Monday 12 July 2021

Movie REVIEW: Mashin Sentai Kiramager the Movie: Bebop Dream

Mashin Sentai Kiramager the Movie: Bebop Dream

Although the Super Sentai and Kamen Rider summer movies typically release side by side, the COVID-19 pandemic put a swift half to those plans happening in 2020. Both movies were delayed, eventually releasing at different times with other films from their respective times instead. Whereas Kamen Rider Zero-One the Movie: RealxTime debuted alongside Kamen Rider Saber the Movie: The Phoenix Swordsman and the Book of Ruin in December, Mashin Sentai Kiramager's movie offering was instead held off until February 2021 where it could be released as part of a special Super Sentai triple bill. Joining Mashin Sentai Kiramager the Movie: Bebop Dream for this rather unique triplet of releases were Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger Special Chapter: Memory of Soulmates and (in their onscreen debut) Kikai Sentai Zenkaiger The Movie: Red Battle! All Sentai Rally!!.

Nightmare Maestro MinjoJuuru sleeps

Juuru and Tametomo find themselves trapped in a world of dreams thanks to an evil scheme by Yodonheim's Nightmare Maestro Minjo! Mabushina and the rest of the Kiramagers enter the dream world in an attempt to save them, as well as to track down the Dream Stone - a powerful Kiramei Stone that is the source of Minjo's chaos.

Faced with weird and wonderful dream constructs, the Kiramagers battle through this world of imagination. But to find the location of the Dream Stone and defeat Minjo, they'll first have to identify just who's dream world they've entered.

Dreaming of wedding bellsDreams and imagination combine

The shorter running time of Super Sentai movies compared to their Kamen Rider counterparts has always felt like a bit of a sore spot, but after recently seeing the Kamen Rider Saber movie fumble with its restricted runtime having Kiramager the Movie clock in at around 40 minutes feels almost like luxury in comparison. That said whilst Bebop Dream certainly has a look and runtime that elevate it above an average Kiramager episode, story-wise it doesn't necessarily feel all that standout. While it may have a brand new villain who's only really around for the movie (despite making a prior cameo in the series itself), the Kiramagers' journey into dreams feels like something that could have easily worked just as well as a monster of the week plot, and it's only in having more time to play with the idea that Bebop Dream gets to stand out.

It's only really the first half of Bebop Dream that's preoccupied with this dream world setting though, splitting the team off in a number of different ways. In typical summer Super Sentai movie fashion the sixth ranger is taken out of the commission for most of this, with Takamichi getting a decent fight in with Minjo right at the beginning but then being absent for all of the weird and wonderful dream sequences. Juuru and Tametomo find themselves under Minjo's spell, while the rest of the Kiramagers (along with Mabushina) enter by alternate means. It's a nice way of telling the story over multiple fronts, although there is some crossover along the way. Even though the story can often feel Juuru-driven, it's the moments with the other characters – such as Sena and Mabushina being thrown into a King Oradin-organised wedding with Rugby Jamen, that prove the most fun. Kiramager was always at its best when it was having fun, and fun is the aspect where Bebop Dream really sparkles the most. 

Kiramei Blue attacksRugby Jamen returns

But there was definitely a lot more fun that could have been had, as many of the ideas the movie has aren't really utilised to their full potential. Minjo is the perfect example of this – a brand new Yodonheim general who just happens to also be the sister Numajo, the witch responsible for the death of Queen Mabayuine in the series itself. However this connection is barely played up at all, with the Kiramagers treating her without any fanfare at all until Mashin Zabyun just happens to bring it up towards the end of the film. Mitsu Dan plays her brilliantly as a threatening villain that's toying with the regular villains just as much as the Kiramagers (although she quickly learns that you do not want to mess with Garza), but for the most part her presence in the film doesn't feel that much difficult to your typical monster of the week.

Similarly Bebop Dream has plenty of moments that make its dream world setting a lot of fun, but there isn't really that much on offer beyond that. Even though there's the slight mystery element of just who is making the dream in the first place, most of the resolution takes place outside of the setting. Juuru's revelation that the Kiramagers are effectively invincible in a world of imagination, creating a magical paintbrush that turns every thought to reality, could have easily been this big moment that turns the tide for the final battle against Minjo but instead just comes off as another in a series of vignettes. Little things like the Kiramagers having a limited amount of time to enter the dream try add to a sense of urgency, but again don't really amount to anything in the end. On a lesser series things like this might make the whole production fall apart, but Kiramager has the strength of character to make it all work regardless. It's able to rely on smaller moments landing well enough to make the movie memorable, and even if that were to fail they always have something as insane as Muryou performing PPAP to fall back on. That's right, Bebop Dream is the place they finally went there - and it's every bit as ridiculous as you'd hope. 

Muryou performs PPAPMinjo and Remudon

The second half of the film delivers the usual more elaborate fight sequence these movies have to offer, with the six Kiramagers united against Minjo and her dark beast Remudon. If there's one thing you can always depend on a Super Sentai movie to deliver it's plenty of eye candy, and Bebop Dream continues the high standard Kiramager has already set when it comes to visuals. A big flashy warehouse district fight isn't exactly uncommon in Super Sentai but it's one of those tropes fans can often find the most comfort in, the scenery providing plenty of open space for the choreography to really go wild. Kiramager already delivered plenty in the action department, but large scale stunts such as Kiramei Blue swinging down from a raised platform to slash at enemies really give it an appropriately cinematic feel. 

 The climactic mecha fight is one final highlight, with the night time setting really letting those colourful suits shine in the best way possible. There's a fantastic sense of scale to the whole thing, but while suitably epic it's odd to see a Super Sentai movie not that preoccupied with showing off some sort of exclusivity. Usually there's some sort of new mecha or combination to highlight, but that isn't the case here – the big finisher instead simply being an alternate bazooka transformation for King Express. It's a cool idea and certainly gives the fight an explosive finale, but doesn’t feel quite as epic as seeing a new robot join the fight (even if it is usually a one-time thing). It's fair to assume this is all likely down to COVID delays, but even if you were to factor in that Zenkaiger toys would be taking over shelves by the time of release there's still one thing the movie did that it could have easily capitalised on more. During the dream world segment Juuru creates a red version of Shovel, which would have been the perfect way to introduce an all-red version of Land Mage for the movie (a red version of Mach having previously appeared in the show, albeit Fire in a different body). With Sky Mage getting to make a rare appearance in the film it would have been great to see Land Mage do the same, and a simple recolour like this would have worked nicely in both the context of the film and in the absence of a whole new toy to sell. 

Red ShovelNot your average movie-exclusive mecha

Although Mashin Sentai Kiramager the Movie: Bebop Dream has some missed opportunities it can't be overstated just how fun this film is, and sometimes that really is all you need from Super Sentai for it to be enjoyable. It's a brightly coloured story with plenty of imagination, action-packed fights and a sense of humour that never fails to bring a smile. Maybe if Kiramager as a whole wasn't as strong as it is this might fare a little better alongside it, but nevertheless this is a great little one-off adventure that compliments the series nicely.

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