Friday 22 July 2022

Movie REVIEW: Kikai Sentai Zenkaiger vs Kiramager vs Senpaiger

Kikai Sentai Zenkaiger vs Kiramager vs Senpaiger

As if a Super Sentai anniversary series isn't special enough, the versus movie that (usually) follows is an excuse to do something extra special – and the franchise's 40th anniversary is no exception. This year the Kikai Sentai Zenkaiger met predecessors Mashin Sentai Kiramager, and brought a few extra friends along with them. However Kikai Sentai Zenkaiger vs Kiramager vs Senpaiger forgoes the usual "vs Super Sentai" tagline we've seen in the past, instead choosing something a little more unique that fits the whimsical tone of the Zenkaiger universe. The 28th instalment in the VS series, the film was written by Zenkaiger main writer Junko Komura and directed by Kyohei Yamaguchi (whose Super Sentai credits include numerous episodes of both shows).

Zenkaigers in CrystalliaStacey & Mabushina

Following their victory over the Tojitend, the Zenkaigers continue their exploration of the multiverse – visiting Takamichi in Kirameitopia's Crystallia along the way. Returning home to Zenkaitopia they meet up with Stacey and Mabushina, who explains that they are looking to collect the four Kanema Stones in order to create a bridge between their two worlds. Meanwhile the Kiramagers have been sent to Gokaitopia, in order to retrieve one of the stones taken by a pirate Sentai.

But as Lupin Red appears and steals one of the stones from Mabushina, an evil plan is revealed. The real Mabushina has been kidnapped, replaced by the Kitsunetopia scientist Dr. Iokai. With Bokkowaus' illegitimate son Potdeus returning to lead the Tojitend Dynasty alongside Iokai, the Kiramagers and Zenkaigers must work together to retrieve all the stones before them.

The Kiramagers meet Captain MarvelousPotdeus

Right off the bat Zenkaiger and Kiramager feel like the perfect combination for a crossover movie. On top of both being great shows in their own right, both exude the spirit of the Super Sentai franchise – Kiramager in a more traditional, straightforward sense whilst Zenkaiger builds upon that with a knowledge and love of the wider franchise. A penchant for the zanier side of things is another thing they have in common, and its in this respect that they're a match made in heaven. If this film had to have a proper "versus" element to it, of course it would be something as ridiculous as a yakiniku eating competition. As such the two teams gel together very well, and although arguably it’s the Zenkaigers (and their setting) leading the story focus on the teams is pretty equally shared and elements from Kiramager remain key parts of the plot. Similarly it doesn't really feel like certain characters outshine others – there's perhaps a bit more Kaito and Juuru focus, but only as much as to be expected.

It isn't just the main teams that stand out in the film either, with Stacey really shining too now that's he's reached the end of his development over the course of Zenkaiger. This firm fan-favourite already had some spectacular moments throughout the series, but there's just something overwhelmingly charming about seeing him becoming a force for positive change in Kikaitopia and, more significantly, happy. Ryo Sekoguchi sells this evolution so well through his mannerisms, such as his little smile when he's reunited with Kaito. Mabushina is also a lot of fun here, perhaps both because of and despite her acknowledgement that she "tends to get captured a lot".

The Zenkaiger and Kiramager Yakiniku PartyYakiniku World & Dr. Iokai

Villains can easily be a weak point of these films, particularly since they're usually brand-new characters that only have tangential relation to the (usually long dead) main villains from the series. In many ways that hasn't really changed here, but the introduction of Dr. Iokai and Potdeus do tie nicely into the mindset of both Zenkaiger and Kiramager. It less about the characters themselves (because really there isn't much to say, fitting as they may be), and more about how the twists they present in the story work and how the heroes react to them. On top of the two main villains we also get a wonderfully silly monster in Yakiniku World, who kicks off some of the film's silliest moments which in turn help solidify that great Zenkaiger/Kiramager dynamic.

As wonderful as character dynamics between the starring teams are, arguably it's the Senpaiger element of the film that's going to appeal to a lot of fans. In the past previous "Vs Super Sentai" movies have featured rangers from a variety of past teams and this is no exception, though the focus falls on two veterans in particular. The first of which is Captain Marvelous, whose inclusion in the film might not be vital to the plot but it does bring about something Zenkaiger was long overdue – a matchup between him and the World Pirates. The Kiramagers mistaking him for Twokaizer is already a great setup, but its evolution into Marvelous facing off against his "rip-off" is a lot of fun. The two pirates naturally butt heads because their so similar in their (loveable) standoffish-ness, but touches like Marvelous' visible confusion at Zox's transformation sequence are great for highlighting the differences between the two. Comparatively Kairi feels a bit more integrated into the main story, with his initial stealing of a Kanema Stone revealing the villains. That said it might have been nice to have him interact a little more with the main cast, since his role here is mainly to suddenly steal things and show up for the final battle. 

Kairi ReturnsGokai Red vs Twokaizer

The rest of the "Senpaiger" are made up of all of the post-Gokaiger red rangers, which makes sense given they haven't had this kind of spotlight in an anniversary film. Sadly though their role is entirely reduced to in-suit fighting and recycled voice clips, with Marvelous rounding them up to appear in the final battle. Compared to previous "Vs Super Sentai" movies picking characters across a variety of different series and colours it’s a little disappointing, as it doesn't feel all that different to the all-Red appearance in Super Hero Senki (or even the kind of thing Zenkaiger did on a regular basis). It's special enough to be seen as an anniversary element, but not so much that it's a standout element of the film. 

But despite this slight disappointment the climax of the film certainly isn't without its charm, as it is nice to see the returning Senpaiger regardless amongst all the usual versus film shenanigans. As was the case with their personalities the Zenkaigers and Kiramagers work together wonderfully in battle, which really helps the sequence stand out because visually these Mt. Iwafune climaxes tend to blend into each other after a while. The merging of the two shows' super modes into the Kirameki Zenkaiju Gear is simple but effective, though it is a shame that Kiramei Red at the very least couldn’t join Zenkaizer and Twokaizer for the final attack moment. 

The SenpaigerKirameki Zenkaiju Gear!

Kikai Sentai Zenkaiger vs Kiramager vs Senpaiger is another joyous entry in the Super Sentai Versus series – one that admittedly doesn't play up the anniversary element as much as it could but instead plays to the strengths of both its starring teams. Junko Komura is a writer who knows how to have fun with her characters, and fun is exactly what this film is. Though there is perhaps the lingering sense that the film could have perhaps done more in certain areas, it's hard to imagine watching this film and not having a smile on your face the entire way through.


rogerph2015 said...

I personally hate this Sentai Team-up movie because of too many missed opportunities. And it happened during the COVID-19 Pandemic! The other Super Sentai Actors and Actresses from the Showa and Heisei Eras were either prevented from entering Toei Studios and/or isolated bubble shooting locations or were scared to go out for fear that it would another Rio Komiya and Takuya Sato virus incidents. A few of them were in Fukuoka for Dogengers High School. Also, neither 34 other Red Sentai Warriors nor AkaRed had also returned. And no Tarou Momoi/Don Momotarou cameo either.
Overall rating: 1/5
Still, nothing beats the Gokaiger Goseiger Super Sentai 199 Hero Great Battle of 2011!!!

Valerie Rieta said...

For me, the cast is incomplete. Originally, Muryou Hakataminami and Mizuki Kakihara from Kiramager were supposed to return in this team-up movie. Unfortunately for Pikotaro (who was COVID-19 Positive at that time) and Mizuki Saiba, Toei did not allow them to enter because of the crowd number limits restrictions. Except for Bechats, no Yodonheim Army members (Yodonna, Garza and Carantula (4/5 good or 1/5 evil)) were returning either. As well as other actors and actresses. And the ending song is so horrible! Nippon Coliumbia could've recorded a special song for it. My rating: 0.5/5

Oar said...

I admit half the reason I want to say something is so that your comment section for this wonderful movie isn't solely occupied by a weirdo and their double accounts.

You're right on that this movie is full-force fun, and it helps that both casts from these two shows are so wonderfully energetic in their own ways. In my opinion, the whole yakiniku adventure is The reason to watch this movie, and everything else about the plot is just there to facilitate the scenario (and to give the extra guys something to do while our main casts are having fun). I especially love that the Kiramagers get to join in on Zenkaiger's routine of doing a goofy role-call.

The 'sempaiger' part really was superfluous and they probably didn't need to bother, even if like Marvelous and Kairi (and we'd get an additional TwokaiXGokai team up after this movie anyway, so that adds to the feeling that it was extra unnecessary?) Honestly, the jokes with the summons from the Zenryoku Cannon, during the climax of dealing with Yakiniku World, were way more engaging and interesting to me that the red parade during the obligatory quarry fight, so I'd say all in all, the amount of anniversary elements was already plenty sufficient before we got to that point!