Shuriken and trains
Former got less attention
But still very fun
What happened in this movie?
The movie starts with a creepily empty train going through a dark tunnel – empty aside from the Ninningers, that is. Apparently, they’re going to the Dreamy Ninja Land, where they can meet legendary ninjas face to face, “beyond time and space” according to Kinji. Despite how odd the situation sounds from the get-go, the team seems very comfortable and excited about their destination.
Just then, an announcement notifies that they’re arriving at one “Ninnin Live Concert Dream” station. Kinji looks out the window because it sounds familiar to him, and… they’re in a concert now! With Kinji performing a rock version of the Ninninger ending song and the cousins in the crowd cheering. After the song, Kinji leaves the stage to prepare for an encore, but… gets dragged away by a pop idol.
The Ninningers wake up on the train and go through the same conversations again… except Kinji is nowhere to be seen. Takaharu notices the deja vu and the fact that they have six lunchboxes with them, but they don’t seem to recognize Kinji’s absence… nor who the absentee is at all. Before they could ponder on the oddity for long, the train announces anther station – “Spy Mission Dream”, which seems to be Nagi’s fantasy and he looks outside…
And they suddenly find themselves in the middle of a shootout, with “spy garbs” similar to Go-Busters’ uniforms! They even have “codenames” that are wordplays on their names: Nagi is “No Wave”, Fuuka is “Flower”, and Yakumo is obviously “Cloud”, and they also mention a “Mister Tsumuji” in their conversation. Sadly, they forgot to give Kasumi one, so I’m gonna take the opportunity and name her “Misty”. Can’t say I care much about Takaharu lacking one, but… fine, he can be “Skye”, I guess. Also: Is anybody gonna comment on the fact that Fuuka is having a shootout in a skirt and a Toad Gun? No? ‘kay.
Anyway, Flower and [Skye] fend off the pursuers while Cloud and [Misty] accompany No Wave as he rushes to deliver The Obviously Important Briefcase to Mister Tsumuji. They get cornered in an alley – because where else would you be cornered – until they’re saved by the arrival of… a Sherlock Holmes cosplayer that beats people up with a Kendama – the “Kendama Detective Hikari (Returns!)”. He “deduces” that the three are not spies, but Ninja! And then everything whites out and we’re back on the train, this time with only Takaharu and Fuuka remaining.
Takaharu finally figures out that something is wrong, but again, another “station” comes into the picture: Fuuka’s wedding fantasy! White dress, ready for the vows at the altar, Takaharu being misty-eyed from the bench – except they seem unfamiliar with the bespectacled groom, who seems way too jittery to stop the ceremony. Fortunately, a girl slams open the doors to interrupt the ceremony and take all of them away to safety. Unfortunately, they’re halted by the Jukkarage who were disguised as (previously nowhere-to-be-seen) attendees. A battle breaks out, the Igasaki siblings surprised that the two strangers have their own transformation. The stranger Rangers reveal that this is all just a monster’s illusion, which is proven immediately by the monster, Wanyudo, revealing itself since the jig is up anyway. It shatters the illusion and traps the four back on the creepy train.
The girl explains to the siblings that they’re on a “Yokai Express”, upon when Takaharu finally recalls what happened: A Yokai popped up, they went out to engage it, it turned into this train and scooped up all of them, and here they are. The other Ninningers are back at home safe and sound, thanks to the Idol Girl and Kendama Holmes who apparently infiltrated the illusion to save them upon request of a certain Conductor. Yakumo – the self-proclaimed Magical Ninja – is finding all this very strange.
Anyway, it’s time to formally introduce the guest team: Express Sentai ToQGer – Idol girl is Kagura, ToQ #5; Kendama Sherlock Holmes is Hikari, ToQ #4; Panicky McGlasses is Tokacchi, ToQ #2, and the girl he’s with is Mio, ToQ #3. Tokacchi summarizes the plot their past adventures the plot – They fought the evil train empire “Shadow Line” on the side of the good “Rainbow Line”. So what’s the problem now? There’s this “Dark Scientist” who just returned from his “dark vacation” and wants to take over the world with a Dark Ninja army, so he “invited” the Ninningers to his Dark Ninja Land to turn them into Dark Ninja. Darkity Dark.
Now that Takaharu has understood the situation – not really, he hasn’t – he’s even more FIRED UUUUUP. Right arrives just then to their rescue, manning the ToQ Express, but of course, grunts from Shadow Line and KibaOni Army stand in their way. Right tries sideway-ramming the Yokai Express – because it wouldn’t be ToQGer if trains worked like trains – but Wanyudo shakes him off and rushes to a tunnel, supposedly a “no escape” point. As a desperate measure, Tokacchi shoots open a window to escape through (and subsequently fell out, because he’s Tokacchi). Takaharu pushes the girls out “safely” and rushes to escape himself.
And then he slips on a banana peel and gets captured.
Know what the funniest thing about this is? The joke was properly foreshadowed. Repeatedly, in fact – every time Takaharu woke up as part of the deja vu, the first thing he saw is Fuuka eating a banana. Sure, it seemed like an innocuous moment, but then BAM – the movie blindsides you, using it as a joke and plot development. It’s so ridiculously sneaky and clever that I love it.
Anyway, Takaharu couldn’t make it out, and Right pursues Wanyudo into the tunnel on train. Fuuka wonders what’s going to happen to her brother, and the movie provides an exposition fairy in the form of… Kyuemon – who expressedly is responsible for the Yokai Express. Takaharu, meanwhile, arrives at Dark Ninja Land – a rather impressively detailed and tidy Jidai-geki village set, which I like – where he finally meets the mastermind: Dark Scientist Mavro, in his human form. Takaharu takes him on because this is already a pretty good setup for a boss fight, but he gets repelled by the “legendary Ninja” – again foreshadowed in the first scene of the movie – whom Mavro gleefully introduces to him: Hattori Hanzo, Fuuma Kotaro and Sarutobi Sasuke. As it turns out, Mavro is such a massive Ninja Otaku that he created “Dark Clones” of various legendary Ninja for his collection.
The scuffle begins, and the action feels like a straight-up Jidai-geki here, with fancy rooftop action and somersaults. But it’s still early in the movie, so Takaharu doesn’t last very long against the legendary three. Mavro finally does his Dark Scientist thing and fuses the Dark Clones into AkaNinger, creating a “Dark AkaNinger”. Almost immediately, Takaharu separates from it, visibly weakened. Mavro is surprised, but finds it inconsequential, since the “leftovers” of Takaharu will vanish in a short while anyway. Fortunately, ToQ #1 comes to the rescue before Dark AkaNinger finishes him off.
After regrouping and sharing info, the remaining Ninningers naturally decide to go save Takaharu. However, ToQGers advise against it, since it defeats the purpose of rescuing them in the first place; Tsumuji also agrees, not wanting to end up handing more of them over like the enemy wanted. Takaharu, meanwhile, wakes up again to Right’s relief, but his current state cuts the pleasantries short. Not that it’s gonna stop him of course; now that he’s gotten everybody else to safety, he doesn’t care what happens to himself. Right sympathizes with him, as he too went through a similar line of thinking near the end of ToQGer. Of course, there are situational differences to argue on that point (since ToQGer‘s story ultimately settled on the angle that this idea, while well-intended, wasn’t the best in Right’s situation), but I appreciate the callback to a key character moment.
The others also end up deciding to go save Takaharu anyway because ToQGers changed their mind upon seeing Tsumuji’s worries about his son; that one is also a character callback to the journey they went through to reunite with their families, but the moment itself ends up feeling pointless – like “There’s a good reason why you shouldn’t go… but eh, we can probably handle it together anyway, so nevermind”. But fine, the two teams would end up joining forces anyway, so might as well get it over with if they have no reason to separate them. There’s one little problem though: Since Right took all of the ToQ Express cars, they don’t have a way to travel directly to Mavro’s hideout. So Yakumo begins his plan. A Ninja plan.
Mavro begins his plan with Dark Aka Ninger’s powers. Kyuemon warns him about the inevitable intrusion from the two teams, to which he assures that other Dark Clones have been dispatched to guard the entrances… which might not have been the best move, since they’re guarding their posts in plain sight and the teams have already found them in the next scene. Oh, who are these Dark Clones, you ask?
In case you’re wondering: The music stops and follows up with an Idiot Crow sound, showing that, even after all this time, #NobodyLovesNero.
For what it’s worth, Kyuemon seems assured (or he doesn’t really care to begin with) and takes Wanyudo for another task, since he’s done his part in helping Mavro. Takaharu and Right arrive, making the Dark Ninger put his task on hold and take them on.
Meanwhile: Infiltration time~!
* Yakumo, Tokacchi and Mio: Try to rush past Noire with a crowd of clones, but Tokacchi trips and loses his illusion, so they end up carrying him on Ninjachutes. Went better than his earlier mission, at least.
* Fuuka, Kagura and Kinji: Attempt the “seductive maiden” ploy on Nero – including Kinji, who’s packing some serious gams. Nero is characteristically suspicious of the former two… but falls for Kinji. This is funnier on a meta-level, because both Kagura and Fuuka fall into the “The (Girly) Girl” archetypes within their respective teams – but, in Nero’s defense, Kinji rocks a Kimono real well. They’re both naturally a bit miffed – personally, I’m just glad Nero didn’t go for Kagura – and they literally blow him away. Also: Kinji is covering more skin underneath his gam-showing Kimono. Also also: Nero is sporting a topknot.
* Kasumi, Nagi and Hikari: Sneak past Schwarz with Kasumi’s trademark camo, but even after revival, he’s still a keen warrior and easily blows their cover. So they instead bind him in a drum bath and run past. Because Goemon was historically boiled alive.
Despite Dark Aka Ninger’s superior strength, Takaharu and Right are putting up a formidable fight. Mavro decides to join the fray himself, but wait- could it be… yes…! It’s the Requiem, which means…
Thus another fight begins, with a remix of Akira’s awesome battle BGM. Mavro turns out to be a pretty good (and even slightly brutal) fighter himself, so their moves pack more raw power compared to previous action scens that show off movements and techniques more.
Kyuemon decides to start gathering fear as usual, i.e: leaves Wanyudo to the task without supervising personally – which he shouldn’t have, because now it runs into… “them”.
The cameo team, Animal Sentai JuO’ger, are apparently looking for what they call a “Dethgalien”, but since Wanyudo is a “bad guy”, they decide to fight it anyway. And then they leave without knowing what it actually was. Looks kinda cool, funny enough and the action is just as good as the ones before, but as with all “next team” cameos, there’s no character or story context, so… can’t say I care too much.
Back at the Battle of the Reds, Right and Takaharu eventually tire out from accumulated damage. Fortunately, the others arrive just in time and they finish off the bootleg Ninja with Rainbow Rush (ToQGers’ Swiss-army-finisher), this time packing a shower of red paprika that Takaharu hates. This significantly weakens Dark AkaNinger and Takaharu finishes off his dark counterpart with a gut punch taken straight out of Tatsumi Matoi’s playbook… before slowly fading away into nothingness.
Except not really. Between his family all wishing together and his grandpa popping into… afterlife(?) to spur him on, Takaharu blinks back into existence by way of Imagination. If you think this is ridiculous… well, you’d be right, and you also probably didn’t watch the first half of Ninninger.
So the main conflict has been resolved, but we’re still missing Akira- Oh, nevermind; he just got literally knocked into the scene. Everyone is here then – which means it’s time for…
The team charge is downright epic with the Ninninger action track. More running gags from ToQGer make a comeback, like a group running at something and one member slowly walking along, as well as Akira throwing his baton at enemies. Also, Nero tries to fog up the battle for stealth, but immediately loses his cover from stepping on Nagi’s caltrops – because #NobodyLovesNero.
The Dark Clones are defeated rather quickly, and Mavro too subsequently gets his mad scientist butt kicked. He… takes it fairly well, all things considered, and calls for Darkliner Robos, which Shurikenjin and Bison King intercept. ToQGers try to join in with their own Mecha, but Mavro twines their train with his own and drags them into nearby waters. Oh nooo, they’ve been taken out, how will the Ninningers handle the enemy all by themselves? Actually, Ninningers do manage to take out the Darkliner Robos pretty easily and knock them into the water too. But then Mavro pops up again and fuses with the two giant grunts to form “Super Duper Darkliner Robo”. Ninningers instantly know they need to pull out their big guns, and do so, but even HaO-Shurikenjin can’t break through because… the ominous background organ is still playing and we’re all waiting for ToQGers to join back in.
And whaddaya know – they do! Thank gods, the tension was held for like a few whole minutes. And: Hi, Ticket. I guess the Conductor wasn’t available for a cameo, huh. They form ToQ-O and sit in Shurikenjin’s seat, forming HaO ToQ-DAI-O. Akira is particular about the “Dai” part – another joke from the TV series.
So, what kind of spectacle are they gonna pull off to close off this battle? Summon all the extra OtomoNin – Hi, Dinomaru~ Haven’t seen you since the summer movie~ – have them ride on the six ToQGers’ trains, then ride on each OtomoNin in pairs, and pierce through Mavro’s robot. Ridiculously flashy, but “riding things that are riding things that are riding things [etc.]” is a Ninninger thing, so I’d say they finished it quite appropriately.
With everything wrapped up, it’s time for ToQGers to leave. Kasumi laments that she couldn’t study the ToQ Expresses properly, so Akira (still not all that familiar with human social conventions, apparently) assures her with a big ol’ shoulder pat; Kasumi’s awkward reaction is perfect. Before he could properly introduce himself, however, Kagura reminds everyone that they still haven’t done their homework, and they board the train – turning back into little kids, to the Ninningers’ surprise. Or, as Kinji puts it: “Chirudoran?!”
In the post-credit scene – didn’t expect to be saying that about a Super Sentai movie, but there you have it – the Ninningers come back home, and Tsumuji welcomes them back dramatically.
What did I feel about this movie?
I wanna say this before anything else: This movie gets ToQGer. So right that I first thought Kobayashi wrote this movie – which apparently isn’t the case; it’s Shimoyama Kento. Knowing that, there’s some intent attention paid to the TV series, from smallest of jokes (like Akira walking nonchalantly across the screen during the ending) to more pronounced continuity and character points (Tokacchi and Mio being paired up, Right recalling his personal dilemma during the final arc, Akira not saying “my place to die” anymore). For a teamup movie where they aren’t even the host team, they’re introduced and portrayed accurately. As someone who loves ToQGer beyond description, I’m ecstatic and can’t even ask for anything more on that front. On the other hand…
I enjoyed Ninninger quite a lot too, and upon second thought, I’m surprised at how the movie glossed over its host team. Ninningers don’t act like separate individuals as much as a collective entity interacting with another collective entity. If anything, I’d say the ToQGers are more prominently individualized. In contrast, Ninningers – aside from Takaharu, but I’m not terribly surprised by that – once they’re all saved from the illusion, they all got into the same pace: worried about their comrade/cousin/sibling, wanna go save, and do so. There’s a cloud of uniformity around them, so to speak. I don’t know if the idea was that this is technically a Ninninger movie and the audience already knows about them, but when the guest team gets all these fun character quirks to showcase, the host team being “lethargic (in terms of presence)” kinda sticks out.
As a result, the movie is sadly deficient in a favorite element of mine when it comes to teamups: Character interactions – be it opposite personalities rubbing each other the wrong way (at first) or similar ones just getting along and having fun. Which is a shame, because the movie almost avoided this shortcoming. That small moment about how Right says he gets Takaharu’s decision because of his own experience? Just have more like that. Kasumi and Hikari, the two smart ones – have them bounce ideas back and forth. Let the helpful Nagi be an encouragement/inspiration to the shy and reluctant Tokacchi. And gods only know the limitless possibilities between Akira and pretty much anyone – if Akira was actually present in a meaningful way. To the movie’s credit, it does show signs of awareness on this when grouping up the characters for infiltration, but there’s no special dialog or acknowledgement about the character dynamics. Aside from Takaharu-Right, it’s only in the final scene that we get to see laidback character moments – before ToQGers literally rush out of the movie. The ending footage has small visual bits too, but it also goes by too fast on top of being shrunk to about 1/3 of the screen area. I felt that the Ninninger side was underutilized despite having just as much personality to be showcased.
Takaharu coming back to life with Imagination was stupid. While it certainly is portrayed as a power of sorts in ToQGer, the series went out of its way to avoid making it a deus ex machina solution, and instead used it as more or less a psychological motivational factor. For all that this movie gets right about ToQGer, this is my only complaint in that regard. And there’s no reason for only Takaharu to be in peril, separate from the group, except for the same reason the same thing kept happening to him early in the series – he’s more “important” than others.
I don’t get Tsumuji’s dramatic tone in this movie. I appreciate that the TV series didn’t just leave him as a comic relief character and developed him gradually, but a movie like this isn’t exactly where I’d demand drama from… anyone. Which is why…
Mavro is pretty much the best thing about this movie. A playful mad scientist who’s also a proud Ninja Otaku and wants to take over the world using trains, darkness and Ninja? This is bombasticness on the level of Go-onger, and his actor’s performance is just the cherry on top. In fact, I think showing him in his human form first and letting the actor lay down his tone and facial expressions is what helped carry the personality throughout. I was initially a bit miffed because his demeanor strikes kinda close to “coded-gay villainy” tropes – which, to be honest, is unfortunately common – but I later heard him using the pronoun “boku“, so it could just be that he’s supposed to be more “childlike” than “effeminate”. He might not have fit too well as a regular antagonist in ToQGer due to the series’ tonal progression, but as a one-off movie villain, he’s a lot of fun.
Overall, despite my dissatisfaction in the character department, this is actually a really funny teamup movie and I had a good time watching it. I just wish it was a little more meatier, but for a crossover of inconsequential canonicity, that’s hardly a huge drawback.
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