Screenplay by: Arakawa Naruhisa
Directed by: Sakamoto Koichi
That was, without a doubt, the best Super Sentai movie I’ve seen so far – but that is a bit unfair, since it isn’t really a Super Sentai movie; in fact, at about 39 minutes in, when it adds the traditional Super Sentai elements, it actually weakens the movie.
The premise is quite simple: the Galactic Union Patrol, under the leadership of new director Sophie, have managed to capture Hellvira. She’s the leader of the Nemesis Avengers, part of the new space crime syndicate Genmakuu, and an advocate of a new cult. Unfortunately, Hellvira has managed to kill her guards and Sophie locked the building they’re in from inside, leaving the two trapped.
Knowing that Hellvira has powers to control men (which is what allowed her to kill her guards), Birdie and Sissy get recommendations for female recruits from the space police to undergo secret Matrix-style training to find a way to stop Hellvira. It is somewhat sadistic, though, as the unawares participants are killed multiple times (at least 17 times) before finding a way to stop the villain. Birdie selects Shelly (Gavan type-G’s partner), Tammy (partner to the new Shaider) and someone we’ve never met before named Maki, a member of the space police.
But when Jasmine and Umeko realise there’s something off about Maki, Doggie Kruger intervenes and has Birdie add them to the mission. It turns out Maki has been killed and replaced by another member of Genmakuu – Benikiba – to get into the building and recover Hellvira. Together, Jasmine and Umeko destroy Hellvira while Tammy, Shelly and Sophie drive off Benikiba.
Sophie obscurely references a new team selection, and praises the girls for their good teamwork. And we all learn that UMEKO AND SEN ARE GETTING MARRIED!
Up until the 39-minute or so mark, the film is really dark, and evocative of Toei’s “pinky violence” past. It is really brutal – Jasmine gets killed by her neck being snapped many times; we see another space police officer torn apart so badly that blood sprays everywhere. It really isn’t your typical Super Sentai fare, but it is actually handled really well. As pretty and nice and lovely as the girls are (and the film really does go to great lengths to show that girls can be traditionally girly and feminine while still being great at what they do) it isn’t a pervy movie, at least no more pervy than other tokusatsu productions.
But that said, some of it is a bit discomfiting. I blame myself for that, approaching it as a Super Sentai movie. Of particular concern was when Vivian, a member of the space police (played by a long-time Super Sentai suit actor, Hitomi Sanae) freaked out and basically tried to use Jasmine as a human shield to escape dying yet again. Birdie didn’t select her for the mission, but there also didn’t appear to be any consequence to that behaviour.
I really loved how Tammy and Shelly were able to kick butt without lots of gadgets and special effects. While Gavan type-G and Shaider need laser blades and stuff to beat bad guys, these two were not nearly as strong, but were much more brave and still very capable using just their natural abilities. In fact, Shelly only used Laser Vision to escape after being badly hurt, once Tammy had already started distracting Benikiba. She could have done well even without it.
I love that overall message: yes, girls in tokusatsu are often portrayed as silly and a bit vacuous, but they’re still just as competent as their serious male counterparts. You don’t need to sacrifice who you are or what you value to be a tough hero. It is a good contrast with the likes of ShinkenPink, who despite being a very capable warrior destined to defeat Gedoushuu really just wanted to settle down with a husband and be a housewife. Just because she could do things other people might typically consider “better” doesn’t mean she wanted to. It didn’t in any way stop her saving the world, but she was quite happy at the end to hang up her sword and move on to a much more mundane life.
Really great stuff. I hope Space Squad does become a whole new franchise with more of this top-quality work.