Welcome to another ride on the Halloween leftover express. Your fellow passengers are comprised mainly of tootsie rolls and smarties. If you feel you must eat them please be sensible and devour whole families. No one wants to deal with candy orphans. The in transit entertainment will be a multi-episode story arc from Ninninger that while originating from summer just so happened to mesh quite well with the atmosphere of All Hallows Eve. Please remain seated as we recap the tale of the three great western youkai.
The reason I'd originally aimed at including this set of episodes during the Halloween countdown is that it deals with the classic universal monsters by which I mean Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolf Man. Of course they've received a sentai makeover in both looks and personality. Likewise, one of them has a personal connection to one of our heroes. Let's get to it.
First up on our tour of classic monsters is Frankenstein, and no we're not going to have that whole debate about whether that name refers to the doctor, his creation, both, or that the beasts name is actually Adam. The show calls him Frankenstein, just accept it.
Ole Frankie's supposed to collect fear but he's more interested in seeing the sights of Japan until he comes across an amusement park. The thought of other machines garnering more attention than him enrages the poor abomination as he's more robot than zombie in this incarnation. He uses a stop beam to fuck with the rides which accomplishes his fear gathering quota.
Of course this all had to happen on our ninja crew's day off. Fuuka's dad was having a mini emotional crisis upon the realization that his daughter was growing up and they weren't spending as much time together. Lucky for him, Nagi is remarkably adept at planing the perfect day for daddy daughter bonding and he enlists the rest of the team to help out.
And so the episode goes on with a very lighthearted tone as everyone battles the post modern Prometheus as discretely as possible in order for a dad to get one nice day with his kid. More than anything this tale establishes Nagi as even more of a nice guy and one of the more likable characters on the show. Solid fun though it sucks to see Fuuka miss out on the fighting.
Next up from the grand monster menagerie is everyone's favorite bloodsucker, Dracula. He's got one thing on his villainous mind, beautiful women, which means he's all about Fuuka. Our lil ninja girl is scouted by a casting agent while out shopping with her friends. Turns out he's looking for a leading lady for a vampire flick staring a male idol named Silver. Some of the other ninja doubt her ability to be an actress, Takaharu cheers her on in a clumsy way that seems like a challenge, and Kasumi theorizes that the situation merits investigation since Dracula is one of the three western youkai.
Everyone tags along to the audition to keep an eye out for the blood beast. Kasumi has a pretty easy time of it as she just pretends to be interested in acting. The boys however require disguises ranging from Kinji's butler outfit to Nagi & Yakumo cross-dressing. Believe it or not, men in drag is kind of a sentai tradition by this point. Seems like every season takes one shot at putting a guy in a dress for laughs. These two do a great job at making it funny by getting a little too worked up over competing for the role.
Faster than you can say “bloodsucker” girls start turning up with bite marks on their necks which leave them in a weird dream based coma. This particular version of Dracula feeds on dreams & ambition. Guy's so hungry, he doesn't even stop to check the gender of his victims and leave Kasumi plus the ladymen laid out. During all this we get further development with Fuuka deciding what she wants out of life. She admits to rashly jumping into this audition with no real goal towards being an actress. She actually gets a fairly solid pep talk from her brother. That sibling relationship is a big saving grace for Takaharu on this show so I was very glad to see it picked up once again.
Eventually the siblings along with Kinji reveal the casting agent to be Dracula in disguise (their original theory was Silver) with the aid of garlic dumplings. Fights ensue, the lord of night is destroyed, and Fuuka turns down further acting offers from Silver who's intent on making a ninja flick now.
Perhaps you can tell by the slightly longer write-up that this was a fine episode indeed. Characterization was spot-on, the humor was great, action was unfortunately slightly weaker than normal. Still; if every episode came across so smoothly, this series would have some great traction. Sadly, like every other time they win me over, it's time for another poor choice. This time in the form of a clip show.
Ninninger celebrates reaching the halfway point of the series by committing a classic televised sin known as the clip show. These are a regular occurrence in Sentai though they usually wait until later in a series thous providing a recap before the final push. I really hope this doesn't mean we have to put up with two this year.
Still; as far as an episode like this is concerned, I've seen worse. The basic idea is that the cousin or some such of the time-traveling cat monster from way back in episode eight pretends to be grandfather and puts the kids through a game show style ranking with opportunities for raising their aforementioned rank. There's some ok comedy here and the production team was nice enough to provide a new fight scene later in the episode but still, there's a bunch of old clips.
One item of special note is how the monster ranks Fuuka and Nagi as the two best ninjas. Furry bastard's got taste. Actually this only adds to my theory that these two are becoming favorites of the japanese fans. They keeps getting more quality moments in each episode and even the live shows put on for kids at malls & festivals seem to give them a lot of attention.
Tons of drama here. As you may have guessed, it's the Wolfman's turn at bat. He's also the monster responsible for murdering Kinji's family. Plenty of development on the Kinji front as he gets exiled from the dojo by the grumpy old man. Plus we learn that the real reason he wanted to study under the last ninja was for revenge and because he wanted the end shuriken to resurrect his dead family. Apparently this bauble can do that in addition to destroying the world. He also receives a rather nasty looking scratch from the Wolfman that I can only imagine will be a recurring plot point later on. Said wound is rather important as well since only youkai powers could harm old wolfy.
It's sort of odd how this show chose to make Wolfman the most powerful of the classic monsters. Usually his human element places him a bit lower on the totem pole but here he's removed from the mechanical failings of Frankenstein while dodging the womanizing of Dracula.
The main team has some shining moments of their own..when not getting smacked around by a werewolf that is. Fuuka and Nagi continue to be the heart of the team by watching over Kinji while he recovers from his injuries. Takaharu gets an outstanding scene when he confronts his grandfather about lacking faith in his students and generally being a scared old piss pot. The old grouch actually takes it to heart and reinstates Kinji as a full student in the end.
I didn't even touch on the whole mid-section where Kyuuemon tries to convince Kinji to take on youkai power in order to seek his revenge. Honestly there's too much to report on in this one episode. It's a huge tale with plenty of action, yet even it pails in comparison to the next story arc wherein we get a whole new style of villain along with some nice drama, and a few changes to how the team functions.
Ninninger continues to work towards being a special entry in the Sentai franchise. I wouldn't say it's there quite let but the slow climb in quality keeps going despite the occasional pitfall. I've already watched the next story arc which has some great developments. Those recaps will be up fairly soon now that I've gotten a few pieces of real life work outta the way. Before that, we've got another Friday the 13th to celebrate in style, and of course there will be a post of some kind for that. See you all then, and let us know if you've got any plans for the 13th.