Lupinranger VS Patoranger – Episodes 3 + 4 Review

With the main premise of the show established, Episode 3 and 4 both do a good job of showing the potential this premise has. At first I was a little worried about how the interactions between the two teams were going to work, mainly due to the secret identity thing. Secret identities are rarely something Sentai bothers with in an meaningful way, but the first episodes of Lupin vs Pato set up the idea that the two teams will be meeting a lot in civilian form. For me, one of the most frustrating things a story can do is play on miscommunication. It can get very tedious very quickly if done badly. Luckily, Lupin vs Pato does a good job at making its secret identity stuff bearable, mainly by giving us an equal insight into both teams.

Both the Lupinrangers and the Patorangers are the heroes, even though their circumstances make them rivals. As a result, the audience is privy to all information about both teams, so rather than the secret identities being a frustration, it’s more farcical, played for laughs rather than a serious source of drama (although there are small moments of real tension like Lupin Blue trying to pickpocket Pato Red in Episode 3).

The equal focus on both teams adds a lot to the six main characters, letting them all be a bit more complex. They’re all somewhere between good and bad rather than just being heroes or villains. For example, Episode 3 gives us our first focus on Lupin Blue. At first he seems like a standard Sentai archetype; a hotheaded blue. Then we have flashbacks to his girlfriend who was killed before their wedding. Rather than being a hothead because of a selfish need to get the job done quickly, Lupin Blue is a hothead because he wants to save the woman he loves. Lupin Blue is both a negative character, rushing in without thinking, and a positive character, trying to save people. The only downside of the way the characters are handled in this show is that they’re still doing the normal Sentai thing of giving one person a majority of the character-building focus per episode, but because there are two teams that means we swap back and forth between which team is interesting. In Episode 3 we learn about Lupin Blue and the Patorangers take a backseat and in Episode 4 we learn about Pato Pink and the Lupinrangers take a backseat. Pato Pink’s development in Episode 4 was less strong than Lupin Blue’s because it’s mainly a comedy subplot, but it does touch on her history with Pato Red that might build into something later.

After four episodes, I still prefer the Lupinrangers to the Patorangers. Their whole thief aesthetic is more original to Sentai than the police aesthetic, and I like their colour scheme way more. We know at this point we’re getting a new ranger identity added to each of the two teams (although they’re both the same person). The Lupinrangers are going to end up being red, blue, yellow, and silver, while the Patorangers will end up being red, green, pink, and gold. I really prefer the Lupinranger colours, as red, green, pink, and gold are just a bit garish to me. Character-wise, the Lupinrangers also have more to work with I think. They do what they do because they want to get their loved ones back. The Patorangers do what they do because it’s just their job. I think there’s more substance to the Lupinrangers, particularly the mysterious business going on with Kogure and the Lupin collection.

Unfortunately, the villain faction still hasn’t grabbed me in these two episodes. The safes built into their bodies is a really strong design element that makes them a distinct faction, but beyond that their individual designs are far too busy to be memorable. There are so many colours and shapes and bits hanging off each of the monster suits that it’s hard to find a distinctive quality for my mind to grab onto. Episode 3’s monster of the week was just weird. It was a snail that was also an artist that attacked people with chewing gum? What’s the theme supposed to be there? Episode 4’s monster is a little clearer, being obviously shark-based with a trident weapon that goes with the theme and a more muted colour scheme that’s easier to look at. The green cyclops guy who hangs out with the leader is pretty memorable though, and the villain theme tune is wonderfully atmospheric and creepy in a way that isn’t trying too hard.

Both episodes had amazing action sequences, continuing the slick direction and choreography from the first two episodes. I love the long takes where the camera moves around and focuses on different parts of a fight scene. It makes the whole fight feel more real, with all the parts of the fight happening at once and interacting, rather than focusing on one part of the fight at a time and loosing the rest of it in the background. Both mecha fights were also stunning, with amazing practical effects and a particularly memorable forest mountain location for Episode 4.

The flaws in these two episodes are minor. Episode 3 suffers from Super Sentai‘s recurring problem of having 10 flashbacks to things that just happened a minute ago, but there was nothing too major. Overall though I loved these episodes and I’m excited to see what the show has to offer next.

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