Uchu Sentai Kyuranger – Episode 1 Review

So! Kyuranger. I loved it. It was a strong first episode that did exactly what first episodes need to do: sell the audience on the amount of potential that can be squeezed out of a premise. I can already tell from just the first week alone that we’re in for a wild ride. The sheer variety of alien planets alone makes this a very unique Sentai that I’m sure won’t get boring any time soon.

On that note, I’m so happy with how well this episode was paced. I love big Super Sentai teams but I was a little concerned that all nine initial heroes would be dropped on us at the very start. Luckily (ugh, the new red ranger’s catchphrase has ruined that word for me), there were just five rangers in Episode 1 because that’s all it needed. There’s so much to get into with just these five alone and that’s before we introduce Silver and Gold next week. It’s too early to really get into each character but here’s a quick rundown of my first impressions: Blue stands out to me as the one with the most potential. His backstory not only gives him a lot of room to develop as a character but it also helps with the world-building and, unlike the Zyuohger villains, makes this year’s batch seem actually threatening and competent. His mini arc this episode of finding the courage to fight against the evil Empire because rebellions are built on hope was very basic but considering everything that this episode had to do, basic is fine here. We know roughly the archetype Blue will be inhabiting and there’s plenty of ways the show could take that. Green is great fun. She made a good stand-in for Red before he showed up and presumably she will continue to be the one who’s more knowledgeable about space stuff. I like that she’s light-hearted instead of being a typical brooding second-in-command. Next to Blue, she’s probably my favourite so far.

Black hasn’t really had a chance to shine yet, the most remarkable thing about him so far being his design. Yellow at the very least has a personality trait. One single personality trait, that he’s clinging to for dear life. He’s a chef, you see. He likes to make puns about it. Often. Thing is, I’m cool with that because his puns are always different and in isolation they don’t sound that awkward, ESPECIALLY when compared to…Red. Ah, Red. Lucky is gonna seriously get on my nerves. Not only is luck and coincidence the sign of lazy writing (unless there is actually something behind it, like destiny or magic or the Force or something) but his catchphrase is so annoying. It baffles me that the writers of this show would decide to make the red ranger, the most important colour both story-wise and also in terms of the iconography of the franchise, the most obnoxious. Right now, if Super Sentai was brand new and the typical associations we have with each colour didn’t exist, I’d assume that Green was the leader. Yeah she’s weirdly giggly at things which aren’t funny but she’s also the most capable. I’m sure these characters will grow some extra dimensions as the show goes on but right now Red is awful.

Okay, let’s go back to the positives for a while. As I said at the start, a good first episode is about selling us on the amount of potential an idea has, and this one definitely delivers. There are things here that most other Sentai shows simply couldn’t do, like a team made up of humans, aliens, and robots, a mecha fight on the moon, ship-to-ship battles, people being thrown out into the vacuum of space, and a story that spans multiple planets. It’s here that the limits of Super Sentai‘s incredibly limited budget is tested, although I’ve always said that Sentai looks great considering they have to stretch that budget across 50 episodes a year. Like with all live action stuff, Kyuranger‘s effects were most convincing when they were done practically rather than with CGI. The models used during the mecha fight were excellent but what really stood out to me was the weird alien flowers on the beach planet. It was such a small detail that didn’t need to be in the episode but the makers of the show did it anyway. I’m not saying that a couple of sticks with weird painted flowers on them stuck in the sand convinced me they were real or anything, but it showed that the designers care about making the alien planets look like alien planets, and it has me looking forward to seeing what sort of environments we can expect from future episodes. As much as I praise practical effects, not all of the practical effects worked (putting characters in front of a black wall with some lights on it to simulate being in space stands out as being particularly weak). Mostly the effects were done using CGI which looked absolutely fine but wasn’t anything spectacular.

Speaking of fine but not spectacular: the music. The opening was okay, nothing terrible but it didn’t really have the punch it should’ve had for an epic space adventure show. In fact I found the music overall to be pretty underwhelming other than the track from around 14 minutes in when Lucky transforms for the first time. The best track for me is the ending theme, which I’ve listened to an embarrassing amount of times. Getting in to some stray observations, I said in one of my reviews that head-mounted cameras during fight scenes are something Sentai could do more of to mix up the fight scenes a little, and sure enough they used the technique during some scenes here to great effect. But I suppose the biggest stray observation I had when watching this first episode was “Wow, could you Star Wars any harder?” The heroes are referred to as the Rebellion (capital-R), they fly around space trying to defeat an evil Empire who’s base of operations is a big round metal structure that fires lasers, and it’s there that we’re introduced to our villain: a shady bloke in a cape who takes orders from a hooded figure in a hologram. And just when things couldn’t get more blatant, a scene at the end of the episode introduced us to Gold and Silver, a human and his alien pal, who hang out in a space cantina. As a Star Wars fan I’m very happy with this. Incidentally, I hope Zyuohger is taking notes; THAT is how you hype up a finale boss fight villain.

I’m sure many more thoughts about the series as a whole will come to me over these first few episodes as the show gets going, but overall I have to say that I loved this introduction. In fact, I can’t remember the last time a Sentai opener got me this excited. Not only was this a fun space adventure with some well-done action, inventive locations, and one of the best mecha fights I’ve seen in a long time, but it promises so much for the future. Gold, Silver, Pink, and Orange are yet to make their debuts but there’s enough plot to be getting on with even just using the five characters we already have. In fact, my main concern at this stage of the series is not that there isn’t enough plot to deal with, it’s that there might be too much. Nine characters is going to make quite an ensemble and I hope there’s room in the mix of characters to have individual focus episodes like usual to explore some of the more interesting members of the team, particularly Blue. Garu’s introduction could have been the plot of an entire episode but instead it was merely the subplot in this one. When there’s nine characters, these smaller character moments might be completely lost. Still, I shouldn’t judge future episodes until I’ve seen them. All I can say at this stage is that Kyuranger better have the least amount of filler of any Sentai series ever. If the writers want to take a break from the plot for a week, literally all they need to do is throw a dart at a picture of the team and whichever one of the nine it lands on gets to have the spotlight. Anyway, Episode 1 of Kyuranger: so far, so good.

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