Episode Reviews

Snapshot: Juukou B-Fighter Episode 1


Hey, remember that show Big Bad Beetleborgs? Remember it being really cool as a kid? Yeah, so I went back and watched it and realized…wow did that show age poorly. I had always been curious to see how B-Fighter was different, so I saw the series for the first time last year and had a lot of fun with it. Now we’re going to cover its first episode!

Animals and insects all over the world have been acting strange lately. Insects in particular have been swarming in unseen numbers and no one has an answer as to why this is happening. A special group consisting of various scientists is sent out to the jungles to investigate and try to figure out what could be causing the problem, why one of them finds is absolutely unexpected. Wandering away from his group, Takuya Kai enters a cave and meets a (relatively) gigantic Kabuto beetle named Guru. Oh, it can talk too. Guru warns Takuya that there is an impending invasion of Earth and that this is causing the insects to swarm in an attempt to defend the planet.

Takuya, who works for the Earth Academia, is having no luck getting anyone outside of the Academia to believe what’s going on. His boss returns, finding that the government isn’t willing to cooperate. Intent on giving the humans a fighting chance, the scientists of the Earth Academia set out to create powerful heavy-armor weapons to defend humans with. Just in time too as the invaders, the Jahmal Empire, have picked this moment to make their move. Insects try to fight off their jet fighters but they don’t seem to pose much of a threat. The Jahmal take a city block as their own and turn it into a barren wasteland, leaving only a gigantic building as they corral people up to be their slaves. Among the slaves being gathered up are Daisaku and Rei, the latter of which stops the Jamars, the foot soldiers, from hurting a little girl and her beetle before Daisaku steps in to help.

Finding that their attempts at creating these powerful suits aren’t working, everyone at the Academia feels that the situation might be hopeless, but Guru soon appears and grants the armor the power of insects. Billions of insects, actually. The insects have given their lives to have their essence turned into raw power for the suits – causing the suits to transform into the iconic B-Fighter ones. Takuya is chosen as Blue Beet by his B-Commander, the transformation device, while the other B-Commanders fly out the window. Daisaku and Rei are chosen to become the green G-Stag and red Reddle. Good thing too since they were literally moments away from being sliced in half.

Takuya appears and the three are off to battle, taking care of the Jamar soldiers thanks to the help of the suits that can guide their moves and grant them knowledge of their arsenal. Gaohm, the leader of the Jahmal, isn’t taking too kindly to this and so he sends the B-Fighters off to a strange pocket dimension he can create. The team has a difficult time at first, being tossed around like toys, but they’re soon able to unlock their weapons and defeat a powerful monster and freeing themselves from the dimension. As they stand together, they plot to save the captured humans.

Thus ends the first episode of Juukou B-Fighter! Is it good? It’s…decent. Although I love B-Fighter quite a lot, I don’t think it finds its footing for a good 10 episodes and so even the premiere feels a little by the books. The main threat gets going right away, and what I actually enjoyed a lot was that it wasn’t as if they were attacking unknowing humans. Having the insects try to swarm to defend the planet is pretty cool. And, although they didn’t stand much of a chance, it was quite a sight to see the gigantic swarm of insects attacking the Jahmal jet fighters, not something you see every day. We don’t get too much out of the villains in this first episode beyond knowing that they want to take over the earth. Well, we see the foot soldiers talk a bit and that’s always amusing and something I think needs to happen a little more often. Beyond that? They play like your standard alien invasion group in this first episode. You want to learn more, but at the same time that’s only for a lack of detail in this episode and not promise.

We actually don’t learn too much about the heroes either…surprise, surprise. Oddly, we do seem to get more out of Rei and Daisaku than Takuya, who for the most part is busy working on the suits. Rei is quick to defend a little girl and…her beetle. It’s pretty bizarre, but I guess these are the kind of people who really mean it when they say that all life on earth is valuable and are willing to protect it. Daisaku is quick to come to the aid of Rei when she’s being set on by the Jamars and he happens to know the girl with the beetle, it being the beetle he asked her to watch over. There’s a short but cool fight scene here, Reina Hazuki as Rei is good on her feet and provides a convincing fight as she ducks and dodges the Jamars with ease – though her punches aren’t too convincing. We don’t actually get much out of Daisaku in terms of fighting here.

The B-Fighter suits themselves are gorgeous creations. Techy and organic feeling at the same time, they’re a joy to watch on screen. Unlike Janperson, where the suit is supposed to be this heavy piece, the B-Fighters can actually move around fairly well with those things on. These are the sort of suits that I think can appeal to kids and adults alike, they feel like superheroes, but the random cybernetic patches give them an edge of realism almost. They’ve got some really cool weapons, one that I can’t help but think is a sized-down version of a weapon from Blue S.W.A.T. – hey, Toei’s been known to recycle props and ideas! Regardless, I pretty much love everything about these suits and the visual presentation of the show is nothing short of amazing. I even have to give them credit for creating those really nice looking blank forms. Those things have a definite Metal Heroes look to them while the actual B-Fighter suits are more experimental.

Something interesting to note that I learned last year during the Tokusatsu of the Month event that featured B-Fighter is that Toei went into this show by stating that they aren’t a school for newbie writers. Following this announcement, all newer writers were plucked off rotation, but oddly enough, a lot of the modern day big names seem to have gotten their start here. Of note is Yasuko Kobayashi, now very well known for her Sentai and Kamen Rider stuff, Metal Heroes is actually where she got her start. (and makes me believe there’s truth to the idea that Ryuki started life as a new Metal Heroes show)

Right, so this isn’t the best first episode, but there is premise and I think you have to at least give the show three episodes before writing it off – if only because the first is so by the books that there isn’t anything offensive about it. And c’mon, it’s got freaking Daisuke Tsuchiya as the lead! That right there is enough to bring in an army of fans from Dairanger. I actually think covering this series in the future might be a lot of fun, B-Fighter does improve a ton and goes on to become one of my favorite tokusatsu series of all time. For now, we’ll leave it at episode one.

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