Saturday, July 29, 2017

Korean Sentai: Power Rangers Dino Force Brave Episodes 1-6

It's hard to deny 2017 has been something of a rough year for Super Sentai. After Zyuohger managed to display some surprising depth with a solid conclusion, Kyuranger popped onto the scene and immediately started stinking up the joint to the point that I no longer have any interest in covering it. In fact, I recently checked in on the shows progress, and guess what? They've added even more characters to the already bloated cast. Luckily that show isn't the only avenue for fans to get their fix as there are theatrical films, video specials, and something wholly new, a Korean addition to the franchise. Let's see if the land of Kimchi can offer us some salvation from the woes of Lucky and his space goons.

First and foremost, Power Rangers Dino Force Brave is a sequel to Kyuryuger, a sentai season that proved to be highly popular in Korea. The Sentai franchise is called Power Rangers over there, and no I have zero clue what they call actual Power Rangers. However I feel it best to inform you all that I never watched Kyuryuger, so I can offer no real opinion on how this functions as a continuation. Even with some vague knowledge of that season I can only judge this on it's basic merits. To do that we'll have to cover a few production aspects that are odd to say the least.

When it was announced that this series would only be 12 episodes long I figured it was a sensible choice to maintain a low budget and not hold back the premier of the following series for too long. What wasn't made clear early on however is the running time for each episode without ads is about 12 minutes. When you take into account the standard length intros, outros, roll calls and transformation sequences there's maybe 9 minutes of legitimate content per episode.
That low running time per installment means every aspect of the show is very rushed or in some cases nonexistent. Characters are left mostly underdeveloped, fight scenes only get so complex, even some of the common tropes of the franchise are skipped over in favor of the running time. Take for example the monsters. Usually a monsters design designates it's tactics. For instance a spider might tie people up in webbing, a musical critter might attack with sound-waves, you get the picture. Generally the challenge within an episode is how the team learns to overcome said attacks. In this show, monsters may have those design elements yet no time is spent on showcasing unique fighting styles. So everybody simply has punches, kicks, a couple energy blasts, and maybe a sword if they're extra special.
Explain the arm pads then, ya dink.

Production wise the show is a mixed bag. There's a lot of on-location shooting which is nice as the sets all seem rather small and barren. The action sequences shift between quite adept to choppy and uninteresting. Most of the costumes are pretty solid though there is this odd thing where muscle pads are frequently visible. I've even noticed this with the girl and it's always goofy looking. Oh and then there's the robots which are decent looking when it's the standard guys in costumes footage. Then things switch to outdated CG which allows for more intricate choreography at the expense of looking like throw-up.

Let's call that enough on production and get to the story and characters. The story is as straightforward as it gets. Aliens are coming to destroy the Earth by harnessing the power of a giant robot dinosaur, naturally a group of youngsters is imbued with superpowers to strike back against the forces of evil. Our group of dogooders consists of:

Juyong/Brave Red like most red rangers gets more attention than the rest of the cast. Thankfully he fits into the nice guy mold of leaders. He's very upbeat and encouraging of his team, even admitting where they outperform him on the battlefield. Could they maybe launch this guy into space to take over for a certain lucky asshole?
Hyeonjun/Brave Black is your strong guy with a strong sense of justice and a good heart. That's pretty much it for him.
Sechang/Brave Blue is a pop star and supposed ladies man, though he seems far more interested in the smoothness of his skin, creepy.
Pureun/Brave Green is a spoiled rich boy in the midst of learning that money isn't everything. Oddly enough he's the best with guns.
Dohee/Brave Pink is an aspiring nurse and a fairly standard issue girl who does and likes girly things other than the color pink.
Juhyeok/Brave Gold is a later addition. Apparently the long lost brother of Juyong. He's generally standoffish and mysterious. He's a mercenary who works for the villains intially as he seems to have some issue with his brother.
Any job? Go on.

While it may sound like I'm picking this show apart, I'll be honest in that I sorta like it. Not a lot mind you as there are plentiful flaws, I haven't even gone into how awkward it is to have such obnoxiously pretty men in the team, especially during the ending credits dance. But even with everything wrong during these opening six episodes I found myself getting into the adventure. Nothing about the show is particularly deep or interesting. By design it can't be. There simply isn't enough time for deep storytelling or complicated character dynamics. One might even question what was the point of making all these new costumes and robots for so little airtime. The fact is that what is on display here is at least solid. The characters are two-dimensional but they're generally likable. Everything about the show is largely the same, undeveloped but structurally sound.

I can't call Dino Force Brave the saving grace of this years sentai offerings just yet. There's still a whole half of the series that could completely nosedive. For now I'm optimistic that given another shot with some more ambition, this Korean wing of the franchise could one day produce something really interesting. We'll check back with the second half soon.

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