Monday 20 May 2024

Movie REVIEW: Ohsama Sentai King-Ohger vs Donbrothers

Ohsama Sentai King-Ohger vs Donbrothers

Just after Ohsama Sentai King-Ohger threw out all expectations of what to expect from a Super Sentai series, it seems to be doing similar things with its epilogue content as well. Not just content with having one entry added into the long running VS Series of films, 2024 saw a King-Ohger double bill spectacular as they crossover over with TWO previous teams of heroes. Given their previous in-series crossover, the close story links made between the two series and Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger's 10th anniversary celebrations a proper King-Ohger vs Kyoryuger film felt inevitable, but it just wouldn't be the same without some mayhem from King-Ohger's predecessor as well. So to that end we also have Ohsama Sentai King-Ohger vs Donbrothers - bringing together the casts of both King-Ohger and Avataro Sentai Donbrothers for an adventure that will surely be anything but conventional.

Gira meets TaroMinoru Ono returns

Tragedy strikes when Momoi Taro delivers a package to Gira Husty! Choking on a kibidango, the King of Shugoddam seems to fall to his death. Taro follows shortly afterward, after being told that he may be able to find his long-lost friend Gii in Hakabata. Meanwhile, the rest of the Donbrothers' lives are interrupted once more when Minoru Ono becomes a Hitotsuki once more - transporting them all to a strange new world.

As each of the Donbrothers meet with the King-Ohgers, one by one both teams seem to fall to their deaths. Meeting in the world of the dead, the two Super Sentai teams square up for a showdown - both against the Hitotsuki and each other!

King-Ohgers vs DonbrothersOhsamaki

If there was any proof to just how popular Kyoryuger really is, they've only gone and steamrolled another Super Sentai crossover movie again ten years later. After 2014's Kyoryuger vs Go-Busters limited the role of the latter team in favour of a full Dinosaur Sentai crossover, now the Donbrothers are getting similar treatment as King-Ohger vs Kyoryuger takes precedent when it comes to runtime. Whereas Vs Kyoryuger clocks in at a respectable 42 minutes long, those looking for a feature length helping of Donbrothers will be disappointed to hear that at around 26 minutes long the film is about the length of your average episode. However there's no cause to be too disappointed with this, because King-Ohger vs Donbrothers is exceptionally good at making second count. It isn't a particularly complex film nor does it have any need to be, because whenever the Donbrothers are involved there's always going to be a certain level of silliness involved. King-Ohger itself had a penchant for silly moments too, and now free from the gravity of its second-half storyline this film presents a great opportunity to really let those comedy moments shine.

Though the writing of the film may be solely credited to King-Ohger head writer Minato Takano, it's very clear that he understands both Toshiki Inoue's sense of humour and what he created with Donbrothers. Nobody feels out of character, and despite the setting largely being in the King-Ohger universe the story and style are Donbrothers through and through. He even manages to pick up on a fair few story threads from Donbrothers here as well, such as Taro's childhood friend Jii, Ono returning to fight the Donbrothers for a fifth time and even the fate of Sonoi after Donbrothers vs Zenkaiger. There's also plenty of opportunities to link the two series together - whether it be through identifying parallels between them (such as Taro thinking of rhinoceros beetle Jii after seeing the Shugods) or building on things that have already happened (Kijino's past experience with Don King-Ohger). The idea of transporting the Donbrothers away to another world is a simple one, but works brilliantly with how on the nose it is given Haruka is of course a mangaka.

Kijino remembersRan and Rita meet Haruka and Sonoza

But what really makes the film stand out is how perfectly it captures what the dynamic between the two teams should be. Neither team particularly fit the conventional Super Sentai template, making them perfect for a crossover that actually plays up the "versus" part of the name. Though there's some good scope to play with them having initial camaraderie, both teams have the tendency to be a little on the brash side - leading to a showdown where you really get the sense that they might not like each other all that much. It also helps that some thought was put into pairing a lot of these characters off - yes some are simply colour-matched (as tends to be the case), but how their personalities will clash is also taken into account. Moments like seeing how Jeramie and Shinichi react to each others' poetry, or Hymeno and Rita get into a heated debate with Haruka and Sonoza about how to write for a target audience (another rather on the nose joke) are some of the main highlights of the film, playing the casts to their strengths rather than relying on tropes to dictate how they interact.

But in amongst all that silliness it's easy to forget that Donbrothers can have some genuinely strong messages and emotions when it wants to, even if it is regarding a character whose only childhood friend was a rhinoceros beetle that one day flew out of the window never to be seen again. When all is said and done, the show has good things to say about the way we form bonds with each other and remain connected even if we're apart - exemplified in the film's final scenes where the two teams do finally manage to put their differences aside. King-Ohger vs Donbrothers provides plenty of laughs, but the fact it's able to conjure up such emotions as well given the subject matter is quite the achievement.

Kaguragi vs JiroReuniting with Sonoi

Much of the action takes place in Hakabata, which is both a nice throwback to King-Ohger's Summer movie Adventure Heaven and a good opportunity for Toei to reuse all those background assets they have from it. Plenty has already been said about King-Ohger's visuals and it's very much the same here, with the bright trippy colours of the land of the dead fitting the tone of the film really well. With the latter half also mostly taken up by fight sequences there's also some nice choreography on show. Though perhaps not featuring anything especially standout again it's just nice to see actual fighting between the two teams treated as something of a "main event" sequence, with match-ups that also play to the characters themselves rather than simply matching colour for colour. 

And then finally to top it all off the film finds the perfect role for Zenkaizer Black, who just drops in to deliver the movie-exclusive power-up and then leaves without any explanation or elaboration. Most other Super Sentai series wouldn't get away with such a thing, but by this point the lack of explanation for Donbrothers' alternate world Kaito (as well as its sheer dedication to never addressing it) has become a significant part of the character's charm. At this point no explanation would ever be satisfying enough, so maintaining this signature piece of Donbrothers humour is the right way to go. As far as power-ups go the Don Ohger crown is a nice little crossover gimmick for the two shows, providing new forms for both reds in the form of GolDon Kuwagata Ohger and GolDon Momotaro Ohger. Despite being relatively short thanks to the limited time the film has, the fact the final fight is able to include both teams, showcase these new forms nicely and get a good few laughs in with the roll call sequence just goes to show how tight the pacing is here.

Zenkaizer BlackGolDon power ups

Though it's disappointing that Ohsama Sentai King-Ohger vs Donbrothers got the short end of the stick when it came to runtime, the movie still manages to comfortably pack in everything you'd expect from a Donbrothers crossover and more. Thin as the plot may be the absurdity of it all lends itself wonderfully to both teams, who get the rare opportunity to properly live up to the "versus" element of this film series. And even amongst all the insanity there's still time to check in on some minor plot points from both shows, linking them back well and even offering a surprisingly heartfelt ending. Though you can't help wishing there was more, what we did get was pretty damn fantastic as well.


CPF said...

So...HOW did Kyoryuranger gets the longer end of the crossover despite already getting a two part episode within the tv series of King-Ohger itself?

Alex said...

That's the power of Kyoryuger!

D-Man said...

@CPF I know, right!? I couldn't help but feel a tad irritated when Kyoryuger vs. King-Ohger was announced. Like, I get the anniversary thing and that Kyoryuger was popular but this is going too far! And don't most Sentai fans agree that Kyoryuger wasn't all that great?