Sunday, June 17, 2018

Turboranger Episode 27


Mami Watanabe's first of three scripts for Turboranger. Watanabe went on to write a few episodes each for Fiveman and Jetman, but then never worked for any other toku. She did some good work, and I certainly like her Turboranger episodes; she showed promise, so it would have been interesting if she had been given more. This episode's one of my favorites of the series...

Jarmine frees a Bouma-Beast, Suzunari (Bell Ring) Bouma, a princess of her tribe. The rest of her tribe are kept prisoner, sealed within ceramic bells; Jarmine uses these bells to hold over the Bouma-Beast to get her to carry out her plan. Suzunari Bouma has the ability to, once she gains a person's trust, to execute a spell in which she can manipulate them. Jarmine wants to use her to infiltrate the Turboranger and gives her the human-looking guise of Rin. Rin's played by Hiromi Yuhara, who I've talked about before in my Black and Jetman posts. (She popped up in a ton of late '80s and early '90s toku!) She's a good performer who takes small guest roles and dives in with zest. She often gets sad or tragic characters and is easily sympathetic. (She's also good at playing villainous, even at a young age.) Meanwhile, Suzunari-Bouma is voiced by Rika Matsumoto, so we get two great guest actors bringing this character to life and making her really stand out.

Jarmine stages a scene -- conveniently near the Turboranger -- of her and Uras chasing down Rin, accusing her of treason. The Turboranger become involved and chase off the Bouma forces, taking the unconscious Rin back to Dazai to be patched up. When she comes to, and is asked what the brouhaha was all about, she says she's the last fighter of a tribe that rebelled against Ragon. Here's something that bugs me about the episode; they don't make clear if this has any truth, or if it's more of Jarmine's script. Since Rin/Suzunari is obviously being forced into this plan, with the threat to her trapped tribespeople as the motivation -- and since Suzunari begs Ragon to free her people from those bells at the beginning of the episode -- it seems to me like her story holds some truth. They needed to make it a little clearer, though, that her people were opposed to Ragon and that he's the one responsible for imprisoning them.

Youhei takes a liking to Rin and feels sorry for her for two reasons: one, because he's meant to be the one on the team with a weakness for the ladies. Two, because he's kind of mesmerized by the bells she wears. This episode starts off with the others taking notice of a bell Youhei wears on his schoolbag. He doesn't tell the others, but later only reveals to Rin that the bell is from one of his old teachers; when he was a kid, a teacher he had a crush on got married and quit her job, leaving him with this bell as a reminder of her. So, basically, this strange girl he's taken a liking to is kicking up memories of that puppy love on top of it. While the other four are suspicious of Rin -- with Shiron outright saying she's dangerous -- Youhei wants to have faith in Rin.

And while Rin might be coerced into this by Jarmine, and despite the fact that she's played by the likable Yuhara, Rin has no problem attacking Shiron when Shiron catches Rin letting her act slip, and that's very yurusan. Before anyone knows of this attack, though, Youhei whisks Rin away on his motorcycle to get her away from his suspicious pals. They reach the beach and connect, with Rin genuinely puzzled by why Youhei's being so kind to her. Eventually, she realizes that she's earned his trust, with Jarmine appearing and ordering her to manpiulate him with her magic...and she finds she can't, so she runs off. She's eventually captured by Jarmine, who punishes her for her failure to act, while also destroying some of the ceramic bells which hold her people. (Jarmine's COLD.) This causes Rin/Suzunari to not let any feelings for Youhei stop her, so she reappears and takes control of him, giving us a Blue Turbo VS Red Turbo fight, as the others try to locate and stop her.

When she's stopped by the other Turboranger, losing her control over Blue, it pisses Jarmine off so much that she shatters the last remaining bells AND kills Suzunari-Bouma, reviving her as a giant. (Watanabe really picks up on the nastiness of the Jarmine character the way Inoue did.) Blue Turbo gets pissed off and gets one of those awesome dashes-through-enemy-fire shots, making his way to strike Jarmine, but she stops him with a blast, robbing him of vengeance.

The episode ends with Youhei realizing that while Rin deceived them, she did have that moment where she refused to control Youhei, so he chooses to see that as good in her, before throwing one of her surviving bells into the sea.

A really solid episode, reminiscent of a Changeman, with great performances from Asakura, Ohmura, Kishi and guest-star Yuhara.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Turboranger Episode 26


Inoue returns with a home-run. Riki's put through the wringer this time, practically dying three times.

The episode begins with our heroes cleaning the schoolgrounds as punishment for not turning in homework. (They lament the nice day getting away from them, noting that they don't neglect homework because of goofing off, but because they're saving the world! A funny and accurate observation only Inoue would make.) They're interrupted by Nagareboshi making an announcement over the P.A. -- a challenge to a showdown for just Riki.

Riki shows up to the destination. "We settle things today, Nagareboshi," Riki announces. "After I defeat you, I'll raise a toast with a glass of your blood," Nagareboshi replies, which is one of Inoue's greatest villain lines. We get an extended battle of them fighting each other both untransformed and transformed, where Yamimaru debuts a new bunshin move, really beating the crap out of Red Turbo. The duel ends in one of those classic they-just-struck-each-other-a-big-blow-and-wait-to-see-who-falls-first scenarios out of a samurai movie. Red Turbo falls first, a huge tear and wound in his left side. Yamimaru soon falls, as well, as the four others get Red the hell out of there and back to Dazai, who informs them that if the cut had been just a centimeter deeper, Riki would be dead.

Ragon witnesses the duel from the Bouma Castle, knowing how serious Red Turbo's injury is and deciding it's the best time to strike the others. So they send the latest Bouma-Beast, who traps victims within an egg that mutates them into his offspring, to cause mayhem in the city. This is one of the best examples of Daichi actually feeling like the reliable second-in-command he's meant to be: the others are panicking about Riki, they see the Bouma-Beast causing destruction on the monitor and worry, and Daichi's strong and collected, saying like "We just gotta do our best without Riki, so shape up and ship out, guys." The monster's a tough one, though, deflecting or breaking all of their attacks and weapons and then successfully trapping all four within an egg. And so...

It's up to Riki to save the day. Riki, who's a bloody, beaten mess, with that almost-fatal gash in his side. Dazai thinks it's madness that Riki's even thinking of attempting to go and save them, but knows there's really no choice. And the episode doesn't make things easy for Riki...

He tracks down the Bouma-Beast's lair and the eggs containing his pals, but the eggs can only be broken by the crystal blade the Bouma-Beast possesses. When Riki tries to take the monster on, the monster easily beats him, stepping on his wounded abdomen and re-opening the wound. The rest of the episode is pretty much a bleeding, barely-clinging-to-life Riki on the run from the Bouma-Beast, while needing to get close enough to steal his dagger, while needing to beat the clock as his buddies are gradually mutating AND as Nagareboshi is hunting him down to finish their battle. At one point, the Bouma-Beast catches up to him and strangles him with a chain. Riki loses consciousness and would probably have died, but...a hidden Nagareboshi stops the monster by shooting him from afar. When Riki makes a getaway, and hides out in an abandoned shed, he begins to lose consciousness again, before making himself snap to at thoughts of his friends.

Riki's a pathetic, bloody mess throughout this episode. His wound soaks his entire left side, down to his tennis shoes. The villains don't let up, he's constantly being beaten. He's on the run when he can barely move. He's being targeted in multiple directions. He's racing against time. He gets knocked around, into ditches, into lakes. He's a bloody and filthy mess by the end of this episode, and I really can't think of another time a Sentai hero's looked so beat-up and awful. Kenta Sato gives a really good performance, he looks like he's in so much pain and just feels awful. (He's also giving a lot of these crazy Schwarzenegger-level "ARGHYARGHARGHYARGH" yells of pain throughout.) Not only does Riki look like he's going through Hell, but Sato sells the hell out of it. Riki just keeps pressing on, even saying to himself he won't die until he saves his friends.

After Nagareboshi knocks Riki off a cliff, thinking that's finally finished him, Jinba and the Bouma-Beast arrive to then take care of Nagareboshi, which he totally wasn't expecting. When Riki returns and transforms, placing his priority on the Bouma-Beast and obtaining his dagger, Yamimaru's *pissed* to be held back by a little skirmish with Jinba, he's really wanting to go after Red Turbo. So he lets Red Turbo know where the Bouma-Beast is weakest, allowing him to harm the monster enough to grab the dagger and go off and free his friends in the nick of time, where they make the monster pay for the pain he's caused.

Nagareboshi wants to defeat the Turboranger himself, which is why he helps Riki by sneak-attacking the Bouma-Beast and then later revealing its weakness to him. While that's kind of a play out of that cop-out Wolzard School of Villainy I often complain about -- a seemingly arbitrary excuse for our villain to let a hero off the hook when the hero's as good as dead -- I can buy it more from Yamimaru. He's not on the Bouma's side and he's against the Turboranger, so whether Jinba's plan fails or not doesn't affect him, but it certainly doesn't help him in any way. When he was so close to being rid of his enemy, only to have the Bouma jump in and easily finish the job, I think it's believable that this particular character would try to interfere and prevent it. Some people read this as the hints of Nagareboshi's redemption, but the episode doesn't present it that way to me: Nagareboshi acts just as he says; he truly wants to be the one to kill the Turboranger, and his anger and hatred of them never ceases.

If there's a weakness to the episode, I think it might be the Bouma-Beast. He looks more like a Baranoia monster. I think it would have been creepier if he had been more monstrous and beast-like, and the four other Turboranger were mutating into monsters, instead of what looks like robots from a '50s sci-fi B-movie.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Turboranger Episode 25


An episode that's going to work if you're an animal lover, but you'll probably hate and think is lame if you're not. I like animals, so I find this episode to be the cute, whimsical tale it's meant to be.

Haruna saves an injured puppy from being run over. In a Typically Toku Turn of Coinkydink, the Bouma-Beast that Jinba uses this week is based off an evil dog god, who has the ability to change humans to dogs and dogs to humans. When the Bouma-Beast comes across the recovering puppy, he's curious to find out what happened to one of his fellow dogs and gets it to communicate -- the puppy says he wants to become human and get to thank Haruna for helping him. Well, there's only one Haruna that Jinba knows, so he gets the Bouma-Beast to grant the puppy's wish and use him as bait to trap Haruna.

The dog-boy eventually meets up with Haruna and is awkward around her; I like when Shiron is shown to be watching the situation, sensing something is off about the kid, the four guys are kinda doubtful and Dazai is like "You have to trust Shiron's instincts! Get your asses out there and investigate!"

Once the dog-boy unknowingly leads Haruna into Jinba's trap, he's reverted back to being a dog. I don't mean to be mean about this kid actor, because he's FAR from being the worst kid actor in a toku show, but the scene doesn't play as sad as it should because he's wooden and just kinda going through the motions. While Haruna's in the process of being turned into a dog by the Bouma-Beast -- Kinohara again getting to display her Scream Queen screams -- the dog dashes out, looking for help, eventually leading Riki and the rest to the secret lair in time. (It's interesting that Youhei remains the skeptic of the group; he laughs at Haruna earlier when she talks to the dog, and he thinks Riki's nuts when he thinks the dog is trying to lead them to Haruna. Youhei was previously skeptical of things like the folklore of Kintaro. You'd think Daichi would be the skeptic of the group, but he's more open-minded than characters like him usually are.)

Not the most essential episode, but it's meant to be cute and it succeeds at what it's setting out to do. Look at that cute dog, c'mon. This puppy does a lot of the episode's heavy lifting.

Turboranger Episode 24


Like the previous, a fun little summer vacation adventure, lighter, kid-friendly...but it's better than the previous episode. I like it because it's just fun, action-heavy, and Namegawa Island looked like a cool, fun little place. (It's easy to say that this episode is a commercial for Namegawa Island, but they work the resort into the episode well by having the five Turboranger there on break and participating in numerous activities unique to the place. This certainly shows the resort off better than the Flashman episode set there.) Namegawa Island is a now-defunct resort that tried to replicate a tropical island experience. Playing a big part in this episode is the Polynesian dance troupe that often performed there.

Reida discovers that a coconut with a sealed Bouma-Beast has washed up on the shore of the island; the Bouma-Beast is awakened by the rhythm caused by the nearby Polynesian dancers and Reida is able to successfully break the seal. This Bouma-Beast has an entire clan similar to him sealed off in coconuts on a southern island that he and Reida want to revive. To do so, they trap vacationers into totem poles and kidnap the resort's women dancers to perform in a ritual that will awaken his comrades. (The dancing ritual makes me think of that one episode of Maskman.)

Thrown into the mix is a subplot about a kid who's vacationing with his parents, where they're teaching him how to swim; the kid's parents are among those whose essence is absorbed to be ritualistically sacrificed via the totem poles, and he's the one responsible for getting this crucial info to the Turboranger. Most of the episode is a lot of cool fight scenes -- the full Bouma forces are on the island to attack, which I don't think has happened since the premiere episode.

At one point, when the Turboranger are being prevented from reaching the site of the ritual and putting an end to it, they're motivated to keep fighting by the remaining male Polynesian dancers doing a dance which honors heroes. This is something that probably gets laughed at by Turboranger detractors, but I think it's a pretty creative and neat way to work in this dance act, as well as the activities that you yourself could go see at Namegawa Island. By having one set of dancers kidnapped by the Bouma and others showing up to encourage the Turboranger, they're worked into the narrative, so it's more than just an advertisement. Some shows don't bother to make that effort. (Flashman, I'm looking at you!) Even the Bouma-Beast is worked into the locale, by being tropical-oriented, with the strange masks and totem poles and stuff.

A big and entertaining episode that actually manages to feel big thanks to the location choice. I could easily picture this episode passing as one of the Sentai theatrical movies.

One random things I want to point out...

The Bouma-Beast is voiced by the always bizarre Kaoru Shinoda. This is one of the rare cases where his weirdo voice works, though, because Yashinomi-Bouma is a freak. And with Seiichi Hirai voicing Jinba, Turboranger has both Winspector's Bikel and Walter!

Turboranger Episode 23


A Fujii script that is a little disappointing, especially for this to be the one following episode 22. It works well enough for what it is -- which is a light, kid-friendly adventure. It's a throwback to the days when toku regularly did spooky standalone episodes for the summer -- more appropriate here than in a lot of other shows, given Turboranger's supernatural themes -- while also doubling as a change-of-view, "vacation" type of episode.

Haruna accompanies a very late Shunsuke on a train ride to the town holding his gymnastics training camp. A close-knit place, the town policeman's kid daughter is wandering through the forest, looking for flowers, when she picks up something that catches her eye -- she doesn't know it, but it's a fairy wing which was placed atop of the tree where this episode's Bouma-Beast, Ghost Bouma, is sealed. Once the wing is removed, the seal weakens, and Zuruten is able to come along and free Ghost Bouma. Ghost Bouma then goes around, turning everyone in town into ghosts. (Disappointingly, he doesn't, like, remove their spirits, but hits them with a beam and turns them into ghosts, like they're cosplaying or something.) The girl's father falls victim and she escapes multiple times thanks to the powers of the fairy wing she still carries. Lucky for her -- and a good thing they were running late to the gym -- she runs into Shunsuke and Haruna, who get to saving the day by defeating Ghost Bouma and returning the townspeople to normal.

Ghost Bouma has a really awesome design, especially when he's just been freed, and he's leg-less and floating. I like the way Fujii ties the fairies into the episode, letting this fallen fairy's wing be the trump card. And there's a funny scene when Riki and the others are searching the ghost-filled town for Zuruten and Ghost Bouma disguised as ghosts themselves -- reminiscent of Shaun of the Dead, when the gang try to get past all of the zombies by imitating them.

One complaint I have about the episode, though, is that when Haruna, the girl and Shunsuke are surrounded by ghosts, Haruna is legitimately scared, screaming her head off and eventually fainting. Really? After all of the stuff she's been through with the Bouma? It makes her look a little weak. Maybe you can chalk it up to she wasn't expecting the situation AND the environment, as it was happening when the three of them were alone in the forest -- maybe it was all just overwhelming, but...I think if anyone's fainting in that situation, it's Shunsuke. C'mon. But he keeps his cool. Maybe someone on the staff just liked having Haruna spooked, because Kinohara's always gone nuts with her voiceovers -- like when Pink Turbo's being injured, she'll let out crazy, horror-movie-level screams. So that scream's put to use in this episode.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Turboranger Episode 22


A standout episode, one of the show's best. With wonderful, atmospheric, raw direction by Takao Nagaishi, it's one of the most dramatic and serious Sentai episodes ever made. To me it comes close to Liveman's first episode -- all of the focus is on the human drama, human brutality, the bonds of the characters, and the superhero action saved as a strong punctuation to the emotional drama. And it's a serious, timely look at juvenile delinquency, especially amongst Japanese males who join gangs.

Nagareboshi has dropped out and become a biker thug. It makes sense -- he's a wanderer, a guy caught between two worlds, wanting power, hungry for battle. He successfully beats up numerous rider gangs, and soon word is out about Nagareboshi's activities. Riki and the others are determined to stop him, while Yamaguchi-sensei is determined to save him. Yamaguchi shines in this episode -- "Even if they were in my class for just a day, that child is always my student." -- as it's revealed that, when she first started teaching, one of her students died in a bosozoku-related accident, and that she vowed to never let it happen again. (Nagareboshi is cruel, scoffing and dismissing her when she confronts him, telling him the story.)

When Reida observes what Nagareboshi is doing, he decides to free Racer Bouma, who's sealed in a painting of a chariot race. His plan is to have Racer Bouma violently beat up bikers -- possibly kill them, actually, it's kind of unclear -- and leave behind evidence framing Nagareboshi. Riki was already determined to do whatever it takes to stop Nagareboshi, but after the Bouma-Beast's frame job of making much more violent scenes, he gets PISSED, just volatile. All signs point to Riki maybe even wanting to just finally kill Nagareboshi. Riki is wanting to put an end to the violence, but is also coming from a place of violence, and Yamaguchi recognizes that. She's the one that gets him to snap out of it. Of course, they know what she doesn't, which is that Nagareboshi is the half-demon Yamimaru, but she can't stand to see her students so eager to hurt each other. She knows that they're all going through the same thing and should be open to communication, not giving in to bloodshed, and that Nagareboshi can change. Riki sees Yamaguchi in a new light and puts his faith in Yamaguchi's faith, really, before trying to pursue and stop Nagareboshi.

At one point, both Red Turbo and Yamimaru are cornered and attacked by Racer Bouma, both getting massively injured. When Riki takes Yamaguchi's words to heart and decides to track down Nagareboshi, he finds that Nagareboshi plans to hunt down and fight Racer Bouma on his own, but he's still too injured. Riki's just frustrated with Nagareboshi, who just doesn't listen, doesn't care, is difficult to get through to. So he punches Nagareboshi and tells him of Yamaguchi and her hopes for him. "Think of that punch just now as a punch from Yamaguchi-sensei." And he tells him he'll go after Racer Bouma, which he does. We get a cool chase between Red Turbo's Turbo Attacker and Racer Bouma's vehicle that ends up at the rocky quarry; something helping the atmosphere of this episode is the gloomy weather -- the ground's constantly wet, with the fight scenes and the chase scenes kicking up a lot of mud. Red Turbo performs a drive-by GT Crash on the monster!

There's a couple of cool chase scenes in this episode, notably Riki and Nagareboshi's motorcycle chase. The episode makes a lot of use of Eikichi Yazawa's synth-y "Kanashimi no Kanata-e," and it gives a scene in which Riki chases after Nagareboshi on motorcycle a bit of a Miami Vice feel. (I once again have to say: don't you miss when tokus would use mainstream songs in episodes, and not just material created for the show?)

This episode's working on so many levels, it's cramming a lot in, it leaves you asking questions. (COULD Nagareboshi reform?) When people call Turboranger "comedic" or "the worst" it's proof they never watched it, never paid attention or never made it to this episode. It's kinda weird that an episode so heavy takes its title from the feel-good ending theme; it works, but puts a cloud over the ending theme, doesn't it?

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Turboranger Episode 21


An episode that most English-speaking fans dismiss as a "goofy/stupid" one, but...it's not? Japanese fans like this episode, because -- duh -- sumo is important to Japan. (There's plenty of people out there who want a sumo-themed Sentai! I think this episode is the closest they'll get to that. Rangers and Robos wearing mawashi!)

This episode has bizarre moments, harkening back to those earlier episodes that wanted to highlight the strange and unusual situations our heroes are facing, as well as humorous moments in Daichi's reactions, but this episode is more genuine and straightfoward in what it's trying to accomplish. This is an episode that looks "stupid" to foreign eyes and eyes of younger, modern viewers. That doesn't make it the requisite wacky episode -- people have lumped this in with the likes of Ramen Jigen and Dryer Jigen and...that's wrong.

Jinba and Zuruten unseal Sumo Bouma, a brutal thug who went around back in ancient times exerting his strength for the hell of it, beating up anyone in his path. When he lost an encounter with Rakia, Rakia tried to set him on the right path by teaching him of sumo and the values associated with it, giving him a keshomawashi to always remind him of those values and keep him in line. Sumo Bouma then spent a long time getting along with people, wrestling with them, living honorably. Jinba's plan is to remove the keshomawashi and have the mindless brute version of Sumo Bouma wreak havoc. But things don't go as planned, and Ragon lets him know what a bad plan it was by roughing him up.

Sumo Bouma DOES wreak havoc, but not the type the Bouma Hyaku-zoku are interested in; he marches around town, trying to take on athletes in sumo matches, only to find out nobody is qualified. He's disheartened to learn how much the times have changed and how nobody is good enough to battle, that nobody is a good sumo. Fortunately for him, Yamaguchi-sensei happens to spot an attack on some young students. A big, big nut for sumo, she becomes obsessed with the idea of getting one of her students to take the monster on, because only sumo can be matched with sumo. (She first tries to recruit Nagareboshi. It does not go well. And it doubly doesn't go well for Daichi, who Nagareboshi volunteers, and then grabs, strips and slaps a mawashi on before going on his merry way. Yamaguchi settles for Daichi.)

With Yamaguchi's coaching and Daichi's determination, Sumo Bouma has found his ideal opponent, and throughout their matches, comes to like and respect Daichi, telling him of his past with Rakia. Jinba eventually has his way and removes Sumo Bouma's keshomawashi, as Zuruten makes him giant and he begins to rampage. Knowing there's no choice but to fight him, Daichi makes a case and wins that they'll fight Sumo Bouma in a sumo style, meaning...a giant robo sumo match! Turbo Robo, complete with mawashi, and sumo-nut Yamaguchi reffing the whole thing. Black Turbo's in the driver's seat, which I think is one of the first times we've seen a member other than Red as lead pilot of the mecha. Turbo Robo wins and Sumo Bouma comes to enough to congratulate them and award them the rope belt of a yokozuna.

The episode ends with an energetic Daichi playfully wrasslin' with the others, until a move by Youhei accidentally pulls Daichi's mawashi off, leaving a VERY embarrassed Daichi to be covered up by Yamaguchi. I kinda think an ordinary teenage guy would transfer schools after being exposed bare-assed naked to not just Haruna, but YAMAGUCHI, but Daichi's a trouper and sticks with his pals.

A fun and unique episode with things you don't see in every toku. It's humorous, but has some commentary on the modern times' losing interest in old ways, an old sport, the values that old sport holds, an elder being disappointed in the younger generation. (So it's a precursor to Kakuranger in that regard.) But it doesn't get too heavy-handed, Sumo Bouma -- as voiced by Takuzo Kamayama -- is likable and has a funky and memorable design. Ganaha's actually pretty lively in this episode, too, he really dives into it with enthusiasm, which helps make it soar.

The episode also just makes sense to me in the context that Turboranger has a very Japanese feel and aesthetic to it, like the uniquely Japanese depiction of school and all of the Buddhist material. So, an episode espousing the values of sumo isn't as goofy or random as people treat it.