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Impressions: Shuriken Sentai Ninninger episodes 1-30

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It's all about that Shinobi Love

When it comes to delicacies that blend things together, the sandwich is one of those meals that smash a bunch of stuff in between two slices of bread. So what does this have to do with tokusatsu? Well, one thing that I’ve noticed about the Super Sentai titles that range from being above average or below is that they tend to be in-between two shows that rocked. One common example is Tensou Sentai Goseiger’s case, which came right after Samurai Sentai Shinkenger but before Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger.

While I found Goseiger to be a decent show, it still had the unfortunate luck of being in a sandwich that consists of two Sentai shows that were both fun on their own accord. One was a neat modern take on the samurai era and the other was a great anniversary title that featured a lively group of space pirates. Even without Gokaiger’s presence in the meal, many folks felt that Goseiger’s angel and card motif weren’t a good follow-up to the previous show.

Going by this pattern, the latest series, Shuriken Sentai Ninninger, seems to be the bread that completes the sandwich that contains Ressha Sentai ToQger on top of a delicious slice of Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger. As for the reasoning behind mentioning this scenario, I've noticed that whenever a decent installment finishes its run, the next one tends to be amazing. Since this is the first time that they're celebrating the franchise's anniversary on time (they’ve been celebrating it a year late for a good while), the odds of this occurrence happening again seem to be in place. However, things might go a little different this year.

(they’ve been celebrating it a year late for a good while

At one point in time, a man with the title of the Last Ninja managed to seal away a group of Yokai that were lead by a ruthless warlord called Gengetsu Kibaoni. Flash forward to the present, and a mysterious fellow who goes by the name of Kyuuemon Izayoi has awakened most of the creatures that were sealed away.  Standing in his way are the five relatives of the legendary shinobi, who are also in training to become great warriors. As they work hard to save humanity, the team is also competing to see who can become the Last Ninja’s successor.

From the get-go, the main thing that sets Ninninger apart from most other Sentai shows is that the five heroes are also rivals. Despite their ambitions for wanting to become the next Last Ninja, the group still has to work as a team to overcome all odds. Because of this format, this lets us see the main cast’s relationship exhibit different levels of chemistry during training and in real battle. Hell, the team’s trials are played out like an actual school, since students are ranked by their grades and overall performance until they graduate. At the same time, they still help each other out during tough situations, which brings us an interesting take on the franchise's teamwork theme.


Even through the series features a neat take on the team’s relationship, it’s unfortunate that the staff is trying too hard to replicate Kyoryuger’s over-the-top aspects. Obviously, I love it when a Sentai program has off-the-wall elements, but it’s important for these aspects to come off naturally. For example, Takuharu Igasaki/Aka Ninger gives off a Daigo/Kyoryu Red vibe, but the guy’s overly exaggerated enthusiasm and his tendency to use the phrase ‘fired up’ and ‘hot’ lacks that special zest that made the King's hot-blooded phrases great. Instead, his actions make him a bit annoying at times.

Speaking of attempts to replicate successful elements, the final part of the team’s roll call has to do with running wild and the show’s sixth Ranger made his debut early in the series. Based on these aspects, it’s likely possible that Ninninger’s staff is hoping that these elements will replicate Kyoryuger’s success. Luckily, the show doesn’t come off as a poor excuse to market merchandise to kids based on the brand name alone, since there are a few moments that stand out on their own.


Despite Takaharu’s slightly irritating habits, the rest of the cast manages to balance out his negative traits. With two young heroes that provide great support, a magic ninja, a scientific genius, and a cowboy that loves to take selfies with monsters, the rest of the Ninninger balance out the red shinobi’s bad qualities. I guess you could say that each member covers their own weaknesses in battle and in life. All in all, the group’s interactions play off for some good laughs here and there, which helps keep viewers entertained before the action kicks in.

As for Kyuuemon’s group, the show’s format prevents them from being fleshed out too well. This was due to the fox demon’s tendency to revive Gengetsu’s Generals one at a time, which prevented most of the major bad guys from reaching their full potential. One villain that suffered dearly from this was Raizou Gabi, who seemed like he was going to be Takaharu’s rival throughout the entire show— kind of like Takeru/Shinken Red and Juzou’s encounters in Shinkenger. Even though the later Commanders are still alive, their role hasn’t reached the same pinnacle as the blood-thirsty samurai. For now, Izayoi shows some promise, since his backstory is connected to the Igasaki Ninja Clan. That and it’s cool to see that Gengetsu’s high-ranking members wear broken Noh masks; thus adding a neat aesthetic to the group’s Warring Era theme.


Perhaps if Gengetsu and his top officers were awake from the get-go, Ninninger might’ve had a stronger villain cast. Then again, Ninja Sentai Kakuranger featured a similar format to the latest ninja team’s adversary, so the issue here is how the bad guys interact with the heroes. Hell, in titles like Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters, a series with a small general count, the thing that let Enter stay strong throughout the series was his constant interaction with his enemies. Whether he was eating a pizza while commencing his evil scheme or greeting the team in French, his presence was a welcoming aspect for the show. Sadly, the Kibaoni Army’s commanders (except Raizou) weren't able to deliver a great dynamic between them and the good guys, which was due to them not crossing swords with the heroes too often.

Where the villains were lacking, the Monsters-of-the-Week managed to keep the series’ conflicts entertaining. Besides being actual yokai crossed with random objects, most of these creatures leave us with some silly moments here and there. I mean, we got to see Frankenstein's Creature become a fan of cute 2D girls, a moment that I didn't expect to see outside of Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger. Due to Kyuuemon’s desire to collect people's fears, we get to see these baddies scare humans through actions like using walls to crush people’s dreams or trapping people inside of difficult board games. Even when the Izayoi Clan ninjas took over as the weekly adversaries for the heroes, they still managed to carry the spirit of the other bad guys.


Going back to Kyuuemon, his role in the show is now one of the bigger things that could turn the villains around. Aside from his mysterious motives, he played a decent role in giving the show’s sixth Ranger, Kinji/Star Ninger, a challenge while he was trying to become the Last Ninja’s student. As the ninja fox demon starts to show more of his true colors, I could see him becoming a bigger villain than Gengetsu later on. For now, this is aspect is something that could turn the evil side into a more lovable group.

In regards to the team’s weapon designs, their #1 Sword sports a colorful look, which goes well with its role as a changing device and main combat gadget. Just like Ninja Sentai Kakuranger’s heroes, the Ninninger all have the same gear, since their other tools include a transforming shuriken and a frog gun. Nonetheless, each member’s strengths and weaknesses allow for everyone to use the items in different ways, such as Yakumo/Ao Ninger combining magic with his special attacks.


Thanks to their special shurikens that can be inserted into each weapon, the show’s staff has ensured that the Ninninger are able to add some more flair to the action scenes on screen. Of course, these segments go well with the group’s usage of ninja techniques like substitution and clone move; thus acting as another decent callback to the two previous ninja-themed Sentai shows.

As for the gang’s costumes, the suits manage to compliment the show’s motif, as each hero’s helmet has a different shuriken that acts as their visor. On top of that, the scrolls on their chests complete the great package that makes up these great designs. While Star Ninger’s attire lacks these features, his cowboy elements were a clever way to utilize the sheriff’s star as part of the team’s association with spiked throwing weapons.


While we’re on the topic of Star Ninger, the hero’s cowboy hat-shaped helmet and poncho work as a great way to compliment his American origins. Sure, he’s a parody of Texan and Wild West stereotypes (the guy transforms with a freaking cheeseburger cellphone, for crying out loud), but it’s these aspects that make his character fun. In a way, he’s like a glorious fusion between Ninpu Sentai Hurricanger’s Shurikenger and Shinkenger’s Shinken Gold, since he likes to add English words to phrases and he has a gold costume that has blue on it.

Just like Kyoryuger’s mecha dinosaurs, Ninninger’s signature robots also feature a colorful toy-like design. If there’s one thing that sets them apart from the samba dinosaur show, it’s that the team’s Ninja Allies don’t share a similar motif. When you think about it, a giant ninja, a dragon, a dump truck, a dog, a train, an elephant, a U.F.O., a surfer, a lion fortress, and a Western ninja that rides a buffalo A.T.V. wheeler have nothing in common. Then again, most of these things are seen as cool things, which might’ve been a factor in their decision to give the gang machines that lack a common motif.


Even though the Ninninger’s Ninja Allies look like something to come out of a ‘Cool Japan’ campaign, the shear ridiculousness behind these units using each other as thrones is both an awesome homage to its ninja theme, along with being a great way to replicate the great aspects from show like Gurren Lagann into a live-action series. From day one, this was an idea that I was on board with from the beginning, and Ninninger has yet to disappoint me with this theme.

With all said and done, Ninninger may be a show that tries too hard to replicate Kyoryuger’s zaniness, but its other ideas prevent it from being a disappointing Sentai series. Based on its progressions, it’s not the right kind of bread to complete the sandwich that contains ToQger and its predecessor, since its major villains lack the elements that made the ones from the two previous shows great. However, this could change with Kyuuemon’s new ninja clan and Gengetsu’s true debut, so anything could happen at this point.


Another great thing that kept the series fun was its return to the family theme present in Sentai titles like GoGo V and Magiranger gave the series its own charm, since it gave the main cast the chance to partake in lots of silly segments. Whether it was Kinji’s attempts to defeat the other heroes or the group’s early reactions to Takaharu’s old friend/possible love interest, these aspects continue to remind me why I find this format to be great.

Based on the way how things are going now, the show’s looking to be an enjoyable title by the time things get super real— especially with the whole ordeal with Kyuuemon creating ninjas out of Tsumuji’s ninja abilities. If the show's staff plays their cards right with this one, we might be in for a cool scenario soon. While it might not reach Tokusatsu of the Year quality, the series has enough decent content for many folks to enjoy. In other words, hiding doesn't stop party night!


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Salvador G Rodiles
Salvador G RodilesSenior Editor   gamer profile

Salvador's an average bystander who took his first steps towards a life-changing goal. During his journey, he's devising a way to balance his time with anime, manga, video games, and tokusatsu in... more + disclosures


 



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