Katsuhrio Suzuki, Ryoma Baba, Hiroya Matsumoto, Yuuichi Nakamura, Hiedo Sakaki, Risa Yoshiki, Tatsuhisa Suzuki, Fuuka Nishihira, Naoto Takahashi, Ayame Misaki & Syo Jinnai
Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters was a rather polarizing series. Some, such as myself, enjoyed the fact that it was a series unafraid to do things differently immensely. However others were extremely critical of how different it was to your standard Super Sentai show, and sadly these were probably the most vocal group as Go-Busters has gone on the be the the most poorly-viewed show in the franchise’s history. However regardless of that the 36th Sentai are back for a straight-to-DVD “Returns” movie (just like Shinkenger and Goseiger had) titled Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters Returns vs. Dōbutsu Sentai Go-Busters, which serves to answer a question that had been on a lot of fans’ minds: What if Go-Busters had been more like your typical Super Sentai series?
Set on New Years’ Eve 2012 (curiously setting it during a week Go-Busters didn’t air), the Go-Busters are alerted to an attack on the city that isn’t of Vagras origin. As they investigate, they discover the Great Demon Lord Azazel, who quickly destroys their Buster Machines before killing them all on his fiery rampage.
Nick awakens in heaven, where he is told by a rather familiar looking God that as the 1,000,000th entrant to heaven that year (Beet J Stag being the 999,999th) he will grant him one wish. Nick wishes to live in world where the the incident that gave birth to Messiah 13 years ago never happened, transporting him and J to world where the Go-Busters live very different lives. Hiromu is starting his first day as a student teacher at the Energy Management Highschool, where Ryuji is already a teacher. The school is run by Kuroki, while Jin is the groundskeeper and Yoko a student. However proving that you can’t keep a good Sentai down, their peaceful lives are interrupted by the arrival of the Machine Empire Mechalion, led their Empress Transister (who again looks awfully familiar). Kuroki reveals he knew the day was coming, presenting Hiromu, Ryuji and Yoko with changers to become the Dōbutsu Sentai Go-Busters! What follows is a look into the year-long adventures of the team, including the arrival of new powers, new mecha and new members!
The world of the Dōbutsu Sentai Go-Busters is much more than simply giving the Busters new visors and renaming a few things, its a hilarious tribute to all things classic Super Sentai. As soon as the team roll up on the screen they’re spouting a brand new rollcall and using classic Sentai fighting techniques right out of the Showa era (see: Go-Buster ball). To see the Go-Busters use these kind of attacks is so bizarre it’s fantastic. Plus they even get their own theme song! Next we see segments as if Dōbutsu Sentai Go-Busters was a real show, divided up by episode number/titles that play around with common Sentai tropes. Hiromu and Ryuji have a fist fight before becoming closer friends, mysterious new members appear before dying in a blaze of glory several episodes later and there’s even a hinted romance between Hiromu and Yoko. All things considered the film should be wildly predictable, but you never quite know what’s going to be parodied next. As mentioned earlier this alternate universe adds two new Go-Busters into the mix. The first is Green Hippopotamus, whose real identity is complete stranger Atsushi Domyoji (played by Usada Lettuce’s voice actor Tatsuhisa Suzuki). He isn’t around for very long (both figuratively and literally), but it’s pretty cool to see a hippo themed ranger and the appearance of a complete stranger is VERY fitting to both how Super Sentai and Kamen Rider handle their additional members. Fans who were hoping Kuroki (sporting a pretty fancy Hitler ‘tache here) would saddle up as an additional Go-Buster get their wish, as he makes a brief appearance as the sassy Black Puma – even piloting Tategami Li-Oh while he’s at it!
Of course, as per usual the comedy highlight of the film is none other than Beet J Stag. Tagging along for Nick’s adventures in the parallel universe, he simply goes along with everything that happens – so much as perfectly taking on the role of Silver Stag much to Nick’s instant confusion. From his regular hijinks concerning enertron to him running between two roll calls in the film’s climax (after all, there is only ONE Beet J Stag), it’s just a constant reminder about how much of a funny and endearing character he is. And also how much he’s going to be missed.
Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters Returns vs. Dōbutsu Sentai Go-Busters is many things. It’s a final send off to the Go-Busters, an extra adventure that slots into the events of the series nicely, a loving tribute/parody of classic Super Sentai tropes and storylines, a massive middle finger to all those who mocked Go-Busters for being so different but also an opportunity for them to sample what might have been had it chosen to be a bit more “generic”. “Returns” films are often a mixed bag when it comes to Super Sentai (Shinkenger’s is awful and Goseiger’s nice but rather forgettable), but Go-Busters has single-handedly turned all of those expectations around. This isn’t just the best “Returns” film there’s been, it’s also one of (if not the) best Super Sentai films ever made.