Sunday, July 29, 2018

Turboranger Episode 51

Picking up where we left off, earthquakes are shaking Turbo Builder around, with energies being emitted from beneath it. Dazai realizes that, when he was scouting locations for Turbo Builder, he was using an ancient fairy map, so the location has significance. More than just a super mecha and a new base, the Turbo Builder has now ended up playing an important role acting as a blockade to the Big Seal.

Bouma forces intend to strike the Turbo Builder, Zuruten amongst pilots of a squad of Gaizoku ships. Intent on protecting the Turbo Builder, the five launch missiles at the Bouma ships, Zuruten's ship going down in a fiery explosion. (Umezu lets out a scream of "Neo-Ragon!" before Zuruten crashes, which sounds pretty pathetic. Oh, well, Zuruten did say he wanted to die in battle.) The five transform and decide to take the fight right to Neo-Ragon in the Bouma Castle. They basically kind of teleport, MMPR-style -- they just become streaks of light, corresponding to their colors, traveling from Turbo Builder to the Bouma Castle. I'm just going to flat out say MMPR ripped off of it, man.

I love the way Neo-Ragon's not really caring about their presence. They just stroll into that main throne room and he's not worried or surprised by any of it. "How foolish of you! I'll commend you for showing your faces here, but you think too highly of yourselves if you think you can beat me." It's close quarters, but a fast-paced fight scene, with Kusaka doing great work making Neo-Ragon seem swift, imposing and confident. And, once again, Watabe's doing great voice work, laughing off half of their attacks. And then when an attack sends rubble falling down onto the Turboranger, he just laughs his ass off, saying something like "my throneroom is much too good of a burial ground than the likes of you deserve."

Just then, Yamimaru arrives, still using that ninja-like trick of the Dark Hiding, rendering him untouchable. He manages to get in a couple of good attacks on Neo-Ragon. Poor Kirika's not given a hell of a lot to do this episode; she's at the rocky terrain, getting visions in Kashim's locket of Yamimaru, wincing in pain, reaching out to her. She panics, knowing that if he uses the Dark Hiding technique for too long, he'll die.

Meanwhile, the Turboranger are all still unconscious under a pile of rubble at the Bouma Castle. Back at base, Dazai calls for them, hoping for a reply. Just then, an alarm blares -- the intruder alarm. Dazai and Shiron are both startled and worried. Who could this be? And then the doors to the command center open and there stands...Yamaguchi-sensei!

Back at the Bouma Castle, Yamimaru thinks he has a chance over Neo-Ragon, but Neo-Ragon has a trick of his own, which cancels out Yamimaru's Dark Hiding. Riki and the others are finally coming to, only to find Yamimaru taking a beating. I love the way Watabe says "You're still alive?!" to Riki and the others as they get to their feet. Too many voice actors make it sound like surprise and worry; Watabe makes Neo-Ragon sound kind of casual, like the Turboranger are just too stupid to know better. Suddenly, a surprising voice cuts through on their Turbo Brace. "Do your best, everyone," Yamaguchi encourages. They're all shocked to hear her, of course, the one person they've tried so hard to hide their Turboranger activities from. But it's a voice they NEED to hear, the right one to cheer them on. It's such a nice touch and sentiment and it's probably my favorite part of the episode. "Tomorrow you graduate! I've been searching all over for you to make sure you come! Let's all be there!" I like that they revealed Yamaguchi breaking into the Turbo Builder, but not anything else. They leave if off-screen how she's found out about the situation her students are currently in. Did Dazai fill her in? Did she always just know? (I think she knew.) And she's not chewing them out or complaining; she's encouraging them. She's telling them to not die.

This motivates them. They also remember back to what Dazai said in episode 3, Riki quoting him, about age eighteen being the most beautiful time in life, that holds power. This gets everyone to transform and get back into battle, and while Neo-Ragon still manages to put up a good fight, Red gets in some good licks and hits him with a GT Crash. "If I die, we can all just fall down to Hell," Neo-Ragon says, before knocking out the bottom of the Bouma Castle, sending the Turboranger falling into the air. They're lucky to be caught by Turbo Rugger. In other great news for the Turboranger, Neo-Ragon makes himself giant, charging towards the Turbo Builder so he can access the Big Seal. The Turboranger quickly build the Super Turbo Robo and...manage to defeat Neo-Ragon with the Super Mirage Beam. It's a bit of a letdown, man. Remember when the Super Mirage Beam did NOTHING to Ragon when he became a giant in episode 39? And yet his powered-up form is taken down by it? I get that the episode's running short on time, but...geez. Neo-Ragon calls for the Bouma Castle as he falls, exploding, momentarily leaving the image of a fiery dragon. (Was Ragon dragon-based? Like dRAGON?)

The Bouma Castle, apparently, is set to collide with the Turbo Builder. I guess Neo-Ragon figured that, even if he died, the army of 108 Bouma Beasts would still be a victory. It's kinda weird that his dying plan was to basically repeat Yamimaru and Kirika's "crash the Bouma Castle into the Turbo Builder" plan from 39, isn't it? The Turboranger prepare to combine into the Super Turbo Builder to destroy the castle, but MORE great news. Kirika senses that Yamimaru is still alive, begging them to not destroy the castle just yet. There's a time crunch, as the castle is REALLY close to the Turbo Builder, so the Turboranger risk having the Big Seal undone if they choose to wait for Yamimaru. They all call for Yamimaru, telling him to get the hell outta the Bouma Castle. Yamaguchi, listening in along with Dazai and Shiron back at base, figures out that Yamimaru is Nagareboshi, and calls for him, as well. (Shiron even calls for him.)

Yamimaru regains consciousness, hearing everyone call for him. He thinks of everything they've been through together. "Don't worry, everyone. I'm a man with nothing left to live for. Don't worry, I'll destroy the Bouma Castle." It's looking like he's having one of those "bad guy goes nuts and destroys everything around him" moments, blasting the hell out of the Bouma Castle with his Ryusei Gun. It's obvious he's ready to just die. But what gets him to come to his senses? Red yelling out "Do you really want to leave Tsukikage alone?!" He has tears streaming down his face, thinking of her, and as he calls out her name, the red thread of fate once again shows up and connects the two, pulling Yamimaru from the castle. The two reunite on the ground, turning from Yamimaru and Kirika to Hikaru Nagareboshi and Sayoko Tsukikage. The Turboranger fire the Super Turbo Builder Beam, destroying the castle and subduing the Big Seal. Tanaka's performance here is great, and this piece alone should silence the naysayers who mock his performance. That he actually has a tear run down Yamimaru's face...I can't picture any of the tough guy performers I suggested for the role willing to do that, and it adds so much to the character and scene.

The battle won, we then see the five in their school uniforms, with flowers and diplomas. In the distance is Hikaru and Sayoko, dressed casually. This scene's a little strange, and something that I think is up to interpretation. The two obviously watched the graduation and are on their way, quietly, going unnoticed. But they're seen, and the reformed duo exchange a look and (maybe?) some final words with the heroes. I say "maybe," because the two are either just thinking their dialogue, what they'd like to be saying to the Turboranger, or are communicating to them telepathically. Nagareboshi congratulates them, telling them that he wasn't just saved by the red thread of fate by Sayoko, but by threads they were all connected to. Sayoko tells them that their bonds will never sever and thanks them.

I have to wonder if the Turbo staff were unsure where the Nagare Bouma would stand, so we get this silent/telepathic exchange as the writers debated what would be said. Whatever the reasoning, it's a fascinating choice that I like and think works -- it represents the lonesomeness of the two. There's some distance, and it plays into what outsiders they are, and the general uneasiness that comes from having once been opponents. They're keeping their cool and not overdoing it. They might be buds now, but they ain't going to be dancing in the end credits with the five of 'em, either. I think it would have been hokey and weird for the two to have attended the graduation ceremony and been all smiles and chummy and up close with our heroes. I mean, just imagine a scene like that.

Sayoko bids them farewell. It's also important to note here that Sayoko's not graduating. I guess she did miss a lot of school on account of her evildoing, but... I've always been curious what these two got up to in their post-Turboranger life. There's some spin-off novel adventures there. I picture just a quiet, sad life for those two. I doubt anyone expected Yamimaru to end the show mellowed out, though. Like I said, Sayoko, she was depicted in a way that you were meant to feel sympathetic for her. Yamimaru's always been rough. But these two characters were extremely popular. Yamimaru actor Yoshinori Tanaka has said that Yamimaru wasn't meant to last as long as he did; he was told when he joined the show that the character wasn't going to make it to the end. But he was popular with viewers, so they kept him. And Kirika was also meant to be a short-term character, but the staff liked the way Masako Morishita played her, so they decided to keep her around. For changes made on a whim, I think the show does a good job in making it all work. It doesn't feel forced or unnatural to the story, and it certainly wasn't predictable like it would be nowadays. It flowed and worked well with the themes of the show, of youth and magic and heart.

And the narrator informs us of another farewell: Shiron. She informs everyone that she's joining Rakia in the stars, and will always watch over them all and the planet. They say farewell, with a saddened Haruna saying she'll never forget her. Just then Dazai and Yamaguchi arrive, Dazai bidding farewell, with Yamaguchi wanting a glimpse of Shiron, tugging on his sleeve for him to hand over the Fairy Glasses. Yamaguchi is giddy to see her. Shiron laughs, saying a final farewell, and we see her fly into the sky, joining the constellation that Rakia became way back in episode 3. That's kinda sad, man. Seems like a weird, sad fate for those two, but especially Shiron. Why couldn't she just go off to look for the real Fairy Gate or something? Why couldn't she move in with Haruna, go on a road trip, go to college with her? (That could have been a Fushigi Comedy spin-off!)

Because time is running out, the five decide to just start playing around as the end credits roll. This is only the third time a Sentai show has opted to do a new end credits scene in the finale, rather than just playing the regular one. Turboranger unfortunately decides to use the insert song "Dance Tokimeku Kokoro" to accompany this last credits sequence, which is probably my least favorite song on the soundtrack. Kenta Sato requested for it to be used in the finale and won, and I get why they'd want something a little more wistful for the final episode, but the composition of the song is just goofy to me. The vocals aren't the problem, the music is -- the music sounds to me like some 13 year old in 1984 trying to start up their own Human League cover band using MIDI files they made or something.

I would have liked the classic old "clips from key episodes spliced into the final ending credits sequence" that became the norm, but that's a nitpick. I'm sure people poke fun at the visuals we got, which is the heroes just goofing around, playing leapfrog and chasing each other and stuff. It's meant to be a spontaneous outburst of joy -- joy of victory, joy of graduating. I also mostly look at it as a shorthand for them just having the fun that's had by youngsters, that it's meant to represent the last time they'll all have that kind of innocent fun together, which makes it even more bittersweet. They're happy and victorious and young. Still, I would have liked to have spent just a little more with the hero characters before the wrap-up; we get them saying farewell to Sayoko, Hikaru and Shiron, and it just jumps into the credits...

It's like this episode needed just the 5 extra minutes that mostly all toku shows today take for granted and squander. (Sometimes I feel like a toku should do "super-sized" episodes when needed, running just a few minutes longer than the norm.) They're trying to cover a lot of ground and keep up a tense pace in terms of the action, but we needed much more of a coming-down after all of that than just the very last scene. They try to wrap up the entire show in the same space where an ordinary episode wraps up its plot after the mecha fight, and it goes by just too damn fast. Heck, the credits even seem to cut off before they're finished, like it's racing the clock to the millisecond. Guys, you don't want to get to Fiveman that fast, trust me.

I do like that the episode TRIES to make the final battles seem so big and urgent, but I think another problem is that Turboranger has done so many "big" episodes, with big "final" battles that...look, there's just no way their final battle with Neo-Ragon was going to compare to the Riki VS Ragon showdown of episode 39. That scenario had an entire episode devoted to it, while they have to juggle several other balls than simply a final battle with Neo-Ragon in this episode. So they don't really try to top it, they focus more on the time limit and tension and emotion going into this final battle. And then they devote a lot of time to wrapping up the Nagare Bouma; they're prioritizing these two popular characters and shortchanging our heroes a little in this final adventure.'s a lot they're trying to do here. I still like the episode and find it enjoyable, but I would have liked for them to spend a little more time on those farewells and involve Daichi, Youhei, Shunsuke and Haruna more. We aren't seeing these characters again, so make it count. Make us sorry to see the episode end, to see these characters go. Make us wonder what they're going to do, where they'll be headed. Give us a high-school reunion special! In a perfect world, they'd make a Zigzag Turboranger 30 Year High School Reunion special.

So, that's Turboranger! I think it's a fun damn show, bringing a lot of new ideas and style to the franchise, filled with one classic Red, likable heroes, and truly memorable, freaky villains. I think it's low reputation is a sad mistake and oversight by viewers, and the show is never given a fair shake. The show has its flaws, but people who criticize it never are willing to give it enough of a chance to judge it for what it does; the criticism against it will always be very superficial. "Fairies are lame! Fairies have nothing to do with cars! The show looks generic, but I haven't even watched it to know if that's the case or not!"

I love the show, and it's in my top 10 of favorite Sentai. I tried to be fair with these reviews, highlighting what I thought made Turboranger cool or interesting or unique, and why it's a worthy installment that everybody ought to check out, while also not shying away from areas where I felt the show was weak. I feel like a lot of Turboranger's weaknesses were borne out of production issues beyond its control. Film and television production is tricky, there are so many variables involved. The writer could have everything they want to do planned out, written ahead of time, everything that they want to do with the show figured out -- but if you're not given the budget, or if there's a problem with a performer, or staff members are coming in and out, or the censors are on your ass, well...those are just a few examples of how something can get away from a writer, how quickly and easily something can change.

I've gone into detail about this across these various posts, but here's my viewpoint in one chunk:

Turboranger didn't look like it had a great budget; tokus are low-budget, and this was low-budget for an already low-budget production. And then take into account how there seemed to be a push to lighten toku shows in the late '80s. Throw in casting that maybe didn't best live up to the idea the writer had. (Ganaha as Daichi, for example.) Add to that a performer who's uncomfortable with their outfit and maybe wants to leave the show. (Masashi Ishibashi.) You don't even need to have production issues to change writing -- a writer has the choice to change their mind about something. (As in: Yamimaru and Kirika weren't meant to be permanent additions, but their popularity changed initial plans, and it's something that worked out to the show's advantage.)

There are so many things going into making a show or movie. So many things that can change it or derail it. Sometimes, you gotta sit back and marvel that there are ANY good shows or movies out there. Some shows can't recover from any of the problems thrown their way. Some shows barely scrape by, and some shows use their imagination to have things work to their advantage.

I don't think any of the production issues that came up on Turboranger derailed the show or made it unsalvageable. Turboranger doesn't get the credit it deserves for introducing new things to the franchise, things that would greatly benefit it and its survival into the 1990s. I brought up instances of the show introducing an idea and not dwelling on it or quickly brushing it aside -- for example, the idea of the humans gaining a power similar to fairy magic or the way that magic was returning to the world -- they were interesting ideas that would have helped make the show's world bigger if developed further, but...was it absolutely necessary for the show to delve deeply into it? At what point would it begin to get too far away from the show's main goal? Isn't the introduction of those ideas good enough?

Sometimes, I like a show or movie to provide little details like that, mention of unexplored corners of the show's world, enough to get your imagination working and creating those details yourself. And I find that's what Turboranger does. It will present to you enough of an idea to let your imagination take over. Does it make it weak? Not in my opinion. There's the possibility that what you picture is better than what would have ended up had the show gone down those roads. I like for a show to be as complete and planned out and meticulous as it can be, but I also like when there's room for things left to your imagination or layers or various ways of interpreting it. I think there's still value in those kinds of stories, something to still be had and enjoyed even if every "i" isn't perfectly dotted.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Turboranger Episode 50

Zuruten thinks he's finally tracked down the site of the Big Seal, and sure enough, after a massive earthquake, the Mark of Bouma appears over the location. With a humongous explosion, a Bouma-Beast then appears...and a puzzled Zuruten is all "What's this? Where the hell are the others?!" Sorry, Zuruten, your Big Seal is in another location, because this was just the location of Bouma-Beast Seal Bouma, a big and powerful Bouma that has the ability to seal AND break seals, who vows to break the Big Seal himself. When the Bouma Castle scoops them all up, Neo-Ragon reveals that, to undo the Big Seal, a sacrifice is needed. He gives Seal Bouma an orb to be used in the ritual, which will suck out the life of the sacrifices.  When Seal Bouma asks what to sacrifice, a laughing Neo-Ragon tells him the sacrifice shall be ones who are neither human nor Bouma...

Later, Kirika's attending to Riki's wounds, as the others are all trying to recover from that earlier dust-up. Riki gives Kashim's locket to her. In just moments, Yamimaru appears, ready to take them on once more, Kirika's pleas to end his violence and hatred only further upsetting him, to the point where he backhands her. (It's a bit shocking, a little unlike Yamimaru -- who told Kirika in his dream that he's not some low-life who would cut a woman's face -- and conveys how hurt he is by Kirika abandoning him.) Before anything else happens, Zuruten and Bouma troops appear, Zuruten letting it known that he's after Yamimaru and Kirika, that they're to be sacrificed. Seal Bouma blasts his unique attack at them, which results in them being bound in chains, sealed with a plaque bearing the Mark of Bouma. Dragras appears to haul them away. The Turboranger transform to try to stop them, but are also bound by Seal Bouma's attack, Zuruten paying them no further attention.

Bound in chains, Kirika and Yamimaru are also crucified, set near a pyre. Kirika uses this time to try to get through to Yamimaru, echoing a lot of what Riki said to her in the previous episode. (Her point here is that they're being sacrificed by Neo-Ragon because of the Nagare Bouma representing a love that was thought impossible, that they're a rare and beautiful result of that love.) Yamimaru remains his pessimistic self, telling her that it's hate that's kept him alive and given him power for 20,000 years, not love, and that he's seen any other way fail. Kirika's in disbelief at his words. Meanwhile, the Turboranger -- untransformed, but still in chains -- are making their way to the site of the ritual. And they are having a tough time of it, weighed down by the chains. Riki vows not to let Kirika be killed...

They eventually make their way there and are subject to an attack by Seal Bouma. Riki jumps from the mountaintop they're on, runs on Ura shoulders (a move I've seen numerous times in Sonny Chiba ninja movies!), makes his way near Seal Bouma, karate-kicks the mystical orb, which ruins the ritual, busts Seal Bouma's seals, finally resulting in the chains falling off and freeing the seven. They make mincemeat out of Seal Bouma and Zuruten enlarges him, but things don't go the way they usually do here...

As they rush to make their way to Rugger Fighter, Yamimaru holds Red Turbo back, challenging him to a duel. Black Turbo leads the others to Rugger Fighter, where they transform into Turbo Rugger to fight the giant Seal Bouma. So, we get one of the earliest attempts of the franchise of having a ground battle taking place at the same time as a giant battle, and it's awesome. You've got a good villain like Yamimaru, you've got a great Red like Riki and you've got the awesome Kazuo Niibori in-suit as Red Turbo, so you've gotta have a cool final villain fight, man. Liveman disappointed in that area, as I've mentioned. (How, how, HOW do you botch it so bad by not having a final Niibori VS Hirose duel!?!?)

The fight's pretty dang cool, and I'm not talking about the mecha fight, who cares about that -- I'm talking about the Red VS Yamimaru showdown. Kirika warns Yamimaru that he's one of only two Nagare Bouma left in the world. He scoffs. "That means you think *I'm* the one who's going to lose here." There's cool sword moves, there's Red's yanking Yamimaru by the foot to bring him down a mountain he's falling off of, there's Kirika nervously watching, not wanting either one of them to lose, die or even just be hurt.

And despite just earlier taking orders from Neo-Ragon to capture Yamimaru and Kirika, Dragras senses Yamimaru's battle at the Bouma Castle and flies away, swooping down to attack Red. (As Yamimaru notes, the Dragras IS supposed to be a guardian of the Nagare Bouma, after all.) When Neo-Ragon growls curses at the giant beast for betraying him, Dragras turns his attention to a suicide attack on the giant Seal Bouma, which frees the chained Turbo Rugger and buys it the time it needs to win. (Before Seal Bouma explodes, he plants his key-shaped staff into the ground, which burns itself underground, towards the Big Seal, causing another massive earthquake.)

Red notes Dragras' sacrificing itself for Yamimaru, asking him why doesn't he care for his own life. Yamimaru continues to fight, a couple of bad blows exchange between the two, ending in one of the classic old chambara stand-offs, waiting to see which warrior succumbs to injury or death first. And it's...Yamimaru's sword that falls, blood running from his mouth as he falls to his knees. Yamimaru asks Red why he doesn't deliver the fatal jab. Red tells him his death would kill Kirika with sorrow, that she AND him believe in him, and basically that he needs to get his priorities straight to realize what's really important in the world...

Kirika silently thanks Red, while Yamimaru replies by laughing his ass off, calling Red a fool and saying that he'll regret this show of mercy. He then performs a ninja-like move called the Dark Hiding, vanishing before the two, leaving Kirika in a panic. (We'll learn that Yamimaru risks his life to use the move.) The episode ends with the massive earthquakes hitting Turbo Builder hard, with Dazai realizing that the Big Seal just might be located beneath the Turbo Builder itself...! A crazy little twist, but a suspenseful cliffhanger leading into the final episode.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Turboranger Episode 49

I love the intro of this episode, how it's filmed; just a quiet scene as Kirika approaches Kashim's memorial, the way she stops herself from praying as soon as she senses Yamimaru watching her from afar. The episode's title comes up in a striking red-colored font.

The Turboranger are chilling one evening when they notice the stars of Rakia fading, with the Mark of Bouma appearing over the constellation. This understandably concerns them and Shiron, who notes it's a bad sign of something stirring up. It might have a little something to do with Neo-Ragon performing ancient rituals at the Bouma Castle, trying to locate the Big Seal -- an area where 108 Bouma-Beasts are sealed together. Dazai tells the Turboranger that the Big Seal was hidden so deeply, nobody knows its exact location. Shiron tells them that it's begun to rumble and possibly break because the Earth continues to be polluted. (Even though people have begun to change the way they treat the environment, the Earth won't just suddenly repair itself, says Haruna.) "And that's why we need you guys!" Dazai tells the team. "Right now, the Earth is healing its wounded body. And while it's weak, you must protect it!"

Meanwhile, Zuruten's zipping all over Japan, trying to track down the Big Seal. When the Turboranger set out to stop him, they're interrupted by the Nagare Bouma. Riki again tries to get through to the two, talking of Kashim and his wife's hope for the Nagare Bouma to become a bridge between humans and Bouma, with only Kirika showing signs of cracking. I like the exchange between Riki and Yamimaru here. Yamimaru says "For 20,000 years I've put up with wounds and pain caused by humans and Bouma. That pain lessens and disappears only with bloodshed!" Riki replies that it doesn't have to be that way, they can all just get along and live happily. Yamimaru laughs his ass off. "Are you telling me to love humans? Bouma? There's only one person I love. And we're going to build a kingdom ruling over the worlds of both humans and Bouma."

Ordinarily, if a villain says something vague like there's only "one person" they love, you kinda assume they're talking about themselves. Here, they cut to a surprised Kirika when Yamimaru says that, which pretty much confirms what fans only theorized. He then masks himself and attacks them, eventually talking Kirika into attacking, as well. However, tremors caused by the weakening Big Seal lead to an explosion which breaks the fight apart, with Riki taking the injured Kirika to a remote, safer location.

As I said, Kirika's shown signs of cracking in this episode. First, by trying to say farewell to Kashim. And then she hesitates as Yamimaru's attempting to make his trusty old spider, Yamikumo, into a Bouma-Beast. Now, weakened and bleeding, she asks Riki why he's taken her. He tells her that she's important; her veins flow with the blood of a human who loved a Bouma, and a Bouma who loved a human. She's the result of beings who saw past hate and opted for love, that she's a beautiful symbol and representation of all that her parents wanted, conveying their message from 20,000 years ago. This breaks through to Kirika, to the point when Yamimaru arrives and he orders her to attack, she doesn't. He fights with Riki, preparing to destroy the locket that's caused so much doubt and hesitation on Kirika's part, only for her to throw herself between Yamimaru's blade and the pendant-wearing Riki. Her hands clasp the sword, bleeding, as she cries and apologizes to Yamimaru. He looks shocked and upset, then turns his back on her. "Even though I'm alone, I'll fight," he replies, before ordering Yamikumo Bouma to attack, as the other Turboranger arrive just in time. (I like how Yamikumo Bouma pulls Red Turbo into a different dimension to fight.)

The episode ends with the Bouma still hunting the location of the Big Seal, with the heroes desperate to stop them. Meanwhile, Kirika sadly looks on as Yamimaru walks alone, fearing what his next move may be.

It's funny, I usually complain about villain redemption arcs, but it works here with the Nagare Bouma. At least more so than it worked in Liveman, I'll say. (Only Obular and MAYBE Ashura's redemptions work for me. But Mazenda? KEMP?! No way.) But these two were such good villains, that it's a shame to lose them as villains in these final few episodes, you know? That's a big threat eliminated, and I think that's probably the main reason they kept the possibility of bringing Ragon back. Neo-Ragon pops up in episode 46, when the show's practically over! I think they were setting the redemption storylines up and were like "Shit! Who's the Turboranger gonna be fighting in the finale then?!"

Villains turning good not only runs the risk of making a villain look foolish or indecisive or not threatening, but there's many times where these scenarios can make the heroic characters look bad, too. Sometimes they can come across as wishy-washy goofs or really naive or unbelievably good or too trusting. I talked about how the Liveman started to look like chumps in those later episodes for letting their psychotic friends off the hook. But this works here, especially homing in on Riki and Kirika and going back to that first episode of hers, where he felt bad for her and showed he genuinely cared about her, and he knew she was a good person and wanted to appeal to that side of her when Yamimaru was swaying her, and the fact that she really, really liked Riki.

So there's that part of Riki who had always wanted to help Sayoko, but a big motivation for him here is honoring Kashim's dying request. Riki isn't some pushover who suddenly becomes some big supporter of Bouma rights or anything, but he felt bad for the old man. He knows that the sentiment of unification meant something to him, and that he wanted Kirika to understand, so he will try to get her to understand the unique situation of her parents. Even though Riki had that line about cutting ties with Sayoko in 32, he's still known Sayoko as a classmate, so he has to care for her on some level. But in a similar way to how he pushed aside his anger at Yamimaru for Yamaguchi's sake in 22, he's going to dedicate himself to helping Kirika for Kashim's sake. (And will do so with Yamimaru for Kirika's sake in the next episode.)

Now for some complaints, though. Mainly that, when we're shown the army of hell that the Big Seal is holding back, that are ready to march if the Big Seal breaks, it's a big reunion of old Bouma-Beast suits. But smack dab in the middle of this crowd is the Ragon suit. What the hell is that doing there? Now, I know they made this show not thinking anybody was going to be watching it 30 years later and poring over it, but it's soooooo easily noticeable. Why include the instantly recognizable suit of your head villain in the first place? Is it just supposed to be some other creature in the Ragon family? It's distracting.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Turboranger Episode 48

I love the crazy way this episode begins, with Nagareboshi and Sayoko both out on a mountaintop in darkness, getting drenched in a massive storm, calling to the sky to hit them with lightning in hopes of regaining their powers. When Riki and the others try to stop them from this madness, Nagareboshi reasons that if the Turboranger could regain their power by being pushed to their limits and while under duress, they should be able to achieve the same. They're only stopped by the arrival of Kashim, who's able to make the storm disappear and the sky turn blue.

Kashim tries to tell the two Nagare Bouma that their true forms are as Nagareboshi and Sayoko, that the Nagare Bouma should be a symbol of peace, not battle. Nagareboshi thinks he's crazy, but he commands all seven of them to listen to him as he reveals the truth about the Nagare Bouma. (And, boy, is it some crazy Clive Barker-y stuff.) He tells them of the ancient times, of the humans and fairies uniting to fight the Bouma. He says there was once a beautiful woman who helped a wounded Bouma-Beast, Devil Mask Bouma, who's described as the most brutal Bouma-Beast. This act of kindness touched the monster, who realized this human truly cared, despite who or what he was. Because of this, she was shunned by other humans, so she and the Bouma-Beast moved deep into the forest together, eventually falling in love and having a kid, the first Nagare Bouma. "The two prayed that this child would grow up to be kind, with a heart as deep as the sea." He tells them that Devil Mask Bouma and the beautiful woman hoped the Nagare Bouma would be something that united humans and Bouma.

Nagareboshi doesn't want to hear it, resuming his call to the sky to strike him with lightning. It's at once hilarious, yet so cruel that Neo-Ragon hears his request at the Bouma Castle and is like "So you want to transform? OK, you'll transform." He sends a kind of parasitic webbing down to the Earth, which clings to Nagareboshi and transforms him into Bouma-Beast Gomugomu Bouma. The idea reminds me of that Space Beast Soldier in Changeman whose true form was netting, but he'd gather rocks within that netting and make a monstrous form. Like, Neo-Ragon takes this seemingly-living slimy webbing and makes a Bouma-Beast out of it when it's combined with someone.

Gomugomu Bouma (who mainly just growls, but it sounds like Yoshinori Tanaka and not just a random seiyuu, which is a nice addition) beats the heck outta the Turboranger, even spitting ooze which eats through the Turbo Suits. Sayoko tries to reach through to Hikaru, but can't, Kashim even taking an attack for her. (Sayoko refers to Hikaru as her only friend in the world.) Eventually, Gomugomu Bouma fires a webbing at Sayoko, but before she can mutate, a panicked Kashim fires a beam from the locket he wears at her, which dissolves the webbing. He then fires it at the Bouma-Beast, who reverts to Nagareboshi. Pissed off at this turn of events, Neo-Ragon sends down an energy bolt to blast the two Nagare Bouma to smithereens, only to was the answer to their prayers from the beginning of the episode, as the bolt recharged their powers and they transform into Kirika and Yamimaru once again. (Which pisses off Neo-Ragon, shocks the Turboranger and worries Kashim.)

Yamimaru sends the parasitic webbing Zuruten's way, and he becomes the Gomugomu Bouma. (And you can tell it's Hideyuki Umezu providing the voice this time. Again, nice detail.) As the two charge into battle, Kashim grabs Yamimaru's leg, repeating his belief about peace, Yamimaru responding with a kick that sends the old man falling off a cliff. He lies at the bottom, weak, injured, as Riki and the others race to him. Kashim becomes a Bouma Beast and they discover that Kashim wasn't a Nagare Bouma, but is actually Devil Mask Bouma. The story he told them was about himself, and the woman in the story -- we saw in the flashbacks, whose picture is in his locket -- is a dead ringer for Sayoko. She's Kirika's mom and Kashim is her dad, who hid the truth from her because he didn't want to upset her. His dying request is for the Turboranger to save Sayoko, make her understand the true heart of the Nagare Bouma, to help both of them. He hands the locket to Riki and vanishes.

Riki and the others confront the two Nagare Bouma, who are fighting the Uras and Gomugomu Bouma. Riki shows her the locket and tells her the truth, that Kashim was her father. She doesn't want to believe it, but thinks it helps explain why he put himself in danger for her. But she sticks with Yamimaru, wanting to uphold their promise to one another, and continues to fight instead. (If you're worried about Zuruten, and think this is his time, don't worry. After a blast from the Turboranger, Zuruten is able to separate himself from the webbing, absentmindedly tossing it aside for an Ura to receive. This also reminds me of a moment from Changeman, when Shiima pulled herself out of the Space Beast Soldier Zuune, and it absorbed Hidora soldiers instead.)

The episode ends with the five placing Kashim's staff on a sandy seashore as a grave marker, placing flowers there, praying for him, and promising to get through to Yamimaru and Kirika, as his words echo: "The two prayed that this child would grow up to be kind, with a heart as deep as the sea."

I like this episode, I think it's good and well made, but...the retcon-y nature of it always bugged me. (I think I'd also rather have the Nagare Bouma be mysterious; explaining their origin and having Kirika be so important -- if Kashim was telling the truth, that makes her the FIRST Nagare Bouma! -- it takes away some of their mystique.) We were led to believe in her debut episode, in episode 31, that those skull monsters were Sayoko's parents. OK, so you're changing that, Writer, aren't going to bring them up at all, you aren't going to find a way to work them into this retcon? Now how are we to make sense of this storyline, then? So when exactly did they enter the picture? How did Omamori Bouma become involved? Shouldn't we be shown how they came into guardianship of Kirika? Did Kashim hand her over, or did he just abandon Sayoko, only for her to be found by Bouma, Bouma who then raise his daughter in a way that goes against everything he said he and her mother wanted of her? That would make Kashim seem like an ass or a liar or a fool, then. That's a BIG change to Sayoko's story that really, really needs addressed, but it isn't. At all! It seems careless of Soda to leave this hanging.

There's a lot of times Turboranger will simply infer or imply something, or will give you enough details to fill in the blanks yourself, but not here. There's just too many questions raised. Kirika's been with the show such a short period of time, it's strange to shoehorn in this development as if nobody would remember her introduction. And it's a massive, crucial piece to one of our regular character's history to alter and pave over like this. I really liked the set-up shown in Sayoko's debut episode and found it more interesting than this sudden turn with Kashim and his talks of peace; I thought the skull monsters were more unsettling and cooler, and Omamori Bouma was a fascinating addition.

So it sucks to just gloss over all of that great material to make this change, which is the beginning of an important redemption arc for these two popular villain characters, but SOMEthing of an explanation would have gone a long way. (I have to wonder if Kashim was going to end up being Yamimaru's dad, but Soda realized that Kirika was more sympathetic, and that you wouldn't necessarily buy Yamimaru changing so suddently. If Yamimaru was given this story and was to be affected by Kashim, it would take away a lot of the conflict in these final episodes by removing Yamimaru as a threat to the Turboranger.)

While Turboranger's one of my favorites, at the same time I recognize it as the beginning of Hirohisa Soda's burnout, because he wouldn't ordinarily leave inconsistencies like this hanging. And on top of that, I think there have been reasons beyond his control which affect his writing for this show -- the way the show evolved, the transition it had to make after getting rid of the old villains, budget issues, there's a time-slot change, there's changing plans because of certain characters' popularity and so on. I also think you can just look at late '80s toku shows and realize there was a crackdown to lighten them. (Look at how Black and Liveman softened their narrative; look how kid-friendly shows like RX, Jiraiya and Jiban are.)

Anyway, Soda would usually have written a little something to address all this. We would have gotten a little scene or even just a line about the skull monsters finding Sayoko or kidnapping Sayoko or Kashim handing her over to them before being sealed or SOMETHING. An explanation of SOME kind. Why not just dialogue to tie this together? It's not expensive to just SAY something. Just even, like, there was an attack, Kirika's mom died, Devil Mask Bouma was blasted away, and then baby Kirika was found by a Belgian skull monster and his fifteen year-old love slave, who were looting the accident scene, and they raised her to be evil. You know, that old chestnut. Kashim wanted to reach out sooner, but those Belgians made her too damn evil.

There's really no way to make the scenario work tidily, on your own, with what's been presented. If Kashim was hiding out in the forest with Kirika's mom, are we to assume he never was sealed? If he was sealed, I could buy that maybe Kirika would have ended up in the hands of others. But since it doesn't seem like he was, just how did she end up with those other guys? What the hell's Kashim been doing for 20,000 years? If he was never sealed and has just been wandering Japan for 20,000 years, you'd think he would have been able to track down Sayoko well before he did and stopped her before Yamimaru and her awakening powers brought out the worst in her. If he WAS sealed, then who unsealed him? WHY NO EXPLANATION? It just doesn't add up. You mean to tell me they could haul the skull monster suits out for a tiny flashback in episode 41, but not again here? Bah!

I know I've devoted too much time to this, but it's just something that's always bugged me, and I don't think I've seen anyone question this turn. I mean, it's not a deal-breaker. These episodes are still good and still manage to work, even if the inconsistencies nag at you. I call it a plothole on this Seishun Road.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Turboranger Episode 47

A great episode with a quick pace, high stakes, great action, and Shiron gets a big moment to shine.

Both the Turboranger and the Nagare Bouma are recuperating from the previous episode; Shiron's sorrowful and feeling like she should have done more, while the wounded Nagare Bouma have been found and taken to shelter by an old man, Kashim, who knows an awful lot about them -- he claims to be a fellow Nagare Bouma. (Kashim is played by Ulf Ohtsuki, who's appeared in a bunch of toku, but is probably best known to Sentai fans as Dairanger's High Priest Saw and as Santa Claus in Kakuranger. Dude even recently popped up in Kamen Rider Drive, as a scientist working for Bandai.) Meanwhile, the Dragras flies to Neo-Ragon in the Bouma Castle, where Ragon unseals the Bouma-Beast within the creature, the vampire Dragura Bouma...

The sullen and worried Turboranger are in a park, taking in their situation when they're spotted by Yamaguchi-sensei, who's genuinely concerned with their demeanor, telling them that she wishes they'd open up to her. They're interrupted by Dragura Bouma's attack, the creature gruesomely attacking Yamaguchi and turning her into a vampire. Powerless and not wanting to hurt Yamaguchi, the Turboranger flee, only to be confronted by Nagareboshi and Sayoko. Riki tries to convince them to cease any attacks, since none of 'em are in the shape to battle. The old man, Kashim arrives at the scene, echoing Riki's request to not fight. They're all swept up in an attack by Dragura Bouma and Bouma troops.

Worried for the powerless Turboranger and the danger they and their teacher are in, Shiron departs, turning into a beam of light and striking Dragura Bouma, knocking all of its teeth out. (Which seems to free Yamaguchi of being a vampire.) This gets the bad guys to retreat while giving the heroes the chance to pull themselves together, as Shiron then uses her magic to switch places with Yamaguchi; Shiron gives her fairy abilities to Yamaguchi, while she becomes human. The show doesn't hold your hand and spell it all out for you, so my take is this...

While mostly an excuse to finally give Shiron actress Mayumi Ohmura a chance to interact with the rest of the cast, I think she makes this desperate gamble to make herself visible to the five and motivate them. She needed to get through to them and does so, once they see her and once they realize how much she put herself at risk to save them, it fires them up. And I like to think she wants to keep Yamaguchi safe from falling under Dragura Bouma's control again, to prevent her from ending up with blood on her hands. She arrived and saved Yamaguchi just in time and kept this kind woman -- this mentor and leader of our heroes, who cares for her students so deeply -- pure. She saved her before she was lost and brought harm to anyone. (And if she did harm anyone, it was going to be the students she cares so much for.)

After expending so much energy and becoming human, Dazai informs them that it's dangerous for Shiron to remain this way, and that it also risks Yamaguchi's safety, giving further motivation to our heroes. Unfortunately, the villains return to attack. Dazai ushers Yamaguchi-yousei to safety, while Riki carries the weakened Shiron, and they all dodge attacks from the villains. (Ohmura has a lot of guts to be playing unconscious while being carried through big time toku explosions by Kenta Sato. And Sato, as well. I'd be looking out for myself to avoid them fireballs, I wouldn't want to be carrying anyone!)

They're pretty much pinned by the Bouma forces, who fire on all of them. The five Turboranger disregard their own safety, jumping their way to Shiron in order to shield her and take the blast for her. (It reminds me of that moment in Maskman episode 3, when they're all dodging an attack from Igam and jump towards one another, hands out to begin meditation.) In an explosion that would do Junji Yamaoka proud, Zuruten is pretty sure his opponents are finished. Only, when the fire dies down and the smoke clears, it's the Turboranger standing, with Red Turbo holding Shiron. In past moments of crisis, when Riki and the gang have lost their powers, they were rewarded in various ways as they proved themselves, their devotion to each other, to protecting the world, to protecting each other.

Their commitment to saving the Earth, so much so that they shed blood, led to them discovering a hidden location of fairy lights in episode 16. They found power within themselves when they were all willing to protect each other from harm in episode 28. In episode 30, the emotions between Dazai and the Turboranger led to the merging of Turbo Robo and Turbo Rugger. Echoing those episodes, here the Turboranger find renewed power in the absolute faith and love they have for Shiron, and that Shiron has for them. I imagine some would criticize the show for being repetitive, but to me there's a nice progression and an order; for the final time in the series that they need to rebuild their power, for it to happen through their care for Shiron is the highest the writers could go, and it also holds the most meaning and symbolism. That their power is re-earned through their faith and willingness to sacrifice themselves for the personification of that power -- Shiron, the last fairy, the representation of goodness and purity and sacred light -- is the ultimate development.

The Turboranger are victorious, while the Nagare Bouma witness their reclamation of power and plan their next move. They're watched by the mysterious Kashim, who we'll learn more about in the next episode.

This episode's not all awesome action, though. They work in a couple of moments of comedy, like Shiron's mischievous grin when she decides to reswap places with Yamaguchi, in which the fairy-sized Yamaguchi returns to normal while Dazai holds her. It's a scene that brings back memories of Dazai and Yamaguchi's comedic encounters from earlier in the show, and it's also pretty much the last bit of humor in these final episodes.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Turboranger Episode 46

A standout episode, an action-fest culminating in one of the more unique battle scenes of the franchise, an episode in which our heroes are barely victorious. Director Takao Nagaishi amps up the tension and drama.

The episode begins with a battle between the Turboranger and the Nagare Bouma already in progress. It's implied they've been battling for quite a while, and that it's "the last battle." (The battle is nicely staged on a beach shore, with nothing to interrupt the battle but crashing waves.) Both sides look to be exhausted and all fighters are taking hits -- Nagare Bouma included, when they've been rarely seen to take hits. I love this idea of being thrown into this critical battle in the midst of it; that they're all so worn out and beaten down, there's such a desperation to the fight, the sense that something WILL be lost by the end of the battle. It reminds me of the way that one Kuuga episode opens from Godai's POV after an intense battle with Daguba that happened off-screen. They didn't have to show you either of these brutal fights in their entirety, just glimpses, and it's in the way they're depicting the aftermath of these struggles, the pain and exhaustion, that you can just feel how brutal it's been for our heroes.

The episode makes no secret that Ragon's keeping tabs on this battle through the latest Bouma-Beast, One-Eyed Bouma. He urges the fight to go on, part of his plan...

At one point in the battle, the Turboranger are attacked and Pink reverts to being Haruna. (You know a battle's bad in a toku when a hero gets knocked out of their suit, that's Toku 101.) Haruna is so beat-down and desperate and past the point of exhaustion that she simply just begs everyone to stop fighting, but it falls on deaf ears. She sees her comrades being badly beaten and even recognizes her opponents are really her peers, letting herself imagine a what-if scenario if they were all just ordinary high-schoolers and actual friends. (Sidenote: the only Turboranger episodes available for a long time back in the day were the ones officially released on VHS. Remember, Toei only released 35 of 51 episodes on VHS, not the entire series. This episode was one of the ones released, and I remember watching it and being confused by Haruna's fantasy where Hikaru and Sayoko are good, happy and friendly with the five. I thought this was a flashback to one of the missing episodes, so I was like "That's damn weird that they were friends at one point! When was this? Yamimaru was beating them up since his first episode! Kirika went bad in her first episode. When were they friends? What is this? What could that episode have been about?!" Confusing.)

Just then, as if an answer to Haruna's prayers, a mysterious doorway appears on the beach. Shiron identifies it as a Fairy Gate, which should lead to the Land of Fairies. Shiron talks of a jewel, the Love Jewel that can be found there, a source of peace and love that can calm anyone who sees its light, making them lose feelings of hatred. So, this Changeman fan basically sums it up as Meruru-seijin Sakura in jewel form. This is music to Haruna's ears, which is probably why Shiron mentioned it, and she immediately makes way towards the gate, quick to dismiss Red when he warns it's suspicious and could be a trap. She enters the gate and vanishes, the four others and the Nagare Bouma soon following.

We're at the end of the show, which means we're at the point where Toei is like "Fuck you, we're giving all of your money to the new show." Turboranger didn't have that much money to begin with! So the depiction of the Land of Fairies...isn't what it could be. It's all the same sound stage redressed. Just lots of colors and flowers and nature-y stuff, like...if the Makuu Space of Gavan was designed by Bob Ross. The Turbo guys hold back the Nagare Bouma as Haruna searches about for the Love Jewel, which she eventually finds in an area that looks like it jumped out of The Adventures of Link. The Love Jewel is...a clear jewel. Shaped like a heart. (Subtle!) By this point, the Turbo guys and the Nagare Bouma have fought so much, they've reverted back to their ordinary selves. Haruna is overjoyed, though, standing before Nagareboshi and Sayoko, holding the Love Jewel and hoping it works its magic. And then...

Whammy-blammy, wowee-zowee, you just got Prank'd! The joint explodes and they all find themselves back on the beach. Not only that, but the Love Jewel turns to sand and dissolves, which looks like it causes Haruna's actual heart to turn to sand and dissolve, too. Soon, standing before them is a familiar face...kinda. They recognize the voice, but the face has had work -- it's Ragon, now in the new form of Neo-Ragon, back from the dead, assholes! They've all been playing right in his hands; the Fairy Gate, the trip to the Land of Fairies, all of that was an illusion created by One-Eyed Bouma. It's implied that Neo-Ragon kept them fighting for so long, and especially wanted them to fight so long that both sides exhausted their power. (He mocks the Nagare Bouma for not realizing that they COULD lose power.) I imagine that mimicking the Land of Fairies, using one of the fairy civilization's legends and giving Haruna such hope, only to shatter it is just further icing on the cake that is Neo-Ragon's revenge. (It's seriously cruel.) He sends them an attack that scatters them all before leaving to reclaim the Bouma Castle, ordering One-Eyed Bouma, Zuruten and the Ura patrol to continue the battle.

Haruna apologizes to all of them for putting all of her hopes on the Love Jewel, dragging them all on a quest borne of her desperation; Riki doesn't blame her for it. Taking everything that's happened to heart, feeling like it's personal and wanting restitution, she requests that they pool their remaining power and transfer it to her to fight. Her kindness was preyed upon, her hope crushed, and she needs to show why that was a mistake. (She wanted to stop the fight peacefully and with love; I feel like this episode is conveying that she realizes that sometimes, unfortunately, the only answer is to fight. It hurts when an ideal is cracked. It's a hard lesson, one that puts you on the path of becoming an adult.) After some brief hesitation from Daichi, Youhei and Shunsuke, they agree to, sending the power from their Turbo Braces into Haruna's, Haruna alone transforming to take on the monster. How unique is this? How many times have you seen this play out in a toku? The heroes gave all of their remaining power to just one member, the heroine at that. That's the confidence they have in Haruna, and that's the confidence Super Sentai has in a female character that other toku franchises lack.

And even while Pink Turbo struggles briefly, it's depicted in a way that plays more like she's just broken down. She's devastated, she's been crushed, having that hope taken away from her. Riki tells her that the real Love Jewel is within her, her own heart. (So, I think her lesson is, even in a world where there's fairy magic, she can't rely on a magical shortcut through an obstacle.) She eventually finds it in herself to take down the Bouma-Beast on her own (!) and having to pilot the Turbo Rugger on her own (!) -- again, how unique is this? (The four untransformed guys eventually show up in the Turbo Rugger cockpit to encourage her, which is a move they must regret once they're shaken around in the Screw Rugger Kick finisher move. That maneuver looks dangerous enough when they're all transformed!) I can't think of many other Sentai shows other than Turboranger that have frequently had one hero taking down a monster of the week on their own; Turboranger likes to do a lot of things differently and introduces new ideas to the franchise and isn't appreciated for it.

It's not a happy victory, but a bitter one and they barely scrape by. The five heroes barely have the strength to return to the control center of the Turbo Builder, and when they do, they're shocked by what they see. Or don't see, I should say: they're unable to see or hear Shiron, only realizing her presence as she brings them bandages -- they only see floating bandages, which Shiron drops in shock. Our heroes are past their limit, but their biggest fight is still ahead of them. Turboranger has liked to show our heroes taking their lumps; and that's good, because our teenage heroes shouldn't know how to do everything, and it's a big metaphor for growing up.

It's great to bring Ragon back into the mix -- the show would have had a huge hole in it if he had really stayed dead -- but I don't like Neo-Ragon's design as much as Original Recipe Ragon. It's like they got a little too caught up in making him "super" that they forgot to keep it all that Ragon-like. They lose what made him such a creepy, memorable villain. It's all so...smooth, shiny and stream-lined. If not for Takebe and Kusaka, it would hardly seem like the same character. And even though the original Ragon was technically a rubber mask, with an unmovable mouth, it's more noticeable with Neo-Ragon; it seems like a Halloween mask, with the constantly-open, slack jaw throwing off the look. (And why didn't they make Kusaka's eyes visible again?!) It's a good main villain design, don't get me wrong -- it's pretty damn cool when you really look it over. And good, suited villains are hard to pull off. Look at how the suit-only villains of modern shows often just look like ordinary monsters of the week, their designs are such an afterthought and unimaginative. So, Neo-Ragon is still a great design, I just don't like it as much as the old Ragon design, and don't feel like it's as unique. (Man, does GoGoFive really want Zylpheeza to look like Neo-Ragon.)

And now for some slight criticism... Remember the Bouma Castle's Life Jewel that was so important in episode 39? And this episode focuses on the Fairy Love Jewel. I feel like there was a missed opportunity to have this elaborate ruse be a cover for Ragon's wanting to retrieve the Life Jewel. They could have had it that Ragon needs the Life Jewel to conduct a ritual to return, a ritual requiring a sacrifice of hope or something. One-Eyed Bouma sets up the illusion which gets enemies to retake the Life Jewel for him, all while playing into the ritual. So, the whole illusion would play into his return, not just his act of revenge? (I guess it's colder that he sets them on this journey purely for revenge, though.)

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.