REVIEW: SPACE SQUAD: GAVAN VS DEKARANGER

333Crossovers can be a strange thing. Sometimes they can pair up the most unexpected of things and others are such perfect match ups that you can’t believe they didn’t happen sooner. The pairing of Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger and Space Sheriff Gavan definitely counts as the latter. After the roaring success of their 10 Years After special, the space-cop Super Sentai team are back once again and teaming up with the new Gavan, Geki Jumonji – who took on the mantle in the 2012 Gavan movie and subsequently appeared in Super Hero Taisen Z as well as the Next Generation Sharivan and Shaider movies. Space Squad: Gavan vs. Dekaranger isn’t just a match made in heaven, it’s one with its sights set on the wider Sentai and Metal Heroes universes as well.Girls-In-Trouble-Episode-Zero-HellviraWhile chasing down an intergalactic arms deal, Geki and his partner Shelly are lured into a trap by Juspion’s resurrected foe Mad Gallant – now leading a branch of the mysterious Genmakuu Syndicate. Not only is the new Gavan humiliated in battle, but Shelly is shot and taken by a mysterious assailant. Removed from the case due to his thirst for vengeance, Geki goes rogue and turns to the Dekarangers for help.Together the two branches of space police investigate Mad Gallant’s scheme, taking them from a diaper factory all the way to another dimension where a long fallen evil is about to rise again. Can the combined forces of the Dekarangers and Gavan defeat the Genmakuu? And will Gavan be able to best Mad Gallant’s sword skills?Girls-In-Trouble-Episode-Zero-Shelly-BirdieOne of the biggest advantages to Dekaranger’s more episodic storytelling was that while the show was still able to end with a higher stakes battle, there was no finite ending to it. Whereas most Super Sentai series end with the team defeating the evil they came together to defend against in the first place, this was just a particularly bad day for the Dekarangers. Characters were promoted and the team dynamic shifted, but as 10 Years After proved there are still plenty of stories to tell. It’s a shame that Ban’s new position doesn’t properly integrate him back into the team until the very end, but for the other Dekarangers it really seems that the more things change the more they stay the same. Picking up where 10 Years After left off the relationship between Umeko and Sen plays a big part in the story, and we get to see the two characters finally tie the knot. All of the show’s main players are back, with both Tetsu and Doggie getting in on the action in-suit as wellSpace-Squad-CastBut with the Dekarangers as the veterans of this story, it’s Geki’s character development that’s central to this story. Even though it’s been five years since his debut the new Gavan can still be quite a difficult character to get on with at times in terms of personality. His brash, impulsive nature is a lot more bearable in Sentai reds because at least there they’re playing off characters, but Gavan is more of a solo player. So having him rely on a team is a big step towards humbling him, preparing him to be the Space Sheriff Retsu knew he always could be as well as something bigger. You don’t need the characters constantly reminding you to know that Geki is essentially what Ban was like at the beginning of Dekaranger, so to now see Ban in a position of authority mentoring someone else is a fantastic evolution of his character. Just as Ban was brought to position where he can now competently lead the Fire Squad, here Geki not only becomes the Space Sheriff Retsu knew he could become but also the leader of something bigger – the Space Squad. Retsu himself isn’t quite done yet either, and though not as prominent as he used to be continues to be a big part of Geki’s growth while being just as badass as ever. Kenji Ohba truly is a tokusatsu treasure.Space-Squad-DekarangersWith the villains also comes a second Metal Heroes element – incorporating Juspion antagonists Mad Gallant and Satan Goth into the mix as well. Even without any prior knowledge of the show (which isn’t in any way essential viewing to follow Space Squad), Mad Gallant immediately oozes the kind of presence you know doesn’t come from an all-new character. Not once but twice is he able to completely overcome Gavan, and it’s a testament to just how striking the suit design that it remains barely unchanged from his original appearance back in 1985. Even when the villain is needlessly unmasked, the two distinctly different personas work together to create something really memorable. Working alongside Mad Gallant are the “Space Kunoichi” Benikiba (a villain from yet another Metal Heroes show – Sekai Ninja Sen Jiraiya), as well as alien assassin Cronen – who in a wonderfully Dekaranger-esque bit of name play hails from the planet Berg. Whereas Cronen is more or less just a glorified Alienizer for the film, Benikiba is a little more interesting. Though slightly updated visually she’s still a perfect throwback to the Showa era villains of the 70s/80s, and character-wise the film leaves her shrouded in mystery. Her sense of honour makes her more than just a cliche villain, while her unwavering dedication to the “Prophet Fumein” makes her perhaps the most dedicated of the three. Though we don’t ever get an answer to who or what Fumein is, it’s clear that Benikiba could continue to be a major player in the story yet to come.Space-Squad-Dekaranger-SWATThe genius of Space Squad as a concept though isn’t just that it’s a perfect Dekaranger/Gavan crossover, it also has the potential to expand into so much more. Incorporating elements from Juspion were just a sign of things to come, with potential future Space Squad instalments teasing the likes of the B-Fighters, Janperson, the Megarangers, Gingaman and more from both Super Sentai and Metal Heroes. The fact that the film even finds a way to slip in an Akibaranger reference of all things just shows how ambitious this series could become should it continue to go on. In interviews director Koichi Sakamoto has directly compared Space Squad to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, going as far to even call it the first step in creating his tokusatsu equivalent of The Avengers. Since usually these sort of multi-franchise crossovers seem to come with very little internal logic to them, the thought of Toei moving into something that isn’t immediately rushed into is a very exciting concept indeedSpace-Squad-GekiSakamoto thankfully also puts aside his love for fanservice to properly focus on the other element that earned him his reputation – fantastic action sequences. Whether it’s in-suit or untransformed fights, there’s a certain slickness to Space Squad that elevates it above the norm and emphasises its cinematic qualities. While the stylised lens flare is undoubtedly overkill, there is a nice juxtaposition between the inviting natural light of its Earth/planet-based scenes and the overpowering, artificial light of the spaceship/station sequences. Similarly the gun-toting Dekarangers offer a different kind of action to Gavan’s swordplay, so the film has plenty of variety on offer to keep things exciting.Space-Squad-RetsuToei may have produced an abundance of crossovers across their various tokusatsu properties, but you can count on one hand the number of truly spectacular ones. Space Squad: Gavan vs Dekaranger can happily be counted among them. 13 years on the Dekarangers are just as fantastic as ever while the Gavan cast continue to prove that they’re being wasted on just the occasional movie and tie-in episode (seriously, just make a combined Space Sheriff show already Toei). This isn’t a crossover that just works, it’s one that’s come together to suggest something even bigger. If Toei can now deliver what they tease at the end of the movie, this could be their first step in creating a shared universe that their previous crossovers have always lacked – coherency.Space-Squad-Benikiba-Mad-Gallant

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REVIEW: GIRLS IN TROUBLE: SPACE SQUAD EPISODE ZERO

GITB-SPSQWhile Toei tokusatsu hero crossovers have become fairly commonplace these days thanks to the annual Super Hero Taisen movies, every so often one rolls around that promises something really special. The Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger  and Space Sheriff Gavan crossover Space Squad: Gavan vs. Dekaranger is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated events in sometime – bringing together these space-faring heroes in a crossover that not only sounds good on paper but also makes perfect sense continuity-wise as well. But before we get onto the main action there’s also Girls in Trouble: Space Squad Episode Zero – a prologue V-cinema release starring Jasmine/Deka Yellow and Umeko/Deka Pink as well as the new Space Sheriff assistants Shelly, Sisi and Tammy.Girls-In-Trouble-Space-Squad-Episode-ZeroWaking up in a strange place, Jasmine, Umeko, Shelly and Tammy are being hunted by a feral alien. No matter what they do every outcome leads to the same eventuality – their deaths. However each death leads to them waking up in the same place once again, repeating events over and over until they can defeat the monster and break the time loop. Meanwhile the Galactic Police are putting together a team for a special mission to rescue their President, who has been captured by the reformed Genmakuu.Girls-In-Trouble-Episode-Zero-DeathIf the recent Kamen Rider Brave special has taught us anything, it’s that children’s tokusatsu can get a lot more violent when detached from its usual Sunday morning television slot. Whether that violence is warranted however is a different matter entirely. Girls in Trouble opens less like the sci-fi space cop special it is and more like a J-Horror survival film, as we watch the leads run around cramped corridors – dripping in sweat and wearing the shortest shorts possible as they’re repeatedly killed. The means of death aren’t especially gruesome, but the Kamen Rider Amazons-esque blood spurting is enough to remind you this is no picnic. The obvious fetishisation of the whole sequence should come as no surprise when you see the director is none other than Koichi Sakamoto – a man whose talents for great action sequences are unquestionable.Girls-In-Trouble-Episode-Zero-Space-Sheriff-GirlsBut in spite of the somewhat sleaziness of this first section, the film does a lot of good with its characters and setting – going as far as to even play up some of the viewers’ expectations based on previous films. We expect the Horusian alien with the creepy laugh in the darkened room to be the villain based on a similar villain appearing in the Next Generation Sharivan/Shaider movies, but then the film goes and subverts that by revealing that Birdie is just adverse to light and her “evil laugh” is her species equivalent of hiccups. Genius, even if the costume is just as ridiculous here as it was there. While it’s a pity Sisi isn’t more directly involved with the action (although there is a good reason for that), the characters immediately work together brilliantly – to the point where it doesn’t even feel like this is only their first meeting.Girls-In-Trouble-Episode-Zero-CastJasmine and Umeko are both on top form, and after 13 years it feels like the pair have just kept getting better and better over time. Umeko especially, who between this and Dekaranger: 10 Years After has established herself far beyond the cutesy, bath-loving persona she’s usually lumped with. Meanwhile Shelly, Sisi and Tammy all a decent amount of focus in their respective films but the chance to see them without the action focused on the Space Sheriffs shows not only shows just how brilliant all three of these characters are, but also how perfect they would be for a full Metal Heroes television revival. Toei has lined up an absolutely brilliant cast for the new generation Space Sheriffs, yet for the most part have barely been used.Girls-In-Trouble-Episode-Zero-DekarangersThe most commendable thing about Girls in Trouble is it’s proper dedication to keeping an all-female cast. While surprise cameos from the likes of Doggie Kruger and Juspion’s Mad Gallant are always welcome, the story completely revolves around the shows respective female casts and not once do the males ever gatecrash the party. Even the plot comfortably removes this unwanted and unneeded element from the film, cliche as it may beGirls-In-Trouble-Episode-Zero-HellviraGirls in Trouble: Space Squad Episode Zero is a wonderful enjoyable film that not only highlights two of Dekaranger’s best characters but also gives the Space Sheriff girls to shine away from their metal-clad partners.