REVIEW: KAMEN RIDER x SUPER SENTAI: CHOU SUPER HERO TAISEN

 

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Starring

Hiroki Iijima (Holiday Love)
Toshiki Seto (Kaiji: Final Game)
Ukyo Matsumoto (Ultraman X)
Ruka Matsuda (Scarlet)
Hayato Onozuka (Dear Sister)
Hanamaru Hakata (Shi ni zokonai no Ao)
Shouma Kai (You Shine in the Moonlit Night)
Tetsuya Iwanaga (One Piece Film: Z)
Masashi Taniguchi (Kamen Rider Amazons)
Toshihiko Seki (Kamen Rider Den-O)
Kōji Yusa (Mahou Sentai Magiranger)
Ryohei Odai (Kamen Rider Ryuki)
Takumi Kizu (Southern Beach Love Story)
Yosuke Kishi (Super Sentai Strongest Battle!!)
Kazuya Nakai (Samurai Champloo)
Yūki Ono (Beastars)
Akio Otsuk (Akio Otsuk)
Taiki Yamazak (Diabolik Lovers)
Sakurako Okubo (BLACK FOX: Age of the Ninja)
Mao Ichimichi (Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger)
Tetsuji Sakakibara (Peacemaker Kurogane)
Hiroshi Kamiya (Haikyuu!!)
Haruka Tateishi (Prison 13)
Masaki Nakao (Kakafukaka)
Miki Yanagi (Futari Monologue)
Shohei Nanba (Sengoku Basara)
Tsurugi Watanabe (Does the Flower Bloom?)
Naoki Kunishima (Beshari Gurashi)
Gaku Matsumoto (Shuriken Sentai Ninninger)
Atsushi Maruyama (Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger)
Hiroya Matsumoto (Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters)

C0pE0PrWEAANcDdWhen the 1982 video game Xevious launches an full-scale attack on the real world, Emu turns to the video game “Chou Super Hero Taisen” for help – a world where Rider and Sentai clash led by Kamen Rider True Brave, a game version of Hiiro Kagami. For them to help, Emu must first win the game and earn the power of the Kamen Sentai Goriders. To do so, he forms a team with game versions of Momotaros/Kamen Rider Den-O, Kamen Rider Zolda, Beet Buster and AoNinger.Chou-Super-Hero-Taisen-XeviousAs Emu fights, the CR and Super Sentai members join forces to uncover the origin of Chou Super Hero Taisen. While Poppy and Naga Rei of the Kyurangers discover a young boy named Eito also living inside the game, Amu of the Zyuohgers uncovers the link between him and a case the real Hiiro has kept secret for the past yearChou-Super-Hero-Taisen-True-BraveWith Toei insistent that the majority of their crossover films must take some sort of “versus” format (even if it’s in name only), there’s always the problem of how you get two lots of superheroes to fight both conceivably and believably. Chou Super Hero Taisen gets around that by dropping them into the one place no one will ever question the logic behind it – a fighting game. Certainly there later comes the question of how exactly a child could have programmed a game with all these heroes, but with the video game-themed Kamen Rider Ex-Aid in the spotlight the idea fits perfectly. So much so that Bandai/Toei could have easily made an actual game out of it, as the five-member team concept has so much potential. Though many of the teams aren’t properly highlighted (it’s well worth looking up all the ones listed in the match-ups scene), the film does have a lot of fun with putting them together and the character selection segment for Team Ex-Aid is genuinely hilarious. It’s really wonderful to see Momotaros, Jin and Shuichi back. Yakumo less so, but to his credit he works great within the team and his inclusion was worth it just to set up an obvious (but definitely obligatory) Magi Yellow/Beet Buster joke.Chou-Super-Hero-Taisen-Character-SelectSpeaking of games Toei use their Bandai affiliation to good effect here by introducing classic Namco arcade games Xevious and Galaxian as the invading forces from the game world. Though not the only time actual games have been used in the context of Kamen Rider Ex-Aid, their implementation helps makes the show feel that little bit more “real” while at the same time giving off an added layer to that retro gaming vibe the show has going for itChou-Super-Hero-Taisen-Ex-Aid-KyurenohChou Super Hero Taisen also thankfully takes a leaf out of Super Hero Taisen Z’s book and focuses on a much smaller cast that doesn’t necessarily include the usual major players. The film is almost entirely led by the Ex-Aid cast, it does throw out a few surprises in terms of Super Sentai characters. Though present for the obligatory misunderstanding fight at the very beginning Lucky is actually absent for most of the runtime, with the Kyuranger quota filled by Naga and, to a lesser extent, Balance. As well as the BN thieves being two of the best characters in Kyuranger, Naga’s lack of emotions works perfectly alongside both Eito’s same infliction as well as Hiiro’s stoic disposition. Meanwhile it’s just Amu properly representing the Zyuohgers, which is great considering she was one of the more undeveloped characters in the show itself. What she gets here doesn’t really add anything of real value to her in terms of development, but it’s always nice to see how Sentai characters outside of their usual teams.Chou-Super-Hero-Taisen-Naga-Balance-AmuChou Super Hero Taisen is another excellent crossover films that sees some welcome returns and a few surprises. This is a must see for any Kamen Rider and Super Sentai fan.

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: DOUBUTSU SENTAI ZYUOHGER RETURNS: GIVE ME YOUR LIFE! EARTH CHAMPION TOURNAMENT

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Starring

Masaki Nakao (Cheer Boys!!)
Miki Yanagi (Kakegurui)
Shohei Nanba (Sengoku Basara)
Tsurugi Watanabe (Does the Flower Bloom?)
Haruka Tateishi (Prison 13)
Naoki Kunishima (You Are the Apple of My Eye)
Susumu Terajima (Human Trust)
Kohei Murakami (Kamen Rider 555)

i-7It’s amazing how fast time flies. Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger’s big 35th anniversary bash was a whole six years ago, which means now Super Sentai’s 40th anniversary has now passed us as well. That said, Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger still has a few last hurrahs left in it – not just presumably from next year’s vs. series movie but also their obligatory epilogue movie, Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger Returns: Give Me Your Life! Earth Champion Tournament! When we last left the Zyuohgers quite a lot had changed for planet Earth, and we rejoin Yamato, Leo, Sela, Tusk, Amu and Misao as part of this brave new world.Zyuohger-ReturnsSome time after the merging of the Earth and Zyuland, humans and Zyumans live peacefully together and the six Zyuohgers have all gone their separate ways. However the team are brought together once more when they’re invited to participate in a fighting tournament to declare Earth’s newest champion. Eager to live up to his title Misao accepts, with Yamato and Leo also joining. Sela also agrees, seeing it as a chance to finally have an even rematch with Leo.Zyuohger-Returns-Misao-LilianAs the tournament gets underway, Bard appears and reveals to Yamato that the tournament’s mysterious host, Pocane De Niro, is not all what he seems. While Misao, Leo and Sela advance in the tournament, the remaining Zyuohgers have to infiltrate De Niro’s betting palace and put a stop to the former Dethgalian’s evil schemes. If there’s one thing Zyuohger Returns does well straight from the get-go, it’s establishing its place at the very end of the show’s timeline. When the initial outline for the film was first announced some fans assumed its tournament would revolve around humans and zyumans trying to live together in their new world, but instead it kicks off with the two species already living in perfect harmony. While the former plot might have made an enjoyable film, this set up fits Zyuohger’s message about humans and animals coming together far better.Zyuohger-Returns-Sela-vs-LeoThe three characters that mainly benefit from the story are Misao, Leo and Sela – all of whom successfully build upon their development in the show and/or events that happened within it. The Misao here is cheerful and confident – a far cry from the mentally tortured hero he was when he first joined the team. Watching him come to accept himself and overcome his traumas was one of Zyuohger’s biggest highlights, so seeing him living so happily now is equally satisfying. His subplot mainly revolves around his entry into the tournament and eventual face off against Lilian, a rhinoceros Zyumen also vying to become Champion. Although their interactions get off to a bad start with two cliche “accidental pervert” gags, the direction the plot heads in is much better – eventually not just giving Misao the happy ending he’s always deserved but playing that one obvious direction Zyuohger was yet to go down.Zyuohger-Returns-Pocane-De-NiroMeanwhile Leo and Sela’s storyline runs a bit deeper, building upon their fight in episode four and Leo holding back against Sela just because she’s a woman. Though the plot point isn’t something that came up particularly often in Zyuohger, it’s an important part of Sela’s character – she wants to be seen as an equal, and not just someone who “needs protecting” simply because of her gender. With the current rise in female action heroes and further push for equality this message couldn’t have come at a better time. Even though it’s just a subplot this conflict really is at the heart of Zyuohger Returns, which just goes to show how strong the show’s characters really were. Even when it might not be the main focus of the film, it’s their struggles that the viewer really cares about.Zyuohger-Returns-Sela-LeoAs far as everything else goes it’s pretty much business as usual for a Super Sentai Returns movie. Pocane Di Niro is an enjoyable, though rather forgettable, villain for the film and his motivations of games for profit is a nice twist of the Dethgalian’s senseless blood games. In usual fashion the fallen generals get to make a brief return, with even the extremely short-lived Jagged making an appearance and being the butt of the film’s best joke. Given that the guy died in the very first episode, I’d almost forgotten that the guy was of any real importance as well. Zyuohger-Returns-CastNot straying too far away from the status quo has always been what Zyuohger did best, but Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger Returns: Give Me Your Life! Earth Champion Tournament certainly offers a very different landscape to what we usually see at the end of a Super Sentai series. In terms of structure though it’s pretty much business as usual, and what the film lacks in even development it makes up for in some fantastic moments that build upon the series itself. Most of all though it’s just plain old fun, which is arguably the main criteria for these epilogues now that the threat of the main villain is long behind us. Even with a Kyuranger crossover looming in 2018, Zyuohger Returns is a fitting end to the latest animal Sentai and the 40th anniversary as a whole.

 

REVIEW: Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger vs Ninninger: Message from the Future from Super Sentai

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Starring

Masaki Nakao (Cheer Boys!!)
Miki Yanagi (Kakegurui)
Shohei Nanba (Sengoku Basara)
Tsurugi Watanabe (Does the Flower Bloom?)
Haruka Tateishi (Prison 13)
Naoki Kunishima (You Are the Apple of My Eye)
Shunsuke Nishikawa (Super Hero Taisen GP: Kamen Rider 3)
Gaku Matsumoto (Ressha Sentai ToQger vs. Kyoryuger)
Kaito Nakamura (Shuriken Sentai Ninninger vs. ToQger)
Yuuka Yano (Come Back! Shuriken Sentai Ninninger)
Kasumi Yamaya (Space Sheriff Shaider: Next Generation)
Hideya Tawada (The Boy Inside)
Toshihiro Yashiba (All Esper Dayo!)
Tatsuki Ishikawa (Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters)
Susumu Terajima (April Fools)
Yosuke Kishi (Tsūkai: TV Sukatto Japa)
Takumi Kizu (Blue Summer)
Taiki Yamazaki (Ring of Curse)
Kazuya Nakai (One Piece)
Yūki Ono (Gintama)
Akio Ōtsuka (Alice to Zouroku)
Sakurako Okubo (Blackfox: Age of the Ninja)
Mao Ichimichi (Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger)
Tetsuji Sakakibara (Oh! Father)
Daisuke Shima (Choujyu Sentai Liveman)

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Due to the precedent set by Gaoranger, Boukenger and Gokaiger’s anniversary celebrations, there was the expectation that Doubutsu Sentai Zyohger might celebrate Super Sentai’s 40th anniversary with a special “Vs Super Sentai” movie – featuring guest stars from all across the franchise’s long history. However much like the show itself Toei instead seemed to opt for a more subdued celebration, continuing the standard line of versus series movies with Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger vs Ninninger: Message from the Future from Super Sentai. As well as featuring the return of preceding team Shuriken Sentai Ninninger, this movie also features the first appearance of the Uchu Sentai Kyuranger.Zyuohger-vs-Ninninger-TeamsThe future of Super Sentai is in danger when the Zyuohgers are randomly attacked by the Ninningers, who have been tricked into believing that they are Yokai Monsters responsible for the destruction of planets. In the midst of their battle a boy appears before Takaharu and Yamato, claiming to be Takaharu’s son Yoshiharu from the future. He reveals that on this day both the Zyuohgers and Ninningers are defeated in battle, ending the legacy of the Super Sentai. Zyuoh Eagle and Aka Ninger must now work together to persuade their teammates to stop fighting and work together to defeat the villain orchestrating these events.Zyuohger-vs-Ninninger-RollcallMuch like how Zyuohger as a series celebrated the anniversary by emphasising the spirit of the franchise, Zyuohger vs Ninninger pays respect to its heritage in a different manner – by looking towards the future. Gokaiger Goseiger Super Sentai 199 Hero Great Battle is only six years old and still fresh in everyone’s minds, so any big scale anniversary movie would immediately draw comparisons. But not every anniversary series can be as huge as Gokaiger was, because if they were all like that none of them would be special. Zyuohger’s strengths didn’t lie in throwbacks and homages, they were in creating a strong story and cast. Zyuohger vs Ninninger may feature the spirits of previous reds and a special 40th anniversary mecha power up, but the story focuses squarely on moving towards the future. Certainly on a wider scale there was a lot more the film could have done with this idea (it would have been great to see the 100 Years Later Kyoryugers, the adult ToQgers or the future Dairangers for example), but the generational element of the Igasaki clan is enough to get the point across. Bigger doesn’t always mean better.65y56y4yAs well as not getting too caught up in the past Zyuohger vs Ninninger also doesn’t get too caught up in continuity either. Though the film is quite obviously placed following the end of Ninninger and before Quval’s betrayal in Zyuohger, the plot is a relatively standalone and doesn’t feature any heavy referencing to either series events. Genis isn’t even in the film, there’s no lingering Yokai and the Kibaoni Generals only show up through Sentai’s standard “current villain resurrects past enemies” trope. Again these sound like things that might result in a weaker film, but free from plot ties and elements that weigh it down Zyuohger vs Ninninger is free to work completely on its own merits. Yoshiharu is a great addition to Sentai’s current string of excellent child-ranger characters, while new villain Gillmarda is a good one-off opponent that doesn’t have any wider implications.vlcsnap-2017-03-24-17h07m50s204As far as setup goes this is one of the most literal Versus movies there’s been in a while, with at least half the film featuring the two Sentai teams at odds with each other. The result is that the film features plenty of great Sentai vs Sentai fight scenes before they come together once they realise they’ve been tricked. It’s often the case that a weaker team can find strength in being pair up with another one and this is definitely true of the Ninningers, who play off their successors wonderfully. Zyuohger-vs-Ninninger-Wild-Tousai-KingThis is technically an anniversary movie though, and as you can’t truly look toward the future without acknowledging the past the previous 38 Sentai are on hand to lend their power. Daisuke Shima returns to reprise his role as Liveman’s Red Falcon in voice only (arguably the perfect character to address the Zyuohgers), but everyone the else only appears as part of group shots (the reds also getting a quick pose each). Wild Tousai King also gets a nice new 40th Anniversary shuriken-themed power-up, which isn’t much to look at but does come with a rather satisfying final attack. The wider Super Sentai stuff really doesn’t have all that much prominence in the film and would have easily worked just as well without them, but seeing them altogether still proves to be just as satisfying as ever even as a 30-second snippet.17438577_394127250946888_8095510369339965440_nYoshiharu may be the embodiment of Super Sentai’s future but he isn’t the only one representing it in the movie, as per recent versus series tradition this also marks the first appearance of the Kyurangers. Like the Kamen Rider summer movies these cameos are always interesting to gauge how much refining the characters have before their full series starts, and in the case of the Kyurangers there seems to be little change. The cameo ultimately boils down to a sidelined fight scene that goes by unwitnessed by the main teams, but it’s nice to see all nine main Kyurangers in action since that’s a rarity in the actual series. Naturally the scene mostly focuses on Lucky (with a nice little use of his trademark luck in battle) but each one gets their own little fight snippet to show off their individual powers (which again can be a rarity for some in the show, such as Washi Pink). It would be nice to have a cameo where the new team comes face to face with their predecessor again as the last one was all the way back in Gobusters vs Gokaiger, but this is still a great spotlight for the Kyurangers and would have certainly turned heads for those seeing them in action for the first time.Doubutsu-Sentai-Zyuohger-vs-Ninninger-KyurangersIt isn’t the loudest or most memorable 40th anniversary Super Sentai could have had, but it’s one that encapsulates its endearing spirit and looks forward to what will hopefully be many more adventures.zyuohger_vs_ninninger_by_chudekaranger-dag1x59

REVIEW: DOUBUTSU SENTAI ZYUOHGER

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Starring

Masaki Nakao (Cheer Boys!!)
Miki Yanagi (Kakegurui)
Shohei Nanba (Sengoku Basara)
Tsurugi Watanabe (Does the Flower Bloom?)
Haruka Tateishi (Prison 13)
Naoki Kunishima (You Are the Apple of My Eye)
Susumu Terajima (Human Trust)

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Kohei Murakami (Kamen Rider 555)
Unshō Ishizuka (Choushinsei Flashman)
Shun Nishime (Kamen Rider Ghost)
Aoi Yuki (Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger)
Kenshiro Iwai (Code Blue)
Masami Horiuchi (Kamen Rider Drive)
Sayuri Inoue (The Hatsumori Bemars)
Seiya Osada (Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger)
Ayana Shiramoto (Kamen Rider Amazons)
Eriko Moriwaki (Kamen Rider Agito)
Ryota Ozawa (Nozokime)
Yūki Yamada (Holiday Love)
Mao Ichimichi (Uchu Sentai Kyuranger)
Kazuki Shimizu (A Day of One Herb)
Yui Koike (Daily Lives of High School Boys)
Junya Ikeda (Garo: Kami no Kiba)
Tomokazu Seki (Shuriken Sentai Ninninger)
Hiroaki Iwanaga (Kamen Rider 000)
Tomiyuki Kunihiro (Sleeping Bride)

doubutsu-sentai-zyuohger-1121483a-6b6a-4ade-8f3b-4a08f4720b2-resize-750There are some themes and motifs that Super Sentai will always come back to. In 2013 the long-running franchise turned to dinosaurs for a third time with Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger, and more recently it also did ninjas for a third time with Shuriken Sentai Ninninger. With that in mind, it seems almost fitting that the 40th anniversary Toei would revisit yet another popular motif – animals. 2016-2017 was the year of Doubutsu Sentai Zyohger, the 40th team in the Super Sentai series and released as part of Toei’s “Super Hero Year” anniversary celebrations.

After falling through a mysterious portal to a world of anthropomorphic animals known as Zyuland, zoologist Yamato Kazakiri encounters four of its people – Sela (a shark), Leo (a Lion), Amu (a Tiger) and Tusk (an Elephant), and is accused of stealing one of the six Champions Symbols that power the link between the two worlds. However their meeting coincides with the arrival of the Dethgalians – a group of aliens who have decided on the Earth as the site for their 100th Blood Game. As Yamato returns to Earth with the four Zyumen in tow, the five are able to use the Champions Symbols to become Earth’s newest guardians – the Zyuohgers. The team are able to fend off the Dethgalians first attack but upon their return to the Link Cube the Zyumen find the sixth Symbol missing, stranding them on Earth until it is found.

Blending in with humanity, the four Zyumen join Yamato as they search for the means to return home while fighting off the Dethgalian attacks. Eventually the Dethgalians raise the stakes as they create their own Zyuohger, created from three kidnapped Zyuman and the brainwashed human Mondo Misao. After freeing Misao from their clutches, he joins the team as Zyuoh The World as the Blood Games continue.

Starring two humans and four anthropomorphic animals, Zyuohger immediately sets itself apart from the usual Super Sentai formula of either an entirely human team or one limited to one or two “different” members. Sure the Zyumen adopt human disguises fairly quickly, but their clothing and tails (or in Sela’s case, fin) serve as a constant reminder that Zyuohger is playing with a slightly different dynamic. Don’t be too fooled into thinking Zyuohger is any less red-centric that most other Super Sentai though – it’s still Yamato that gets the most development, the most power ups (three animals compared to the others’ one) and the big speeches/action sequences.However presentation is key, and Zyuohger still manages to make the four Zyumen feel suitably fleshed out even if they aren’t getting the same treatment as their human teammate. They all get their obligatory spotlight episodes as their time to shine, but each Zyuman has their own distinct and well-realised personality that makes their interactions a joy to watch. A particularly great standalone episode is 32, where a monster attack causes the characters’ “hidden personalities” to also come on show.

But in terms of characterisation it’s actually Misao that deserves the most praise, who has arguably emerged as one of the most realistic and relatable characters the franchise has ever put out. As if his turn as an evil ranger and unique tri-coloured suit wasn’t enough to earn him a place in the cool books, the show’s honest depiction of someone suffering from depression is quite unlike anything Sentai has tackled before. Yes his fluctuating mood is the butt of numerous (and admittedly funny) jokes, but the actual narrative is relatively sincere in the way it portrays his constantly shifting mental state, survivors’ guilt and difficulty overcoming his emotions. Combine this with Yamato’s own parental turmoil, and Zyuohger has done a pretty good job of tackling issues rarely seen in Super Sentai these days.

However the Dethgalians fall on the simpler side of the Super Sentai villain spectrum, setting out with very little background other than “some aliens are here to destroy things”. While their motivations don’t make for particularly deep storytelling, seeing their leader Genis’ see everything as a game for his amusement works in their favour – painting him as a chilling opponent unphased by setbacks and always thinking two steps ahead of everyone else. It isn’t until the arrival of the megabeast hunter Bunglay that things begin to take an interesting turn, as the weekly monsters are recycled and pushed to one side story-wise. It brings forward development for Genis own generals (or “players”) – Quval and Azald. Although his attendant Naria is still left with no personality outside of being unflinchingly loyal, those two are pushed to be more than that.

Aesthetically Zyuohger thrives on simplicity, reflected both in the suits and the cube-themed animal mecha. The latter’s case is something that didn’t necessarily translate well when it came to the toys (minipla notwithstanding), but onscreen work rather well – with the cute brightly coloured animals giving Zyuohger a unique visual identity that sets it apart from the similarly themed Gaoranger. The simpler designs also make for far more fluid robot designs, which while boxy in nature don’t have the same unappealing pile-of-parts look many “ultimate” combos now suffer from. There’s nothing especially new to be had here and the combination of animals and retro-styled video game cubes doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but as far as the show goes it definitely works.

Finally as the 40th entry in the franchise Zyuohger does have some anniversary element to it, but in the more reserved sense (akin to Gaoranger or Boukenger) rather than an all-out celebration like Gokaiger was. Gokaiger is far too fresh in everyone’s memories to try and top it yet, so instead Zyuohger’s main strength is in that it is simply a solid Super Sentai series. It never really tries to reinvent the wheel, but knows the tropes of the franchise well enough to keep them fresh and entertaining. Throwing a mecha battle in at the start of an episode might not sound like much, but for a show that’s stuck to its format so rigidly for decades it comes as a welcome surprise.Of course it wouldn’t be an anniversary without cameos, and while the Zyuohger vs Ninninger movie covers the bulk of that there’s also a wonderful two-part story here featuring the return of the Gokaigers. The two teams have a wonderful dynamic, with Gokaigers going about their heroism in their usual standoffish way. But most importantly these two episodes are integral to Zyuohger’s plot as well, making them far more than just some well-polished fanservice and the perfect opportunity to officially add the post-Gokaiger shows to the Ranger Key collection.

While there are undoubtedly some areas Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger could have done better in, that doesn’t change the fact that this is arguably the strongest Super Sentai has been in the last few years. Even through its usual Red-centricity Zyuohger displays memorable characters with their own unique traits, arcs and development – presenting the feeling of a well-rounded and equal cast even when it doesn’t quite feel like that on paper. Additionally the villains for the most part all had their own stories to tell, which despite not coming into the spotlight enough were all well signposted and kept the show interesting. It also works perfectly as an anniversary series – not by attempting the same thing as Gokaiger but instead simply coming out as a well-crafted series that does all the things a good Super Sentai series should. Uchuu Sentai Kyuranger might be the one offering a much-needed shakeup to the formula, but 2016 was a definitely a year where Super Sentai shined.untitled

REVIEW: DOUBUTSU SENTAI ZYUOHGER: THE MOVIE: THE HEART POUNDING CIRCUS PANIC!

 

Starring

Masaki Nakao (Cheer Boys!!)
Miki Yanagi (Kakegurui)
Shohei Nanba (Sengoku Basara)
Tsurugi Watanabe (Does the Flower Bloom?)
Haruka Tateishi (Prison 13)
Naoki Kunishima (You Are the Apple of My Eye)
Susumu Terajima (Human Trust)

853full-the-initiation-of-sarah----------------------------------(2006)-screenshot (1)2016 might have been billed as Super Hero Year, but as far as the summer goes it was the same standard fare for both Kamen Rider and Super Sentai as the two franchises appeared in their usual cinematic double bill. This year it was the turn of Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger and Kamen Rider Ghost, who also crossed into each other’s series earlier in the year for a quick cameo. Zyuohger’s summer movie was entitled The Heart Pounding Circus Panic!, and had a running time of only 28 minutes – not much longer than your average television episode.The circus is in town and you can bet that the Zyuohgers want to see it! However this circus is particularly special, as it turns out to be run by a group of fellow Zyuman. But just as the show reaches its finale they are interrupted by Domidoll – the self-proclaimed ringleader of the space circus. As part of his plan to turn the universe into a giant circus stage, Domidoll kidnaps both the Zyuman troupe and the children in the audience – planning to use their fear as an energy source to destroy the Earth. After the Zyuohgers are swiftly defeated by Domidoll and an enslaved Cube Condor, Amu, Sela, Tusk and Leo quickly join the evil ringleader’s list of captives. With only Yamato and Misao left, it’s up to the human Zyuohgers to free their comrades and put an end to Domidoll’s plans.Plot wise it’s about as basic as you can get – new villain turns up, kidnaps some kids and wants to harness their tears/fear/insert emotion here to destroy the planet. Sure there’s the whole circus theme surrounding it, but ultimately it doesn’t really add that much to the whole thing outside a nicely designed monster suit and a circus show montage at the beginning. Misao seems to barely feature in the film at all, which is bit disappointing considering the character had already been around for a fair bit in the show by the time the movie was released. There’s also of course the annual summer movie toy to sell, which in this case is Cube Condor – a retool of Zyuoh Gorilla that can also combine with Cubes Tiger and Elephant to become Condor Wild. The film gets most of its advertising out of the way at the very beginning with the opening mecha fight, with Cube Condor only really prominently returning at the very end to provide the finishing blow. But even then the Cube remains a focal point of the film as the best friend of Perle, a child in the Zyuman Circus.One area the film delivers on though is the visuals. While not necessarily any better than what the show has to offer, Zyuohger has been pretty good on the action front and this movie is no exception. Kicking things off immediately with a mecha battle is a nice way to shake the format up a bit and despite that bold opening the concluding mecha fight doesn’t lose any of its edge. The same goes for the small-scale fight scenes, which show off some good choreography as the individual Zyuohgers show off their animalistic powers. It’s the kind of film that when you sit down and watch you’ll get easily sucked in by the bright colours, explosions and action sequences, but soon quickly realise that flash is all it really has to offer.The film isn’t completely without its references to Super Sentai’s 40 year history, although you’ll really need a keen eye to catch them. The film rather impressively has one reference to every Super Sentai series that came before Zyuohger – ranging from background appearances of past weapons to flyers, signs and even cameos from some of the franchise’s more prominent animal characters. These are of course Dekaranger’s Doggie Kruger, Gekiranger’s Master Shafu, Kyoryuger’s Torin and ToQger’s Ticket – all of whom show up during the end credits dance sequence. Good luck finding them though, because with the exception of Ticket they really all are blink and you’ll miss it cameos. From a fan perspective it does add that little bit extra to the movie to sit down and try and find everything, but it doesn’t particularly make the film any more exciting to sit through.drive-angry-3d-film-reviewIt’s another fun Super Sentai movie, just doesn’t add anything special to the the 40th anniversary. Sit back and just enjoy.

REVIEW: Shuriken Sentai Ninninger vs. ToQGer the Movie: Ninjas in Wonderland

 

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CAST

Shunsuke Nishikawa (Super Hero Taisen GP: Kamen Rider 3)
Gaku Matsumoto (Ressha Sentai ToQger vs. Kyoryuger)
Kaito Nakamura (Shuriken Sentai Ninninger vs. ToQger)
Yuuka Yano (Come Back! Shuriken Sentai Ninninger)
Kasumi Yamaya (Space Sheriff Shaider: Next Generation)
Hideya Tawada (The Boy Inside)
Jun Shison (Survival Family)
Jin Hiramaki (Ressha Sentai ToQger)
Riria (Zero: Black Blood)
Ryusei Yokohama (Rainbow Days)
Ai Moritaka (Beginners)
Shin Nagahama (Ressha Sentai ToQger)
Toshihiro Yashiba (All Esper Dayo!)
Takashi Sasano (The Hidden Blade)
Ryota Yamasato (Terrace House)
Megumi Han (Twin Star Exorcists)
Masaki Nakao (Your Turn To Kill)
Miki Yanagi (Futari Monologue)
Shohei Nanba (Kamen Rider W)
Tsurugi Watanabe (Hana Wa Sakuka)
Haruka Tateishi (Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger)

 

The Ninningers awaken to find themselves on a mysterious train, floating in and out of various elaborate dreams. As they begin to seemingly be picked off one by one in these dreams, five mysterious people appear within them to warn them it’s a trap. The ToQgers have returned, and have been tasked with saving the ninja team from the clutches of the Shadow Line-powered Yokai Wanyūdō. However they’re are unable to save Takaharu and he is taken to the Dark Doctor Mavro – a ninja-obsessed member of the Shadow Line.

Stealing Takaharu’s nintality to produce the evil clone Dark Akaninger, Mavro plans to use it to flood the world in darkness. Takaharu himself is also in trouble, as he begins to find himself slowing fading away after Mavro’s tampering. It’s up to the combined forces of the Ninningers and the ToQgers to put a stop to the doctor’s evil plans and save Takaharu before it’s too late.

Ninninger vs. ToQger  strikes a rather good balance and manages to get good use out of all its stars. The story might focus on Takaharu and Right, but in the lead up to the climax all the memorable scenes are provided by the rest of the characters. Meanwhile Emperor Mavro is an excellent addition to the Shadow Line – a gleefully insane villain boasting another of the great monster designs ToQger did so well.

The plot itself provides enough unique spins to hold everything together nicely. The two series’ respective tones are extremely similar which allow both teams to stay firmly within their comfort zones while bouncing off of each other to increase the zaniness ten-fold.

Topping things off is of course the giant robot fight – a staple of all Super Sentai productions whether they be movies or episodes. However the one Ninninger vs. ToQger is truly a spectacle, and undoubtedly among the best the franchise has produced in recent years. A night time battle sequence is usually remarkable on its own, but this one also  has bundles of imagination on its side. ToQger’s use of Kuliners means more than just a blown-up version of the monster, while the interaction between the two series’ respective mecha is both simple yet ingenuitive. It’s a dazzling end to an already well done movie, and makes the fight feel more than just a Super Sentai trope that’s just there to tick boxes.

A final treat for ToQger fans, and a shining example of how good Ninninger is.