Despite suffering from some clunky character development, Kyuranger Episode V: The Jark Matter Strikes Back was by far the most fun episode of the series to date. I don’t know if it’s necessarily the best episode to date (for me that’s Episode IV) but finally seeing the core nine rangers unite to fight back against the Jark Matter while giving A New Hope to the oppressed on-lookers was incredibly satisfying and just fun. And if there’s one thing I watch Super Sentai for, it’s fun.
The clunky character development stuff I mentioned mostly revolves around Stinger. We don’t really know how much of his evil intentions were genuine or how much of it was just him acting as Xiao Longbao’s secret agent, and if his evil intentions WERE at any point genuine, his mind being changed by harm coming to children was supremely cliché. If nothing else I guess it gave us some welcome insight into his backstory and his relationship with his brother. Lucky, as always, is also the victim of bad characterisation. His insistence that Stinger is good purely because he has his own Super Sentai suit is such nonsense and completely ignores the existence of many evil rangers throughout the franchise’s history. Also, I hope that Stinger and Champ aren’t just suddenly going to be friends now. Stinger killed the closest thing Champ had to a father, so I don’t want to see their rivalry buried as quickly and easily as Lucky blindly insists it should be. The drama in this show should not be beholden to what Lucky wants, no-matter how much the show insists he’s the main character.
That being said, as contrived as a lot of the motivations are in this episode, there were some strong moments that once again gave me hope for how well this show is going to handle its nine-person ensemble. One of the most important things for protagonists to have is agency, and this episode started off with the main characters asking Xiao Longbao why they need to liberate Earth before recruiting Stinger rather than blindly doing whatever Longbao tells them to. There was even a nice moment for Lucky where he made it clear that what one of the humans said to him last week clearly stuck with him. This not only gave Lucky something that came close to his first moment of depth but also set up the theme of people oppressed by Jark Matter rising up against them. It looks as if my theory that the Kyurangers are going to end up defeating Jark Matter by inspiring ordinary people to join them in liberating planets is exactly what the show is going to be doing, and I can’t wait. I doubt there’s ever been a Sentai series with such an immense feeling of scale and it’ll be fascinating to see it the show manages to pull it off.
This theme of ordinary people fighting back is furthered by the two child characters, one of whom I’m guessing is going to become the Cyan (or ‘Skyblue’ I guess) ranger later on. If that’s the case, it’s nice to have their characters established early on in a way that doesn’t draw attention to them as potential future rangers. It’s even nicer to see that they’re being played by children who aren’t completely insufferable to watch, meaning they might actually be not too bad as recurring characters. What is slightly concerning is that this is only Episode 5 of a show with around about 50 instalments. If the writers want to keep us hooked for that long, pacing is key. We already have Xiao Longbao in the mix with the knowledge that he will one day become Violet, so having another character in the show who we’re sort of just waiting to see become a ranger, like with Raptor in the first four episodes, might be a sign that we’re going to be introducing Violet and Skyblue fairly soon. Nine is more than enough characters to be getting on with for now and I’d like to see the show squeeze as much drama out of them as possible before it feels the need to throw two more into the mix.
What really makes this episode take off is the finale, when we finally see all nine of our heroes working together. After five episodes of build-up, the pay-off to this arc was immensely satisfying. The ground battle was well done but what really made it great was the music and the reaction of the onlookers. Super Sentai to me has always been a show about optimism and hope in the face of cynicism and pessimism, and nothing embodies that more than the Kyurangers inspiring the enslaved humans to fight back against evil. It was a lovely moment for the team, a key moment in the fight against Jark Matter, and overall just a brilliant summation of everything Sentai is about. The Kyurangers feel like actual heroes who are making a difference, more so than any previous team I can remember.
As good as the fight on the ground was, it was the arrival of the mecha that pushed this episode over the edge into greatness for me. This fight made full use of the scale afforded to it by taking place in space and by having nine personal mecha to work with. At first I wasn’t sure whether it was right to kill the monster who up until this point had been the main recognisable face of Jark Matter this early in the series. After thinking about it though, I think it was a good call. We’ve been waiting for the nine Kyurangers to come together for a month now, so having them finally unite was worthy of a major victory like that.
Our main team has finally assembled and so far I’ve been having a blast. In a way, this is where the actual show starts. A big flashy opening is relatively easy to do, but now we’re going to see whether the show can keep the plot moving forward in a satisfying way and whether or not the decision to have a huge nine-person main cast was a good one.