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Toku Review Round-up! (July 19th, 2020)

Looks like it’s that time again; I’m back once more to review recent episodes of the latest tokusatsu shows! Compared to the state of the world, the current climate of Tokusatsu could be described as ‘aggressively normal’ – there’s many quality shows airing, and everyone’s got their hot takes. As Zero-One nears its conclusion, speculation on how it will end, as well as the next show ‘Kamen Rider Saber’ looms in the air. Kiramager continues to dazzle people with its new sixth ranger, and Ultraman Z continues to have the most hype inducing opening theme song. It’s certainly ‘business as usual’ when it comes to major tokusatsu.

But how good is any of it, really? That’s the real question. And for some reason, you came here for those answers, or just to have a read of what I think. In either case, thank you for checking it out! Without further ado, let’s dive right in.

Kamen Rider Zero-One – Episodes 37 & 38

I watched episodes 37 and 38 of Zero-One back to back, and I have two very distinct feelings about each episode. When recalling episode 37, I struggled to remember the key events that happened within, and with episode 38, I felt quite frustrated at the direction it was taking. Unfortunately, Kamen Rider hasn’t really lived up to my hopes for it the past few weeks.

Episode 37 itself is fine, it just doesn’t really achieve all that much. The episode is dominated by more fights against the Ark which is able to seamlessly possess different members of Metsuboujinrai.net. It’s a little bit disappointing how this is essentially further sidelining already-sidelined characters, and reducing their role a fair bit. The combat in this episode is good, but it’s getting more and more divorced from a sense of stakes or character motivation. It’s awesome seeing the full Metsuboujinrai crew together, but it doesn’t really mean a lot right now.

There are some fun elements to this episode. I still like Naki a lot, and have done since their introduction. I think it’s important to note though, that with so few episodes left, there probably aren’t many exciting directions in which they can take Naki as a character. I hope they can surprise me in that regard, because I like Naki’s cold and calculating persona, and I actually like their new suit form which is introduced in this episode. I hope we get to see more of ‘Japanese Wolf’ in later episodes.

In addition, the senior management of HIDEN launch an ambush against Gai’s tyrannical presidency by collecting data on his various crimes. This comes to a head at the end of the episode, as they prepare to force out Gai with stacks of evidence. What could possibly happen next? Surely this will have lasting consequences for Gai and HIDEN intelligence as a whole?

Unfortunately, these are rhetorical questions. Episode 37 was kind of boring with some fun action – I give it 2 out of 5 ‘Japanese Wolves’.

At the beginning of Episode 38, it seems like Gai immediately gains the upper hand, forces his way into the secret lab, and deletes all of the incriminating records of his behaviour, with relative ease. Technology is incredible.

Zero-One never ceases to remind us of how amazing technology is, especially when we keep being introduced to friendly A.I. important to changing the hearts of main characters. I’m talking of course about episode 38’s robot dog, ‘Thouser’, and its effect on bad guy Gai Amatsu, which may prove to be one of the more controversial elements of Zero-One overall. 

I’ll get this out of the way: I don’t really like what they’re doing here. In principle, I like dogs a lot, and I’m usually all for the cuteness and nostalgia of a dog changing someone’s heart. But unless this is the grand bait-and-switch that some are anticipating it will be, I don’t think they’ve really done the groundwork to justify Gai switching sides at this point. We get a backstory that’s told to us in shorthand, which is brought to the forefront through the recreation of the robot dog ‘Thouser’ in the present day. It’s a weird way to execute on this concept, which I assumed might have been coming anyway, but definitely not like this.

I’m certainly not a ‘Gai hater’ – I think he served his purpose as a villain agreeably. But therein lies the problem. They’ve done far too much to elucidate his villainous nature which now makes it a lot harder for us to buy into the idea of him having a change of heart. If any of Gai’s past had been established a bit earlier, it would have been a lot more effective to give us this sudden declaration that he ‘loves HIDEN Intelligence’ at the end of this episode. Once again, there are some cool things here, such as the return of the bike and the brief glimpses we see of Fuwa & Yua, but it’s all kind of overshadowed by the impact of this big change.

Overall though, Gai’s tragic robot dog backstory and switch, which dominates the episode, doesn’t really work for me. I try to avoid being negative about things online, so sorry for this – Episode 38 gets a 1.5 Robot Dogs out of a possible five.

Mashin Sentai Kiramager – Episodes 13 & 14

Kiramager continues to delight with another set of charming episodes. Of the three shows in this lineup of reviews, I think I’d have to say I’m enjoying Kiramager the most right now, for the simple fact that it’s hitting a lot of high notes in terms of tone, comedy and design, even if they’re quite familiar notes.

Lots of examples of these qualities can be seen in Episode 13, which gives us a further look at Kiramager Silver, Crystalia Takamichi. The bombshell of the previous episode left us wondering how he might gel with the group, but this episode gives us all the answers we might need on that front, showing us a character caught between two worlds, who must confront their past mistakes.

It was charming to see a character like Takamichi brought to life with this comedic and lighthearted performance. The episode also morphs a lot structurally for a sentai episode, twisting the existing formula a bit to focus more on Takamichi’s development as a character. It’s a fairly classic set-up; Takamichi is caught between a desire to hunt treasure and a hidden desire to save people as Kiramai Silver. What results is a lot of sequences of Silver flying in to ‘steal the thunder’ from the rest of the team, but refusing to commit to the role. It’s pretty amusing. 

We even get a bit of backstory for Takamichi in brief but zesty flashbacks, and the proper debut of his new drilling vehicle Mashin, Drilljean. Furthermore, Takamichi gets to reconcile with the CARAT leader Hakataminami – his younger brother! Yes, it seems Takamichi was recreated from crystals, meaning he hasn’t aged in quite some time, making him a ‘full fledged showa guy.’

This was a neat episode – it had some fun villain encounters, some unique character development and some good action. It was a good time. I give it 3.5 out of 5 Drills.

Episode 14 feels like a continuation of the previous episode’s themes, despite being a different story. We have more angst and aloofness from Takamichi, who is still more interested in treasure hunting than anything else, which is highlighted in the opening sequence of the episode.

Despite working with the rest of the Kiramagers in some form to defeat Yodon Marsskmen, Takamichi still maintains a (misguided?) belief in their own superiority, and this episode’s all about him having to drop that belief and rely on others. He’s forced into a spot of vulnerability once a steam engine themed enemy attacks the bathhouse that they’re hanging out in, causing Takamichi to lose his Kiramai Changer. We also via flashback that this toxic attitude of narcissism was passed onto him by the villain Garza, who encourages him that when he is alone is when Takamichi shines the brightest.

It’s a pretty simple concept for an episode, and Sentai often uses ‘learning teamwork’ as a thematic turnstile (even within earlier episodes of this series) but it provides some quirky fun regardless. This episode would actually be a lot less interesting to me without the inclusion of the steam-engine Marsskman – I really dig their design, and the way in which Kiramai Red literally has to slam-dunk some rubble into his ‘chimney’ to defeat him, while Silver holds him in place. Using basketball manoeuvres in combat is pretty fantastic in any context, and it’s done here in a way that’s both functional and flashy.

Takamichi learns that Garza’s advice about him working best on his own was a manipulative form of sabotage, and in one final act of genuine teamwork, the full group unites to defeat the Yodon forces, using a variety of new mech creations. Silver even gets to join in on the ending dance, finally! I give this episode 3 out 5 Steam Trains/Slam Dunks.

Ultraman Z – Episodes 3 & 4

I know because of the way we started this series that we’re an episode behind in this reviewing of Ultraman Z. I know there’s some incredibly exciting stuff that has gone in Episode 5 that I want to talk about, but for the sanctity (???) of this review column, we have to stick to two episodes at a time. I can’t be giving Ultraman Z any preferential treatment, as much as I would like to. You’ll have to wait until next time for the takes on episode 5 & 6.

With that being said, Episodes 3 and 4 are both fairly strong in their own right. Episode 3 takes a leaf out of the book of Zero-One and introduces a new problem for our heroes: corporate accountability and funding negotiation. This becomes an issue after Haruki accidentally destroys an observatory while piloting Sevenger in a skirmish against Guigass (it’s nice to see them again!).

As a result, funding for STORAGE’s second anti-monster robot is pulled, meaning that they must now re-negotiate. In order to prove Sevenger’s effectiveness, they opt to demonstrate this by using them to transporti a dormant monster, Gomora, away to a safer, unihabited space. This is livestreamed to a variety of western government officials, who amusingly remark (in English) about the likeness of this scenario to ‘Japanese Robot Animations’ they used to watch as a child.

Of course, things escalate when Gomora awakens. We’re treated to a brief fight against the creature with Sevenger, before Haruki decides to call in the power of Ultraman Z. The fight at this stage becomes a lot more interesting, and even the western government guys seem to recognise ‘Ultraman’! Haruki, who has been suffering from hayfever the whole episode to the point of distraction, remarks that the air is clear inside this bubble reality within Z, allowing him to focus on defeating Gomora. The fight that ensues is very tangible and dynamic.

Despite this, the battle proves to be tough until Z is able to get a power up, transforming them into their Beta Smash form and finishing the fight with Gomora. All is well that ends well, as STORAGE is able to secure funding for their second robot – the officials were so impressed with Sevenger’s ability, given that Ultraman struggled! I think this is a funny – if a little contrived – way to wrap things up.

This was another simple but effective episode for Ultraman Z. It didn’t seem to hone in on a particular message, rather trying to say multiple things about responsibility and perseverance, but that’s fine. It was more lighthearted fun. I give it 3 out of 5 Beta Smashes.

The next episode is all about introducing us to STORAGE’s second robot, Windom, which has suffered a variety of cutbacks in production. The quality overall is lower than what Hikari expected when designing it. I’m starting to think that STORAGE – ostensibly the only serious line of defence against a variety of regular threats – is severely underfunded? Maybe this show is saying something. There’s not much time to focus on this, however, as another Kaiju attacks – the underground beast Telesdon!

The team suffers another big L in this battle as the Telesdon remains undefeated. Despite this, Hikari is able to retrieve a vital sample of the monster’s skin, which they use to analyse the threat for the upcoming rematch. We also get a brief glimpse at a ‘mysterious figure’ who uses their own type of Ultra Riser and a strange machine to create their very own Kaiju medal. I like the way that this scene is lit in a cryptic green shade, and I like how this scene allows us to draw our own conclusions on how the machine functions, and to what purpose the medal will be used in the future.

Hikari comes to some sort of epiphany about the power problem of Windom, and Sevenger once again attempts to take on Telesdon. After Sevenger is toasted, Haruki summons Ultraman Z in their Beta Smash form once again to throw down some wrestling moves. Meanwhile, Hikari manages to recycle a spare kaiju part to act as an external power source for Windom, which appears at exactly the right time.

I’d like to take a moment to heap some praise on the design of this one – whilst I like Sevenger, there’s something about Windom’s overall design, from its more humanoid hands and arms, to the weird almost beak-like mouth and scalp antenna, Windom is a bizarre design that definitely fits right alongside Sevenger as a clunky, man-made machine. It’s charming. It’s also essential in this encounter, winning the battle against Telesdon easily.

That is until Telesdon gets upgraded by this mysterious figure from earlier. Z has to switch things up and change forms to focus on speed, which combined with the new power of Windom, allows them to turn the tide of the battle once more. The way in which this fight is framed and the pace at which it moves allows us to see that Ultraman works better with the company of Wisdom, forming a great team together.

Things wrap up neatly from here, and Haruki and Z discover the existence of the ‘kaiju medal’, which floats out of Telesdon upon their defeat. Ulraman remarks that this could be catastrophic if put in the wrong hands, and we get more of a glimpse at what the future might hold of Ultraman Z’s villains. Overall, I enjoyed this episode a bit more than three, for the teamwork and fight choreography on display, the glimpses at the villainous side, and the more concise and robust theming. It was as solid episode which I grant 4 out 5 Kaiju medals.

That’s all for this week’s edition of Toku Review Round-up! As always, I’m looking forward to seeing where things go from here. Zero-One’s got a lot of explaining to do, Kiramager is moving onto to a new team dynamic, and I’m keen to see more of Ultraman’s villain. It’s an exciting time to be a toku fan, that’s for sure.

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Machine Sentai Kiramager: The Story So Far!

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!

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SODO Sundays – March 24, 2019

Hello, tokusatsu community! It’s Joshua Perry here to talk about SODO figures on my fortnightly series, SODO Sundays. Today, Build takes over Zi-O as we also have some Ryusoulger and Kamen Rider Den-O news to cover.

Kamen Rider Zi-O

The SODO ad from a while ago had already revealed we would be getting a figure of the new Cross-Z form Cross-Z Evol but now it’s been fully revealed. This figure will also come with two accessories: the Pandora Box with the coloured panels on it as well as a new stand extender piece.

Cross-Z Evol is the final entry in Zi-O’s Set 8. But that’s not it for Build…

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The villain of the Cross-Z V-Cinema, Kamen Rider Killbus, has been revealed as the first figure for Zi-O Set 9. His figure will also include this stand extender piece as well as a Drill Crusher and Kaizoku Hassha.

Kamen Rider Den-O

Kamen Rider Den-O was revealed a while ago as the next entry in the SODO Chronicle series. Here we have the details. The set will come with a Plat Form base body and four armor sets for the Sword, Rod, Ax, and Gun base forms of Den-O.

Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger

Pictures of the new Ryusoulger YUDO figures have been revealed. This set, releasing in May is confirmed to include the main 5 team as well as pieces to plug into the arms for the different soul abilities. Ryusoul Red’s Power Soul is shown off in the pictures.

As always you can watch SODO Sundays Season 2, Episode 15 here:

That’s it for this edition of SODO Sundays Season 2! Stay tuned for the next edition on both Toku Toy Store News and YouTube channel.

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This Week in Tokusatsu – Weeks 7 and 8, 2019

As Lupinranger Vs Patoranger comes to a close, Zi-O starts to achieve his full potential and the Super Sentai Saikyou Battle kicks off.


Lupinranger vs Patoranger Episode 51 (End)

The Lupinrangers are stuck inside Dogranio’s safe after their battle with Zamigo. Thankfully, they equipped their police counterparts before entering, knowing this could happen. On the whole, this final episode feels rushed. The battle against Dogranio is short and anticlimactic, decided quickly by a macguffin more than the skill or strength of any of the Rangers. When it’s over, Dogranio is taken into custody rather than being killed, and we flash forward a year.

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In that time, the Patorangers have become superheroes, celebrities to some degree, while still managing to do their jobs and mop up the last of the Ganglers. The Lupinrangers are believed to be dead, or at least, still trapped inside Dogranio’s safe world. When the credits start to roll on this series for the final time, the ending is ambiguous, a cliffhanger that leaves the main arc of the show unresolved. It is flashy, though, and does not disappoint if you are looking for good choreography and stunt work.

Where it does fall short in one other big way, though, is that the final scene of the series undoes much of the growth the characters went through, ignoring previously established friendships and romances, in favour of the generic cops-and-robbers angle that began the series. With a movie coming later in the year, I am personally hopeful that that will provide the ending this amazing series rightfully deserves. Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger kicks off in a few weeks, but until then, we are going to be treated to a four-week miniseries called Super Sentai: Strongest Battle! This series will be covered here during its full run leading up to the premiere of Ryusoulger.


Kamen Rider Zi-O Episodes 22 and 23

Zi-O’s true power is unleashed this week as Zi-O II debuts! In an attempt to defeat Another Ryuga, Geiz sacrifices his life to use his finishing attack on Another Ryuga, knowing that there is a time distortion before the attack triggers. This leads to Sougo beginning to accept the darkness in himself, the way he’d convinced Kido Shinji earlier in the episode to do the same.

Zi-O II is able to defeat Another Ryuga, and in a strong twist of character, Tsukuyomi and Geiz wrap the episode knowing they pushed Sougo in the wrong direction. They resolve to do better, and we begin the next episode, which sees Sougo jump 102 years into the future, to 2121.

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There he meets Kamen Rider Kikai, a parody of Shotaro Ishinomori’s other classic tokusatsu hero, Kikaider. Curiously, the episode is even called “Kikai da!” as an easter egg reference to this character.  Kikai’s design is very reminiscent of Drive, to me, with similar eyes and helmet shape. Many of the parts are mechanical in nature, obviously meant to emphasize the “Kikai” or machine design.

It’s a good suit, overall, and one that could easily be believed as a future Rider. When Sougo and Geiz end up meeting Another Kikai, it is the opposite of its counterpart, organic in nature instead of mechanical. The armour is largely made of wood, and instead of a person, Another Kikai appears to be some kind of Beetle that can reform itself by jumping from one tree to another. To put a twist on things, it’s revealed with a quick snippet of dialogue that this Another Rider was not created by any of the existing Time Jackers we know.

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Through animation and set pieces, as well as some expository dialogue by Kikai, we see a dark future that is worthy of its own series, if played out correctly, much like the previous Miraiders up to this point. One thing that threw me off at first, but quickly became one of the best parts of the episode, was the face and voice behind Kikai. The same actor who plays Kamen Rider Kikai was also recently seen as Zamigo in Lupinranger vs Patoranger, but seeing him play a hero is only briefly an odd transition. He plays the part well, and I personally would love to see more of this character and world, either through a spin-off or V-Cinema like Kamen Riders Shinobi and Quiz are getting.

This episode holds a few more big twists that you will need to watch it to see, but the implications on the plot are staggering if managed correctly. Next week, we will see the resolution of the Kikai arc, as well as all three Riders working together for the first time. Stay tuned and leave your thoughts in the comments or on social media!


Super Sentai Strongest Battle Episode 1

This three-episode miniseries is designed to fill the gap between the end of Lupinranger vs Patoranger and the beginning of the upcoming Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger, and is a crossover event between returning and new heroes. We begin with the defeat of the Gokaigers at the hands of the series’ villain, Gaisorg. The series features not only teams crossing over, but dimensions, as we see the team lineup debut. The team includes Gokai Red, Zyuoh Eagle, AkaNinger, Kyuranger’s Sasori Orange, and Toq # 5 (Pink). All of the original actors return, though the voice for Gokai Red’s suited form in the opening is clearly not Ryota Ozawa. Keiichiro of the Patorangers is also invited to join, but we are still given no resolution to the cliffhanger ending of his series.

Taking beats from multiple western media sources, each Ranger who is invited is given a literal golden ticket, then transported to a Marvel-style battle world, a planet called Nemesis. Each summoned ranger joins a team of five, for a total of 32 groups, and the contest is shown to be a battle royale tournament. Zyuoh Eagle regrets that he and Keiichiro are in the first match, thinking they would get along well, but knowing this is just a contest. The match is between “Team Weirdo” and “Team Serious Business” which both appear to be fitting names. Apart from this one-on-one contest, we see other matches going on with other teams, dating as far back as Denjiman and Turboranger. Many of the battles shown are between teams whose seasons had crossover movies, including TimeBlue against Gingaman Red.

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Overall, this crossover event appears to be riding the Battle Royale hype train, but is a fun ride nonetheless. If you need a Super Sentai fix in between series, this will get you through, but is largely lacking in substance, apart from the character interactions.


Power Rangers News

Unveiled at Toy Expo 2019, we finally have our first look at the Lightning Collection, as well as other new Power Rangers toys coming from Hasbro later this year. Each figure in the Lightning Collection is highly detailed, including multiple accessories and head sculpts for Rangers (including Doggie Cruger). The first wave of Lightning Collection figures will be as follows:

Part of the second wave has also been officially announced. Included in this wave will be:

  • Goldar (US Exclusive to Gamestop)
  • Beast Morphers Red

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In addition, it was confirmed that Power Rangers Beast Morphers will premiere on March 2nd on Nickelodeon in the US, with worldwide release to follow shortly after.

A trailer debuted for Beast Morphers around 2/21/19, showing some of the differences between Beast Morphers and Go-Busters, as well as some of the effects and the new transformation sequence. It appears they are adding a crystal gimmick that didn’t exist in Go-Busters, but are otherwise leaving the scene largely unchanged.

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

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This Week in Tokusatsu – Week 5, 2019

This week, we see Dogranio’s destructive power unleashed. The Quiz arc of Zi-O comes to a close, and the live-action Tokusatsu GaGaGa kicks off!


Lupinranger vs Patoranger Episode 49

After revealing their identities publicly last week, the Lupinrangers have gone on the run! Jurer has been emptied out completely, with “not a hair” left behind, according to the GSPO’s forensic expert. They haven’t gone far, though, still hiding somewhere in the city with the help of Kogure and Noel. While they plan their next move, Dogranio and Zamigo have a talk about power, and about Lupin Red. Zamigo vows that no one else will take Kairi from him, not even Dogranio himself, and Dogranio insists that he is an old man but still needs to raise hell sometimes. With that in mind, he launches an all out attack himself, in person, on the city.

This draws out the Lupinrangers, who are fittingly and quickly decimated by the Ganglers’ leader. Umika and Touma end up hospitalized and under arrest, being guarded by the GSPO while they recover. Kairi, while severely injured, is not taken and instead insists on continuing the fight. Somewhere along the way, he seeks out Keiichiro, who has seemingly had a full change of heart in regards to the thieves and their motivations. Now knowing who they are and what they are up against, Keiichiro vows to help Kairi however possible, even if it means resigning from his position at GSPO and becoming a criminal.

Kairi refuses, and goes his own way, eventually making his way to Zamigo. The episode ends on the cliffhanger of their fated duel finally about to take place, but not before we get an incredibly stylish, fittingly dramatic transformation sequence from both of them as one of Zamigo’s ice cubes falls between them.

Next week is the final episode of Lupinranger vs Patoranger, and if the preview clip is anything to go by, it will not disappoint. Be sure to keep an eye out here after the finale for a retrospective look at the full series!


Kamen Rider Zi-O Episode 20

This week’s episode doesn’t do a great deal to advance the plot overall, but does give a lot of interesting insights into certain characters. White Woz now appears to be much more self-serving than he originally appeared, subtly confirming the underlying malevolence he displayed in his first few appearances. Black Woz, while not entirely in agreement with Sougo, never outright acts against his master the way White Woz does for Geiz. It’s an interesting contrast, for sure.

White Woz and Geiz

The bulk of the episode focuses on the conflict between Geiz and Mondo (Kamen Rider Quiz) as they work to put a stop to Another Quiz. Over the course of several encounters, we see the layers peeled back on Mondo’s character as well, revealing that his motivations are more than they appeared. Also featured is the debut of Zi-O’s W armour in the series, though no explanation for the W RideWatch is given in the episode.  This is because the watch is obtained in the film Kamen Rider: Heisei Generations Forever which debuted in theatres just before Christmas. This power-up places the canon timeline of that film somewhere before episode 20.

Zi-O W Armour

When the climax of the arc comes, we see once again that White Woz is easily the most powerful character on the show, as he first stops Ora from freezing time and then self-charges the Quiz MiraideWatch, stealing Mondo’s power so he can defeat Another Quiz himself when Geiz has a moment of sentimental morality. At the end of it all, Mondo walks away powerless, destination unknown, and Black Woz brings a new watch to the clock shop for repair.

This is, presumably, the previously seen Zi-O II RideWatch, and it looks like we will see this new form in action in the next couple of episodes, if the repairs go well. 

Zi-O 2 RideWatch

The next arc will revolve around Kamen Rider Ryuki, and features a few returning actors. Are you excited to see Ryuki’s cast return?


Tokusatsu GaGaGa Episodes 1 and 2

Tokusatsu GaGaGa is a comedy series based on a manga of the same name, and follows a beautiful but otherwise average office worker as she grapples with adult life and being a closeted Tokusatsu geek. Through each episode, we see the protagonist, Nakamura Kano, try to deal with seemingly everyday situations while slipping into Scrubs-style daydream sequences, revolving around Tokusatsu and how she uses it as a lens to relate to the world.

In the first episode, we are treated to a few silly situations, played for laughs, including a lot of graphics on screen explaining what certain phrases mean and names of people as well. The show even features its own Toku heroes.

Shishi Leo on the Train

Bestial Storm Jushowan is the series’ representation of Super Sentai, with suits and abilities that mimic Gekiranger, while Rescue Machine EmerJason is something akin to a Metal Hero, or Kamen Rider, though the suit bears a strong resemblance to Space Sheriff Sharivan mixed with CarRanger. In just the first episode, both heroes make appearances in Nakamura’s daydreams, as she grapples with trying not to out herself but still indulging in her love of Toku. On the train to work, she sees another woman with a charm on her purse of Toraiger, Jushowan’s blue ranger. In response, a great deal of the episode is spent on Nakamura going from one gatcha machine to another in search of her character’s charm.

Jushowan Action Pose

When she finds the charm, for Jushowan’s red ranger Shishi Leo, Nakamura must first overcome a child she compares to Damian from The Omen, an American horror film. During a Karaoke outing with her work colleagues, conversely, Nakamura imagines her nerves and lack of understanding of popular music as a Tokusatsu monster of the week. This “Karaoke Monster” is only defeated when Nakamura steels herself, and decides to sing the OP to EmerJason in front of her co-workers.

Gacha Machine Kid

As she tries to get a Shishi Leo figure out of a fast food meal, we even get a brief look at Love Cute, the series’ version of Pretty Cure, a popular Magical Girl anime for little girls that is inspired by Tokusatsu.

Jushowan or Love Cute

For the sake of escapism, at one point, she even ducks into a toy store to get blind box figures so she can avoid answering her mother’s repeated phone calls. The store is run by a man who looks very much like the stereotypical Yakuza thug, and Nakamura has a moment of regret as she answers the next call to escape the store.

Sneaking around the toy store

From there, the scene becomes a nightmare of Jushowan, defeated but still fighting. Nakamura wakes up terrified, after the villain of Jushowan mentions shopping. As it turns out, Nakamura is dreaming of shopping with her mother later the following day. She gets dressed up for the occasion, inadvertently causing a scene in her office as several of her friends who like to gossip start wondering if she has a date, or is expecting a proposal. It’s exactly as over the top as it sounds, especially after Onoda, a male coworker who clearly has a crush on Nakamura, runs into another man with a cart full of boxes.

Shopping

As Nakamura wanders through the mall with her mother, she makes it a mission to stop the older woman from seeing anything Tokusatsu related, but stops on her own to stare at a poster for the Jushowan and EmerJason crossover hero show. Looking at clothes, she equates the price to a DVD box set. Nakamura’s mother, as a character, is a bit of a stereotype of the typical doting Japanese mother, encouraging Nakamura rather forcefully to wear frilly, girly clothes and get married young, reinforcing each suggestion with guilt about her age and about Nakamura’s fatherless childhood. To cope with this, she imagines herself fighting General Genka, Jushowan’s main villain, using only the hangers from the store.

Nakamura stands up to her mother, who makes a scene in the store until she backs down, then takes the spare key to Nakamura’s apartment. Nakamura stops to take a picture of the poster from earlier, and her friend Onoda is seen observing. Nakamura eventually decides to go to the hero show, and sees the woman with the Toraiger charm again. As she sits in the crowd, we get a bit of insight into this other woman, Yoshida, who resolves this will her last hero show. She goes alone, it seems, and she thinks Nakamura is only at the show to kill time on a break from work.

Nakamura and Yoshida meet

The two start talking, and decide to hang out to watch the show together. As each woman sits with her thoughts, there’s a bit of awkward silence outwardly. When they do finally talk, the two women begin to bond over their love of Tokusatsu, and we see some of Yoshida’s perspective in a flashback sequence. After bonding during the show, Yoshida and Nakamura spend a long time talking, with a pop-up on the screen each time they mention a series or episode. One of Nakamura’s coworkers drops in and makes things awkward, to comedic effect. When their secret is nearly exposed, Nakamura has another vision to help decide if she’ll intervene to protect Yoshida.

With the show’s continued emphasis on the theme of understanding, the women learn that the Yakuza who runs the toy store is just as into Tokusatsu as they are, and Yoshida resolves to make him understand his obsession is ok. In the preview for the next episode, we get to see that he will be a recurring character, and the next episode will seemingly have a lot more emphasis on the cutaways. Tokusatsu GaGaGa airs on NHK and will run for a total of seven episodes.

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

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This Week in Tokusatsu – Weeks 3 and 4, 2019

After a missed week due to hardware issues, we’re back at it with the debut of Kamen Rider Quiz, and Lupinranger vs Patoranger enters the home stretch!

Lupinranger vs Patoranger Episodes 47 and 48

The Global Police have agreed to begin conducting surveillance on the Jurer trio, and as this plan is put into action, we see a distraught Sakuya begin to act on his own. Clearly torn, he gets Umika to agree to a lunch date, while Gauche and Zamigo continue scheming. Zamigo has been upgraded, we later learn, making him even more dangerous than he already was, a worthy enemy. As in times past, Sakuya and Umika try to have a lunch date, during which Sakuya begins to ask probing questions and learn about Umika. They are interrupted by a Gangler attack, and during the attack, they are defeated, with Noel offering himself to Gauche as a sacrifice, a willing test subject for her mad surgical experiments.

Noel Captured 48

Episode 48 focuses largely on the rescue attempt, with Gauche publicly goading the people of Japan and specifically the Ranger teams, displaying him weak and bound, promising a live dissection. The police see it for the obvious trap it is, and while the thieves do as well, Kogure advises against a rescue attempt. When the Lupinrangers refuse to back down, they justify it by vowing to take Gauche’s collection items. At the site of the event, Dogranio makes a personal appearance, and the police are cornered inside the trap they knew was coming.

With the police soundly defeated, the thieves make their entrance just in time to stop Gauche’s opening cut, in true dramatic fashion, and are addressed by Dogranio directly, who demands they remove their masks. With the entire affair being broadcast live over the internet and on the large displays that litter Shinjuku’s buildings, Dogranio offers a deal: Expose their identities and defeat Gauche, and Noel will be freed.

It’s Umika who has the strength to make the choice, and she is the first to act. Convincing the others to do the same, she removes her mask and hat, and the police look on. The shot is done in slow motion, with dramatic music, and much of the focus is put on the devastated reactions of the police. Clearly, up to the point of the investigation, they had considered the Jurer trio friends. When the transformation happens this time, there is a careful, deliberately extended shot of their exposed faces before the familiar helmets form.

LupinRangers no helmets

After escaping the little trapped room, the police have the sense to turn the focus on the Ganglers, and agree to fight side by side with the thieves. Gauche is the bigger threat and they have the tactical presence of mind to know that. With the combined firepower of five regular rangers and two super rangers, they take the shot, mortally wounding Gauche. In a last ditch effort, she implants her gold safe in another Kaijin, who grows to Mecha size at once. Still unable to speak Sakuya passes off a dial fighter to Umika, and X Emperor, LupinKaiser, and Lupin Magnum take on the new creature.

In the end, the Lupinrangers decide to abandon Jurer and find another hideout, with Kogure’s help. Still devastated, Sakuya looks on in tears, and is comforted by Tsukasa.

Combined Teams 48

With only three or four episodes left to go, the preview for the next one promises to leave a big impact as well, with Dogranio himself entering the fight.

Kamen Rider Zi-O Episodes 18 and 19

Much of Zi-O episode 18 focuses on Woz, and the introduction of White Woz, as he will later be known. This extends to how White Woz interacts with Geiz in much the same way Black Woz does with Sougo. Each is trying to elevate one of our core Riders to the status of kingship or maybe even godhood, to reflect the future they come from. As before, White Woz’s eReader time manipulation becomes a central part of his fighting style, which leaves me again asking, “Where are the stakes if he can alter history by writing a phrase?”

It’s a question we still don’t have an answer to, even as episode 19 has come and gone with the debut of Kamen Rider Quiz, played by Go-Busters actor Katsuhiro Suzuki. While it is not explained how, Kamen Rider Quiz travels through time from 2040 to 2019 in search of Another Quiz, who is actually his scientist father. Each time he appears, his entry serves as an excuse for White Woz to push Geiz to defeat him. Quiz is an anomaly in one other big way, though. He and his Another Rider exist simultaneously, unlike all previous Anothers including Shinobi.

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This alone rules out the timeline split being the cause of Another Quiz’s ability to exist side by side with Quiz. Hopefully more information will be provided on this in the coming weeks, but as we wrap up this episode, we see Geiz finally decide (after White Woz has forced his hand) to take on Quiz, fighting for the Quiz MiraideWatch.

Next week, we will see the fight play out as well as the debut of the W Armour. 

Tokusatsu Gagaga Episode 1 review will be coming later on in week 5 of 2019. Stay tuned for more!

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

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This Week in Tokusatsu – Week 2, 2019

Kamen Rider Woz debuts! The police have finally begun to suspect the identities of the phantom thieves, and we get a new anime Godzilla movie courtesy of Netflix.

Lupinranger vs Patoranger Episode 46

Picking up right after the Christmas special, Keiichiro believes (correctly) that he has figured out the identities of the Lupinrangers. He takes his findings to his colleagues, and Commander Hilltop, and begins to make his case. Tsukasa, who has been suspicious of them in the past, feels the lightbulb click on, and the pieces fall into place. For her, a lot of suspicious elements of their past escapades suddenly make sense. The Lupinrangers themselves, meanwhile, are trapped in a game show thanks to a piece of the Lupin Collection, and the show becomes a highlight reel of past episodes for both teams.

This episode contains some comedic bits, impersonations of other characters and the male Lupinrangers in drag, but otherwise is mostly light on action and substance. The biggest elements of this episode for the plot overall come at the beginning and end, by which point the Global Police have agreed to begin surveilling the Jurer trio. Keiichiro made his case, it seems, and that will be our setup for the last seven episodes, which will air between now and early March 2019, when Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger begins. While the police and thieves fight amongst themselves, though, the Ganglers are preparing their master plan, so it will be interesting to see how all of these different elements come together in time.

Kamen Rider Zi-O Episode 17

It’s new year’s day in… 2022?! Sougo meets a new Rider in the beginning of this episode, Kagura Rentaro, Kamen Rider Shinobi. Shinobi is the Rider from 2022, and also bears the identity of Another Shinobi in 2019. To set up for this episode, the show builds a new version of Woz, and manages to give him unspeakable power without really thinking logically about all of the implications after. This new Woz wears all white, and carries an e-reader like an older Kindle that he can write future predictions into, which are shown to immediately come true. White Woz, as the preview for next week calls him, uses this power to mess with not only Zi-O, but also Uhr as well, showing with devastating effect the potential he could unleash.

This left me with one very important question, though. If White Woz’s book can change the timeline directly, why not simply erase any threat from existence with a phrase written into the book, as he threatens to do to Zi-O? Any character having that level of power deflates the stakes in most situations, so hopefully this power will either have rules that are explained, or be taken away, to give the team some semblance of a struggle. When White Woz does make his first transformation at the end of the episode, he easily defeats Another Shinobi, before using a term in universe that has only been heard up to this point in the marketing.

“You will change history, Geiz Revive.” He says to Geiz, bowing the way “Green” Woz always does for Sougo. The future characters consistently mention a new idea this week, the Day of Oma, in which Sougo becomes Oma Zi-O and erases all other Riders from history . It’s implied, based on Kamen Rider Shinobi being unknown to “Green” Woz, that this day occurs before 2022. Based on the way the idea is explained, it seems White Woz comes from the future that directly follows the early events of the series, but assumes a darker end in which Sougo still succumbs to the power of Oma Zi-O.

This Oma Zi-O is defeated by Geiz’s powered up form, Geiz Revive, and the future is saved, or so Woz claims.

Only time will tell how this arc plays out, but the preview for the next episode sets up Kamen Rider Woz as a direct antagonist to Zi-O, even if he is supporting Geiz. Stay tuned for more.

Godzilla – The Planet Eater

After a brief period between the second and third films in the Godzilla anime trilogy, we’re finally able to watch the conclusion to this series. Like the other two films in the series, Godzilla: The Planet Eater follows the exploits of a tri-species group of humans and two other races, trying to defeat Godzilla and reclaim Earth as their home, 20,000 years after fleeing into space. The films have seemingly gone down in quality with each subsequent release, with the first featuring lots of frenetic action scenes, passable animation, and one of the better designs for Godzilla outside of live action. The second film, City on the Edge of Battle, took a dip in quality but still managed to put an interesting twist on MechaGodzilla, and now The Planet Eater seems to have mostly gone off the rails.

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During the second film, our heroes stumble on a group of evolved humans, who have adapted to make a Godzilla-controlled Earth habitable, and end up taking refuge with them after the MechaGodzilla City is defeated. This third film picks up seemingly minutes after the end of the second, as people struggle to recover and put themselves back together. One of the races, called the Bilusaludo, is a technophiliac cult, and had offered themselves up as sacrifices to bond to the nanomachines that make up MechaGodzilla City, even going so far as to force humans and Exif, the third race, to join them. But where the first film focused on humans, and the second largely on the Bilusaludo, the Exif become the major players this time around.

The bulk of what plot exists in this movie is focused on the Exif, particularly a priest name Metphies, trying to summon their god via a ritual. Their god, it turns out, is classic Toho monster King Ghidorah. At least, that’s what we’re meant to believe. The film never gives us a proper look at Ghidorah, through its entire runtime. Instead, we’re treated to shadowed silhouettes of Ghidorah’s classic look, and three glowing gold ghost dragons that can only be described as being rip-offs of Shenron, from the Dragon Ball series, right down to where the appear from nothingness against a black background. Many of the themes in the film involve criticism of religion both for the believer and the skeptic, and there are a pair of minute-long sequences where the film becomes a one-frame-per-second slideshow of poorly-animated CG images.

This would be tolerable, if the final scene before the credits roll didn’t completely undo the entire trilogy. Overall, I find it impossible to recommend this film, even as an avid lover of Godzilla and Kaiju in general. If you are on the fence about this one, do not waste your time.

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

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This Week in Tokusatsu – Christmas 2018

The police and thieves take a break from the action for a Christmas special, Jinga ramps up to a thrilling conclusion and Zi-O continues the battle against his future self! Let’s dive in, shall we?

Lupinranger vs Patoranger Episode 45

Obligatory Christmas special! There is a major shift in tone this week, as we take a step back from the darker, grittier, almost film-noir action of the previous few episodes to celebrate Christmas with the Rangers. Though the episode does advance the plot, in the beginning and end, not much happens of note in the middle. To start out, Sakuya receives a request from a child to have the Patorangers throw a Christmas party, complete with holiday cake and chicken dinner, both Japanese traditions at Christmas. The bulk of the episode focuses on a Gangler called Sahmon, whose driving purpose is to replace the traditional Christmas chicken dinners with salmon for everyone in Japan.

At worst, this Gangler is a minor inconvenience, even acknowledged by civilians with a few casual phrases such as, “This wouldn’t be so bad if chicken wasn’t a Christmas tradition,” or even by Noel and Sakuya with, “Salmon is my favourite food most of the time, but chicken at Christmas is tradition.”

Over the course of the episode, Sakuya and Noel focus on taking Sahmon down, with eventual help from the thieves, who are the ones to ultimately defeat him. There is no Lupin collection item this week, no larger stakes, save for the knowledge from the police of a string of missing persons cases set about a year earlier. At the end of the episode, having skipped the party to do research into the cases, Keiichiro is finally able to put together the identity of the Lupinrangers.

That’s right. We’re five episodes from the end of the series (six, if you include this one) and one of the police officers has just now confirmed the identity of the thieves. This is a reveal that would have been much better served by coming far earlier, though the next episode promises to expand on this even more.

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Kamen Rider Zi-O Episode 16

The 2068 arc of Zi-O continues this week, with the fallout of Sougo meeting his future self. Now knowing fully that he has the potential to become the genocidal tyrant called Oma Zi-O, Sougo resolves himself to give up on his dream of becoming a king, and goes so far as to have Geiz destroy his belt. After this succeeds, Sougo begins to think he is free and the future is safe. There is even a moment where Oma Zi-O begins to fade away, laughing as he awaits Sougo’s ultimate decision. Sougo’s resolve is unshakable, even in the face of an assassination attempt by the Time Jackers.

Sougo refuses to fight, running and protecting a child from a stray attack, even without the power of Zi-O, prompting Geiz and Tsukuyomi to delay their return to 2068 and intervene. The attack, having been set up by Woz, is intended to force Sougo’s hand and get him back on the track that will lead to his future as Overlord. This episode features a lot of character growth for both Sougo and Geiz, with some big moments shared between them as well as an interesting shift in viewpoint for Geiz.

The biggest moments for Sougo come at the tail end of the episode, with renewed resolve and returned power as he remembers his dream. It all comes together in a satisfying way, and the preview for the next episode promises the debut of Kamen Rider Woz.

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Kami No Kiba – Jinga Episode 11

Picking up where we left off last week, Jinga struggles against Rozen while Fusa and Toma debate the merits of simply going to the Watchdogs, themselves. Another Makai Priest opens the episode with a brief moment spent trying to prove Jinga’s power is real, but we are not shown the conclusion of the test. Instead, the episode focuses squarely on Jinga and his reluctance to give up against Rozen. Though he begins fighting back using strictly non-lethal measures (his sword never leaves the scabbard and he focuses on dodging), the battle takes a darker turn at the midpoint of the episode.

Through sheer resolve, Toma makes the choice for himself and Fusa to willingly go to the Watchdogs, even as Alva protests to Jinga to give up. When Jinga refuses and keeps fighting, he ends up killing one of the knights in Rozen’s squad, before turning his blade another way. A shocking, sudden death leads to the battle that caps off the episode, and will seemingly be the focus of the series finale, which airs next week.

The Jinga we have followed, the knight, fights hard against the horror within, the Jinga from the summer Garo film, Kami No Kiba. When the series concludes next week, we will see which side prevails, and ultimately the beginning of the future of Garo as a franchise. Personally, I do not want to see Jinga redeemed. He has made for a compelling primary antagonist, both to the other Makai Knights and to himself. This shifting dynamic has proved to be a breath of fresh air for Garo as a franchise, and I hope it will continue.

Stay tuned here after the finale next week for more.

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Ultraman R/B (End)

Ultraman R/B has now officially concluded, and thoughts/reviews will be coming once the series is made available with English subtitles past episode 19. Stay tuned for more!

Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger Confirmed

On Christmas day, the leaked images of next year’s Super Sentai team, Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger were confirmed to be accurate, along with a story synopsis and official romanization of the name, per Toei. This will be the 43rd Super Sentai series, and the fourth to feature a dinosaur theme. The writer, producers, and showrunner have also been revealed, listed below.

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Story:

65 million years ago

An era when dinosaurs were everywhere. When attackers sought to take over the world, bringing war, knights were selected to stand against this threat. A meteor falls to the earth and brings the era of the dinosaurs to an end. Those chosen knights then chose to live the rest of their lives quietly on earth. In preparation for the return of this enemy, dinosaurs with great power were made to sleep in a temple.

Now, at the end of the Heisei era, the attackers have returned to Earth, pushing their evil to the limits of the universe. Now, it’s time to grasp the powers of the dinosaurs!

“Knights” x “Dinosaurs”

Now is the time to protect earth’s peace with that power!

(TV Asahi)

65 million years ago, the immensely powerful Druidon Tribe reigned over Earth. The tribe abandoned the planet when a gigantic meteor approached, vowing that they would return as the rulers of the world again as they headed into space.

The Ryusou Tribe who battled against the Druidon Tribe stayed on earth, along with their dinosaur companions, the Kishiryu. The Ryusou Tribe withstood the ice age brought on by the gigantic meteor. They placed their Kishiryu companions into the Ryusouls and sealed them in temples throughout the world.

Time has moved on and the Druidon Tribe has returned after fighting in harsh environments across space, totally increasing their powers. The Ryusou Tribe that kept the Earth safe in the past have selected new knights: the Ryusoulgers. They have been revived by their mission as the battle against the Druidon Tribe begins.

Staff:

  • Kiyoshi Yoshikawa (Iryu Sosa, Cop Seven) Music
  • Takahashi Kazuhiro (Kamen Rider Ghost) – Producer
  • Maruyama Shinya (Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon) – Producer
  • Kazuya Kamihoriuchi (Kamen Rider Ex-Aid, Kamen Rider Build) – Director
  • Junpei Yamaoka (Tsuribaka Nisshi: Shin’nyû Shain Hamasaki Densuke) – Lead Writer

Ryusoulger marks the first entry into Tokusatsu for veteran J-Drama writer Junpei Yamaoka, but with a solid crew bringing his vision to life, only time will tell how Ryusoulger is realised. Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger will premiere 17th March, 2019 on TV Asahi, with English subtitles like to follow.

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

Source: Toei/TV Asahi via The Tokusatsu Network (Ryusoulger story and staff)
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This Week in Tokusatsu – Week Ending December 23rd, 2018

The police and thieves learn the truth of Noel’s past and Zi-O sees his future for the first time! Let’s dive in, shall we?

Lupinranger vs Patoranger Episode 44

Coming off the heels of last week’s revelation that Noel is not entirely human, we learn a great deal more about his actions and his heritage, as well. The episode focuses largely on Noel and how the teams react to him, now knowing the truth. The thieves catch up with him first, and he is finally able to explain that though he is not human, neither is he a Gangler. Rather, Noel, Kogure, and all the people who work for the Lupin family are members of a third race, which is not explicitly named but is something akin to traditional elves. Having fled to Earth after their own world was taken over by Ganglers, this race blended in with human society, under the seemingly immortal Arsene Lupin.

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Noel’s entry point into the story, it is revealed, is at the exact point the Collection is stolen by the Ganglers. During the attack, Arsene Lupin is said to have been killed, and Noel, his apprentice, takes up the search for the items to fulfill the dream of Arsene Lupin. Satoru, still distrusting of Noel, is eventually revealed to be a Status Double Gangler, using two powers to mimic voices and control actions. Through flashbacks, this control ability is used to explain Noel firing on the other Patorangers before, as well as Noel giving Tokageru a piece of the Lupin collection.
The next episode, despite being one of only four or five remaining, appears to be a standalone Christmas special. It will certainly be interesting to see how the writers manage to tie this into the main narrative, if at all.

Kamen Rider Zi-O Episode 15

The 2068 Arc of Zi-O kicks off this week, though with a relatively small amount of the action actually set in that future. What does happen in 2068, though, is a fundamental building block for the development of Sougo as a character, and will likely shape him in grand ways in the episodes to come. The episode begins with an unexpected turn of events. While debating what to do about Decade, Geiz urges Sougo to simply throw away his belt, the Jiku Driver, and cease being a Kamen Rider, in the name of preventing the Demon King Zi-O future. While Sougo begins to debate this option, our heroes are attacked and the city is besieged by war machines from the Demon King’s future, which match the ones Sougo claims to have seen in a dream as a child. This dream gives purpose to Sougo’s life, and makes the life goal of becoming a king seem suddenly much more reasonable.

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In the ensuing battle, Decade intervenes and Sougo sees Tsukasa unmasked for the first time. It’s ultimately Decade himself who initiates the time travel to 2068, where Sougo and Tsukuyomi become trapped. The future is bleak, it seems, though we don’t get to see much of it, as all the future scenes seem to take place in the same bare, open field. The emotional moments come mainly in the exchange between Sougo and his future self, the old man who is Oma Zi-O. What begins as Sougo seeing his own future and coming to terms with that quickly turns violent, and the younger Sougo finds himself on the receiving end of a beating. Oma Zi-O reinforces, in a powerful way, Geiz’s earlier idea that the only way to avoid becoming Oma Zi-O is to throw away the power of Riders completely.

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In the next episode, continuing the arc, it’s implied that Zi-O will receive some kind of upgrade, and we are assured to see more of Oma Zi-O as well. Look forward to the next episode when it airs this coming Saturday night (Sunday, JST).

Kami No Kiba – Jinga Episode 10

We’ll be skipping Episode 9 of Jinga, as that episode acts as a recap for the first arc of the series. Episode 10, however, picks up where episode 8 left off, with Grand Master Rozen asking the Watchdogs for permission to bring in Jinga. This is coming off the heels of a fellow Grand Master and his son both having been murdered in the previous episode. Rozen is understandably skeptical of what Jinga claims he can do, as a power like that has never existed before. He claims the power acts in direct contrast to what Makai Knights should be doing, which is killing horrors.

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To aid him in learning more, Rozen goes to Fusa, asking if she trusts Jinga, and what kind of person he is. Fusa, through flashbacks and her own expository monologue, explains that she trusts Jinga implicitly, and thinks he is doing the right thing. As things continue on, Jinga and Rozen come into more direct conflict, ending with Jinga captured by Rozen and a squad of Knights at the episode’s end, accused of the murder of Rozen’s apprentice, Shijo.

The next episode promises to continue the conflict, and hints at a more direct showdown between the two.

Ultraman R/B (End)

Ultraman R/B has now officially concluded, and thoughts/reviews will be coming once the series is made available with English subtitles past episode 17. Stay tuned for more!

SSSS. Gridman full series review coming next week!

Hey all, just a quick note here that we’ve not forgotten about SSSS. Gridman! The series is ending with episode 12, airing on 12/28/18, and we’ll be doing a full series recap/review after that episode airs!

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

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This Week in Tokusatsu – November 30th, 2018

Greetings, loyal readers! Today marks the beginning of a new weekly series, This Week in Tokusatsu, here at Toku Toy Store! Each week, we will be spotlighting events from Tokusatsu shows and movies, summed up in a more broad way than our older episode reviews. Stay tuned here each week for news, previews, and reviews!

For this first edition, we have a lot of ground to cover with more to come. Lupinranger vs Patoranger has entered its final arc, and though the pacing is inconsistent, the show is going strong! Meanwhile, Kamen Rider Zi-O begins to pick up steam with the Gaim arc coming to a close, and new trailers have debuted for Ultraman and Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Let’s dive in, shall we?


Lupinranger vs Patoranger Episode 41

Our heroes face off against the Gangler general Destra this week, and find themselves trapped in the Gangler world, which is something akin to Britain or France, draped in purple fog and eternal darkness. This is where we start to see the politics within the Gangler organization take shape in a meaningful way, as well as learning the true power that comes with a Status Double Gold designation, for someone like Destra. The episode treats us to some really well-done action pieces, even if the isekai plot thread is resolved a bit too quickly.

Once again, we’re starting to see Tsukasa put the pieces together that maybe the Jurer trio are more than they appear to be, but again the show holds off on the reveal. With just eight or nine episodes left before the end of this series, the reveal is coming up fast, and the final arc appears to be where the teams will have to truly come together. The preview for the next episode shows Tokyo in ruins, and Ganglers rampaging, as the heroes look on. The stakes are high and we won’t have to wait long for the payoff.


Kamen Rider Zi-O Episode 12

This week, Zi-O’s Gaim arc concludes, and we get to see a bit more of the spectacle that comes from having two Sougos, separated by a time interval of three days. It’s mostly played up for laughs in the beginning, but does end up becoming a crucial part of the endgame plot. Along the way, we get new character insights into most of the main cast, but the main bulk of the character growth comes in the form of Geiz’s willingness to trust Sougo with another Ridewatch, and the power of Gaim. It’s a powerful moment, driven by the lecture Geiz gets from returning actor Yutaka Kobayashi (Kamen Rider Baron/Kumon Kaito).

Next up, we will be treated to what appears to be a thoroughly packed arc, including appearances by Ghost, Decade, and Agito, with Decade appearing as a primary villain, if the trailer is meant to be taken at face value. A glimpse of Another Ghost reveals that the next Another Rider is more horror-themed, more demonic in appearance than his contemporary counterpart, and we also see that Sougo’s meeting with Takeru leads to him becoming a ghost as well. Does this mean one of the Sougos will die? Only time will tell.


Ultraman Anime Trailer

Earlier this week, Netflix debuted the first trailer for the long-awaited anime adaptation of the Kodansha manga Ultraman, which serves as a sequel to the original series. The art style has been a bit alarming for some, with much of the 2d/3d CG drawing parallels to the much-maligned Berserk continuation from 2016. The story follows a new Ultraman, the son of the original, and appears to be set in the modern era, rather than the 1960s setting of the original series. Another large detail is that this series will ignore all Ultraman continuity after Ultraman season one.

Look for Ultraman to debut in April 2019 on Netflix.


Godzilla: King of the Monsters International Trailer

The second international trailer for Godzilla: King of the Monsters debuted this week, and gave us our best look yet at the upcoming Kaiju. Rodan, Mothra, and even (through fog) King Ghidorah himself were on display in the new trailer, while the story of the human characters was expanded on a bit further. As hype for this film continues to build, Legendary Pictures’ Monsterverse comes together, with this third film slated to open the floodgates to Western Kaiju fans and casual viewers alike. Who knows what will come next? Maybe a cameo from MechaGodzilla? A crossover with Pacific Rim? Only time will tell, but expectations are high and excitement continues to mount as we approach the 31 May 2019 release of this film.


Looking for Jinga and Ultraman R/B? Check back soon as these shows become available and updated!

What was the highlight of your tokusatsu week? Join the discussion on social media!