Lupinranger VS Patoranger – Episode 1 Review

Wow. Really, wow.

It’s easy to give good reviews to Super Sentai premiere episodes. After watching the same series for 50 weeks, just having brand new suits and characters and settings and toys to play with is all a premiere needs to feel fresh and exciting. Because of that, I tend to wave away a lot of issues with first episodes that would be a deal breaker in any other situation. For example, I go into Sentai first episodes expecting the pacing to be nonexistent due to the episode spending less time developing the characters and more time showing us everything it has in under 25 minutes. What makes the premiere of Lupinranger VS Patoranger (Dawn of Justice) so impressive is that it isn’t just good because everything’s shiny and new. This is a legitimately great starting point for the show that I’d recommend to friends who have never seen Super Sentai before (in fact, I already have).

The episode had me hooked from the very start. The opening five minutes is a fight in a casino that looked way slicker than anything Sentai has done in a while (and I love Kyuranger for the record). The scene is set and we learn that there’s a monster using some special power to cheat at roulette, all shown to us rather than told. From there we have the entrance of the Lupinrangers and their first fight, which was stunning. The decision to have the fight in a confined space added a lot to making it feel different, but the way it was shot, with lateral camera moves tracking the rangers as they ploughed from left to right through the room, guns blazing, was very impressive.

The direction in general was impressive. Even something as simple as a conversation between two people in a car avoided falling into shot-reverse-shot. The whole thing oozed style. I hope this is the way the rest of the show looks too and it isn’t just the result of extra effort for the first episode. The way the interior spaces were filmed, from the casino to the restaurant to the police HQ, gave them a lot of life and personality. They felt like real places as opposed to, say the Zyuohger villain lair which was clearly just three walls. The monster lair in this episode felt like a full set (although the CGI mansion from the outside looked hideous. Could they not have found a real mansion? It’s not like trying to find a space ship).

Speaking of the villain faction, I like their mob boss vibe, and their cool background music gives them a distinct feel. Unfortunately, that’s the only thing about them I can call distinct. Their designs are all very busy with a lot of colours and weird bits hanging off them. There’s nothing about them individually that sticks in my memory. The safes in the chests are a strong design element but they all have it, and the fact that the rest of their designs are all so forgettable made me confused at first. I was like, “Wait, didn’t they just blow up the one with the safe?” Obviously I can’t judge their personalities properly after only one episode but nothing jumped out at me on that front either. Still, I know this series isn’t really about the rangers vs the monsters, it’s about the rangers vs the rangers. The only thing that really interests me about the villains is the idea of the generals trying to take over and become the main boss. That has a lot of potential and I’m excited to see where that goes.

The rest of the new designs introduced in this episode were excellent, especially the Lupinranger suits. The Patoranger suits are fine and they fit with the police theme well enough, but the Lupinrangers look the coolest for me by far. Part of it is down to the Lupinranger colour scheme – red, blue, and yellow – which I like more than the Patoranger colours – red, green, and pink. By the way, I love that Super Sentai now has the same number of red rangers and teams as it does series numbers (Goranger ran over two years and threw the whole show out of sync). 43 reds for 43 years pleases my obsessive fan brain.

There wasn’t anything about this episode that felt particularly forced or rushed in terms of setting up the exposition, apart from the scene in the car. The flashbacks to explain the Lupin Collection not only felt shoved in because it sounded like Lupin Red already knew this stuff, but it didn’t even explain all that much in the first place. Everything else fell into place perfectly and was given just the right amount of time. This was definitely a Lupin-centric episode, and I like the way that the Lupinrangers burst in at the very start and provided the main action of the episode throughout, giving the Patorangers time to get a slower origin story. Well, I say ‘origin story’, it was basically just Hilltop handing them their changers, but still. Ending the episode with Patorangers’ first henshin not only made for a good cliffhanger but it made sense for why the story starts here. There needs to be a reason why the first episode of a show is the first episode, especially if this isn’t the first time the Lupinrangers have fought monsters, so making it the origin story for the Patorangers gave us a good reason why the show is starting here.

This was a strong first episode, probably the strongest Sentai premiere in recent memory. Lupinranger VS Patoranger is off to a good start and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

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