This episode started off with a surprising callback to the very first episode and the Sauron-looking monster that the Zyuohgers destroyed. I knew that design looked way too cool to be wasted on a normal monster of the week, and it turns out he was actually one of the villain leaders prior to the show starting. The main premise of this episode, a contest between two monsters to see who should replace him, is pretty original (and the rock-paper-scissors joke was a surprisingly meta comment on how Sentai monster costumes are pretty impractical for anything other than smacking people in the face). However, I was sort of expecting both of the monsters to attack in this episode as a way of shaking up the standard Sentai formula. Then again, this was a pretty entertaining episode on its own that never really had a slow or boring moment, so I can’t exactly complain. If anything, it means we’re finally getting multi-episode arcs for the villain faction this year which is something that Zyuohger has been seriously lacking.
The human side characters in this episode got a surprising amount of focus, especially when compared with the actual Zyuohgers themselves. The monster bribing the man with money for his sister’s operation was a dark twist and not how I thought it was going to go at all. Suddenly, an incompetent and bumbling comic relief villain became actually quite sinister. The monster’s powers were also well established and used effectively throughout the episode. I was expecting the “I can only be invisible for three minutes while on Earth” comment to be an obvious set up for something later on but no, it turned out just to be a cool bit of lore highlighting that these creatures are aliens who are out of their usual comfort zones on Earth.
While the monster and the human characters got a lot of development, Amu barely had any despite this clearly trying to be an episode about her. The obvious revelation that I was expecting, that Amu had a sibling back in Zyuland who she has a bad relationship with, never actually came and instead she contributed very little to the story other than giving the human guy a pep talk. Really, all she did was witness a story between two people that she didn’t affect in any way. That being said, the story was well told and I liked the scene at the end where the guy said he’d return the money to the police and try to earn money for his sister honestly. Zyuohger is once again managing to be serious and realistic with its morals without being depressing or pessimistic. Yes, his sister still needs surgery and we’ll probably never find out if she ever gets it or not, but the characters have a moral victory for not giving in to temptation and bribery. The ending is still played as being happy. They could have so easily ended the episode with the guy getting the suitcase full of money but instead they went that extra mile to teach kids a lesson, and that’s just really cool.
It’s rare that we get indoors fight scenes, mostly because tokusatsu needs big open spaces for poses and explosions, but it was nice to briefly see some close-quarters combat this week. The fights in both the office space and the museum, as well as the main fight scenes out in the open, were all excellent and featured some awesome music. It isn’t every episode that I notice the music but every now and then Zyuohger will have a moment where the soundtrack hits me. Fittingly for the 40th anniversary series, the music sounds like something that could easily have been used in the Showa era with lots of synth and electric guitars. Speaking of which, I’m still amazed we haven’t had any anniversary tie-ins this year. I mean, I kinda like that we haven’t had anything yet because it means that Zyuohger has had way more of an identity of its own than Gokaiger did, but it’s still very surprising that the 35th year had more fanfare than the 40th.
This episode not only had a really original premise and a storyline with a good moral, but also some of the best comedic moments the show has had in a while. I would have liked to have seen more of Amu and her past on Zyuland as right now she’s one of the least developed main characters but this was still an entertaining half-hour that’s got me looking forward to next time. Hopefully we’ll start to see more complex villain plots now that we’re delving into the hierarchy of the aliens. Also, at one point in the episode, the comic relief monster communicates with Sentai Sauron, so hopefully this means that he can come back. Sentai Sauron is definitely the best Sauron.