Here comes the moment of truth: does a Super Sentai show work with a full ensemble of nine regular characters? Was all that hype worth it? For me, so far, so good.
This episode immediately got on my good side by acknowledging that Hammy is an infinitely more qualified leader than Lucky is and that Lucky is an idiot. There’s an attempt made towards the end to justify Lucky’s luck and how his positive thinking allows him to achieve his goals, which reminded me a lot of Doctor Who where the Doctor always survives because he assumes he’s going to win. Unlike the Doctor however, a lot of the things that happen to Lucky that are attributed to his survival skills are dictated by pure luck rather than skill or perseverance, so it doesn’t entirely work as an explanation. Still, I sort of appreciate the effort. It means that the writers are actually thinking about this stuff rather than using him as a way to solve every problem without thinking about how he actually solved it. I still don’t like Lucky but I’ll admit these last few episodes have made him more bearable and I could see myself growing to love him. Overall, the cast is a lot of fun. Hammy is still wonderful and I’m glad she got to do the opening narration for once. I assume they’ll all get a go as the series continues. I also like that Garu is quite an upbeat character despite his initial introduction as a pessimistic loner.
With all nine characters in play, I was impressed by how the episode never felt crowded but also never felt boring. Obviously some characters had more focus than others, but there were lots of little moments in there that kept each character consistent, like when Raptor fantasised about being the team leader. So far the show is managing its cast very effectively. Part of this is down to the way in which Kyuranger uses Stinger in the exact way Zyuohger should have used Bard. Instead of forgetting about him for large spans of time, this episode actually give him something to do on Earth while the others are busy. I love the decision to keep Stinger away from the main crew. Not only does it allow for more subplots to keep the storylines complex and allows Stinger to maintain his archetype as the cool and mysterious loner, but it means that Stinger and Champ aren’t suddenly best friends because the plot says they have to be.
In general, I’m enjoying the way Kyuranger is shot and edited. Most of the show looks and feels like a traditional Sentai, following the same rhythm and structure that’s used for every henshin scene or every roll call scene or every mecha fight, etc. That being said, I’ve noticed a little bit of extra effort has gone in to making the direction feel fresh, and it adds a noticeable new level of visual flair to the whole production. The use of head-mounted cameras during fight scenes, the way characters are intercut into different scenes in circles to show them using their communicators, the shot of the team reflected in Xiao Longbao’s shades, the panning shots of Hammy sitting alone on the ship. There’s just a bunch of little moments that aren’t anything special on their own but together they create a sense of style that sets Kyuranger apart slightly from past Sentai series. Unfortunately, these interesting bits of direction can have the side effect of drawing attention to Sentai‘s limited budget. I’ve always said Super Sentai looks incredible when you consider that there are 50 25-minute episodes a year. That being said, even I have to admit that some Kyuranger‘s CGI at times makes triumphant action set-pieces seem not as cool as they could be. Even the physical prop of the Pegasus in this episode looked a little cheap, what with the wrinkled starfield sticker on its face and wings. These aren’t major issues that ruin the experience but it’s just a little unfortunate that Sentai doesn’t have the budget to make a massive space adventure show look as stunning as some of the scenes are on paper.
The dancing stuff was surprisingly not as bad I thought it’d be, and I don’t just mean because the Kyuranger end theme is the hottest new track of 2017. Sure, it was a gimmick, but it was a gimmick underpinned by a message about teamwork and co-ordination that made it feel more worthwhile. It was a gimmick with a point rather than a gimmick for the sake of a gimmick.
Other than those major observations, this episode was filled with nice little touches that I enjoyed. I liked Naga Rei’s fourth wall breaking moments, I liked the unique and memorable design of the long-necked villain, the Pegasus head and his history with Xiao Longbao was fun, and overall just I thought this was a strong episode. Exactly what the show needed after the big climactic fight in Episode 5.