Sunday 15 August 2021

Movie REVIEW: Kikai Sentai Zenkaiger the Movie: Red Battle! All Sentai Rally!!

Kikai Sentai Zenkaiger the Movie: Red Battle! All Sentai Rally!!

Once upon a time a brand new Super Sentai team would be introduced in the preceding team's Versus Series movie, but as that slowly phased out the Mashin Sentai Kiramager introduced a new way to be welcomed by audiences - their own debut mini-movie. For the 44th Super Sentai this took the form of a prequel Episode ZERO to set up the main series, but to celebrate the franchise's 45th anniversary something a little more lavish was in order. Kikai Sentai Zenkaiger the Movie: Red Battle! All Sentai Rally!! didn't just unleash the newest Super Sentai team upon the world - it also sees them face off against classic villains and team up with all 45 of the previous Red rangers. The 26-minute film was released as part of the Super Sentai Movie 2021 triple-bill - joining both Mashin Sentai Kiramager the Movie: Bebop Dream and Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger Special Chapter: Memory of Soulmates.

The 45th Super SentaiSuper Warumono World

After successfully defeating the Tojitendo forces once again, the Zenkaigers look forward to celebrating their victory with a party. However a lone foot soldier makes it back to report to the Tojitendo's command, and is punished by becoming their latest commander - Super Warumono World!

Commanding the power of past Super Sentai villains, Super Warumono World summons them to the Zenkaiger's world to cause chaos and capture the team. Facing the likes of Basco ta Jolokia, Zamigo Delma, Kyuemon Izai, Bangray and more, the Zenkaigers are going to need help from their predecessors to defeat Super Warumono World and save their world.

Basco ReturnsAkaranger

Despite being the first piece of Kikai Sentai Zenkaiger media to be released, Red Battle! All Sentai Rally!! is immediately interesting in that story-wise it isn't a prequel like Episode ZERO had been with Kiramager the year before. With Zenkaiger's series gradually introducing its cast over a number of episodes, this instead is a standalone story that could easily slot in anywhere in the show's early episodes after the team's formation. This immediately gives the film a pretty tall order to fill in its limited runtime, as not only does it need to show off the anniversary qualities it boasts with its title but also introduce audiences to the team in a manner that makes sense both to them and the story. 

Rather amazingly, the film manages to pull it off without a hitch. After a brief prologue that succinctly sets out Zenkaiger's parallel world set up, the film launches into an introductory fight that works as a technical introduction to the team as it does an explosive way to begin the story. It may for the most part be a fairly standard foot soldier fight, but it's done with that extra bit of polish the Super Sentai movie fights tend to get while neatly showing off each of the individual Zenkaigers and their unique abilities. Even if this is your first introduction to the characters (and for most Japanese fans, it would have been), it's enough to give you a good sense of who they are before you've seen them untransformed. Additionally overall the film is one of the rare times where the condensed running time actually works to its advantage, as rather that getting weighed down by a plot that it doesn't have time to properly explain it instead uses it as an opportunity to relay Zenkaiger's goofy nature and prep viewers for exactly the kind of tone the full series has.

Meet the ZenkaigersThe All Red Sentai Gear

The villains also get a similar sort of primer as well, albeit to a lesser extent. Though you don't really get much of a gauge on Barashita or Ijurude's personalities here, Bokkowaus' short temper and his weakness for anything Gege suggests immediately shines through and illustrates what the real pecking order of the Tojitendo is. Really though the real fun begins with the introduction of Super Warumono World. After Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger tackled doing a crossover/connected franchise anniversary series so well, Zenkaiger having to follow in its footsteps whilst at the same time doing its own thing was a pretty tall order. What we've seen of the series so far shows that it's doing a pretty great job of that, but that aside kicking things off with a monster based on all the previous Super Sentai villains is a pretty good starting point. It helps emphasise the parallel world setup the show has going on, and is just a really fun idea for a mini-movie in general. Gokaiger may have done a similar thing with the Combined Combatant in the Flying Ghost Ship, but it's far more memorable here.

The use of Super Warumono World also paves the way for past Super Sentai villains to make cameo appearances, spearheaded by the return of Kei Hosogai and Jingi Irie as Basco and Zamigo respectively. In terms of prominence the film is definitely weighted towards the return of some of the newer villains in the Super Sentai chronology, but that's likely more due to those suits being the ones that are actually still in reasonable quality to reuse (thank you Super Hero Taisen for making a Bio Hunter Silva cameo a possibility). That said it's a nice mix of characters included here, and each one gets their moment in the spotlight.

Villains ResurrectedTsuyoshi Kaijo, aka Akaranger

It's in the latter half of the film though that Red Battle! All Sentai Rally!! goes full anniversary, climaxing with the spectacle of seeing all 35 previous red rangers fighting alongside the Zenkaigers. As well as giving fans the now-familiar display of a legion of suit actors charging at each other, there are also plenty of little character beats for the Zenkaigers themselves - key examples being each of them having their Geartlingers returned by the respective ranger their powers are based on or Akaranger's shocked discovery that Zenkaizer isn't a red. Although all of these appearances are in-suit only, there is one all-important return on the heroes front - Makoto Naoya as the original red himself, Tsuyoshi Kaijo/Akaranger. Zenkaiger as a whole seems to be less about cameos and more about the spirit of (as well as plenty of references to) Super Sentai itself, but there's nothing that screams "anniversary" more than the return of the one that started it all and it acts as a brilliant passing of the torch to this latest band of heroes.

Kikai Sentai Zenkaiger the Movie: Red Battle! All Sentai Rally!! is the perfect introduction to the 45th Super Sentai series, and in doing so somehow manages to be the perfect Super Sentai (mini) movie as well. To overseas fans who've already seen a good chunk of the series before being able to view this it's a fun little special that embraces the more common anniversary aspects of the franchise, but imagine being a Japanese fan who had this as your first introduction to the team as well. Red Battle! All Sentai Rally!! pulls off all that anniversary charm while giving you an impactful first meeting that shows off the team nicely without giving too much away all at the same time. Most Super Sentai movies wish they could be this much fun.

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