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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!

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Kamen Rider Zi-O Episode 2 & 3 Review

Kamen Rider Zi-O is off to a running start so far, cramming character development, lore, and more into just the first episode. Now, following up on that fantastic debut, the show is in full swing with no signs of slowing down.

Episode 2

This second episode focuses heavily on Build, Cross-Z, and the impact of time travel on history. Another Build makes a return, and a new Rider Armour makes a debut. Just like before, this episode is packed, but the emphasis is heavy on action this time around.

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When Another Build returns, this time with a regeneration ability, Sougo and Geiz have a tough time taking it on. Continually absorbing powers, Another Build becomes so strong that it is unbeatable. This takes about a year, beginning in 2017 in Build’s timeline, and after a brief combat encounter, Sougo and Geiz time travel back to 2017 to stop Another Build from gaining that power. Thankfully, the consequences of time travel are at the forefront here, as both Sougo and Geiz end up using powers drawn from Sento and Banjou, in the form of the Build and Cross-Z Ride Watches. One of the biggest questions they end up asking after, though, is how Sougo got the watches in the first place.

This is explained, expertly, in the form of a temporal causality loop, presented as follows:

  • Sougo and Geiz defeat Another Build
  • Another Build’s defeat allows Sougo to obtain two blank Ride Watches
  • Ride Watches are given to Sento for refinement
  • Sento gives Sougo the Ride Watches in the future
  • Sougo  and Geiz travel back in time to defeat Another Build and restart the loop

Overall, this episode is excellently crafted, heavy on well choreographed action scenes, and shows that the series is not afraid to tackle high-concept ideas in science fiction. This keeps the bar set high for the rest of the series, and with the next episode focusing on Ex-Aid, we are off to a strong start that will carry forward for the whole run of Zi-O, in the best case.

Episode 3

Who would have thought the future Demon King of the human race would be bad at video games? Shortly after Geiz and Tsukuyomi rent out the spare room in Sougo’s house, one of Sougo’s friends falls ill while playing an “Unbeatable” game on his GENM-branded game system. The game? Mighty Action X.  Following advice from Woz, Sougo takes his friend to the Seito University hospital, where they meet the genius surgeon, Kagami Hiro, who tells them the symptoms Sougo’s friend has are increasingly common, but the cause is unknown. No mention of Game Syndrome is made, but a link to Mighty Action X is suspected. Based on this, it’s safe to assume Sougo arrives somewhere towards the beginning of the Ex-Aid timeline.

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As they begin to do more and more research, they are finally confronted by Another Ex-Aid, whose design is equal parts lazy, clever, and hilarious. The comparison has been made endlessly, up to this point, but I will include it here. Another Ex-Aid uses elements of Ex-Aid’s level 2 form and his final form, Hyper Muteki, to make something that looks a bit like The Predator, from the film series of the same name. Before they make too much more progress, though, they need more information and return to the hospital.

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It’s here that another of the easter eggs in this episode pops up, as they find the Genius Gamer M’s notes about Mighty Action X on the desk of pediatric doctor Hojo Emu, whom veteran fans will know better as Kamen Rider Ex-Aid. The notes are written in German, instructions for inputs on the game that translate to the Konami Code. When Sougo uses the notes, he clears level one of Mighty Action X, and they end up sucked into the game.

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It’s here we meet Emu, and then the episode ends on a cliffhanger, getting ready for a fight. Overall, this episode is fantastic like the previous ones, but ends rather abruptly after building a great deal of excitement. Episode 4 will continue the Ex-Aid arc, followed by a combined Faiz and Fourze arc for episodes five and six.

What did you think of these episodes? Is Zi-O everything you hoped it would be? Leave your thoughts and let’s discuss!

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

This one was a long time coming. For any of you who have been readers for a while, you’ll know that Lupinranger vs Patoranger has been missing from the TTS News section for a while, but I’m here to bring it back for you.

Let’s kick things off with a quick review of the most recent story arc, which focuses on testing the bonds of loyalty within the teams, and even between them. Note: This review will cover episodes 26-32 of Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger vs Keisatsu Sentai Patoranger, and some minor spoilers may be discussed. Let’s dive right in. Shall we?

Episode 26 starts us off at an auction house for the criminal underworld. Items included in the Lupin Collection are on the block, which leads Noel and Umika to go undercover. There’s a certain amount of intrigue, like something out of a crime novel, as they try to discover who the Gangler is. Characters from all over the world make appearances, including an American who, notably, has no spoken lines. This contrasts greatly from someone like Hilltop, who is canonically American but speaks fluent Japanese, or even Noel, who is French. It is very nice, though, to see the global aspect of the GSPO emphasized in subtle ways like this, expanding the scope of the plot beyond Japan’s borders. When they do discover who the Gangler is, though, it comes as something of a twist for the team, having just gone based on Noel’s guesses up to this point.

It’s a safe bet to say Noel is an even mix of Arsene Lupin and Detective Hercule Poirot, the French Sherlock Holmes. Both sides come out in situations like this, when he throws together a crazy heist plan based on a Sherlockian theory, made based on analysing evidence. When it all comes together, it’s incredibly satisfying to see the scheme play out.

Episode 27 offers more of the same, this time a team-up between Touma and Sakuya. The focus in this episode is on a “Martial Arts” dojo that turns out to just be low-impact aerobics. What makes it interesting, though, is that the Gangler who runs the dojo is a cartoon villain straight out of Looney Tunes, complete with bombs wrapped in snacks and silly sequences of dancing. For this episode, we don’t get a lot of substance, but we do see Touma being a bit on the brooding side as Sakuya tries to get him to open up. Much of the dojo sequence is played for comedy, and the Gangler’s power is admittedly very understated, as something like mind control or suggestive influence could have been used so much more effectively in different hands. 

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Thankfully, episode 28 has a bit more to offer.

This episode gives us our first real glimpse into Umika’s family life, as her father comes to visit for her birthday. Latching onto Kairi in a comedic, over-the-top way at first, he thinks the Bistro is something more than it appears, as Umika was previously a bit of a princess or a spoiled child. The arc of the episode is in two parts, with Umika’s father first learning to trust Kairi, then seeing that Umika is now a woman grown, and able to take care of herself. It’s a bit about letting go, and about the bond between parent and child, but big on emotional beats nonetheless.

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Episode 29 is another that is big on introspection, and the meaning of memory. In an experiment being performed by Gauche, Keiichiro loses his memories, and is only stirred out of his stupor by photos of the Lupinrangers. There is a certain amount of passion that comes along with anything that he does involving them, and that combined with the use of photos, manages to burn through Gauche’s haze to drive him to action when his team needs him. In this episode, there is a big action set piece in which Keiichiro becomes like a machine, using the Crane Trigger Machine as a replacement for his own arm at one point during a battle. It’s big, stupid fun in all the ways Super Sentai should be. There is even a moment where Keiichiro sees Hilltop, and thinks he is American actor Eddie Murphy, as seen below.

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For episode 30, though, we get a big character development moment from Keiichiro, and the arc that starts from this episode begins a trend of these twists that continue over the next several episodes. On a paid vacation, Keiichiro takes a trip. Kairi, coincidentally, is at the same spot, and the two attempt to hang out as friends, neither knowing the other is their opposite Red Ranger. There’s a moment where they play off each other like a buddy-cop duo right out of a Hollywood film, with “K-man” playing the serious role juxtaposed against Kairi’s lighter humour. This, of course, all comes crashing down when Keiichiro manages to get sucked back into work to get a new VS Vehicle from a shady arms dealer, only to be ambushed at the scene.

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After being rescued by Kairi, the two resume their normal fighting, going until Keiichiro decidedly has the upper hand in the fight over the new VS Vehicle. A call for emergency services ends the fight, with Keiichiro putting his trust in Kairi to do the right thing and help people, using the new VS Vehicle to put out the fires. Kairi does as he is asked, and keeps the Vehicle as a reward. It’s a big moment, and the emphasis is there, well and properly, right down to the music and shot composition. But this isn’t the end of new developments for Keiichiro or any of the police, as the next episode shows.

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Episode 31 focuses on Tsukasa, and her bond with a Gangler who is seemingly deeply repentant for his crimes. Called Yoshii, the Gangler dreams of a peaceful life, fantasizing about an overly-romanticised home life with a family, casting Tsukasa in the husband role. The others are reluctant to trust this Gangler, naturally, and are even more so when he is offered a plea bargain in exchange for information. It’s through this deal, however, that they learn about a project Gauche is collecting the safes of defeated Ganglers for. Noel correctly predicts that something is off, and in a twist reveal at the end of the episode, he ends up coming to Tsukasa’s rescue as Yoshii’s true nature is revealed.

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This entire episode serves as a credit to the skill of actress Okuyama Kazusa. She appears genuine, in most scenes, conveying an earnest nature and a desire to form a real connection with a potential ally. When the betrayal and the attempt on her life come near the end of the episode, her shock is palpable, as is the sense of defeat she seems to feel as she is proven wrong. In the end, though, the intel about Gauche’s experiment is proven correct as the setup of the next episode is put into place. Yoshii’s safe ends up being the fifth on a single Gangler, newly added to the battle.

Episode 32 focuses on this Gangler, and the lengths the team has to go to in order to defeat it. With five safes, it is mathematically impossible for one team to take it down, so Noel proposes the police and thieves work together. Sticking to his principles, Keiichiro refuses until he is challenged to a traditional duel against Noel, with the identity of the thieves and their freedom being Keiichiro’s prize if Noel fails. The battle plays out spectacularly and Keiichiro accepts help from the thieves at the end.

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This episode marks the second appearance of the combined mecha made from Good Striker, X Emperor, and six VS Vehicles. The thing is an unwieldy monstrosity of a machine, but gets the job done in the end, and Keiichiro finally begins to see that sometimes the minor, personal victory needs to be set aside for the greater good. A lesson is learned, and he is better for it. When the episode ends, all of our characters are in a better place, and we are given a closer glimpse into what happened at the end of the duel, subverting certain expectations and what we believe we saw, expertly using camera angles and weighted, deliberate character choices.

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

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Ultraman R/B Episode 9 & 10 Review

In the aftermath of the debut of our first major villain for Ultraman R/B, we have been given two fantastic episodes that each highlight the different strengths of the series, from the comedy to the characters and the action.

There is a full arc in these two episodes, where we see the brothers dealing with their first real defeat in a meaningful and interesting way, as well as seeing what Aizen’s definition of a hero is. The character development is fantastic, each scene is crammed with some meta joke or callback, and all the characters play off each other incredibly well. Let’s begin with episode 9.

The setup for this episode is simple: Ultraman Rosso and Ultraman Blu have been defeated by Ultraman Orb Dark Noir Black Schwarz, and have to really come to terms with that. As many fans previously called out, the brothers and even some one-off characters make light of the name being way too long, with Katsumi even going so far as to point out that, when translated, his name is literally Ultraman Orb Dark Black Black Black, taken from English, French, and German respectively. To their credit, the brothers don’t waste all their time making jokes about a poor choice in hero names, though, instead dedicating themselves to training while at human size with mockups of the weapons and abilities they use as Ultramen.

Asahi tags along, but is unable to figure out what exactly they are doing, somehow.

Her coming along to the training session turns out to be a stroke of good luck, though, as she falls and suffers a leg injury that leads to the discovery of the Earth crystal hidden in a cave. It’s with this power that they finally manage to overcome Aizen in the rematch. Up to this point, he has been making himself known to the citizens of Ayaka by causing disasters, and then stopping them. Much of the setup to the battle happens off screen, but given the setting change after they challenge him, it’s safe to assume there was some debate about a cool hero not causing property damage, or the brothers simply asking that they protect civilians as much as possible. When they do beat him, at long last, they take the weapon Aizen has been using to transform, vowing that he will never use it again.

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Instead, we see Katsumi using it for special attacks as soon as episode 10! The brothers attempt to take a day off, a family picnic, only to be met on several occasions by Aizen or his Kaiju, even being offered high-paying jobs at Aizentech, stationed overseas and safely out of his way.

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When they refuse enough times, they encounter their toughest Kaiju opponents yet, and end up being beaten after Katsumi stops a building from falling on Asahi and Ushio. They are defeated and earn a failing grade in Aizen’s second Ultraman Test, at which point he reclaims his henshin device.

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After the credits roll on this episode, the preview for the next one seemingly confirms a fan theory that has been circulating for a while. If this theory proves correct, Aizen’s tests, repeated Kaiju attacks, and even becoming an Ultraman himself are all attempts to groom and train the brothers for some bigger threat that will soon loom large. The preview shows a previously-unseen woman with shining eyes, dressed in an all-black Japanese lolita dress, clearly a villain unless the show opts for more clever subversion. That remains to be seen, but I hope you all are excited as I am for what’s in store.

What did you think of these episodes of Ultraman R/B? Leave your thoughts and let’s discuss!

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Kamen Rider Zi-O Episode 1 Review

It’s been built up for months, with previews, item showcases, and clips shown during the run of Build, but now here we are at last: Kamen Rider Zi-O has begun! This show starts off with frantic action right out of the gate, wasting no time in establishing the existential threat that is Demon King Zi-O. The opening scene prompts a Terminator-style time travel plot to destroy the Demon King before he can gain his full power, and this becomes the setup for the entire series.

 

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Demon King Zi-O stands before a statue that reads: To Commemorate the First Transformation of Tokiwa Sougo

 

For those unfamiliar, or a bit confused by the opening episode, Kamen Rider Zi-O centers on Tokiwa Sougo, a high school student in our modern time, and the future Demon King of the entire world. By his own admission, Sougo’s life’s dream is to become a king, and he frequently declares as much to his classmates, his uncle, and whoever else will listen. Unbeknownst to him, the fateful date of 1st September 2018 (the air date of the premiere and setting of episode one) is the beginning of his dream becoming a reality.

 

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Sougo seems like a good person, albeit a bit awkward with others because of his dedication to his goal. It will be interesting to see hints of his future personality come out as the show continues, but as of this episode, there is seemingly no trace of the kind of man who could do the things Demon King Zi-O is shown doing in Sougo. Tsukuyomi, a girl from the Demon King’s future 50 years ahead, believes Sougo’s course through life can be corrected and means to change the future peacefully. Geiz, on the other hand, doesn’t share that philosophy, and is very much the Terminator to Sougo’s John Connor. Each futurian uses their own Time Majin for time travel, and seemingly dimensional travel as one of their stops deposits them in Build’s world, around the time of episode 12 of Build, going by the date used.

 

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Between the time travel, the spectacular fights and world-building, and even the gimmicks and armours the characters use, episode one of Kamen Rider Zi-O does a lot of things right, and sets the bar very high for what is to come. Even our first Another Rider, Another Build, is given ample attention, using a combination of Build’s powers and the human host’s natural inclination to basketball. Every reference used has some purpose in the larger plot, rather than being a reference for the sake of nostalgia, right down to Tsukuyomi’s gun being a modified version of the Faiz Phone, now called Faiz Phone X, and making the same visual and sound effects on a hit that Faiz himself did with the weapon. This show has the potential to be a masterpiece or a disaster, but if this first entry is anything to go by, we are in for a treat over the next year.

 

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What did you think of Kamen Rider Zi-O’s premiere? Are you excited for what is to come? Do you have any theories about how the series will play out? Let’s start a discussion below or on social media!

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Power Rangers 25th Anniversary Special Episode Review

Last night was a big night. August 28th, 2018, the 25th anniversary of Power Rangers. With this remarkable milestone in franchise history, we got a crossover special focusing on a blending of new and old that worked well, mostly.

Overall, this episode is well-plotted and answers a lot of questions that have been lingering in the fan base for years, while confirming a few fan theories as well. Much of the episode focuses on the legacy of Tommy Oliver, the legendary Ranger who inspired so many others that came after, including using Tommy as both a villain and a rallying point. The setup of the episode involves a new villain, Lord Drayvon, who is trying to shatter the barriers in the multiverse using three Mega Arrows crafted by the primary villain of Super Ninja Steel, Madame Odius, in an attempt to build an army of Ranger robots and conquer each Ranger-inhabited dimension.

Our team for this reunion is made up of the entire Super Ninja Steel team, as well as the following returning Rangers:

  • Jason David Frank as Tommy Oliver, Dino Thunder Black
  • Steve Cardenas as Rocky DeSantos, Mighty Morphin’ Red II
  • Catherine Sutherland as Katherine Hillard, Turbo Pink
  • Selwyn Ward as TJ Johnson, In Space Blue
  • Jason Faunt as Wes Collins, Time Force Red
  • Jeff Parazzo as Trent Mercer, Dino Thunder White
  • Li Ming Hu as Gemma, RPM Silver
  • Steven Skylar as Antonio Garcia, Samurai Gold
  • Ciara Hanna as Gia Moran, Megaforce/Super Megaforce Yellow
  • Yoshi Sudarso as Koda, Dino Charge Blue

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Left to Right: Jeff Parazzo, Steve Cardenas, Li Ming Hu, Selwyn Ward, Steven Skylar, Ciara Hanna, Jason David Frank, William Shewfelt, Jordi Webber, Peter Sudarso, Yoshi Sudarso, Jason Faunt, Nico Greetham, Hayley Robbins, Chrysti Ane, Catherine SutherlandOver the course of the episode, we are treated to a great deal of action and teamwork, with most of the action footage of the Super Ninja Steel Rangers on their own having been lifted from Shuriken Sentai Ninninger: The Movie. The rest of the team scenes, or unmorphed scenes, are set in interiors or use a backdrop of flat gray walls and small areas, which serve the fight choreography extremely well. While not all the returning Rangers get a great deal of screen time, each has a purpose in the episode and all of them come together at the end to work with the Super Ninja Steel team.

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Without giving too much away, Tommy is able to play four out of his five previous Ranger forms in this episode, and we even get a well put together Tommy VS Tommy fight at one point, capped off by a larger battle between the thirteen Rangers and the Robot Ranger army controlled by Lord Drayvon. For the amount of material they had to work with in this episode, however, 23 minutes is simply not enough time. At points, it felt a bit rushed, certain plot points seemingly glossed over. The episode did answer many questions, though, such as confirming at long last that Dino Charge and RPM are indeed separate realities from the rest of the Power Rangers franchise.

In addition, in the opening moments we learn that Tommy Oliver now has a son named JJ, though JJ himself and his mother are not seen on screen. From the location of Tommy’s home in Reefside, there a few possibilities as to the identity of JJ’s mother, including Kimberly Hart or potentially even Elsa or Hayley, from Dino Thunder. In addition, JJ’s existence in the main continuity creates an additional possible link to the upcoming graphic novel Soul of the Dragon, which has often been called the “Power Rangers version of Old Man Logan.”

As stated by both Wes and Gemma, though, interdimensional travel is possible via the Morphin’ Grid, creating a possible link to the comics continuity and the story Shattered Grid as well. Could this mean Hasbro is laying the groundwork for the next film to tie all the universes together via an adaptation of Shattered Grid? It may be a bit early to tell, but one thing is for certain: Hasbro has big things in the works for our beloved franchise once they officially take full control with Power Rangers Beast Morphers, which is currently shooting and set to premiere in early 2019.

Overall, I liked this episode and found it a fitting, if rushed, way to celebrate a 25-year history that is still being written and make sure the old Rangers return.

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

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Ultraman R/B Episodes 4 and 5 Review

Character development and new crystals are the order of the day in the latest two episodes of Ultraman R/B!

Episode 4

Episode 4 is a very personal one for Katsumi, the older of the Ultraman brothers. The plot centres on Katsumi’s amateur baseball team trying to win one final game for their retiring coach, who was a mentor to our hero in high school. As you would expect, shenanigans ensue and the plan goes off the rails. From interpersonal drama to Kaiju attacks, seemingly every roadblock that could come up does. Along the way, we see that the brothers are not so good at keeping their identities a secret, with Isami, at one point, even calling out his brother’s name while in Ultraman form.

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Going by the size of these men when this happens, the voice must have been booming. Likely the entire city of Ayaka heard this call. By episode’s end, even the baseball coach is able to discern the identity of Ultraman Rosso, supposedly based on the hero’s pitching technique. Along with this, we finally get a full-body, day-lit shot to confirm that Makoto Aizen is, in fact, the human host of the upcoming villain Ultraman Orb Dark and the one behind the string of Kaiju attacks. What remains unclear is his motive, though it becomes a bit of a man-versus-item tsundere situation, as he is seen at the end lovingly touching his Ultra Crystal items, holding all the Kaiju at his disposal. In this episode, he uses the familiar Red King type, and even praises the crystal after his failure.

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This episode also marks a milestone in being the first time that either brother obtains Ultraman crystals other than their base, even if it is a weapon upgrade rather than a form change. The new crystals allow the R/B Slugger to be upgraded and the brothers perform a new team attack with this upgraded weapon, mostly due to necessity with Katsumi’s injured shoulder. This injury, sustained early on, is smartly played as a weakness as an enemy combatant would use with an injured foe in the real world, and it does noticeably hinder Katsumi’s baseball performance.

After Aizen sets off the Red King attack, the coach himself is forced to step in and close out the baseball game as pitcher, ultimately failing as the opposing team lands a grand slam in the 9th inning. Despite a solemn promise to go out on a victory for the coach’s final game, he is not disappointed, or upset. He knows they played a good game and that that is what matters more. It’s a lesson in sportsmanship, and in perspective in life and as the coach and Katsumi leave the field together one final time, the shot is fittingly artistic in its composition.


Episode 5

In this episode, we are given a glimpse of the more human side of the citizens of Ayaka, with Isami even being given something of a romantic interest in the form of an engineering student, Ninomiya Yuuha, nicknamed Icarus for her propensity to build flying machines that can be worn by humans. In truth, her experiments are dangerous and even Katsumi and Asami see it. They go so far as to convince Isami to get her to stop and give up on her dreams of achieving flight while wearing wings. I cannot argue with their logic, seeing the machine Icarus builds for herself.

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After a visit from Aizen, a bug is planted in Quattro M so he can gather information, hoping to overhear the brothers talk about being Ultramen. He is quickly foiled by Asahi, thinking the bug is a cookie (as it was disguised), and it is thrown away. It’s a slightly comedic moment as the bite sends a burst of high-pitched sound into Aizen’s earpiece, causing him to do a literal spit-take with the tea he is drinking in that moment.

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Working with this new character, Isami helps her fix her wings, and the pair discover a new Ultra Crystal, for Ultraman Tiga and a new Wind form. Aizen decides to take it for himself, and unleashes a new Kaiju on the city, leading the brothers to waste zero time in jumping into action. This time around, unlike in previous weeks, they don’t waste time hiding their secret identities from Asahi or Icarus, who are both led just out of range of where the battle will take place before the brothers transform. The new Kaiju is reminiscent of Toho fan favourite King Ghidoriah, though with only one head instead of three, combined with a large bird.

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With the wind crystal in the open, Isami is the first to take its power and becomes Ultraman Blu Wind, with a deep purple colour palette and many of the same powers as the Kaiju. It’s a genius move and ultimately ends up leading to Aizen only getting more excited, and after the battle is over we see the Ultraman Orb Dark crystal for the first time. It’s a detailed, close-up shot, and for anyone curious about the odd letters on the crystals, they have been partially decoded by a Facebook user, who deciphered that the letters are simply the Ultraman language versions of whatever character is pictured on the crystal.

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Overall, Ultraman R/B continues on an upward trajectory, even if only scratching the surface of its lore up to this point. With the debut of Ultraman Orb Dark now set for episode 8, we are only a few weeks away from a massive spike in the conflict. But until then, I would love to see these characters and this world continue to grow.

What did you guys think of these episodes? Leave a comment and let’s discuss!

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Kamen Rider Build Episode 47 Review

What an emotional gut-punch this entire episode was. In 23 short minutes, many previously-understood aspects of the story are turned on their heads and we are taken for a ride in terms of action pieces and heartfelt moments of character development. Before we begin, though, we will be discussing spoilers for this episode, so if you have not seen episode 47 of Kamen Rider Build, I suggest you watch it before reading further.

 

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The moment we have all been expecting for a few weeks now has finally come to pass. Sawatari Kazumi, Kamen Rider Grease, falls in battle this week and joins his friends, the Hokuto Three. In his last moments, he regrets allowing himself to die and leave his friends behind. In addition, we learn that Kamen Rider Mad Rogue, Utsumi, has been secretly working against Evolt from the beginning, plotting his revenge on Evolt for the murder of Nanba Juusaburou at the beginning of the Evolt Phase 3 arc. As Utsumi puts it, “The basic Rider System is insufficient,” and so he decides to bide his time. This week, he strikes.

 

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Utsumi and Gentoku take on the cloned HellBros

 

This whole episode comes with an emotional weight and gravitas that, to me, is very reminiscent of the same point in Kamen Rider Gaim, though in that series, we were losing 2-3 major players in every single episode until only the title character remained. The contrasting fights this week are set up extremely well, with Kazumin taking on the clones of his deceased friends while Gentoku and Utsumi face off against Evolt and a reborn BiKaiser or HellBros, created from Evolt’s DNA. They are victorious in recovering a Lost Bottle after this battle, but Evolt himself appears and makes quick work of Utsumi, who is also killed this week.

 

 

Utsumi’s end adds a new level of depth to his character though, as we see that he is able to use the Evol Driver and upgraded Rider System due to his status as a cyborg. When he dies, though, he overloads and short circuits, giving Evolt the room he needs to land a killing blow. No one mourns for him the way they do for Grease, as Utsumi spent the majority of the series as a primary antagonist. For Grease, on the other hand, there is genuine grief shown on the part of his teammates. By the end of the episode, when they know he has fallen, they look defeated, exhausted, genuinely broken up over the loss of a friend as they should.

 

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This whole episode carries an air of finality, of the grief the characters hold for their lost friend and the desperation they feel knowing he likely will not be the last of them to fall to save their world. The preview for the next episode seems to indicate this as well, as we see a single shot of Gentoku glowing purple and seeming to fade away, in the style of Avengers: Infinity War.

 

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This episode left me reeling, and I’m sure many of you feel the same. Leave your thoughts below and let’s discuss!

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Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger vs Keisatsu Sentai Patoranger Episode 25 Review

At the halfway point in the series, we are at a crossroads in Lupinranger vs Patoranger. Lymon, the Gangler from last week, is still at the height of his abilities, with some new tricks thrown in this week for good measure that force all seven rangers to work together for the first time. This leads to the creation of the monstrosity of a mecha seen previously in toy scans, Good Cool Kaiser VSX. This comes at the height of a shared trust problem between the two teams, and even from the Lupinrangers to Noel.

 

 

This episode focuses primarily on the fallout from the Patorangers’ defeat at the hands of Lymon last week, even citing the collateral damage and civilian casualties caused by the battle. In addition, the main interpersonal dynamic focuses on an injured Noel, his relation to the other teams and specifically to Kairi, and sets the foundation for Noel’s resolve to be tested. Despite severe injuries, he keeps fighting and figures out the secret to Lymon’s golden safe.

 

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In the end, it takes all seven rangers working in full cooperation to get anywhere near Lymon, and they only turn to this point out of desperation after much prodding by Tsukasa. Clearly, none of them like this idea but they are forced into it because they are simply and wildly outclassed. Lymon’s abilities are presented in such a way that makes it clear the Rangers have been fighting and struggling against the bottom of the barrel, up to this point. This is a bit of a deviation from the norm, as the Rangers have largely not scaled up in power to keep up with their enemies this year, as is tradition. Instead, the action has been centered around them finding new and creative ways to use existing abilities.

 

This new Ultrazord-class mecha marks the first significant power spike for the teams since Noel’s introduction, and with the upcoming scans revealing more, it will be interesting to see what sort of enemies necessitate those upgrades. Good Striker, especially, is going to be getting at least two new versions that we know of already, so I am curious to see how the rest go. Along with this, there can only be so much time left before the police discover the thieves’ identities. Maybe Noel will be the key, or maybe we will even see more Rangers added as the series goes on. The tradition recently does seem to be teams of ten plus, after all.

 

 

Overall, this episode does a lot to establish a new dynamic between the two teams and their middleman, but falls a bit short of true progress. There are a few bits of comedic exchanges between characters, including swapping seats in the new all-Ranger mecha, and some heartfelt dialogue, but it still leaves a bit to be desired in the end. Stay tuned for the next one to see how it all unfolds!

 

As always, leave your thoughts below and let’s discuss!

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Kamen Rider Build Episode 46 Review

As we enter the final stretch for Kamen Rider Build, the endgame has finally begun. This episode begins with Evolt revealing his existence to the world, and only builds further from that jumping off point. Throughout this episode, tensions are high and there is a sense of finality, of ending to it all. Characters’ motivations and decisions are explored nicely, and without giving too much away, the show chooses to prove an ongoing fan theory correct in its final moments. The desperation these characters feel is palpable, fighting against what is easily the single most powerful enemy to ever grace a Kamen Rider series, or maybe even in all of Tokusatsu in general.

 

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Evolt’s challenge, issued to Team Build in the same broadcast in which he reveals himself, shows that he is still relaxed enough to think of their existential struggle as nothing more than a game. The fact that he caps off this performance by swallowing 20 square kilometres of the city in a black hole only reinforces Evolt as a cosmic-level threat. In all of Eastern superhero fiction, I can think of no character who even comes close to this level of destructive power. Team Build, for their part, put their desperation and determination on full display, as we see a glimpse of the Devil’s Scientist still living in Sento.

 

His solution to defeat Evolt is to erase a parallel Earth using Pandora’s box, and let Evolt’s energy fuel the fusion. The result would kill or erase billions of people on both sides of the fusion, and nearly every other character, rightly, questions this plan. Still, seeing no other way, they proceed, and play into Evolt’s game.

 

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The game, as Evolt calls it, is for Team Build to enter the base of Pandora’s Tower and fight their way to the top. They don’t make it out of the first room before Grease is confronted by the ghosts of his past, in the form of Evolt-created clones of his dead friends. Despite seeing through the illusion and staying behind to fight, he is naturally hesitant to go all out. As the rest of the team moves forward, we are given contrasting shots of the action, and the multiple cinematic influences on the team behind the series become clear. The whole scenario seems to be drawn, in large part, from a classic action film from Indonesia called The Raid, known in the west as The Raid: Redemption, while Grease’s scenes parallel classic Westerns and Samurai films. It feels like a mix of The Magnificent Seven, Shane, and Rashomon.

 

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Like any classic Samurai or Cowboy, Kazumin faces this challenge with the steel and grit of a man who knows what needs to be done for the greater good, and has resigned himself to being the one to do it. If this is where Sawatari Kazumi falls, then it is a good end. This is a man who began his time in the series as a primary enemy, and became one of the hero’s closest allies. It would be a fitting end to his arc, all things considered. We will find out in Episode 47, and given the episode title and preview, it looks grim.

 

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