Thursday 23 November 2017

Movie REVIEW: Uchu Sentai Kyuranger: Episode of Stinger

Uchu Sentai Kyuranger: Episode of Stinger

Both Kamen Rider and Super Sentai have enjoyed a steady stream of V-cinema releases for some time now, but while Kamen Rider tends to use this as an opportunity to shine the spotlight on a secondary/tertiary Rider Sentai movies have always remained a team affair. However that’s all about to change with Uchu Sentai Kyuranger: Episode of Stinger. The 41st Super Sentai continues to make history with the first spin-off film focusing on a single ranger, following Stinger/Sasori Orange’s brief departure from the team along with Champ/Ouishi Black between episodes 13 and 15.

Sasori Orange & Ouishi BlackStinger & Champ

Following on from the Uchu Sentai Kyuranger: High School Wars miniseries, Champ suddenly goes berserk with Stinger going off after him. Suddenly the pair are attacked by the Jark Matter agent Thunderbird, an enemy it transpires the pair encountered six months prior.

During their time away from the team searching for Stinger’s brother Scorpio, he and Champ came across a small community of humans under threat from Mika – a Jark Matter assassin visibly human apart from her monstrous right arm. While the community tell the pair that she only seeks power, Stinger is reminded of a wish his brother once made and tries to understand her. He discovers Mika’s story is one of tragedy – ostracised by her people and driven to join Jark Matter, seduced by Thunderbird’s promises of acceptance.


It’s first worth noting that while Episode of Stinger follows on from the Toei Tokusatsu Club exclusive High School Wars web series that most English-speaking fans won’t have seen yet, there isn’t anything in here that makes them required viewing before jumping in. It might add a little bit of extra context and help the present day sections flow better, but for the most part the movie is perfectly capable of standing on its own. However unfortunately in doing so Episode of Stinger is a film that feels a bit too detached from the main series, rather than an extension that further develops the tight storytelling Kyuranger has displayed so far.

With Stinger and Champ going off on their own for an undisclosed period of time there was plenty of story potential for this film, the core of course being the development of Champ and Stinger from begrudging teammates to loyal partners. It was also a chance to further Scorpio’s back story, a character who immediately made an impression (both thanks to a terrifying suit design and a brilliant performance from Yuki Kubota) but whose tenure on the show felt all too brief. The fact that out of all twelve Kyurangers it was Stinger who was chosen to be the star of a solo movie also adds some credence to this. Although the film does both of these things to some extent, they’re background to a story that doesn’t really add much to the bigger picture.

Stinger & MikaThe human Kyurangers

That isn’t to say Episode of Stinger’s story isn’t well told though. In typical V-cinema fashion it’s considerably more violent than your average Super Sentai episode or movie, complete with stabbings, murder and our heroes standing in a field of fresh graves. Its brutality isn’t just visual either, with heavy topics like discrimination and xenophobia playing a huge part in Mika’s turn to the dark side. Given that Kyuranger’s entire premise is based around the subjugation of the entire universe these themes don’t feel at all out place, but you can still feel there was the aim of tackling something a little deeper. The tragedy of Mika is a simple yet effective one, illustrating just how cruel and sadistic Jark Matter will be as well as making a great villain one-off villain out of Thunderbird. The obligatory toy-shilling, another hallmark of a Toei V-cinema, doesn’t feel quite as heavy compared to its Kamen Rider contemporaries either. There’s an exclusive Kyutama with an exclusive power-up, but it’s nothing especially elaborate so just sits comfortably alongside Kyuranger’s other mostly-forgotten powers (anyone remember the Pegasus armour?). As such, it’s reappearance in episode 39 comes as quite the surprise.

With all this to praise, it feels odd that Episode of Stinger feels so underwhelming at the same time. It’s true that Kyuranger as a series should be able to operate perfectly fine without the additional knowledge gained from this film, but what’s presented here doesn’t really feel like it adds to it either. Everything that’s established here can already be drawn from the Scorpio arc, where’s it’s done with far more pathos. The development of Champ and Stinger’s relationship just treads similar ground to what’s been done before, while Scorpio himself is sectioned off to a few brief, if effective, flashbacks. At a stretch you could perhaps perceive it as further evidence as to why Stinger continued to believe there was some good left in his brother right until the bitter end, but the fact they were family was more than enough to justify that anyway.

Stinger doing the explosion walkScorpio

Even if you wanted to sideline the Scorpio element of Stinger’s story for a moment, there’s still plenty more that could have been told. His initial stand against the team all in the name of being an undercover agent seems all but forgotten about now, but seeing his journey to becoming a Kyuranger following Scorpio’s betrayal could have made a fantastic alternative to this.

The final element which could be a positive or a negative depending on how you look at it is the notion that the film was partly made just made to give Stinger’s actor Yosuke Kishi show off the fact that he’s also a singer. Something the show itself has hinted at, but never properly displayed. Episode of Stinger however doesn’t just have Kishi sing the theme song, it also has him sing it at multiple intervals – one of which is done music video-style as the main story continues. It’s not a bad song by any stretch of the imagination and Kishi certainly can sing, but it does take you a little bit out of the moment to see Stinger singing his heart out in a smoky black room as Mika completely submits herself to Jark Matter.

Yosuki Kishi croonsMika goes full monster

All in all Uchu Sentai Kyuranger: Episode of Stinger is a nice little supplement to the main story, but fails to capitalise on the potential or momentum that the series itself has generated. Even if its story is relatively well told, of all the directions a Stinger solo movie could have gone this one is lacking in substance. Fans of Stinger and Champ will undoubtedly get a kick out of it and it’s great to see Yosuke Kishi have a chance to properly show off his singing voice in Kyuranger, but it’s unlikely to be a film you’ll want to revisit again after one viewing. But on the other hand, if this is just the beginning in a trend of individually-focused Super Sentai movies then there could be far weaker foundations to build upon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I actually do remember the Pegasus armor. Apparently a DX Pegasus Kyutama did get made, but you could only get it as part of a campaign. There was only 1000 of those things produced if I recall correctly.