Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger – Episode 31 Review
And so ends the search for Cube Whale. This has been a really strong run of episodes for Zyuohger, from celebrating 40 years of Super Sentai to expanding the mythology of Zyuland to getting some fun new whale-themed gear (which incidentally, is the best theme). In many ways, these episodes are exactly what I want to see Super Sentai doing more of. By spreading out a single power-up over multiple episodes, like one episode for the new form debut, one episode for the first appearance of Cube Whale, and one episode for the transformed version joining the team, it means there’s less overall filler and more time for the individual set-pieces to breathe. Also, these episodes have had some terrific direction, practical effects, and some inventive fight sequences. I expect after this it’s all going to go back to being business as usual, but for right now my opinion of Zyuohger has reached a new high, and that’s coming from someone who always kinda liked this series.
That being said, this episode not without issues. The idea that Ginis, a main villain so boring I had to look up what his name was, has been sitting it out for so long specifically to watch Bunglay coax out Cube Whale does make a certain amount of sense but it would have worked better if it had played out over fewer episodes. It’s been so long since Bunglay first showed up that Ginis has now been inactive for weeks. He’s just boring. And it really doesn’t help that his default position is sitting on a throne with his head resting on his hand. As much as I love the villain designs, and as much as Bunglay is still my personal favourite Sentai villain due to how he opposes the core optimistic morals of the entire Sentai franchise, Zyuohger has really dropped the ball in terms of the bad guys. Ginis is just not in any way interesting or threatening. The only properly scary thing about the villains, other than Zyuoh The World in his first few appearances, is G.I.F.T., which they brought back this week. Problem is, it was dispatched way quicker than it was the first time. The reappearance of G.I.F.T. combined with the constant reuse of villains using Bunglay’s memory gimmick makes me think that this show has completely run out of ideas when it comes to baddies. One of the only villain-related thing Zyuohger has actually done well has been the relationship between Bunglay and Kubar, but I can already tell it’s going to be ages before that subplot starts properly moving.
Just like last episode, there were a few shots that really stood out amongst what we’ve come to expect visually from tokusatsu. The helicopter shot of Cube Whale in the lake early on in the episode was a brilliant use of CG that almost fooled me into thinking it was a miniature at first glance. There were also some nice scenes by the side of the lake with Cube Whale in the middle. I’ve always thought CG looks way better if it’s slightly out of focus, so that instead of appearing too clean and artificial, it looks like a part of the environment (see also: that one shot of the crashed star destroyer in the background of The Force Awakens). This episode proved that further by showing some nice depth-of-field shots of Yamato in the foreground and Cube Whale in the background. The really amazing effects came during the mecha fight, again in the middle of the lake. The practical splashing water around the actors in the mecha suits added something unique to the scene that gave impact to each explosion and just made it more memorable. It’s so nice to see a mecha fight in an environment other than a city or a forest.
The main highlight of this episode though is obviously all the new gear the team get. Firstly there’s the big Minecraft-style harpoon which looks like a nightmare to actually fight with. Then there’s Dodekai-Oh, the main attraction which after a four-episode arc to get it, feels very satisfying to actually see. That being said, what would have made the fight even more satisfying is if Naria actually died when G.I.F.T. exploded. It’s not as if she’s contributing anything to the plot other than being a walking, talking piece of exposition to explain how monsters grow giant every week. It would have given the finale to this huge arc much more weight instead of having her escape so she can continue to do nothing of importance and have no personality traits whatsoever.
This four-parter is arguably the most significant arc of the show since Zyuoh The World was introduced, and it was an effective way to keep the momentum going now that we’ve passed the mid-point of the series. The restraint demonstrated by this arc to not just dump all the upgrades on us at once, particularly during the big climactic Gokaiger team-up fight, shows a much tighter pace to the series than we’ve seen in previous years. One of the big flaws I find with Sentai is that some shows just don’t have enough content to stretch across 50 episodes, but I can honestly say that Zyuohger has kept me invested since day one.
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