Finally, after 13 episodes, the constant handing out of leaflets paid off and the team actually got a lead. This is one of the things I love about this series over others: the characters here are way more proactive in achieving their goals. Without a mentor or really any other regulars to help them besides the comic relief uncle, the group have to make all the decisions themselves and it makes them seem smarter. With Ninninger, the student-teacher dynamic was phenomenally well done but it unfortunately raised some questions like ‘if this Last Ninja guy is so great, why doesn’t he fight the monsters?’ In Zyuohger, the team are way more in control and seem more like a team of superheroes who are saving the world because they want to rather than because they are told to.
Also, without a mentor, there’s nobody to give the big inspiring speech at half-time, so the development and arcs the characters undergo are more related to choices they make rather than advice they’re given. In this episode, Leo learns the valuable life lesson on how not to be an idiot and because he arrived at that conclusion himself without being told, it makes him more of a layered character instead of just being ‘the loud stupid one’. I mean, he is still pretty loud and pretty stupid, but at least he knows when he’s clearly messed up.
All five characters are very well developed and all have their own distinct traits and personalities, but Leo, along with maybe Amu, are probably the least fleshed out. Hearing his account of how he met Yamato and what he thinks of him was a nice touch, and it made me realise that we rarely get his perspective on the situation because he’s more of an aloof and light-hearted character. Meanwhile, Sela and Yamato feel like the most developed because they’re serious and are concerned about the team’s situation at large, so we know how they feel about bigger issues like getting back home. It was nice to see Leo get some attention for a change although we didn’t really learn anything new or substantial about him.
The main fight this episode was well done and I really like how Yamato’s gorilla form has its own different role call from his eagle form. Apart from Gokaiger, I can’t think of another series where one character can transform directly into more than one different ranger identity. This episode also made good use of both of Yamato’s forms as he was able to use his eagle wings and gorilla strength during the resolution to the main problem.
As soon as we saw the giant CGI axe rock, I knew it was going to factor into the mecha fight in some way. The shape of it was just too weirdly specific to be a coincidence and the CGI making it stand out against the rest of the mountain gave it the effect of those old cartoons where you can tell which items in the scene are going to move because they’re less detailed than the rest. Regardless, I love the design of Cube Bear, particularly the Minecraftian pixelated axe shape. It’s also cool that the Zyuohgers can still use all of the mecha together without the addition of Cube Bear changing the combination at all given that it just fits into the current combination’s hand.
In the end it turns out that the eagle zyuman was long gone but this episode was still way more satisfying than other filler we’ve had simply because this one actually had the team doing something to achieve their goal. Like in Doctor Who when the Doctor did absolutely nothing to find Gallifrey, it’s so frustrating when characters have clear goals that they make no attempt whatsoever to pursue. At least Zyuohger has its characters doing something productive. It was a bit of a coincidence that the mountain Yuri led them to just so happened to be the mountain that the monster was attacking though. This could have easily been fixed by a few lines of dialogue explicitly telling us that both the monster and the eagle zyuman came to the mountain to find Cube Bear. Maybe the monster was draining the energy from the mountain because it detected something particularly powerful up there. Regardless, this was an alright episode with some good action and at least the illusion that the team were making progress.