Sunday 3 February 2013

Series REVIEW: Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger

Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger

While Super Sentai may have been running consistently to great success for the past 36 years, there's still only one team that could be considered a global icon. 1992's Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger was the dinosaur themed Sentai that would go on to become Mighty Morphin Power Rangers year later, cementing the design of the characters as a brand in the West. But even before Power Rangers came along, it was clear that Zyuranger was also making changes to the Super Sentai brand. Following on from Chōjin Sentai Jetman, the series ran for a total of 50 episodes.

When astronauts exploring the planet Nemesis inadvertently release the evil witch Bandora and her gang from 170 million years of imprisonment, she sets her sights on conquering the Earth once again. In order to combat this threat, five young warriors from an ancient civilisation of dinosaur-evolved humans are awoken from suspended animation. These warriors - Geki (Tyranno Ranger), Goushi (Mammoth Ranger), Dan (Tricera Ranger), Boi (Tiger Ranger) and Mei (Ptera Ranger), draw on the powers of their five guardian beasts to become the Zyurangers. These five beasts are also able to combine and become the Great God Daizyujin, who the Zyurangers can pilot in times of great need.

During the fight against Bandora and her army of Dora Monsters, it emerges that a sixth Zyuranger - Burai (Dragon Ranger), exists and is in fact the older brother of Geki. Though Burai awakens with a heart filled with hate and initially clashes with the Zyurangers, he is eventually brought over to the side of good and battles alongside them with his guardian beast Dragon Caesar. But this happiness is short lived, as Burai's tragic secret is revealed.

The main cast of Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger
Geki, Goushi, Dan, Boi and Mei 

While many of the earlier Super Sentai series take a strictly science-fiction route with their settings, Zyuranger is one of the first to dabble in a purely fantasy setting. There's a ton of legend and mythological references in the show, especially from the various monsters of the week. This new approach gives Zyuranger an air of originally straight from the first episode, but the interest dies out rather quickly as the show's shortcomings become painfully apparent. The five Zyurangers are extremely bland characters, with very little personality or back story to call their own. Of the five Geki gets the most back story due to his relationship with Burai, and Mei gets a very small amount in the form of a single episode. Goushi, Boi and Dan's backgrounds are shrouded in mystery. As far as characterisation goes, they all seem to have a default personality of "warrior hero", always doing the right thing and proclaiming that they'll overcome the odds through their strength, teamwork and determination. Their lack of character is attempted to be offset by a massive variety of stories featuring younger children, but it becomes even more apparent as the children often receive more character development than the Zyurangers in a single episode.

Dragon Ranger
The Sixth Hero: Dragon Ranger Burai

Thus it comes as a relief that Dragon Ranger Burai is by far the most interesting and dynamic of the protagonists, as well as being the first regular sixth ranger in Super Sentai history. It is unfortunate that his appearances are fleeting due to the nature of his character arc, but it serves to be the most memorable part of Zyuranger as a whole. Even if the most emotion from the fallout of it comes from Dragon Caesar of all places. When you feel more emotion toward a mecha than the main cast, then the show has a problem.

The Zyurangers might lack any sort of character, but the Bandora gang have it in spades. Though a mostly comedic bunch, they are very lively characters that do come up with some pretty twisted schemes now and again. Bandora is an excellent lead villain, and her hatred of children is pretty unsurprising in a series that focuses on them so much. The series finale sheds light on her background, proving that in special circumstances you can feel just as much (if not more so) for a villain than you can for a hero. And just when you think you've seen it all from them, they'll take you completely by surprise and burst into song.

The Bandora Gang
The Bandora Gang in possibly the show's greatest moment

Finally we have the mecha, who also illustrate the new ideas Toei were trying out this season. Gone are the boxy vehicles and combinations of old, replaced with the first in what would be a range of distinct looking vehicles and robots. As if the likes of Daizyujin and Dragon Caesar weren't great looking as it is, Zyuranger also makes things a little more interesting by making the mecha sentient. And not boringly so either - Daizyujin isn't the good-natured god you might expect and often clashes with the Zyurangers' opinions. Dragon Caesar on the other hand is like a big dog - he may look threatening but all he wants to to please his master. Rounding off the guardian beasts is King Brachion, introducing the concept of an ultimate combination mecha (in this case, Ultimate Daizyujin) to the world of Super Sentai.

Daizyujin fights alongside Dragon Caesar
Daizyujin fights alongside Dragon Caesar

Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger is a fascinating series - even more so if you're a long-time fan of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. It's steeped in various forms of mythology, has great villains and is really interesting to see the framework that would go on to become Power Rangers. But unfortunately I wouldn't necessarily go as far as to call it a good series. The lead cast are extremely dull, leading to a neverending barrage of child-centric episodes and arcs that should run highly on emotion to fall flat on their face. As far as style goes it can't be faulted, but substance-wise it leaves quite a lot to be desired.

1 comment:

Sect of ZZ 2C said...

A 3/5 is actually waaaay too generous,my man. I've watched this show from start to finish and you know,some of the characters would do the most idiotic things like leaving one character like Mei to handle a kid while also fighting a ton of enemies. That's how stupid these "heroes" can be. People say Zyuranger is better than MMPR?!! Gimme a break,Geki is possibly the worst Red Ranger ever and Dan is possibly the biggest whiner in this series.

I'd give it a 2/5 or a 2/10 because of how atrociously dumb it could get at points.