Well, here we are for another Uchuu Sentai Kyuranger review. And while I’m still very much enjoying this spacey super-team series, I have to be honest and say that I’m a little disappointed with one key factor. You guessed it, kids. It starts with “luck” and ends with “eeee” .
The sad thing is that I’m actually not someone who dislikes Lucky, our strange and often shouty de facto leader of this band of galactic liberators. When others complained that he was too in-your-face, I shrugged indifferently, having enjoyed his part in this wacky ensemble of futuristic alien saviors bent on defeating the oppressive Jark Matter organization. Of course, this was back when the show was just getting started, and the new car smell had yet to wear off. Every sight and sound was fresh, and there was still so much to learn. Kyuranger’s cast was slowly beginning to swell, eventually growing to twelve members, all regularly sharing screentime in the same episodes. Lucky might have gotten a little extra room to tear it up, but that’s nothing new for Super Sentai. Then, the show hit its mid-point.
It’s a strange position to be in. To both enjoy a character and his many exploits, while also finding it an unbalanced distraction that takes away from the other characters. To think that Kyuranger is actually doing more for character development, world-building, and formula-breaking than most Super Sentai has done in several years, but also to feel like far too much of it leans in one direction and not enough in the other. You gave me amazing things, but that just made me wonder why all that grandeur wasn’t afforded to some of the other characters a bit more.
This review was not meant to focus squarely on Lucky, though it’s sort of fitting that he washes over so much of my thinking whenever the subject of Kyuranger arises nowadays. He’s everything, his fingers in every pie, his toes in every pool, his… I’ll stop while I’m ahead. The point is that, even when an episode isn’t about him, it actually kind of is.
Exhibit A: Episode 33 follows the team’s recovery from their last round of long story arcs, filled with time travel and teammates gone bad. In this adventure, the Kyurangers are left without a ship, having just lost theirs in a gauntlet of exciting events. Naturally, their new ship is brought to them because of Lucky’s connection with his ancestral buddy, Orion, who lends his spirit to the new vehicle that becomes not only their new mode of space travel but also their latest fighting mech. It’s this year’s brick-bot, but at least it has the function of being a spaceship where people have to eat, sleep, and generally live. If only the other shows of this type had that excuse for their end-of-the-year mecha toy items looking like really giant boxes. This ain’t Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger!
Not only is this new machine a gift from Lucky’s daddy-figure via timey-wimey shenanigans, he also gets to pilot it himself, while using his new ShishiRed Orion form, along with his new Supreme Kyutama. Boy, does he get a lot of new stuff all to himself. Talk about lucky!
It’s unfortunate that the Red-centric events may overshadow the parts that I think are ultimately worth remembering more, but since they probably wouldn’t fall under the category of world-shaking events, they’ll just eventually fade to a blur when people look back on this part of the series. I’m speaking of things like the return of Shou Ronpo, after awakening like Ripley from cryogenic hypersleep, after spreading the prophecy of the Kyurangers across the universe in the past. And he’s got a visual aid to explain all of his amazing adventures while he’s been away from the team, which Naga rightly suspects may have been a tad bit exaggerated. And then there’s the monster who blasts Hammi, Spada, and Balance, turning them into… You know what, I don’t know if I even wanted to pay enough attention to know exactly what happened to them here. I’m just amused to see the actors play against type in such an outrageous manner. No one in the real world would ever have a face like that without first having a stroke.
The shame is that I really do love these characters, and the slim pickings they get is seldom enough to keep my enthusiasm where it probably should be. While the team is almost whole by the end of this episode, and the trio is saved from the personality-altering muckery of their Jark Matter nemeses, the day is saved yet again by the camera-magnet in red with his personal armada of new toys.
Episode 34 is the closest thing we’ll get to having a break from the Crimson Curse, as the focus turns to Champ, the hulking robotic OushiBlack, whose been missing in action since staying behind with Shou Ronpo in the past. The revelation that his creator, Professor Anton, was a Jark Matter scientist bears more fruit as the team is assaulted by another in Champ’s line, and Champ himself has decided to be a luchador/matador, for some reason. It’s a silly story where Champ has to grapple with feeling obsolete as part of this team of heroes, his buddy Stinger recognizing his fragile constitution and going along with the ridiculous disguise until he’s ready to “reveal” his true identity and return to his friends.
What might have been more exciting for me is if we had just taken an episode to focus entirely on OushiBlack, so that we can witness his interactions with Professor Anton instead of simply being told about it after the fact. “Things got really interesting there for a while, trust me!” No, I’d rather watch it myself. It wouldn’t even require that we leave Lucky out of it, because we could just cut back to the future Kyurangers catching up with Champ’s evil twin, and we can do a little non-linear plot twist trickery.
Instead, we get this episode that is all about Champ and Stinger reuniting, suddenly interrupted when Lucky decides to talk about how super-cool and unlimited his power is or whatever. It’s nice that he’s generous enough to let some other heroes help with the finishing blows to the enemy, but I honestly burst out laughing. Like he just couldn’t bear to be out of the spotlight for that amount of time.
Episode 35 finally brought me what I had been waiting for since the very beginning of the series when it was revealed this was even going to be a thing. Matsumoto Hiroya was best known back in the day as Ozu Tsubasa aka MagiYellow from Mahou Sentai Magiranger, the boxing wizard with fists of lightning. Then along came a little show called Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters, where he liked that color so much, he decided he’d don a similar shade for his part as genius inventor Jin Masato aka Beet Buster. Neither role could have prepared me for his appearance now, as the alien pop star Hoshi Minato. And, in keeping with his trend for recurring Super Sentai characters, he’s covered in gold paint, and has yellow bug-like antennae sticking out of his giant fro.
The episode itself isn’t my favorite, but it allows the team to go on another cosplay adventure, as they attempt to infiltrate what they suspect is a plot to use Hoshi’s performances to manipulate the hearts and minds of people under Jark Matter’s rule. It also gives us a chance to see more of Hammi’s backstory, detailing how she left her home and wandered the stars, despaired at Jark Matter’s growing influence wherever she roamed, until Hoshi’s music gave her hope. It also further fulfills the promise of an expanded universe which, for a while there, was feeling a little too claustrophobic with those extended Earthbound arcs (cool as they might have been). We see another return of HebitsukaiMetal as Naga unleashes some emotion on Jark Matter villainess Akyanba, who had previously turned him against his team in his darkest hours.
But what’s most vital in the long run is the reveal that there may not be just one Don Armage, whose reign over Jark Matter was thought ended with a climactic battle in the past, until he turned up again in their present, fit as a fiddle. In truth, it seems there may actually be several versions of the same dude flying around. So, even though they’ve apparently destroyed the one whose hand was up Hoshi Minato’s backside like a ventriloquist to a dummy, there’s another one out there. Possibly a whole lot of them, just waiting to be KO’d by
Lucky the team. You’ve gotta respect a bad guy who keeps laughing at you even after his vocal cords have been vaporized.
I really do enjoy this show. And I’ve mentioned before how blessed I feel to have been enjoying both the current Super Sentai and the current Kamen Rider very much at the same time, a feat not often accomplished recently. But I suppose there’s just an unfortunate combination of factors holding me back from heaping the same adoration onto it as I might otherwise. Kamen Rider Build, for one, just has all of my attention. Which is an unfair criticism to make, as this has nothing at all to do with Kyuranger, which continues to do things that I’ve wanted Sentai to do for a long time (and I’ve been saying similar things about the aforementioned Rider series; this truly is a great time to be a fan).
There’s also the slightly weirder effect that Kyuranger has on me, in which the fact that they’ve now proven they can be experimental and play around with the way they tell stories and develop characters, while a great thing just on its own, only makes me wish they did even more of it.
Obviously, I’d rather they not focus so much on ShishiRed. But even when they do, while I think the stories are almost always entertaining, I’ve grown increasingly exhausted by the show’s attempts to make him look like the greatest, most amazing, most unimaginably inspiring superhero that ever lived, and through sheer will alone, he’ll change reality itself to pull out a win. It’s not a Kyuranger problem, so much as a Super Sentai problem. Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger started wonderfully, in many respects, but I lost my joy when Daigo, the guy who had spent the entire first half of the show talking about the value of teamwork and “what being part of a sentai is all about”, then went on to do everything worth doing almost singlehandedly and ultimately saved the world while the rest of his “team” performed a near-literal cheerleading routine for his victory. I don’t want Kyuranger, a show that I’m enjoying far more with a larger universe still worth exploring, to fall into the Daigo trap. I want to love and appreciate the leader for more than just the show’s first half before slowly resenting him, until finally just wanting to see almost anyone or anything other than him. If any Super Sentai entry can evade this pitfall, you’d think it was Kyuranger, which has already shown it’s unafraid to challenge the status quo.
I say this knowing that the next episode is another heavy Lucky story, and that it’s unlikely he’ll just stop getting the spotlight anytime soon, especially with the series now approaching its final stretch. I suppose it’s a good thing that I’m actually still looking forward to that next installment and the continuation of the Kyuranger story.
No matter their mistakes, Kyuranger is still ranking pretty high on my list of favorite Super Sentai. It may not quite breach the Top 5, but it’s worlds above others that have come out in the last few years. Beyond any criticism one could lobby against it, at least it continues to give me something to talk about, and to smile about. And that’s a quality I can’t easily shake off.