Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger – Part 1 (Episode 1 – 24 + Gaburincho of Music)

It’s time for Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger! Wait, no? We’re not going retro yet? Then I guess we’ll just have to talk about Bakuryu Sentai Abaranger! What? Not that one either? Fine, I guess I’ll just rearrange the first words a bit then… there! It’s time for Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger!

Yeah, it’s been a while since I last talked about tokusatsu and I apologize for that. I genuinely don’t have an excuse beyond “I haven’t really been watching tokusatsu in any form.” and I don’t know why I haven’t been watching tokusatsu. Just a perfect storm of other things occupying me, I guess. But now that I’m down in Spain and don’t have a whole lot to really do (outside of work), it feels like a perfect time to pick it back up.

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger
(Toei Company, 2013)

A long time ago, back in the day of the dinosaurs, the Deboth Army invaded and drove the dinosaurs to extinction using meteors, cold and disease. They were only driven back by Torin and the Zyudenryu, mechanical dinosaurs, though they’ve had a lingering presence ever since, waking up occasionally to attempt to destroy the Earth. Now in modern times, they’ve returned in a big way, attempting to revive their great leader fully to bring about the end of our planet. But Torin has been busy recruiting brave warriors able to bond with the dinosaur spirits. Together they form the Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger and only they stand between us and total extinction.

When I first heard about Kyoryuger, it was a load of mixed feelings. On one hand it reminded me of Zyuranger and the first season of Power Rangers. The team has a pretty similar setup at first glance and the theme, dinosaurs if that wasn’t clear enough, is exactly the same as in its predecessor twenty years ago. And I like dinosaurs. But on the other hand, it looked… off, somehow. Like my sense of nostalgia and wanting to see Zyuranger clashed with the more modern look. Plus, it’s virtually the same setup as twenty years ago. I might’ve mentioned that already but it’s a double edged sword. Yes, it’s nostalgic but it’s also… been done before.

And as I began watching the series, it wasn’t just the setup that felt… reminiscent of the old tokusatsu series and Power Rangers. Kyoryuger’s setup starts out pretty “monster of the week”-ish with very little overarching plot, with each general each week being asked to come up with the most dastardly plan they could to harvest human emotions and their big boss would choose one of them. Again, very reminiscent of Zyuranger which was practically the same deal: new monster each week with a wacky plan.

Sure, you can make a case for this being every single season of Super Sentai but some series are way more obvious with it while others find ways to hide it. But where the series is unlike Zyuranger is with the characters.

First up is Daigo Kiryu, KyoryuRed and the leader of the group. Like in all Super Sentai, he’s basically the main character and the primary agent behind things happening. He’s overly positive and a very trusting guy, always putting his faith in his teammates. However, despite being the main character, sort of, there’s not really that much to him. There’s some mysteries surrounding his father and he does seem to hold some kind of special power unlike what the other rangers have but that’s par for the course for Super Sentai at this point.

However, before watching the series I read that he takes up a lot of space and… I simply can’t agree with that, at least not so far. I mean, he is sort of the focus but the red ranger is always the focus of Super Sentai. Even in the most balanced of sentais, the red always gets a little bit more focus. And even then, I think King, which is what he likes to be called, has less focus than is typical for a Super Sentai. He does help his teammates realize a lot about themselves and is always there to support them through their ordeals but I don’t feel like it ever becomes “about him”.

Plus, I just find his happy personality very infectious and I typically enjoy his interactions. His actor, Ryo Ryusei, seems to be the perfect casting for the role as well since he seems to embody the role with very little strife.

Second in command is Ian Yorkland, KyoryuBlack. A very suave ladies’ man proficient with guns, a sniper with a rumored 100% accuracy, he starts off as the least willing to join the sentai since he likes his personal life separate from all the heroics. However, he soon quickly comes to appreciate the rest of the team and is probably the best example of a true second-in-command. In most series it’s just kind of assumed that the one to get the second spot in the roll call is the next in line but Ian genuinely earns the spot by being very intelligent and thinking tactically. The team is saved more than once by his sharp mind and when King is out of commission he effortlessly takes the role of leader.

He’s also the one with the darkest past, at least at this part of the series (I can see King soon adopting this mantle), having lost his friend to the enemy just before being offered the spot of KyoryuBlack. This is something that comes back to haunt him multiple times throughout the series as the plot is brought up more than once and it shows him slowly overcoming the trauma little by little with the help of his team.

And I really like Ian. He’s probably my favorite character of the show, especially because he’s one of the few characters who show some genuine growth. And at this point in the series he’s the ones who’s the least like what he was at the start of the series which I consider a good thing, because he had the most to grow out of.

Third up is probably my favorite character of the whole series. Nobuharu Udo, better known as Nossan, or KyoryuBlue. Older than the rest of the original squad, he lives with his sister and niece after his brother-in-law passed away unexpectedly. Since then he’s been very protective of his niece and is at first apprehensive about being a hero since it might put his family at risk.

Nossan doesn’t really evolve much throughout the series, after some initial conflict he’s pretty much onboard with the whole thing and becomes part of the team’s backbone, always maintaining a cheerful disposition and cracking awful puns and old-man-gags at every opportunity. However, so far in the series his family is less and less of a presence and now his thing is that he’s not very popular with the ladies, quite the opposite from Ian.

But I love the character more because he’s… old. Unlike the rest of the team, which are mostly in their twenties, Yamato Kinjo was already in his late twenties when they recorded the show, older than even me in other words. And I think Super Sentai needs older people who aren’t just supporting cast but rather a proper part of the team. Kyoryu is a bit odd in this regard as Nossan isn’t the only old character in the show to take on a more active role which I consider a nice treat.

Fourth team member is Souji Rippukan, KyoryuGreen. Primarily a sword-user, he practices kenjutsu while in high school so he can one day follow his family’s tradition and take over for his father. Though distant from the team at first, he eventually warms up to them after King is instrumental in getting him to make up with his father who he has resented for a long time.

And that’s just about all for Souji, I think. While he does warm up to the team, he never really seems to shake his “lone wolf”-attitude completely and that really bugs me. He also never really seems to grow as a person, though he loosens up quite a bit it’s never quite to the point where you could say “He’s grown up.” There’s some romantic subplot surrounding him and one of his classmates but it never seems to go anywhere and I bet good money on it never being resolved throughout the series. Partly because Super Sentai doesn’t really do romance in any serious way until after the series ends but also because I just don’t feel like the writers have anything to do with him.

His resentment towards his father is the only interesting aspect of him, blaming him for his mother leaving, but it’s resolved so quickly and nothing is ever done with it again. He just gets over his father being, quite frankly, a twat in an episode and that’s it.

And least, and in my opinion, least is Amy Yuuzuki, KyoryuPink. She’s a rich girl whose parents are off in America while she stays at home, learning the ways of the rich and educated but feeling restricted by being told how she should act and behave. Poor rich girl. Alright, I kid, sort of, but that just about sums up her character and about all that they ever do with her. She is the sole female of the team and the exclusive female presence in the show (excluding villains) for about twenty episodes or so until another female is introduced, but in a role that can generously be called “supporting”.

There are a multitude of reasons why I don’t like her. For one, there is absolutely not development of her character at all so far. Her only bit of character development comes in the second episode and though there’s been one or two episodes focused on her since then, they’re less about exploring her character and more about showing why she’s good the way she is. The worst the show ever levels at her is that “she’s not very lady-like”. This was probably a more laughable matter in Japan where gender stereotypes are alive and well but to me, it just comes off as… incredibly boring.

Second reason why I dislike here is her obnoxious tendency to spout random stuff in English. I guess this is an attempt to show her as modern and/or educated due to her wealth. Ian does the same thing but to a much lesser extent and they’re the ones that appears semi-educated so I see where they’re going with it but it just doesn’t work.

The sixth and final ranger (shut up, it so is the final ranger) is Utsusemimaru, or Ucchi, KyoryuGold. Thrust forward in time from the Sengoku period of Japan (1500ish), he once again takes on the role of KyoryuGold to fight evil with the team. At first he appears very gruff and doesn’t readily acknowledge the team but it doesn’t take long for it all to be revealed to be an act as he was told he should be less kind and accepting so he could become a true samurai.

This was a great spin on the traditional role of the sixth ranger who is typically more of a loner character that prefers to keep the team distant at least in the beginning. However Ucchi quickly becomes a core part of the team and earns the respect and friendship of his fellow Kyoryugers through acts of compassion.

And I like him a lot. Sadly not much has been done with his character since the initial few episodes, the “fish out of water” aspect of his character is barely touched upon and he seems to have adapted just a little too quickly for my tastes. I also wish they’d play on his more rigid code of honor versus the more relaxed, modern kids a bit more. There’s some initial friction where he objects to Ian’s womanizing, for instance, but this too quickly goes away or is resolved.

His actor, Atsushi Maruyama, is great as well, really adapting well to the role and his smile and humble gestures as well as his speech seem to be genuine. And though they don’t do a whole lot with his character, he’s different enough from the regular Kyoryugers that just having him around is a lot of fun. And somehow he just makes the team feel more complete, I don’t think I could go back and watch the early episodes and not feel weird. So for once I’m glad they introduce the extra ranger super early.

There are, of course, more characters to talk about but these are the six characters that are central to Kyoryuger and really, all else are supporting characters at best. And I’ll talk about all villains, mechas and designs in general next week cause they kind of go hand in hand.

With that, on to the double feature review!

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger: Gaburincho of Music
(Toei Company, 2013)

When a popstar with ties to Daigo is kidnapped by a new evil, KyoryuDeath, and used in a plot that threatens to end the entire world, the Kyoryugers must jump into the action and learn why the popstar is so important. Where did this Kyoryuger come from and why can he use ZyudenRyu? Secrets of the ZyudenRyu will be revealed in Gaburincho of Music!

Super Sentai movies tend to be… bad. I’ve spoken about this before and how they typically get the shit end of the shit stick. A double feature with the Kamen Rider Wizard movie, which you might remember I wasn’t the biggest fan of, it clocks in at just under 30 minutes, making it about ten minutes longer than the average episode. And it’s pretty much always the case that you can tell because the movie just feels like a slightly longer episode and not a particularly good episode either.

So I was all set to not like this movie and barely give it a chance. Because why would this be any different than any that came before it? Well, it comes from the rather different theme of Kyoryuger, which I will talk more about in the final post, but this movie is actually… pretty okay? The runtime definitely hurts it as it’s pretty much a sprint from beginning to end with only a beginning and an end and nothing really in between.

It isn’t helped by the fact that the movie is mainlined by three new villains, two of whom are never really explained in any detail and are just kind of there. I’m sure they have more meaning in Japan, they’re probably some pop idol or whatever, but from a storytelling perspective they serve no function. They’re never even properly introduced, never given a name or that much of a motivation.

Another big problem is that out of all the Kyoryugers it’s really only Daigo that fills any sort of function here. The rest are only there during the fights and except for defeating the two nameless villainesses, do very little even then. And because of the short runtime, even the main villain gets criminally little time. And an evil Kyoryuger should be a big deal and given plenty of motivation outside of “He’s evil.” but that’s kind of the route they went with here. And it doesn’t make sense from a lore perspective since we’re told Deboss can’t use ZyudenRyu and yet he said Chaos (the villain leader) made him? Eh?

However, despite all my negative criticism and complaining about what Super Sentai movie usually are, I actually like Gaburincho of Music. Primarily because it’s music focused. It’s advertised as a musical but… not really. I mean, yeah, the characters do sing a bit in it and it is kind of focused around music but the music numbers don’t really do a whole lot and they’re not integral to the plot. They’re just kind of there. So if it is a musical, it’s a bad musical.

But I liked the music. Kyoryuger as a whole is structured around music and I’ve just gotten to the part in the series where they actually start discussing just how central it is. And the movie came up. Yes, the movie is referenced in the series which I think might be a first for a Super Sentai movie. Normally they just sort of exist in a weird kind of limbo and is only referenced again in other movies. But here the movie actually lays the groundwork for the lore of the series.

And that’s a big reason why I actually ended up enjoying the movie. It didn’t feel as detached as it normally does, even if its importance isn’t really revealed until later on in the series. I’d say the movie takes place before episode 22 or 23 and it’s brought up in… episode 29, I think? Yes, I’ve watched that far but for sake of ease, I put a cutoff point for this part of the review at episode 24.

So, do I think the movie is worth watch? Well, yes. It’s short and adds something to the series for once so it’s not the waste of time Super Sentai movies normally are. They actually use it effectively to set up future arcs in the series and… well, I approve of that. I’ve even heard that it’s further referenced later on in the series so looking forward to that.

And that’s it for now. Next time I’ll talk about the villains, the mechs and the general design. And following that, as always, I’ll give my in-depth look at the series as a whole and what worked and what didn’t.

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