Episode 9 marks the first proper appearance of Xiao Longbao’s ranger form after a brief look at the prototype form last week. This episode is a lot neater and more straight-forward than Episode 8, mainly due to the fewer plot threads. Rather than dedicating time to Naga, Champ, and Balance’s quest to find the Kyutama, here they’ve already found it and are just on their way back home. The main task at the start of the episode, rescue Spada, is also a lot more straight-forward and personal a goal than destroying five of the Jark Matter fortresses was last week. All of this makes for a more tightly-focused story about Xiao Longbao, his history, and his relationship to the newer members of the Rebellion.
The cliffhanger neatly resolved itself at the start of this episode by giving us a shot fight scene with Xiao Longbao in ranger form before him timer ran out. I like the idea of a Kyuranger with limited time to fight because it shows that, while technology can be used to create the ranger suits, it takes a little bit of supernatural energy powered by love and hope and rainbows to actually make a full Kyuranger happen. Once again Kyuranger is reminding me of Star Wars in the way its traditional sci-fi aesthetic is used to disguise fantasy tropes like chosen ones and destiny. The idea of creating a system to transform using a standard Kyutama also added a lot to Xiao Longbao’s backstory because it showed that the previous members of the Rebellion were actually trying different things to help them fight against Jark Matter. I love how the heroes in this show are all actively trying to do something about Jark Matter rather than sitting around and waiting for Jark Matter to come to them. After all, Jark Matter has already won. It’s the heroes who actually have to make a change to the universe by freeing it.
Xiao Longbao is probably my favourite character this series, mainly due to him being a mentor who used to be a reckless optimistic hero like the others. He’s an authority figure who sneaks away at night so he can attempt the mission by himself. Speaking of which, that scene was excellent, mainly because physical harm was inflicted on Lucky. Lucky has his moments of being bearable but those moments are generally when there’s too much going on for the script to let him get a word in. Usually his most annoying trait is bending the reality of the show around him to make him the centre of every single scene and subplot. I mean, is “Don’t worry, I’m the luckiest guy in the universe!” really the best response you could give to someone who’s just told you the story of their friend being murdered? And it was a proper murder too; surprisingly gory for Sentai. The fact he’s a big blue bear who comes back as a ghost aside, it was still a stab through the chest with blood bursting out his back. Commander Big Bear got straight-up Han Solo’d.
The violet ranger’s real debut in the final fight of this episode was awesome, making use of a lot of Zyuoh Whale-inspired coat-based choreography. The full suit is a stunning piece of design with an amazing silhouette to it, and it’s already one of if not my all time favourite Sentai suit. The mecha fight was also amazing, mainly due to the practical effect work. The movements of the dragon voyager were very Dairanger, and to be honest it might have been a little stiffer in places, but overall the sequence looked great. Real effort had obviously been put into the miniatures during the finale and it clearly paid off. It was fitting to end an episode about not running off on your own by having the new dragon mecha fight alongside the others, although I’m glad they didn’t have them combine yet. There was already plenty going on in this episode without the debut of a new mecha combination and it made the first appearance of Ryutei-Oh in Episode 11 feel more natural in terms of pacing.
It’s weird to think that the violet ranger is the tenth hero of the series given that he structurally fills the role of a sixth. At first I wasn’t sure if I was going to like having a brand new ranger this soon after the introduction of the first nine, but I trust Kyuranger at this point to have enough up its sleeves to keep me entertained in the future. And regardless of when it was delivered, how this arc was delivered was hugely entertaining and made me properly fall in love with Kyuranger.