Uchu Sentai Kyuranger – Episode 25 Review
This episode sort of went from having a cool premise to a weak premise to a cool premise again. It started out cool when we learned that time travel was being introduced to the show and that Tsurugi wanted to go to the planet Tocky to find out what happened before he was put into hibernation. It then got a bit weaker when they arrived on Tocky and realised that they specifically needed 12 people to make the time travel work, a highly convenient number that made the episode’s main theme of unity a lot less subtle (not that Super Sentai is something I watch for subtlety). However, it got way more cool again with the reveal of the ghosts. It’s something that Sentai has done before, most notably with Yamato in Zyuohger, but it’s still a very effective way to develop characters and learn more about their history.
For example, I love how quickly Stinger defeated his brother. Scorpio’s return wasn’t about seeing the two fight again, it was about seeing how far Stinger has grown, and even though Scorpio died a heroic(ish) death, that doesn’t mean he didn’t need to die. Stinger has come a long way and now didn’t even hesitate when fighting him. Balance seeing Naga and Naga seeing no-one was a unique idea and it’s the first time in ages that the show’s used Naga’s lack of emotions. Of all the ghosts, the Madako one was probably the weakest for me. The gag where every Madako is a different one of her personalities would’ve worked a little better if either the personalities were more memorable or each one changed her visual design in some way. If Spada hadn’t mentioned it, I wouldn’t have noticed that it was cycling though all the personalities she’s already had in the show.
The main thread though is Kotaro’s reunion with his mother. I love the way that immediately after he hesitates to finish turning the key because it’ll make the ghost disappear, we cut to Xiao Longbao doing the same thing without hesitation. It’s nice when a script shows how different two characters are and in that moment we saw how Xiao Longbao has accepted his commander’s death and moved on while Kotaro still misses his mother. It was a little moment told through action rather than dialogue and it was really effective.
The biggest flaw I could think of while watching the episode is ‘why didn’t someone other than Kotaro turn the key?’ Kotaro ran off and left some of his teammates behind. At the very least I thought Tsurugi might have tried it given he’s the most callous of the group. In fact, Tsurugi is the one who gives him a pep talk, saying “you’re the only one who can decide.” I know that it’s best when writing to tie plot progression in to character development, i.e. making it so that Kotaro’s choice to let go of his mother is the thing that saves the day rather than some random macguffin, but the script really needed at least one line to explain why Kotaro had to be the one to turn that specific key. The other problem with the episode is that Kotaro’s mother was never given a chance to shine, spending most of her time watching the team from a distance.
I have to admit, I was sceptical when I heard that Kyuranger was going to have a child ranger because I’m highly allergic to child actors. Luckily, not only is Kotaro’s actor not cringeworthy at all, but Kotaro is probably the best ‘child character in a children’s series’ I’ve seen to date. He’s a capable fighter, he’s respected by his team rather than being talked down to, he isn’t obnoxious and is actually quite relatable at times, and the fact that he’s a child doesn’t stop him from getting big important moments or arcs. The only thing I don’t like about him is the fight choreography with his spinning scarf attack, which looks ridiculous, and not in that ‘ridiculous but awesome’ way Super Sentai usually is.
The big set piece of this episode is the first 12-person henshin of the series, which was amazing to see. It’s not often that we get a roll call sequence that long outside of a team-up, and after the weeks of build up it felt like a huge pay-off. Also, would you believe it, the fight didn’t take place in a desert or a quarry! After the initial transformation, things quickly moved to a large grassy field, which is a terrain Sentai has used often when it comes to big climactic battles. The song in the background was also pretty epic. The Kyutamajin formation felt a lot more impactful with all 12 rangers in their cockpits this time, and like the group henshin, it felt earned after all this build-up, as if I was seeing this combination for the first time all over again.
This was a surprisingly full episode, giving all 12 members of the team something to do within the 25-minute run time. Some of the threads were more substantial and serious than others, but it all came together nicely for an entertaining episode that was never boring and both moved the plot of the show along while taking time to get into some fillery character stuff.
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