Monday 13 November 2023

Special REVIEW: Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger with Donbrothers

Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger with Donbrothers

If you need proof that everyone loves Avataro Sentai Donbrothers, then just look no further than the number of crossovers the team are getting. As well as meeting up with predecessors Kikai Sentai Zenkaiger and then (presumably) successors Ohsama Sentai King-Ohger in the near future, Momoi Taro and his band of companions have also crossed paths with a few other veteran Super Sentai teams as well. Much in the way Ninpuu Sentai Hurricaneger with Donbrothers was produced as a fun little prelude to Ninpuu Sentai Hurricaneger Degozaru! Shushuuto 20th Anniversary, the team also getting to show off their dino guts in Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger with Donbrothers – a Toei Tokusatsu Fanclub prequel to Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger 20th: The Unforgivable Abare.

Haruka and Shinichi meet the AbarangersRyouga and Haruka

After briefly leaving Shinichi in charge of Café Donbura, Haruka returns to find a stranger cooking curry in the kitchen whilst another two people tend to an injured Shinichi. The strangers introduce themselves as Ryouga, Yukito and Emiri of the Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger, and after briefly hearing of their adventures 20 years ago the two Donbrothers are shocked to find a Super Sentai Red that's cheery and doesn't beat his own teammates.

Chiropractor Yukito explains that the pair have numerous untreated injuries from their battles, and while he offers to treat them Shinichi comes to the realisation that Momoi Taro is the source of his pain – and the only way to stop it permanently is to surpass him! Shinichi then rushes off to prove himself in battle, with the Abarangers in tow! 

Shinichi has an epiphanyDon Momotaro vs Saru Brother

Although the Hurricaneger crossover had provided Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger with Donbrothers with the perfect template for a 15-minute anniversary movie tie-in, it's surprising to find that it doesn't actually fall into the same pitfalls as its predecessor. While its existence may be tied entirely to The Unforgiveable Abare, truthfully there's actually very little lead-in to be found here. In fact the only real tease for the movie comes at the very end of the special, with the rest of it solely relying on the dynamic between the two (fractions of) teams. While there are flashbacks to the Abarangers' past adventures in the form of archive footage, it's much less a recap of their story and more just a reminder. It walks the perfect line between appeasing both new and existing fans – giving enough information to satisfy the former but not so long-winded that it frustrates the latter.

With that crossover element at the forefront, both teams get a chance to shine even with the very limited runtime. It is a shame that it works with such a limited cast though, with only three characters from each series appearing. While this is less of a big deal for the Donbrothers (who are getting plenty of exposure at the moment anyway), it would have been nice if Ranru made an appearance to mirror the red/blue/yellow colour combination on either side. The special certainly isn't harmed by her absence though, with Emiri definitely picking up the slack – while she might not be an "official" member of the team, that certainly doesn’t make her feel any less important. It is quite clear that these specials were made with whatever actors Toei had free at the time though, with Momoi Taro only appearing in-suit much like he did in the Hurricaneger special. 

Yukito,  Ryouga & EmiriAbare Red & Abare Blue

The dynamic between the two teams works so well because while they share the same sort of comedic energy, it also highlights how different they are – or rather more specifically how unconventional the Donbrothers are. While the special is a nice opportunity to see Ryouga, Yukito and Emiri again it's also Haruka and Shinichi getting the hard realisation that theirs isn’t a particularly normal Super Sentai team nor is Taro a particularly normal leader. This revelation brings out some good exchanges between the two characters, as well as surprisingly putting the spotlight on Shinichi for the action sequence. Haruka of course is as much of a joy as ever, as both the character and actress Kohaku Shida really thrive when they're thrown into situations that diverge from Donbrothers' already warped sense of normality.

Just as before though it all ends with a fight sequence, solely featuring the red and blue rangers from each team. Rather surprisingly the fight isn't used as an opportunity to showcase the villains from the new Abaranger movie, instead using a new Hyogaki with suit parts cobbled together from previous Super Sentai monsters (a TTFC special speciality). Although the aesthetics of the two teams perhaps don't go together quite as well as they did with the Hurricanegers, it's still a very enjoyable sequence that again is able to create a good dynamic with both their similarities and differences. The fact the Abarangers are unable to defeat the Hitosuki themselves sets up some interesting parameters for the fight, and then in turn we get moments like Taro being interested in Ryouga's unorthodox fighting ideas whilst Yukito continues his chiropractic work on a blissfully unaware Shinichi. The little rivalry it sets between Taro and Shinichi is also a lot of fun, as is seeing Taro recognise his companions' ability through his hilarious arbitrary points system. 

Saru Brother & Abare BlueWatch the Abaranger movie and find out kids!

Much like the Hurricaneger crossover Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger with Donbrothers is just a fun little extra made whilst Toei had the two casts on hand, however this one is definitely a bit more substantial. Rather than spend too much of its limited runtime recapping Abaranger for new viewers, it instead focuses on the crossover element and is able to bring out a good dynamic between the two teams. It's a shame that more of each cast wasn't involved in the production, but then given how short it is maybe being a bit more limited was the right call to make.

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