After last week’s excellent introduction to the series that threw everything at us (while luckily not feeling too rushed), this episode didn’t do too much in terms of establishing new plot points but instead focused on fleshing out our new team. Once again I’m amazed that, two weeks in to the 40th anniversary series, the fact that it’s an anniversary series hasn’t even been referenced outside of the logo at the start of each episode. ‘Amazed’ in a good way though; I’m used to tokusatsu shows making a big song and dance out of their anniversary status so I’m glad that Zyuohger actually has its own identity as a series rather than just being a 50-episode-long celebration of what’s come before, as fun as that can be.
Speaking of identity, Zyuohger has already made several decisions that have differentiated it from other series. For instance, early on in this episode we see blue, yellow, and white exploring the human world and making it clear that they don’t belong there. Having a group mainly comprised of people from another culture adds a new dynamic to the way they interact with the setting. It mostly reminds me of Time Force (I haven’t got around to seeing Timeranger yet) where the red ranger is from the modern day and the others are a pre-established team who come from another time. The first few episodes of a Sentai are always slightly awkward because the writers seem to give the characters a personality one by one starting with red, meaning we can be waiting up to ten episodes for them to do something interesting with the others. Zyuohger on the other hand gives the characteristics of animals to the zyuman characters meaning all five protagonists already have something to work with in terms of personality beyond the broad stereotypes we’ve come to expect from each colour role. Red is still energetic, green is still serious, yellow is still quirky and so on, but now they each have something related to their animals to differentiate their actions. It might be slightly cliché to expect the shark-themed ranger to like taking baths and the lion-themed ranger to be the loudest, but it makes the team way more entertaining and immediately memorable than the Ninningers or ToQgers were by their second episodes.
With the very obvious exception of the animal tails on the zyumans which are just kinda dumb, the series continues to look great. Something I noticed last week that continues to be true here is that the series handles its locations well. Normally in Sentai you’d have a busy street scene of civilians being attacked and then when the rangers show up and transform, the action suddenly jumps to them fighting in somewhere isolated like a forest or a warehouse. Zyuohger has been good so far at creating a sense of continuity between locations. There’s never an obvious jump from ‘random area full of people and debris’ to ‘convenient clearing where five people can stand side-by-side and pose’. That might sound like a really weird thing to notice but the way that the director used the space of the forest in Episode 1 really stuck me, and the same is true about the city fight in Episode 2. The sets feel like they’re part of a coherent world instead of just being a series of arenas created specifically for fighting in.
The mecha fight for this episode was also quite well done. I love it when we see individual mecha fighting before they actually combine. It makes each one feel useful and unique instead of purely existing to transform into a body part. This episode and the trailer for next time raised a slightly concern I have though about the number of mecha this series. While it’s always fun to have a large number of mecha to allow for a variety of different combinations, I feel like more time should be spent with the combinations we have now instead of introducing new ones as early as Episode 3. I understand that Sentai has to sell toys so it helps if they get the mecha into the storyline as quickly as possible, but there’s so much the show could so with just the eagle, shark, lion, tiger, and elephant without having to be introducing more so soon.
Don’t get me wrong: I love it when a Sentai team gets a new power-up to play with but if they spread out new mecha appearances even by one extra episode between each one, it would result in there being way less filler in the middle of the series and just make for a better paced show in general. This is a point I also made about the start of Ninninger, and I understand that it’s part of the Sentai formula to give us lots of new stuff during the first 10 episodes or so, but for a show that’s supposed to keep our interests for a whole years-worth of weekly episodes, this formula really isn’t that great at keeping things engaging for that long. Regardless, this is a concern I have about the future of the show, not the show as it is now. We’re only a few episodes in so we don’t even need to worry about filler at the moment.
There was nothing particularly amazing about this episode but it gave us a clearer idea of who the characters are and is notable for featuring the first proper team henshin. Last week the characters were thrown together out of pure happenstance but here we actually saw all of them making a choice to be part of a team and fight together. In that way, this episode could be seen as being part two of the opener. The good stuff from Episode 1 continued here like the great action, designs, and music. The basic premise of Zyuohger has the potential to make a great series and I hope future episodes are able to make the most of that premise.