TYPE OF REVIEW : GOOD OL’ REVIEW
To commemorate the 45th season of Super Sentai and the 50th year anniversary of Kamen Rider, Toei presents Saber + Zenkaiger: Superhero Senki (セイバー＋ゼンカイジャー:スーパーヒーロー戦記). The crossover film will feel familiar to fans who may have enjoyed the Super Hero Taisen series of films where numerous legendary Sentai and Kamen Riders come together to fight a vicious foe. And though there are certainly a few hurdles this film needs to overcome, it ultimately is a loving tribute to Shotaro Ishinomori, the father of the two long-running tokusatsu franchises. As well as to children, young and old, who have enjoyed both series the last five decades.
Superhero Senki sees former Sword of Logos member Asmodeus unleash the forbidden S-Class books from the Agastya Base in an effort to create his own story of darkness without heroes. This action blurs the lines between the limitless number of stories, thus opening the doors for familiar faces to be transported and thrown into other stories.
Kaito, Vroom, Magine and Gaon get thrown into Saber‘s world. Meanwhile, Touma, Mei and Yuuri find themselves in Zenkaiger‘s world where they meet Zyuran as well as a curious young boy named Shotaro who is a talented artist and loves to draw familiar heroes.
The intersecting worlds soon prove to be increasingly dangerous and the various heroes, new and old, must come together to stop what could be the complete collapse of all of them.
With Saber and Zenkaiger (as the current series at the time the film premiered) taking center stage, the film draws upon both to form the glue that holds everything together. That is, the film’s standalone narrative as well as being able to seamlessly weave together the many old faces that appear.
But with that are also the limitations and certain aspects that end up holding some of the film back. Frankly speaking, the Saber elements (including characters and plot points I personally don’t want to have to revisit) drag many parts of the film down. And that’s even as the film draws upon some of the few good things about the season, such as the idea of the unlimited world of stories and being able to write your own ending. It’s an idea much better articulated here in the film than in the series itself.
The Zenkaiger elements, meanwhile, allow for the film to maintain the fun and lighthearted atmosphere that lends itself to many of the fan service moments and nostalgic throwbacks to both Sentai and Kamen Rider history.
As much as this film attempts to kind of serve as a love letter to both Shotaro Ishinomori as well as the fans who have watched both franchises, I think a film that does that better is Kamen Rider Heisei Generations Forever. That film did an excellent job of honoring the franchise’s history while touching upon the wonderful connection children of all ages have had with the franchise.
What Superhero Senki does best is, in addition to being a tribute to the man himself, is to show off the colorful and wide-ranging shared universe that Shotaro Ishinomori created. Giving each season of both series their chance at the spotlight, even cheekily referencing some of the criticism both franchises have received over the years, the film still lays out the wonderful and positive effect they have had on audiences around the world. And part of that is the idea of limitless imagination powering everyone from Ishinomori to children of all ages at home.
Ultimately, despite some of the tepid aspects from the television series holding some of the film back, Superhero Senki is still a fun and enjoyable film. Exciting and explosive action sequences and the many opportunities for nostalgic fan service help carry the load. All while honoring both franchises and the man responsible for first bringing them to life remaining the film’s strongest emotional payoff.
2 thoughts on “Good Ol’ Review: “Superhero Senki” a Fun, Exciting Love Letter”
Prior to seeing the movie, I had little to no expectation, given the track records of previous crossover attempts with Super Hero Taisen series (aka Toei’s poor-man attempts for following Marvel’s The Avengers film series; ironically, first Avengers movie came out in same year (2012), few weeks after Super Hero Taisen came out).
Another reason why I didn’t have much fate was that, while I did enjoyed the crossover TV special that precede this movie (despite strangely not mentioning it at all, as if it NEVER happened), I wasn’t fan of neither of the series that was airing at the time; Kamen Rider Saber and Zenkaiger; especially the former as WORST Rider/Tokusatsu show I’ve seen so far. Because of the shows I mentioned (along with other tokusatsu shows that was airing in same year (2021) on other channels), it was overall a lackluster, and quite frankly, underwhelming year for tokusatsu IMO; which was quite a shame, despite its anniversary year for franchises.
Regards to the movie however, I was quite surprised how well it was made.
The writing and directing was above the normal standards I expect from crossover movies and I though it payed the respect and tribute to great Shotaro Ishinomori quite well.
While I did have issues with leaning bit too much on Rider, especially towards the end, the Sentai had decent enough screen time, more so than, later entries of Taisen Series (*cough* Kamen Rider Taisen, GP).
I was really surprised that Toei included UNOFFICIAL Sentai team, Akibaranger, in OFFICIAL movie; especially since it took Toei 30+ years to acknowledge Takeshi Kinashi/Norider in Zi-O’s Over Quartzer movie; then again, Toei/Bandai had involvements with merchandising for Akibaranger, which makes it big difference.
Another minor quiver is that while it was nice to see Hiroshi Fujioka reprising his role as Takeshi Hongo/Kamen Rider 1, I wished Naoya Makoto reprised his role as Tsuyoshi Kaijo/Akaranger (Goranger) as well.
Overall, while the movie itself had its issues with pacing, some of the actions toward the end, and issues that carried out from Super Hero Taisen series, it definitely payed tribute and respect to the franchise, much better than previous attempts Toei gave us.
It also helps that it came out during anniversary year for both franchise (which didn’t happened during Super Hero Taisen runs; 2016 only had Kamen Rider 1 movie for 45th anniversary) and during still-ongoing pandemic, where people are losing hope and faith, and this movie gave us what is to be hero and cheers/hope to audience.
It’s probably the best tokusatsu material I’ve seen in 2021.
Good job Toei.
Yes, it exceeded my low expectations as well