Both taking something beloved but with much maligned mainstream counterparts and given fans fresh stories that add more to the characters we loved as kids.

Currently, the Boom! Studios Power Rangers comics are split between two titles; the 2016 Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series, written by Kyle Higgins and illustrated by Hendry Prasetya, which takes place shortly after the events of the seminal Green with Evil miniseries and sees the original five teens with ’tude struggle to adjust to a former enemy joining the team and Tommy suffer with various neuroses after suffering through such trauma, unsure if he can trust himself.

The other is Go Go Power Rangers; a much more light-hearted affair, written by Ryan Parrott and drawn by Dan Mora, that takes place immediately after the pilot Day of The Dumpster and takes a more slice-of-life approach to the original five Rangers trying to find a work-life balance between typical high school drama and their new-found Ranger duties. Personally, I find this to be the stronger series of the two as it shows that the original five weren’t always a tight-knit group and were powered just as much by their hormones as they were by the Morphin Grid.

Now we’ve got that out of the way we can focus on how these two titles built the stage for Shattered Grid. Be ye warned; SPOILERS AHEAD!

Arguably, this story starts off in the pages of GGPR with the Billy wishing to relinquish his powers to work as an intern for Promethea. Promethea is a S.H.I.E.L.D-esque research & development organisation determined to advance technology for the benefit of mankind and was founded by Grace Sterling; billionaire, philanthropist and former Red Ranger.

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Yes, Grace was the leader of a covert Ranger team in 1969, sent to the moon by Zordon to deal with the imminent return of Rita Repulsa thanks to the untimely arrival of Psycho Green. To say that this event was a suicide mission would be putting it lightly, however, the mission was a success albeit with only two survivors, Grace being one of them.

Discarded by Zordon, and seeing what an utter mess he made of the operation, Grace vowed that humanity would defend itself from any alien menace and embarked on her decade-long crusade with nothing but her iron will and the dagger of Psycho Green.

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Flash-forward an unspecified number of decades and we get the first real threat to the MMPR team outside of those known from the show; the Black Dragon. Rita Repulsa entrusted Scorpina with the Green Chaos Crystal. After taking control of the Dragonzord with the crystal and further exacerbating the underlying tensions of the team due to Tommy’s presence, the crystal reacts and explodes inside the Command Centre, partially destroying it along with Zordon’s energy tube and Alpha. A portal opens and out of it emerges the Black Dragon, a fearsome mechanical monster that can disrupt the Rangers’ connection to the Morphin Grid.

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He makes short work of the Rangers, forcing a retreat but captures Billy in the process. Using his coin, Black Dragon severs the original five’s connection to the grid, leaving them powerless. With Billy trapped in the Dark Dimension and the Rangers losing control of their zords to Rita, things had never seemed more dire.

While the remaining Rangers partially reconnect to the Grid using Tommy’s coin (gaining new Green variants of their Ranger forms) and take the fight to Black Dragon, Billy is discussing this new foe with a begrudging Goldar. It’s revealed that not only does Goldar not care for Rita’s new favourite but that he’s not of this Earth, coming from a different Earth after making a deal with Rita.

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Noting that Black Dragon seems more Zord than monster, Billy and Goldar come to an agreement and Billy is freed to assist in taking Black Dragon down. They succeed but his rapidly shrinking body teleports the pair to safety, albeit the safety of a different world, the world of Black Dragon’s puppet master; Lord Drakkon.

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While the Rangers on Earth-1 (they don’t really give designations so let’s go with a formula that works) try to find out what happened to Billy and Tommy, they find themselves getting a history lesson for Earth-2 while evading the Mastodon Sentries (awesome militarised troops using Ranger tech) and eventually find their way to a destroyed Command Centre and to a new, old friend; Saba.

Having moved part of her moon base and fused it with the decimated Command Centre, Rita begins plotting the conquest of Earth in earnest with the revelation of a new plan; the Goldar Troops.

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Meanwhile, after narrowly escaping Lord Drakkon and his troops, Saba recounts the Fall of The Rangers to Billy and Tommy, including how Jason was chosen to wield the white light of good and that many long-time Ranger allies rallied to defend the Command Centre from Rita’s final attack in a gorgeous two page spread.

Billy, Tommy and Saba are soon captured by the Coinless, a resistance movement made up of ex-Rangers and what remains of the Angel Grove citizens. Zack, their leader, vouches for them after talking with Saba and plans are made to battle Drakkon’s forces with the newly acquired Falconzord.

We take time out to find out that Earth-1’s Zordon is free-falling through time and space, without a tether to the physical realm. In this state we see him gain insight into Earth-2’s history and see the demise of his counterpart, only to be found by Saba. Being in a timeless state, Zordon relays to Saba that Rangers from Earth-1 will arrive and assist Earth-2, thus explaining why Saba implicitly trusts Tommy and Billy.

As the Coinless offer surrender to Drakkon on Earth-2, a captured Trini on Earth-1 enacts a clever plan to harness the Black Dragon armour for herself, since she previously tinkered with the Dragonzord’s inner workings and can apply the same knowledge to the Black Dragon. She tears through Rita and her throne room, regaining Billy’s power coin and restoring the powers of the Earth-1 Rangers. Rita, seemingly outmatched, retreats.

Similarly, Earth-2 Trini and Billy use Earth-2 Billy’s power coin and morpher (the last remaining coin not being used for Drakkon’s forces) and uses it in a similar way to the Black Dragon armour, severing Drakkon and his force’s connection to the Morphin Grid, putting them on equal footing with the Coinless.

Tommy and Drakkon engage in their big match-up, trading insults and platitudes about friendship until the Earth-1 Rangers arrive to turn the tide. With defeat at hand, Drakkon chooses to fall from a cliff rather than surrender, seemingly perishing. There’s some neat bonding and sweet goodbyes and the Earth-1 Rangers return to the demolished Command Centre, hopeful that they can restore it and Zordon to their rightful places.

In the middle of the desert, however, a beaten and bloody Drakkon awakens to find himself surrounded by the US military leading us into the current arc which has several connections between MMPR and GGPR.

In the months that follow, the Rangers are slowly regaining the public trust, attending natural disasters and helping the public without Rita throwing giant monsters at the planet every two days. After rescuing the Infinity Tower in Dubai, the Rangers are introduced to Grace Sterling. See? And you thought that plot point wasn’t coming around again…

Grace introduces herself and Promethea, and request their help rescuing two of her pilots that have gone missing in Romania and are being held by Finster. The monster-maker’s broken out on his own since Rita’s departure and has been experimenting with human/clay monster hybrids; sleeper agents that act perfectly normal until activated.

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This ties into the events of GGPR, and kinda screws up the continuity in a big way… There’s a fully functional sleeper agent amongst the group for a protracted period but here, in the future, they’re fairly limited and noticeably on holiday in the uncanny valley.

As Finster’s sleepers begin to activate, the Rangers reach out to Promethea since Grace offered her advanced scanning tech to them. Grace reveals her history to the team and they begin to work closer and closer and Promethea begins actively assisting with their own Mechazord.

While visiting the Promethea HQ, Billy wanders off, curious about what could power such an advanced facility. He comes across a heavily guarded room and, after moving out of sight. When he teleports inside the room, he comes face-to-face with the last person he expected to find: Lord Drakkon.

Meanwhile, Rita returns, having gone on a quest to find the Wizard of Deception and seek his aid in crafting a familiar looking candle. She breaks Finster out of the dimensional and, once learning of his schemes while she was gone, demands the activation of all of his hybrids at once, much to his chagrin.

After a hard fought battle, Billy reveals what he knows to the team and they confront Grace. She explains how Drakkon ended up in her position and vehemently defends her actions when Jason pulls her aside. Jason, reluctantly, decides to cut ties with her because, as he sees it, she’s taking an “any means necessary” approach and he refuses to compromise his values because she makes his helmet lighter (not a euphemism)

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After the Rangers discuss their options with Zordon, Saba pays Drakkon a visit, knowing the weakened state he’s in, intent on killing him. He misses the killshot, allowing Drakkon to break free and decapitate Saba. Using the blade, and a little bit of magic, Drakkon carves a portal into the wall of his cell and with a quiet mutter, disappears through it.

And that’s the story so far. While MMPR has been doing the lion’s share of the story building for the Shattered Grid event, I highly recommend giving GGPR a read too, not only for the improved character building but also for the origins of Rita Repulsa and her band of misfits.

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Shattered Grid will kick off in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #25 then continue in Go Go Power Rangers, alternating between the titles and having a dedicated Annual and Free Comic Book Day Special, as well. With Rangers new and old, tie-ins with the HyperForce RPG on Twitch, and the kind of loving tributes that only the infinite budget of comics can provide, Shattered Grid has the potential to be the best part of the 25th Anniversary of Power Rangers.

Are you looking forward to Shattered Grid? Which teams do you hope get some significant panel time? Let us know your thoughts on this article and the event itself in the comments below!

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Kamen Rider Build: Episode 6 Review

After the events of episode 5, we get to see the kinda odd reasoning behind why Banjou turned Sento’s friend Tetsuya back into a SMASH after Sento saved him using NinninComic. We also get an explanation behind what the gas is that Faust is using to turn humans into SMASH as well as a little more of an explanation behind Blood Stark’s actions. We unfortunately don’t get to see a new Best Match this week, unless you count the preview for the next episode, but we do get to see a new Trial Form when Sento decides to match up the Ninja and Tank Full Bottles, which was a little interesting. We also find out what happens when someone other than Sento tries to use the Build Driver when we see Banjou attempt to use it.

This week’s episode begins with Banjou following the SMASH he reverted to the Skywall where he’s attacked by some Government Guardians and Officers. He is almost arrested but Build in NinninComic form intervenes and saves him. We then see them back at their base as they start arguing and fighting each other which leads to Banjou trying to use the Build Driver and Sento explaining that it isn’t one size fits all. We also see Sento notice that the Dragon Full Bottle has changed since Banjou has had it.

After that, we see Night Rogue and Blood Stark talking about Blood Stark raising Build’s Hazard Level as well as Owner explaining to Banjou why Sento feels the need to try to save everyone from Faust. We also see Sento doing research on the Skywall when Gentoku Himuro explains to him that it emits a gas from underground that’s made up of minerals not found on Earth.

We also see Misora and Sawa chatting about relationships when Sento walks in and declares his love of openings. He then tells Banjou about the opening and they plan to attack Faust HQ, which is hidden under the Skywall. We then see Gentoku talking to someone on the phone about showing Sento the data on the Sky Wall. With Sento and Banjou at the entrance that Sento found and while they are talking, Sento gives Banjou a new invention he came up with in the form of a mini Dragon he made for Banjou. They then proceed to sneak past patrols as they break into Faust HQ under the Skywall.

Once they’ve made it past the patrols into Faust HQ, we see some scientists in hazmat suits experimenting on someone. They start to run away, scared by the sight of Banjou and Build. We then see Sento having some flashbacks while Banjou interrogates one of the scientists about who framed him. Blood Stark appears and attacks the fleeing test subject. We then discover that Sento and Banjou are unique in that they were dosed with enough Nebula Gas to turn then into SMASH but neither of them changed. Banjou is then poisoned by Blood Stark but his new toy Dragon saves him and spits out the poison. Meanwhile, Sento loses his temper and attacks Blood Stark. As Blood Stark leaves, Banjou calms Sento down by reminding him what Banjou asked was most important to him.

We then see Sento and Banjou save Tatsuya by turning him back then they narrowly escape the Faust facility before it explodes. As the episode reaches it’s end, Tatsuya explains to the pair that he delivered Sento to a new part-time job making medicine at Katsuragi Takumi’s place who’s murder is blamed on Banjou. It’s revealed that Sento was there a full hour ahead of Banjou and could’ve seen who killed Katsuragi Takumi or that Sento could’ve been the one who killed him.

So all in all, it was quite a nice and informative episode where we learnt a little more about Sento’s past as well as finding out that Faust has multiple facilities hidden under the Skywall. We also find out what they are using to create SMASH. In my opinion, it was a good episode as it filled in more blanks as well as progressed the story a bit more. I’m excited to see what happens in regards to Sento and his memories as well as the dynamic between Sento and Banjou.

So that’s it for this week’s Kamen Rider Build review. Do you think Banjou’s Dragon may be a hint as to what’s to come? What’s your opinion on the Katsuragi murder and who’s guilty or innocent? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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Power Rangers Ninja Steel: Episode 14 & 15 Review

This past fortnight’s Power Rangers Ninja Steel has been a royal double-bill. In these episodes, we’re introduced to a new character as well as a new Zord! Here is Toku Toy Store’s review of episode 14, The Royal Rival, and episode 15, The Royal Rumble.

The Royal Rival

The programme opens at school with Sarah showing off her latest business class project: Sarah’s Cookie Creator. Despite the uninspiring name, the device itself is pretty cool as it will create delicious cookies out of any and all ingredients. In case we weren’t convinced, resident morons, Victor and Monty, test out the machines capabilities with sardines, liver and broccoli. The irritating pair themselves, of course, have no project prepared and are given an ultimatum by the teacher to prepare it by tomorrow.

Up on Galvanax’s ship, we’re introduced to Princess Viera and her companion monster Lord Drillion. Galvanax and Madame Odius are not convinced by the Princess’ ability to take care of the Power Rangers but they are reassured that Drillion accompanies her, as he can take care of business in the event of her failure.

In the park, Sarah’s invention is creating massive lines of people hoping to sample her products. Victor and Monty are arrested for stealing a cow… mehville. As Preston attempts to use his magic to speed along the cookie making process, the team are contacted by Redbot, who has detected Buzzcam activity nearby. The Rangers leave Mick in charge of the stall and run off to investigate. In a more urban area, Princess Viera commands Drillion to cause chaos and destruction in an effort to draw out the Power Rangers. Her plan succeeds and Drillion makes light work of our heroes. During the battle, an errant energy blast collapses the balcony Princess Viera is watching from. Oblivious to the fact the falling woman is their enemy, Sarah cushions Viera’s fall with vines and Viera calls off her monster.

The pair returns to Galvanax’s ship where they are confronted by Galvanax. He accuses Viera of being weak but Viera, outraged, denies this, claiming she is smart and studies her enemies before destroying them. Galvanax and Drillion formulate a plan that would see Drillion take out Viera and the Rangers in exchange for rule of the Lion Galaxy.

Back at the park, Viera watches the Rangers from afar. They finish up making cookies until Viera approaches Sarah. Sarah offers Viera a cookie from her last batch but they are promptly stolen by a teenager. Viera pursues and captures the youth but Sarah insists she let him go. In conversation with the boy, he reveals that he was stealing the cookies to feed himself and his hungry sister. Sarah is understanding and compassionate but Viera can only look on, confused with what has just transpired. To compound that confusion, Sarah gifts her cookie maker to the teen so that he can sell cookies and buy food for himself and his sister. In a less than unexpected move, Princess Viera has an epiphany and waxes lyrical about how she always believed her galaxy’s ‘might makes right’ attitude was the wrong one. In the process, Viera inadvertently reveals her identity before the two are confronted by Drillion. Drillion attacks the Sarah but Viera jumps in front of the energy blast, saving her.

The whole team arrive and morph. Drillion easily handles the Rangers, breaking their Element Power Stars and bending or snapping their swords. Viera emplores the team to hold out as long as possible and teleports away. The Princess returns to Galvanax’s ship and steals back her lion ship. Frustrated with her escape, Galvanax orders the immediate gigantification of Drillion. The team take him on in the Ninja Fusion Zord but struggle as much as they did on the ground. The Fusion Zord is broken apart and the Rangers appear doomed. From out of nowhere, Princess Viera arrives in her lion ship. Drawing power from the atmosphere, she quickly scares Drillion away before flying off herself. As she flees the scene, she is shot down by Galvanax and crashes in the mountains.

Back in the business class, Sarah is about to fail for failing to complete her project but she is rescued by the teenage boy, who explains the situation to the teacher. Sarah receives an A as the episode closes.

The Royal Rumble

The next episode starts with a quick recap of Princess Viera being shot down before Drillion returns to Galvanax’s ship. Galvanax believes the Rangers will be defeated easily without the assistance of Princess Viera and commands Drillion to go back to Earth and check that her ship is fully destroyed. Before he leaves, Madame Odius takes him aside to give him a little upgrade.

On Earth, Viera is walking away from her downed ship when she discovers its anti-gravity crystal which, unfortunately, is damaged. We cut to the hidden base where Mick and Redbot are pleased to declare that all of their weapons have been repaired. As the team begin to strategise about how they’re going to defeat Drillion, Hayley finds a lion pin on her satchel. As she picks it off, it begins to glow and soon turns into Princess Viera. The team are startled but quickly come around to the idea of fixing her lion ship so that they can use it to stop Drillion. The Rangers ask Mick to help repair the anti-gravity crystal but he refuses, stating that they shouldn’t be helping someone that helped to enslave the Lion Galaxy. As she persuades them by professing her new found goodness, the Nexus Prism shows us a vision of the lion ship in battle. This convinces the team to use the last of the Ninja Steel to turn the lion ship into a zord. Mick and Redbot quickly get to work.

Back in the land of Galvanax, Drillion’s new arm monstrosity upgrade is complete. Galvanax sends Drillion to the forest to look for the lion ship and the Rangers. The team are alerted to Drillion’s proximity to the ship and enter battle. As before, our heroes struggle against the beast but Mick has completed the Ninja Star and throws it into the Nexus Prism. The Prism fires out a new Power Star but it is absorbed by Princess Viera’s armour. To everyone’s surprise, a new Power Star appears on Brody, the Red Ranger’s, wrist. He spins it and is transformed into the Red Lion Fire Ranger. Using his new abilities, Brody and the others make light work of Drillion.

Freshly gigantified, Drillion is confronted by the Lion Fire Zord  (I guess Mick had a little more Ninja Steel lying around after all). Brody forms the Lion Fire Megazord and uses all of its power to send Drillion into oblivion once and for all. Back in the Ranger’s base, Viera thanks the team for showing her the light. She vows to make the Lion Galaxy a better place and heads home to make changes to her kingdom. On her way out, she gives Mick a parting gift, establishing communication with his parents for the first time in twenty years. Mick tells them that he will come home after completing his business helping the Rangers to defeat Galvanax.

This was a pretty good two-parter. The disappointment of the pre-hiatus Ninja Steel seems to be behind us and the episodes seem to be consistently watchable at this point. As usual, the Victor and Monty segments are unnecessary but I’m sure the kids love them, or at least love to hate them. The addition of the Lion Armour was introduced properly, over two episodes, rather than just being gifted to them for no reason. This is a rarity in modern PR, so kudos to Chip Lynn and the team for that. Next, we head into the end of the first half of the series. Thanks to France, that’s already been spoiled but I’m looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.

Did you enjoy The Royal Rival and The Royal Rumble? Let us know your thoughts on all things Ninja Steel in the comment section below or on Toku Toy Store’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

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Uchu Sentai Kyuranger: Episode 31 Review

As the battle to save the universe gets tougher and tougher, we get ever closer to finding out if our team of saviours can bring peace to every corner of space. The latest episode opens like many others with a recap of the last few episodes featuring the debut of Shishi Red Orion.

After the opening, we see our team get back together minus Shou and Champ, who are still in the past telling the story of of the legendary saviours. As the team get together, we find out Don Armage is still alive and controlling the universe, how can this be so, didn’t Lucky defeat Don Armage in the past?

As the team make a plan, we find out Naga has taken Garu and Kotaro hostage. Furthermore, Balance is missing and Echidna is still on Earth, tasked with defeating Naga as a consequence of his emotions being too dangerous. Much to the surprise of everyone, Balance returns and has a plan.

Echidna is next seen fighting Hebitsukai Metal on her own and seems to be losing quite badly, even to the point of being controlled by Naga’s special ability. Suddenly, Balance, Tsurugi, Lucky, Hammy and Spada appear to try to bring Naga back to normality. As our heroes transform, an all out fight between Balance and Naga starts. Will Balance be able to bring his friend back to normal or will Naga break the bond forever?

Just as Hebitsukai Metal launches a final attack on Tenbin Gold, Shishi Red blocks the attack. As the explosion clears, no-one can see Lucky and Balance. While the team act like they’re distraught after having lost their teammates, in truth they have been shrunk using the power of the Genbikyo Kyutama. Now in microscopic size, they enter Naga’s body.

Once inside Naga’s body, Balance and Lucky find the original version of Naga tied up. Balance instinctively steps towards him but Hebitsukai Metal tries to stop Balance from rescuing his pal. Balance tries to get through to Naga and, with the help of everyone cheering for him to come back, our version wakes up and destroys Hebisukai Metal for good.

With Naga finally free from his curse, he, along with the others, transform and fight Akyanba and her minions. Lucky uses his new Shishi Red Orion form to deal the most damage while everyone else fights the underlings. After a brief fight, Naga joins Lucky and uses the Dark Kyutama to become a good version of Hebisukai Metal. Metal deals a final blow to Akyanba but, unfortunately, she survives, gloating that she was using Naga for some fun.

Back on the Orion, the team welcome back Naga with open arms and plan to throw a party. Before they party, Naga reveals he now has an idea where Don Armage is, thanks to him working for Jark Matter.

In my opinion, this episode was fantastic. The fight scenes worked extremely well and the storylines following Naga and Balance has been some of the best in the series. I now can’t wait for it to move into the final arc.

What are your thoughts on the Hebitsukai Metal arc? Does it compare to the other arcs in the series? Share your thoughts with us in the comments or on Facebook/Twitter!

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Kamen Rider Build: Episode 3 Review

This week’s episode of Kamen Rider Build was good. I’d say very good. However, it wasn’t great. The episode is a very expository episode, emphasising the building of the world and giving it a bit more depth in this episode, while somewhat continuing on the story of Banjou Ryuuga and him being framed.

The episode itself starts off almost immediately after 2, with the members of the Café going over the framing of Banjou in quite comedic fashion. They went over all of the convoluted links that all lead to him, ultimately, being framed for murder, complete with chibi drawings, goofy writing and exaggerated speech when presenting it. Not only was it fun to watch but it actually did help to state clearly Banjou’s situation and how they intended to approach it. When they came to begin the investigation, we see one of the Café group, Misora, use a different one of her talents. While in the previous episodes we learned of her mysterious power to purify the Full Bottles, she also has a talent for being an internet idol! To aid Sento and Ryuuga in gaining information on the guard, Nabeshima, she takes to the internet, where she reveals that she is quite the popular net star, going by the name of Mii-tan. There, she asks her fans to get the information for her, all while acting like a very typical Japanese idol would. This little vignette was very well done, and not only added to Misora’s character but provided some great comedy by showing the duality of her sluggish, easily irritable offline personality, and her hyperactive, bubbly online persona. However, I could see the act getting stale as the show goes on, so we’ll have to see how it goes.

As the group is waiting for the information to come in, Sento learns of a Smash attacking a young man, and goes with the reporter, Sawa, to stop it. Build begins the fight in his GorillaSoujiki form, which was quite entertaining, and good to see more of the Soujiki (Vacuum) power. It’s a power that I personally quite like. After a brief and unexciting battle, with Build fighting and Sawa very much acting like an annoying sports commentator, Build finishes off the Smash by going into his classic GorillaMond form and ending it with the finisher. The Smash was actually the little boy’s mother and the two are reunited happily. Build rides off with his new essence as on-lookers comment on whether or not Build had actually kidnapped the boy and his mother, building him up further as an outlaw and not a true hero in this divided world.

When he returns to his lab at the Café, a few things of note happen. First, we learn a bit more about the Full Bottles and how not every bottle is a best match. We also see this patch on the wall, where Souichi says that when you put two bottles into it, it’ll glow and let the person know if it’s a best match. What was noticeable, was that the slots on the wall appeared to be made of the same material as the Sky Wall and the Pandora’s Box itself. Perhaps this Café, and Sento himself are more connected to the Pandora’s Box than they seem. We also learn from Banjou, comedically, that to create a best match, it must be one part animal, the other part machine/inorganic material, as we’ve so far seen with Build’s other forms. In showing this, the new form of the episode is hinted at when Banjou inserted the Hawk Full Bottle and the Gatling Full Bottle. Then, with this new Best Match, the group heads to what appear to be some docks to continue the investigation on Nabeshima.

The group plan to save Nabeshima’s family in Sento, as his family is being threatened by the mysterious Night Rogue. When Banjou (disguised as an elderly person) and Sawa get to the docks, they are attacked by the Touto androids and a fight breaks out. It’s interesting to note that during the fight, Banjou was gripping the Dragon Full Bottle in his hand and when he punched, the punch was stronger, and we saw a burst of energy, identical in colour to the Full Bottle itself. Perhaps this will play further into the story.

Then, Sento arrives, defeating the androids and telling the two to get to the boat, as he goes to fight a Smash that shows up. Banjou and Sawa run, and Build fights the Smash in the highlight of the episode, where he premiers the HawkGatling combination. While the fight itself wasn’t particularly exciting, it was very enjoyable to see this new form. I like the theme, a hawk and a gatling gun reminded me of a fighter jet, which may have been the intention. But, of course the Smash was beaten and, as Sento absorbs the Smash’s essence, it reveals that the Smash was actually Nabeshima. Very suddenly, a strange, purple Cobra-esque monster attacks Sento, stabbing him. It slithers away as the episode ends, leaving us to question what will come of the Kamen Rider.

Overall, the episode was okay. It did a good job of building the world, but that’s about all it did well. We met the three Prime Ministers of the three sections of the country, but even then I wasn’t too thrilled. It seemed very cookie cutter, in that one wanted peace while the other two were selfish, with one seemingly being obviously evil. We also learned the name of the mysterious company that was experimenting on Banjou and Sento: Faust. For those who don’t know, the company appears to obviously be named after the German legend of a young man who sold his soul for all of the world’s knowledge and pleasures. This didn’t really blow my mind, but did fit the demonic appearance of Night Rogue and his apparent role as an evil scientist. Perhaps he sold his soul to some higher force? To Pandora’s Box maybe? The real intrigue for me was in the panel on the wall of the lab that resembled Pandora’s box, and the implications therein. While I enjoyed the episode, and Build is still early in its life as a series, I’d only really rate the episode a 6 out of 10. It had its enjoyable moments, with two fight scenes that weren’t particularly stand out, yet it certainly wasn’t bad. Here’s to hoping that as the series goes on, and we get more answers and excitement, episodes won’t be as stale.

What did you think of the episode? What do you think of Build as a series so far? Let us know in the comments, or on Facebook and Twitter!

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Power Rangers Ninja Steel: Episode 13 Review

To most of the fandom’s disappointment, Power Rangers Ninja Steel had an inauspicious start to the season. It arrived with very little hype or fanfare and, regrettably, the content of the show did little to enthuse even the most forgiving viewer. The story was thrown together haphazardly with little attention paid to integrating some of the eccentricities of Shuriken Sentai Ninninger (Ninja Steel’s parent series) and many balked at the repetition of the ‘Daddy issues’ used so regularly in recent memory. In short, the series just wasn’t much good. That’s all changed within the last few episodes, though, and the quality of the show has drastically improved. Episode 13, Ace and the Race, is no exception to that and builds upon the good work we’ve seen as of late.

The episode opens with the Mayor of Summer Cove welcoming us to the Lake Sunshine Fun-athalon, and the Rangers are preparing to compete in a relay race. As the race calls for three person teams, the team split in half with Preston, Hayley and Sarah comprising one team and Brody, Levi and Calvin making up the other. Moments before the start of the race, Calvin is distracted by a guy named Ace and his beautifully detailed car. Calvin goes to speak with Ace and his crew but promises to return in time for the race.

Meanwhile, on Galvanax’s ship, Cosmo Royale is introducing his newest contestant, Shoespike. The monster of the week bursts on to the stage with two Basherbots trailing behind him and rejoices at the fact he won the race. The peril our Rangers will face this week becomes clear as Shoespike exclaims, “You know what happens when you lose a race to me!” and the Basherbots are turned into trophies. Shoespike – whose Arnie-impersonator voice is reminiscent of Mighty Morphin’s Lizzinator – takes human form, declaring that once the Rangers touch his baton (careful) they will not be able to resist racing him.

Back on Earth, Calvin is taking a look under the hood of Ace’s car. He notices an oil leak and is talked into repairing it, but not before he pushes the car and its three occupants back to the school workshop. With Calvin missing, Brody and Levi are down a teammate. Enter Bob Shoespike, who volunteers to join the team. The pair touch Shoespike’s baton and are instantly transformed into douchebags, calling Sarah a loser before heading to the start line. During the course of the race, Brody shoulder barges Preston into the bushes and Levi launches a random competitor into the lake. Preston, obviously, takes exception to their behaviour and confronts them. Brody and Levi give Preston, Sarah and Hayley a hard time, again calling them losers. Bob Shoespike looks directly into the camera and adds “and you know what happens to losers…” before the three are turned into trophies before Levi and Brody’s eyes. The other competitors are also turned into trophies including Victor, who gets taken away by a stray dog. Shoespike reveals himself to be a monster and challenges the Ranger brothers to a three-legged race. The Rangers gladly accept.

Ninninger Gekiatsutou Ichibantou

Subsequently, at the school workshop, Calvin is finishing off the work to Ace’s car. Ace misnames Calvin as Malvin and Marvin during the course of the ensuing argument, caused by Calvin’s realisation that Ace is a fraud and that he hasn’t completed a single piece of work on his own car as he claimed. Calvin feels let down by his supposed friend, Ace, but Mick reminds Calvin of his own failures in friendship, having bailed on Brody and Levi in the relay race. He concedes and dashes off to rejoin his teammates. Trophy Victor is shotput into a fish tank, meh. Victor and Monty continue to be one of the main problems with this series but I don’t think they’re going anywhere.

Calvin happens upon Brody, Levi and Shoespike warming up for their race. He discovers the three Ranger trophies and they catch him up with the story so far. Calvin confronts Shoespike and joins the team. The Rangers struggle to run cohesively at first before noticing that Shoespike is cheating; his Basherbot teammates are in face dummies and Shoespike is running alone. Despite the booby-traps set by Shoespike, the Rangers win the race in a photo finish. A Basherbot delivers the Ranger trophies, for no reason other than they needed the Rangers present to match the Sentai footage, and the team morph to fight Shoespike. The battle itself, in fact, is a carbon copy of its Ninninger counterpart and culminates in Levi and Brody working together to destroy the monster.

Brody and Levi summon Robo Red and Bull Rider but Shoespike runs rings around them. Calvin arrives in his Tonka Truck and slows the monster down with makibishi. The team form the Ninja Fusion Zord and make quick work of destroying Shoespike once and for all.

Back at the race, Calvin apologises to his friends and, of course, they forgive him in the usual sickly sweet, saccharin fashion. Victor’s trophy is finally turned back into human form, whilst still in the fish tank, and the episode closes with Victor standing in the tank with seaweed in his mouth.

All in all, this was a solid episode. The Saban team made good use of what was a difficult Ninninger episode to adapt to construct a cohesive story. The highlight of the episode, for me, was Shoespike, who got far more screen time here than in the Sentai. His design was neat and the actor who played his human form did a great job, especially during the fourth wall breaking moments. Here’s hoping that Ninja Steel continues to trend upwards as it has in the last few episodes.

Did you enjoy Ace and the Race? Let us know your thoughts on all things Ninja Steel in the comment section below or on Toku Toy Store’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

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Uchu Sentai Kyuranger: Episode 29 Review

This week in Kyuranger, we find out what happened to the team on the Orion and we run into a new ally, so follow me and let’s talk about episode 29.

The episode opens much like any other, with a run down of the past few weeks. To recap what is happening to our team of saviours, we have Lucky, Garu, Hammie, Balance and Kotaro on present day Earth trying to bring Naga back to his usual, emotionless self, and the rest of the team travelling back in time to find out why Jark Matter are still a present threat even after Tsurugi defeated Don Armage over 300 years ago.

The opening scenes show the team on Earth looking over a crashed and beaten Orion ship. With no clue what happened to crew, Lucky takes it upon himself to travel to the past on his own, leaving Hammie, Balance, Kotaro and Garu to deal with Naga. After Lucky arrives in the past, he is greeted by the sight of his fallen team mates and a strange looking man. After a brief fight with a death worm, it is revealed this strange looking man is actually Orion, who stayed on Earth after he sealed Tsurugi on the Argo.

Tsuguri has a quiet moment with Orion and speaks of how Lucky could be even more of a legend that he is. After this, we are informed that Orion has a son in the Leo (Shishi) constellation; just who is this son and have we met him in the series so far? The team all agree with Tsuguri that fighting alongside Lucky is the right choice and they vow that they will take down Don Armage, no matter the cost.

An all out fight ensues with Lucky taking the charge against the Vice-Shoguns. Lucky and Orion fight extremely well together, even catching the eye of Houou Soldier. Suddenly, during the battle, a bright spark appears over the heads of Lucky and Orion. What could this be? Could it feature again soon? The team take down all but one of Don Armage’s best. Will this change the present day, and, if it does anything, what will happen to Naga?

With his Jark Matter subordinates humiliated, the dark lord himself, Don Armage, arrives. Our heroes fire an All Star Crash to defeat him once and for all and the scene is silent until Armage launches a small attack, piercing Lucky’s abdomen and seemingly killing him. As Lucky hits the floor, the shogun himself takes corporeal form, approaches the Kyurangers and reveals his true form.

What is going to happen to Lucky? What was the bright light and will Ryu Commander ever take things seriously? Stay tuned for episode 30 of Uchu Sentai Kyuranger!