So I promised a stand alone review for Kyoryuger vs. Go-Busters and there’s a good reason for that. Not because of the movie but rather because it did something right that I’ve been asking for for a while now. It basically does the one thing I felt Gokaiger did wrong.
If you remember/read my first post about Kyoryugers, you might remember I made fun of the fact that Kyoryugers has an incredibly similar setup to that of Zyuranger and, to a lesser degree, Abaranger. There’s the most obvious similarities of it being about dinosaurs but there are other comparisons as well: each red ranger commands a t-rex, features a triceratops and a pteranodon in prominent mecha-roles (hell, the triceratops was even blue in both Zyuranger and Abaranger) and other minor details such as similarities in the titles.
But while I’d like to think this sort of thinking makes me somehow unique, I’m hardly the only one who noticed shared similarities. And, as it turns out, some of the people who noticed was the people behind this movie.
A new enemy has appeared and it’s up to the Go-Busters to stop them. But in another part of town, the Kyoryugers are visited by a T-rex who warns them of a friend’s impending death. But before they can get to the bottom of it the new enemy appears dragging a prisoner along. A prisoner who is soon revealed to be none other than Ryoga from the Abarangers, now on the side of the enemy. It’s only when the Go-Busters intervene that they manage to gain the upper hand. But another arrival changes the tide yet again, this time in the form Geki from Zyuranger. It seems enemies from the past are back and it’ll take more than two teams to bring them down for good.
I had pretty high hopes for this movie going in. You’ll remember from my previous posts that Go-Busters ended up being one of my favorite series to date for multiple reasons. And if you’ve followed my Kyoryuger reviews you might have guessed I’m pretty happy about this series as well. But even so, I had tempered my expectations quite a bit if only because I generally don’t get much out of these movies.
So let’s start by talking about Go-Busters. They’re back and all five of them are back at that. That in itself wasn’t much of a surprise since that’s how these things go and not having Masato would probably have been weirder. However, I’m quite proud with how they chose to deal with it. Rather than bring him back full time, it’s more of a sweet second chance to say goodbye than anything. A virtual ghost more than anything, a one-time warning system if the Vaglass ever returned. It was short, emotional and pretty damn well acted, I have to say.
However, the Go-Busters involvement in the plot is… shallow. I am very happy they avoided that whole “Enemies at first”-thing that tends to happen in movies like this and instead they jump straight into the team-up affair with both teams well aware of each other already (due to interacting in a previous movie, I believe). But after a point there’s not much more interaction between the teams until the last battle which is a shame. When they do interact it’s quite friendly and fun-oriented which is how I think it should be.
Instead it’s more of a team-up between Kyoryuger, Abaranger and Zyuranger. Or at least parts of the last two teams mentioned. So this probably would’ve been better as their stand-alone movie instead of Gaburincho of Music but oh well. I’ve never been too attached to the concept of a team-up movie and would much rather have them do… well, what they did here.
One of the things that has bugged me about Super Sentai is that they don’t understand their power as a franchise. Bringing in teams from ten or even twenty years ago doesn’t necessarily make sense from a toy-selling perspective but if you ever wanted to give parents a reason to support their kids’ toy-buying habits, roping in the parents’ nostalgia is a pretty neat little trick.
But even ignoring that, Super Sentai has been stubbornly refusing to expand their teams’ presence beyond their first year. Which is weird because Kamen Rider has been pretty open about the whole thing. Den-O may have started it but returning Kamen Rider from ages past is no longer a surprise, it’s basically an expectation. At least for the movies. But Super Sentai, outside of Gokaiger in general, has remained adamant in its refusal to bring back old team.
However, lately there’s been a change. Not only this movie but Hurricaneger and Dekaranger have both received follow up movies set ten years after the end of the series which I think is a lovely idea. And I genuinely hope that more series receive the same treatment. Hell, I’d take a “100 Years After” style movie where the old generation hands over the reign to a new team.
But my point is, Toei seems to be getting less scared about the whole “bringing old teams back”-thing. And in this movie they practically had to so I’m glad they didn’t pull any punches. Sure, it was mostly only the red rangers from each returning team but Abare Blue does make an appearance and as far as I can tell they got the actors back to do the voices, at the very least. Which is good. From what I understand, contracts in Japan is a nightmare so this might have been a clever way to skirt that issue. And I think the movie might have gotten too cluttered if all team members had returned.
I mean, in total there’s around 20 rangers in this movie so giving them all ample space simply wasn’t in the cards and spotlighting the red rangers in such prominent roles was, I think, the best solution. It would’ve been fun to see another actor from Zyuranger as well but oh well. We can’t have everything.
That said, I wasn’t too amused by the Kyoryuger’s “segment” in the movie. While they do avoid that whole “enemy or friend” thing that many crossover movies start out with, the Kyoryugers do eventually turn bad like the two Dino-reds before them. And are sent back in time to kill their Zyudenryu before they became… well, Zyudenryu, I suppose. It’s a pretty big waste of time since we all know they’re not gonna kill their friends and their attempts to seem evil are… just mostly funny. There are two things Japanese actors seem to have a problem with: laughing naturally and acting evil without overacting.
They do get a kickass set of new clothes, though. Now I almost wish there was a whole sequel series where they wear those clothes. But oh well… again.
The final battle was also… actually kind of cool. It looks like absolute shit, though, the 3D animations are nowhere near where they need to be in today’s cinema releases. But that aside, seeing the three mechs fight together rather than combining into some abomination was fantastic. Daizyuzin was probably the least useful of the three but… that’s honestly to be expected. Compared to what the two newer robots have been shown capable of it’s easily the weakest of the three. He’s a knight with a shield and a sword and that’s pretty much it. But still, I would’ve loved to see them use him in a more creative way.
So why was it so important for me to review this one separately rather than baking into my previous post? Well, for one I really, really enjoyed the movie. Flaws aside, it’s probably the most fun I’ve had with a Super Sentai movie in… years. It still suffers from many of the same flaws, such as being way too short for the story it wants to tell, clocking in at just over an hour. And they didn’t really figure out a way to bring the two titular sentais together in a smart way.
But… it was just so damn charming and seeing old teams come back like this is just so damn pleasing to my retro sensibilities. With more series being released on a regular basis even here in the west, thanks to Shout! Factory, the appeal and viability of a bigger Super Sentai universe is growing on a yearly basis. Now, more than ever, there’s a real interest in series before the last few years so it would be insane for Toei not take the opportunity to get in on the retro train.