Today’s selection: Space Sheriff Gavan – the Movie (2012, dir. Osamu Kaneda)
Subgenre: Henshin Hero
Available from: fansub-only
Space Sheriff Gavan, for those who don’t know, was a 1982 TV series that kicked off the whole Metal Heroes franchise. 2012 was the series’ 30th anniversary, and Toei wanted to celebrate/ cash in on nostalgia, so there was a miniature Gavan revival movement. Typically, I can see something like this going one of three ways: (1) do a reunion special with the original cast as a direct sequel to the show, (2) do a complete reboot (such as Kamen Rider the First), allowing a younger actor to play the role, or (3) just make a new Space Sheriff character and have the older actors make cameos as mentors (like the Space Sheriff franchise used to do, and other Toei tokusatsu had been doing lately). Instead, what Toei tried to do was all three of these ideas at once, which hampers the movie a little from a conceptual level.
The original Gavan had already shown up earlier that year in Gokaiger vs. Gavan, which was handled masterfully, but Toei might have been shy of a standalone movie starring an action star in his 50s. As a result, the young character Geki headlines Gavan the Movie as a new Gavan, but the original (Retsu) is still around, acting as Geki’s mentor, and occasionally also being Gavan. Therein lies the problem: Gavan, Sharivan, and Shaider aren’t titled to be passed down like Garo or something, but the names of the characters, and when two different characters concurrently have the same name, it gets confusing. I get that Toei wanted fresh faces to kick off their Space Sheriff revival, but they really should have just named the characters in this something different (in merchandise, Geki’s Gavan is sometimes called Gavan Type G), even if that meant changing the name of the movie, since no matter how many times Geki shows up in GoBusters or Super Hero Wars, he’ll always feel like an imposter now.
Getting past that unfortunate roadblock, the movie is pretty entertaining, especially once Retsu shows up to show Geki how being Gavan is done (as was seen in Gokaiger vs. Gavan, Kenji Ohba is still remarkably spry). Some of the sets and CGI effects leave a little to be desired, so the movie isn’t quite up to cinematic standards, but instead feels like it could be a really well-done TV pilot. I’m wondering if it perhaps was envisioned as such in some point during development.