Team TokuNet Staff Writer Brody Salzman looks back on the entirety of Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger vs Keisatsu Sentai Patranger.
Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers. Please be advised.
With Super Sentai Strongest Battle upon us and Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger on the way, the time has come to reflect on the Super Sentai show of the past year. Once we have the full context of an entire show, there’s no better time to dive deep and see just what makes it tick. Let’s say goodbye together with one last look at Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger vs Keisatsu Sentai Patranger.
Back To The Beginning
It feels like it’s only been a few months spent with the thieves and cops. Still, let’s think back to the time leading up to the show’s premiere.
We were just coming off the grand finale of Uchu Sentai Kyuranger. It left a massive impression on me compared to other recent years’ shows. Overall its story was great, its characters were great, and it blew me away with the way it told its story and developed its characters. Then, we got the news that the new show would be a “versus” show featuring two teams with three members each. That alone was fascinating, especially since there was no “Uchu Sentai Kyuranger vs Zyuohger” movie- the first time a Super Sentai show skipped out on the tradition of crossover movies with the previous year’s show.
Then, we found out that one of the teams would be comprised of phantom thieves, and thoughts of Persona 5 filled everyone’s minds. Persona 5 was a massive game release so the timing made sense. Additionally, it had been over five years since we had a Super Sentai featuring outlaws (the last time being Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger). I was hoping for character development similar to Gokaiger where the thieves learn to be the heroes the world needs.
The advertising at that time centered almost entirely around the Lupinrangers. I was on “Team Lupinranger” because their story was intriguing and their aesthetic was beautiful, unlike anything I had seen Super Sentai do, while the Patrangers were cops. We saw that before with Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger and with Kyukyu Sentai GoGoFive being about emergency services. Still, it felt like the crew behind the show didn’t care enough about the Patrangers, and this gave a lot of fans a really bad feeling. Still, it was Super Sentai and I wanted to have faith in this new experiment. It was uncharted territory, and I loved the Lupinrangers anyway. So, in I went to try loving this show.
I had a chance to reflect on early impressions of the show on The TokuNet Podcast, and my thoughts basically boiled down to “the Lupinrangers are definitely getting more attention than the Patrangers, but it’s really cool how the ‘versus’ character dynamic affects traditional Super Sentai tropes.” For example, there’s an episode where Lupin Red and Lupin Blue get stuck inside a monster’s stomach, leaving Lupin Yellow to get help from the Patrangers. Rather than using the direct approach since the teams are against one another, she gets their help by manipulating them in a uniquely perfect way.
I loved other aspects like how the suits are both different yet similar between the teams and how all their equipment even has this duality (the Lupinrangers’ Dial Fighters and the Patrangers’ Trigger Machines). Still, it was like the Lupinrangers were the main characters until about episode 15 where Keiichiro is poisoned and pushes himself to beat the Gangler for the sake of a little kid. That was when I finally saw the point of the Patrangers.
Early on, the Patrangers seemed generic like there was no overarching plot with them. They could’ve been described as the type to say “We are police and we save people from danger,” and that could’ve been all you needed to know to understand them. Yet the Lupinrangers were more like “We tragically lost those close to us due to a Gangler, and now we’re stealing treasure back so we can wish to save our loved ones.” That’s much deeper.
However, episode 15 was where I realized that the Patrangers take their duty so seriously that it’s what matters most to them out of everything going on. They have the strongest sense of justice, and their story is how far they’ll go to defeat the Ganglers as well as protect people. Early on, it took a while for me to really get a full opinion formed, but overall I got a really positive impression. Things changed after that.
Unfortunately, Lupinranger vs Patranger isn’t focused on story, but it is focused on character development, which makes me feel conflicted.
Once I got about thirty episodes in, I had to be honest with myself. We hadn’t met Zamigo, the Gangler who froze and supposedly killed the Lupinrangers’ loved ones, until episode 10. We didn’t see him again for probably more than ten episodes. The only other major Gangler players besides the big boss, Dogranio, were Destra and Gauche, but none of their subplots went anywhere.
Destra didn’t want to take the boss position from Dogranio which was what every other Gangler wanted and served as the motivation for attacking Earth in the first place. Still, Destra didn’t want anyone else taking the position anyway. That’s kind of a dead-end plot. Maybe I’m missing something, there. As for Gauche? She just wanted to perform weird experiments. She would’ve been just happy being able to dissect Noel near the end of the show, but this meant she didn’t have much to do early on except provide more obstacles for the heroes to overcome. Honestly, her concept would’ve worked much better as a premise for the main enemy force than as a sub-plot, I think.
In short, the enemies didn’t actually want to accomplish much in the long term. Destra wants to see lower Ganglers fail, Gauche wants to experiment on people, and Zamigo wants to mess with Lupin Red. Due to this, overarching plot doesn’t happen. The Lupinrangers and their relationship with the Patrangers is the only overarching plot. I think that’s why I felt like I was missing out on the story aspect of the show. With that said, let’s talk about those characters.
The characters in this show are so good! I just wanted to make sure I say that before getting into the details. I love each of them and how they interact with one another! Let’s break it down:
He’s playful and mischievous even when he’s not wearing the mask. He loves to mess with the police and skirt the lines wherever he can, but he is dead serious about saving his brother. I love how his hangups about his relationship with his brother affect his relationship with Keiichiro and how that helps him understand the police.
This guy. He’s always so mad and over-the-top, but he has the strongest sense of justice. His character development, as I said, is tied to Kairi and trying to relate to him, Kairi being a guy who just needs someone to be there for him. I think once he starts trying to be that, he cools down a fair bit and just ends up being a much more understanding, down-to-earth guy. It gets to the point where he’s actually okay working with the Lupinrangers to save civilians. I’ll come back to this, but his portrayal in the first episode of Super Sentai Strongest Battle really shows just how far he’s come. He was calm, respectful, and above all else he was well-meaning even as he knew he would be fighting his Super Sentai predecessors.
I love Touma and how serious he is, but he’s also really sweet and caring. He gets so embarrassed when he gets caught dancing, and he’s the type to say things like “bring that up and I will break you.” Honestly, it’s tough for me to comment on his character development because I didn’t pay as close attention to it, but I think his role is all about keeping the bigger picture in mind for Kairi and Umika when it comes to their mission.
She’s the experienced officer; the most skilled of the whole team, in fact. My numbers may be slightly out of order, but it’s because Tsukasa usually goes against Touma, the most mature of the thieves. As the mature police officer, she has a better sense of priority than Keiichiro. She’s willing to team up with the Lupinrangers when it will help them save civilians even really early on in the show, but she also makes the most logical decisions in the moment.
Tsukasa’s personality and skill level balances out Keiichiro’s burning passion for justice and Sakuya’s innocent inexperience. As a reminder, she was the first to suggest that the bistro employees were the Lupinrangers. All in all, she’s a strong female lead which is really important for this kind of show. She doesn’t develop as far as the others except for growing closer to the Lupinrangers so that she can accept them when they reveal themselves.
Umika’s the obligatory “cute girl” of this show which is usually reserved for pink. Even so, she’s a deep character and an important member of the Lupinrangers in that she often calls their methods into question. She’s younger and more immature. She’s naive and, in that, she’s not as attached to her methods as the other thieves. She tends to think there might be another way. Touma’s usual response is “we have a goal, and we’re sticking to it.” Kairi usually considers her view because he’s also coming to understand the police. Meanwhile, Sakuya reaches out to her often, showing how much he likes her and slowly tries to win her heart. Through him, she comes to also understand the police.
His character is closely tied to Umika. He’s the rookie officer like how she’s the youngest and least experienced phantom thief. Early on, his character development involved learning to be a more skilled officer and how he can accomplish his job. This continued throughout the season and helped pave the way for the thieves and police to work together when necessary. It’s worth pointing out that he was the most hurt when Keiichiro figured out the phantom thieves were Kairi, Touma and Umika. I think this is mostly because of his feelings for Umika, though. He felt betrayed, but just a little bit before this, Umika had mentioned to Kairi and Touma that she felt bad having to deceive him since he’s so genuine.
Noel is my favorite. He shows up, works with the police, and then switches to the thieves. Yet somehow he wins the friendship of both sides. He tells the police that everything is fine since he’s just going undercover for the GSPO. The police respond with, “But you gave those thieves a collection piece!” and Noel tells them to relax. After all that, the police just go with it, albeit in an annoyed manner. He plays the field really well, early on. Seeing him interact with the others and pushing their buttons is very entertaining.
I didn’t expect that Noel wasn’t human, but for that to be why he always hands his Lupin Collection pieces to the others to activate for him was incredibly subtle. That revelation floored me. I adore that he plays both sides, but it’s pretty funny that nobody else realized working together would benefit both the thieves and police. The police want to eliminate Ganglers, but their collection pieces make it harder to do that. The thieves want to steal back those collection pieces. It would only make sense, but only Noel understood it.
Noel’s so sly and confident. I think it’s great how in this “versus” show, they had one guy that flips sides as the sixth ranger instead of doing two individual sixth rangers. He is the bridge between the teams, giving the whole show more cohesion. (In this case, “sixth Ranger” refers to the tropes Noel occupies and not to being the literal sixth ranger to join the show or a team.)
He can be described in two words: “True Neutral.” Good Striker is very entertaining. Seeing both teams react to seeing him for the first time and seeing his various antics is hilarious. I love how the teams fight over him a bit. I love how he says “Gattaimu.” (Literally “Gattai” meaning “to combine” + “Time”) His costume changes are fun and cute. His top hat seems like his natural state so seeing him don a police hat to blend in with the Patrangers is also hilarious. But wearing a crown as Good Cool Kaiser VSX? I appreciate that.
I’m just going to say Kogure disappointed me by not being revealed to have some sort of darker side the Lupinrangers would have to learn about and deal with. They made him seem real sinister sometimes, but he’s just a nice grandfather figure. I appreciate him for that.
Seeing the actor they chose for this role and then also having him in the same room as a robot named “Jim Carter?” I was certainly confused as to who was named what. I like that he’s not dismissed as comic relief. He’s fun, and he’s a good side character.
What can I say? He’s a robot with a fun personality and a funny name.
Lupinrangers & Patrangers & The Ending
All in all, both teams are similar and different in certain interesting ways. Their personalities contrast and that makes things interesting, but there are also a lot of interesting connections between them. Pitting them against each other in a way that frames some as criminals yet showing us that those criminals chose their path for a cause that is just asks us to call into question what justice really is. I honestly thought they’d come together as one team at some point, but they were separate right up to the very end. I would’ve liked to see them come together more, but I appreciate sticking to what they were as well.
Remaining separate made the ending really interesting. The Lupinrangers were ironically trapped in Dogranio’s safe with every remaining collection piece after freeing their loved ones. Meanwhile, those collection pieces prevented the Patrangers from winning the final battle. I honestly forgot the Lupinrangers had Kogure’s book on them so seeing them neutralizing Dogranio’s abilities from inside the safe was incredibly satisfying. Even when they were fighting a battle separate from the Patrangers, they still worked together to defeat the Ganglers.
After that, seeing them going for another collection piece at the very end, selling how they’re still two teams against one another, fighting over the last collection piece which was the one from the show’s opening was beautiful. Plus, having their loved ones come full circle and become phantom thieves to free them was perfect closure. Although, the Jackpot Striker angle seemed like a cop-out to me since he was movie exclusive. As someone who hadn’t seen the movie and assumed that movie plot wouldn’t be integral to the show’s story, it felt like a really bad deus ex machina for Jackpot Striker to be the answer for the Lupinrangers to free themselves from Dogranio’s safe. Apart from that, I thought the ending and the team-vs-team dynamics were absolutely incredible.
The only thing I was really missing from the ending was closure for Noel wishing to revive Arsene Lupin, but who knows? Maybe we’ll get a V-Cinema.
I didn’t enjoy the storytelling of the show. I’ve seen a Super Sentai show do more with less before, but I loved this one. I was still hooked and eager to see more every week. Yet, I had to admit there wasn’t much plot. So why was I hooked? It wasn’t hard to figure that part out. It was the characters all along.
I love how they interact with one another. I love their dynamic when they’re fighting one another or even when their personalities are just clashing. I love how some of them mesh well together while others act as foils to one another. I love how the “versus” dynamic refreshes existing Super Sentai episode tropes. I love how Noel needs to balance working for both sides. I even love the gimmicks and the sounds, especially the transformations. The Lupinrangers’ transformation is my favorite. Although, cards would’ve made a good gimmick for once what with the whole phantom thief calling card aspect.
Honestly, it’s hard to put all my thoughts into a cohesive conclusion. The duality of the show, the cohesiveness yet the contradiction of the designs, the characters and their dynamics of interacting with one another, the sounds, the animations, the action, the unique camera angles, and of course the entire phantom thief aesthetic and direction; I loved it all. It was unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. I only wish it was more plot focused since we may never see another versus series like this one again.
I’ll never say this show was perfect. Though looking back, it knew what it was and wasn’t trying to be. Someone might be more disappointed with seeing the marketing for the show before a binge or even just binging it all right after binging Kyuranger, but for keeping up with it week-to-week for a year, I loved this show a lot. Even if we never see a more story-focused attempt at a “versus” Super Sentai show, I hope Toei will at least revisit the phantom thieves angle with more plot. I think there’s something there that has yet to be tapped into. For now, Lupinranger vs Patranger was a trip I was happy to take, and I’m gonna miss the thieves and the cops in the weeks to come.
Last year, we were greeted by a Sentai Red hand-off where Shishi Red expected a hi-five or something similar but he was left confused when he was met with Lupin Red and Patren#1 fighting. This year, the hand-off involves Lupin Red and Patren#1 still trying to settle a score until RyusoulRed bats away their laser blasts with his legendary sword. Then, he pulls the two in with his arms around them, bringing them together as comrades. It’s a really nice bookend to what we saw last year, but we aren’t getting Ryusoulger for another three weeks.
As I said earlier, Super Sentai Strongest Battle has begun, bringing together several rangers from the recent Hesei era Super Sentai. My suspense is building for the new show. If Lupinranger vs Patranger is how we’re ending the Hesei era, immediately following such an intense and incredible show as Kyuranger, then I think we’re going out with a bang. Here’s to keeping it up in the era to come. And Lupin estate… GSPO… Lupinrangers.. Patrangers…