Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Turboranger Episode 45

Why's this episode even here? The previous episode ends with the narrator teasing Neo-Ragon, so it makes you wonder if this episode was a leftover or quickly whipped up or something. It has no relation to any episode surrounding it. It's pointless and random and repeats a lesson we just had better conveyed in episode 43. I guess this is the requisite "random lighthearted and fluffy one before the shit hits the fan for the final arc." Although, it's not really that funny, it's more just a...kid-centered, kid-friendly lesson-learnin' one.

Now, there have been a few Turboranger episodes that I said came short of being as good as they could have been, or it's a misplaced episode, but enjoyable enough or it's a good episode with a weak guest or whatever. That might have sounded wishy-washy, but my main point was that, even if I felt those episodes fell short or had a bad piece of casting hold them back or whatever, those episodes are still enjoyable. They're still entertaining. They may not make the grade of GREAT episodes, but they weren't BAD. Some shows have just absolute howlers that are unforgivable and unsalvageable -- like Liveman's pig school episode or Jetman's Dryer Jigen or Kamen Rider Black's gold-shitting bug episode -- but I don't feel like Turboranger's lesser episodes are on that level.

But then there's this one. This one IS bad. It might be the only Turboranger episode I'd say I don't like; I mean, episode 41 pushes it, but it at least has an idea and moments I like. This one's just awful and pointless and irrelevant to what's been happening in the show. It's like it was some rejected half-an-idea from much earlier in the series that they understandably scrapped, but dusted off in desperation. If this episode had been just an episode 5? Fine, it sucks, but the show's finding its footing or whatever, maybe you can excuse it. But 45?!?! C'mon. Let's do better than this. This episode feels like Proto-Fiveman to me in how forgettable, weak, random and cheap it is, and with what a thud the humor lands. (Also in the way that Youhei plays the role of teacher to a kid who's the episode's main focus.)

The plot is thus: a scaredy-cat boy watches a magic show and is wowed by what the magician, Miss Magic, is capable of. Surprise! Miss Magic is Kirika, and she woos the boy into being branded by the latest Bouma-Beast, Stamp Bouma, which gives him magical abilities. Kirika's plan? To give these powers to the bad kids, who will misuse the powers and watch the mayhem. We only focus on this one kid, though, the scaredy-cat named Toshio or Tatsuo or Idontcareo. It makes the episode feel reaaaaaaaaal small-scale, and then he really only uses his powers for minor shit! Petty theft! He uses his powers to steal crepes off of some girls, pantses his friends, steals an outfit from a store and gives some pals a perfect test score. Yeah, Kirika -- it's PANDEMONIUM! WATCH THE CITY BURN! WATCH ITS CITIZENS EAT EACH OTHER WITH THESE CRAZY AND SCARY ABILITIES YOU GAVE THEM! Don't even bother trying to take over Earth in the next show, Zone, because Kirika's leveled it all with this plan!

The kid is conveniently in one of Youhei's swimming classes, so Youhei gets involved and tries to get through to him. But you just don't really care. The episode is pointless, the kid's unlikable. Things are depicted stupidly, like the kid accessing his power by wiggling his fingers around and going "Hand Power!" He also has a set of the fakest damn freckles you've ever seen -- a production assistant obviously dotting his face with a thin-point Sharpie -- which he removes with his powers to, you know, look cool or something. I don't know. What I do know? This episode stinks. And it's also a bad time to have Ragon interfere by giving this kid a power-up just to freak out Yamimaru and Kirika. Save Ragon's reveal for a good episode!

The ONLY thing I like in this episode is the fight. Just a simple fight, set to the OP theme, which the show hasn't really done for a while. Some cool moves, like Red and Black taking out some Uras with a GT Crash and Hammer Break at the same time, posing together.

I can envision Kirika's plan working if she had instead chosen teens or people in their early 20s -- I feel like there's more potential there for selfishness and people abusing this power. If the episode's message is about the responsibility of having power and that you need to build character to hold that power, well...we just got a better version of this episode with episode 43, told in a more subtle and relevant way. This episode sugar-coats it by focusing it on kids and by playing it lightly. It's just a waste of an episode.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Turboranger Episode 44

Mami Watanabe's third and final script of the series. I've liked the Turboranger she's written, they've all been strong and rooted in the characters and she likes to amp up the supernatural side of the show's setting. Minoru Minowa directs this episode, and I always like the grim, dark, quiet atmosphere he often gives his episodes. His episodes will be grounded and personal, and I like how he opts for silence a lot of times, not having BGM constantly going. Minowa's episodes of not only Turboranger, but other tokus he directed, have a palpable atmosphere to them. (While he directed some episodes of Kamen Rider Black that had the weaker scripts, he also directed the final two episodes of that show, which have GREAT atmosphere and a heavy feeling of dread.)

I love that this episode brings back Omamori Bouma (and Rika Matsumoto to again voice her), still trying to guide Sayoko/Kirika by providing her the information with which to gain new power. Omamori Bouma's spirit tells Kirika of a legend amongst the Nagare Bouma that provides the chance to purge the human blood and become a full Bouma. To learn more, Kirika must perform a black magic ritual. She returns to the abandoned Tsukikage home to carry out the ritual; the strangeness of her actions causes whispers in the neighborhood, which leads Riki to investigate. (I like the idea of the abandoned Tsukikage household becoming the neighborhood's whispered-about and haunted house.)

Riki overhears when the spirit of Omamori Bouma tells her that a meteor, which is actually a Bouma-Beast, is making its rare approach to Earth, and that if Kirika can manage to pull it to Earth and merge with it, she'll be granted a great power which will make her invulnerable and erase her human blood. Omamori Bouma leaves her with a hand-sized stone, adorned with the Mark of Bouma, which she'll use to attract the meteor/Bouma-Beast. (She spots Riki spying and leaves him with some nice wounds before setting out on her mission.) Riki's really determined to stop her, mainly because he doesn't want her to lose her humanity. He wonders to himself at the end of the episode what it is that makes Kirika push herself as hard as she does; he doesn't understand why she wants to abandon her humanity and it seems like it scares him; not only for what it would mean for her, but what it would mean to have an opponent who's willing to go to such lengths.

Kirika successfully lures the meteor to her location and it transforms into Armor Bouma, who merges with Kirika becoming Armored Kirika. The Armored Kirika suit is insane and you have to give Masako Morishita props for wearing it and carrying herself well. Because...I don't think I've ever seen a regular actor in a toku wear a costume that's so massive and bulky and inoperable looking -- that's usually given to the JAC people or the more action-oriented actors. It looks so damn uncomfortable. Armored Kirika is soon wiping the floor with the Turboranger and then sending them under the floor -- she causes a massive crack to open in the ground, which pulls the Turboranger under. Her power's so great, it worries even Yamimaru. Every once in a while, she'll stagger in pain, a sign that her human blood still remains.

Kirika goes a little power-happy, which Yamimaru warns her of. (He hates that she had a chance to finally kill the Turboranger, but chose to display her power instead. Yamimaru's the rare toku villain who genuinely wants his opponents dead. There's no showboating and there's no assuming it all went to plan -- we've seen him search sites after a battle to find the corpses of his enemies to make sure.) Zuruten thinks Yamimaru's just jealous, but Kirika recognizes Yamimaru's concern. She knows that he's worried about her changing and losing herself, and that gets her to remember that they're a team, and part of the reason she wanted to obtain this new power was to share it with him. So she sets out to finish the job...

The Turboranger are all beaten and panicking and unsure of their next move, but Riki pushes them on because they're the only ones with a shot of stopping her, and that her new armor has to have a weak spot they'll need to find. I like how once they track down Kirika and fight her, the Turboranger work out a plan where they act basically as the shield for Red, so he can get in there and search for the armor's weakness. It's samurai-esque. Red eventually surmises that the weak spot is the armor's center, which is the stone with the Mark of Bouma on it. I like that they don't instantly solve the problem, either. It's not just "There's the weak spot! *blast* Victory!" Red tries not only blasting it with the Turbo Laser, but he breaks his GT Sword trying to cut the stone, as well. He gets stabbed in the shoulder so hard by Kirika that her sword remains stuck in Red Turbo; when he yanks it out, he then uses IT to try to break the stone piece on the armor, and this is what works. The stone breaks, separating Kirika and Armor Bouma. Kirika, still weakened from the toll of wearing the armor while still retaining human blood, is whisked away by Yamimaru as the Turboranger deal with Armor Bouma with an ease that's kinda hilarious. (I guess it was Kirika who was pulling all of the weight when they were united.)

In the aftermath, an apologetic Kirika voices her disappointment in letting Yamimaru down, but he says they're good enough as is to get what they want. And that stab wound from Kirika was so severe, Riki ends the episode in a sling, a nice detail. There's so many times toku heroes just shake off their injuries or seem to magically heal, but this one was supposed to be severe, even for the Turbo Suit. The narrator teases us with a "new threat" that approaches them. Sounds interesting, but we unfortunately have to get through a very crappy episode before we get to that promising sounding one. *sigh*

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Turboranger Episode 43

Inoue's final script for the series. Ahead of his time, he again teases the idea of an additional hero to the five. This time, though, it's a new character becoming an already existing hero, which is an idea Inoue will go to town with in his Kamen Rider shows Faiz and Kiva. Through the character of weak nerd Kenichi, Inoue examines the idea of what defines a hero, particularly in a scenario like Turboranger's, where they were given their unique power by chance, when they were young. He makes the case why these particular five, and couldn't someone else who received fairy power fight if they wanted?

I like that it puts the idea out there of the possibility of more people having been covered in the light of the fairies. It's kinda like Abaranger -- you figure there's more people out there with Dino Guts, and we just ended up with who we did. Here, though, the case is made that maybe Kenichi didn't get the call, because -- even if he's been showered with the light -- his heart isn't pure and just. He wants strength and power to just boost his confidence and show off and hold it against people, and he has to learn from Youhei what it really means to be a warrior.

I gotta give credit to guest actor Hidetoshi Kobayashi, though -- the character of Kenichi could have EASILY been obnoxious or detestable, but he manages to be pretty sympathetic and you can understand why he's so driven to want to be stronger and be a hero. He's small, he's scrawny, he's spotty, he's not good at gym, constantly laughed at and ridiculed by classmates. (The only really low thing he does is dose a bento he makes for Youhei with a sleep drug in order to steal Youhei's Turbo Brace.) When Kenichi was a kid, he found Shiron sleeping in a forest, and he absorbed the fairy aura she gave off, so he's actually able to successfully transform into Blue Turbo. (His big success is stopping an ordinary burglar; he's not successful against the Bouma.) Youhei puts himself in harm's way to save Kenichi more than once, proving to Kenichi what it really takes to make a hero. (He remarks at one point that Youhei's stronger and braver as just himself than Kenichi is even as Blue Turbo.)

The Bouma-Beast this week is a little out of place, but a typical Inoue villain -- a cool, professional, cigarillo-smoking killer, Gunman Bouma. Like Inoue's bounty-hunter in the episode of Gokaiger he wrote, Gunman Bouma seems to look down on our regular villains, mouthing off or threatening them more than once. He ends up getting taken down by Kenichi, who uses his smarts to whip up an explosive bullet he sneakily puts in Gunman Bouma's ammo holster.

Inspired by Youhei's bravery and then proving himself using his own abilities, Kenichi sees and feels his worth, better understanding what it really means to be a hero and gaining new confidence. An appropriate story with a good message for the high-school Sentai.

I like that, in all five of the episodes he wrote, Inoue focused on each of the heroes. Not only does he try to make them lively and cool, but he highlights a trait of theirs -- Riki's drive, Daichi's boldness, Youhei's selflessness, Shunsuke's sense of fairness, Haruna's determination.

On a random note, I've always been curious if it's somebody different in Blue Turbo's suit when it's Kenichi transformed as Blue. If it's still Shoji Hachisuka, he really succeeds at acting differently, because Kenichi Turbo seems smaller and moves clumsier -- it kinda reminds me of when Naoko Kamio played Shinken Red in that Gokaiger where the school kid transforms with the Mobirates.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Shougo's Sentai What-if: A New Turboranger Hero

I think Shiron is awesome, underrated, and a crucial part in what makes Turboranger special. I've already said many of times over the course of these Turboranger reviews the specific reasons why I like Shiron, and why I'm puzzled that there's such hate for the character out there, so I won't get too into it. But she's the heart of the show, she's symbolic of the show's whole set-up, and I think actress Mayumi Ohmura is very underrated, unappreciated -- she's unique and gives the character a sweetness, makes her appropriately ethereal. She's never cloying. She's good in the role, believable, able to equally handle lighter moments and dramatic moments. This is a rarity for such a young performer in a tokusatsu, you know this.

Shiron puts herself in harm's way numerous times throughout the show in order to help the Turboranger. So I had this idea...

I pictured there reaching a point in the show where Shiron could transform. I picture her having Dazai make something that attaches to her wand that she could use to harness power from the Rakia constellation, fusing with Rakia, in a way, by using his power and combining it with her own. Since she's the last fairy, and since the fairy magic and Rakia's power has been weakened, my idea is that she could transform, but would have a time limit. Basically, I picture her being like an Ultraman, only human sized -- this ability to transform would allow her to grow "giant," which here would mean the size of a human, and she would be so powerful that it would quickly take a toll, so she'd have a limit, and so would use this power sparingly and wisely. If she has a time limit -- until she needs to power down and heal and recharge and whatnot -- that keeps her involvement still kind of special, and it removes the chance for her to be used as a solution to everything, a deus ex machina.

I pictured her suit looking basically like Shiron's regular dress, which has the same color scheme as Rakia, and since she's drawing this power to transform from Rakia, I wanted it to be more reminiscent of the way Super Sentai typically approaches animal-based designs and helmets. I looked to Liveman, which is still the best animal helmets in Sentai, IMO. And while Dazai's science is involved in creating this suit for her, I didn't want to give her a vehicle-based suit, I didn't think that fit. (Shiron does ride Rakia, so in a way, the suit I've given her is basically related to transportation. I almost gave her the car motif just as a middle finger to "what do faaaaaairies have to do with caaaaaars?") I wanted her to be different so as to set her apart from the others, and I wanted her to look unique, but I wanted her to still be able to blend with the other designs.

So, by Shiron's own magic, and paired up with the power of Rakia and the science of Dazai, my idea is that Shiron will become...


I chose "kousoku" to be a homonym of Turboranger's "Kousoku (High-Speed) Sentai" title. In this case it's meant to mean "light speed," as in the fairy lights of Shiron, the star light of Rakia. "Saint" I chose because the fairies and the light of the fairies is often referred to as "sacred" or "holy" in the actual series, and Rakia is called "Holy/Saint Beast Rakia." Also: Saint Seiya was huge, so let's ride on his coattails a bit.

Turboranger Episode 42

"I won't give up... Not until the final second... As long as there's any hope...I won't give up!" Riki The Man Honoo

This is Kunio Fujii's last script for the series and he delivers. His scripts always nicely complement what main writer Hirohisa Soda does with his shows, and Fujii will often even go further with an idea or further define a plot or character. This episode is a nice companion piece to the movie, but this episode actually manages to be more of a nonstop thrill-ride, with a tense race against the clock. This episode's one of my favorite Turboranger episodes, again making a case for why Riki rules and remembering that Shiron is important and unique. When I first saw this episode, I was like "Why didn't they include this one on the official VHS release? This one's actually important and deals with our main characters, but please include that one with the jewel thief, dummies."

The latest Bouma-Beast, Devil Bouma, sends off-shoot minions to find and capture the world's last fairy. The off-shoots successfully break into the Turbo Builder and kidnap Shiron just as everyone's celebrating her birthday. Devil Bouma wants to ingest her and absorb her aura, which will make him immortal. The Turboranger race the clock -- they only have an hour -- to save Shiron. And they can't hurt or kill the Bouma-Beast, because that would kill Shiron.

The episode places most of the focus on Riki, who's really the one who saves the day. It would have been nice to give the others something to do, but in a way it nicely ties back into episode 26, when Riki pushed himself beyond the limits to save his friends. So, here we again see his determination and the ways he pushes himself in order to save his special friend. Riki might not end up looking as bloody and battered as in 26, but he takes a beating just the same. (My favorite bit? When the monster is making his escape on the Dragras, Red Turbo grabs onto the Dragras' leg, not wanting to let the Bouma-Beast escape. He manages to hang on while flying through the city, until an attack from the monster knocks him down. The scene's unfortunately accomplished by some less-than-stellar back-screen projection, but it's a neat idea. It's easy to imagine what it is they were going for, like the crazy and awesome helicopter sequence from Darkman.)

Constantly reminded of the time that remains, Riki keeps pushing himself. And no matter how many times he's knocked down (and knocked out of his Turbo suit), he keeps going, chasing down Devil Bouma, tracking him by Shiron's cries for help. (We also get an awesome rooftop battle between Red Turbo and the Bouma-Beast, that's a good old fashioned fight scene between two skilled suit actors; no SFX required.) He even just knocks Kirika down a flight of stairs like she's nothing, making his way to the top of the skyscraper for the aforementioned showdown. At the last possible minute, Red Turbo strikes the victorious blow...

For all of the focus on Riki/Red, the episode nicely lets Team Turbo share the victory symbolically. The key to saving the day rests in the birthday present they all gave Shiron; a jewel necklace. They wanted to give her topaz, her birthstone, but couldn't afford it, so they instead gave her a necklace with a jewel made from tourmaline. Ever the scientist, Dazai spouts some of the electrical properties the crystal is able to effect. (Slightly demonstrated by the static electricity which causes Haruna's hair to go crazy.) Riki remembers this when time is running out and he's feeling bad for how happy Shiron seemed such a short time ago, realizing the jewel is the answer. (So, not only the gift that the team all pitched in to buy, but Dazai's knowledge saving the day, hence they all had a hand in rescuing Shiron.)

Riki takes the Bouma-Beast head-on, powering up the GT Sword and stabbing the monster, the jewel on Shiron's necklace interacting with the energy of the GT Sword until there's a massive explosion which ends up freeing her. Red Turbo tells the others to get Shiron to safety while he finishes the Bouma-Beast on his own, with a two-sword GT Crash. This alone kills it! They don't even need to use the V-Turbo Bazooka, it's straight to giant time.

The episode ends on a sweet note, a rejuvenated Shiron shining in the dark, thanking the five for saving her. When Riki apologizes for the destruction of her gift, she waves it off, telling him that being able to be with everyone is the best gift. Shiron's character song, "Fairy Tale," is used for the first time here. (It's a whimsical song which really suits her and the fantasy side of the series, sung sweetly by a singer who's obviously using a pseudonym, so you can't find anything out about her. Not even the CD liner notes talks about her, just that the song's composed by "hit-maker Akiko Kosaka." Maybe the answer behind the singer's identity lies there.) A joyous Shiron soars above the Turboranger, skywriting a heart in gold light.

Not only some great action in this episode, but a palpable threat and tension in the targeting of a character who's so kindhearted and such a treasured ally to our heroes and an important symbol for the series. With the way Turboranger has liked offing regulars, it wouldn't have been out of the question for Shiron to have been written off, so there was concern there. Ohmura does a great job conveying the fear and pain Shiron's in, while Toei once again whips up a crazy and imaginative depiction of the belly of a beast. (Reminiscent of Gozma Star's innards from Changeman.) And I like that the tourmaline-based necklace, which saves the day, is actually something real -- so many times in toku, they'll just make up something to wiggle around science and/or logic to solve the day's dilemma, but not here, and it helps.

Riki Honoo -- Kenta Sato -- should really be considered as legendary as someone like Kotaro Minami and Tetsuo Kurata. One could argue Riki is better than Kotaro, because he's capable of kicking so much ass and ISN'T a cyborg. Sato's as dedicated and good of a performer (a better performer, IMO) as Kurata. He should really be placed high up there, but nooooooo, ignore him because some of you silly bastards can't get over "OMG what do fairies have to do with cars?!?!" He's a great character, a memorable Red, Kenta Sato still has enthusiasm for the series and role AND he made several kick-ass contributions to the soundtrack. Riki Honoo's the man, and Kenta Sato's a great fit, deserving recognition and better treatment by fans and Toei. (Gokaiger mishandled many '80s heroes, but the way they treated Turboranger still pisses me off.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Turboranger Episode 41

There's an idea in this episode that I like, and would have liked to see played straight in a regular episode, but it's only a small portion of this episode, which is meant to be a kind of lighthearted romp. The Turboranger, the Nagare Bouma and the Bouma-Beast of the week are all playing each other to a ridiculous Murder by Death degree. It just doesn't work for me.

The Turboranger are still in Iyomishima when they encounter the latest Bouma Beast, Migratory Bird Bouma. He presents himself with a cool confidence of a warrior. When the Nagare Bouma show up, he kowtows to them, getting on their good side before he shows off his battle skills fighting the Turboranger. The Nagare Bouma are impressed until, suddenly, the Bouma-Beast comes across like he's all thumbs -- like a dunderhead, he ends up hurting himself in most of his attacks. The Nagare Bouma abandon him, disappointed. The monster flees, with the Turboranger in pursuit.

Daichi finds the monster, who botches yet another attack. The monster is a weeping, cowardly mess, and Daichi agrees to let him go, with the warning to never attack anyone again. So, Daichi's none too happy later on, when the Bouma-Beast is calling them out to fight once again, but the Bouma-Beast lays on the waterworks, saying he had no choice, that Yamimaru threatened him. He begs Daichi to seal him, that he can teach him the way. Riki and the others doubt this, knowing that the Bouma can only be sealed by fairies and Rakia. The Bouma-Beast claims that he knows a way that humans can do it, and that he'll teach them. Daichi goes along with it, reasoning that the ability to seal Bouma themselves would be a great asset, especially considering how the Bouma keep growing in strength.

Meanwhile, Dazai's having Shiron pore over her the magical fairy texts to research this weird-ass new opponent. There's no record of a "Migratory Bird Bouma," and the only reference to a Bouma particular to the area of Shikoku is a Bouma who enjoyed theatrics being sealed there.

The Bouma-Beast takes Daichi to a lake, where he says Daichi must strip and purify himself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka. Daichi does so, even handing over his Turbo Brace. As soon as the monster has his brace, the jig is up, and Nagare Bouma arrive to congratulate Migratory Bird Bouma. The monster doesn't comply, though, announcing his own intention to fight. To the surprise of everyone, Nagare Bouma included, the Bouma-Beast reveals himself to be Actor Bouma, who lives up to his name in being a show-off and over-the-top. Joke's on him, though, because the Turboranger figured out he wasn't trustworthy, and what he offered was too good to be true, so it turns out they were one step ahead and the Turbo Brace Daichi handed over was fake.

Meh... I guess it's supposed to be a change of pace that our heroes figured out the ruse and were one step ahead when we've seen the "hero who falls for a villain/monster's words" plot played straight numerous times. And maybe it's fitting to have the pragmatic Daichi not be fooled, but I think the episode would have been better if it was just played straight. Yeah, have Daichi be the only one who believed the Bouma-Beast; being the thinker, you could imagine him seeing the logic in the idea of having a Turboranger learn to seal Bouma on their own. So, against his better judgment, maybe he could have found the idea of learning how to seal Bouma too good to pass up, while the others were skeptical. (Especially once they get the info from Shiron about the "theatrical" Bouma sealed at Shikoku.)

But having Actor Bouma pull one over on the Nagare Bouma, while they think they're pulling one over on him, while he's pulling one over on the Turboranger, while they're pulling one over on him... They don't know we know they know we know! While the episode is trying to be comedic, it comes across as even goofier than I think they intend. Especially with how they depict the monster; with the episode title, with the showy and self-impressed way he acts, with his bird-like design, it just really reminds me of Space Beast Soldier Volta from Changeman's 21st episode. I get the impression Soda really wants to recreate that character and episode, but I don't think it fits here, especially since it's not saying anything the way that Changeman episode did. (It wasn't just about a silly, egotistical monster, but about war propaganda, manipulating media coverage and celebrity shills.) If this was just the requisite random-goofy episode before the final stretch, I might cut it a little more slack. But we still end up getting one of those, a very terrible one of those, so that's not the case.

Random note: When the Turboranger defeat Actor Bouma, we're shown that he's enlarged by the remains of Ragon. DUNDUNDUNNNNNNNNH.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Turboranger Episode 40

It's weird that the previous episode felt so big, but was set in such close quarters, and now we have this episode which feels so small, but they try to dress it up with action pieces and on location shoots. (It's set at Iyomishima.) I have mixed feelings on this episode...

For their first plans as head villains, Yamimaru and Kirika opt for good old fashioned revenge; they use Bouma-Beast Picture Book Bouma to transform all books and paper products to "demonic books" which put the reader in a trance and commands them to walk as far as they can. This is Yamimaru's revenge for his being persecuted and made to just wander the lands for 20,000 years, walking for so long and in such rough conditions that his feet often bled. So, on one hand, it seems like a small plan, but it's fitting with Yamimaru's character, and when you get down to it, it's pretty evil and Pied Piper-like...

But you get the sense that the show's softening the premise; the episode title specifically mentions kids of Shikoku, and the Bouma-Beast is named PICTURE Book Bouma, which suggests he's going to target kids through picture books, but...he doesn't have anything to do with picture books. The books he makes are just three words of text. ("Walk, walk, as far as you can...") And we see a scene where older folks are shown to be walking in a trance along with kids, so it's not just kids being targeted. But if it HAD been only kids, again, that puts you in mind of the Pied Piper, and the plan becomes surprisingly evil for Yamimaru.

The episode focuses on one kid, Toshio, who was being given swimming lessons by Youhei before he had to move, so Youhei sent him a picture book he drew himself, giving pointers on swimming. Youhei's homemade picture book was one of the targets, transformed by Picture Book Bouma into being one of his evil books, and Toshio begins to walk nonstop across the city, feet bloodied, unaware of the potential danger he's just walking on into. He's pursued the entire way by his panicked mother, who calls Youhei for help. (So, if not for Youhei sending this kid this book, there might have actually been a chance that the Nagare Bouma would be successful.) So, Youhei's extra determined to put a stop to this plan. (Toshio nearly ends up walking himself off of a cliff before he snaps out of the spell, upon Turboranger's defeating the monster.)

This episode has a lot of scenes set at paper factories, and my research team at Wikipedia says that Iyomishima was known for its paper products industry, feels a little Mr. Rogers-y. "Hey, kids! Let's find out how paper is made! Got it? Good! Now let's find out how Picture Book Bouma makes his evil books, too!" So we get some weird scenes of fights in mills and warehouses stacked with paper products. But the big action centerpiece of the episode comes when Youhei has a chopper take him to follow the truckload of evil books the Bouma are having transported, with the plans to ship 'em to Tokyo and take this plan countrywide, WAHOO! (They have a perfectly good truck, but they were making this delivery to Dragras to carry away in his talons. I don't understand that, but Yamimaru's let this head villain thing go to his head, so he's making some weird choices that only make sense when you're a level 1 in the villain club.)

Keiya Asakura gets some cool action in this episode. In the aforementioned helicopter scene, he's hanging out of the side of the helicopter himself, shouting threats down to Kirika, before she knocks him down. Youhei takes a beating, but keeps soldiering on to save the day.

So, my problems with this episode. I already mentioned the softening of the plan, but that's nothing compared to my real problems with it.

1) Toshio's mother is played by Toku Legend Miyuki Nagato. Nagato's awesome. Nagato's an action actress. Nagato is only 27 years old at the time of this episode. So, not only is she too cool to just play a nameless mother role, but way too young. I don't understand why they got her. I mean, she's a good actress, so she pulls it off, but it still seems like a waste of her talents.

Toshio's mother also manages to keep up with Toshio for his entire journey. Unlike everyone who's under the spell to make this long walk, her feet never bleed. I guess THAT's the reason for casting Nagato, because this lady is a supermom.

2) The really big problem for me. When Yamimaru is explaining the motivation behind his plan to the Turboranger, we're shown a clip of Yamimaru in old times, walking with bloodied feet. He's not alone, though, he's wandering the land with the skull monsters who raised Kirika, who have with them BABY KIRIKA! What fucking sense does this make? The skull monsters raised Kirika as a baby in the human world starting in the early '70s. So how and why and what are they doing walking the earth with Yamimaru? Also: Yamimaru didn't know shit about Kirika, even when she was appearing to him in prophetic dreams! He pretty much chanced upon her that day of her 18th birthday. But here we see him taking baby Kirika off the exhausted skull monsters to protect her? WHAT IS THIS?!?! DOES NOT COMPUTE! I really don't like this.

Usually when a character is talking about something and we're shown a clip, it represents that character's actual memory. Here we're shown something we know couldn't have possibly have been, unless the show's doing a massive retcon, which I don't think it is. So I view this brief clip as either the Turboranger's interpretation of Yamimaru's words or the show simplifying the Nagare Bouma's backstory for the sake of the viewers, mainly ones who might have missed the debut of these late-addition villains and the new developments to the series they've caused. It's a confusing choice the director made. If they wanted this flashback to depict more than just Yamimaru's struggle, just design and introduce a couple of other Nagare Bouma to feature in the flashback. I'm sure it wouldn't have been hard to go rummage around for some weird shit to kitbash from Juspion or Spielban or something.

I think the show kinda shot itself in the foot by at first implying Yamimaru was one of a kind, but they then bring in Kirika and outright say they're supposed to be the last two Nagare Bouma left in the world. So they treat these two like they're the only two that matter, when the flashback depicted in this episode would have been greatly improved by having Yamimaru and throwing in a few other, newly created, random figures to get across the Nagare Bouma's struggle. (Take out the skull parents and infant Kirika.) There simply had to be more Nagare Bouma, and of course not a lot of them would have made it as long as Yamimaru. I don't think it would have been too confusing to just have some new random extra Nagare Bouma.

The episode ends teasing the Bouma-Beast of the next episode, which will again be set at Iyomishima. I always thought that was kinda strange, giving an indication that these episodes are tied together, when they're really not, and giving the impression this monster is more important than he really ends up being.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Turboranger Episode 39

This one's called "The End of Ragon." Usually you see a title like that and you're like "C'mon, they ain't writing out the head villain at episode 39." And then you remember that Turboranger just killed three of their main villains 10 episodes back, so anything goes!

This is one of my favorite Super Sentai episodes, and one of Turboranger's best. And if Riki Honoo wasn't already on my list as one of my top favorite Reds (and he was), this episode alone would have put him there.

Yamimaru and Kirika stage a takeover. (Fitting with the themes of youth the show's explored, this sets off a kind of arc looking at the arrogance of youth.) The have their eyes on an item guarded by several Uras in the Bouma Castle, the Life Jewel, said to be the life of the castle. That's only part of their agenda in this episode, the other is...they kidnap Riki and drop him in the center of the Bouma Castle...they drop him RIGHT IN FRONT OF RAGON. Masao Minowa again directs, and I love how this reveal is handled -- Riki gets up with his back turned to Ragon, who sits silently in the dark. Suddenly, the light comes on revealing him, with Ragon growling out Riki's name in surprise. This is the first time Riki's set eyes on Ragon, he doesn't know who it is until Yamimaru announces it, and there's a "Holy shit!" moment before he steels himself in a fighting pose.

I already wrote at length at how great and intimidating I find the Ragon character/set-piece to be. He's one of the more truly imposing and actually frightening lead villains in Sentai (or any toku, IMO). And now we have one of our heroes standing before him alone, unarmed, unprepared. And if that's not bad enough, Yamimaru and Kirika place a spider-web-like barrier before Riki and Ragon, cordoning off the area they're in. Yamimaru informs them that the barrier can't be broken until either Riki or Ragon is dead, and if they hesitate, both their lives will be drained and they'll both be dead. (I like how Ragon fires at the barrier and Riki transforms to try to cut through it, like they don't believe Yamimaru.)

When we first see Riki in this episode, he's just strolling through a garden area. For all we know, he just woke up, it's a gorgeous day, he's just enjoying it and taking it in. And in one quick moment, Yamimaru and Kirika swoop in (literally; Yamimaru's on the Dragras, which picks Riki up in its claw), grab Riki and lock him in a death cage match with the show's main villain. Riki just woke up, he wasn't expecting this shit. But once they realize Yamimaru's telling the truth, the fight is on. Red Turbo doesn't hesitate, he's diving at the humongous Ragon with everything he's got.

And since the show knows they're getting rid of Ragon as we know him, they don't hold back with what they do with the set. There's stuff movin' all over the place, arms and tentacles extending dozens of feet across the room, they're setting off sparks and pyrotechnics everywhere. It's really cool the way Ragon uses one extended arm to hold Red in place (meaning Niibori is levitating on a wire) while holding a sword in another arm to fight on. It's a confined space, a seated villain who's technically more of a set-piece than costumed character, but they make the fight big and thrilling and dangerous and just epic, yet it still manages to feel really closed-in and personal. There's more ambition and action in this scene alone than there's been in the past ten years of toku action. (Toku action is a fucking joke anymore, ruined by CGI and stupid Bandai toys, but that's another topic.)

While Red and Ragon are engaged in MORTAL KOMBAAAAAAAAAT, Yamimaru and Kirika fight their way through Ura guards and steal that Life Jewel. With it, they plan to take control of the Bouma Castle and have it collide with Turbo Builder, proving their superiority over both Bouma and humans alike, and taking out their major enemies. And they come close! It's a tense battle between Yamimaru and the other four Turboranger while Red's still in a fight to the death with Ragon. When a panicked Zuruten appears on the other side of the barrier, crying out about Yamimaru's plan, Ragon remains confident...

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Takeshi Watabe is my favorite villain voice-actor, and he does a phenomenal job as Ragon. Especially in this episode, his work is outstanding. The evil, demented cackle he lets out when he thinks he has Red Turbo cornered. The freakish howling once Red Turbo gets a fatal jab in. The rage in his voice once Ragon makes his big move -- literally, transforming himself into a giant to take on his enemies on both sides...

That's right, Red gets in a fatal blow, and the shot is impressive; just a wall of sparks emitting from the Ragon set, so many that they completely cover Red Turbo from the shot. Red Turbo's knocked back from the explosion, reverting to Riki. The barrier disappears, Ragon is gone. RIKI KILLED THE HEAD VILLAIN ON HIS OWN, IN A STEEL CAGE DEATH MATCH! With nothing but his courage and awesomeness and skill in battle. No Bandai toys or upgrades, no magical catchphrases to spout. A plain old up-close-and-personal and ugly battle.

Ragon's vanished, but uses the last of his strength in order to steal the Life Jewel from the Nagare Bouma's hands, then returning to the Bouma Castle to reveal a normal, standing form. (This reveal is shot with such ominousness, as Ragon stands before Riki, covered in shadows and mist.) "I'll not hand over the Bouma Castle to anyone. I'll revive in order to protect it and the Bouma Hyaku Zoku." He then becomes a giant, going to the surface and setting his sights on the Turbo Builder.

Since Hideaki Kusaka plays Turbo Robo, I'm not sure if the substitute is in the Turbo Robo or the Ragon suit, but whoever's playing Ragon really makes him seem giant and formidable; he carries himself confidently, projecting such strength. The design is interesting, but it looks far more arachnid to me than the regular Ragon did, which looked more snake-like.

Knowing of the fight-to-the-death scenario, Team Turbo is understandably freaked when Ragon appears, thinking that means Riki must have lost and paid with his life. The four carry on, fighting Ragon with Turbo Robo, which is no match for him. Suddenly, a Garzoku ship lands -- Red Turbo, heading off to get the Rugger Fighter to join the battle! I would have liked to see Riki navigate the Bouma Castle, finding a Garzoku ship and piloting it. That's all pretty crazy sounding, and I assume he probably threatened Zuruten or an Ura to show him the way. This episode should have probably been a two-parter. Anyway, Super Turbo Robo is still no match for the giant Ragon, so Dazai hauls out the big guns, telling them to merge the Super Turbo Robo with the Turbo Builder. This is the big reveal of Super Turbo Builder, the first we're seeing of it, but the Turboranger act like they've known about it and have just wisely been waiting for the right time to use it. A blast of its powerful energy seemingly defeats Ragon...

Yamimaru and Kirika take over the Bouma Castle, announcing their rule. Zuruten seems cowardly to fall in line, instructing the Uras to do the same. The episode ends with a shot of the Life Jewel, returned to its original spot, with an image of Ragon appearing within it, warning he won't die so easily.

Damn! What an episode. They don't make them as intense as this anymore. Go watch it.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Turboranger Episode 38

Now THIS is a Bouma plot. This episode is Mami Watanabe's second of three scripts for the series, one that's a little more traditionally Turboranger, prioritizing an eerie vibe with a memorably creepy monster of the week. Director Masao Minowa gives the episode a sense of dread, a quiet spookiness, a tense pace and inventiveness.

When Shunsuke breaks the art class's model statue while goofing off, his punishment is to clean and rearrange the storage room. (Shunsuke was hauling out gymnastic moves in order to look up classmates' skirts. Modern viewers will look back on this episode and cringe, but it was way inappropriate in even 1989. He gets punished at least! Even though it's probably more for knocking over that statue...) As he's cleaning, he backs into a painting, knocking it over, unknowingly breaking its wrapping. He doesn't realize what he broke was a seal bearing Rakia's image, and that the painting is a Bouma-Beast. Shunsuke takes a look at the painting, which looks like every early '80s metal album cover -- a demonic beast menacingly hovering over a hellish landscape, its right index finger dipping into a multi-colored pond -- gets weirded out and hides it from sight. He turns his back to continue his cleaning, as we get a POV shot from the monster, extending its hand out to Shunsuke, who gets out of harm's way just in time, being called to by his friends. (They're headed to a museum for a school project; it doesn't interest Shunsuke, but I guess it's better than cleaning up the filthy and creepy storage facility!)

I find it kind of interesting and creepy that a sealed Bouma was actually on the school grounds. Throughout the show, we've seen that sealed Bouma are spread out and the regular Bouma had to seek them out if they wanted to use them. It gives the show a freaky little addition that probably spooked the younger viewers, the idea that "you never know where a Bouma could be lurking!"

Once Kirika finds the Bouma-Beast, she takes him before Ragon. This Bouma-Beast looks down on Nagare Bouma and doesn't want anything to do with them, while showing respect to Ragon. (There's a moment where an outraged Kirika is about to give the monster what for, but Yamimaru holds her back. He has his reasons which will be revealed at the end...) So this monster prefers to work alone.

This Bouma-Beast is interesting and unique; he resides in a painting, which is where he traps people, torturing them in excruciating pain, draining them of their "colors" until they cease to exist. He's able to leave the painting and fight as a traditional toku monster, but when he's out of the painting, the show will add these lighting effects around the camera frame, which lends a surreal touch. The Bouma-Beast's name is Jigokue Bouma; the Japanese apparently have a precise name for paintings which depict Hell, and it's "jigokue." Jigokue Bouma has a pretty crazy yet appropriate design, too, looking like a goat, with blood red wings and skull armor...he's the dream mascot of a metal band. Eiji Maruyama voices the monster (he's one the regular monster of the week voices in the Showa era) and does a typically great job here, making him sound just so vicious and angry and confident. The design, the performance, the writing all make Jigokue Bouma stand out as an intimidating monster of the week, a confident one, and it's a great way to make up for Metal Zuruten Type being so random in the last episode.

The Jigokue Bouma places itself on exhibit at the museum the Turboranger are at. Haruna's the first to find it, and they make the painting seem ominous. The episode is pretty quiet, not having a lot of music, which gives it an unsettling feel. The monster quickly consumes Haruna, Daichi and Youhei; Shunsuke fights it off, wounding the image of Jigokue Bouma on its forehead, with him exiting the painting in order to fight the remaining two Turboranger. (In an interesting design quirk, Jigokue Bouma's right index finger is made entirely of bristles, which he uses to repair any damage done to him, the "painting.") He proves formidable and the two retreat.

Riki and Shunsuke are back at base, panicking that their three pals are trapped within the hell painting. (I give the production credit for trying to creatively depict the characters in the painting; they have wide, twisting colored cloths stretching across the actors, indicating the colored pond of the painting, with the actors just convulsing and twisting, selling the idea of the pain they're meant to be in.) Meanwhile, Jigokue Bouma tries to lure them out by absorbing more people as hostages.

Shiron reveals to them the way Jigokue Bouma drains people of color, absorbing them as "paint" into himself. They'll eventually die, and any attempts to destroy the painting will kill them. Dazai comes up with a crazy plan -- if Jigokue Bouma's taking "colors" away from his victims to power him, he has to be pulling it all somewhere; every color together makes white. So not only should the Riki and Shunsuke be able to safely enter the picture using their white Kuuga Growing Forms (leaving no color to be drained by the monster), but if they find anything white within the monster, that's where all of the energy is going, and it's probably susceptible to attack. (It sounds like it shouldn't make sense, but the episode makes it work.)

Red Turbo and Yellow Turbo then goad Jigokue Bouma into absorbing them, discharging their energy in order to turn white just before they get into the picture. Not-so-Yellow-anymore Turbo finds a white marking on Jigokue Bouma's head and strikes him, freeing everyone from the painting. Upon seeing Jigokue Bouma's defeat, Yamimaru makes cryptic remarks to Kirika, that that's what one gets when under Ragon, and that it's no longer Ragon's era. They join hands, setting up the next awesome episode.

The unique monster-of-the-week and the atmosphere this episode has makes it memorable to me. It harkens back to some earlier Turboranger feel in its depiction of the monster, its supernatural tone and the balance of humor and seriousness, while also making creative use of the Turboranger's white forms we haven't seen for a while.

Before anyone makes any Vigo the Carpathian jokes about Jigokue Bouma, I'll point out that this episode aired about a week before Ghostbusters II premiered in Japan, so I don't think it was an influence.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Turboranger Episode 37

I LOVE the idea behind this episode, but I think the villain plan is pretty hokey and takes away from it.

The good part of the episode is that Yamaguchi-sensei's younger sister, Mika, tracks down the five Turboranger. Mika's training in kung-fu, so she's ready to crack some skulls, and she's also played by future Five Yellow Keiko Hayase, so the episode's a winner just on that alone. Mika first crosses path with Haruna, who in Mika's opinion is more than a bit suspicious in the way she's "practicing" baton. (Haruna is training, using the baton in the way she uses her W-Stick weapon.) Mika's young, a bit brash, argumentative, and she's soon in an actual fight with Haruna. When the villain dilemma of the day is keeping the other four busy, Haruna's communicator portion of the Turboranger keeps sounding off, calling her to battle, which catches Mika's attention. She's not successful in shaking Mika off, though.

The dilemma of the day, the weak spot of this episode, is that Zuruten has created a metallic clone of himself. The clone, the Zuruten Metal Type, is not only strong and made of metal, but also has the ability to place a collar around a person's neck and turn them into a mechanical being. Eventually the person will become entirely robotic. This is a ho-hum plot out of a cheesy superhero comic from the '60s. The second issue of Green Lantern or Fantastic Four probably has a story where aliens are turning people into robomen. It's really out of place here, IMO, not really meshing with the M.O. of the Bouma. They're paranormal, supernatural. A lot of the Bouma-Beasts are rooted in youkai folklore or the occult. This plan of Zuruten's is too technological, veering into sci-fi, the plan you'd expect from a villain group like Baranoia. (In fact, they do have quite a few episodes like this in Ohranger.)

I already thought they were pushing it in episode 26, when the robotic-seeming Bouma-Beast Fujimi Bouma was turning Daichi and the others into its metallic, robotic-seeming offspring. But now here's this episode, which just pulls this plan out of its ass and forces it to fit into the show. They couldn't even write in something like "Let the humans become cold pieces of metal like the technology they worship, BWA-HA-HA!" That would have worked! But, no, we just get Zuruten being like "Look what I can do!" and that's it.

Thankfully, this episode has Keiko Hayase, who is so badass that she consumes all of Haruna's time -- ordinarily, when a toku gives us a scenario like this, the hero is able to make a getaway to go help their teammates. Not here! Mika and Haruna remained locked in battle long enough for the four others to fail in their fight with the two Zurutens and regroup with her. There they learn who they're up against and why: Mika traveled to Japan from Hong Kong out of concern for her sister. Over summer vacation, Yamaguchi-sensei visited her sister (who lives in Hong Kong to train in kung-fu) and wasn't like herself; she was in a depression, lamenting that two of her students -- Nagareboshi and Sayoko -- have gone missing and that there's the other five who seem to hide things from her, that she can't get through or understand. It's making her lose confidence in her abilities as a teacher. Mika hated seeing her sister like this, so decided to pay a visit to these pupils that are causing her such unhappiness. Maybe to investigate them, maybe to beat sense into them, maybe not in that order, and maybe literally.

Haruna and the others are conflicted -- they feel bad for Mika and her sister, but they know they can't reveal that they're Turboranger. (Haruna noting to herself that if the teacher's worried about them so much now, knowing what they were up to as Turboranger would only makes things worse for her.) They're then called back into battle by Dazai and are off, with Mika not far behind. The two Zurutens are back in a public space, turning people into metallic humans. Once they face their opponent, Haruna spots a spying Mika and holds up having the others transform. Just then, they happen to notice Yamaguchi-sensei, who approaches the others trying to usher them to safety. Zuruten's metal monster manages to snap a collar around her neck and she becomes a metallic-human, beginning to attack. Not caring about Mika's spying on them anymore, the five transform to try to put a stop to the craziness.

Mika gets in on the fight, throwing some angry kung-fu moves at Zuruten's clone. They have no effect, and Pink Turbo saves her from an attack, both being knocked away from the battle, with Pink untransforming. Mika grabs the left-hand portion of Haruna's Turbo Brace, wanting to take matters in her own hands and fight to save her sister. She tries to transform by pressing the brace's button -- against Haruna's warnings -- and gets an electrical shock which blasts the brace off of her wrist. She's in a desperate panic, but consoled by Haruna, when the brace suddenly flies before them -- Shiron found it and is returning it to Haruna! And then...Mika briefly sees Shiron. Haruna gives her a condensed version of Shiron's history and the fight they're in with the Bouma before heading off to save the day, clearing up some of Mika's doubts about these five.

The other Turboranger are having a tough time of it, because they're being attacked by Robo-Sensei and don't want to fight back. Mika appears to help, but can't get through to her sister and is struck by her. Mika's locket unfastens in the attack, opening to show a picture of the two siblings. Robo-Sensei sees it and stops... She eventually turns to strike the Robo Zuruten in his weak spot, which causes all of the collars that's been attached to the fine citizens of Japan to short out and detach, returning the people to normal. (I like that Misa finds the strength to rebel. Sensei's tough!)

The episode ends with the Turboranger seeing Mika off at the airport, with Mika telling them that she put in a good word for them with her sister, without divulging any of their secrets. Imagine how different this episode would have gone if Mika happened to find Nagareboshi or Sayoko first! Good thing she found Haruna.

I like when they involve Yamaguchi-sensei more, and it was a great idea behind this episode, made even greater by getting someone as likable and kickass as Keiko Hayase to play the sister. (You can just tell she's going to be the star of a subsequent toku series.) The robo dilemma, though! Even though it's a Zuruten plan, it's not exactly played for laughs, but it comes across as pretty silly and you can't take it as seriously as the episode hopes you do. So putting Yamaguchi in this "danger" doesn't have the impact it should and that the episode is likely looking to have.

And it's not bad enough that the Metal People plan is lame, but the show doesn't have the money to depict it, so they just haphazardly slap some gray paint on their face -- yeah, gray, not even metallic silver like Jack Haley wore in The Wizard of Oz. Gray! And then they're directed to move robotically, but if they don't want to, that's cool, too, man, they don't have to. (There's only one of the extras who's REALLY into trying to move mechanically. He must be a mime.) It just doesn't make sense to me. If it's supposed to be a shock to see Yamaguchi like this -- lifeless, dispassionate, a tool -- that could have been conveyed by, like, having a monster that turned people into zombies or kyonshi or something. Why robots?!? Seems so random to me.

Mika seeing Shiron is a surprise, and an interesting development that they don't treat as importantly as they should. They kind of gloss over it. Haruna notes that Mika is "different" and that she's a believer, with the narrator saying at the end that Mika's someone else who shares the same values as the Turboranger (and therefore the fairies, I suppose). I like to look at it as...Mika's young and has a caring heart and was quick to pick up on all of the things like the Turbo Brace being weird, being open-minded about the strange and unusual. (That's one of the oldest jokes amongst Sentai fans. "Why doesn't anybody notice and comment on the weirdo watches these guys wear?") She's courageous and throws herself into battle with the Bouma for the sake of her sister. I think the show's trying to introduce the idea of magic and belief catching on and growing beyond just Team Turbo, and that's pretty interesting and should be delved into, but it's like they're hesitant. That idea has a symbolic power, but maybe the glossing over it is the staff feeling like it would take away from the uniqueness of our heroes, the stars of the show?

Think of earlier in the show, it's not just pollution and technology, but a loss in faith that weakened the fairies. So maybe throughout the course of their battles, the Turboranger have caused belief to grow and strengthen, if it didn't already exist to some extent within some people. The casting of an action actress like Keiko Hayase makes you imagine if this story had been told earlier in the series, with the character returning in an even more heroic capacity later on.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Turboranger Episode 36

A serious, somber episode written by Fujii, one that would have benefited from a longer running time. It has great, careful and artistic direction from Takao Nagaishi. It's similar in style to "Seishun Road!" but not as violent or action-oriented.

Shunsuke skips class and only Haruna knows why; he mentioned he wanted to go to the beach and commemorate meeting a girl there, Sayo, around the same time ten years prior. The others kinda don't believe that their goofy pal Shunsuke is so sentimental about his puppy love, and decide to go spy on him in fun. Shunsuke stands, looking at the sea, lost in memories while clasping a handkerchief with flower stitching. By the time the others arrive, Yamimaru and Kirika begin an attack with the latest Bouma-Beast, Memory Bouma, who eats memories. Shunsuke is hit by the monster's specialized attacked while protecting a group of kids and loses his memory.

Neither his friends' words, shock-treatment from Dazai (!) or Shiron can get through to Shunsuke. The only thing that jogs something is the sight of the handkerchief, which he connects to the beach. He bolts from Dazai's and gets to a beach while the others are out fighting the monster in hopes of getting Shunsuke's memory restored. (An action driven by the impulsive Youhei.) Shiron and Dazai research and find the best way to restore Shunsuke's memory is by getting him to remember a strong and cherished memory and it will push past the blockage and open up his memories, and that he's already on the path to do it.

Once at the beach, he's targeted by Kirika. The setting stirs up memories for Kirika, as well, of being bullied. She decides Shunsuke will make a fine representative of the ugly humans she hates and begins attacking him, taking her hatred out on him. Only Shunsuke is pretty pathetic, barely dodging her attacks, making himself a mess by falling into the water and stumbling around while clutching a seashell. This pathetic sight only further aggravates Kirika and she worsens her attack. Shunsuke's memory of that day on the beach becomes clearer and clearer, he finally regains his memory, throwing the seashell he's clutched at Kirika, and it breaks. Staring at the broken pieces unleashes a flood of memory for her -- a time when she was happily playing on the beach, as a child, before being targeted and bullied by three boys who torment her, call her names, and break the seashell she found out of meanness. Throughout this attack on a defenseless, weak and kind of child-like-in-his-trauma Shunsuke, she's restaged that bully attack from her childhood, only this time she doesn't recognize that she herself is in the role of bully.

Kirika is so full of hatred for the way she was treated throughout her life that she doesn't remember the bright side of that day in her childhood: that another boy, Shun, came along and fought the bullies off, standing up for her and getting beat up in the process. After he managed to chase them off, she tied her flower-stitched handkerchief around his wounds and they then had a fun day playing at the beach together. Neither SHUNsuke or SAYOko/Kirika realize they were the ones who shared a day of fun and this memory together. A cherished memory for Shunsuke -- his best memory, if you want to believe Shiron and Dazai -- is at the same time a painful one for Kirika. The episode ends with Shunsuke just taking in that memory one more time, noting that he'd like to meet Sayo again, and that he's sure she's become a good person...

Well, we know otherwise, but this episode is tying itself back to Kirika's introduction, where she's meant to feel sympathetic and understandable. So, I feel like this episode is also trying to hint at the idea that maybe Kirika can be saved if she gets past the hate.

The direction in this episode is good, though, especially in that scene with Kirika attacking Shunsuke, as it jumps back and forth between Shunsuke's memory of the event and Kirika's, making clear the different perspectives of the same memory, gradually giving us the entire picture of that day's events. If Shunsuke hadn't dropped the handkerchief when he left Dazai's, and had that when Kirika found him at the beach, I wonder how differently that scenario would have gone. Maybe it's better for Shunsuke to not realize his puppy love grew up to become his opponent, but maybe it would have been better for Kirika to remember that there were people who stood up for her. A bittersweet story either way.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Turboranger Episode 35

Inoue returns with a bit of a weird one, featuring a lot of his favorite ingredients. He often likes writing pesky guests to get on the nerves of one of our heroes, and we have one here. He makes this guest, Yukari, a cynical and sarcastic character, like he favors. (See: Gai, Takkun.) Yukari is also a criminal, one who likes pick-pocketing and stealing jewels. (See: Femme, that guy in that Liveman.) And the guest star and the featured hero both end up on the run while handcuffed to one another. (See: Changerion.)

The actress playing Yukari, Miho Toujou, actually reminds me a little of Takashi Hagino, and she delivers her lines in a similar way to the way he did in Changerion, which is a funny coincidence. Yukari's supposed to be one of those outrageous and rascally characters who you're supposed to love even if they're making things miserable for our heroes, but her crimes are a little more serious than just pick-pocketing and jewel-stealin' -- she begins the episode by assaulting and fleeing a police officer and later impersonates a police officer. She ain't no minor criminal, is what I'm saying. Who knows what skellingtons are lurking in her closet.

On the run from the police -- the cop only managed to slap one handcuff on her before she made her getaway -- she hides out in an abandoned shack in the middle of a forest. While there, she happens to see Kirika unearth a large jewel -- with which she needs for her latest scheme -- from within one of them Easter Island statues that toku loves so much. Not caring that Kirika is obviously a toku villain, Yukari just sees the jewel and figures she'll attack this weirdly-dressed weirdo and steal that jewel. And she does! Because she's spunky! Kirika gives chase and Yukari stumbles into Daichi, asking him for help. Kirika and a Bouma-Beast aren't far behind, so before he can ask any questions, he's fighting Bouma off while trying to guard Yukari. Soon, the other half of Yukari's handcuff latches onto Daichi, and he's having to coordinate attacks around this dilemma, which is nicely choreographed by action-director Michihiro Takeda.

Daichi takes Yukari back to base, where Dazai analyzes Kirika's crystal and Yukari manages to unlock the handcuffs with a hairpin, posing as a cop who needs to get the jewel back as evidence. Shiron knows she's lying -- and also spots her pick-pocketing Daichi -- and warns them. She manages to still grab the crystal off of Dazai and escape, though, with Daichi in pursuit. Daichi catches up to her and, in a struggle, becomes attached to her by handcuff once again. (A gag Inoue repeats to greater effect in the Changerion episode I already mentioned.)

The jewel's needed to reveal the location of an evil sword Kirika seeks, and while Daichi is stuck with the thief while seeking the sword's location before the Bouma get to it, Yukari's stuck with Daichi, not wanting to lose the crystal, wanting it for herself. Most of the episode is spent with them being targeted from every direction by Kirika, Yamimaru and the Bouma-Beast, Shinigami Bouma, who brings back defeated Bouma Beasts. The episode is action-heavy, which is cool (even though Ganaha kinda looks terrified each crazy explosion-filled jump he has to make).

At one point, in their handcuffed journey, Daichi has to piggyback an exhausted Yukari; Daichi being a patient, charitable dude puzzles her and his way of thinking (believing in people and friendship) throughout the course of their adventure changes her. (She initially laughs at his words; cynical Inoue doesn't shy away in his writings from critiquing the central and sometimes naive beliefs and values of the standard toku hero; he often reinforces those beliefs by offering the jaded point of view, having the "realistic" and pessimistic character often change for the better due to the positive hero's influence.) When they're finally unattached -- thanks to a well-timed slice of Yamimaru's sword, severing the handcuff chain -- Daichi tells her to escape and she does. But she reaches a point where she feels guilty abandoning Daichi -- reminiscent of Gai Yuuki -- deciding to go and grab the evil sword herself, and use it to help save him. After the day is saved, she turns herself in to the police, promising to go on a date with Daichi when she gets out. Oh, but first she gives his wallet back. (I'm thinking she's going away for a long, long time.)

If I sound unenthusiastic or flippant about this episode, well...I'm in a pissy mood right now, which doesn't help. But there's also something about this episode that just doesn't work for me. It's got action aplenty, which is this episode's highlight, and it has a memorably quirky Inoue character. To me, one of the problems is that the Bouma take a back seat, their plan secondary to the mischief caused by the guest star, and I think that's a bad call when we're still trying to establish Kirika and Yamimaru as new members of the Bouma Hyaku Zoku. Also, many a toku have the evil sword episode, but they're usually tied more into the episode as a whole than it is here. Even Fiveman does an evil sword episode well, and better than this one. Fiveman!

Another problem is in the casting of Yukari. I like the actress and she makes the character more tolerable than she could have been, but she's not right for this type of role. She seems a bit too old, seeming more like someone the show would cast as a teacher, which just makes the whole romantic angle seem odd considering the set-up of the show. The role is meant to be comedic, yes, and the actress pulls that off, but I think Yukari's also supposed to be kind of dangerous, cool and, yes, mature, but not in a schoolteacher kind of way. (For some reason, the first person who popped into my head as a better alternative is Ami Kawai. They really needed to just get Ami Kawai to cross the street over from filming Jiban to play Yukari -- she would have nailed it.) Maybe Ganaha's to blame, too; he doesn't exactly show any interest in her, so the whole thing just doesn't play in the way Inoue intends it, which is kinda like a reverse Romancing the Stone.

It's a breezy episode, it's enjoyable, I wouldn't call it bad. The action and the villains coming at our hero from all directions make the episode. It just doesn't really hit all the notes it's supposed to and doesn't really feel all that Turboranger-y. Even though Inoue's trying to make Daichi seem as cool as he's supposed to be -- giving him a ton of out-of-suit action scenes, giving him a love interest who's supposed to be cool and mature and rebellious -- he kinda forgets the age the character is supposed to be. It's an episode that's always felt out of place to me.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Turboranger Episode 34

Is this the only piece of fiction, in the history of writing, to have fart jokes with a purpose? To successfully weave fart jokes into a dramatic narrative? This is an episode where the word "fart" is thrown into serious lines of dialogue works. This is still meant to be a comedically-tinged episode, but it reveals some backstory about Yamimaru and ties into it successfully.

Yamimaru lures Zuruten to a location with the vague idea that he's reuniting Zuruten with a "friend." The "friend" is really the latest Bouma-Beast, Hazer Bouma, who Zuruten's not very happy to see. And for good reason, as Hazer Bouma soon takes out a whip and begins lashing Zuruten so hard that he...lets one rip. Soon, Zuruten is on a leash, being pulled around the city by the monster, whipping him to get him to unleash some foul farts. Not only is it a nasty smell, but Zuruten's toots cause humans to fall into a deep sleep.

This episode makes me realize that maybe placing the previous episode where it is carries some logic. After that lackluster plan, here we have Yamimaru terrorizing the city with Zuruten's farts. Your first reaction is "No! Why do something so goofy? Why, after Kirika's face-less slave episode, would you have a fart plan? Why are they making the two cool new villains seem dumb?!" And I feel like 33 is there for that purpose, so this episode takes you by surprise, tricks you, and makes more of an impact as we're told the reasoning behind this episode's plan...

Yamimaru's out for revenge. He talks of his persecution from humanity, and we see a scene from ancient times of a wandering, exhausted Yamimaru catching a glimpse of humans at a camp fire. He uses some magic to make their fire grow, scaring them away, then flocks to the camp site and digs into their food. Shortly after, the people return with buddies, throwing rocks at and attacking Yamimaru. He tries to plead with them, he asks for their help. But they don't trust him because they know he's not human, so they attack him, stringing him up in a tree and firing several arrows into him, leaving him for dead.

For Yamimaru, taking over the world and punishing the humans in such a goofy manner is amusing and serves them right. But that's not all. Throughout the episode, Zuruten keeps trying to escape the Bouma-Beast. The Turboranger catch up with him and he's pretty pathetic. He's begging for their help; he knows he's lowly and a slob, but he doesn't want to go down as the Bouma who died farting people to sleep, he'd rather die in a battle. He's weak, exhausted, embarrassed. Yamimaru reveals that he's never forgotten how, after being left for dead by the humans, he sought help from the Bouma. He happened to find Zuruten with some Ura in a cave, and he pleaded for their help. Zuruten spat on him for being a half-breed and ordered the Ura to attack him, Zuruten eventually attacking him at this low point, as well. So the main goal of this whole plan is to humiliate and shame Zuruten for revenge. It kind of says to me that maybe Yamimaru expected such a reaction from humans, but not Bouma, and that he's maybe a little more angry with that side, as well as that side of him.

Riki decides to help Zuruten, despite the other four thinking he's insane. (We get some cool scenes of Riki riding the Speedster Zuruten bike as they're being attacked by Dragras -- Kenta Sato himself riding through some massive fireballs!) This is rewarded when Zuruten, feigning an attack on the Turboranger team, actually gives them something that counteracts with the sleeping gas, something with which Dazai can concoct a cure from.

An episode that mixes slapstick goofery with dramatic elements and the drama doesn't suffer, but still works, is a rare thing. (Especially in a toku show.) But Turboranger succeeds here.

Random note: at the end of the episode, Yamimaru and Kirika are flying on Dragras, with Yamimaru making cryptic threats of taking down Ragon. This is setting the stage for the awesome, awesome 39th episode.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Turboranger Episode 33

A quirky, light episode after the high-stakes 5-parter. The next couple episodes are in a similar vein; they're necessary tension breakers, but I have problems with this one. For this to be the first episode after Yamimaru and Kirika have been accepted by Ragon, and they come up with such a questionable plan just doesn't work. (I have a take on why this episode is the way it is and why the villain plan is so seemingly lame, which makes it more tolerable; it has to do with the next episode, though, so I'll talk about it there.) Add to that an unlikable guest character who gets his way when he's a total schmuck.

The Bouma-Beast in this episode is based on the youkai noppera-bo, the face-less youkai who steals people's faces. This one has an upgrade in that he can switch people's faces, but the features of those faces will eventually vanish just the same. Kirika thinks these face-less people will be so lost and in such a despair that they can easily be made slaves for Bouma, and if they outlive their usefulness, they'll then become food for Dragras. Ragon is giddy, thinking this is such a vicious plan, but maybe Zuruten is more on the money when he complains that it's stupid and crap. (He changes his tune once he hears the part about Dragras, though, calling the plan "cruel.")

This ties into a story of this dorky guy who Youhei knows, Kuwata, who's stalking the girls of the high-school fair. While some of the girls are rude to this guy, pretty much outright calling him ugly, there's something still just skeevy and unlikable about him. (That Kuwata is played by the actor who played the similarly sketchy guy who was obsessed with Ako in that awful ramen episode of Jetman certainly doesn't help.) The girls all go crazy when they spot Youhei, though, and soon after Sayoko/Kirika is enticing the guy to lure Youhei into a trap with promises that he "can be like Youhei." Youhei is brought to the Bouma-Beast, who switches his face with Kuwata's. Youhei's concerned about the situation, but Kuwata is happy, ready to face the world with his...uh, new face.

Kuwata returns to try to hit on high-school girls, now looking like the popular Youhei. (His crusty-ass pick-up lines, which failed when he looked like himself, are now successful when it's coming from Youhei's face.) He ends up sullying Youhei's reputation in this episode, looking pervy and cowardly, as he ditches the girls he's with once the Bouma-Beast shows back up. (The Kuwata-looking Youhei, on the other hand, arrives to save the day.) Kuwata inadvertently solves the face-stealin' dilemma, though, when it's discovered that a home-made zit-cream he has (and applied to a honking zit on one of the high school girls, because he's sweet and a gentleman) interferes with the Bouma-Beast's ability to swap faces. (The Bouma-Beast tried to swap the faces of two of the high school girls, one of them being the girl who has the medicine applied to her zit by Kuwata.) When he figures it out, Youhei takes the zit-cream so he can smear it all over the Bouma-Beast's hands, which act as the face-transplanters. The only semi-amusing thing about this nonsense is that, in the big battle, Blue Turbo finally gives the face-less Bouma-Beast a face by carving henohenomo onto it with his sword.

The episode ends with the high-school girls fawning over Kuwata -- get it, because Youhei looked like Kuwata when he was selfless and diving into the center of danger to save them all, while the Youhei-who-was-Kuwata abandoned them in terror? It's supposed to be funny, but it's just screwing over our hero, man. Kuwata tries to shoot apologetic gestures to Youhei, but you know he's not sincere, you know he's a scumbag. He's going to be taking advantage of those girls and use Youhei's brave accomplishments for his own ends. The "lesson" of the episode, we're told by the narrator -- and the schoolgirls now fawning over Kuwata -- is that the heart matters, not the face. That's...not a lesson this episode is teaching? Kuwata's a scumbag! It's not like he learned a lesson or anything, or that he was some funny looking bullied kid who stood up for the girls and Youhei was being a big-headed idiot trying to look cool or anything. The lesson of this episode is more like "Keep an eye on the weaselly scumbags, because they might take credit for your hard work."'s not only a weak plan for Kirika and Yamimaru to have, but what does the focus on Youhei accomplish? Fine, she's targeting a former classmate and now adversary, but Youhei panics for, about, one second before he focuses on saving the day, because he's a good hero. shouldn't have effected whether or not Kuwata-Youhei could transform. He never does, so I don't know if that was meant to be part of the "drama," but I don't see why he couldn't have henshin'd? They just swapped faces, not bodies, so it shouldn't have affected the ability to transform.

There are worse episodes of Sentai out there, but this episode just bugs me. Kuwata sucks. Keiya Asakura goes a long way in making Youhei so cool and likable, so why drag him through the mud for the sake of a totally hateable guest character? (It's supposed to be funny, but really isn't. Again: Kuwata's a scumbag.)

Monday, June 25, 2018

Turboranger Episode 32

This episode picks up where the last one left off, with Yamimaru and Kirika storming the Bouma Castle. They cut through Uras and are stopped by Zuruten, who don't want to let stinky, impure half-Bouma amongst their ranks. They reply by clotheslining him with the red thread of fate. They make their way to Ragon, who similarly looks down on Nagare Bouma and thinks they're incapable. Yamimaru promises to do something only the Nagare Bouma can, which is to revive the monstrous giant Bouma Bat Dragras. This impresses Ragon, who says as much -- if they can truly revive that creature, he'll consider making them a part of his forces.

There's a scene where Riki and the others are at Sayoko's (abandoned) home, when Riki fills them in on what happened there. They're in a disbelief and shock and are actually kind of creeped out to be there. (Also: I bet this is the first they're hearing that the two skull monsters they killed yesterday were Sayoko's parents...!) This scene's filmed with a quiet restraint by director Takao Nagaishi, giving it an uneasiness and solemnity. Riki finds a baseball on display in one of the rooms -- a baseball, a game-winning home-run hit he made in their first year of high-school, which Sayoko caught. A delighted Sayoko even had her crush autograph the ball. Riki desperately wants to believe the good in her, but this episode reinforces his doubts...

The majority of the episode is Sayoko capturing people to perform a dance ritual to resurrect the Dragras beast. The Dragras beast sleeps within the Bouma-Beast Mirror Bouma, so all of the victims are pulled into the mirror realm. The Dragras creature feeds on youthful life energy, so it's mostly teens she captures. (One being the volleyball team from school, in an act of revenge.) The Turboranger are also captured, but try to endure the agony of resisting Kirika's command to dance for the Dragras. (Kinohara really goes for it in this scene, making Haruna look as if her brain is going to split from the pain of resisting.) Yamimaru and Kirika lead the dancers, in another scene that I'm sure is mocked.

People who think Basco or Enter is cool like to ridicule characters who are actually cool, like Yamimaru, and would point to this and be like "Meh, it's goofy that he dances!" Well, at least he's not dancing in ending credits with the team! It's a strange choice for Yamimaru, but I buy it here. He's meant to be invigorated by Kirika. He feels confident and that he's coming into his own. He enjoys being with Kirika. So I can actually picture himself just going along with it for her, to help her. And they're both supposed to be young, too. (Once they successfully awaken the Dragras, Ragon comments on this, remarking what a terrifying force youth is, and youth is exactly what he's been looking for -- 20,000 years is still young to the Bouma. Reida, Jarmine, Jinba, they were all older than that. So this arc has literally been out-with-the-old-in-with-the-young. The narrator ends this episode saying something like a new chapter, a battle between youth has begun, a kind of precursor to the way Kakuranger's second half is referred to as the "Fierce Battle of Youth.")

The Dragras is a pretty cool thing for our two new, dangerous villains to get. (In another similarity to Changeman, it's reminiscent of Ahames' two-headed dragon Jangeran.) A giant monstrous bat creature, but it also has a mechanical armament. The teens who were kidnapped collapse after the creature is called, with Kirika commanding it to eat their remains. (Our heroes protect them, helping them to consciousness and safety.) Again, Riki is confronted by how cruel Kirika seems to have become, not able to reconcile the image with the sweet, kind girl who awkwardly asked him for an autograph, which he was embarrassed yet thrilled to do. He kept the ball from when he was at her house and removes it from his jacket. "It's really over, Sayoko Tsukikage. Our youth is over. Take this as a sign we've cut ties," he says, throwing the ball at her as she rides behind Yamimaru on the Dragras. She falls from the creature and it loses its pace, Kirika's errant sword shattering the mirror realm and freeing those it held prisoner.

It's interesting to note that Riki refers to her by her birth name this one last time before "cutting ties." Earlier he had called Kirika by her real name and she showed anger at him, insisting her name is Kirika. But right after that scene where he throws the baseball at her, where he's basically giving up on her, he begins to refer to her as Kirika. I also like that there's a moment in the battle when Yamimaru takes the time to just proudly look on Kirika as she's kicking ass. The episode ends with Riki angrily watching the two Nagare Bouma soar away on the Dragras, the narrator promising a new battle of youth beginning. A good episode for the Riki and Sayoko bits, his letting go of her, any feelings of nicety and friendship thrown along with that pitch.

And I should mention, finally, Masako Morishita as Sayoko/Kirika. She's a great addition to the show, and I like that, even though he's been around a lot longer, she's really equal to Yamimaru. It's Yamimaru and Kirika, Kirika and Yamimaru that's in charge of things, not just one or the other. Morishita -- who, it's funny to note, is one of the only actual teenagers in the show -- gives a good performance, making you feel sympathetic for Sayoko, yet she's still able to go for it and be villainous and cruel as Kirika. You can kind of understand Kirika's motivation, that she's making up for years of being mistreated. Kirika's a good villain, but she still has that sympathetic side to her character that doesn't detract from the danger she poses. And I feel like she's almost more likable than Morishita's other famous Sentai role, Kujaku, who's supposed to be practically holy. Funny that both characters basically learn that, maybe, it's not too late to learn how to love and forget how to hate. (Ozzy Osbourne!)

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Turboranger Episode 31

With all three Bouma generals defeated in battle, Yamimaru calls for Ragon's attention in the sky. He goes ignored, vowing to get to the Bouma Castle by his own power.

Meanwhile, back at school, the class is having a vote on who gets the lead in their production of Cinderella. Riki's already won the role of the prince, but the vote for Cinderella is between Haruna and Sayoko Tsukikage. Haruna wins, 15 to 1. I wonder how it even came to be that it was a choice between Haruna and Sayoko; Haruna's meant to be one of the most liked, popular girls at school. Sayoko is a meek, quiet, odd bespectacled outsider. Did Sayoko put her own name out there, or did someone suggest her as a prank, Carrie-style? (There's a lot of Carrie White in Sayoko Tsukikage...)

When she sees Haruna checking the costume on herself in a mirror, amidst the class fawning over her, Tsukikage's thoughts are of harm, that she'd like for a shard of that mirror to cut Haruna's face. She spots a monstrous image in the mirror. Shortly afterward, when Haruna returns to the group, the mirror explodes, with Riki managing to cover Haruna in time. ("Just what you'd expect from the prince!" Youhei teases.) Later, when Sayoko has been given the boot from the volleyball team, she angrily shows them what they're missing out on when she executes her killer spike...literally. Her anger at the team causes the volleyball to explode on contact, but the teammates don't seem to be seriously injured. The ruckus in the gym has caught Riki's attention. (And he manages to glimpse the monstrous apparition that appears before this attack, the same as the one that Sayoko saw in the mirror earlier.)

This causes Riki to approach Sayoko, trying to find out what's happening. She says she doesn't know and that she's scared, and she seems genuine, and his concern for her is genuine. Nearby, Nagareboshi, stalking the school grounds, notices Sayoko and is shocked to recognize her as the woman in red from his dream. Riki ends up walking Sayoko home, which is fine enough for Sayoko; it's strongly hinted at, and confirmed in the next episode, that she has a crush on Riki. Today happens to be her 18th birthday and she asks if Riki wants to celebrate it with her and her family who, as weird as they are, live at the same fancy, awesome place where Kaori Rokumeikan lives that's made many a toku appearances. (The former Ishikawa group Western mansion in Saitama.)

Sayoko's parents aren't happy to see Riki and try to send him off, but their unhappiness doesn't match Sayoko's happiness in having Riki by her side, so she wins out over them. She takes him to the dining room, where a cake and festivities are ready. Our hero's a nice dude who is happy to show attention to this classmate that is too often ignored and shit on, genuinely wishing her a happy birthday. She tells him of this strange story her parents always told her, that she's tied to someone by the red string of fate and she'll meet that person on her 18th birthday. (So, you can imagine she's excited to think of that story and tie her classmate crush into it.)

Her parents bring in some celebratory booze for our underage school kids, pouring Riki a glass. He gives the wine a smell...hey, this ain't his first rodeo! How much experience with drinking alcohol does Riki have at his young age?! Before we even get a chance to fully ask that question, we and Riki see that monstrous apparition appear within the wine he's been served. Not letting anyone know he knows, he drinks it, feigning pain and convulsions. Sayoko's panicked, but her parents are happy, her dad pulling a knife out to finish the job. Riki stops him, spitting the booze he only pretended to swallow in his face. Sayoko's parents reveal themselves to be monsters. (The books refer to them as "skull monsters," but they look kinda bat-like to me, reminiscent of the make-up Gary Oldman wore for the bat-form in Bram Stoker's Dracula.) Just then, a Bouma-Beast emerges from within Sayoko and then Nagareboshi comes crashing through the window -- it's pandemonium!

This particular Bouma-Beast is interesting in its relation to Sayoko; it's named after protective charms (omamori) and it's been tasked with protecting her; it's been part of Sayoko's entire life, and we see examples of when the monster appeared and saved her from certain death from accidents that occurred throughout her life in the human world. Omamori Bouma is also voiced by Rika Matsumoto, and she really lets loose and has a blast, and gives the monster a real anger and energy.

Nagareboshi, the skull parents and Omamori Bouma get Sayoko away from the Turboranger, to a secluded mountain spot and reveal who she really is; a Nagare Bouma who has been raised in the human world for the past 18 years by the skull monsters, while being guarded by the Omamori Bouma until her powers awaken on her 18th birthday. Nagareboshi reveals that they're the only Nagare Bouma in the world, that she gave him a power through a dream and that he's the one she's tied to through destiny. Riki and the others show up to try to keep Sayoko on the good path, telling her not to believe Nagareboshi, that Riki believes she's a good person, proof of that being a time he witnessed Sayoko volunteering to donate blood when there was a car accident near the school. (Which means some kid is wandering Japan with Nagare Bouma blood in their veins.) Nagareboshi whisks Sayoko away as the skull monsters and Bouma Beast hold back the Turboranger.

Nagareboshi takes Sayoko to a mountaintop; a directorial choice symbolizing Nagareboshi's view of humanity, as he gestures out to the city below. "Where are the supposed good humans," he asks her. "Can you think of any? Has anyone ever accepted you?" He approaches her and removes her glasses. "You're beautiful. Even though you're so beautiful, has anyone noticed you? Or have they shown you hate and rejection? Show them. Show them your beauty. Show them your excellence." Everything he's saying to Sayoko resonates with her; it's the truth. And Nagareboshi is speaking from experience, he understands the persecution and judgment and hatred. He's been alone and angry for so long, but he's found someone he can finally relate to. He knows the power she potentially holds and knows that they can together forge a future where they might actually be in power. They harbor so much anger and resentment, though, that they're on a darker path, more motivated by the desire to get back at people.

While Nagareboshi is winning over Sayoko, the Turboranger are victorious in defeating the skull monsters and the Bouma-Beast. Their fight with the Bouma-Beast in the mecha causes tremors to the nearby mountain, which proves perilous for Nagareboshi and Sayoko. She falls, and he reaches for her. The red string of fate literally appears and proves they're tied together as they both end up falling, being wrapped in a light and emerging transformed. (Could THIS be what Yamimaru truly uses the Demonic Aura for?) Sayoko is now Kirika and Yamimaru has a completely new costume (that I sadly don't like as much as his original, but I get they wanted him to match Kirika).

The episode started with Yamimaru shouting at the sky for Ragon to accept him at the Bouma Castle. The episode ends with Yamimaru and Kirika flying themselves directly there on their own terms, with their own power. For what reason, you have to wait for the next episode.

The Nagare Bouma Yamimaru and Kirika are similar to the mutants of X-Men and what they represent and are allegories of. It's interesting to me that sub-writer Toshiki Inoue doesn't bother doing anything with them, when a lot of his work falls in line with that X-Men style. Inoue ends up penning two more episodes of Turboranger, and they're comedically-tinged. The Nagare Bouma are certainly close to what he tries to accomplish with the Orphenoch in Faiz -- you could even say they're Proto-Orphenoch -- so it's weird these two characters don't draw his attention. I think Inoue would have said some interesting things with them.

While there's been some bumpy patches in these last few episodes as the show makes these transitions, I think they still work, and this episode particularly is strong. You get the impression that Kirika wasn't a character that was planned to be in the series, but her inclusion does wonders for the show. It's a stroke of genius to have a character that's tied into the commentary and symbolism of youth and growing up by having her be a classmate. And not only having her be a classmate, but one who was ignored and mistreated and bullied for most of her life.

I'm sure some younger fans look at this show and scoff -- "Heh, the character appeared out of nowhere." Well, that's how TV worked back in the day, peewee. Sure, nowadays, Sayoko would probably have been a regular from the start, would be pretty predictable if she was. Nowadays, shows are over-populated. There are SO many supporting characters, yet you know each and every one of them is going to transform into something at one point or another. Bringing in Sayoko the way they do -- this late into the series and particularly in the way we're introduced to her as she's losing the role in the play -- I think works to the show's advantage in a symbolic way. If Sayoko's a character who's always left out and ignored and mistreated then, hey, who's to say she hasn't been in the class all along? We didn't notice her because she's a person who's not noticed. Maybe we're just one of the assholes who have ignored her all this time.

On a side note, I've always thought the idea of the two skull creatures raising Sayoko as an ordinary human, with her being protected by Omamori Bouma -- that whole history -- is so interesting that it's another thing that I think would make a cool spin-off novel, if Toei did spin-off novels for Super Sentai in the Star Trek kind of vein.