This week, it’s the era of superheroes. Really crummy superheroes.
It’s a bit of a Sentai parody but Eight Ranger has unique roots in that it isn’t solely a film property. Spinning out of skits performed during concerts for boy band Kanjani∞ (eight) is a movie set in a dystopian landscape that, although somewhat predictable, offers a couple of interesting turns.
The film takes place in a Japan that has been nearly brought to ruin by the dwindling population, a fear that real life Japan faces. To help foster the coming generation, children’s futures are decided for them at the age of six. Those who score well on a placement test are sent to Tokyo, or a futuristic version of itself, to learn from the best tutors in the world and live in luxury. The children who score below 90% are left in the slums to make it on their own.
Basically, if you’re not in Tokyo, you’re having a bad time. Pollution, corrupt cops, and gangs are just some of the features life in the slums has to offer ordinary citizens. One of those ordinary citizens is Makoto Yokomine, who happens to owe a massive debt to a couple of gangsters. Just before Makoto can meet his end, he’s saved by Shintaro Saegusa, played by Kamen Rider Decade’s Renji Ishibashi. Saegusa offers Makoto a job at a local superhero agency, where he is made the leader of the generally lazy team, Eight Ranger.
In this world, being a superhero is just like any other job and this agency once boasted the highest offering of heroes. Unfortunately, times have been rough as we see through a promotional video updated throughout the years.
“With the strength of 100 heroes, you can count on us!” the video claims, before one made a few months later claims “With the strength of 38 heroes, you can count on us!” and eventually “With the strength of about 19 heroes, you can count on us!” before finally only seven heroes are left – six of the Eight Rangers and a Silver Kamen expy, Captain Silver. Being a hero in this world is rough, the opening shows us various Ranger-like guys being picked off by a terrorist group. The only reason the members of Eight Ranger have survived is because they’ve been so cowardly that they run away from fights.
The movie follows your standard plot of bum heroes needing to learn to trust in themselves and each other before they can realize their true powers, but there are a few interesting turns. As Makoto eventually realizes his power, he makes the decision to quit the team, knowing that he was unable to hear the “bell in the hearts of people” that should have alerted him to danger. To Makoto, not hearing this bell means he doesn’t have the heart of a true hero.
The main plot of the movie follows the investigation into the murder of a woman, killed by corrupt cops, and her daughter, who is connected to Captain Silver, who is connected to Makoto – whose father happens to be missing. The connections aren’t difficult to make.
Eight Ranger’s an interesting movie, clearly a comedy heavy one, but the story is so lacking. It’s an origin piece, no doubt about that, but that drags down the movie and keeps the viewer from being fully engrossed in this pretty interesting world we’ve been introduced to. As a hero movie, don’t go into it expecting any great action. Lots of quick cuts here to confuse the viewer and deprive us of any decent action scenes. Oddly enough, the movie shines with its score. Composer Hasebe Toru provides a truly cinematic experience that hits all the right notes, capable of punctuating the big moments for a bit of extra emotional impact. And, being that the stars are in a boy band, they provide the theme song to the movie, titled “ER”.
Unfortunately, that interesting world mentioned earlier isn’t hit upon in the manner I wanted until the very final minutes. At the start of the movie, we’re told that the families of children who score well on their placement tests are taken with them to Tokyo. As the credits begin to roll, we see a scene that shifts this notion on its head and leaves us with such a negative situation that you can’t help but think the heroes have to put an end to it.
If this movie could have focused on those aspects that cast this world in a harsher light more seriously, I think I would have loved it. That’s not to say this is a bad movie, but it’s not great and has a lot of problems. Though, despite those problems, it’s those final minutes that have me interested in seeing the second movie, Eight Ranger 2, that was released over the summer. Now that the origins are out of the way, I’m hopeful we’ll dive deeper into this pretty fascinating world. (and as an actor, You Yokoyama is a pretty decent lead)
Have you seen this movie? What did you think of it? Let us know and look forward to next time when we review Shin Kamen Rider.