So I guess having Kamen Rider crossovers super early in the run of a Sentai series is just a tradition now? Sure, why not. Gives the episode something to remember I guess.
The set-up for this adventure, that there’s a monster going around stealing people’s birthdays, is definitely the wackiest plot Kyuranger has done so far but this is a show that can handle wackiness fairly well. After all, the crazy coincidences that get Lucky out of trouble every week add an element of ridiculousness to the whole thing anyway. A monster that steals birthdays? Fine. That’s only slightly less weird than Lucky being saved from freezing in the vacuum of space by a passing meteor shower. That, and it’s a good excuse to get Balance involved in some way. Also, the fast-forwarded version of Xiao Longbao’s Kyulette dance was wonderful.
While I didn’t quite enjoy this episode as much as the last one due to the less substantive plot, I was once again impressed by how well the ensemble was handled. It never felt over-crowded but it never felt too busy. There were no points in the episode where I thought the script was struggling to find things for people to do. Speaking of the ensemble, either I’m starting to get used to Lucky or he just isn’t getting as much screen time now that he has more teammates, but regardless I hate him a lot less than I did in Episode 1.
The villains in this series continue to be incredibly well-handled. The two new recurring villains are not only a legitimate threat to our heroes but they are clearly just two of the many servants that the final boss has at his disposal. The final boss incidentally hasn’t shown up in person yet but his presence is still felt. The Kyurangers may have grown in number but they still feel like such a small threat to Jark Matter that the final boss doesn’t think it’s worth his time to even meet them face-to-face. That alone shows the strong power dynamic between the goodies and the baddies this year. Even the way Blue-Suit McOctopusFace fights with one arm casually behind his back communicates how incredibly beneath them fighting the Kyurangers is. The relationship between the heroes and the villains, as well as the heroes’ struggle to free the universe from oppression, is such a strong and well-established foundation for the series that even episodes like this that should technically be filler feel like big events. Every fight the Kyurangers have feels like a small part of a bigger war against Jark Matter, so even when they’re hardly doing anything, they still feel like they’re doing something, even if it’s just freeing a small area of a single planet from Jark Matter’s influence.
So I guess I should talk a bit about the actual Kamen Rider crossover. To be honest, the whole thing would have been way better without the introduction saying it was a crossover and without the weird loose connection to the big crossover movie that’s coming up. As it stands, the Ex-Aid appearance in this episode was a fun cameo that plays into the quirkiness of both Xiao Longbao and the Kyutamas in his collection. What ruined it was the fact that this cameo was framed as a big crossover worth looking forward to rather than a fun surprising scene in an otherwise Ex-Aidless episode. If you were hoping for a team-up with more substance, you’ll be disappointed. For me, I was already sort of enjoying the episode on its own terms so it was no big deal.
This episode wasn’t exactly the most substantial that we’ve ever had, and the whole birthday thing pushed the show the furthest away from being a science fiction series it’s been so far, but it was still a lot of fun to watch. Now that the initial introductory arc has been completed, we can really see how the basic premise of Kyuranger works so much more than the basic premise of, say, ToQger or Zyuohger. Those shows had to put effort into coming up with something interesting to do every week, and occasionally they failed to do so and produced lacklustre filler where nothing happened. Kyuranger on the other hand is basically filler-proof. Every fight they have means another blow struck against the Jark Matter who are gradually losing control of territories rather than cooking up a new Monster of the Week specifically to attack the rangers. The Kyurangers aren’t trying to prevent universal domination, they’re actively trying to reverse it, so their week-to-week actions are just way more interesting. Combine that with the largest ensemble cast Super Sentai has ever had, and there’s literally no reason why this show should ever be dull. Seven episodes in and I’m a big fan of Kyuranger.