Tuesday 10 August 2021

Special REVIEW: Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger Special Chapter: Memory of Soulmates

Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger Special Chapter: Memory of Soulmates

With the COVID-19 pandemic throwing everything into disarray the usually predictable format of tokusatsu movie releases went out the window, and after a few months of uncertainty Super Sentai broke free from its usual double-billing with Kamen Rider to headline its own Super Sentai Movie Ranger 2021 triple-bill in February 2021. As well as featuring both the delayed arrival of the Kiramager summer movie Bebop Dream and the onscreen debut of the Kikai Sentai Zenkaiger, the lineup also featured the return of the 38th Super Sentai team in Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger Special Chapter: Memory of Soulmates - a brand new short film dedicated to the memory of Ui Tatsu's actress Mana Kinjo.

Kleon attacksNada approaches Bamba

Set directly between episodes 32 and 33 of the series, the Ryusoulgers have managed to free Nada from the Gaisoulg armour. Upon joining the team, he turns to Banba and Dimevolcano in an effort to become stronger. Elsewhere, Wiserue and Kleon are hatching their latest Minosaur scheme - resulting in the Ryusoulgers losing their ability to transform!

With more and more civilians becoming consumed by hatred, the Ryusoulgers spring into action even without their powers. But why has this Minosaur turned into a human rather than a monster? And what is the meaning behind her repetition of the phrase "Can't change"?

Minosaur MaikoWiserue returns

On the surface Memory of Soulmates comes across as a bit of a strange special. At only 15 minutes long it doesn't really have time to develop much of a story, doesn't have its own unique monster, only features one transformed ranger and neatly slots between two episodes rather than acting as a proper epilogue to the series. It isn't really the kind of thing Super Sentai has ever properly set the precedent to do in the past, making its arrival at a time when normality is completely up in the air all the more of an oddity. But as you quickly settle into this fleeting special, it quickly dawns upon you what this is first and foremost - a reunion. There's no big statement to be made here, no loose ends to tie up - it's just a chance to see these characters for one last time. While there'll always be the argument that more could have been done with it (Super Sentai Returns movies have been a thing for a while after all, even if they aren't as regular as Kamen Rider ones), Memory of Soulmates sets out to be a nice time with old friends and delivers just that.

But curiously the special isn't just about reminiscing about old times, it's also a glance at what could have been. In episode 32 Nada was finally freed of the Gaisoulg armour's possession and seemed on track to join the team on a more semi-permanent basis, until his death in the following episode put a swift end to that notion. Set between those two pivotal points in the story, Memory of Soulmates offers a fleeting look at what it might have been like with Nada as the seventh Ryusoulger. Here we get to see his attempts to get stronger, use Gaisoulg's powers to the team's advantage and express his vulnerability now that the armour has been significantly depowered. Best of all though is the interactions we get to see with the rest of the team, particularly how the light-hearted Nada plays off against the more stoic Banba. Ryusoulger wasn't without humorous moments, but there's a certain light-heartedness Nada brings to the team that is unfortunate we didn't get to see more of.

The Gaisoulg KeyRyusoul Red

Outside of that though, Memory of Soulmates really is a pretty straightforward affair. Although the effect of the Ryusoulgers being unable to transform creates an interesting premise, there's not really any specifics to Wiserue's latest scheme nor is the resolution particularly extravagant. With no new (or even reused) Minosaur and minimal ranger footage it's much less about how it looks onscreen, and more about how this short special manages to connect to things. The little we see of Nada using the Gaisoulg key to absorb the hatred from the Minosaur's victims is a nice touch, as is the way the resolution immediately leads into the ping pong events of episode 33. None of this essential content or necessary expansion, but again it's nice just to be in the company of old friends again. Maiko is a fun if limited victim of the week, especially with the typically predictable (but still hilarious) response to Canalo's advances at the end of the story.

Though the film is dedicated to the memory of Mana Kinjo it sadly doesn't have anything to offer in the way of additional Ui Tatsui content or tributes, likely due to the special being filmed before her death in December 2020. We do however see the footage of the Ryusoulgers and friends playing ping pong from episode 34 over the closing credits, which is a touching moment in itself – reminding us of better times when they were all together. Thankfully the subsequent Mashin Sentai Kiramager vs Ryusoulger movie was able to pay tribute to her in a slightly more direct manner.

Canalo and MaikoA typical ending

Realistically Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger Special Chapter: Memory of Soulmates isn't anything substantial, but with the series long finished by this point it begs the question of whether it really needed to be in the first place. This is just a chance to reunite with old friends, as well as perhaps take a glimpse at the Ryusoulger that could have been had the story not gone off in a different direction. As an individual film it may not amount to much, but as part of a triple bill it would actually work rather nicely.

No comments: