Sunday 12 November 2023

SPECIAL Review: Avataro Sentai Donbrothers vs. Avataro Sentai Donburis

Avataro Sentai Donbrothers vs. Avataro Sentai Donburis

While Ohsama Sentai King-Ohger may be in full swing, you can never keep a good Super Sentai series down - and if any series isn't going to stay down, it's Avataro Sentai Donbrothers. The success of the Toei Tokusatsu Fanclub streaming service has allowed shows to stick around longer than ever before, and given its penchant for comedy arguably there isn't a better place for the 36th Super Sentai series. Taro, Haruka, Shinichi, Tsubasa, Tsuyoshi, Jiro and the gang return once more in Avataro Sentai Donbrothers vs. Avataro Sentai Donburis - a one-off special originally coined as a hoax during the press conference for the main series. Series head writer Toshiki Inoue did not return to pen the special, with it instead written by Ayumi Shimo (Hero Mama League) and directed by Hirofumi Fukuzawa.

Taro tries Sonoi's new menuMr A La Carte

After experiencing Sonoi's newest culinary creation "the Oden Don", Momoi Taro has an epiphany - every dish in the world could be made better by being turned into a bowl of donburi! To complete this task he employs the help of the other Donbrothers, but faces opposition from Mr A La Carte - a man who looks identical to Sonoi and has different ideas about how food should be presented. To settle things once and for all, Taro challenges him to a duel - vowing to create the ultimate donburi.

Meanwhile Haruka discovers a mysterious love letter, and begins her own investigation into who may potentially harbour feelings for her. Could it be one of the Donbrothers, her master Kaito, or someone else entirely? 

Haruka discovers a letterAvataro Sentai Donburis!

Avataro Sentai Donbrothers has always been rather odd to day the least, but with Avataro Sentai Donbrothers vs. Avataro Sentai Donburis we see the show fully freed from the shackles of things such as 'plot' and truly go all out on a surreal comedy adventure. Though the special may comfortably be set in the lead up to the show's finale, there's very little here that's meant to enhance the main series in any way. Instead it's just an excuse to bring the whole gang back together again to provide some more off the wall comedy, as well as undoubtedly make the viewer hungry for some Japanese food in the process. This really is Donbrothers firing off on all cylinders with its stranger aspects. If you aren't already behind Donbrothers' distinct sense of humour then this special will do you no favours.

Whereas many Toei Tokusastsu Fanclub specials inevitably have something to sell you, outside of a surprise power-up for Jiro it's amazing how character-driven this special is. While there is of course some suit action right at the very end, the majority of the runtime features the Donbrothers out of suit on their quest to create the ultimate Donburi. Even when it is headed towards its heated climax, the jokes are still coming in as the "Avataro Sentai Donburis" make their debut - complete with own unique roll call. It's absurd, but by that point it really does feel like anything goes here.

The ultimate DonburiGoldon Dragoku

Truthfully though, the characters is exactly where Donbrothers strengths have always lied. Even in the main series itself the suit action didn't feel tantamount to everything else going on, and the stranger the situation the more these characters seemed to thrive. Anywhere else getting Yuya Tominaga to play two visually identical characters might feel cheap (and in essence that's what a lot of these TTFC specials have to be), but here it's very much part of the joke and he excels just as much as playing the over the top Mr A La Carte. Even though there isn't a great deal of time for narrative so some characters only get a limited amount of time/exposure, nearly everyone is here in this special and it makes sure that everyone gets at least one memorable joke out of it.

It isn't all food-orientated nonsense though, as Haruka's also on the case of finding out who she thinks is about to confess to her. It's a nice little subplot that gives her something more substantial to do in the special, as well as feeds into her own delusions that the confession letter she finds just has to be about her. With so much of Donbrothers taking place from her point of view anyway, it's a good way of bringing it back to who many people would probably consider the central character of the series. As well as ensuring she gets plenty of inner monologues and fourth-wall breaking moments, which are things the character has always thrived on.

True Rival vs True HeroHaruka reacts

This little sub-plot also leads to one of the more interesting aspects of the special - the introduction of a Donbrothers version of Stacy as the "True Rival". Not only does it make sense given that this version of Kaito is known as the True Hero, but seeing a more animated version of Stacy alongside the stoic Kaito is a brilliant flip of their dynamic in Zenkaiger. The pair only have two scenes together in the special, but with Kaito already stealing every scene in the main series it's a given that alongside Stacy the pair are the highlight of the whole thing. Their involvement in this subplot and its conclusion is very much for the fans too, and it's very hard not to crack a smile at its revelations and implications. 

Avataro Sentai Donbrothers has always thrived on the surreal, but Avataro Sentai Donbrothers vs Avataro Sentai Donburis takes it to a whole new level. 25-minutes of laugh-out-loud insanity with little rhyme or reason, this special is exactly the kind of thing you'd expect to find right at home on the Toei Tokusatsu Fanclub. Although Shimo doesn't quite capture the same energy Inoue brought to the series, it certainly doesn't feel that far off and at the very least it's a joy to see the cast again. Throw in those Kaito/Stacey shenanigans and you end up with a special that just has to be seen to be believed. Avataro Sentai Donbrothers is truly a force of nature, one of which we are unlikely to see again any time soon.

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