Posted on Leave a comment

Toku Review Round-Up! (July 4th, 2020)

Hello, and welcome to the first ever ‘Toku Review Round-Up!’ on the Toku Toy Store! I’m Adam – you may remember me from some other things I’ve written recently for this site, such as my ‘What makes a great Kamen Rider villain?’ piece and my recaps of the currently airing Super Hero Time Shows Machine Sentai Kiramager and Kamen Rider Zero One. Although I had tremendous fun writing those, I didn’t get much space to express my personal thoughts, criticisms and appraisals on what’s happening right now in the current, exciting moment of Tokusatsu. That’s about to change, however, as right now I have the extraordinary pleasure of reviewing the latest episodes of major tokusatsu shows for the Toku Toy Store, including Mashin Sentai Kiramager, Kamen Rider Zero-One and Ultraman Z. Every two weeks, I’ll be bringing you my ‘sparkling’ takes on the last two episodes of each show!

When this regular column was originally pitched, we lived in a more hopeful world where Covid-19 hadn’t destroyed everything yet. At the time I was first given the opportunity to write regular episode reviews, Super Hero Time hadn’t yet been delayed, and GARO Versus Road was still airing, which I very much wanted to include as part of this, but at the time of writing it finished last week, and this column is all about the currently airing shows. Sorry GARO, but you didn’t make it in, but thankfully Ultraman Z began and Super Hero Time returned at an opportune moment to form the three pillars of this regular review column (I liked GARO VR a lot, for the record!).

I’ll be reviewing the individual episodes of each of these major toku shows in groups of two, until the shows end, or I die (whichever comes first!). I’ll be trying to consider each episode on its own merits, but of course factoring in how the series has handled things throughout its run. I think it will be particularly interesting to compare the three shows at three different points in their life cycle, with Ultraman Z having only just debuted, Kiramager still in its early game and Zero-One approaching its end. I think there’s a lot to say about each show so far, but to really condense these reviews down to the most basic assessment, I’ve pioneered a ‘revolutionary’ five-star system for each episode, which you’ll see in action below!

Kamen Rider Zero-One – Episodes 35.5 & 36

Episode 35.5 of Kamen Rider Zero One is a bit of a weird one to start with because it feels like a partial recap episode, yet it still seems somewhat important for the continuity of the story. This episode in particular mostly focuses on our villain team of Metsubouijinrai, who are introduced to ‘Azu’, the evil counterpart of ‘Izu’ who appears to have been created as an emissary of the Ark satellite, which is now awake and ready to enact its will on the world.

Although there was a lot of recycled footage in this episode, I did enjoy how it introduced Azu, with Izu’s actress showing a different dimension in the form of a more malicious Humagear assistant. I also enjoyed the minor hesitations each member of Metsuboujinrai had in telling the story of how they gained their ‘singularity’. In particular, I appreciated how the minor changes Jin’s character has gone through thus far enabled him to carefully obscure his true intentions to avoid being inflicted with the ‘Malice learning ability’. This comes to fruition in the next episode, and upon reflection, they did quite a good job of establishing it here.

Outside of these minor details, there wasn’t a lot of new stuff in 35.5 to enjoy, probably due to its nature as an intermediary episode. There wasn’t even much Aruto outside of a small cameo. It was nice to be caught up again on the current thoughts and feelings of the Metsuboujinrai, but it felt more like a reminder than anything else. With that being said, this is the episode that introduces us to the Ark’s physical presence, which seems like it will be an important thing going forwards – it puts this episode in a weird limbo between being important and being just another recap. It’s somewhere between skippable and not skippable. On the Zero-One scale, it gets 2.5 ‘Burning Falcons’ out of 5. The charming performances elevate it a bit for me, but overall it felt quite forgettable as an episode.

Episode 36, however, was a lot stronger, and contained quite a few aspects that I liked, including Jin and Yua’s team up as a pay off to the last few episodes. I quite enjoyed the choreography in all of the fights against Ark-Zero, and it was interesting to see some kind of gambit in play against the new villain. The plan doesn’t really work though, and a lot of this episode consists of the existing players getting owned by the new bad guy.

I do like where Zero-One is currently headed but I think it’s been caught up in some problems along the way that may have prevented it from being even better. The extended pacing of the previous Arc has made it felt like we’re now rushing towards a new enemy and the way in which the last few episodes have played out have been frustrating in the way that characters seem to keep switching alliances. Side-switching is a Kamen Rider staple of course, so it’s partly to be expected, but I’m never really certain at the moment what certain characters are motivated by and I’m confused why more time wasn’t dedicated to establishing the threat of Ark-Zero, rather than ZAIA, who have faded into the background a bit at this stage.

Overall, though, episode 36 at least felt like there were a lot of moving parts to it compared to the previous ‘half’ episode. The use of Fuwa (and to some extent, Naki) continues to be the best part of the show – and at this point I’m enjoying where his character is at the most after his ‘reset’, and the emotional moment that they give him this episode was one of the stronger elements of this episode overall; seeing Fuwa laugh so much was a strange sight, but at least his character is moving forwards.

As Zero-One barrels towards its conclusion, it remains to be seen if it can wrap things up in a truly satisfying way. Aspects of it give me hope for the final block of episodes, though, and I give Episode 36 a solid 3.5 ‘Ark Drivers’ out of 5. 

Ultraman Z – Episodes 1 and 2

Tsuburaya productions have been kind enough to simulcast all the episodes of their latest show Ultraman Z via YouTube, with full english subtitling, which makes this one a really convenient watch for fans and newcomers to the world of Ultraman alike. The tone and continuity of the first episodes of Ultraman Z are also indicative of a show designed to draw in new people whilst also paying a kind reverence to Ultraman’s history. The first episode is a great introduction, and a fun look at the new Ultraman hero and the supporting cast.

I’m a big fan of how Ultraman brings its kaiju and mecha to life with the use of scaled model shots and CGI in a fantastic harmony. It doesn’t always look perfect but the first episodes of Ultraman Z make it clear that the show is confident in its own style. We’re immediately introduced to the man-made mecha of the series, Sevenger, which is really charming in its clunky appearance. Throughout the episode, the rest of the earth’s defense force – STORAGE – are also imbued with a lot of personality. Charming is definitely the key word for this first episode because I kept seeing stuff that made me smile or laugh.

Even the new Ultra hero, Z, is full of good vibes. Once they make their way to Earth to combat the threat of a ‘ferocious space shark’ Genegarg, they find themselves having to fuse with the earthling Haruki, who was piloting Sevenger. Z and Haruki have difficulty communicating with each other, and there’s even some humour to be found in the way Z asks Haruki to ‘chant [his] name!’ with more spirit in order to complete their mutual transformation. It’s clear from the beginning that Ultraman Z is going to be a really fun series, with a lot of soul at the core of its character writing.

Overall, the first episode was just a great time, and I’m not sure how else to explain it beyond how I have already – it just works! I give it 4 and half Ultra Medals out of 5!

The second episode was filled with a similar quality and involves Haruki getting used to his new responsibilities as someone merged with Ultraman Z, as well as his troubles with a new invisible kaiju. Everything that was great about the first episode is great again here, there’s more kaiju crushing action that has a very tangible look to it, and once again the characters have a lot of dynamic personality. More is shown about the inner workings of the defense group STORAGE, highlighting the hierarchy between the core members that form the show’s supporting cast.

We’re also given a general insight into what motivates Haruki – he’s striving to be better – in life, in his practice of Karate, and as part of the global defense force, STORAGE. He feels very responsible for his own failures, wishing to build upon himself. In an intense sparring practice, Haruki is told to ‘not just rely on his eyes’. This comes back later on in the episode, as Haruki uses this as inspiration to defeat the invisible Kaiju by ‘sensing’ it after merging with Z once more. It’s a neat conclusion to another neat episode and also showcases the STORAGE team working together nicely throughout. Although it’s not quite as strong as the opener, it’s still a succinct and smart episode – I give it 4 Zestium Beams out of five, and I’m really excited to see where Ultraman Z goes from here.

Mashin Sentai Kiramager –  Episodes 11 + 12

If you read my recap of Kiramager thus far, you’ll know that I’ve enjoyed it quite a bit in its first 10 episodes. It’s playing it quite safe for a Sentai series show but that’s definitely not a bad thing by any means. Even when Kiramager feels formulaic, it’s still managing to look pretty stylish while doing it.

Episode 11 kicks off with intense gameplay of Tekken, with our e-sports hero Tametomo taking the lead. After the match his hair is stolen by his competitor, who says something weird about using it as fuel for his ‘curse’. It’s a weird series of events, and soon after encountering a menacing Marrskman with the rest of the Kiramager team, Tametomo is sent back in time to re-experience their day all over again, starting with the weird encounter they had after their Tekken match.

It’s a funny and interesting premise for an episode, and it uses its twenty minute runtime effectively to do quite a lot with the concept, despite utilising a lot of cliches from other ‘time loop’ media. Tametomo has been one of the most fleshed-out members of the team so far, and this episode does a pretty decent job at continuing to show why, who manages to keep a good humour and competence despite the continual resets, figuring out what’s going on pretty quickly, but succumbing to feelings of isolation when he realises that he’s the only one experiencing the full extent of the time reset. It’s nice that Tametomo is given a more existential struggle in this episode, rather than just a physical one.

Tametomo eventually figures out what he needs to do after being inspired by others, resolving to repeatedly defeat the ‘reset button’ Marrskman over and over again until he yields his ability to reset time. If I’m being honest, I think it would have been more thematically appropriate if the episode would wrap up around here, but we have to stick to Sentai formula and have at least one battle on a larger scale. Despite this minor gripe, though, this episode is a really interesting solo adventure for Tametomo. I give it 3.5 out of 5 ‘Reset Buttons’.

Episode 12 gives us what many Sentai fans have been looking forward to for a while now – the debut of Kiramai Silver. This episode serves as a pretty excellent introduction to Kiramai Silver, with Kiramai Pink, Sayo, used as the point-of-view character. The adventure that ensues is pretty interesting – Sayo gets trapped on a mountain, with no way of escape, until an unusual man in a silver jacket appears!

The episode shows us a lot of back and forth between Sayo and this mysterious new figure, who shows a lot of excitement about things that make very little sense and expresses a lot of skepticism about fully saving Sayo from her peril due to a prophecy that we also hear Mabusheena quote at the beginning of the episode. Regardless, the two work together to find a treasure, which actually ends up being a ‘monstone’. What I like about this portion of the episode is the new character’s innate heroism, which shows through in everything they do – they’re laser focused on their goal, and as soon as the ‘monstone’ appears, he resolves to defeat it. 

Eventually, all of the Kiramagers end up in the same spot, fighting the same enemy, and the new guy’s name is revealed to be… Crystalia Takamichi. We then get our first transformation of Kiramai silver, which features an incredibly cool transformation jingle. The next five minutes of the episode are essentially dedicated to showing that Takamichi is the coolest guy, at least until it’s revealed that he’s Mabusheena’s brother, and abandoned Crystalia when they needed him the most.

It’s important to establish this kind of thing early on, and it puts Takamichi in an interesting place from the outset. It’s a cool storytelling move to make him appear to be the coolest guy and then have him revealed to be the worst guy soon after – it definitely creates some intrigue on where his character will go next to redeem themselves. 

Overall, it was a pretty cool and flashy introduction for the new hero, which also manages to raise some questions. It’s unfortunate that most of the main team were sidelined in this episode as a means to introduce Silver, but that’s just how it has to go sometimes. It’s another enjoyable outing for Kiramager – I give it 4 out of 5 ‘Shiny Breakers’.

That’s all for this edition of Toku Review Round-up, and this year’s tokusatsu continues to be an enjoyable escape from the tough conditions of the world. I’m excited to see where Ultraman Z goes from its strong start, I’m looking forward to getting more of Takamichi and I’m holding out hope for a suitably explosive final arc for Zero-One! See you next time as we found out what each of these shows has in store!

Toku Review Round-up is a fortnighty column. Join Adam again for more in two weeks!

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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)
Posted on Leave a comment

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

40E9C9C3-15AF-4A1E-AFF1-97E8B6A2C87A
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.

951897E3-83C1-4286-A144-11E2EEAE561A
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.

AD3C1BF2-F160-4D6E-9135-5AC85437C3A6
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!

Posted on Leave a comment

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!

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Screenshot_20180919-090955.png

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.

Screenshot_20180919-090902

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!

Posted on Leave a comment

Ultraman R/B Episode 8 Review

Here it is, at long last. This week marked the eighth episode of Ultraman R/B and the long-awaited debut of the series primary antagonist, Ultraman Orb Dark (or, properly, Ultraman Orb Dark Noir Black Schwarz).

As has been shown up to this point, he does end up using Aizen as a human form, and as such the character lends a great deal of levity and meta humour to what is, ultimately, the darkest episode of the series so far. While the brothers are definitively on the losing end of this fight, they spend much of the encounter being chastised for failing as heroes in the sense that Aizen deems worthy of Ultramen.

Screenshot_20180903-114810Ultraman Report Cards for Each Brother

These remarks border on fourth-wall breaking, including demonstrations of proper superhero poses, and the insistence that attacking during an introduction or transformation is against the rules. “You’re too green!” he tells them repeatedly, insisting that though he is their nemesis, he believes they can be something far greater than they are. The being that inhabits Aizen is thousands of years old, and knows the potential that Ultramen can achieve, so he sees that the brothers are wasting their gifts.

Screenshot_20180903-114659

Repeatedly, throughout the encounter, he brings up previous incidents and approaches them as mistakes a proper hero wouldn’t make. Every hit the brothers take, every time he outmatches them, Aizen is kind enough to pepper in bits of wisdom and advice, as if he isn’t truly their enemy, but trying to prepare them for something great. Maybe he is just holding them to the high standards of past Ultramen. We will see in the weeks to come, as this episode marks the one-third point of the total run of Ultraman R/B. Maybe some bigger threat is coming that Aizen knows about. It remains to be seen, but is sure to be interesting, at least.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All in all, this episode is the heaviest so far, but still carries a great deal of the humour seen up to this point in the series through various self-referential jokes and physical gags. All along, there’s a certain air that eventually this enemy will become an ally. Maybe we have only seen the surface layer of this new villain, who is clearly more complex than he appears at a first quick glance. Much remains to be seen, but I am excited for all there is to come.

What are your thoughts on this episode and the series as a whole up to this point? Leave a comment or reach out on social media and let’s discuss!

Posted on Leave a comment

Ultraman R/B Episode 6 and 7 Review

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

Episode 6

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

Screenshot_20180903-102112

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

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

 

 

Episode 7

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

Screenshot_20180903-113604

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

Screenshot_20180903-113817

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

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

Screenshot_20180903-114231

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

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

Posted on Leave a comment

Ultraman R/B Episode 3 Review

Stone birds, zany CEOs and more in this edition of Ultraman R/B!

Brotherly humour continues this week, even in the pre-credits narration from the duo, as Isami laments that he doesn’t think they have a victory pose. Katsumi disagrees. It’s the little things like this that add depth and colour to characters who could have otherwise been made very bland. Even little sister Asami gets a lot of characterisation this week, as the trio spends much of the episode in the Aizen Tech facility, now finally directly interacting with Makoto Aizen. The eccentric billionaire is running a Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory of technology, including jet packs, augmented jump shoes, and Kaiju-proof shelters, giving the whole facility and company the feeling of being a goofier version of Stark Industries.

Screenshot_20180727-080805

Aizen himself is a central player in this episode and we get to see more of his excitable demeanour, while also being given a glimpse of a certain duality that exists in him as scientist, versus the public persona of the happy-go-lucky CEO. As a researcher, Makoto Aizen reveals that he worked with the matriarch of the Minato family, Mio, before her disappearance in 15 years ago. To put it into perspective, Minato Mio disappeared in 2003, if we assume the show is set in the modern day. Up to this point, Makoto Aizen had yet to take over his father’s small factory, then called AizenMech. In his research, he says, a theory formed surrounding the creation of Ayaka City’s legends and that the legends may be anything but.

It’s a curious bit of background information, and implies that Aizen may have a much bigger role to play later, especially given that he correctly identifies two of the falling stars of legend as the Ultraman brothers. The third, he assumes (again correctly) is the kaiju Grugio. The fact that he knows this much already could mean a few things, but personally, I am hoping he has a central role to play. The character is immensely likeable, and already his scenes can play serious or comedic to equally positive effect. Towards the end of the episode, he stops a man walking down the road and says, “You are exactly what I have been looking for!”

To me, this means he has some kind of plan and is more directly involved than he lets on.

Thankfully, all it takes for him to figure out the Ultraman brothers are the Minato brothers is their absence from the Kaiju shelter when the rest of the building is evacuated.

Screenshot_20180727-081053

Screenshot_20180727-081136

Also, Ultraman can fly like Superman now (because of reasons).A lot of toku shows leave the audience sometimes wondering at the leaps in logic it must take for the writers to keep the heroes’ identities hidden, but in this case, at least they seem to be getting right to it and doing away with the secret identity bit, if only in part. Inevitably, Asami will figure it out as well, and this can only add to the comedy dynamic of the family. Overall, though, this episode has the same great off-beat humour we have come to expect, while adding a touch of darker undertones to the series. I am very excited to see what is to come.

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

Posted on Leave a comment

Ultraman R/B Episode 2 Review

The light-hearted comedic charm shown in the opening of this new series carries over in a big way this week. The second episode of Ultraman R/B opens on the brothers testing their abilities, including a lot of experimentation with laser blasts cut over dialogue and banter that definitely made me laugh a few times. The best of these moments, though, comes after Isami inadvertently blows up a mountain and remarks, “It’s only a little blown up!”

Though he has still yet to appear directly with our heroes, we are treated to a brief glimpse of the over-the-top bravado and silliness that make up Makoto Aizen, the self-proclaimed “Preacher of Love and Goodwill.” After someone with Ultraman-like abilities at human size saves a woman from an accident in front of him, Aizen asks the man to lend his power. The brothers share a more serious exchange as they debate what to do about being Ultraman, whether to tell people or just keep fighting in silence. They even remark that the news media lumped them in with Grugio as Kaiju, and the whole exchange leaves Isami boiling with anger.

It’s only thanks to candy from his little sister that he finally calms down, and we begin to see a particular dynamic taking shape. We see the process of a Kaiju being called into being, but not by whom, and it seems that they come from crystals as well as Ultraman does. A crystal in a Rube Gyro leads to the rise of a new Kaiju, who immediately begins to attack Ayaka City once again. This time, Isami is ready to jump right into the fight, though he takes a moment to try to hide his identity.

For his hesitation, Isami is left trapped under rubble and unable to transform.

With a Kaiju running rampant, the whole scene comes across as fittingly bleak, with an emergency services siren constantly playing on in the background. Buildings have crumbled and the damage is evidently not going to just disappear at the episode’s end. In this scene, we begin to see that the brothers now share a mental link, as well as a familial one. Touching their Gyros at the same time leads to Katsumi being able to see his brother’s situation and position, and he wastes no time in heading there for a rescue.

When suited up this time, the fight doesn’t seem, to me, to carry as much weight as the encounter did at ground level. Punches land limply, and the brothers, per their normal style, spend more time doing acrobatic stunts than they do focused on combat. There is a moment during the fight where they sneak some more comedy into it, again at Isami’s expense as he realises he broke a building.

Another snapshot of Aizen and an open book reveal that the brothers may have been fated to become Ultraman for a long time, and that their mother knew. We will have to wait to learn more, but as Ultraman seasons typically run half the length of their counterparts at Toei, we can expect the wait won’t be long. Overall, this episode carries forward the established tone well, balancing light and dark in equal measure, and making sure to leave room for the brothers to play off of each other well.

What did you think of Episode 2? Leave your thoughts and let’s discuss!

Posted on Leave a comment

Ultraman R/B Episode 1 Review

After months of build-up, Ultraman R/B made its long awaited debut this past Saturday. Did the red and blue brothers live up to the hype?

Ultraman R/B does an incredible job of setting up its world and characters early into the first episode. Before the OP has even played, we see our heroes, Katsumi and Isami Minato, in their Ultraman forms, as well as Grugio, the Kaiju of the week and resident legend of the brothers’ hometown, Ayaka. We see Ayaka itself, a quaint small town in the mountains of Japan, complete with its own local legends and folklore. When the cutaway begins, the feeling is almost like the cliched-but-entertaining, “Record scratch. You’re probably wondering how I ended up here,” situations that come up in films from the 1980s.

Screenshot_20180708-112521

Isami is a scientist, and Katsumi works with his father selling clothes out of the family’s store, Quattro M. As the episode goes on, the brothers remark that their mother was a scientist as well but has been missing or gone for close to 15 years. Katsumi is shown to be the more responsible of the pair, as the older brother, and Isami, for all his knowledge, is painted as a bit more reckless. While the pair banter back and forth, we are given a glimpse of another character we know will be a major player later, Makoto Aizen, an industrialist who seems to specialise in human augmentation.

Screenshot_20180708-112010

The brothers play off each other very well, from a comedic standpoint. More and more as the episode goes on, we see their exchanges in the way of friendly banter, one-liners, and quick jabs at each other’s personality quirks, meant in a friendly way. This extends all the way to their teamwork in the first encounter they enter, against the Kaiju, Grugio. In fact, it’s one such exchange that leads to the brothers getting their Ultraman powers in the first place, if indirectly.

Screenshot_20180708-112106

Isami begins to detect movement near the mountain just outside of Ayaka, and ropes Katsumi into going along to the park. Complete with odd backpack gear and too much jargon, Isami is able to dive full on into his research, and Katsumi is left confused. When Grugio attacks, though, the brothers are fearless and act immediately to save a child. Grugio catches them both in a blast but they awaken as Ultraman Rosso and Ultraman Blu, rather than being killed.

Screenshot_20180708-112333

During combat, they show little to no aptitude, making for a few moments played for laughs in which they accidentally hurt each other. Going along with this motif, their first form change comes from an improvised idea by Isami to see if they can switch power sets by switching crystals. They can and do, inverting their abilities to finish the fight.

When defeated, Grugio reverts to a crystal and falls into the palm of someone’s hand. Though we do not see this new figure’s face, the implication is that this person is the human host of Ultraman Orb Dark. The brothers awaken to find their younger sister, Asami, trying to give them candy and get them home. It seems being an Ultraman is exhausting.

Screenshot_20180708-112925

Overall, this episode serves as a great introduction to this series, while offering a slightly more light-hearted take on Ultraman than previous series have. The comedic dialogue and snappy one-liners from the brothers made this episode very entertaining, and I would easily recommend Ultraman R/B as a jumping on point for newcomers to the franchise.

What did you think of the premiere of Ultraman R/B? Leave your thoughts below and let’s discuss!