Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Time For Lovestruck Rangers


Toshiki Inoue's OTHER episode of Timeranger? Back to back? That's kinda weird, especially since they were pretty spread apart in Timeranger. (And both were pre-Naoto.)

I've never really liked the Timeranger episode. The Timeranger cast thought they were so cool and serious that they don't play comedy well, except for maybe Izumi. (Well, Masaru Nagai THINKS he does. He really thinks he can do it all, that he's Kamisama's gift to entertainment.) The episode also has that creepy backstory driving the plot, that Yuuri basically moves in with a middle-aged guy to take care of him after he's duped by a woman. I don't know why Tomorrow Research thought this assignment was acceptable, but I guess it just means they're stupid.

But the worst part of the episode to me was always how it basically degraded Yuuri to snap the guys out of their trance. Even though I don't think they ever succeeded in making Yuuri seem as cool and strong as they wanted her to be, it's still a big betrayal to what they were trying to do with the character, all for the sake of a laugh that wasn't worth it. It's supposed to be funny to see her out of her comfort zone, but that's just their excuse for the sake of the creep factor in having her glam out to appeal to her colleagues.

The only thing the Timeranger has going for it is that Changerion's Chika Kochihira plays the heartbreaker, a femme fatale monster of the week who brainwashes men and ruins them. She's the best part of the episode, and a good femme fatale appropriate for a cop show. Time Force doesn't quite go with the femme fatale angle, but has the woman-disguised monster taking the appearance of each of the Time Force guys' type. (A WB -- that was what the CW used to be called, kids -- starlet look for Lucas; a super-nerd for Trip; a preppy tennis player for Wes.)

This episode beats the Timeranger episode overall, though, by wisely getting rid of that Yuuri becomes an old dude's wife subplot, wisely getting rid of her degrading herself, and replacing it with actual character stuff that goes into building the Wes-Jen romance. Jen being upset and bothered by seeing Wes so head-over-heels in love with someone else is a scenario that could have been played lightly and made Jen look stupid, but it's not and it doesn't, and Erin Cahill's performance here is good as Jen feels hurt. Wes has liked her for a while, but this is the first time where she's realized she's on the same page. This show's already wiped the floor with Timeranger's pitiful attempt at forcing a romance out of nowhere.

You know something I found really funny about this episode, though? When the monster's disguised as the nerdy girl to pick up Trip, she's testing out a stupid robot she built. That robot is...Time Roboter from Timeranger. Time Roboter is a stupid addition to Timeranger, kinda the Butchy of Timeranger, where it just reeks of some higher-up being like "The show's a drag and toys aren't selling! Put a cute robot thing in there, that will turn things around!" So they write in that tech-maniac Shion creates this stupid robot that does nothing but squeak things in an obnoxious anime voice. (It COULD have been cute, having an alarm-clock robot in a show about time, but Timeranger screws that up, too.) Time Roboter is just stupid and pointless, and it's hilarious that Time Force turns this unnecessary thing from Timeranger into...an unnecessary thing.

Time For The Last Race


Toshiki Inoue's ho-hum episode of Timeranger, in which he tries to make Ayase "cool." Plot is the same, with the latest monster -- Dash -- being an ex-buddy racer of Ayase/Lucas'. (Dash dresses and talks just like Mr. Furious.) Lucas testified against him and got him put away after the monster's carelessness led to a huge vague accident. The one thing that the Time Force episode has in its favor is that Lucas' whole racing stuff sounds more like Fast & the Furious-style X-Treme Hardcore Mountain Dew Rock 'n Roll Street Racing -- which would be "cooler" for a "cool" character -- instead of Ayase's old-fashioned, lame-o Speed Racer NASCAR stuff. So, I imagine the police putting Lucas' racing skills to use for assignments, and that he'd go undercover on the street-racing scene of 3000.

This episode features a bit of deja-vu in that Lucas takes a driver's exam where bad guy action causes him to tank the test and take the examiner on a crazy ride. This was in the original Timeranger, but Time Force also lifted it for a previous episode, which is weird. I guess maybe they were like "Yeah, we're not adapting that stupid racer-buddy-of-Blue's episode. Wait, we're an episode short? Aw, shit."

And I have to say, Nadira is SO DAMN OBNOXIOUS in this episode. She gets a lot of screen-time, being driven around on shopping sprees by Dash, and she's constantly giggling and squealing in a high pitch. She never lets up. I know, on some level, she's supposed to be getting on Dash's nerves, but that doesn't mean she has to get on our nerves. It's such irritating overkill that when she pops up for one scene in the next episode and lets out her usual high-pitched chuckle, it's just, like...too soon, show.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Time For Quantum Secrets


I like this episode, and I like the Timeranger it's based on, too. Eric/Naoto is off-duty, just at home, taking care of his pet birds, trying to warm up to a neighborhood little girl who takes a liking to his birds...it's a nice, relaxing day for our serious hero. And then it all comes crashing down... The bad guys show up and kidnap him, with the latest monster's specialty being vocal mimicry, so he's trying to take control of the voice-activated V-Rex/Q-Rex. Eric/Naoto takes quite the beating in this episode, trying to protect his mecha and reclaim control.

As is the case in Timeranger, this is the first time Eric discovers that the Ranger powers -- therefore, Wes's buddies -- are from the future. So, this episode is more or less the Timeranger episode, except for...the butt-ugly power-up Quantum Ranger gets. After being beat up for the entire episode, he's not in great shape when he finally transforms, so Alex e-mails him from the future the way to unlock the strangely named Mega Battle mode. I like the idea of Sentai/Rangers having armor, and it's something Power Rangers went crazy with at the time, but the armor here is just terrible looking. And if its fugness wasn't enough, Quantum Ranger is. Now. On. ROLLERBLADES! Stupid. How the bad guys don't die from laughter is a mystery.

Time For Trip Takes a Stand


More or less the same scenario as Timeranger's episode -- an "innocent" monster is befriended by Green and they're on the run from both the villains and the Guardians. I have to say, though...the voice actress for the monster is pretty irritating. I don't understand why there's only two types of voice-actors on Power Rangers for monsters -- it's either a dumb Beavis-sounding voice or a voice-actor trying to sound like a kid. Here, it's the latter. It's one of the things I can't stand about Circuit, too -- the voice actress is trying to sound like a 10 year old boy, like she thinks she's Rika Matsumoto or something. A very strange choice, especially if you're used to Yuusuke Numata's performance in Timeranger, where he gives Tock a wisdom which suits the robotic owl. (Sorta related: I saw on a toy that Circuit was going to be named Digit. Wonder why they changed that. Is it 'cause of the circuits of time, dude?)

There's an air of mystery about Naoto; you can't quite peg him the way Kasahara plays him. For how competitive Naoto can be, the show never holds back from telling you "No! He's a good guy deep down." Eric, on the other hand, is a guy who's been hardened by the circumstances of his life, the road he's put himself on to gain power and acceptance. He's kind of having to rediscover his heart.

Even though Time Fire spends a good portion of the episode beating up the Timeranger for getting in his way of fighting the good-natured monster Shion's befriended, you're not all that surprised when Naoto/Time Fire "misses" his target and just lets the Timeranger deal with him. Again, it's the difference in the way Kasahara plays him. He can be intense, combative, but he still conveys a heroic image. Kasahara's kind of a goofy, quirky guy in real life, and I think some of that seeps into the character; from the start, Naoto is shown to have a bit of dark humor to him. Eric doesn't care if you like him, he has a job to do. And while he reaches the same point as Naoto's footage, er, decision of "missing" the target, the way Eric's been depicted has it take on a different meaning.

While you get the sense that maybe Naoto was kind of convinced by the Timeranger's pleas to not just kill the monster, it doesn't seem like Eric cared about sparing the monster. (He reveals himself to be a hardcore mutant bigot in this episode; he even says "the only good mutant is a destroyed mutant." Remember, Power Rangers isn't allowed to say the D-word. Nobody d's in the Power Rangers universe. The only time the show has actually said the D-word is an earlier episode when Jen says she won't let "Alex's death be in vain." And they were only allowed to say that because Alex ain't dead, spoiler alert.)

So, I think what mostly changed Eric's mind was Trip stepping up and admitting that he was an alien. For someone who respects strength and courage, I think Eric respected Trip in that moment and let him have his victory. When Eric later warns them that this was a one-time thing, and the others flat-out say what a mean dude he is, Trip comes to the conclusion that Eric's a good guy deep down, just lonely. So I think that plays into the idea that the path Eric's put himself on has really cut himself off from not only happiness, but even just emotion.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Time For Trust and Triumph


Pretty smart to consolidate this Timeranger two-parter into one; it keeps the core of what makes those episodes, but excises a lot of the repetition and makes for a nicely paced, full episode.

The episode deals with the trust issues between Red and Pink; both here and in Timeranger, I feel like this episode is probably several episodes too late to be believable. Especially with Time Force, Wes has proven himself again and again, they've all accepted him and realize his strength. Timeranger makes Tatsuya look like an idiot, rushing in guns blazing during a drill and pretty much getting everyone killed, and he just laughs it off. Thankfully, Wes isn't made to look so stupid -- when the Silver Guardians arrive on the scene of a Time Force operation, Wes is concerned they'll blow it, so he breaks away from Jen's plan to tell Eric to buzz off. He was distracted from her plan -- especially her Plan B once she realized the Silver Guardians arrived and might mess things up -- but it wasn't out of stupidity or to show off. So Jen's anger and Wes' frustrated reaction at her attitude works for me more here. This episode falls in the mid-20s of Timeranger -- Tatsuya knew better, but was still an idiot, one of a dozen reasons I hate him.

And wouldn't you know? The other Time Force Rangers are trapped in a dimension and Jen and Wes must work past their arguing to work together and get them out. Now, the one thing I like about the Timeranger episode is Yuuri's confession scene to Tatsuya. She admits she's so cold and distant because of her job and never having anyone to go home to. Jen's confession is that she really lacked confidence as a cop when she started; she didn't like the job and was on the verge of quitting until she met supercop Alex, who took her under his wing, trained her, became her partner and boyfriend.

Both backstories accomplish the same thing, but I like the implication that Yuuri was a cop for so long and has seen so much that it took a toll on her and it crushed her soul to return to an empty home at the end of each hard day. Jen, a lot of her coldness is the sense of professionalism learned from Alex, not wanting to disappoint him, having her personal feelings wrapped up in the professional ones. You could say that maybe, on some level, she feels a bit of a shame to get involved with Alex, that that act itself was unprofessional, so she takes it out on other officers she works with by shutting them out.

She was always headstrong, but it got even worse once she lost Alex, especially since she was involved in Ransik's escaping, and that she might blame herself. Add to that that Wes looks just like Alex, but is so different from him. How could this guy who looked just like the man she loved and respected be so unprofessional and disregard her? While I like Yuuri's story, Katsumura's not believable as some jaded cop, and it was one of the only times Timeranger even remembered she was a cop and that the show was meant to be cop-themed. Time Force has let the cop theme creep in again and again and tying it to the Alex side gives it more importance and resonance.

Bottom line: Time Force's episode wins on the basis that it doesn't include the characters playing the moodiest game of leapfrog you'll ever see.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Time For Bodyguard in Blue


The Timeranger original had some nice moments, mostly wasted on Yuuji Kido. The purpose of that episode was to get Ayase to show a lighter side. The purpose of this is to try to give Lucas something more than checking out his own reflection.

Since Lucas is the cool womanizer, and is given this episode in which he's put in frustrating and uncool situations as a result of being the bodyguard of the little girl, it KINDA reminds me of Changeman episode 4. In that episode, the other Changeman members get angry and judge womanizer Hayate for shirking duty to help a girl, not realizing he's not looking out for himself, but doing a kindness for a kid, not a potential date.

Some of the sentiment from the Timeranger episode is mirrored here -- the girl's attachment to her teddy bear which the monster "kills" is cute and understandable, but doesn't have the punch of the family "treasure" the girl hands over to save the day in Timeranger.

One great touch Time Force makes is having the girl's kidnapped dad tie into the Ranger action -- he's hired by Bio-Lab to analyze everything there is about Quantum Ranger, so he's targeted by Ransik, who's still interested in the Quantum power. (This character actually goes on to be recurring.) This leads to the Time Force Rangers doing most of the work to save the guy, while the Silver Guardians show up at the last minute and steal the glory. When Mr. Collins shows a complete lack of interest in whether or not the kidnapped scientist was uninjured, it gives Eric pause. For what a pain Eric has been, for how fixated he is on getting power and besting everyone, he's not soulless or unfeeling, and this is something that makes him begin to ask questions about just who he's allying himself with.

One other thing in the Time Force's favor is that the little girl is tolerable. In Timeranger, they go way overboard trying to make her this "adorably" mischievous brat, and she really comes across as a hellspawn.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Time For Clash For Control


Part one's an original story that, again, bests Timeranger by including more time-travel. Ransik sends a monster back to prehistoric times to find the V-Rex, er, Q-Rex, which is actually in the past and not just conveniently in the Rangers' time for them to find. (So many times I've typed "V-Rex" in these posts.) Eric follows him through the portal, as Wes tags along, a three-way race to find the Q-Rex. While I find Eric and Wes just a little too calm considering they're SURROUNDED BY DINOSAURS, it's a mostly fun, action-oriented episode. Special effects aren't the greatest, but they're at least done in a genuine way, which puts it above any Syfy schlock. They're trying hard with the little they have to just make an entertaining, crazy adventure.

Eric's a colossal asshole in this episode, being so combative with Wes and actually initially abandoning him in the past, once the time portal opens back up. He swings back to save Wes, and we don't get any sort of Black Condor "we see Eric's guilty conscience surface that makes him swing back and do the right thing." Naoto's antagonistic, an obstacle for our heroes, but there's something of a desperation in the way Kasahara plays him. He's rough, he has attitude, but I don't think of him as being unlikable or villainous. Eric is a shocking departure for Power Rangers, because he's a guy who's really hardened himself, so he's really harsh and aggressive. What's so un-PR about him is that that's who he is -- back in the day, he'd be brainwashed or whatever. But, nope, that's all Eric.

So while Naoto/Time Fire is just another thing for our heroes to do with, Eric/Quantum Ranger feels almost like a rival, almost like having another villain to deal with. Southworth's performance, the attitude he plays, pushes the character into an almost dastardly "character you love to hate" rather than just a frustrating hindrance the Timeranger have to contend with. Time Fire is basically like...the Timeranger is Batman and Time Fire's the law, they have to navigate around the professional who's official and sanctioned, an overachiever who wants to get the job done, but just kind of pesky. Quantum Ranger is out to prove something, and he doesn't want to settle for being another Ranger, but the best one. (He has a line to Wes in Part 2 that he thinks Wes just can't stand that Eric has more power than he does, which I interpret as a further filling in of the class conflict the two are meant to represent.)

I don't want to call Eric a villain, but he comes closer to that villain-seeming antihero than I think Naoto does. Although pretty much the same character, the difference is in the performers. Kasahara mostly plays Naoto as laser-focused and professional, so he can seem sort of oblivious to the situation or what the Timeranger are out to do. There's kind of a desperation to Naoto, especially in how hard to he tries to be victorious. Eric has issues, and being Quantum feeds into those issues, and he seems much more outwardly cruel than Naoto. He's like one of those pain-in-the-ass Heisei Rider rivals. He's the character Kamen Rider Banana wishes he was.

Too bad they didn't keep the "unmorphed" fight between Tatsuya and Naoto for Wes and Eric; that would have been pretty cool, especially considering what a good fighter Southworth is. But while Wes and Eric are confronting each other, Wes' dad shows up at Nick of Time, trying to buy the four others, recruiting them to the Silver Guardians. For some reason, Eric thinks this has a chance -- that they'll want Mr. Collins' money and resources backing them to help capture Ransik quicker. (The guy doesn't know how superheroes work. And this is before he finds out they're from 3000, otherwise he'd probably try to tempt them with getting back quicker. Although, the Time Force being back in 2001 doesn't seem to have the same importance as in Timeranger; in Timeranger, Kobayashi was trying to repeat what she did with Gingaman, having the heroes being torn away from their home. Time Force Rangers miss their era, but it doesn't hold the same importance as in Timeranger. Maybe because the Time Force are more professional?)

Mr. Collins (does this dude have a first name? geez*) showing up at Nick of Time brings up something I've wondered all series long, and will continue to do so. He owns the building. He hates Wes turning his back on him, what he's doing with his life. He seems like the type of person who would have no problem throwing everyone out and leveling the place, just to make a point, but he continues to let them all stay there? Oh, well, I guess it's more believable than Smart Brain letting those dangerous renegade Orphenoch that they hate and want to murder just stay at that apartment they got for Yuuji. Yeah, you guys have so much trouble getting back the Faiz belt, but you know where those sonsuvbitches live. At least with Mr. Collins, you could go "Oh, well, maybe by letting Wes and his buddies stay there, he's showing he DOES care deep down." What's your excuse, Smart Brain!?

*(Notation: I'm writing this notation after having finished the series and the subsequent reviews; while later episodes show a plaque on his desk saying "A. Collins," the DVD booklet says his name is Albert Collins, but...I don't know where they got that, when it wasn't anywhere in the actual show. Is this an after-the-fact addition, like Uhura and Sulu's first names in Star Trek?)