Team TokuNet Staff Writer Brody Salzman takes up his chivalrous duty to find the soul of Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger now that the knights have hung up their swords.
Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers. Please be advised.
Almost one year ago, I uploaded my review of Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger. It was a show that left a massive mark on the world for bringing the power of dinosaurs into Super Sentai, standardizing the sixth ranger trope with DragonRanger, and for becoming the source footage for Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. While the dinosaur theme would be used again ten years after the end of Zyuranger in Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger and again a decade later in Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger, I didn’t expect it to be used again so soon after Kyoryuger. After all, there was even a three-way crossover movie between the dinosaur Super Sentai teams.
That’s why I was so surprised when I found out the “ryu” in Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger‘s title didn’t represent the use of dragons like in Kamen Rider Ryuki‘s title. No, Ryusoulger is about dinosaur knights, you see, and what’s interesting is that three of the six Zyurangers were knights as well. Plus, early looks at the show hinted at many similarities to Kyoryuger, and the later inclusion of a “Max Ryusoul Red” power-up seemed to me like a callback to AbaRed’s “AbareMax” power-up.
It appeared that Ryusoulger was trying to unite all of the best parts of the dinosaur Sentai of the past to create another smash hit following Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger Vs. Keisatsu Sentai Patranger which missed the mark for many fans. Did Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger have the soul to win me over? Well, mostly. Here, I’ll discuss the premise, main characters, my favorite part of the show, and my biggest complaint with the show which I find most colors my opinion.
Ancient Dinosaur Tribes, Ancient Monsters… Zyuranger Again?
Ryusoulger begins by introducing us to the Ryusoul Tribe, an ancient race of human-like beings who can tap into the mystic power of Ryusouls. This tribe passes down the power to transform into Ryusoulgers from master to student. When we first meet Koh, Melto, and Asuna along with their masters, Master Red, Master Blue, and Master Pink, a monster called a Minosaur appears, and the three masters are tragically killed. This leaves Koh, Melto, and Asuna to become Ryusoul Red, Ryusoul Blue, and Ryusoul Pink. Together, they awaken the ancient beings known as Kishiryu and fight together as a team.
With their village’s location compromised, the three make friends with Ui and her dad before moving in. While Ui is merely a silly YouTuber (or some equivalent), her dad is a paleontologist who has spent much of his career researching temples like the one the first three Kishiryu (Tyramigo, Triken, and Ankyrose) were found in. With the team assembled and settling in, they soon come face-to-face with more Minosaurs. These are created by Kreon, an ally of the monstrous Druidon Tribe. The Druidon Tribe went to war with the Ryusoul Tribe 65 million years ago. When a meteor struck Earth and wiped out the dinosaurs, it also carried the Druidons into space. Kreon’s body is made up of green slime which, when ingested, manifests a person’s negative emotions into a Minosaur. It saps their human’s life energy until the human dies unless the Minosaur can be defeated. Once a Minosaur sucks enough life energy from its human, it also grows giant.
The existence of these tribes during the time of the dinosaurs definitely feels like a throwback to Zyuranger, but what I appreciate about Ryusoulger‘s approach is that it commits stronger to its fantasy setting. The Zyurangers may have been knights, (plus two princes and a princess) but as I mentioned in my last review, Zyuranger doesn’t build its world apart from just a few key players and locations. The main heroes of Zyuranger behave like any modern person despite awakening from prehistoric times whereas the Ryusoulgers regularly discuss their life in the Ryusoul Tribe, their training, and especially their duties. Yet, the Ryusoulgers still fit naturally into a modern world because they’re descended from the Ryusoul Tribe of 65 million years ago rather than actually being from the past. In my opinion, the Ryusoulgers behave more believably than the Zyurangers while also being allowed to fit into the modern-day in a way the Zyurangers should not have.
When Towa (Ryusoul Green) and his older brother, Bamba (Ryusoul Black), appear after traveling together, they’re ready to defeat Minosaurs at any cost even if it means killing an innocent human. Koh is able to show them the error of their ways by proving it’s only right to carry out their duty without hurting humans. It’s the chivalrous thing for a knight to do, after all. Then, the five truly unite as Ryusoulgers. That is, once Towa and Bamba awaken their Kishiryu partners, Tigerlance and Mirneedle.
This early arc reminds me much of Kyoryuger for how its first five episodes or so were dedicated to Daigo earning his team’s trust. The team had united in episode 1, but they weren’t cooperating with one another as tightly as they would need to. It might be a stretch to say earning the trust of Towa and Bamba was inspired by Kyoryuger in that way, but there are other similarities. For instance, the colors match Kyoryuger, and the mecha operates similarly with a three-person combination consisting of Red, Blue, and Pink to start (Kishiryu-Oh Three Knights) and a five-person combination (Kishiryu-Oh Five Knights) as an upgrade. I’m a bit hesitant to say Ryusouls are inspired by Zyudenchi on account of the collectible power gimmick being used in most modern Super Sentai, but inserting them into a dinosaur mouth for activation along with the return to certain colors and dinosaur mech combinations rang a lot of bells early on. Even Ryusoul Gold’s introduction has similarities to Kyoryu Gold with his lightning-based Ryusoul.
Chivalrous Knights And Souls
Normally, I have more to analyze before I dive into each member of the team and my thoughts on them, but in this case, it’s important that I describe the heroes upfront since there’s a lot more to dive into surrounding the villains’ stories.
Koh/Ryusoul Red – Knight of Valor
Koh is the leader of the team who passionately charges forward into whatever situation the Ryusoulgers find themselves in. He is intensely dedicated to helping his friends and protecting the innocent no matter what. As Master Red’s student, Koh had to learn to manage his emotions in order to do right by his comrades and become strong enough to be Ryusoul Red. I appreciate him as a leader for similar reasons as Uchu Sentai Kyuranger‘s Lucky. While he feels like a very typical Sentai Red warrior, the aspects of his character that define him are thoroughly explored through his struggles as a knight. Koh is often forced to face situations that call his duty to protect others into question. It’s only through continued dedication to his chivalrous duties that he overcomes these struggles, often with new friends and power as a result.
Melto/Ryusoul Blue – Knight of Wisdom
I wish Melto’s character was explored further. The most I can recall about him is his relationship with Asuna developing through their training together. The two pushed one another to become better Ryusoulgers. Melto’s the type of knight who approaches situations using thoughtful strategy, applying the best skills for each scenario. However, he is forced to think on his feet when Koh’s life is put in danger to save a Kishiryu. I suppose his character’s growth can be described as learning to get out of his own head which is an interesting approach for a “brains of the team” Sentai Blue.
Asuna/Ryusoul Pink – Knight of Vigor
I don’t understand tokusatsu’s fascination with giving girls inhuman super strength with no explanation, but Asuna is my personal favorite Ryusoulger. She’s by far the most expressive knight, too. Whether Asuna is full of glee or seething with rage, she’s an absolute joy to watch. When she cries, you feel her pain. Asuna brings an energy to the Ryusoulgers that would sorely hurt the core dynamic if it weren’t there. She is overall a very impactful, lovable, and inspiring hero that I think any child can look up to, especially young girls. She has no real character growth that I can recall, but she stands out in a way someone like Kyuranger‘s Hammy did not.
Towa/Ryusoul Green – Knight of Haste
Towa and his brother each rely on very clear skills in battle. Towa’s specialty is speed, often pulling out a HayaSoul to move faster than his enemies. Being so fast inflates his ego, making him think that he’s too skilled to lose fights. In actuality, his dependence on fast movement causes him to ignore other skills that would be just as, if not more, helpful in battle. Towa is also much more open about his feelings than Bamba which is what makes him the first to trust Koh, Melto, and Asuna. It just disappoints me that the lessons he learns about not overly relying on his speed don’t seem to stick or amount to anything. They’re just one-off obstacles.
Bamba/Ryusoul Black – Knight of Glory
Bamba reminds me very much of Goushi/MammothRanger. Besides being a Sentai Black, he’s also similarly stoic, focused, and intensely strong. Where his younger brother relies on speed, Bamba relies on brute force. He is the sort of knight who’s so focused on fulfilling his sole duty that he tends to lose sight of the bigger picture. This stubborn nature makes it more difficult for him to open up to the other Ryusoulgers, but even without openly acknowledging his own feelings, his change of heart over time becomes clear. It’s very easy to love a stoic character who has a soft side.
Canalo/Ryusoul Gold- Knight of Grandeur
Sadly, Canalo’s eternal search for a woman to marry may be hopeless as he views women only as potential brides. Although, dealing with women does bring out his old school sense of chivalry which fits into the knightly theme of the show. I appreciate Canalo not for the way he treats women but rather for how he and Koh bridge the relationship between the Land and Sea Ryusoul Tribes. Both tribes had gone to war in the past which led Kishiryu Mosarex to warn Canalo that the Land Ryusoul Tribe are enemies of the Sea Ryusoul Tribe. As Koh insists that they should both get along as fellow Ryusoulgers, he convinces Canalo that his team means well. Thanks to that, he is able to convince Mosarex of the same and end a 65-million-year-old feud.
This cycle of meeting with clashing duties and uniting under a sense of chivalry without compromising those duties is at the very center of the Ryusoulgers’ story, but the history of war will become very important later in this review.
I felt the need to mention Ui because I can’t in good conscience ignore her lack of impact on the show despite being so front-and-center from the start. As mentioned before, Ui is billed as a YouTuber trying to find a scoop on “exotic” locations… except she’s only pretending to be elsewhere in the world as she “explores” local parks and forests. This is what she’s busy with when she meets Koh and friends. Soon, she finds herself the victim of a Minosaur, and later on, there’s an episode in which she gets the Ryusoulgers to dance to their ending song for her channel. Near the end, she leaves Japan for a while to explore America. That’s about all the plot she gets involved in throughout the show.
Episode 42 even sees Ui depart for America, leaving the show until the final scene. While rumors circulated to try and explain this, it seems there was never really a clear point to her character apart from being a human friend to interact with. Even while Ui was often left out of the show, I wish she had more to do or more purpose in the story. Her father in the show turned out to be much more central to the story.
Naohisa is Ui’s father, as I mentioned before. Being a paleontologist who studied the Ryusoul Tribe and the Kishiryu, his research is incredibly useful to the Ryusoulgers throughout the show as they search for Kishiryu that have been long since sealed away. He even plays host for the Ryusoul Tribe spirit, Setoh. Setoh appears at various points to guide the Ryusoulgers in their fight against the Druidon Tribe. As an added bonus, Naohisa delivers some wonderful comic relief at just the right moments to lighten the mood. He’s a fantastic character, and I can’t help but feel Ui’s only purpose in the show was to bring the Ryusoulgers to meet Naohisa. I also can’t help but wonder if things would have been different had Kinjo not fallen ill. Either way, he fills a useful and enjoyable role.
Oto is the adorable, mischievous little sister of Canalo. Soon after Canalo meets the Ryusoulgers, Oto sneaks away from their home under the sea to check on her brother. When she meets the Land Ryusoulgers, she develops a cute crush on Melto which is really funny to watch when Melto gets so flustered. Although at times, I can’t help wondering if the writers went too far with this subplot. I couldn’t help getting a little nervous when Canalo pointed out Oto is too young to be looking for a husband only for Oto to remind him she’s 123 years old. I get that Ryusoul Tribespeople age slowly, but what age is considered “adulthood” for them?
That said, Oto’s a joy to watch as she reminds me of Kotaro in Uchu Sentai Kyuranger. She often foolishly gets herself into trouble, but she always means well and often helps the team. I hope she’ll become a Ryusoulger if we ever get an epilogue film.
The Tragedy of Gaisorg… Deja Vu
Let’s discuss the best part of the entire show, Gaisorg.
Gaisorg is a cursed armor with an insatiable hunger for battling strong opponents as a result of the intense hatred it’s imbued with. Gaisorg is first introduced in the four-part Super Sentai Strongest Battle which aired in the weeks leading up to Ryusoulger‘s first episode. In this special, it fights the Gokaigers using Luka/Gokai Yellow’s techniques after she went missing. Later on, after using Luka’s invitation to the titular Super Sentai Strongest Battle to enter planet Nemesis, it fights Takaharu Igasaki/AkaNinger and is seen using Takaharu’s techniques. This special reveals the armor’s secret- the ability to control a host. As it turns out, Gaisorg had taken control of Luka and Takaharu. In the end, the armor is defeated with a mysterious character seen taking the helmet.
And then nothing.
Ryusoulger kicks around for about 12 episodes or so before Gaisorg makes its first appearance. Then, there are about seven episodes before it’s seen again. It still amazes me that Gaisorg wasn’t treated as a more central part of the show from the beginning since he was a central antagonist in Super Sentai Strongest Battle. Still, Gaisorg’s eventual arc manages to be the best story arc of the whole show.
Gaisorg makes some small appearances leading up to and including episode 20, but episode 26 is when Nada shows himself, reuniting with Koh and friends as a member of the Land Ryusoul Tribe and a student of Master Red. It became obvious to me that Nada was in the Gaisorg armor following the events of Strongest Battle when he started questioning whether Koh was the right person to inherit the role of Ryusoul Red. It was just oddly antagonistic, and Koh seemed like a great Ryusoul Red before this. Still, enough time was spent building his relationship with the Ryusoulgers that it was emotionally shocking to see the Gaisorg reveal. The reveal isn’t where the excitement ends, either. Fascinatingly, this arc doesn’t end with destroying the armor.
Instead, the episode featuring the final battle with Gaisorg also features a Minosaur with the power to absorb hate into a rain cloud. When Towa forces the armor to switch users by weakening Nada’s body within, the armor attempts to take Koh. However, the Ryusoulgers are able to use the Minosaur’s power to neutralize all of Gaisorg’s hatred, and this even prevents the Minosaur from targeting more humans. With the armor drained of its hatred, its power can be used without taking over the mind of its user, and Nada becomes the seventh Ryusoulger. Sadly, that only lasts about one episode.
The next episode debuts a new Druidon general who fatally wounds Nada. As he passes away, Nada’s soul and armor form the Max Ryusoul Changer, allowing Koh to wear Gaisorg’s armor as Max Ryusoul Red. Nada may have only been on the team for one episode, but on the bright side we get to see Nada trying and failing to decide on a transformation phrase:
Nada: “Ryusoul… Ryusoul Gaisoul… Ugh!”
Gaisouken: “GAISOUL CHANGE”
Nada: “Oh, is that what I say?”
I didn’t really notice until writing this review, but Nada’s arc closely resembles Burai’s story in Zyuranger. They were both potentially going to inherit a role that eventually went to their shows’ Sentai Reds and made rash decisions as a result which led them to hurt many people using their power. Then, they both died, passing on their power to their shows’ Sentai Reds. In a way, Nada’s story is a very effective retelling of Burai’s story.
Even so, I can’t help but feel like it would have had a stronger impact if Gaisorg had been a more central villain; perhaps if Nada had an earlier introduction and spent more time as the “Knight of Resilience.” After all, I felt so hurt when Burai died because he was part of the show’s story for more than twenty episodes, and he had joined the Zyurangers for a good portion of that. I could really get a sense for the connection Geki and Burai made with one another. I just wish Ryusoulger had more of that. If Nada’s story were a more central part of Ryusoulger‘s overarching story, then I think I would’ve felt better about that overarching story. As it stands, that is the weakest part of Ryusoulger.
A Good Story Scattered About
If we’re talking about the overarching story, Ryusoulger is a definite step up from Lupinranger Vs. Patranger which I said in my review from last year was a show more about character dynamics than story. Looking back, I definitely wish more was done with an overarching story in that show because it had such high potential. When it comes to Ryusoulger, it felt like the writers only got halfway there. While I was watching, I stopped keeping up week-to-week, opting for binge sessions instead. I didn’t realize at the time, but I think I did this because there just wasn’t enough to keep me looking forward to the next episode.
The story of Ryusoulger, as far as I could tell throughout the earlier parts of the show, was entirely embodied by Nada’s character arc. It’s a story about knights who learn to pledge themselves not only to their duty but also to their chivalry. Every significant development the Ryusoulgers undergo as a team starts with being presented with a problem that’s eventually overcome by a renewed dedication to chivalry. They always manage to live up to their roles but also never fail to protect the people of Earth. It’s a story that’s presented in several ways as the early episodes go by until Nada, seemingly hopeless in being controlled by Gaisorg, is saved through this same dedication to chivalry and duty. The evil armor is defeated, and Nada is saved until he lays down his life to save the others. Nada is a truly chivalrous knight in his final moments despite not earning the right to be a Ryusoulger from his master.
I liked the characters in the show and their story, but something was always missing. I couldn’t tell where the overarching story was going. The Ryusoulgers’ personal stories were the focus for so long that it was hard for me to put my finger on just what the missing piece was. Still, the situations they would find themselves in always felt so random to me. I couldn’t quite figure it out while I watched, but I did mention during Team TokuNet’s Dino Sentai Retrospective podcast that it felt like the villainous organization had no unity.
The villains’ goals are typically what pushes an overarching plot forward as they try to accomplish those goals. This isn’t always the case, though. For instance, the Gokaigers and their journey to become heroes was the focus of Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger. The pirates were in pursuit of the “greater powers” of Super Sentai, and they took down the Zangyack Empire on their way to that goal. However, a show like Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger lacks that sort of driving force in the heroes whose only goal is to protect people from the Druidons. The only reason the whole show starts is because the villains kill Master Red, Master Blue, and Master Pink.
In most Sentai shows, even when the different villain characters have different goals, they still typically function as a unit in order to advance an overarching plot. Kyoryuger‘s Deboss army consisted of three main generals who each tried to gather one human emotion. They needed all three to accomplish their end goal. Ressha Sentai ToQger‘s Shadow Line commanders all wanted to expand the reach of the Shadow Line, but they had different goals and interests which drove their actions and affected their ability to accomplish this goal. Comparing these groups to the Druidon Tribe, there’s clearly less unity. One minute, Tankjoh is trying to smash the Ryusoulgers. The next, Wiserue is stealing Kreon away to create entertainment for himself. Theoretically, the Druidon Tribe have the common goal of wanting to dominate the Earth. It’s just that it only ever seemed to me like the commanders were constantly fighting with each other to accomplish their own separate goals and fighting over Kreon, the only one who can create Minosaurs.
I feel like there was definitely a story to tell about Kreon coming into his own and maturing in some way so that he wouldn’t be pushed around by the commanders. After all, they needed him to make Minosaurs, but so few characters appreciated him. I wish he had learned to stand up for himself and become an independent character. Whether this could have resulted in a stronger villain or an unexpected ally, I don’t really care. Either approach would have made for a more interesting overarching plot. The pieces were already in place in the show as it is. There were episodes where Kreon reflects on having fun with Wiserue and being pushed around by Gachireus. There was even an episode where Kreon makes a human friend and only creates a Minosaur from him on accident, but none of this ever results in some meaningful growth for Kreon even though he specifically mentions wanting to be appreciated.
That being the case, the Druidons’ endgame feels like it comes almost out of nowhere because the early episodes have next to no hints as to what that endgame would be. Initially, I thought the appearance of Pricious was meant to be the appearance of the final enemy who it turns out was always on his way. I thought this was re-contextualizing the entire show as though the commanders were supposed to be preparing Earth for his arrival by destroying the Ryusoulgers or civilization, but this wasn’t even the case. When Pricious shows up and forces control over the other commanders by stealing their hearts, it’s part of his own separate plan that the other Druidons weren’t even aware of: Delivering on the will of Eras.
Eras is revealed as the Druidons’ creator with the ability to create new Druidons. As it turns out, everything Pricious did was meant to free Eras who was sealed by the Ryusoul Caliber. When Koh drew the Ryusoul Caliber, it broke the seal and freed Eras. This seems clever in the moment, but none of this was even hinted at or built up before Pricious arrived. Again, none of the other Druidons were trying to do anything for Eras, and it’s a plot point that comes out of nowhere which makes it less satisfying when it happens.
Towards the end, it turns out Eras is a force connected to the Earth which created the Ryusoul Tribe to protect the planet. When the Land Ryusoul Tribe went to war with the Sea Ryusoul Tribe, Eras was convinced that the Ryusoul Tribe as a whole was a mistake. Then, she created the Druidon Tribe to destroy the Ryusoul Tribe who were considered failures. Unfortunately, the Druidon Tribe decided to try and dominate the Earth, and the result was even more war. Eras was soon sealed by the Ryusoul Caliber before she could take any further action. Then, the Druidon Tribe was sent into space on the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs as I explained earlier. During the show’s endgame, Eras wants to wipe out the Ryusoul Tribe, the Druidon Tribe, and use the life force of humans to reset the Earth.
To be honest, I like Eras’s story. She created protectors who failed her by going to war with themselves, and her attempt to correct the situation only made things worse. It makes total sense that she wanted to hit the reset button, and all the pieces of this story were in place throughout the show’s early episodes. Admittedly, I wasn’t clear on the origins of the Druidons’ conflict with the Ryusoul Tribe during those early episodes, but Canalo’s explanation of the Ryusoul Tribes’ war could have been enough to hint at Eras’s motivation had that effort been made back then.
What kills me is how long into the show I was forced to wait until I heard this story. While the pieces were in place, the connections were never formed until the show was about to end. It’s unfortunate because the show ends really strong with the Ryusoulgers growing and learning from the mistakes of their ancestors to become even greater knights who can protect the Earth like Eras wanted.
Final Impression: A Show With A Split Soul
I really did like Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger. For starters, this show really did seem like it drew from the best of each dino-themed Sentai show before it. The knights were enjoyable, but the only characters I felt a deep emotional connection to were Koh, Canalo, Nada, and Kreon (although again, Asuna’s still my favorite on the team for her incredible energy and acting). I can’t help but remember how Kyuranger made me care so deeply about almost everyone on that 12-person team, and I wish Ryusoulger could have delivered on that for me. I’m not sure exactly what was missing from the other Ryusoulgers that prevented me from feeling more connected to them, but that’s how I felt.
Ryusoulger did a lot really well, but it also missed the mark enough of the time that I felt like the overall package wasn’t very cohesive. For every good point in this show, there was something that missed the mark. There were so many good ideas in this show, and its fantasy setting was handled really well. I just wish those ideas had been mixed together more thoughtfully. Maybe if that were the case, Gaisorg would’ve had a more emotional arc, the endgame wouldn’t have felt like an afterthought that took advantage of earlier plot points, and Kreon’s character development wouldn’t have been forgotten.
Let’s end this by looking on the bright side. Binging Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger week-to-week is truly the best way to experience this show. Even without a cohesive overarching plot, it’s perfectly enjoyable when watching several episodes at a time, and I recommend everyone give this one a watch. We could all use some uplifting chivalry right about now.
Whether you’re feeling down by the current state of the world or really anything, these dinosaur knights will spark a flame of chivalry in your soul.