Saturday 9 November 2019

Movie REVIEW: Lupinranger vs Patranger vs Kyuranger

Lupinranger vs Patranger vs Kyuranger

When an Uchu Sentai Kyuranger and Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger crossover film was passed on last year in favour of the second Space Squad instalment, some fans thought the worst about the future of the Super Sentai franchise's annual tradition. However some traditions don't die so easily, so of course the Versus Series returned in 2019 in triple-threat format with Lupinranger vs Patranger vs Kyuranger. This V-Cinema (now known as V-Cinext) release brings the Kyurangers out of their parallel universe once more, this time teaming up with the rivalrous teams of Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger vs Keisatsu Sentai Patranger – together with a few more surprises along the way.

An unprofessional kidnapping leads to an evil plot spanning parallel universes, as the Kyurangers arrive in the midst of fight against the Ganglers on the hunt for Don Akage – a surviving member of Jark Matter and Don Armage's body double. As the Lupinrangers work alongside fellow thieves Balance and Naga, Lucky has his own problems when he's taken into custody by the Global Police!

With Don Akage's plan tipped to make him nearly unstoppable, the three Super Sentai must combine their powers to defeat him and uphold peace in a universe that hasn't been ravaged by Jark Matter.

Marking just where in their respective series these crossover films take place can always feel a little tricky, but with Lupinranger vs Patranger vs Kyuranger coming particularly some time after the show's conclusion (the film received a theatrical release in May, followed by a home video release in August), for some it might feel more out of place than ever. Based on the fact the Lupinrangers' identity is still a secret it's easy to place it just before the final arc in regards to their timeline, but as for the Kyurangers it seems to take place before the two year time skip shown in the series' epilogue. This is based on the fact that the Kyurangers are still operating as a full unit, rather than reuniting again after going off in their separate directions we saw at the end of the series. This sadly means no references to the events of Kyuranger vs Space Squad, although with the events of the in-show crossover with Gavan and the Dekarangers being canon the film can comfortably skip over any long-winded explanations of parallel universes. But as disappointing as the loss of wider Super Sentai connectivity may be, there is something comforting about seeing the Kyurangers characters slip back into as they were on the show itself.

Although the film takes place in the world of Lupinranger vs Patranger the plot is almost entirely Kyuranger focused, with the LuPat elements there mainly to tie things altogether and remind the audience that this is indeed a crossover film. So while it does indeed feature both a Gangler and pieces of the Lupin Collection, but are ancillary additions at best and the story would continue to function without them. This is actually okay though, as a Kyuranger epilogue offers much stronger story potential for a self-contained film. Additionally the main strengths of LuPat don’t lie in its story, they lie in its characters - and despite the notably larger cast the film has to work with it seems to know just how to use them.

Splitting the Kyuranger team down into more manageable chunks was absolutely the right decision to make, and though it means some of the team (namely Sho, Raptor, Champ and Kotaro) play a much smaller role it does allow for more interesting interactions that relate to the growth of both the Lupinrangers and Patrangers. Through meeting Balance and Naga the Lupinrangers learn more about the notion of heroic thieves, while the Patrangers get to have some fun with Lucky and Tsurugi. The cast of all three teams are at their very best in the film (even amongst the near constant repetition of various catchphrases), but again it’s Keichiiro that really continues to shine. What started out as a rash, hot-headed performance has evolved into something much more subtle - retaining all that stubborn energy that makes the character work so well in comedy scenes but also far more reflective of everyone around him. It’s just a shame that the show itself wasn’t able to do him more justice.

At only 54 minutes long there isn’t enough time to work in a particularly detailed plot, so the film keeps it nice and simple. Don Arkage might just be a slightly altered recolour of his predecessor, but him being a literal body double of Don Armage puts a nice in-canon spin on the obvious suit reuse. It’s also nice to see minor Kyuranger characters like Hoshi Minato again, if only because Hiroya Matsumoto is such a joy on screen no matter which Super Sentai character he’s playing. One of the big draws of the trailers was also seeing the Lupinrangers use the Patranger powers, which as brief as it may be in the film highlights in the difference in their fighting styles rather nicely. Sadly we don't get to see the reverse, but then again the Patranger cast being overlooked is nothing new either.

The basic story beats are just there to pave the way for the big finale battle, which in typical Super Sentai Versus Series style is a barrage of lengthy role calls, colourful explosions and unique formations. At this point in time there aren't any toys to shill for either series so there's no focus on any specific weapon or power up, so instead what we get is a "greatest hits" pieces that shows all the best parts of the teams' fighting styles and arsenals. It's a shame that the mecha battles for the Vs Series films tend to only feature the latest team's mecha these days rather than from all parties (possibly due to suit degredation?), but it is nice to see the seldom seem Good Cool Kaiser VSX in all it's monstrous CGI glory. While it'll never replace the technical skill of miniatures and suit choreography, the kind of fast paced finale CGI allows for feels more appropriate here after the focus has been on the rangers themselves.

For those still sad about the unfair shafting of the Zyuohgers though, fear not as the film also features a surprise cameo in the form of Zyuoh TheWorld himself, Misao Mondou! Possibly the strangest moment in the film, this appearance comes completely out of nowhere and is over just as fast, with Misao himself not feeling particularly in character either. It's all very odd, but even so still manages to be the biggest laugh of the entire film. Much like how Misao turns up at the final battle out of the blue, it's amusing to imagine Naoki Kunishima loves the character so much that he just rocked up on set one day and the director just let him do his thing. Almost certainly not the case, but it's nice to dream.

Lupinranger vs Patranger vs Kyuranger isn't a revolutionary film by any means, but it still manages to tick all the boxes on what makes a great Super Sentai crossover. Despite working with a rather large cast it manages to juggle them all well for the most part, bringing out the strengths of both the Lupinrangers and Patrangers in their interactions with this additional team. The plot is basic but straightforward enough to be told satisfactorily in just under an hour, and though on the whole it's relatively light on the LuPat elements there's enough there to make them feel properly intertwined. Though it might not technically come at the end of Lupinranger vs Patranger, it definitely qualifies as a great endcap to a somewhat troubled series.

1 comment:

M said...

If you want a little diversity in Tokusatsu, I highly recommend that you watch Chouseishin Trilogy (Gransazer/Justirisers/Sazer-X), Madan Senki Ryukendo and Changerion. They are underrated shows that deserved more praise and it´s a nice break from watching Kamen Rider/Sentai/Ultra Series.