Just when I start to forget how much this show is like Star Wars, blue ghosts and a character called Mothma show up…
I was slightly worried that a child ranger would be cringe-worthy to watch every week but, amazingly, it turned out better that I could have imagined. Not only is the kid who plays Kotaro quite a capable young actor, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen a child character in anything treated with this sort of respect. It makes sense to have child characters in children’s TV so kids at home can see themselves as part of the adventure. The problem is, a lot of shows write child characters as if children are absolute idiots. They’re always loud, obnoxious, and if I was a kid watching at home, I’d be insulted. Kotaro stands out to me because he’s a kid who’s written with the same about of intelligence and respect that the adult characters get. He still does typically childish things like tease Hammy about looking old but the fact that he’s a kid never comes up much and his age is never used as an excuse for the older characters to ignore him. Big Bear at one point says he can’t allow anyone that young to fight but he soon changes his mind and the show supports the idea that Kotaro is just as worthy of a hero as the adults. Kotaro is how all child characters on children’s TV should be handled. There are probably a lot of kids watching Kyuranger who can imagine themselves as Skyblue.
I enjoyed this episode overall but there is one major change I’d have made: I’d have swapped Lucky with Stinger. The side-story of the ship slowly heading towards the sun is largely played for laughs with some fun moments from Xiao Longbao, and Lucky is more of a comedic character who’d have fitted that storyline. That, and Stinger has a bit more of a connection to Kotaro so he would have accompanied Kotaro’s story better. Lucky’s role in this episode felt like yet another instance of Lucky warping the show around him to become the main focus for no reason other than ‘he’s the red ranger’. Still, Lucky was actually sort of subdued this episode and he worked well with Kotaro.
It’s a bit of a coincidence that the ghost of Big Bear shows up just one episode after he gets mentioned for the first time and then all of a sudden people are randomly talking about him for no reason (“I will solve this, upon the name of Supreme Commander Big Bear!”). Also, the possession stuff didn’t really work as well as it could have. I mean it got the job done, and Kotaro switching character with every second line was fun, but the lip-syncing was terrible. It was obvious that the actors for Kotaro and Lucky were just mouthing along rather than having their voices dubbed over. The joke would probably have worked better if Kotaro and Lucky had kept their normal voices and it was just the blue wig and their performance that let us know where the spirit of Big Bear was.
Kotaro’s first henshin was okay but it couldn’t help but be slightly underwhelming coming just a week after Xiao Longbao’s first proper henshin. The main issue is that the suit just isn’t as cool. Charging into combat while swinging two scarves around doesn’t have the same elegance of Xiao Longbao’s purple trench coat and sniper rifle combo. Also, having Lucky there takes away from Kotaro slightly because it means that Kotaro becoming a ranger isn’t really saving the day. When Xiao Longbao first transforms, all the other Kyurangers are helpless, but here Kotaro isn’t the only one fighting. I get why someone else had to be with Kotaro for the story to work but it makes the stakes a bit lower.
As for other things I liked about this episode, the monster design was pretty unique. I like that Kyuranger is experimenting a little with non-humanoid villains, like the thing in this episode with big arms, the monster from the first few episodes with the tall neck, and the evil space worm thing that shows up in Episode 11. There were some good lines here and there, like when Balance forgot that robots can’t feel heat, and the brief moment when it looked like Xiao Longbao was going to destroy the sun was a great fake-out, particularly because it came from such a comedic character who also happens to be in charge. After 10 episodes, Kyuranger still hasn’t had a weak instalment.