Monday 9 January 2023

Movie REVIEW: Avataro Sentai Donbrothers the Movie: New First Love Hero

Avataro Sentai Donbrothers the Movie: First Love Hero

While the Kamen Rider Summer movie may take top billing with its feature length, that doesn't necessarily make the Super Sentai Summer movie any less exciting. Despite their comparatively short running time it's a chance for the series to show off what it can do with a higher budget and movie-style visuals, and when it comes to a series like Avataro Sentai Donbrothers that's sure to be an experience. Avataro Sentai Donbrothers the Movie: New First Love Hero is the first big screen outing for the 46th Super Sentai team, paired up with Kamen Rider Revice the Movie: Battle Familia to make up the 2022 Summer theatrical lineup.

Producer ReikoFilming 'New First Love Hero'

After one of their battles is seen by a film producer, the Donbrothers are scouted to star in the upcoming film "New First Love Hero"! Each member is excited at the prospect of making their big screen debut, even Taro – who doesn't think his inability to lie will have any effect on his acting skills. 

As filming for the movie goes further and further off the rails, the director invites the cast to make their own additions to the script – causing everyone to try and place themselves as the titular hero. However there's also a Hitotsuki loose on set – can the team save the day before the film wraps?

Rewriting the scriptHitotsuki Ninpuki

The premise of the cast getting involved in making a movie is something all too familiar to Super Sentai, but arguably none of them have ever gone about it the way Donbrothers does. From the very beginning New First Love Hero strives to be an exercise in demolishing the fourth wall as spectacularly as possible, with film producer Reiko explaining to our heroes that they can give up the hero gig for a little while because "that Kamen Rider will take care of it" in their absence. As it transpires the whole setup is just one big play on the fact Battle Familia would be starting up shortly after the credits, as the "New First Love Hero" film-within-a-film is supposed to be feature preceding it rather than a Donbrothers movie as such. While it might not seem too far removed from the kind of absurd plotlines the show deals with on a weekly basis anyway, there's something about the knowledge that this played out on the big screen that makes it all the more satisfying. In true Donbrothers fashion despite its silliness it still has some relevance to the overarching story too, marking the first time Haruka meets the mysterious Naoki Shiina – the manga artist who accused her of plagiarism and set effectively set the whole course of events into motion.

This ridiculous premise is a chance for the cast to be at their most absurd, and that is exactly what they do. Undoubtedly the true stars of the film are Kouhei Higuchi and Kohaku Shida as Taro and Haruka respectively, who really go the extra mile with their stints of bad acting whilst the camera is rolling. But even though the biggest laughs definitely go to them, nearly every member of the Donbrothers cast gets one big laugh here. The film-within-a-film's final scenes where each one is trying to take over as the hero is of course the highlight, showcasing each character's different personalities and how they bounce off of each other when it comes to comedy perfectly. But on top of all that the film is full of little background moments that provide just as many laughs, such as the Noto practicing their best zombie faces whilst Haruka is addressing the audience in one of the film's many moments of fourth wall breaking brilliance.

Addressing the audienceGreen screen filming

Even other aspects that usually feel like they hinder Super Sentai Summer movies, such as the obvious absence of the sixth ranger from the main story, don't feel like they hinder this one. Donbrothers has already established itself as a series where members of the main cast can pretty much come and go as they please, so when Jiro shows up only for a few minutes and then later appears to complain that they went and made a movie without him, it feels like business as usual. While Don Doragoku's fight scene does have a whiff of Inoue not quite nailing down Jiro's character quite yet, at the very least it's nice to see that he wasn't completely forgotten. With so much else going on in the film, he could have easily been left out and there'd still be enough character moments to go around.

Like most Donbrothers episodes the focus is largely on setting and comedy rather than in-suit action, but that doesn't mean New First Love Hero doesn't have plenty of that on offer too. Making movie director Kuroiwa the Hitotsuki works perfectly for the story, having his desire to create the perfect finale the ideal set up for the film's climax. While like most Hitotsuki his Ninpuki form doesn't rely on its Ninpuu Sentai Hurricaneger inspiration, but his abilities are able to show a clear reference to it whilst also fitting in with his whole director schtick. Though there's no enlarged mecha fight for the finale is there any sort of movie-exclusive power up the climax is able to get by on its entertainment factor – directly referencing both Super Sentai tropes and Donbrothers' tendency to buck tradition. Not only do we see them coaxed into a full team roll call, but we also get moments like the explosions that follow it being used as a set piece. While these things may not particularly original to Donbrothers (Power Rangers RPM is always going to be what I personally think of first when it comes to utilising explosions), but they are things that tie into its absurd brand of comedy. And while Don Onitajin will always be missed when it's not around, it's nice to be reminded of the more unique aspects of the Donbrothers' Robotaro forms.

Director KuroiwaKaito steals the show

But in amongst it all, the film is even able to have a rather surreal moment of heart. In a scene that feels almost completely disjointed from the rest of the film, we see Taro and Haruka deliver a parcel to a customer (played by Rika Kishida, who previously portrayed Kaori/White Swan in Chojin Sentai Jetman) where Taro does his usual thing of proclaiming a bond before the pair share in a crop of fresh corn. While the scene largely feels there for the obvious Inoue/Jetman throwbacks, there's an odd feel of calmness and serenity to it. Away from all the chaos, it's a reminder that in amongst his rather 'unique' personality Taro is a good guy and genuinely cares about his customers. With all of its jokes coming from the strangest of places, perhaps it's fitting that its more reserved moments come from them as well.

Donbrothers' Roll CallA Jetman cameo

Avataro Sentai Donbrothers the Movie: New First Love Hero is Donbrothers doing what Donbrothers does best – organised chaos. Absolute madness from start to finish, this is a film where the comedy comes first – pushing its cast past the point of absurdity whilst also somehow managing to have a semi-coherent plot in the process. For once running time doesn't prove to be an issue, instead allowing the story to remain tight and the joke to never wear thin. A laugh riot with its cast at their absolute best, is this the greatest Super Sentai Summer movie ever? Even if you disagree, it's certainly the most unforgettable one.

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