Uchu Sentai Kyuranger – Episode 38 Review
Despite being a space-based Sentai, I wouldn’t exactly call Kyuranger a sci-fi series. It’s more like a fantasy with the way most of the powers go unexplained. I’m not saying I expect a technical explanation for how things like the changers work; that’s part of the premise of the show. It’s like the TARDIS being bigger on the inside in Doctor Who: sure, it’s strange but that’s just the background stuff, the hows and whys of which never really becoming part of the main action. When I say powers go unexplained, I’m mainly talking about the Kyutama. Are they magical? Are they scientific? Does it matter? Not really, but this episode, Episode 38, makes things a little more complicated by introducing ‘blank’ Kyutama. That kinda implies every existing Kyutama was manufactured. Did Xiao Longbao and Big Bear make all the existing non-changer Kyutama before the start of the series? It doesn’t really matter as much as things like ToQger‘s Darkness or Ninninger‘s Nintality, so I can easily forget about those questions when watching. It’s just a bit weird to be getting new information about how Kyutama are made at this late stage in the series. Oh well.
The basic structure of the episode with the nine trials that have to be completed is mainly just an excuse for the away team to go from comedy skit to comedy skit, and it makes for an okay set-up. The fact that they’re doing it all for a Kyutama is at least a good excuse for a fun diversion, and the flashes of backstory from Tsurugi make it feel more worthwhile. The first eight challenges aren’t really that interesting, although I did like the joke of the face-pulling challenge starting out with two characters who wear motionless tokusatsu masks.
It’s only now that Kyuranger is back as a planet-hopping space adventure series that I realised how boring all those Earth episodes looked. From the design of the Jark Matter lab during the opening, to Kyulin Temple, and even the look of the two planets, Atchaalk and Ghem, from orbit, these locations all looked distinct. Having each episode take place on a different planet forces them to come up with a different aesthetic every week, and although having to invent a new planet every week will inevitably lead to some boring ones, constantly aiming for something fresh and new is ultimately a good goal for a show to have.
Much like Garu never getting picked for the away team earlier in the series, the need to make some characters more important than others when dealing with 12 leads is here used as an in-universe reason for Xiao Longbao to think about retirement. It’s a clever way of adding a bit of depth to that character, by using his relatively few lines and lack of major action set-pieces as an actual plot point. I also like how Xiao’s scene with Tsurugi gave us more of Tsurugi’s backstory and had a nice moment of respect between the two leaders of the team. Their rivalry has been played for comic effect up to now but there’s honestly much more to it than there is with Tsurugi’s rivalry with Lucky. Despite Lucky being red, Xiao is much more of a straight-forward leader for the Kyurangers, which puts him into competition with Tsurugi more. I love the way these characters all play off of each other. My biggest issue with the ‘9 challenges’ thread is that during the infighting challenge, it probably would have been better if we discovered the brainwashed rangers were fake at the same time Xiao and Tsurugi did. Telling the audience just kinda took the tension out of it unnecessarily. Still, the ridiculous hand-to-hand fight with Xiao and the monster of the week afterwards made up for it.
I really enjoyed this episode as a quiet little standalone adventure, although there were some scenes on the Planet Ghem that actually set up some pretty heavy stuff. Not only did we have the debut of Mecha Madako (I wonder if her constant ability to revive will ever be brought up in relation to Don Armage’s ability to never be killed?) but also new hints about Professor Anton and Champ. This side story did a good job of keeping the main overall plot going and it’s got me looking forward to the next episode.
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