Thursday, February 19, 2015

Toqger : final thoughts

Now, that the final arc has aired, and that Toqger is officially done (except the V cinema movie and the second vs movie), I'm gonna conclude my feelings about Toqger.
The final episodes don't add much about what we know about the heroes : one episode shows again Tokatti's crush on Mio, and the following episode gives some background to Kagura and Hikari.

That said, the final arc was mostly the final showdown between the Rainbow and Shadow Line : and frankly, it was one of the weirdest showdowns I've seen.

1) Final arc of Toqger 

Interestingly, the one who is starting that final showdown was actually miss Gritta, who, despite having lost her mother and crush at Zett's hands, only wants the war to stop, and plans to elp the Toqger by bringing the Castle Terminal in the depth of the darkness, freeing the Toqger's town at the same time.
At the same time, Right is shown to have plenty of darkness within him, and the Rainbow Line's president wants him not to be involved.
Of course, despite having been bound and gagged by Akira and the other Toqger, Right is not gonna be stopped that easily, and sneaks in the Resshas at the same time the others go to the Castle Terminal with Gritta.
While Gritta manages to bring the castle Terminal underneath, helped by the other Toqgers, Right ends up confronting Zett and becomes dark Toq1-go when changing, proof he's full of darkness.
After a first fight ending in a stalemate, the Toqger and Shadow Line both retreat. While the Toqger go back towards their freed town, the Shadow Line go back to the Castle Terminal in order to stop Gritta. Zett confronts Gritta and appears to have killed her, and brings back the Castle Terminal to the surface, while at the same time, Right decides to face the Shadow Line without his partners (except Akira, who is already a Shadow), forcing them out of the trains, and making them turn back into children. After becoming children again, Tokatti, Mio, Hikari and Kagura go back home, as if nothing had happened, but without remembering Right. However, they started wondering about the truth of them being only four friends, especially after Akira left a photo of them with  Right as a parting gift.
At the same time, Right's mother, despite not remembering really Right, also started to wonder about some vague memories involving the Star festival.
Meanwhile, Right confronts the Shadow Line, using all the darkness he has in him, which comes from Zett. While he has no problem fighting the Kuros, Mork and Nero, he has trouble withstanding the power of the darkness, and is unable to have the upper hand against Zett. At the same time, Akira battled Nero in a robot battle, Builddaioh vs Kurainer Robo.
At that time, Zett, who had realized that he wouldn't be able to really get the shine he wanted so much, had decided to cover all the surface with darkness, using the Castle Terminal. The fact eh wasn't able to fins any shine on Right once he started transforming into the Black Dark Toq1-go even increased his motivation in bringing darkness to the land. And indeed, Zett ended up overcoming Right,  and had the Castle Terminal become alive thanks to his darkness, and started covering the world with darkness, including the Toqger's town.
However, at the same time, Tokatti and the others remembered Right, and decided to go back to him, drawing an imaginary ticket train, which of course brought back the Resshas with the conductor and the others, and they were able to grow back into adults and use the trains to find Right despite the darkness. At the same time, Right's mom had had the time to bring a little paper lantern next to the other lanterns prepared for the festival, just before darkness invaded the town.
Right, reunited with his friends at the most desperate times, was able to see the little lantern, and soon, the little light sent his light to all the other lanterns, creating a literal railtrack of light, which managed to connect to the Rainbow Line Resshas, and allowing them to get out of the darkness.
Once outside the darkness, the Resshas were able, all together, to dissipate all the darkness coming from the Castle Terminal, even destroying the castle and his darkness.
While Mork and Nero were clearly annoyed by the turn of events, Zett witnessed the destruction of the darkness and the castle with fascination, and when Right faced him again, he saw him shining more than ever. Indeed, Right had decided to fight Zett using his own power, the power of imagination, helped by all his friends. Zett was pretty excited to confront his enemy who had at last found his shine again, and the final fight started, Akira vs Nero, Morc facing the other Toqgers, except Right, and Zett facing Right.
Because they had lost plenty of darkness, the Shadow Line members were in a weakened state, and Zett, Morc and Nero were overpowered by the Toqger. Morc and Nero decided to give their darkness to their emperor, at the cost of their lives, in order to give him more power and bring back darkness.
Indeed, Zett ended up overcoming the Toqger thanks to that darkness. However, all the Toqger sent their Toq Resshas to Right, who, after changing using all of them in turn, (including Akira's), used the Hyper Ressha to transform into Toq Rainbow, and defeated Zett once again with the Daikaiten Cannon.
Zett, in a very weakened state, was able to see a rainbow, impressed by all that light. However, just as he was about to become a storm of darkness, Gritta came in time to get him in her Kurainer, allowing him to stay alive , and brought him back in the depth of the darkness.
The fight  was at last over, but because they had become adults again, the Toqger believed they weren't able to go back to their town, where noone would recognize them. But, to their delight, the heroes realized that their families were able to recognize them despite their adult bodies, because they had enough imagination to do so. Thanks to that, they were able to become kids again, and start their ordinary lives again in their town, with their families, while Conductor, Tickett, Wagon and Akira left in the Rainbow Line. 

2) Thoughts about the final arc

A final arc is more often than not very emotional, because it's the final confrontation between heroes and villains, and the final fight is often very intense, with the heroes ending up more often than not in a desperate situation before at last overcoming their enemies.
However, in Toqger's case, several elements made the final arc feel underwhelming compared to many other final arcs in sentai :

- First, and it's the biggest issue, Zett didn't really have the personality expected from a Big Bad : while most Big Bads were pretty much preparing their attack again Earth and the heroes, in Zett's case, his desire to cover the world with darkness feels like it came like a whim, and in complete contradiction with his previous desires. And indeed, while he still started attacking the surface, the viewer is never convinced he really wants to do it. And indeed, when he was winning against Right, covering the world in darkness, he seemed bored, annoyed by the frailty of the light. Contrarywise, whenever he was seeing light starting to overcome darkness, he felt excited again, and he pretty much let his castle being destroyed by the Resshas without even trying to defend it. And when he saw Right with all his energy again, he laughed with delight, seeing so much shining in his opponent. Zett always seemed that he hated his generals much more than he hated his enemies. In fact, when Zett confronted Gritta about helping the Toqger, he pretty much not only spared her, but even protected her from Nero and Mork , who wanted her dead.
In fact, it's more than obvious that what Zett really wanted was to see a great shining, not cover the world with darkness. As such, despite being very powerful, he never really felt like a very dangerous enemy, because deep down, Zett felt like he wanted to lose against the heroes. In fact, he pretty much did all the dirty job for them, by destroying his own generals. And it's telling that having him survive at the end was pretty much a relief, because I never felt he really deserved to die. For a Big Bad, it's pretty weird, and it doesn't really make fights against such a character feel heroic. I often felt that Zett was pretty much bullied by most characters, being blamed for events that he never really wanted and only was part of because others have started it.

- Second issue, the real reason the Toqger struggled agains the Shadow Line was mostly because Right behaved like an idiot, trying to defeat the Shadow Line almost by himself, as if his friends would accept to leave him alone. While Right may have had good intentions, by allowing them to become children again, the fact the Toqger managed to become children back pretty easily at the end made Right's sacrifice feel pretty much pointless and even dangerous, especially as the President of the Rainbow Line seemed to know they would be able to get back into their normal lives.
When one looks at the final arc,  it feels like the final fight could have ended much earlier if all the heroes had stayed together.  Because of the way all the issues were solved pretty easily at the end, the final fight didn't end up having the edge expected as such.

- Third issue, despite the message of "we need to be together to win",  most of the Toqgers not named Right ended up being pretty irrelevant and sidelined in the final fight. At the end, their most relevant contribution was to give their Toqresshas to Right to allow him to become Toqrainbow, and Right ended up doing most of the final fight.  In fact, the ones responsible for the turning point of the confrontation weren't them ... but Right's mother with her light, a civilian.
They didn't even defeat Morc and Nero, even if they had the potential to do so, with Zett being the one responsible for their deaths, by absorbing them.
Likewise, in the Shadow Line side, Morc and Nero were pretty much irrelevant themselves. While Nero confronted several times Akira/Zaram, their confrontations were always in the sidelines. Mork was even worse, being mostly a witness of the events. At the end, the two generals were nothing more than willing tools, that Zett used and destroyed without any remorse or gratitude.
Having the final fight being pretty much a Right vs Zett showdown, with all the other characters sidelined, didn't feel really like a real final sentai fight.

To conclude, the final arc of Toqger felt pretty much anti-climactic, because it ended up being the fight of a main hero against a villain who wasn't really motivated to win, with the other characters, heroes and villains alike being sidelined, and all the problems linked to the power of darkness and the "adult bodies" issue being solved very quickly.

3) Final thoughts about Toqger 

This frustrating final arc was pretty much expected from a frustrating show.As mentioned in my previous post, the Toqger were pretty much bland heroes, with very basic personalities, and none of them is really memorable.
The villains are pretty uneven, and my opinion is pretty much the one I had in my previous post.
Some additional thoughts about Zett and Gritta : at the end, Gritta ended up not being a villainess at all, being probably the most compassionate character of the whole show, helping the heroes, being understanding of the Emperor, despite all he has done (notably killing her crush Schwartz), and she's the one who ended up freeing the Toqger's town.
Zett  had given up on the shine, and that's why he started the final invasion on the surface. But in fact, Zett still wanted to grasp the light, and as such, his decision of covering the surface with darkness was completely inconsistent with his personality during most of the show, where he was completely uninterested in doing anything. Because of that, he wasn't at all a fitting Big Bad, and it's a major issue on the show, because he was the one who had the role of the Big Bad. Mork and Nero were as irrelevant in the final arc as they were during the rest of the show.

But probably, the biggest issue of Toqger is how it completely wasted the potential of its themes : the Toqger were children turned into adults thanks to their imagination, but at the cost of their memories. However, when the heroes discovered the truth about themselves, it didn't really end up being a turning point in the show, and they ended up behaving the same as before, and at the end, they managed to go back to their normal lives without problems, despite the show teasing us about how it might be impossible because of them confronting the darkness. At the end, the fears that the show tried to bring out, because of the heroes's status ended up being solved in a very anti-climactic way.
Likewise, the Shadow Line never felt really very dangerous, because the villains were more busy fighting  among themselves than against the heroes. A telling example is Schwartz : Schwartz started as a very dangerous enemy, but, after he was defeated by Zett, he didn't care any more about defeating the Toqger, but only getting revenge on Zett. As a result, he didn't feel any more like a threat to the heroes, and even him blackmailing Akira into joining him again ended up in an anti-climactic way, because he conveniently died at Zett's hands in the Christmas arc. As such, Zaram/Akira's "betrayal arc" never really felt tense enough, because Akira never really was forced to really fight his friends. And, as mentioned before, Zett was never convincing as a Big Bad, because despite his great power, he never felt like a really evil enemy : he mostly wanted to be left alone, and seeing stuff shine was much more exciting for him than invading Earth. Another element : the show tried to make us believe that Noire and Schwartz sacrified themselves to free Gritta from Zett, but the truth is, none of them really listened to her, and they were more concerned over their own issues than about her. Their deaths ended up feelign pointless, especially since Zett ended up sparing her at the end, even if he was able to destroy her. Another example of the way Toqger wasted its characters.

Toqger felt completely like a very safe show, where all the problems ended up being solved pretty easily, and really, it gives you the feeling that the heroes were never really in real danger, which isn't a very good thing if you want to make a show feel epic. Moreover, the show had a lot of plot stalling, and the Toqger ended up being more often than not sidelined in their own show, only getting focus in filler episodes, which more often than not, used stock plots.
At the end, Toqger is a disappointing sentai show. It had some interesting concepts, but it never explored them in their full potential, ending up solved in very anti-climactic ways.

4) Toqger writers

Toqger is the fifth sentai series with Yasuko Kobayashi as main writer, and it's pretty obvious she's completely burnt out, (not unlike Hirohisa Soda in Fiveman), Toqger being pretty much recycling concepts she used in her previous toku shows, notably her previous sentai shows and Den-O. Yamatoya had been secondary writer in Magiranger, Boukenger and Shinkenger, while Aikawa had been main writer of Boukenger, and secondary writer of Abaranger, Gekiranger and Go-onger (he was also main writer of Kamen Rider Blade, and Decade during part of their run).

Yasuko Kobayashi (main writer) : 1-12, 17-25, 27-28, 31-33, 35, 39-47 (36 episodes)
Akatsuki Yamatoya : 13-14, 26, 29-30, 34, 37-38 (8 episodes)
Sho Aikawa : 15-16, 36 (3 episodes)

little note : Nobuhiro Mouri wrote a two part crossover with Gaim, but which wasn't part of the main show.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Power Rangers Dino Charge First Impressions

After watching the first two episodes of Dino Charge, I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised. I wasn't really expecting that much from the show after last 4 years. Anyway, lets get down to business. Note: this will include both episodes since it was technically a two part premier.
I actually enjoy the theme song this time around despite it using some lines of the remixes from the last few years. It has this slightly ancient vibe to it in the beginning of the song. The song actually synched up rather well with the opening, especially that clip of Koda punching Fury.

First Episode: 
The first episode opens up with a space battle between Keeper's and Sledge's ships. The CGI used for the battle and the inside of Sledge's ship could have been used better. I was waiting for him to walk right through the green screen when they showed the command deck. Sledge's design leaves a lot to be desired since it is essentially just a green body suit with foam armor on it. Despite his design, the show does a relatively decent job of show how strong Sledge is. You don't actually see him fight in the episode but there is a scene of him just cataloging prisoners in his ships prison block and carrying wanted posters.
Keeper is the mentor of the season and well, his design is alright. He looks like an older, wiser ET that turned orange. However, with only 3-5 minutes of screen time in this episode, I can honestly say that he has already done more than the last two mentors. He seems to have some degree of fighting skills given that he fought Fury for a brief bit after sending out the energems.
One of the surprising things is that the monster of the week actually went right for the kill the moment he knocked the energems away from Shelby and Tyler. He only failed because he was about a second too late. In an interesting choice, only Tyler and Shelby actually morph and fight during this episode. The fight scene that followed could've used some work. It feels out of synch due to all the wireworks and it didn't feel like it flowed naturally. The CGI for the T-Rex zord...yeah there was no way I could take that seriously when it attacked the monster of the week.

Second Episode: 
Riley's introduction is a rather odd choice in terms of skill set. He is a rancher but also a fencer which doesn't really mesh convincingly with KyoryuGreen's reverse grip sword-style in the footage used later in the episode. In an unmorphed fight scene, Riley manages to beat out Fury in a sword fight to protect the green energem. Chase and Koda are revealed to already have their powers. I'm actually a bit surprised about Koda's lines. I half-expected him to speak fluently despite being a caveman. Sort of glad they went with the fractured dialogue. Though the caveman thing wasn't actually mentioned in the show but I think they'll probably give his backstory soon. The morphed fight is sadly Kyoryuger stock footage from their premier.

Final Thoughts: I definitely needed this. I went into this expecting Megaforce levels of cash-in and honestly, I'm pleasantly surprised. While not a perfect start, I can at least say it looks like they're trying with this one so I'm relatively happy. Its rather refreshing after the last four years and I'm looking forward to seeing where they'll go with this.