Japanese title: “Fight in the Land of Despair”
It’s been about half a year since my last entry in this comparison. I’ve mostly been focusing on Smile Pretty Cure! instead because Smile Pretty Cure! makes sense, has great characters, and is interesting. Smile is one of the best seasons of Pretty Cure, so I’m still going to keep watching if Zyuranger doesn’t reach its level. However, I’d love it if it actually became decent this episode. So far, it’s been dull and nonsensical. At least what I wrote about it seems to be interesting.
Our story begins with our five main protagonists sparring in the woods. They go at it with all their might, but unfortunately, their flimsy weapons can’t keep up. No matter what the Zyurangers do, they can’t help but break every weapon they use. The reason they don’t have any weapons that aren’t complete trash is because all of their decent weapons were destroyed during the war.
Geki (the red one) needs a sword, Bōi (the yellow one) needs a dagger, Dan (the blue one) needs a spear, Mei (the pink one) needs an arrow, and Gōshi (the black one) needs an axe. Gōshi claims that getting new weapons isn’t that hard, but given the foreboding-sounding title and the big, black tome he’s carrying as proof, I doubt it.
Before we find out what exactly is in that book that’s about a third of his height, we get the title card. Then, rather than having our mystery solved, we cut to a completely new character. Enter Hiroshi, an ordinary little boy who is coming home from school to his mother and grandfather. He wants to go out and play with a friend, but his mom won’t let him because he got a 30% on his latest test and she wants him to study harder. Hiroshi lies down on his bed and wishes that his mother would disappear.
It turns out that Bandora is watching him from the moon with her magical telescope. If she can see inside walls with that thing, I wonder what other nefarious acts she’s been getting up to…? …Eh, probably not. She hates humans and wants them all to die. Why would she be into them?
Anyway, Bandora tells the kid (somehow making herself heard all the way from the moon) that she can grant his wish. Hiroshi’s mother screams unconvincingly. When Hiroshi runs to see if she’s okay, he finds that she’s fallen into a magical pit in the floor and after screaming unconvincingly, he falls in himself. Both fall in darkness (though it’s less falling and more shaking around as they dangle from an invisible string. The special effects are still bad.)
We cut back to the guys who are supposed to be our protagonists. They’re now indoors and talking with Barza. It turns out that the big book Gōshi was carrying is a history of the ancient humans. Barza reads a section of it concerning the legendary weapons. According to legend, in the Land of Despair, there lives a five-headed dragon. Inside of the dragon’s body are five weapons that, when combined, unleash an incredible power. The Land of Despair is still accessible through a set of doors that Barza tells Geki to open.
However, it won’t be as easy as the Zyurangers think it’ll be. It turns out that nobody has ever succeeded in slaying the dragon and getting the weapons (but if so, how do they know that they can get the weapons from defeating the dragon?). This is because of two major obstacles. The first is that they once they enter the Land of Despair, they only have one day to grab the weapons and get out. The second is that when a person feels sad while inside the Land of Despair, they get turned to stone.
While the five are debating whether or not to go to the Land of Despair anyway, Bandora sends a holographic image of herself to them. She tells them that she’s sent an innocent little boy to the Land of Despair and that they have to find both him and the weapons in the span of one day. Her gloating doesn’t scare the warriors off, though. In fact, they become determined to go into the Land of Despair and do whatever it takes to rescue the boy and the planet.
In case you’re wondering why Bandora doesn’t just go to the Land of Despair herself and take the weapons, the show actually explains that. Barza says that people gifted with magic can’t touch the legendary weapons or they’ll get burned alive.
By the way, why hasn’t Hiroshi been turned to stone yet? Even though his face doesn’t look all that scared, that’s just because of the bad acting. You can’t expect all that much from a little kid most of the time. The character himself, however, is very clearly upset. He’s in a completely foreign world devoid of life and he can’t find his mom. Clearly, he is not supposed to be calm.
Speaking of bad acting, it’s not just Hiroshi’s actor. The actors’ facial expressions have just been weird all across the board. I just didn’t comment on it until now because I wasn’t sure if it was just me or not. I’m on the autism spectrum, so recognizing facial expressions isn’t my strong suit. I think that any non-autistic folks in the audience would do well to look at the footage themselves and see whether or not it’s as bad as it seems to me.
For example, look at Geki right after Bandora’s image disappears. When he calls her name, his voice lacks anger and instead just seems surprised (like, “Bandora! I wasn’t expecting you to be in my math class!”, not “Bandora! Was killing my entire family not enough for you!?”). Also, though his actor is clearly trying to go for surprise with his facial expression, his face is so exaggerated that it comes off as ridiculous. Even Gōshi seems weirded out.
What’s especially weird is comparing this to Pretty Cure. I’m not sure if Toei’s standards improved between the 1990’s and the 2000’s or if Toei Animation is just that different from whatever branch of Toei made Zyuranger, but Pretty Cure has MUCH better acting than this. The show is currently in its 17th season, and though it has had some annoying voices over the years, the only point I can ever recall any unconvincing voices was for four minor characters in the entire series (Audrey from Fresh and JinJin and Takumi from HUGtto!). Out of the hundreds of characters over the years, four bad eggs is a pretty good track record. It helps that voice actors act with just their voices, not their facial expressions like Geki here.
Oh, well. At least Bandora is as excellently acted as always. She’s still the best part of this entire show.
Anyway, the Zyurangers jump into the portal and break off into two groups, which delights the villains because they’re making themselves easier targets that way. Bookback, one of Bandora’s bumbling underlings, sets a timer for 24 hours. Also, Pleprechaun is just about done creating Bandora’s newest Dora Monster out of mud.
In the Land of Despair, we find out why the Zyurangers split up. Geki, Gōshi, and Dan are searching for the five-headed dragon. They come across some soldiers that were turned to stone long ago, but they spot a castle and push forward with their resolve intact. Meanwhile, Bōi and Mei are looking for Hiroshi.
Things quickly turn sour. Even though Geki, Gōshi, and Dan climb up a cliff, they find themselves in the same place they were at the bottom. The magic of the Land of Despair is causing them to walk around in circles. Dan complains that he’s tired and thirsty. He then spots a waterfall and runs after it even though Gōshi warns him that it’s a mirage. It turns out that Gōshi’s right. The “waterfall” is actually a sheer cliff that Dan falls down. Once he reaches the bottom, huge arms burst out of the sand and start choking Dan. Fortunately, Geki and Gōshi are able to save him.
Note that Dan becomes upset and angry that he can’t get any water and then becomes scared when the arms start choking him. However, he doesn’t turn to stone. I think that this is because though Dan is angry and afraid, he isn’t sad.
A pair of horns then bursts out of the sand. Gōshi tried to grab onto them, but it doesn’t work, so the three have no choice but to run away. Eventually, the monster completely emerges from the sand. Its name is Dora Minotaur, and as you’d expect, it’s a giant bull person. The three Zyurangers put up a fight, but Dora Minotaur is just too strong, especially since they don’t have their weapons and aren’t transformed. One does wonder why they didn’t transform before entering the Land of Despair, but oh well. As a result of their mistake, Dora Minotaur knocks the three off yet another cliff.
We get the eyecatches. Then, we cut to Bōi and Mei, who are ambushed by several humanoid monsters made out of blue clay. The two do a good job of destroying them all even though they’re greatly outnumbered. However, the clay monsters reform themselves after getting cut apart. What’s more, a flying, golden monster swoops out of nowhere to join the opposition.
Meanwhile, the other three Zyurangers finally decide to transform. Once they do, we see that they still have their ranger weapons. These weapons seem to be much more durable than the practice weapons that kept breaking at the beginning of the episode. So, why don’t the Zyurangers just spar while transformed? That’s how they fight in real combat. There’s no need to defeat a fearsome, five-headed dragon. All they need to do is rescue Hiroshi and get out.
Bōi and Mei also transform. Just as they do so, they hear Hiroshi begging for help. It turns out that he’s slowly sinking into quicksand. PteraRanger goes to help him while TigerRanger fends off the monsters. However, the golden monster from earlier chases after PteraRanger, forcing her to fight it instead of rescuing Hiroshi.
The other three Zyurangers are having no luck with Dora Minotaur. Their task is made even harder when Bookback and Totpat appear in the Land of Despair and start attacking them as well.
However, TigerRanger finally makes it over to the golden monster, allowing PteraRanger to pull Hiroshi out of the quicksand.
Despite the successful rescue, things get even worse when Bandora powers up Dora Minotaur by throwing her scepter into the Land of Despair. When it lands, it shoots out bolts of energy that cause Dora Minotaur to become absolutely gigantic.
All seems lost, but then Barza yells through the portal that they should activate the Guardian Beasts. Somehow (I guess because he’s a sorcerer), the Zyurangers are able to hear his voice. TyrannoRanger summons Guardian Beast Tyrannosaurus again, and the other Zyurangers… summon their Guardian Beasts? Since when was he able to do that? I know last episode, Guardian Beast Tyrannosaurus’s introduction didn’t make much sense. It also appeared out of nowhere; TyrannoRanger didn’t even summon him. But now, it seems like all of the Zyurangers can summon their Guardian Beasts at any time. How come they didn’t do this earlier? It would have been really convenient to have five giant mechas go up against a single giant monster.
But whatever, it is what it is. Let’s go over the new additions to the mecha roster, shall we? MammothRanger’s mecha is Guardian Beast ZyuMammoth, TriceraRanger’s is Guardian Beast Triceratops, TigerRanger’s is Guardian Beast SaberTiger, and PteraRanger’s is Guardian Beast Pteranodon. It’s weird that only ZyuMammoth’s name has “Zyu” added at the beginning. That being said, it is kind of interesting that while Tyrannosaurus, ZyuMammoth, and SaberTiger have legs, Pteranodon just has wings and Triceratops has wheels.
TyrannoRanger, MammothRanger, and TriceraRanger all jump into their respective Guardian Beasts. Meanwhile, Pteranodon acts on its own and shoots lasers at the clay monsters, seemingly taking them down for good. While TigerRanger fights the golden monster, PteraRanger takes Hiroshi and runs off somewhere safe.
Then, in an honestly pretty cool scene, ZyuMammoth, Triceratops, and SaberTiger team up to take down Dora Minotaur. In an attack called Tricera Cannon, Triceratops shoots lasers out of its tail. SaberTiger does a similar attack, which goes unnamed because TigerRanger isn’t there to call its name. These two lasers knock Dora Minotaur’s weapon out of its hand. Then, in another attack that MammothRanger calls Mammoth Blizzard, ZyuMammoth shoots a mist out of its trunk that dissolves Dora Minotaur’s shield. With Dora Minotaur unarmed, TriceraRanger shoots grappling hooks out of Triceratops and around Dora Minotaur’s horns. He uses the hooks to pull the monster down to the ground.
The scene then ends with a sudden fadeout, which is really weird. It almost feels like the episode is about to suddenly end right there, but then we cut to the next scene. It would have been a lot smoother had we just cut from one scene to the next like usual.
Anyway, Hiroshi’s panic is finally starting to settle in. He’s worried that his mom is dead, so he starts crying and slowly starts to turn to stone from the feet up. PteraRanger tells him not to give up hope, but it doesn’t work because you can’t just tell somebody to calm down and expect results. Ultimately, there’s nothing PteraRanger can do to stop Hiroshi from getting petrified completely.
As the fight rages on and Dora Minotaur gets back up, the narrator comes in and basically recaps the predicament the Zyurangers in. It’s your typical cliffhanger/next-episode teaser thing. Can the Zyurangers find the legendary weapons and somehow rescue Hiroshi all in one day? Tune into the next episode to find out!
…And, yeah, that’s it. The episode is thus over.
Overall: This is the best Zyuranger episode so far, in my opinion. I still wouldn’t outright call it good, but there are less plot holes here than in the previous two episodes. Other than the ongoing issues that will be endemic to the entire series (there’s only so many times I can complain that Bandora can kill anybody from anywhere with a snap of her fingers), the only main issue was the Guardian Beasts coming out of nowhere.
Honestly, even though the characters are still very dull, the plot of this episode is quite engaging. The Land of Despair is an interesting place with a very demanding set of rules, and the writers make it about as dangerous as can be. In fact, with the huge rush of monsters, the Zyurangers are in their biggest predicament yet. Even combining all their powers, the Land of Despair is still a barely surmountable challenge for the group. I also like how the episode switched between the two groups of Zyurangers, who were each facing off against their own enemies. Finally, though the Guardian Beasts’ entrance was contrived, you can’t deny that a bunch of gigantic, mechanical, prehistoric animals fighting giant monsters is incredibly cool.
Next episode: The Zyurangers enter the castle and go after the legendary weapons, but even they aren’t immune from turning to stone!