We’ve talked about the characters. We’ve talked about the villains and robots. We’ve talked about the movies. Now… let’s get a little wild and talk about the series itself!
If it wasn’t obvious enough from my two previous posts, I like Kyoryuger. The movie was just the final nail in the coffin in cementing it as a very nostalgic and fun entry in the Super Sentai franchise. But that’s not why it became one of my favorite series. No, all of that has to do with two things: the themes and the villains.
But first I feel like I have to address something. Namely how I spell certain things. When doing research on this show, I noticed that there were a lot of different spellings of various names and things in the series. And I realize why, translating Japanese writing isn’t always as straight forward as we might think. How you write Kyoryuger alone can be contested. I’ve simply chosen the form that I’m most comfortable with and how I hear it said in the show. And obviously I’m influenced by my “supplier” of subs as that’s what I’ve been reading and therefor hearing for 48 episodes plus 2 movies. But even then I’ve diverged a bit from the subs since I don’t necessarily agree with how they’ve spelled things.
So, in the end, what I’m saying is that this is my preferred spelling. If you have a different one, cool, I’ll even happily discuss it with you. But unless Toei has officially written things out in English, I don’t think there’s ever gonna be a strict right way of writing it except by sticking to Japanese 100% which… doesn’t really work or lend itself to writing such lengthy posts, in my opinion. It can be a nightmare.
With that out of the way, let’s move on… AGAIN! Oh, and as always, there will be spoilers. I’ll try to keep it as light as possible but this time around there’s just no avoiding that I will be talking about the finale quite a bit.
(If it’s been removed, just youtube “Kyoryuger OP”)
One of the strongest themes that the series revolves around is that of death. This is probably one of the first, if not THE first, to acknowledge Rangers dying. Not on the current roster but two characters I didn’t talk about last time around was Ramirez and Tessai, two previous Kyoryugers who served in ages past, much like Utsusemimaru. But unlike Ucchi they did not survive to the current day through some strange event. In fact, they’re quite dead and have been for a few hundred years.
It’s even acknowledged at one point that both of them probably died while in combat. They appear as spirits, dubbed Spirit Rangers by the current Kyoryugers, and can take some manner of physical form but only because of their connection to their zyudenryu. And as Amy points out to Ramirez, he does not appear as an old man so he most likely died in battle, something Ramirez more or less confirms with his body language. He might even state it out loud, I don’t remember.
And since Tessai also appears as a young man (relatively) the same rules most likely apply to him. And as if that wasn’t enough, we’re also given the story of the ten zyudenryu that they have been using a special ammo, confirming that for all intents and purposes, they too are dead though they linger in “battery form” in order to continue their fight against Deboth. And two additional, pretty important characters die quite explicitly as part of the story which… doesn’t often happen.
Sure, saying this after the previous series killed off a main ranger in the final episodes is a bit weird, I admit, but that was one ranger. This team is virtually surrounded by death in a very intimate way.
However, the series doesn’t necessarily treat this as something bad. Nor is it really the point. I say the theme is death but in essence what the series is trying to say is that all things must come to an end but there’s a continuation after. Both of the Spirit Rangers eventually give up their powers to a pair of successors. KyoryuViolet earns her stripes after her grandfather who was Violet before her and Torin (essentially the Kyoryuger’s mentor) gives his power to Daigo’s father (more on this later). Then you have pretty much all of “100 Years After” which is all about the next line of defenders.
Special shoutout to Masayuki Deai who played BoukenSilver back in the day. Didn’t recognize him as Tessai but then it’s also been more than ten years since I saw Boukenger.
Oh, and here comes the spoiler line. You have been warned.
However, death figures quite prominently in other areas of the show as well. It’s weird calling it a personal favorite, but episode 46 really stood out to me. In it, Aigallon, Candelira and Luckyuro are on the run from Chaos but are eventually caught. Happening across the Kyoryugers by chance, Aigallon pleads with them to save Candelira and Luckyuro as they never did any real harm. The pursuing monster catches up to them and this is where the series got really, really dark.
When I was describing Aigallon in my second post about the series, I mentioned that he came back a changed man after exploding. Prone to sudden outbursts of anger and violence, his eyes turned black and leaked similarly colored liquid. The monster then reveals that Aigallon is… dead already. The explosion killed him but his armor was so thick that it couldn’t descend to Hell, where all Deboth monsters go when they die. Seeing an opportunity, Chaos instead revived him by filling his armor with his own, dark magic, essentially turning him into a puppet.
Told that he cannot love, he sacrifices himself by taking a blow meant for Candelira, whom he finally professes his love for. The Kyoryugers chase the monster off while Ian stays behind, listening to Aigallon’s story. Ian, unable to hate Aigallon any longer, instead frees his soul from his armor, allowing him to finally die, before taking his axe and using it to defeat the monster, essentially forgiving and ending their feud after all these years.
Not only is this episode incredibly well written and acted, it also features possibly the best fight in the entire season. And the most badass walk off that Super Sentai has ever produced.
It was this episode that made me go back and look at all the things related to death and dying. The thoughts had already been there, buzzing around in my skull, about the Spirit Rangers confirming that rangers do in fact die from time to time and the fact that this entire series is based around the extinction of dinosaurs. Hell, even in the first episode Gabutyra, that is to say the t-rex zyudenryu, was hesitant to bond with Daigo because he was afraid to lose another friend.
Hell, just a couple of episodes earlier, the Kyoryuger’s mentor, Torin, sacrificed himself so he could enter Deboth Hell in an effort to destroy it from within. And in the final two episodes, not only does Ucchi die but so does King… sort of. Ucchi does actually die but is eventually revived by the Earth’s melody and King is just assumed dead since he’s on the bad guy’s… err, spaceship, I suppose, when it blows up but is revealed to be alive due to the zyudenryu’s intervention. But he was perfectly willing to sacrifice himself to defeat the bad guys just so his friends didn’t have to.
Now, any other time I would’ve been quite pissed off with such a blatant bait and switch twice in an episode but… I’m actually glad they didn’t go down that route. The finale was melancholic enough and it was meant to be a much more lighthearted romp so having two main characters perish would simply be too much. I could’ve accepted Ucchi’s death because him dying after defeating Dogold and possibly becoming a Spirit Ranger himself would’ve been in perfect line with his character. And in line with what the series was saying about fostering the next generation.
Nossan’s facial expression when carrying Ucchi’s limp body into the spirit base was especially excruciating to watch and Daigo’s father’s roar of anger/sadness at this completely broke me. It’s probably the absolutely lowest I’ve EVER felt beginning the last episode so when they do eventually turn it around it was an absolute thrill and joy to behold.
What really struck me about this series was just how good the actors were. With a few exceptions, mainly Amy and Souji but that could just as easily be because of writing rather than their acting ability. Nossan’s actor in particular really sold me on his character, as did Ucchi’s, and while King and Ian’s actors could be a bit uneven at times, they definitely turned in strong performances. But the ones that really knocked it out of the park were the main villain voice actors (again except for Chaos who had nothing to work with). Aigallon’s Yu Mizushima stood out in particular but everyone else turned in really great performances as well. I don’t think what I wrote between the spoiler lines would’ve had the same impact without Mizushima.
Another aspect of the show that seems to have split people down the middle was the main motif of the series, aka samba. Or music and dancing in general. I don’t know, it was weird and didn’t really work at first but eventually it’s woven into the narrative in such a way that it actually did make sense to me. Plus, again, it just added to the cheerfulness of the whole thing and every time Daigo transformed into Carnival mode I couldn’t help but to do a little dance of my own.
The soundtrack is equally badass, featuring more original songs than what I think is normal for Super Sentai. And while not all of them are winners, in my book anyhow, a lot of them are super catchy and I listen to them quite regularly now. And I wasn’t really expecting that. There are different music styles and music for different moods and each character, I think, has their own song so there’s a whole lot to pick from.
Candelira probably sings one of my favorite songs from Super Sentai yet so good on them. They did really well with this. I’d say the music is very well integrated into the show. In some ways it reminds me of Kamen Rider OOO with its sheer amount and quality of music.
Now, I’m not saying Kyoryuger doesn’t have flaws. At certain points the plot meanders about needlessly long and many of the main characters are shifted into the background at points for no real reason. If it was to give Daigo even more space, sure, but many times it’s just… filler. That doesn’t really depend on Daigo any more than anyone else. The show do have a pretty fun stable of monsters and villains with a lot of personality to them which does outweigh this issue somewhat. A lot of the monsters were genuinely interesting and had more personality to them than Go-Busters. But ultimately it’s not the monsters that I want to know more about, it’s the characters. Bulking up Amy and Souji with some more plots was sorely needed.
And it does play a few tropes a little too straight. The last few series, Toei has been pretty good at playing around with tropes and subverting them but every so often they just take one massive step into a cluster of tropes that leave no-one satisfied. Daigo’s father is a prime example of a walking trope and his plot is cliche defined.
As I’ve also covered before, the mech-design didn’t exactly have me super excited for the most part. I even forgot to mention my most hated combination:
I mean, what is that even supposed to be? I know what it is, a god damned mess is what it is.
But the few characters that did get the time to develop plus the villains… well, the three knights + Luckyuro and just a general fun and exciting premise really does help it stay above the water. It also helps that it played my nostalgia strings rather expertly. My only wish is that they would’ve had characters from ZyuRangers or AbaRangers as part of the series. Who better to guide our new heroes than people who have been through it before? Them showing up in the movie sort of proves that they exist in the same realm so…
That’s me going way off track, though. Ultimately I liked Kyoryuger. It discussed a theme that’s not often discussed and the fact that it was aimed at children was kind of refreshing. Personally I don’t think death is a subject best kept from children, it’s a natural part of life no matter how much we like to deny it and having a healthy and respectful attitude towards it is important. Of course, we can argue if this series really instilled a sense of respect for death but that’s a discussion best had elsewhere.
Especially since this post is going on for a bit.
This show is not inoffensive. The fact that it split people down the middle so much is proof of that. I liked it a lot but I can also see why you wouldn’t. So it’s probably not the best one to start with as it’s not necessarily representative of the franchise as a whole. It did quite a few things differently, things I haven’t discussed here and that I would love to discuss but because I want to leave SOME things for readers to discover themselves, I leave it out.
I’ll miss them all either way. They were a fun bunch to hang out with and they endeared themselves to me quite a lot. So, you’ve been wild, Kyoryugers, but it’s time to leave the stage for… eh, trains? Oh god, I don’t have a good feelings about this! The Kyoryugers will be back, however, in two different forms. I still have to take a look at the Power Rangers version Dino Charge and then there’s the sequel… yeah, soon.
Next time will NOT be Super Sentai, though, but instead we’re taking a look at Gaim. It looks super weird, themed around samurais and fruit but I’ve been assured it’s borderline amazing. To sing us out I leave you with the official ending theme for Kyoryuger:
(If it’s been removed, just youtube “Kyoryuger ED”)