It’s been a while, but it looks like Super Hero Time is finally returning to broadcast on June 21st, bringing Tokusatsu titans Kamen Rider Zero-One and Machine Sentai Kiramager back to our screens! Despite this necessary break in programming, I think it’s fair to say that Super Hero Time returning is pretty exciting, in part due to the continuation of Machine Sentai Kiramager, which had really only just begun before Super Hero Time went on hiatus. Kiramager has had a pretty excellent showing so far in its first 10 episodes, but if you haven’t watched the re-cap special or Kiramager itself during its time off, you may have forgotten a few details – don’t worry, because we’re here to give you a ‘sparkling’ refresher course on everything that’s happened in Machine Sentai Kiramager so far!
Things began in a fairly standard way for contemporary Super Sentai first episodes – we were sweepingly introduced to our core team of heroes: KiramaYellow, Sentai’s first ever e-sports champion, KiramaGreen, a running athlete, KiramaBlue, a popular actor, and KiramaPink, a young surgeon. This group is introduced to us in classic Sentai fashion as an incomplete unit, using the powers lended to them by the ‘crystalians’ to fight threats on earth as the Kiramagers. The Kiramagers are chosen for their ‘Kiramentality’ – a clever portmanteau combining the Japanese onomatopoeia for sparkling/shiny (‘kira kira’) and ‘mentality’ to represent a ‘shining’ way of thinking. The Kiramagers draw their power from sentient gemstones which latch onto those with a high level of ‘kiramentality’ forming a symbiotic relationship with them. As a team they’re looking for their fifth member – KiramaRed.
Of course, KiramaRed is found almost immediately in the form of our point-of-view character, Juru Atsuta, who is spending their time drifting off into imagination during school. This changes pretty quickly once the Yodonheim army attacks earth, immediately drawing the attention of the Kiramagers to respond to the threat, whilst Juru is initially too busy drawing to notice, but eventually catches on.
If you’ve seen a Super Sentai series before, then this first episode unfolds in the way you’d expect. Juru meets the team and is chosen by the crystal to become KiramaRed, but is initially unsure of how they’ll be useful to the team, despite the fact they’ve already been elected as the leader. This leads Juru to think about how they can use their existing skills to be a Kiramager, culminating in the first use of Juru’s signature ‘kiramaking’ power to bring his inspired drawings to reality, using the power of crystals. Juru does this to create the vehicle ‘machines’ that will become a mainstay in this series, and the five crystals work together as a fire engine, jet, helicopter, digger and sports car to save Tokyo from this kaiju threat. A bond is formed, and our team is created.
After this introduction, we then get several episodes dedicated to showing us members of the team learning to work together. There’s an episode focused on KiramaGreen, Sena, and her struggle over having to dedicate time to her career as an athlete against her responsibilities as a Kiramager. Red goes through the typical struggles of a Sentai Red ranger, caught between asserting himself as a leader and understanding Sena’s struggle as a friend. This ultimately leads to them using their inspirational powers to create a crystal that allows the user to create a clone of themselves. Neat! That’s something that will definitely come in handy later on, both in this episode when they use it to foil the villain, and the series as a whole where it will no doubt continue to be used.
We’re then treated to an episode about KiramaBlue, Shiguru Oshikiri, who in the opening fight of this episode fall’s victim to the enemy’s vice grip, which plants a literal giant vice onto his head, causing immense difficulties in his daily life as TV actor, as well as putting him on the proverbial bench for the Kiramagers. Oshikiri’s usual stoicism and arrogance is turned up to maximum as he attempts to deflect any assumptions that this new vice on his head bothers him in any way. Shiguru continues to attempt to act in their TV shoot and fight alongside the Kiramagers, but quickly finds that it’s quite difficult to keep up such a facade with a vice on your head. Ultimately, Shiguru learns to be a bit more trusting and open up to his team, choosing to let them support him in the final confrontation against the Vice Marsskman. Another important teamwork lesson!
The next episodes focus on the group’s Crystalian leader Mabusheena. With Mabusheena’s episode, we get the first steps towards developing a villain and our series arc. Mabusheena’s uncle Garza arrives on earth (in a pretty cool looking phantom train of some sort), and we learn that it was Garza who assassinated Mabusheena’s father, King Oradin, after being turned by the evil forces of Yodonheim. Despite this, Garza claims that King Oradin is alive! Of course, this is merely a deception by Garza, but the arc of the episode involves the Kiramager team uncovering Garza’s sinister intentions whilst Mabusheena is manipulated by him through her belief in her father’s life – it’s a sad tale, but a compelling one for sure. Mabusheena soon realises the truth, thankfully, KiramaRed is around to protect them from Garza in a pretty cool solo fight.
We then get an interesting episode about KiramaYellow, Tametomo, in an episode which briefly explores the dynamic between the sentient crystals and the Kiramager team. The crystals appear to have plenty of banter behind the scenes – the yellow crystal Shovellow asserting that Tametomo should be the leader of the group rather than Juru, and sets out on a mission to prove it. This is all occurring whilst we see Tametomo themselves in their element as the leader of their e-sports team. After Tametomo’s e-sports match, Sena talks to Tametomo, revealing an intricate backstory where his grandfather tragically died after a heart attack, after a less-than-positive interaction with young Tametomo who yells at him for buying the wrong video game. Tametomo deeply regrets his spoiled behaviour towards his grandfather, and asserts that his crystal Shovellow reminds him of his grandfather in some strange way. Shovellow is intent to make Tametomo leader, so searches for the new crystals on earth in order to create the ‘Shovellow corp’ (despite warnings from the other crystals to not do this). Shovellow ultimately succeeds in finding the other crystal machines, and jokes about creating a new super Sentai show with Tametomo as the leader and the sole member.
Ultimately, the final fight with this episode’s villain involves Juru becoming frozen, briefly entrusting Tametomo and gemini clone to lead the counterattack in an elaborate performance designed to convince Shovellow of Juru’s power. It’s a nice moment that shows a slight evolution in the dynamic, and after the fight is wrapped up, we see Tametomo resolve to continue working with the slightly difficult crystal Shovellow, stating ‘he knew what I really wanted, deep down, after all’ in what could be described as a touching moment.
The next episode is all about KiramaPink, Sayo. It kicks off with a camera type Marsskman that has the ability to capture people with its photography powers – Sena and Shiguru are quickly captured in a photograph, which in turn transports them to a strange prison which drains their energy. Sayo on the other hand receives a head trauma, which transforms her into an amnesiac with no memories beyond age five of her life. This obviously puts the team in a difficult position, so Juru and Tametomo set out to cure Sayo’s amnesia by taking her to visit her old Aikido teacher. They learn of a pivotal event in Sayo’s young life (rescuing the adorable dog, Kotetsu!) that established a pattern of working hard to save lives under pressure. Reminding her of this doesn’t do much, but once the other Kiramagers are captured by the camera, the pressure forces Sayo to change back into their Kiramager form and then rescue the others with Helico, the pink crystal machine, before combining with the rest of the machines for one more showdown. Sayo’s memories are soon after restored by another head trauma induced by a playful Mabusheena, and the status quo remains!
Episode 7 begins with the team deciding that Juru can be a better leader and inducting him into an intense training regime – he’s forced to run with Sena, do Kendo with Shiguru, Aikido with Sayo and a shootout test with Tametomo. Juru is pretty exhausted by these tests, but feels ultimately that they are in his best interests to continue with. Things escalate, however, as the group begins to argue about which method of training is the most effective for Juru. This is quickly cut short by the appearance of two new Marsskmen, a fridge type and an oven type, who argue between themselves, mirroring the arguments of the Kiramager team. After their initial battle, we cut to Juru’s next training regime, which is even more intense than before, showing juru starting to hallucinate. This episode culminates in a battle against Garza, with Juru nearly passing out at the wheel of the combined crystal machines, until he notices a new hallucination – a shining white mech which is protecting the Kiramagers!
Episode 8 begins where the previous episode left off, and the other members of the Kiramager team can’t see the ‘shining giant’ that Juru is apparently hallucinating. When Juru faints, the shining mecha vanishes, allowing the Kiramagers to escape. Juru falls into a coma-like state from exhaustion, and the red crystal blames Juru’s team for pushing him too hard with the training regime. Mabusheena tells the Kiramagers that they neglected his artistic skills, which is what gives his ‘Kiramentality’ life and is an essential ability within the group. Whilst comatose, Juru dreams of the Crystalian King Oradin, Mabusheena’s deceased father, creating a sketch under his guidance. When he wakes up, he realises that his dream was at least partially real, as he has drawn the image of a secret warehouse, which houses the white crystal Mabushina came to Earth in. Garza discovers Juru looking for the crister and attempts to destroy it, only for Juru to transform the crystal into a new crystal machine – the Mashin Express, which he uses to outrun Garza. The rest of the group apologises for their excessive training methods, and Juru then puts the rest of the team through an art class, restoring balance in a satisfying and humorous way.
We are then treated to two episodes that feel slightly more filler-y that the preceding two-parter. In episode 9, Sena encounters a rival from her past, Makino, who treats her with disregard and who we eventually learn used to beat Sena regularly in the traditional Japanese card game Karuta. After a Karuta-themed Marsskman appears, Sena is forced to confront her past in failing against Makino in Karuta, as Makino witnesses Sena’s weakness when duelling against the Karuta Marsskman. Ultimately, the two are able to resolve their differences after saving Makino from the villain of the weak, and the two gain a mutual respect for each other. Episode 10 on the other hand sees our heroes buying into an internet urban legend about an idol who rises from the grave every night to sing. After watching a performance online, some members of the group get put to sleep through the insidious end to the idol’s performance, which launches a ticket into their hearts. Shiguru recognises the idol as a fan of his, Iyo, leading Sayo to attempt to fix the problem by forcing Shiguru to confront Iyo. It’s revealed that Iyo is being manipulated by a Yodonheim Marsskman, and also that Shiguru previously led them on through ambiguous responses to her affections. As more and more people become brainwashed by the Iyo’s broadcasts, Sayo is able to intercept the signal and restore her friends to health, while Shiguru confronts the situation by saving Iyo and defeating the Marsskman in one precisely controlled cut.
That’s (almost) everything that’s happened in Machine Sentai Kiramager so far! Personally, I think it’s been a very solid series, even in these early stages. It’s got a long way to go still, but Kiramager has remained pretty consistently whimsical, funny, and willing to engage with its characters on a personal level. I can’t really issue many complaints about what I’ve seen so far, and I had a lot of fun returning to it for this recap. I’m excited for the upcoming appearance of the sixth silver Kiramager and much more once the show has returned this weekend!
Are you exited for the return of Kiramager? What have you enjoyed so far? Join the conversation on social media or drop us a comment below!