Space Squad: Gavan Vs. Dekaranger (Japan 2017)

Rating: **
Review Date: 2/24/20
Director: Koichi Sakamoto
Cast: Yuma Ishigaki, Ayumi Kinoshita, Mika Kikuchi, Suzuka Morita, Mikie Hara

This semi-sequel to "Girls In Trouble" (2017) opens with Space Sheriff Gavan (Yuma Ishigaki) and his partner Shelly (Suzuka Morita) attempting to arrest some bad guys. Unfortunately, the bad buys prove to be too powerful for Gavan, and Shelly is seriously injured and taken away by a nasty creature who has a gun for a hand. Desperate to rescue Shelly, Gavan interrupts Umeko's (Mika Kikuchi) wedding to recruit Jasmine (Ayumi Kinoshita) for her ESP ability to track the kidnapper. Another encounter with the bad guys leaves Gavan in even worse shape and his sacred sword is destroyed in the process. On top of that, Umeko is critically injured in a fight with Benikiba (Mikie Hara), which leads to the impulsive Gavan getting thrown into jail. After Umeko recovers and recounts what happened, the Dekarangers team up to break Gavan out of jail and go after the bad guys again. This leads to an epic fight to save Shelly and prevent the resurrection of a giant, evil monster.

While the action and production values are considerably better than "Girls In Trouble," it's still a low budget affair aimed at an undiscerning tween audience. The CGI is awful, although a handful of visual effects work surprisingly well in the context of split-second shots, like sparks, flames, and impact strikes. These effects reminded me a lot of how video games do the same thing. Admittedly, the only reason I watched this was for Ayumi Kinoshita, and she's quite charming (although her hair is a bit off for some reason). Interestingly, while both she and Mika Kikuchi have less to do in this film than in "Girls In Trouble," they seem more engaged and in character here. Their brief fight scenes are also better.

As the title implies, Gavan is the main draw of the film, and pretty much everything revolves around him. The charismatic Yuma Ishigaki is a good fighter and his action scenes are fluid and full of raw aggression. Unfortunately, his character is rude, abrasive, and generally unlikable, and his forcefully masculine swagger is a huge turn-off (although youngsters may disagree). He comes across more like a Yakuza thug than a law enforcer, but I'm sure there are some cultural insights that I'm missing. The fight choreography is quite good and the action scenes are fun to watch. As much as it pains me to admit, having a primarily male cast results in overall better stunt work due in part to the raw physicality of the players. While it doesn't bring anything new to the genre, fans of goofy and melodramatic sentai action will probably enjoy what it has to offer.