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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 4 Review

Build has certainly made an impression in the tokusatsu world so let’s take a look at the latest episode. The episode opens with a quick recap of the first 3 episode as told by Sento and Ryuuga. After the recap, the episode opens with Sento remembering some more about his time being experimented on by Faust but this time he sees the Pandora Box.

Suddenly, he is woken up by Soichi who informs our hero that he found him almost dying in the warehouse and that it was almost too late to save him. How did Soichi know where to find Sento and why didn’t he run into Blood Stark? After Misora makes a new Full Bottle, Sento asks her to once again employ her internet followers in finding any information on the Skywall incident. Let’s she what her fanbase brings forward…

After the opening song and credits, we are shown a little more of Faust. Nabeshima is turned into a new SMASH monster and attacks Night Rogue, who easily stops the new monster in its tracks and explains more about the mysterious group’s full intentions: making the most powerful lifeforms.

Elsewhere, Sento asks Gentoku about what really happened during the ceremony that started off the Skywall incident. Gentoku reluctantly admits that two panels from the Pandora Box have been stolen but doesn’t want the public to know about it. Meanwhile, Ryuuga and Sawa have made it to Seito in an effort to save Nabeshima’s family. After locating Nabeshima’s wife and daughter, they try to smuggle them back to Touto via the boat they arrived on. All of a sudden, they are attack by a self-destructing Faust Guardians and almost blown up before making it onto the boat.

Back in Touto, Sento questions Soichi, but only gets the most vague of answers. What is Soichi hiding from our hero? Misora arrives to tell Sento a Smash has appeared but the tip they receive is very weird, it talks about experiments and essences; what could all this mean?

Sento quickly dispatches to the scene and confronts the box based SMASH, transforming into Build. He seems to be winning until Blood Stark shoots the SMASH with some kind of steam attack that makes SMASH grow. According to Stark, this is a new gas treatment and even of the subject survives, they will encounter side effects. Just as the SMASH is about the finish Build off, Ryuuga appears and throws the Drill Crusher to intervene. Build attacks the SMASH as HawkGatling and uses his final attack. Upon clearing the SMASH, our team find out that is is in fact Nabeshima, so they bring him to the hideout to try and get some answers.

After asking Nabeshima some questions, it become apparent that he is suffering from amnesia and doesn’t remember anything, not even his own family. Sento quickly steps in and calms the everyone down by telling Nabeshima and his family to focus on making new memories together, rather than dwelling on the lost ones. As everything is calming down, Nabeshima sees the Full Bottles on the wall and comments that Faust has some bottles just like these. Why would Faust have Full Bottles?

We cut to the Faust HQ where we see Night Rogue turning over a Pandora Box plate and placing a Full Bottle onto it.Rogue questions Stark about why he didn’t kill Build but all Stark can say is everything is going to plan. Back in Build’s basement, Sento begins to put it all together and, despite Soichi’s objection, hammers away at the wall panel he uses to find Best Matches to discover that it is a Pandora Box plate. Why is a Pandora Box panel here and who is Soichi really working for?

Personally, I feel this episode brought a lot of questions to the table but I really find myself drawn into the the story. I can’t wait to see all the answers come together and to see how this effects all the characters in question.

What were your thoughts on episode 4? Who is your favourite character so far? Let us know in the comment section below!

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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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Uchu Sentai Kyuranger: Episode 30 Review

Episode 30 of Uchu Sentai Kyuranger marks the end of the Time Travel Arc we’ve been following since episode 24 and it does so spectacularly, if a little unexpectedly. Previously, Don Armage had revealed his uncloaked form and dealt a lethal blow to Lucky, after the group had unleashed a devastating final attack on him. This left us with perhaps the show’s greatest cliffhanger to date and promised an interesting resolution.

Episode 30 itself picks up immediately where 29 left off and shows Orion buying the team enough time with his shield to organise a retreat. Unfortunately, his shield wasn’t powerful enough to protect him completely as we see him stabbed by the tip of Don Armage’s scythe.

Back on the Orion, Tsurugi believes he can find a way to save Lucky, even as their enemies make their advance on their crippled ship. A plan is formed and set into motion that will, if successful, revive Lucky. However, they still have an injured Orion (the warrior) and a downed Orion (the ship); how will the rangers get themselves out of this jam? You’ll have to see for yourselves.

Without delving too far into spoiler territory, at least what isn’t already spoiled by scans of magazines, this episodes is a lot of fun to watch, I’ve been following the time travel arc without quite being sure of where they were going with it and found myself rather surprised by the conclusion they chose. However if you’re a fan of realistic time travel as I am this episode may irk you in parts.

Kyuranger has a very pick-and-choose attitude with regards paradoxes. They mention the possibility of some but completely ignore others, but since this is a show with Pegasus armour that makes you dance, perhaps this isn’t surprising.

All in all, this episode is an excellent conclusion to the arc. It gives a very satisfying conclusion to an interesting premise while, at the same time, setting up several new plot threads that can be followed up in subsequent episodes.

In this regard, I think this episode demonstrates best what Kyuranger is trying to do. It’s a much faster paced show than some previous Sentai with a heavy focus on the Rangers being proactive, rather than reactive. It gives us short arcs that are not self contained and elements and consequences from one effect subsequent arcs.

Given the plot heavy nature of this episode and it’s quality in general this is an absolute must see episode. Without it, you’d have no idea what’s going on in the next episode and you’d be missing out on some really great moments.

What did you think of this episode? Did you like it as much as I did? Let us know what you thought in the comments. 

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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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Kamen Rider Build: Episode 2 Review

This episode did things I wasn’t expecting it to do. It’s not often that we get to see this sort of episode right after the first. Generally, I expect an episode 2 to introduce a new character, start their story arc and/or carry on the plot from episode 1; they took a lot of risks with this episode and they paid off magnificently.

Build looks like it’s going to be a great series. The concept is unique, the characters are likeable and the action scenes are perfect. I know that Ex-Aid seems like it could be one of the best series so far but I think Build will overtake it. The Neo-Heisei era is nearly over but, judging by the quality of Build and Ex-Aid, it looks like it’s going to go out with a bang!

The episode revolves around Ryuuga finding out his girlfriend, Kasumi, is being turned into a Smash. We also get to learn why Ryuuga was arrested in the first place and what led up to it. After some epic motorbike scenes, we meet Kasumi in her Smash form and we get to see an epic fight scene, leading to her defeat. I expected them to rescue her (like the Smash we’ve in the show so far) and make her into a side character; instead, she was killed off right in front of Ryuuga, unsaveable because of a previously established illness. You could argue that the “my girlfriend is dead” plot was copied off Hiiro from the previous season, however, in my opinion, it was done better here. With Ex-Aid, Saki had been dead for a while before Hiiro’s first appearance. While it is a tragic backstory, we don’t get to learn too much about Saki beforehand. Since Kasumi was introduced and killed off in this episode alone, we get to know more about her, making her death more meaningful and making us feel more sympathetic for Ryuuga.

I didn’t want to talk about this episode too much because it’s a fantastic episode that you should watch it yourself. If they take the same risks in the rest of the series, then we’re going to be in for a great series. Let’s just hope that they don’t give up after a few episodes…

What do you think is the most memorable death scene in Kamen Rider? Let us know in the comments!

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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!

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Kamen Rider Ex-Aid Series Review: The Making of a Masterpiece

With September’s debut of our latest Kamen Rider series, Kamen Rider Build, Ex-Aid and the other doctor Riders lose their spotlight as our main masked heroes. Kamen Rider Ex-Aid’s run from late 2016 was definitely a memorable addition to the Heisei-era line up, but was it a good series?

Absolutely, it was. Kamen Rider Ex-Aid was a phenomenal series, and I would argue for it being one of the best Kamen Rider series in the entirety of the Heisei-era, from Kuuga through to now. But what made it that way? There are many factors that play into a television series of any genre that make it “good.” Ex-Aid had these qualities in spades. As the article goes on, I intend to delve in to all of the features that distinctly make Ex-Aid shine as a series, and why I believe that even in the future it will hold up as one of the best Kamen Rider series in general.

Characters: The Kamen Rider franchise is an exceptionally character driven franchise, and Ex-Aid was certainly no exception. It had a whole cast of colourful characters with very different personalities and motivations that made them all a joy to watch on screen. From our main protagonist, Emu Hojo, being the true force for good, with an indomitable spirit and an unyielding drive to help those in need and who are sick, all the way to Masamune Dan attempting to play god and take over the world via video game. What all the characters of the main cast of Ex-Aid have in common is one of the most crucial thing a series needs to have to maintain engagement: Development.

The show has been compared to Gaim for its number of Riders that the series portrays, but what this series did so much better than Gaim was character development. This has to do with the fact that it wasn’t just a select few Riders who actually got development… it was all of them. The transformation of Emu from a somewhat timid, inexperienced doctor all the way to him becoming this incredibly strong, confident man who would save the world, seeing Taiga overcome the horrors of his past and come to terms with himself and his actions, Hiro’s internal conflict of betraying the team at the cost of his deceased girlfriend and how he wrestled with the decision and the manipulation of Masamune.

Even the development of our villains was fantastic. In the early episodes, I thought Parado and Graphite in particular were very weak characters with poor writing that added little in the ways of enjoyment. Yet, by the end of the series, not only was I rooting for both of them, but come Graphite’s death and Parado’s near death experience and change from a villain to a full-blown good guy, it was emotional. I had seen the characters grow and change, for the better. What started with clichéd and dry writing finished in incredible form, and it’s one of the things that truly made this series so satisfying to watch.

Forms: Another one of the enjoyable things of this series were the Rider forms. When the designs for the 4 first Riders were revealed before the season aired, I admit I was hesitant. “Kamen Riders with anime eyes and hair?” I thought. The design was initially a big turn off. However, from the second I watched that first episode, saw the suits in action and how they tied into the theme of the show, I was in love. Again, like Gaim there are a lot of forms in this show. Emu’s transformation line, Hiro’s, Kiriya’s, Kuroto’s, and so on. There’s a large cast of main Riders, including the villain, and they all have multiple forms (save for Poppy being the exception.) Yet, what this show manages to do with them is keep them both interesting and entertaining.

One of the best examples of this is best seen in one of my all-time favourite forms from the series; Mighty Bros. XX.  From its debut I loved it. I love the theme of co-operative gaming, the clear influence from the Super Mario Brothers, the colours, the design, even the Gashat. Despite this, the initial run of the form was a mere 9 episodes before the show moved on to a better and more powerful form, as is the progression of Kamen Rider. Come episode 40 and 41, which are (in my opinion) two of the best episodes in the entirety of the series, the form that we thought was benched makes an electrifying, well written, and emotional return. With the “death” of Parado and Emu using this moment to teach Parado that there’s more to being villain and instead of playing the game to beat Emu, he could play the game with Emu, Parado is resurrected through the Mighty Brothers XX Gashat, and the two of them have some of the best fights in the series. They brought this form back not just to revitalize and old form, or to sell more DX Mighty Brothers Gashat toys, but because it was relevant to the story. They took something as simple as changing back to an earlier form, and made it one of the most exciting and impactful moments in the entirety of Ex-Aid – no doubt a mark of both brilliant storytelling, and effective use of the Riders forms.

Plot: The plot of Ex-Aid was, in my opinion, the worst part of the series but that’s certainly not to say that it was bad. Ex-Aid respected the plot. They made it simple, they stuck to it, but the simplicity of the plot is what allowed for so much freedom with the characters. It was a very basic concept of “bad guy tries to take over, heroes stop who they think the bad guy is, true bad guy reveals himself and they have to face and even bigger threat.” Simple as that. We started with Kuroto Dan as the main villain and CEO of the shady Genm Corp. He had the wicked Bugsters on his side, and seemed content with infecting and simply killing who he wanted. Yet, shy of the half-way mark, it’s revealed the Kuroto was a mere fall-guy for the main villain: his father, Masamune Dan.

With Masamune we’re given a true tyrant; a man bent on having the world bow before him as he acts as their god. With his ability to control time and the souls of the people killed in his world encompassing game, I’m drawn to imagery of Greek Mythology. Even the name of his Rider form is that of the Greek Titan and father of the gods, Chronus. He was a truly dangerous villain, who drove our heroes, and even some of our side villains, to their absolute limits in their battles with him. He broke them down, manipulated them, and demoralised them incredible effectively on his way to world domination. However, even with his fusing of the Gamedeus virus and the loss of his humanity in its entirety, our rag-tag team of doctors and developers proved to be more than a match, defeated him, and saved the day, all while effectively tying up individual character plot lines and development arcs. Yes, it was the simplicity of the story, and the writer’s willingness to not diverge from the simplicity that gave the show its freedom to be so character driven. That is more than okay with me.

Overall: If you haven’t watched Ex-Aid… Do it. With everything I’ve mentioned in the article, the series truly stands out as one of the best written and presented Kamen Rider series in the entirety of the show’s life span. I was one of the few who actually liked last year’s Kamen Rider Ghost, but this show was a refreshing and welcome addition after the production nightmare of Ghost. Up there with Drive, Faiz, and Kuuga, Kamen Rider Ex-Aid is a modern marvel of the Kamen Rider franchise, deliverying incredible characters, and gripping and engaging plot, and more than enough action to satisfy even the nit-pickiest of tokusatsu and action fans. While it does have its weak points, as every show will inevitably have, but they are few and far between, and in no way are enough to detract from the sheer quality presented by Kamen Rider Ex-Aid.

I’d rate it an easy 9/10, maybe even a 10/10.

How did you enjoy Kamen Rider Ex-Aid? Did you think that the series was as good as I made it out to be? Did you actually dislike it? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook/Twitter.

[Photo Credit: malecoc on Deviant Art]

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Uchu Sentai Kyuranger: The Story So Far

Uchu Sentai Kyuranger is, at the time of writing, the 41st installment of the long running Super Sentai series and is in some ways quite a departure from what we’ve come to expect from Sentai, while still retaining familiar codes and conventions. This is little doubt, due in some way to the involvement from Bandai of America during this season’s development, that this series will become the next Power Rangers series, after Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel in 2018. As we’re more than halfway through the show’s run, it seems appropriate to recap the events leading up to this point in case some people have forgotten or not caught and episode of the series yet.

Kyuranger is set in a future where the evil Space Shogunate Jark Matter had conquered the galaxy and now rules it with an iron fist. The only force that can hope to oppose Jark Matter and it’s leader Don Armage are the ultimate saviors Uchu Sentai Kyuranger.

These Rangers are: Lucky (Shishi Red), Stinger (Sasori Orange), Garu (Ookami Blue), Balance (Tenbin Gold), Champ (Oushi Black), Naaga (Hebitsukai Silver), Hammie (Chameleon Green), Raptor 283 (Washi Pink), Spada (Kajiki Yellow) Shou (Ryu Commandor), Kotaro (Koguma Skyblue) and finally Tsurugi (Houou Soldier).

Kyuranger is structured in smaller mostly self contained arcs so to properly recap the show’s story it’s best to do so on an arc by arc basis. These arcs are:

The Assembly Arc

The first segment of the show is an arc in which the incomplete team of rangers (Lucky, Hammie, Garu, Spada and Champ by the end of episode one) must locate and recruit the remaining rangers. This takes up the first 5 episodes and features Eriedrone as the ranger’s most recurring villain. For the most part this goes smoothly, however, Stinger briefly aligns with Jark Matter in his capacity as a spy which throws off the plans of the other rangers. The nine rangers are eventually united and Eriedrone is defeated, bringing us on to the next arc.

Kyuranger Seiza Blaster

The Assassin Arc

The second arc involves the rangers battling Ikagen and Madako, two assassins sent by Don Armage to kill the Kyurangers, who are now operating mainly on earth for budgetary reasons. They aim to to solve the mystery of Don Armage’s interest in the planet. Shou’s two ranger forms are debuted in this arc as well, the first being the imperfect Ryu Violet and the second being his permanent ranger form Ryu Commander. The quest to recover the three Kyutama needed to summon the Argo ship begins in this arc also and provides a more solid goal for the team beyond simply saving the universe. The arc ends with Ikagen’s death and runs from episode 6 to episode 12.

Kyuranger Ryu Voyager

The Scorpio Arc

The Third arc focuses on Stinger, his brother, Scorpio, and, to a lesser extent, Champ. The two rangers leave the Orion in order to operate more independently and to track down and apprehend Scorpio, who now works for Jark Matter. The Argo plot is continued in this arc with the Kyutama needed to summon it changing hands a few times. Kotaro leaves for training at Rebellion HQ and Champ is destroyed while defending Stinger. There is also a crossover episode with DekaRed and Gavan Type G in an alternate universe. The arc concludes with the climactic death of Scorpio and the return of Kotaro and Champ. The Argo is summoned and Ohtori Tsurugi (Houou Soldier) is revived. This arc covers episodes 13 to 21.

Kyuranger Kyutama Set SP

The Phoenix Arc

The following arc is much shorter and serves to affirm the new team dynamic, introduce more lore in the universe’s history and establish a new goal for the rangers to achieve. Tsurugi and the others clash initially but quickly come to respect each other and work together as a team. Tsurugi reveals that, in the past, he believed he had killed Don Armage which sets up the following arc’s driving force. Three new villains are also introduced to antagonize the rangers. They are the Vice Shoguns and are much higher ranked than previous villains thus showing their progress so far. This arc lasts between episodes 22 and 23.

The Time Travel / Hebitsukai Metal Arc

The current arc involves traveling back in time to discover the secret to Don Armage’s survival. However, the rangers must also deal with a now evil Naaga, who has joined forces with a Vice Shogun to gain the emotions he’s been trying to develop since his introduction. He also debuts a new evil ranger form, Hebitsukai Metal, making use of the Dark Seiza Blaster and Dark Kyutama. The team decide, therefore, to split in two; one half will travel to the past while the rest stay behind to rescue Naga. This arc began with episode 24 and is still running, at the time of writing, to the current episode, 28.

That’s it for now! Kyuranger is not over yet, thankfully, and the current arc has yet to conclude after introducing some incredibly interesting backstory and lore. Furthermore, the saga of the Kyurangers is far from over; they have already made some impressive progress and we can only hope they keep this up and have more exciting adventures in store for us down the line.

What do you think of the Kyuranger’s story so far? How would you like to see it develop? And what do you think Don Armage’s secret is? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section.