Friday, January 5, 2018
One Ryu Over the Cuckoo's Nest!
Amemiya returns to direct this episode. It's a shame he didn't direct the past two episodes, since they're important, and since he would have probably made the scenes with the Majin more horror-like.
After having that brief, sweet reunion with Rie, Ryu just can't handle Maria's appearance again. He sinks into a depression that starts to become outright delusion, leaving the Jetman a two-person team of Raita and Ako. Raita and Ako are good people. He's a pacifistic farmer, she's a materialistic, but well meaning kid. These two are in over their heads, and there's a real sense of "we're screwed!" to this episode. If only they had TETRA BOY!!!!!!!!!!!!! Raita and Ako are so desperate they turn to Gai. And he's a bastard. "Tell Ryu that soldiers set aside their personal life to save the world." Cold! But I think also a way to bury some of the worry he has for Ryu based on this news.
In episode 30, Kaori told Gai she realized he's a good guy underneath it all, that he's not as bad as he'd like people to think he is. And it bugged him. But she's right, and she's right here, when she eventually sees that the Jetman drama -- and hearing how out of it Ryu is -- is bugging Gai. Ryu's been nothing but professional, but if HE is shirking Jetman duties, even Gai knows something is very, very wrong. So Gai is legitimately shocked to see his leader, his rival has fallen so far into a depression, so far into shock that he's imagining Rie's beside him. Gai also knows the only one who can help Ryu heal is Ryu, so after a surprising show of emotion and care for Ryu, Gai's off to join the team again and help the others.
I think Gai's involvement, the shocking hug from Gai, breaks Ryu out of his stupor a bit, because he's alert enough to face an attack by Maria moments later. And his response to Maria is Gai's response to him -- he embraces her. Now that he knows Rie is in there, he imagines she'd want him to keep fighting for good, and he leaves Maria with a promise that he'll help restore her as Rie. And Maria's left behind in a kind of shock by this.
When Ryu joins the four others in battle, there's a cool scene where he walks through blasts and gets the "hidden by humongous explosion, but secretly henshins" treatment, like Ryou gets in the Jin episode of Dairanger. I love when all five do their individual poses -- a rarity in Jetman -- with that low camera angle, looking up at them, with the sky as a frame. Cool choice for our Birdman Sentai.
For as much as Gai started off despising Ryu and what he stood for, and the resentment he built for him, especially the jealousy he felt over Kaori's choosing him, Gai has always admired Ryu as a fighter. Even back in episode 2, he compliments Red Hawk in battle. So even on that level, he had a kernel of respect for Ryu. And Gai grows. Being a Jetman, being with these people, he grows, and he starts to change his ways and his outlooks. (This is something brought to Gai's attention even back in episode 23, when his two usual lady acquaintances ditch him at the bar, telling him he's become boring.) Seeing Ryu at such a low, I think is a big turning point. The episode ends with a cheerful Gai saying he feels like this is a beginning, the first day where the five are truly together, on the same page, as Jetman.
Random note: Remember how I complimented Tanaka for the last episode? He gets an F in this episode, for the scenes as the bonkers Ryu. He plays those scenes like Ryu's stupid or something. It's a shame. It's good material to work with, something a Red like Ryu rarely gets to see. The foundation of the team, the professional, the one who always has it together...loses it. Has a complete breakdown. And instead of being able to play that, to play a guy who's so heartbroken and spirit-crushed that he retreats into silence and delusions, he basically just acts lobotomized.
Again, imagine Hiroshi Watari in the role. Not only is he a better performer, but it would genuinely be a shock to see him act in such a way after seeing him as a kick-ass hero throughout so many shows.
I used to refer to this episode as the really, really, really, really, really boring one. And it ranked at the bottom of my list of Jetman episodes. The thing is, the main plot's not bad, but the dilemma of the day is. The Vyram's latest monster is a speedy cockroach that sprays boogers everywhere that wreaks havoc on the Jetman's weapons and ability to battle it. If only Odagiri could finish the latest crappy toy, that would for sure guarantee victory, like, definitely dude!
The plot with the little girl whose asshole dad put the plans for the Jetman's sucky new weapon INTO HER SUBCONSCIOUS seems more like one of Solbrain's pseudo-science plots, but we at least get to see a bit of the Sky Force prior to the Vyram invasion. Also: Daisuke Ban plays her dad. It's always nice to see Ban, and he's a good actor who can do a lot with a little, but this might be the biggest waste of him I've ever seen. (Amemiya directed this ho-hum episode; a big waste of his talent, too.)
I get the sense that writer Kenichi Araki was writing this episode and got a note from Toei saying "Hey! Don't forget, write in that new sucky thing the turds at Bandai gave us." So Araki just sort of gave up on the episode and came up with the lamest villain attack that equally matched the latest, lamest toy. (Seriously, the Beak Smasher is dull and unimpressive, and it's funny in hindsight that Bandai came up with it and expected people to not only want it, but buy it.) I feel like this is proven in the episode's title, the totally imaginative "A Cockroach!"
I hate episodes like this, they just don't work and are a waste of time in the end. Ryu pretends to betray the team by taking the Tetra Boy intel and using it as a way to get in Vyram's good graces and get Maria back. Even though nobody on the Jetman team is in on this plan, you know this situation, you know Ryu, so you know it's bullshit and they must know it's bullshit. Everything's even staged to tell you it's bullshit, so why bother?
Also, it makes the bad guys look dumb for falling for it, ESPECIALLY that they're wowed by plans for TETRA BOY. Did Odagiri write this episode? Bandai? Oh, no, it's another winner by Arakawa. Stop trying to make Tetra Boy sound impressive, because it ain't and nobody wants the toy.
An episode like this, played straight, could have been interesting. What if Ryu DID feel like taking a chance on acting on his own to try to get at Maria/Rie? It would have played nicely after episode 32. Ryu could have just not wanted to risk the others on what's a personal mission, but they could have stumbled upon what he was up to and been there for him and had his back. And then he kind of realizes that he knew better than thinking he could negotiate with characters like the Vyram. Missed opportunity, wasted episode.
I imagine this episode receives a negative reception, and people probably think it's cheesy, but I like it. I think it's good for what it tries to do. It's a whimsical episode, and the last one focused on Ako.
The episode comes close to being the Captain Planet message that 21 nearly was -- the Vyram make a monster out of industrial waste, so everyone has a speech on the evils of pollution -- but that takes a backseat to the main story. A girl with a lifelong illness is brought to Ako's attention by the girl's pet bird. Well, not exactly pet bird, but it's a bird that came to the window of her hospital room every day -- her illness often keeps her hospitalized -- and she befriended the bird and prayed for it to be her friend. (She claims she can travel with it -- as in, warg style. I think that's an interesting story, a girl who's a dreamer, confined to a hospital or bedrest because of the state of her health, who's able to develop an ability like warging.)
So it's one of the fanciful, heartfelt animal-related episodes that people like to scoff at. But it works here, and the girl is sympathetic, and Ako plays off of her well. The girl is reluctant to even leave the hospital, so when Ako finally convinces her to and they both end up caught in a Vyram attack, it's a bit cruel. When Ako's blinded in an attack, the girl becomes her eyes, even getting into Jet Swallow's cockpit to help guide Ako. That's different! And it wouldn't work as well if the girl's actress wasn't good and likable. (Jetman lucked out in the kid actor area, because there's not one that's grating or awful.)
And if you're going to do an episode with some magical realism, one about a extraordinary bird like this, then where better than in the bird-themed Sentai? I'm surprised it took them 35 episodes to do it.
Random note: I'm sure some people think it's lame that Radeige's taken down by the girl's bird and some of his bird friends, but I don't. I think it's keeping with the episode's emotion and whimsy. What IS lame, though? That Toei decided to animate the birds for most of the attack. They're not as bad as the bats in the first episode of Juspion, but they're close. I also like the goof of Radeige's helmet falling off when he falls into water.