Tuesday 10 March 2015

Movie REVIEW: Space Sheriff Sharivan: Next Generation

Space Sheriff Sharivan: Next Generation

The revival of the Space Sheriffs and Metal Heroes franchise hasn't been the smoothest of sailing. Although Gavan managed to crash two different Super Sentai series before going on to star in his own relaunch movie, things have been rather quiet for his immediate successors Sharivan and Shaider. Sure all three also appeared in Super Hero Taisen Z shortly afterward (along with a few other Metal Heroes cameos), but it was mostly about Gavan there as well. However now is the time of the other Space Sheriffs, with two V-cinema (aka direct to video) releases specifically dedicated to them. First up is Space Sheriff Sharivan: Next Generation, which sees Gekiranger star Riki Miura return once again the play the second generation Space Sheriff.

Sisi, Kai & Seiji
Super Hero Taisen: Geki Violet vs Blue Buster

When copycat criminals imitating the Makuu, Madou and Fuuma organisations surface across the galaxy, the Space Sheriffs are called into action to put a stop to their previously-defeated foes once and for all. While the Geki Ichimonji (the second Gavan) heads up his own investigation, new Sharivan Kai Hyuga is sent to Earth on a mission to stop a shipment of Hyper-M - a drug that turns its users into violent killers before eventually killing them. But Kai also has also been given a top secret mission - there's a spy amongst the ranks in the Galactic Police, and it's his job to confirm the prime suspect.

Teaming up with his childhood friend and fellow Space Sheriff Seigi, Kai must learn there's more to being Sharivan than simply relying on cold hard logic and calculations. Because not only are they not enough, but traitors are usually the person you'd least expect.

Space Sheriff Estevan
Always believe in your soul

Unlike the Gavan movie which introduced its new characters over a slow-burning first half, Sharivan: Next Generation jumps straight in where it's important. Though we've only previously met Kai through two rather brief cameos, this film forgoes a tiresome origin story so we can see the Space Sheriff near the top of his game. The character still has quite a bit of developing to do, but this "on the job" character development makes for a far better film that one that sees him scrambling around for half an hour or so joining the Galactic Police. Here Kai already has the title of Sharivan, but he's yet to truly earn it.

Kai isn't the only character who's practically a blank slate either, with the entire cast of this film being made up of new faces. These include space scientist and partner to Sharivan Sisi, the aforementioned Seigi and his partner Eileen, as well as the rather wonderfully-named Commissioner Gordon. An hour isn't a whole lot of time to give these characters particularly well-rounded personalities, yet the film manages to do a great job with the limited timeframe it has. Rather than simply tell the audience what each character is like, it's shown through the narrative itself. Even characters like Sisi who have very few lines feel like actual characters thanks to making the most of what is done with them. Despite none of these characters having any sort of interactions elsewhere, all of their relationships feel natural and established beforehand. Of course it wouldn't be a proper Sharivan revival without an appearance by original Sharivan Den Iga, which works in the same brilliant way Retsu Ichijoji's did in the Gavan movie. Enough to satisfy, but not completely stealing the spotlight from the new guys either.

Den Iga makes an appearance
Still kicking ass

The great cast helps ease the pressure off the story itself, which at its core isn't the most complex of narratives out there. The traitor is obvious right from the start, and Kai's evolution to "true" Space Sheriff isn't exactly unfamiliar either. But around this are a lot of other neat little twists that help make the Space Sheriff universe that much richer. Going hand in hand with this are some truly brilliant fight sequences, courtesy of veteran director Koichi Sakamoto. The actual in-suit stuff may be limited to two excellent fights, but the out of stuff suit often proves equally as satisfying. There are even rare moments where the CGI pulls off some pretty great cityscapes, even if other shots remind you just how laughable it can beat times.

The Grand Birth's battle mode

But what really makes Sharivan so good is how it seems to understand the balance required to make a tokusatsu/henshin hero production mainly geared toward adults. Whereas other attempts have fallen flat by going too far in the opposite direction, this film keeps it's adult nature relatively reigned in by comparison. The added blood and violence certainly gives the film a much-needed edge (even if the CGI blood slashes look utterly ridiculous), but never do these things overpower it. It's a film about a shiny red space cop, and that definitely still stands. Rather than adding adult things for the sake of being adult, this feels like a Sharivan that grew up properly with it's fanbase. Other than the blood being there to confirm it visually, the story and dialogue are more than enough to sell it to an older demographic. Well, that and the pure nightmare fuel that is Horror Girl laughing to herself in a darkened room.

Horror Girl

Sharivan: Next Generation also introduces a brand new Space Sheriff to the Metal Heroes franchise in the form of the golden Estevan. While in execution this may just be a shiny repaint of Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger vs Gavan villain Gavan Bootleg (which is actually a massive hint about this film in itself), it does represent some interesting possibilities for the future. Like the original version of this suit Estevan may be a one-time deal, but his presence confirms that the Galactic Police aren't just limited to three Space Sheriffs. If the Metal Heroes franchise were to ever receive a proper relaunch it would mostly likely be focusing on these guys, so could an all-new Space Sheriff be at the forefront of all of that? It's all wild speculation, but maybe that's a good way to capitalise on nostalgia and propel the franchise in a comfortable new direction.

Fixing almost all of the problems Space Sheriff Gavan: The Movie suffered from, Space Sheriff Sharivan: Next Generation is a real comeback for the Space Sheriffs and the Metal Heroes franchise as a whole. Packing well-rounded characters into an hour-long production is no easy feat, but this film does it while offering slick action sequences that both satisfies Sharivan's retro charm and brings it comfortably into the 21st century. The direction the film heads in may be a little obvious at times, but that doesn't stop it from being a thrilling ride that shows Toei's tokusatsu heroes are more than capable of growing up the right way.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I understand very little japanese, but have all three space sheriff films on dvd. I also have the original shows. Thanks for the review and translation. I hope they get tv shows and or another movie together.