Jeremy Clarkson catches the train while James May and Richard Hammond must race to catch up with him via taxi, bus and walking.
Hello, and welcome to Ressha Sentai ToQger, the show that will once and for all prove that trains are the supreme means of transportation. Only in Japan, because Japan is the only country in the universe where the trains actually run on time. That is if you bring your pass. Coming home from a shopping spree, Tokatti loses his, so Mio decides to stay with him and catch up with the others on the Rainbow Line, while a monster travels from station to station to wreak havoc. The Rangers having to chase a monster all over Japan in all sorts of crazy vehicles sounds like the greatest idea… in the world, yet sadly enough Kyoryuger this ain’t, which leads to the premise being executed about as boringly as humanly possible. Come on, ToQger… How hard can it be?
What should have been a madcap cross-country with tandems, unicycles and rickshaws ends up being the screenwriting equivalent of phoning it in, with less focus on the potential for wackiness and more on the cast’s overall lame-ness and incomprehensible obsession with trains. It’s nowhere near as fun as it should be, and sadly enough, Jin Hiramaki’s enthusiastic performance as Tokatti does little to brighten up the rather listless, melodramatic script. Hiramaki and Riria (Mio) don’t have the chemistry, say, Kazuki Shimizu (Don) and Mao Ishimishi (Luka) had in Gokaiger, making their generic “dorky klutz boy vs. boisterous tomboy girl” interactions rather boring to watch. Throw in a charmless, poorly-designed monster of the week and an half-assed moral about overspending, and you get yet another dull episode that does very little to win ToQger any points.
You have one episode left to convince me, ToQger. Lighten up a bit. Explore your cast. Make use of the enthusiasm they are clearly showing. Delve further into the mystery of their hometown. Don’t just think that because you’re a kids’ show, you can get away with anything. Or else you can go join Alata and his goody-two-shoes buddies in the loser corner. And on that bombshell; it’s time to hand this episode over to our tame serious reviewer. Some say he’s bought more figures last year than Michelangelo has sculpted in his entire life, and that pictures of him in a fedora have been used for torture in more than 36 prisons all over the world. All we know is… he’s called the Zigg.
- Robo-Minorin remains the best thing about this show.
- Right remains the worst thing about this show. I know you have to set an example, you know, for children and stuff, but for crying out loud, this guy is just insufferably goody-goody. It’s almost like he’s a Power Ranger or something.
- The ToQ-Oh’s new shield suffers heavily from what we will from hereon out call “Energy Rider Bow Syndrome”, namely that it looks pretty cool, but is way too small to be taken seriously.
This episode is a classic example of ‘execution is everything’. Every Sentai series essentially follows the same plot arc and often recycles key episodes at least instructure. So the way they distinguish each other is through more incidental details such as camera work, performance and individual character writing. There’s a fun, frothy episode to be had here but it needed to be played to the hilt as a comedy adventure. Instead we get some of that, but also an attempt to make it a serious plot episode as well, and the result is underwhelming.
I will say though that Tokatti is by far and away the most interesting of the ToQgers so far. Hiramaki does a great job selling his personality, nerdy and nebbish yet bright and cheerful also. His unabashed shopping spree is so shamelessly mercenary it’s difficult not to warm to the guy, and centring an episode around him immediately gives it more punch and interest than last week’s weak Kagura episode. The problem though is that he’s not really given much to do. All of the other ToQgers are such weak personalities it’s difficult for him to form an effective rapport with any of them. That’s even more true of Mio, ostensibly the secondary character of this episode. Sentai paints in such broad strokes that you really need your personalities to bounce off each other in a big way to make thing entertaining. As it is these two have about as much chemistry as a rainy day.
Action wise it’s a mixed bag. I’m really not a fan of the monster costume this week, it’s a big step down from the exceptional looking baddies we’ve had the past fortnight. That said, the fights are mostly solid and the dam is a nice variation in location. I’ll admit to laughing pretty heartily at the giant rubber band of death. Unusually, it may have been the robot battle which stole the show this week, largely thanks to the Shadow line deploying their awesome looking mook ‘bots. The appearance of General Schwarz in his pimped-out ride was very cool too and strongly suggests he’ll be the major ‘on the ground’ villain for the first part of the show. We’ll need to see if we can get that far though, as as it is ToQger is proving competent but thoroughly unremarkable.
- The ‘only children can see us’ thing is done to death at this point, and I’ve never really felt Sentai is serious enough for morals revolving around the innocence of youth.
- Tokatti buys a CD boombox during his shopping spree, which leads me to believe this series is set in 1998.
- I do like the ‘Be careful during car vibration’ sign which pops up during the giant robot beatdown
- Foolish of me I know, but I can’t help but imagine a Kyoryuger version of this where Ian and Utchy just show up in increasingly ludicrous forms of transport – bicycle, rickshaw, Segway, hovercraft, tanks etc.