Monday 13 February 2017

First Impressions: Uchu Sentai Kyuranger

Uchu Sentai Kyuranger

After 40 years and a noticeable decline in both ratings and toy sales, the Super Sentai franchise is long overdue a shakeup – and 2017’s Uchu Sentai Kyuranger could be the series to give it exactly that. Not only is this space-themed series notable for introducing an impressive nine team members from the very beginning, but it also turned heads when it wasn’t just announced that TV-Asahi would be taking a closer interest by appointing one of their staff as chief producer, but also that Bandai of America participated in its early design stages – marking a closer relationship between Super Sentai and Power Rangers than ever before.

Jark MatterSpada, Hammy & Champ

In the year 20XX, the universe has been dominated by the evil Jark Matter Organisation, enslaving any planets or people in their way. However there is hope for the galaxy – the Kyurangers. Bearing the power of the constellations inside small orbs named Kyutama, these nine chosen warriors are prophesised to unite and become the saviours of the universe. Lucky is an energetic man from the Leo System, who’s left his home to travel the galaxy. Crashing in on a fight between Jark Matter and the Kyurangers, he meets the first three heroes to be chosen by the Kyutama - Hammy (Chameleon Green), Spada (Kajiki Yellow) and the bull fighting robot Champ (Oushi Black).

Eager to join the fight against Jark Matter himself, he soon goes on the search for his own Kyutama. His search takes him to the Lupus System, where he soon meets Garu – a traumatised wolf-like alien who lost his pride after his clan was lost to Jark Matter. As he watches Lucky eventually join the fight as Shishi Red, Garu is able to tap into his own Kyutama and become the team’s fifth member – Ookami Blue.


Super Sentai premiere episodes are known for being incredibly fast-paced, introducing as much merchandise as they can straight away so that they can immediately hook the audience into buying the toys while at the same time trying to set out a narrative. With arguably more to cram into 20 minutes than ever, you can bet that the first episode of Uchu Sentai Kyuranger isn’t the exception to this rule. There’s an insane amount going on in this episode, with little opportunity for the viewer to just slow down and process it all. The episode begins with three already-established Kyurangers, adding another two to the mix by the end to bring it up to five. Arguably these will be the ones considered the “core” of the team, but just how Toei plan to handle nine+ rangers right now is anyone’s guess.

But what makes Kyuranger immediately stand out is the scope of it. This doesn’t just apply to the larger team, but also the fact Jark Matter have already largely taken over the galaxy. The opening scenes of their forces conquering planets set the scene perfectly, and having the Kyurangers acting as a small band of resistance fighters makes for a really refreshing change of pace. For once the action is squarely centred on Earth either – in addition to the good mix of humanoids, aliens and robots on the team it also looks like the series will involve a fair bit of world-hopping, making it the most fully-fledged space Sentai yet. Of course all these planets still look semi-humanoid due to still being filmed in Japan, but the variety of locations used in this episode and addition of a few CGI structures here and there do a decent job of maintaining the illusion.

Shishi RedKyrenOh

One aspect of the show that might not be to everyone’s taste though is Lucky, who is another entry into the controversial “loud, energetic and immediately gifted” red ranger archetype. True to his name, he pretty much lucks out on becoming a Kyuranger and getting his own Voyager mech - all while repeatedly proclaiming his catchphrase of “Yossha Lucky!”. The focus on Lucky also comes at the expense of better introducing Garu, who has a much deeper (albeit cliché) backstory and could have really benefitted from turning up in episode two instead. That said, even if you aren’t a fan of this sort of Red you can’t deny that Lucky really does it with style. First he literally crashes in on a battle, and the later he rides down triumphantly with a stream of meteorites. It's all incredibly contrived, but it looks damn cool all the same.

Rather than keep it back for next week the episode ends with the obligatory mecha battle, however KyurenOh also seems to have a few surprises to reveal. First is its ability to work even without legs (further proof that Garu could have easily been saved for later), but also worthy of praise is the spectacular battle that follows. After years of crowded cities and landscapes blending into one another, seeing a fight take place on an icy in the depths of space really stood out as something different. It certainly won’t be something that lasts the entire series (after all, GokaiOh’s debut also took place in space) but a few of these every so often will certainly break the visual monotony even if the format stays the same.

Five down, four to go!

Uchu Sentai Kyuranger is loud, brash, colourful and exactly what Super Sentai needed right now. There’s no denying that Zyuohger was a great show, but in this episode alone Kyuranger has displayed a sense of scope and ambition that hasn’t been seen since Go-Busters. The premiere may have come out all guns blazing, but if future episodes can slow things down a bit and divide its focus well between a larger cast then it doesn’t feel like an overreaction to say Kyuranger could end up being something really special. That said, it could end up being another Kyoryuger in that a big team doesn’t mean anything in the face of a Red who could probably do it all himself. One way or another, it seems at the very least Kyuranger will be blasting the franchise off to new heights.

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