Ever since the very first episode aired, I’ve been a fan of Kyuranger. I liked the sci-fi theme, I liked all the designs, and I liked the idea of having a larger team. That being said, I was always sort of waiting for this show to stop being so good. Based on my past experience of Sentai, there’s always a moment where the show drops in quality to a basic resting state where nothing is really accomplished week-to-week until it all picks up again for the endgame. In addition, the larger team would surely mean less focus on the individual characters, with some just being used to pad out the team most weeks rather than getting anything meaningful to do. This is what I thought for seven episodes, but it was the two-parter that gives Xiao Longbao his ranger powers when I finally stopped worrying and let myself have some fun.
My main reason for rethinking Kyuranger is that this two-parter demonstrates once and for all that the show basically knows what it’s doing. For one thing, this year’s team don’t just sit around waiting for a new Monster of the Week to show up. Instead, they have the initiative to attack Jark Matter head-on and continue liberating parts of the Earth even when nothing else is going on. They feel like an organised team with a job to do and they go about doing that job efficiently. That being said, the Rebellion at this stage is still ten people against an entire galactic empire, so while they can make changes in broad strokes, they don’t have the resources necessary to defend each and every person all of the time. The great thing is that the show is aware of this limitation and uses it as a moral dilemma this episode, when Spada abandons the mission at hand to help some starving civilians. If the team doesn’t stop to help the locals, they’ll continue to be oppressed by Jark Matter, but if they don’t destroy the machines in time, the entire planet will be destroyed, forcing Xiao Longbao to make some hard decisions. Despite how wacky this show is, there’s still an element of ‘realism’ in terms of how much a handful of people can impact the universe. This angle the show is taking is not only an incredibly original one as far as Sentai is concerned, but it also explains why Kyuranger has the most members of any Sentai by far: because they NEED that many in order to make a difference. Six people would never be able to take on the threats that the Kyurangers do. That alone makes it a very unique show with a structure that was thought up specifically to accommodate the larger cast rather than trying to jam ten people into the same episode structure that was used for six people.
Speaking of which, something else this show is doing well is managing its large cast. I mean sure, Champ, Naga, and Balance being sent off to do some random slapstick comedy is by far the most obvious moment of “Quick, think of something for these three to do!” that Kyuranger has had so far, but it’s in-keeping with Naga and Balance’s history as treasure hunters. Also, the Kyutama the three of them find becomes important later in Episode 11 during the search for the Argo, so in retrospect this plot detour makes a bit more sense. The really clever stuff comes in the way Spada’s insistence on stopping to feed the starving citizens mirrors the way Xiao Longbao acted when he was a younger member of the Rebellion. As well as giving us more depth to Xiao Longbao by making him a leader who knows what it’s like to disobey orders, we also learn more about Spada and his history. Everyone has a role in this episode, even if that role is ‘be the person who gets Spada’s backstory explained to them’. Each member of the team had a story function and as a result the episode is never boring. On the whole, it’s clear Kyuranger has its story and its characters under control and knows what it’s doing rather than just throwing in new rangers for the sake of it.
Of course the big event this episode was the first on-screen transformation of Xiao Longbao into his prototype ranger form. Although I prefer his full ranger costume, I do love this simplified version. Even though purple rangers are a relatively new thing, it still reminds me a lot of 70s and 80s Sentai designs like Big One. Part of me thinks that after all the talk of the nine Kyurangers coming together, revealing that there can be more than nine feels a bit cheap. That being said, Xiao Longbao’s ranger form is so cool and I’m having so much fun with the larger team this year that it doesn’t bother me as much as it did. At this point I just want to see how big and ridiculous the role call is going to be by the end of the series.
This was a strong first half that got the whole cast doing something and built up to the reveal of the violet ranger perfectly. If I had to criticise it, Champ, Naga, and Balance’s detour side-story once really makes sense once the quest for the Argo starts and until then it seems like an obvious move to get them out of the way. Still, it was an enjoyable episode in what is quickly becoming a strong Sentai series.