Girls In Trouble: Space Squad - Episode Zero (Japan 2017)

Rating: **
Review Date: 2/23/20
Director: Koichi Sakamoto
Cast: Ayumi Kinoshita, Mika Kikuchi, Suzuka Morita, Mayu Kawamoto, Mikie Hara

Jasmine (Ayumi Kinoshita) wakes up alone in a holding cell, dirty and bruised. She doesn't know where she is or how she got there, which immediately creates a sense of dread. Her thoughts are quickly interrupted when a vicious monster enters the room and kills her. Shortly after, she finds herself waking up again in the same room and the sequence of events repeats itself. The cycle repeats a half dozen times, but with each iteration she survives a little longer and runs into more survivors who are experiencing the same thing. It turns out that all of the girls are involved in a virtual training exercise of some kind, and a woman with a parakeet head (named Birdie, no less) is evaluating their performance so that she can assemble a strike team against a dangerous criminal named Hellvira (the same monster in the simulation). Jasmine and Umeko (Mika Kikuchi) don't make the cut, but they realize something is wrong with one of the girls and they end up going after her. What follows is a free-for-all fight against Hellvira and her dark accomplice, Benikiba (sexy Mikie Hara).

It's interesting to see Ayumi Kinoshita and Mika Kikuchi reprise their roles as Jasmine (Deka Yellow) and Umeko (Deka Pink) from the old "Dekaranger" sentai series. What's most shocking about this is the fact that they're both in their mid-thirties, which is nearly unheard of for Japanese actresses. They both look great, but it's a bit awkward seeing them behave like girls half their age. The fight scenes are marginally entertaining, but only three girls in the group have any sort of action prowess (including Mayu Kawamoto from "High Kick Angels" (2014) ). It's definitely a low budget affair and director Koichi Sakamoto makes the most of what he has to work with. Unfortunately, the visual effects are downright embarrassing, and the parakeet girl and dog-headed police boss are laughable at best. The shaky camera work is infuriating and betrays the movie's limited budget. Could they not even afford a tri-pod? Overall, it's on par with other low budget sentai offerings and suffers from the same genre trappings, but does the target audience of pre-adolescent boys care? I'm so old that it's hard for me to remember what being an 11-year-old boy is like.