Friday 3 May 2024

Special REVIEW: Mashin Sentai Kiramager Spin-Off: Yodonna THE FINAL

If there's any concrete proof that literally anything is on the table when comes to Toei Tokusatsu Fan Club specials, it's the fact that for some unbeknownst reason there's been not just one but FOUR Yodonna spin-off episodes. What it is about the Mashin Sentai Kiramager villainess that warrants such bizarre adult-aimed specials isn't exactly clear (though it doesn't take much to guess), but whatever it is it clearly proved popular enough for them to continue into 2024. That said, as its name suggests Mashin Sentai Kiramager Spin-Off: Yodonna THE FINAL is set to be the last in the series – rounding off her new life on Earth having now learned about human emotions.

Yodonna as a floristYodonna intercepts a bank heist

Some time after the events of Yodonna's Valentine, Yodonna is now living on Earth and has even found work at a small florist. Though her knowledge of human emotions has helped her integrate with humanity, she still hasn’t quite cracked the secret to smiling. Hoping to help her, her new employers encourage her to show kindness to those in trouble.

Suddenly Yodonna finds herself in the middle of bank heist, and then the hostage of four women performing an act of desperation after their lives have turned to hell. When the women then find themselves in danger from the Yakuza, Yodonna teaches them a valuable lesson in how to fight back and take control of their lives.

Yodonna meets her captorsTeaming up

When each Yodonna special has opened with a warning message proudly proclaiming that there are moments of extreme violence and that children should watch accompanied by an adult, they've meant every word of it. These almost felt like a bizarre experiment in pushing the lines of what's acceptable for a spin-off of a (still fairly recent) children's show – with murder, violence and scenes of a provocative nature all on the bill. While Yodonna THE FINAL has thankfully toned down some the fanservice for this final outing, it still proves to be a similarly surreal experience that poses the same question as all the others – just who is this for?

It's strange because at the beginning Yodonna THE FINAL actually has the makings of a good situational comedy that would have been right in Kiramager's wheelhouse. Yodonna can't smile, Yodonna gets involved in a bank robbery, Yodonna misunderstands the whole situation and ends up helping said robbers – it's the kind of silly mishaps you could expect a character whose main trait is making faces at the camera would get up to. But the thing about the Yodonna THE FINAL is that it barely feels connected to Kiramager anymore. For all their weirdness the first three specials still had a strong Yodonheim connection running through them. At this point that's not just gone entirely, but there isn't even Kiramager characters making cameo appearances either. Short of a few flashbacks to remind the audience of Yodonna's history and relate her experiences back to the rest of the cast, it all just feels so bizarrely detached. 

Planning the heistThe Yazuka

Instead the story quickly moves on from Yodonna's wacky adventures on Earth to a somewhat serious piece about four women driven to armed robbery after they're brought to the brink of despair. There's betrayal, heartbreak, bullying, a lot of guns being pointed at people and even attempted suicide thrown in for good measure. It's the kind of plot that make for a good movie or miniseries should any of the characters have any real time to grow beyond their base personalities and backstories, but not necessarily as a Super Sentai spin-off. That isn't to say these franchises aren't capable of more mature forms of storytelling (Kamen Rider Saber: Trio of Deep Sin is proof enough of that), but again the lack of any attachment to Kiramager (or even really anything Super Sentai  outside of Yodonna "transforming" into both her Yodonheim uniform and the new one she received in Yodonnna 2) it just feels like the character has been curiously placed in a drama series. It isn't even that not everything makes sense here - Yodonna leading these women to fight back against all the men who've taken advantage of them and relating their experiences back to her own with Emperor Yodon actually works quite well. Similarly none of the new characters (which include Kamen Saber's Mei Angela among the cast) are particularly unlikeable either. It all just comes back to the question of "who is this for?". Was there really that much demand for Yodonna fighting crimes again after the first special? Or is it just a case of writer Tete Inoue and director Koichi Sakamoto making the kind of thing they'd do outside of tokusatsu but with Yodonna as the draw?

Yodonna's words of encouragement lead the four women to choose going out in a blaze of glory – fighting back against all the people that have wronged them and "having fun in the end". In typical Yodonna fashion it's all a bit of a bloodbath, with gangsters getting shot and savagely beaten as the cast finally begin to feel like they're in control. It's not quite clear if anyone actually dies in the fight, but at the very least there's an awful lot of maiming. Even four episodes later, watching a Super Sentai villain repeatedly shooting gangsters with a handgun doesn't feel any less jarring. While the actions of the cast certainly feel justified given the situation, Yodonna teaching four strangers how to potentially murder people and that being how she learns to smile is certainly a choice of how to end her story. But if the tonal whiplash of these specials wasn't already enough for you, there's still time for Yodonna and friends to react the Kiramager ending dance as the final credits roll. 

Yodonna fires a gunMore gun pointing

Mashin Sentai Kiramager Spin-Off: Yodonna THE FINAL is one Yodonna too many. By this point any link to Kiramager is hanging on by a thread, as the specials have fully embraced whatever weird older demographic they seem to be aiming for. While Yodonna THE FINAL scores points for toning down the leery fanservice of its predecessors, the plot just feels so far removed from both Yodonna and Super Sentai as a whole that you're just left wondering what the point of all of this was. If this really is the closing chapter to Yodonna's story, then it's certainly been an interesting ride. Not necessarily a fun one, but definitely interesting.


M said...

Now that you think about it, Yodonna Valentine was the most Kiramager-like

rogerph2015 said...

So, did this Spinoff took place before, during or after Zenkaiger Vs. Kiramager Vs. Senpaiger, DonBrothers or King-Ohger? How I'd wished Toei could've create a Spinoff for Sena and Sayo, but unfortunately, Yume Shinjo was retired after this. :(

CPF said...

This is the first time I've heard you sound no confused at what you just witnessed.