Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger – Episode 35 Review

It’s getting kinda ridiculous that Mario still doesn’t know about the Zyuohgers being the Zyuohgers. I feel like he should have been told by now, or figured it out in the episode where Yamato saved him from the Dethgaliens. Either way, the scenes at the start of every episode where Mario shows up in a good mood, completely unaware of all the terrible stuff going on behind the scenes, are starting to feel very predictable.

Other than that, this episode had a strong opening with Bunglay taking Yamato’s changer and using it to deliver his terms to the others. This was a great episode for Bunglay in general and was a good send-off for the character. I especially loved his personal connection to the team. He doesn’t just want to kill them, he wants Yamato to suffer and for his ramblings about how everyone is ‘connected’ to be proven wrong. This villain is just so good and fits so well with this series. I can’t believe it’s taken Toei this long to realise that the most powerful weapon a Super Sentai villain could possibly wield is cynicism. Just pure frustration and disgust at the typical Sentai Red nonsense about love and friendship that we’ve grown used to hearing year after year.

Trying to convince us that five out of the six Zyuohgers had died obviously wasn’t going to work but at the very least they could have committed to it, instead of blatantly showing the orbital strike missing its target slightly. If nothing else, it was another example of the team being incredibly resourceful. The solution to how they escaped didn’t feel like a cop-out at all and the way they were able to deduce that an attack was coming from the absence of Kubar and from Bunglay’s style of inflicting emotional trauma on Yamato for the sake of it showed a lot of intelligence in the heroes. That being said, it also exposed how bad the acting in Super Sentai can be. Yamato goes through a lot of horrific stuff over the course of the show and his failing optimism in the face of the horrors that Bunglay shows him is such a big part of his development. Getting an actor who can portray all of that is important and sadly I don’t think the guy they got is really up to the challenge. Super Sentai has never been known for its amazing Oscar-worthy performances, but I’ve never really been made to think about it before now. They probably could have found a more powerful and nuanced actor for this role. Believe it or not, as much as I love the over-the-top campiness of everything, there are actually some elements of tokusatsu that require subtly. Shocking, I know. I mean I don’t hate any of the actors; I’ve written at length about how likeable they all are. But moments like this where Yamato just watched all his friends be blown to shreds from orbit require a bit more than ‘likeable’.

The cheesy reunion immediately following the orbital blast and all the “connections crap” as Bunglay put it was absolutely brilliant, especially in a conflict between the optimistic Yamato and the cynical Bunglay. Bunglay is a little like me in the way he thinks that all this Sentai Red nonsense is silly and wouldn’t it be cool if Sentai was dark and serious and everyone died for a change? And then Yamato represents the Super Sentai franchise as a whole, saying “actually, no. Let’s just make a fun friendly TV show where everything works out in the end and we all get to go home and eat ice cream and rainbows.” This whole Yamato vs. Bunglay arc is Super Sentai arguing the case for why it should continue to exist after 40 years, and the argument is basically, “wouldn’t it just be better if life was like this? Why should everything be dark and miserable when we can be camp and cheesy and fun?”

This is the first time in all the years I’ve been watching Sentai that I’m upset about a villain dying. After a really spectacular fight scene and the most amazingly ridiculous CGI finishing attack ever, Bunglay grew giant, and as soon as that happened I knew he was doomed. It was a good last mecha battle though, and Wild Tousai Dodeka King does look suitably epic, especially the legs which are literally just four cubes each stacked on top of each other. As a lover of practical effects, this fight was incredible to watch. The explosions, the debris, and even the way the ground crumbled as this new combination walked looked amazing and really sold how heavy and powerful these two giants are. I wish Bunglay could have been the big final villain of the series but it was still good while it lasted.

There were a few technical issues with this episode, particularly in the editing towards the start. Not only was there an obvious continuity error with Mario’s positioning from shot to shot at the start, but when Amu shouted about Bunglay getting both Yamato and Cube Whale, it was an extremely jarring cut. Usually Sentai has such a high standard when it comes to the editing, but this episode had a few minor jumps here and there that took me out of it a bit. Other than that, this episode was great fun with some really engaging action sequences and a pretty huge jump forward for the overall plot with the death of my personal favourite Sentai villain. The problem is now we’re stuck with the boring Dethgaliens and the formulaic blood game episodes…

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