If you have never seen a Japanese film before, Eight Rangers is the perfect starter for you! At first glance, the film looks like a generic comedy about Power Ranger wannabes trying to save the world from terrorists. The irony about Eight Rangers is that the film is exactly as it sounds. But no need to fear! The film is much more enjoyable and entertaining than you would think.
Directed by Yukihiko Tsutsumi (Taitei no Ken, Collage of Our Life, BECK, 20th Century Boys), Eight Rangers is the perfect representative of Japanese classic comedy. Set in the gloomy futuristic city of Eight City where money is everything, eight superheroes – known as the ‘Eight Rangers’ – unite to face notorious terrorist group ‘The Dark Crusaders’ and their masked leader, Mr Dark. By themselves, they are powerless amateurs and it is urgent that they require the help of the infamous Captain Silver to assist with their training to become better heroes.
Comedy-wise, the film perfectly hits all the right notes, capturing the essence of quick-witted Japanese humour. With its quirky characters and slapstick punchlines, the film will have you chuckling from start to finish. In fact, the film wouldn’t have character without the Eight Rangers themselves as they are the oddest bunch of unlikely superheroes you’ll come across. Each Ranger is different and colourful – literally – in their own ways. But together, they combine to be the ultimate team that has the world depending on them.
What was surprising about Eight Rangers is that the film slowly shifted from wholesome comedy to a serious film with comedic elements. Unfortunately, the screenwriter became too ambitious in establishing a dark tone towards the end of the film. The maze-like revelation of its revenge and murder backstories for both the main protagonist and villain became over-convoluted, ultimately making the film’s climax and conclusion lackluster to the audience’s disappointment.
Even the development and revelation of the villain was no success as the villain herself was a lot like Star Wars’ Darth Vader. The costume, breathing, powers…it was difficult to be intimidated by the character and feel sympathetic towards her adversity and desire to avenge her mother’s death. With the continuous reverting back and forth between comedy and over-dramatic scenes, the audience becomes uncomfortable sitting ducks about the mood they’re meant to be in.
Despite the screenplay’s faults, the cast’s acting are to be commended for their efforts throughout the film, regardless of comedic or heart-wrenching emotional scenes. Eight Rangers also did a great job at implementing special effects for the characters’ superpowers. Many viewers assumed martial arts would be the main form of combat in the story so it was rather surprising to see the film so strikingly quirky and supernatural.
And of course, it wouldn’t be Japanese storytelling without having a moral. It is universal fact that we do not have the ability to help out everyone in this world. But by the end of the day, we all have the ability to help out someone – one step at a time – and it doesn’t require superhero abilities to do so. The film cleverly provokes the audience to reflect upon this moral with its bell concept and personally, it could not have done a better job.
Based on an act by popular male idol group ‘Kanjani Eight’ and the famous Super Sentai series, Eight Rangers is a satisfactory action-packed comedy that will appeal to all ages. With the film ending on an ominous cliffhanger that hints a sequel in the near future, we are sure moviegoers and Eight Rangers’ fans would be excited for its release.
— Many thanks to the Sydney Japanese Film Festival for the passes! =)