Sunday, 16 September 2018

Movie REVIEW: Engine Sentai Go-Onger: Ten Years Grand Prix

Engine Sentai Go-Onger: Ten Years Grand Prix

The realisation that Engine Sentai Go-Onger came out ten years ago might be making some fans pretty old right now, but there is one silver lining to this reminder of just how quickly time can pass. After both Ninpuu Sentai Hurricaneger and Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger reunited for special V-Cinema releases a decade after their original appearances, it's now time to go at full-throttle mach speed once again as the 32nd Super Sentai team return for Engine Sentai Go-Onger: Ten Years Grand Prix. So grab your Engine Souls and get ready to 'met on once again, as all seven team members are back for one last adventure.


It's been ten years since the Go-Ongers' fight against the Barbaric Machine Clan Gaiark, the world is peaceful once again - but at what cost? Sentai activities are outlawed as the Go-Ongers are hunted as fugitives, the Human World has been isolated from the ten other worlds and Minister Noizumi Shinchiro has distributed all-purpose N-Chips to the populace in his quest for "everlasting peace". With Hiroto presumed dead and Saki having cast her past aside to work as Noizumi's Public Relations Officer, the remaining five Go-Ongers are public enemy number one.

But when a young boy named Soji finds the BearRV Engine Cast, the truth behind Hiroto's disappearance and Saki's apparent betrayal are eventually revealed. In the face of a brand new enemy, the Go-Ongers must unite and rev up once again for one more high speed battle!


In a similar vein to both the Hurricaneger and Dekaranger 10 Years After specials, Ten Years Grand Prix is naturally a film best experienced with prior experience of Engine Sentai Go-Onger. Though the story itself could feasibly work as someone's entry point to the wild world of Go-Onger, its true pleasures lie in reuniting with these characters after all this time and appreciating the callbacks to the original series. Being fairly self-contained also means that the film doesn't pay a whole lot of attention to the handful of cameos the cast have made in various Super Sentai shows since 2009, other of course than the marriage of Speedor and BearRV first revealed back in Gokaiger. There's sadly no mention of Machalcon to go with it, but this doesn't have any negative bearing on the film whatsoever. It's a film all about the team we first got to know ten years ago, and in that regard it has all the key bases pretty much covered.

Arguably one of Engine Sentai Go-Onger's biggest selling points was its abilities to pull off fairly serious and/or emotional plot-lines despite its inherently goofy tone, and this is definitely something that's carried through into Ten Years Grand Prix. With Saki defected, Hiroto presumed dead and the Go-Ongers on the run the film starts off in fairly bleak territory, and even as the plot progresses the team often find themselves overpowered and without the aid of their Engine partners. At only an hour's running time the film has to get through it's set up fairly quickly leading to parts feeling a bit generic (former team member now seemingly evil, misunderstandings and lack of communication etc.) but as a Go-Onger continuation it definitely works. This time the team are facing off against new villains the Zonark party, which swap out the Gaiark's pollution motif for a loose-commentary on tablet and smartphone consumption. Again their plot is a little sci-fi cliche, but the new suit designs are fantastic and little touches like Noizune's selfie stick staff show just how well the Go-Onger monsters can blend threatening and silliness when it's called for.


So with limited time to spare Ten Years Grand Prix wastes no time getting back to important time spent with the characters. With Saki positioned as the one acting outside of the team the film naturally skews towards her a little more than the rest, but otherwise it very much feels like a team effort with no member getting any real focus at the expense of anyone else. Like the show itself its very much a case of them coming together to overcome evil, so no matter who your favourite may be they all have  their moment to shine. Of course it wouldn't be a proper Go-Onger reunion without the Gaiark trio also putting in an appearance, with Kegalesia taking the lead to become the hero in a particularly special way. The film even calls back to the very beginning of the series with the appearance of Soji, the boy Souji saves in that first episode. Though ultimately Soji feels rather superfluous to the story in that it would be pretty much the same had he not appeared at all, he's still a likeable character in his own right and an interesting anchor for the film to latch onto.

But despite offering a relatively solid story, Ten Years Grand Prix somehow manages to miss a few key opportunities to make this a truly perfect reunion special. Perhaps the most glaring of these is the lack of a new G3 Princess number, which seems especially strange given that the film clearly had Kegalesia fanservice in mind in other areas. On the back of which it's a pity to see other Gaiark members Kitaneidas and Yogostein play such a minimal role in comparison, with their appearance feeling like an expository drop at worst and a cameo at best. It makes sense for a new villain to rise up to challenge the Go-Ongers in the film itself, but beloved characters like these definitely deserved a much bigger part - or at the very least an extra moment at the end to give them a happy ending. The final note is a bit more of a mixed bag, as while it's a little sad to see Ten Years Grand Prix lack a notable mecha fight it does very briefly create an all new combination exclusive to this film - Engine G7, a seven-part combination featuring only the Go-Ongers' partner Engines. Fans might be a little sad to see Carrigator and Jum-bowhale (as well as the three Ancient Engines) get the shaft, but seeing the Go-Onger mecha combine in a more traditional way is a both an interesting concept and a very nice surprise.


Despite a few missed opportunities here and there, Engine Sentai Go-Onger: Ten Years Grand Prix does exactly what it set out to do - be a thoroughly entertaining special that proves even a decade later the old team still has it. Even though Go-Onger was a series that ended on a fairly definitive note, the story works as the perfect comeback that can be enjoyed both by newcomers looking for their first taste of the Engine Sentai or as existing fans able to enjoy some of the subtler callbacks that celebrate this milestone. When reunions are this fun, let's just hope that the next Super Sentai Ten Years Later special isn't another three years away.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

What sentai would you like to see a 10 Years After ?

Alex said...

I'd be happy with any really, but Shinkenger would probably be top of my list (as unlikely as that probably is). Gokaiger or Go-Busters ones would be nice too!