Last year’s Super Hero Taisen was a complete fanwank. It was an insane and fun ride with plenty of familiar faces and lots of pretty explosions.
Having only gotten into Sentai via Shinkenger and Kamen Rider via Fourze and a little of OOO, I still thought it was an amazing movie. Maybe my lack of experience with pre-Shinkenger and pre-Fourze seasons (except the Decade X Shinkenger crosover) made me enjoy it a lot more than maybe longer or lifelong fans? I wouldn’t know where to start nitpicking.
Most of the movie made no sense and the references to past seasons went over my head. But I was able to fully enjoy Gokaiger even though I wasn’t familiar with any of the teams pre-Zyuranger and only knew of the post-Zyu teams by their Power Ranger names.
Having Mr. Joe Gibken pretty much the star of the movie helped ground it in a familiar place for me. With movies like Super Hero Taisen, I guess I go into them knowing I’m in it for the fanservice and seeing a clusterfrack of colored heroes fighting and big, gratuitous, grand explosions.
Which is why this year’s Super Hero Taisen Z felt much more cohesive, much more epic and much more awesome for me than the first.
That the main characters of this film were from seasons of Sentai and Kamen Rider I’ve actually watched, enjoyed and miss was enough to put it over the top for me. Especially having Yellow Buster herself, Yoko (Arisa Komiya), as not only one of the main stars, but the emotional heart of the entire thing.
Seeing Yoko, Ryuji, Hiromu, Usada, Nakamura, Morishita, hilarious J, Kuroki and Kuroki’s hair definitely got me missing Go-Busters again. Getting to see Haruto-tachi, including Koyomi (alive!) again was a treat sweeter than Donut Hungry’s donuts. And then there’s Gai suddenly being this badass, kick-ass boss that rounds up the troops and gets our main protagonist in Geki on the right track while still being the energetic and crazy guy we know and love.
Seeing these old friends again can easily be enough to make the whole thing worthwhile. But Super Hero Taisen Z surprisingly seemed to take much more care and effort in crafting a better and more sensical story.
The set-up was pretty simple and keeping the main action between Geki, Yoko, Gai and even Haruto and Kosuke helped to keep it that way. A strange, but cute little robot ball falls to Earth koron and is being chased by a revived Shocker. Meanwhile, Geki Jumonji, aka Space Sheriff Gavan, is on Earth investigating the use of magic that is the apparent cause for the Shocker revival and the new threat to the universe.
The film continues from there as they race to stop the revived Space Shocker and find their magic and power comes from the Space Crime Syndicate Madou who hope to consume Earth.
The story is very easy to follow, that is, until the expected cameos and old heroes start popping up merely for some good fight scenes. While it isn’t the immense clusterfrack that brought back all the previous Sentai teams and Riders, a lot of the extra teams including the current Kyoryugers felt too forced and almost shoehorned in. Though seeing Kotoha (ShinkenYellow) make a random appearance as a little wink-wink and having her come face to face with Shelly was fun. (Suzuka Morita plays both characters.)
Now, we all know just what these movies’ main purpose is, but from a story perspective, the film would’ve been just fine even if there weren’t any extra heroes popping up until Akaranger and Kamen Rider 1 brought the reinforcements at the end.
The climax of the film was unbelievable and absolutely worth the price of any admission. Bodies getting thrown around, blown up, hurled, tossed aside… it was awesome insanity. And very exciting. Then there’s Yoko and Psycholon’s own emotional climax that gave the entire film the heart that it needed to be more than just big explosions and a mish-mash of spandex, bug-eyed and chocolate-wrapper-looking heroes.
Overall, I definitely enjoyed Super Hero Taisen Z. It was more exciting and more coherent and hit closer to home for me. After last year’s Super Hero Taisen, another convergence of the Toei franchise seemed impossible, at least impossible for a sequel to make any sense. But they managed to do it with this film. Next year? Who knows.
But for any tokusatsu fan, young and old, Super Hero Taisen Z is an exciting and fun ride, with a good story to boot.