Now THAT was more like it!
Episode 41 is the first Zyuohger episode in a while that’s actually been about Zyuohger. Usually a Sentai adventure is a random scenario that the main team are dropped into and have to resolve, but here we actually had a story that not only advanced the plot of the series in major ways but also involved basically every major character and expanded on the mythology of the show. It was extremely satisfying to watch and what’s even better is that it ended on a cliffhanger, so we should get something with the same amount of plot significance next week too.
That’s not to say that this episode was perfect, obviously. It was far from that. For one thing, it was revealed in this episode that Master Ginis hardly ever leaves his spaceship because he’s significantly weaker on Earth. That’s fine as a plot point, but making him sit with his head resting on his hand for 40 episodes isn’t exactly a good way to demonstrate how powerful he is. Maybe he should have been in some life support chamber, like Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back, and he could have been shot from very careful angles so we never fully see him. It would have made him more monstrous and when we finally see his face it would have felt like more of an event. Making him (almost literally) a part of the furniture in every single episode just makes him boring. Also, we should have been shown in some visual way we can understand that he is way less powerful on Earth, so when he used the data from Cube Whale to make himself Earth-compatible it would have been a bigger deal. Master Ginis was a force to be reckoned with in this episode but it was just too little too late. The only time he has anything approaching a sense of menace is when Kubar is so scared of him that he has to enlist the Zyuohgers and an army of illusion monsters to fight him. Giving a villain a reputation or making other people an extreme reaction to them goes a long way to making them feel more important than they actually are. Still, Master Ginis comes nowhere near to feeling like the final boss he should be.
Other than that, my issues with this episode were all little annoyances. It was a really refreshing change of pace to see Super Sentai characters running around inside a castle and I welcome new settings, but putting toku characters (tokusatsu being a very theatrical genre) in a confined space only served to highlight how much they don’t belong there. When they were running around and checking all the doors, their movements seemed ridiculously over the top, which is usually why I watch Sentai but for something as simple as trying to kick a door down I feel like they could have been a little more sensible about it. Their movements would have made more sense if we were still watching ToQger, in which the characters are supposed to be children who have magically acquired adult bodies. I understand having the heroes wearing their suits during this scene means there’s a certain level of urgency, considering they usually only wear the suits when they’re about to enter a fight, but still. Sometimes, even tokusatsu could do with some subtlety. I know, I know. That was hard for me to type.
Nitpicks aside, this was a strong episode. We FINALLY got some good villain stuff with Kubar betraying Ginis for destroying his home world. Unlike every other Zyuohger episode, this week’s story was all about a villain coming up with an evil scheme to defeat another villain, and the Zyuohgers were just along for the ride. Unfortunately, it seems that the only interesting thing they could find to do with Naria is to chain her up somewhere, once again making me wonder why the writers even created her character in the first place. Blue Cube Dude got a tiny little bit more to do but still not enough to make me remember his name. Blue Cube Dude bringing Bard in to the story just before the cliffhanger was a nice move though. They seem to be doing exactly what I wanted them to do with Bard’s character now: making him a ranger who only occasionally jumps into action during big event episodes to make them more memorable. Presumably next week we’re going to find out why he’s been off collecting Cube Animals.
The most exciting thing about this episode for me is the way it permanently changes the status quo of the show. Using the data from Cube Whale (a fun callback that I completely forgot about until I saw the triangle disk thing), Ginis can now make regular trips to Earth and isn’t confined to looking bored in his spaceship. Similarly, Kubar will be out and about more given that he can’t exactly go back to being Master Ginis’ servant now. At last, we have a splintered villain faction with some potential to generate filler-cancelling drama. Maybe now we’ll have a solid chunk of plot episodes of take us in to the endgame instead of having a thick brick wall separating all episodes into either plot or filler.