Immediately this episode got off to a good start by replacing Lucky’s opening narration with an opening narration from Raptor-283, this week’s main character. It was so relieving to have a story that focused on someone else for a change rather than continually having to learn about new characters through the eyes of such an obnoxious Red. This episode overall felt a lot more leisurely and well-paced than the previous three, and part of that is down to the more economical use of the main ensemble. Instead of introducing any new characters, this episode is all about elevating Raptor, a character we already know, to ranger status. Screentime that would normally go to introducing new people in the previous episodes was instead used for fleshing out the existing cast. Raptor obviously benefits the most of this as she has the main emotional arc of the episode, as simple as it is. Spada gets a bit more screentime too and is finally given more of a personality beyond ‘he’s a chef!’. Unexpectedly, it looks as if Spada is going to end up being the level-headed one who keeps the overly optimistic Red in line rather than Garu or Champ who seemed on the surface to be more aggressive. I like that little bit of subversion and hopefully it means that future episodes find more stuff for Spada to do. I love that they even managed to give Naga Rei and Balance a little scene together in the ship. If the ensemble is always used this well, I think we’re in safe hands.
I’ll have to wait to see how it’s used in future episodes but the whole Kyulette thing to choose who’s going to go down to the planet surface seemed like a forced and obviously contrived way to split up the large cast and make all the characters easier to manage. That being said, Xiao Longbao clearly knows how contrived it is and it’s turned into a joke about lacking ‘budget’. Given how ridiculous it’d be if all nine rangers charged in to every fight, I’d say the ends justify the means, and I did sort of like how on the nose it was. It also adds more of a Star Trek vibe to the series by making it so every episode has a different ‘away team’. It’s a very clunky plot device but it works.
It’s pretty concerning to me that of all of the planets in the universe you could base a story around, it looks like we’re going to be based on Earth for the next few episodes. I’m hoping there’s a seriously good reason for all the secrecy surrounding Earth and its importance to Jark Matter, because if there is no good reason and it was just done for the sake of going to Earth, it’ll be incredibly underwhelming and show a distinct lack of creativity. It’s like how Doctor Who could be set literally anywhere in time and space but they always find their way back to 21st century Britain every week. Speaking of Jark Matter, the villain faction of Kyuranger is already the most effective we’ve had in years. Not only does their presence on every planet make them feel like a truly oppressive and inescapable force, but the brief glimpses we get of their leader via hologram are so brilliant at building hype. I want to know everything about their leader but I also hope the show keeps me in suspense for a long time.
One of the best moments in the episode comes when the Kyurangers are stopped on their way to engage the enemy by a group of humans who tell them to stop fighting because they’ll be treated more harshly if they try to resist. Finally, a piece of tokusatsu philosophy that actually makes sense and adds something to a story. “They’re just losing their dreams. It’s not like they’ll die” is such an amazing line that makes Jark Matter seem so much bigger and more threatening than just a group of four or five villains sitting in a spaceship. With Zyuohger‘s Dethgaliens and other villain factions like them, you knew there was a clear path to victory: kill all the recurring villains one by one. With Kyuranger‘s Jark Matter, I honestly don’t know how they can wrap this up in 50 episodes. What are they going to do, liberate every planet in the universe one-by-one? I know I’m always comparing this show to Star Wars, but the Rebellion in Kyuranger is going to have to lead a movement similar to the Rebellion in the Original Trilogy if they’re going to defeat their version of the evil Empire, and looking at the mindset of the people living under Jark Matter’s tyrannical rule, it makes leading a revolution seem so much harder to pull off. I have problems with Kyuranger so far but I simply cannot fault the villain faction this year. A+.
The main story surrounding Raptor was a little cliché but it was ultimately well done and added a lot more to her character that can be built upon in future episodes. The action in this episode was also pretty cool. The scene with Raptor flying through the factory, while being very obviously CGI, showed how Sentai CGI is slowly improving and I thought it was a well done sequence. I’m noticing that head-cam shots from characters’ perspectives during fight scenes seem to be a new thing the show is doing regularly, and I’m a big fan. Finally, the directors are starting to get creative about how they shoot typical Sentai fights.
Despite being four episodes in, the main nine still isn’t fully assembled yet so I don’t feel I’m in a position to make statements about the show overall. In a way, I’m still waiting to see whether it’s going to end up being any good. What I will say though is that this is the fourth episode is a row that’s left me thoroughly entertained. I’m very much looking forward to next week and beyond to see whether this series can keep it up. Hopefully, we’ll get a big long gap between the core nine getting together and the appearance of the tenth ranger (who I presume will be Xiao Longbao as the violet ranger) so the series has time to breathe and we can get to know our main characters while developing the bigger drama around Jark Matter. Either way, I’m happy with what we have so far and the direction things are heading. Hell, if I’m being honest, even Lucky wasn’t too bad this episode.