Saturday 11 March 2023

First Impressions: Ohsama Sentai King-Ohger

Ohsama Sentai King-Ohger

Of all the motifs Super Sentai hasn't used so far in its 48-year run, insects has proven time and time again to be a particular popular one among fans. On the one hand it makes sense the franchise hasn't adopted it yet - Kamen Rider is the one that's always been more closely associated with insects (despite having branched into many other things over the years), and Metal Heroes entries like Juuko B-Fighter and B-Fighter Kabuto are considered similarly iconic. But at long last the insect-themed Sentai we've all dreamed of has finally arrived as its 47th series - Ohsama Sentai King-Ohger! The series will be written by Minato Takano - a newcomer for Super Sentai best known for working under Yuya Takahashi on his various Kamen Rider series. He is joined by Kazuya Kamihoriuchi, Jun Watanabe and Hiroshi Butsuda as the main, action and SFX directors respectively.

The cast of King-OhgerThe Kings meet

A long time ago, five heroes and the guardian spirit King-Ohger defeated the Burnarok and saved humanity. The heroes became kings, and with the five Shugods went on to create kingdoms. However there is a prophecy that after 2000 years of slumber, the Bugnarok will return to threaten Terra once more.

In the prophesied year, the five kings gather in Shugoddom to prepare for the invasion, however disagreement between Shuggodom's Racles Hastie and N'kosopa's Yanma Gust causes friction among them. As the Bugnarok launch their attack, Racles' true motives are revealed - leading an orphan named Gira to take his place as the hero that Shuggodom needs.

The Bugnarok attackGira transforms

While the premiere episode of Ohsama Sentai King-Ohger doesn't give a whole lot away in terms of the full team and the dynamic they'll share, it has quite a lot to offer when it comes to world building. The opening narrative alone sets up a very distinct storybook vibe, while the idea of five heroes saving the world in past feels immediately reminiscent of the likes of ZyurangerGingaman and Ryusoulger. This is only heightened when we first lay eyes upon the five kingdoms, which sees Toei putting all their energy (and budget!) into creating some unique locations. The use of LED screens for the kingdoms is a new innovation for the franchise (certainly to this extent at least), and if the show can keep it up it'll definitely make for a more unique looking show that doesn't always have to fall back on the same filming locations time and time again.

The brief introductions we get to the King-Ohgers are enough to gauge their personalities, but it's pleasing to see that properly introducing them will be drawn out for the first few episodes - it's always better for individual character and overall team development. From the little we do see it's already apparent that there are some tropes in there (the aloof Blue) but also some interesting character types as well. Himeno Ran/Kamakiri Ohger being billed as a "selfish Queen" definitely has some real story potential, and the show getting some potential non-binary rep in Rita Kanisuka/Papillon Ohger is definitely a big step forward. Those two, along with Kaguragi Dibousuki/Hachi Ohger also make their transformed debuts in this episode, and while the action sequences are relatively short they're certainly enough to leave a good first impression.

King RaclesKamakiri Ohger

Instead this episode is all about introducing Gira, who will be joining the team as red ranger Kuwagata Ohger. Unlike the others Gira doesn't come from royalty, instead standing up to Shuggodon's tyrannical leader. While not necessarily an original idea, it'll certainly add a bit more nuance to eventual team dynamic - with Gira coming in with a perspective that the other kings won't necessarily have. On top of that it adds a really good layer to the Shuggodon world-building, with Gira being branded as a traitor to the kingdom at the end of the episode rather than its hero. It'll be really nice if this series plays out without the lowly orphan being revealed as royalty all along, but without anything to base it on other than tropes that definitely feels like it could be a possibility.

Super Sentai has always looked to outside sources for inspiration where it can, and that couldn't be more obvious with the huge Attack on Titan vibes this episode is giving off with the Bugnarok attack. To be fair it's a pretty iconic scene to steal from, and the sight of these giant monsters laying waste to Shuggodon is certainly enough to present them as a credible threat. As with other King-Ohgers we don't really get a sense of the individual Bugnarok yet, but the leaders do at least show their face so we can get a peek at their designs. On first impressions alone this looks like another win for the Super Sentai monster design department.

Toei goes LEDAttack on Shuggodon

Once Gira takes up the mantle of Kuwagata Ohger, the episode climaxes with one hell of a mecha fight. The DX King-Ohger toy is already turning heads as the most articulated Super Sentai mecha to date and onscreen it's proving to be just as impressive. From the dazzling multi-part transformation/combination sequence to the marvellous use of perspective and miniature sets (the buildings of Shuggodon giving off an almost fairytale vibe), this is exactly how you gear up hype for your series. The show's cockpit footage is also especially impressive, with each King-Ohger attaching themselves to giant mechanical frames to control their respective Shugod's movement. It's both flashy and intricate, and quite unlike anything Super Sentai has done for its cockpits before which makes it all the more special.

Inside the King-Ohger cockpitOhsama Gattai King-Ohger!

With solid world-building and some truly incredible mecha action Ohsama Sentai King-Ohger has gotten off to a pretty good start. From this first episode alone you get a good sense of what this series wants to be, as well as the level of imagination Toei are putting into it with the fantastical CGI kingdoms. That all said, after a few years of unorthodox Super Sentai series King-Ohger feels a lot more familiar - which in no way should be taken a slight against the series but admittedly didn't immediately lure me in the same way Zenkaiger and Donbrothers did. One episode is very early days though, so I am excited to see how the story progresses as the team are fully formed. There's no reason why 2023 can't be another fantastic year for Super Sentai.

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