REVIEW: Ressha Sentai ToQger

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Starring

Jun Shison (Survival Family)
Jin Hiramaki (Ressha Sentai ToQger)
Riria (Zero: Black Blood)
Ryusei Yokohama (Rainbow Days)
Ai Moritaka (Beginners)
Shin Nagahama (Shuriken Sentai Ninninger vs. ToQger)
Tsutomu Sekine (Toxic Avenger – Part II)
Yui Horie (Love Hina)
Kengo Ohkuchi (Kamen Rider × Kamen Rider OOO & W)

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Sotaro Yasuda (Kamen Rider Ghost)
Erica Tonooka (Tetsudou Musume)
Hitomi Hasebe (Ultraman Greed)

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There exists a mystical railways known as the Rainbow line, which can only be seen by those possessing great imagination. Protectors of the light, they are opposed by the Shadow Line – who seek to extend their influence by plunging areas in darkness using residents’ fears and sadness. Through doing so the Shadow Line will also be able to awaken their Emperor, Z, who in turn will consume all light in the world so that only the darkness remains.
As a means of combatting the Shadow Line, the Rainbow line appoints five individuals to become it’s warriors – the ToQgers. Right, Tokatti, Mio, Hikari and Kagura are all childhood friends, also fighting to regain missing memories of their hometown after it was swallowed by the Shadow Line. As they fight against the darkness they are eventually joined by Akira – a shadow who has turned his back on his past to fight alongside the ToQgers as their sixth member. Uncovering their lost memories also reveals that there is far more to why to these five were chosen to become ToQgers, with the Rainbow Line holding a secret that could change their lives forever.

If that short description doesn’t give you a good idea about the general tone of ToQger, from the very first episode we also have a conductor that screams “IMAGINATION” at the top of his voice, a sentient monkey puppet on the hand of said conductor, a pink ranger that can become super strong simply by believing it and a cannon that shoots a variety of unusual objects to destroy the monster of the week. So yes, ToQger is an extremely kid-friendly Super Sentai series that revels in it’s silliness and is all the stronger for it. Sadly that tone isn’t for everyone and while airing ToQger definitely had it’s fair share of detractors, but to be honest if you’re complaining that a children’s show about brightly coloured superheroes is too kiddy that you’re perhaps in the wrong fandom.

But this kid-friendliness isn’t just for the sake of appeasing it’s target audience, it’s also cleverly woven into the show’s storyline in a way that completely justifies every ridiculous move it makes. There’s a very good reason that mainly only children can see the Rainbow Line, and it doesn’t take a genius to connect the dots and work out why our five heroes were chosen to become ToQgers. It takes very good storytelling to deliver an predictable twist, yet still reveal it in a satisfying way. The main characters are all childish and silly in their own ways, but each one has their own little bit of backstory and development. So as you can expect Right gets most of the focus by being ToQ #1 (aka the red one), but even then the show still nicely manages to hold together it’s team dynamic. Right is the strongest and is part of all the show’s big moments. He makes mistakes, his friends call him out on these and the mid-season power-up doesn’t solely belongs to him. With the importance the show places on friendship a little more balance could have certainly been better, but what we did get certainly wasn’t bad.

488a110df732b3bc7b95e1a4d847a55cBut like some of the other more recent Super Sentai entries, ToQger proves that it isn’t always the heroes that are most interesting characters. In addition to sporting some of the most intricate and best looking costume designs , the Shadow Line are often more engaging than the heroes we’re supposed to be rooting for. When a show has a group of villains one turning out to be a scheming backstabber isn’t that uncommon, but amongst the ranks of the Shadows there’s two schemers, two fiercely loyal servants and even a semi-unrequited love story. For a group that’s only made up of six characters, that’s some really nice variety. With the ToQgers horribly outclassed almost every time they go up against a Shadow Line general (it’s good that the villains don’t lose their edge to the very end, but it gets incredibly stale after about halfway into the show), their infighting is what keeps things interesting – especially with a good clash of personalities. A honorable general, a lovesick child, a loyal mother – not the kind of things you’d usually expect among the ranks of the bad guys. Even Z himself has a lot more to him than your typical “evil emperor of darkness”. I’d even go as far to say he’s the most tragic character of the show, wanting to almost escape his heritage in favor of “shining” only to have darkness constantly thrust upon him at every turn by fate.

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Upon ToQger’s initial reveal many were disappointed by the simplicity of both the costumes and the mecha, and if you’re one who looks for a bit more intricacy in the designs than this is another aspect that could prove an issue. Though ToQger presents a very interesting gimmick in having the team able to alternate their colours, the suits are very simple in design and not to everyone’s tastes. Likewise the mecha aren’t that complicated either, with the robots largely made up on trains connected side by side with little transforming involved. Things do get a little more interesting as the show progresses, not just through big robot combos that rival those seen in both Go-Onger and Shinkenger but also the introduction of an orange ranger – the first in Super Sentai since 1979’s Battle Fever J. Colour trumps complexity, and hopefully the flashy visuals that accompany this might be enough to persuade you that this isn’t always a bad thing.
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Ressha Sentai ToQger is a series that rarely broke the mould for Super Sentai, but did everything you’d expect a children’s show about colorful superheroes powered by trains and imagination to do and more. Despite its flaws ToQger is a show that fully embraces its motifs, gimmicks and absurdity in every way possible – through the aesthetic, the story and perhaps most importantly the characters. The look and how it often comes dangerously close to being too silly for it’s own good may deter some, but give the show the chance it deserves and you’ll no doubt find it a rewarding watch.

REVIEW: Ressha Sentai ToQger vs Kyoryuger

 

Starring

Jun Shison (Survival Family)
Jin Hiramaki (Ressha Sentai ToQger)
Riria (Zero: Black Blood)
Ryusei Yokohama (Rainbow Days)
Ai Moritaka (Beginners)
Shin Nagahama (Shuriken Sentai Ninninger vs. ToQger)
Haruka Fukuhara (Good Morning Call)
Mao Ichimichi (Uchu Sentai Kyuranger)
Tsutomu Sekine (Toxic Avenger – Part II)
Kengo Ohkuchi (Kamen Rider × Kamen Rider OOO & W)
Yui Horie (Love Hina)
Ryo Ryusei (Hiyokko)
Syuusuke Saito (Kamen Rider Zi-O the Movie: Over Quartzer)
Yamato Kinjo (We’re a Bounty Hunter Team)
Akihisa Shiono (Prince of Legend)
Ayuri Konno (Another)
Atsushi Maruyama (Fūma no Kojirō)
Shinji Yamashita (Oshin)
Ayumi Kinoshita (Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger)
Masayuki Deai (Kamen Rider W)
Marie Iitoyo (Stare)
Toshiyuki Morikawa (Naruto Shippuden)
Shunsuke Nishikawa (Kurogarasu)
Gaku Matsumoto (Super Hero Taisen GP: Kamen Rider 3)
Kaito Nakamura (Shuriken Sentai Ninninger)
Yuuka Yano (Prison 13)
Kasumi Yamaya (Amachan)

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The beginning of a new year – and arguably the most important time for the Super Sentai franchise. A years’ worth of adventures for one team reaches it’s explosive conclusion while a brand new ones’ begin (along with all the wonderful new toys that come with it). But before either of those happen, it’s time for the annual versus series team up movie. Ressha Sentai ToQger vs. Kyoryuger sees the cast of Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger return for one last roar, teaming up with the ToQgers. When a Galaxy Line station falls to Earth after being attacked by an unknown force, the ToQgers immediately go to investigate. There they are attacked by the legions of the Deboss Army, and find that their imagination-based powers have no effect on them. They are eventually saved by the Kyoryugers, who reveal that the great creator Debious has finally arrived on Earth and that they only have 24 hours before he’s fully charged and ready to destroy humanity. The ToQgers offer to help, but are reminded that they are powerless against Debious’ forces.

 

However it isn’t long before the Kyoryugers face the same problem, as the Deboss High Priest Salamaz forges an alliance with the Shadow Line – a force that the Kyoryugers prove equally ineffective against. It isn’t long before the imagination and bravery join forces to save the planet from destruction at the hands of Debious, but before that they have another problem to deal with. A spell from Clock Shadow has reverted the ToQgers back to their child forms, as well as having a rather adverse affect on Kyoryu Gold!

With these crossover movies happening every year without fail, it’s not surprising that they’ve begun to feel a bit formulaic. The new series villains team up with the returning series’ ones (usually involving some sort of resurrection), the two Sentai teams initially clash (with one sometimes temporarily being evil for one reason or another), there’s a big flashy double roll call, the newest Sentai team shows up in a quick cameo to defeat a key monster and then it all ends with a gigantic mecha fight. Naturally the details vary here and there, but that’s roughly how they’ve all worked. So although ToQger vs. Kyoryuger doesn’t stray too far from the tried and tested formula, it’s extremely refreshing to see things shaken up a bit. The crossover is built on a natural crossing of paths, the villain alliance is shakier than usual, the new team cameo happens near beginning and the mecha fight comes slap bang in the middle of the film. These may all sound like little things, but you’d be amazed how much a slight alteration in structure and narrative can do for film.

As mentioned earlier, the end of Kyoryuger dropped a pretty big bombshell in terms of story that was left completely uncovered until now. It turned out Deboss – the leader of the force they had been fighting for the entire series, was simply the herald of a much larger threat. It’s a pretty ballsy move to leave something as significant as that hanging for a whole year, but not only does the film ensure that everything is neatly wrapped up by the end of it  it also gives it the gravitas it deserves. The Shadow Line prove mostly to just be a means to an end – Debious is the real threat and the whole story revolves around just how big of a threat that is. It’s a little disappointing to not see series big bads like Deboss or Chaos make a return as henchmen, but with resurrections rarely proving to be that satisfying going all-new was the best way to go.

ToQger vs Kyoryuger also marks one of the most prominent appearances of an extremely important plot point from ToQger – the fact that our heroes are in fact children. While the show had the younger versions appear on a number of occasions, these always appeared outside of the main action. Here we get to see them continue on as the ToQgers, including their own transformation sequence and pint-sized costumes! Fans have always argued about whether children as Sentai heroes works or not, but if anything ToQger made it one of it’s best assets. You almost wish that they spend longer as children just because the cast do such a great job of it.

In terms of tone, ToQger and Kyoryuger are a match made in heaven. In addition to the obvious parallels between their powers/ideology (bravery and imagination), they both a share a similar sense of humour as well as a penchant for loud noises and big explosions. So it’s no surprise that the two teams gel together really well, with the “versus” element of the film more of a rivalry thing than any initial hostility. Daigo and Right have very similar personalities so it’s no surprise that they work together in the way that they do. Being a crossover between two particularly red-focused shows the film predictably doesn’t spend quite as much time seeing the rest of the teams bond, but it’s fair to say each get their own little moments to shine – Akira and Utchy proving to be a particularly fun combination.

There’s a wonderful amount of surprises, laughs and cameos from both sides – from the return of fan favourites Candelira and Luckyero to some rather out of character behaviour from Barone Nero. The level of interactivity between the two teams’ powers also proves to be particularly exhilarating. It’s almost as if the two shows’ featured similar collectible gimmicks purposely to showcase the weirdly wonderful things this film comes up with. Well, it would if the toys could do the same things anyway.

Finally there’s the Shuriken Sentai Ninninger cameo, which feels like a massive step-up from the tacked-on ToQger debut in Kyoryuger vs. Go-Busters. Once again the new team doesn’t cross paths with the starring Sentai, but this time they aren’t even responsible for taking out the monster they encounter. But even though Clock Shadow manages to make a quick getaway, the sequence still proves a great opportunity to let the Nininngers strut their stuff. Impressive wirework, flashy ninja tricks and even a few surprises that viewers will likely never see them attempt in their own show. For fans of both shows, either shows or just general Super Sentai fans that enjoy a good crossover, you’re unlikely to find much better than what’s on offer here.

REVIEW: RESSHA SENTAI TOQGER THE MOVIE: GALAXY LINE S.O.S.

Starring

Jun Shison (Survival Family)
Jin Hiramaki (Ressha Sentai ToQger)
Riria (Zero: Black Blood)
Ryusei Yokohama (Rainbow Days)
Ai Moritaka (Beginners)
Tsutomu Sekine (Toxic Avenger – Part II)
Yui Horie (Love Hina)
Haruka Fukuhara (Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger vs. Ninninger)
Mao Ichimichi (Uchu Sentai Kyuranger)
Kengo Ohkuchi (Kamen Rider 555)
Shin Nagahama (Shuriken Sentai Ninninger vs. ToQger)

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The Galaxy Line is about to return to Earth after 25 years running in space when it is attacked by a Cryner piloted by Count Nair. Lady, the Galaxy Line conductor, falls on Earth only with the Lion Ressha, while the other Safari Ressha that compose the Galaxy Line go missing, but she is rescued by the ToQgers. While Count Nair pays a visit to Emperor Z at the Castle Terminal, Right makes a plan to impulse the Lion Ressha back into space by using a local tower as part of a bridge, but Lady points out that there is not enough Imagination on Earth to power it up, claiming that with the decline of space exploration, people stopped aiming at the stars like they used to 50 years ago when the Galaxy Line was established.
Soon after, Count Nair and his partner, the Hound Shadow attack the ToQgers in order to hunt down the Lion Ressha, but while Right flees with Lady, the other four ToQgers stay behind to cover for them. Assisted by Akira, who appears to help them as well, Right runs with the Rainbow Line, dragging the Lion Ressha with it, but there is not enough Imagination to complete the bridge. However, the Fire Ressha uses its extinguisher to create a rainbow, drawing the attention of all the children in the vicinity and inspiring their Imagination, allowing Right to complete the bridge
Now with a way back to space opened, Lady thanks Right and lends him the five Safari Ressha, which the ToQgers use to defeat Count Nair and Hound Shadow. However, the two enlarge and combine, proving themselves too strong for the ToQgers and their Ressha. But Lady returns in time with all five of the Safari Ressha gathered to form Safari Ga-Oh to allow the ToQgers to defeat Count Nair and Hound Shadow for good. After Right returns the Safari Ressha to Lady, she bids farewell to the ToQgers and departs from Earth to start another 25-year-long journey through the stars.
Ressha Sentai Toqger  (Season 38) has had mixed reviews with Super Sentai fans, but I really have enjoyed up so far this movie taking place between episode 21 and 22. Haruka Fukuhara is a great addition and fits in nicely with the team, her return at the end of the film to help save the day is brilliant, it’s nice that she will be in the Ressha Sentai ToQer vs. Kyoryuger: The Movie which I will watching soon. A Great movie for fans of Sentai.