Monday, February 1, 2016

Shuriken Sentai Ninninger Episodes 44-46

In my experience, February is often one of, if not the worst month of the year. Ugly scenery, lackluster holidays, and some of the most horrid weather in existence help to make this month a gauntlet of pure crap. This year is looking a tad brighter than most thanks to a few items I've got in the air. Even if it does all turn to shit, there's one constant that acts as something of a Chinese New year for nerds, the Super Sentai switch-out. Every February brings the end of one sentai followed immediately by the bringing of the next. Now here we stand just a couple weeks away from this changing of the guard which means this is the penultimate installment of Ninninger recaps.

Episode 44

There's a fairly even split to this tale with the most important half revolving around Takaharu's final exam in the form of a duel with his grandfather. The old man wants to battle this kids one at a time to test their resolve because he's naturally been holding back an important detail through the whole series. See, the final transfer of power to become the last ninja comes from striking down the previous title holder. Thous one of our kids has to kill grandpappy in order to take his place. Takaharu thinks this is total bunk which as you might imagine earns him a proper kick to the ass.
Meanwhile, the rest of the team deals with Tsugomori who's first in line for a series of final battles. The chief strategist has a plan that involves manipulating memories of people who relay on others for emotional support. Using this method he sways Kinji, Nagi, and Kasumi over to his side by taking the place of Takaharu in their minds. He tricks plenty of other twits to look upon him as some sort of superman until making the damn fool mistake of trying to brainwash Yakumo and Fuuka. If you ever needed proof that villains pay zero attention to their own narrative, this is it. I mean even for a show where the heroes emerge victorious in 90% of the episodes, attacking Fuuka is basically a death sentence, and this time she's got back up. As expected, our girl in white works with Yakumo to overcome the memory replacement attack by remembering all the times Taka was just plain awful and placing Tsugomori in those situations.
Now here's a part that had me just slightly confused. Once the team gets their shit together and completely goes on the defensive, a last minute revelation is made. Turns out that during the whole series, they've never really fought Tsugomori because he's like 6 inches tall and pilots a human sized robot. For some reason this makes him harder to kill than other baddies, but why? They've fought man sized robots before and won. What makes this one so special that the pilot needs to be cast out and destroyed on his own?
In the end, Taka is laid out by his grandfather, and the evil little strategist is destroyed. All told it's a middle of the road episode with some solid action and a few decent character beats to see it through to the end.

Episode 45

It's probably bad form to complain about an abundance of activity but this one's gonna be a little tough to cover. We've got a spread of fights from most of the team vs Gabi, all of the team vs Kyuuemon round 1, round 2, and grampa vs Gangetsu. They're good battles too, with some damn fine choreography and energy to spare.
On the story front there aren't many important beats. Kyuuemon reveals his origins as Gangetsu's son from a concubine to our heroes before sealing off their ninpo abilities. They eventually find a way around by creating their own ninpo. With their foe on the ropes, Tsumuji's powers are finally recovered. It's one of those moments that helps to make the show seem better than it really is. Seeing this character regain a lost part of himself and finally be able to help out these children directly, it's such a fine sight to behold. Weird to think this sub-plot began long ago in a corny throwaway episode and now it's a key moment.
Still; there's plenty to of little character bits and cool action moves to make this one a winner. We're left with an awesome ending as the team grows by two members, with gramps and Tsumuji becoming two extra red rangers. Good stuff right there.

Episode 46

Being this close to the ending can only mean one thing; explosions. So many explosions. We're talking enough pyrotechnics to make Michael Bay feel overstimulated. It's understandable given the sheer quantity of fight scenes, the first of which brings the major twist of the week. The whole Igasaki clan faces off against the big bad. The tide of battle seems to be going their way until their super finishing attack leaves him with nothing more than a case of the giggles. During a last ditch attempt to win the day, gramps is totally stabbed in the back by Kyuuemon who then steals the end shuriken. His daddy also sees fit to jack him up with the remaining sealing shurikens which grants him a new, extremely gaudy form.
As some viewers may have guessed, grampa was living on borrowed time anyway. We get some details as to how he died way back when he sealed Gangetsu away, but the power of the end shuriken allowed him to keep his human form all these years. With the shiny bauble in the hands of the enemy, the old dude finally passes. Must admit seeing him go was kind of touching. More than most of the other characters, he had a great deal of growth throughout the series and contributed to some of the finest scenes. Continuing that trend, Tsumuji digs out a last will video where the old guy praises the kids and pushes them on toward victory.
As we're treated to a few more fight sequences, some new plot developments occur. Yakumo takes out Gabi Raizo while Kasumi and Kinji waste that evil bitch who's name always slips my mind. Add them to the pile of Sentai villains who never lived up to their potential.
Oh, and it's time for the last cliffhanger. Kyuuemon triggers the end shuriken which unleashes a horde of monsters to destroy the world. In the process, all the kids are depowered in the midst of different battles.

So here we are, just a week away from the ending of both this series and my goal of reviewing one complete Sentai. Will these kids go out like punks? Or will we bare witness to an ending capable of lifting this series above the crowd, into the heights of tokusatsu? IF nothing else, I hope the writers stay on point and send these characters off in their own unique way rather than relying on tired old concepts. Tune in next week to find out how it all ends.

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