Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger – Episode 8 Review

Wow, Leo learns about human music a minute before a sound-related monster starts attacking? I wonder where this is going…

This episode of Zyuohger was pretty basic filler. It did have a few surprising or clever moments, like the villain’s attack affecting Sela more than the others or Daisuke failing the audition instead of having everything wrap up in a flawless happy ending (by the way, if you’re casting a character who’s a musician, couldn’t you at least hire a dude who can actually play guitar instead of having someone clearly fake it?). But other than that, the main storyline was dull and predictable. I got my hopes up when it started by showing the team hunting for the Champion’s Symbol and recapping its importance to them but, although I do appreciate the scene being in there to show the team having some agency and actually doing something useful with their spare time, I was also disappointed when no progress was made.

The story with Leo and Daisuke looked like it was going to start getting interesting after Leo revealed that he wasn’t human but I was disappointed by that too. I was expecting yet another cool clash of the two different species, similar to Larry’s interactions with humans earlier in the series, but instead Daisuke got used to his new friend being a lion man a little too quickly. Particular for an episode which focused a lot on the natural differences between humans and zyumans with Sela’s sensitive hearing and Leo’s loud voice, I thought Leo’s differences would factor into his relationship with Daisuke more, but instead it didn’t really matter.

The mecha fight at the end was pretty cool, if only because we got both ZyuohKing and ZyuohWild fighting together (the only thing the scene needed was Cube Giraffe to complete the set). I’m a little let down that they seem to be sticking so rigidly to certain number combinations, like 1-2-3 for ZyuohKing and 4-5-6 for ZyuohWild. I was hoping we’d see them mix and match the parts around more to make every mecha fight new and unique. That being said, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the combinations we do see. The monster of the week’s design was really bizarre though. The gramophone thing I get, but why is he a fusion of a gramophone and a motorcycle? And why did he only start to use his motorcycle speed after his gramophone speaker was destroyed? Did the writers suddenly need to invent a whole new gimmick for him to keep the fight entertaining after his first gimmick failed? It’s as if the monster’s sudden motorcycle powers were filler within the plot of a filler episode.

Zyuohger in general has done a good job at keeping its story focused on the team’s overall quest to get home and the mystery of the eagle zyuman but we need to start seeing the story move forward soon. Even if the arc only budges an inch, it’d at least be something to stop us from falling into complete filler. Alternatively, every Sentai series has filler, so a way around it could be to just make the individual filler episodes entertaining. For example, fleshing out the villain faction, who they are, what they’re trying to do, and why they’re doing it would go a long way to making individual monster encounters mean something. When the show first started it introduced the great concept of having the villains be a race of aliens who see galactic conquest as a form of ritualistic game. That idea is genius because it’s basically a clever way to say “the monsters attack Earth because it’s what they do.” Unfortunately, nothing has been done with this concept in eight whole episodes. We’ve seen some great interactions between human and zyuman cultures, so why not give us a window into the alien culture and why exactly they take part in this game? Now that the filler is really just starting for Zyuohger, the show needs to flesh out its basic premise enough to the point that individual episodes are entertaining to watch even if they don’t further the plot.

Luckily, the main cast of characters continue to be one of the best Sentai teams in recent memory in terms of characterisation, with each one being distinct, memorable, and fun to watch. They make a great ensemble and I particularly like that most episodes in the series don’t just focus on one person in the same way that early Ninninger episodes revolved mainly around Takaharu. The main star of this episode was Leo, but due to her shark-like hearing, Sela also had a comedic subplot, and this focus on two people means that the combination 1-2-3 for ZyuohKing made sense for this week. Again, I’d like to see more different mecha combinations in the future, but the fact that two (but not all) of the zyuman characters have to combine with one of Yamato’s cube animals to make a complete combination means that the structure of the show itself draws our attention to certain members of the team each week. It’s a simple way to do things but it works and it means that often episodes will focus on relationships between the Zyuohgers rather than on just one Zyuohger who’s supposed to be the most important. This, combined with the fact that they don’t have a mentor telling them what to do and are making their own decisions makes this group one of the most likeable and unique teams we’ve had in ages, and it means that even filler as boring as this is at least a watchable 25 minutes.

And that’s really all I can say about this episode: it was a watchable 25 minutes. There were some cool moments of choreography and Daisuke failing his audition at the end continues this show’s brilliant trend of giving life lessons and plot resolutions which are more grounded in reality while still being optimistic and hopeful instead of being too depressing or “mature”. I’m still a big fan of this show and what it’s doing, but if it could tap into some of the many potential storytelling goldmines it has lying around, like the background of the villains or the mystery of the eagle zyuman, it would make filler episodes like these a lot more bearable.

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