Monthly Archives: January 2014

Kamen Rider Cho-Den-O – Episode Red

Here’s a title that’ll make most casual readers scratch their heads in confusion and I’ll have to admit it’s probably not the best title to sucker people into reading my blog with. But I promised myself that I wouldn’t let this blog go to waste, I’ve had several previous go down the drain because I simply forgot or ran out of things to say or chose too narrow a field to write about. And the last post did sort of set a precedence so I figured another post about tokusatsu wasn’t entirely crazy… but I’m drifting from the subject at hand which is this:

Kamen Rider Cho-Den-O -Episode Red: Zero’s Star Twinkle

It’s kind of hard to say what this movie really is. Is it a movie or an episode? After all, it has episode in the title there but it is nearly 90 minutes long. It has a beginning, middle and ending complete with pacing and actors and for Japan, a movie budget.
And it’s not made any easier if I were to try and explain just how this movie relates to the series “Kamen Rider Den-O” or the fact that it’s sort of only a third of a bigger movie called “Kamen Rider x Kamen Rider x Kamen Rider Cho-Den-O Trilogy“, hence the “Episode Red” subtitle…
So, I guess, to make this a little easier, let’s back up six, seven years to 2007 when “Kamen Rider Den-O” took over the yearly Kamen Rider series after “Kamen Rider Kabuto“, the very first Kamen Rider I watched in full. And to say that my initial impression of Den-O was poor is to put it lightly. At that point I had gotten used to the rather serious tone of Kabuto and Den-O is very much focused on comedy. Which is also why it became as big as it is.

During the nineties the franchise was kept alive mostly through various movies and adaptations outside of Japan. I don’t know exactly why they chose to put it out to pasture but they did. Perhaps it wasn’t as profitable as the Super Sentai series or they just didn’t feel like it any longer. Whatever the reason, “Kamen Rider Black RX“closed the eighties and was the last Kamen Rider series in roughly a decade.

Or maybe Saban doomed it.

This may not sound like much over here but in Japan, a series focused entirely on selling toys to kids on a yearly basis going off the air for this long is the equivalent of being declared legally dead… only to come back.

And back it came in the year 2000 with the series “Kamen Rider Kuuga“, my personal favorite. It was one of the first Kamen Riders I ever saw and back then I actually utterly hated it. I only saw the first few episodes but I just couldn’t get into it. Fast forward a few years and I watched it again to sate the completionist in me and I ended up absolutely loving the hell out of it.

But I’m drifting from the subject at hand… again, so allow me to steer back on my point here. Kuuga continued a trend that Kamen Rider series are in general much darker than its Super Sentai counterpart. There’s a lot of adult themes permeating the series such as sacrifice, hate, death and revenge among many, many more (I believe there’s even rape in the novelization of one of the series) and the victims of the monsters tended to more often end up dead in a variety of ways. The closest the series got to levity was with “Kamen Rider Ryuki” and that still featured people dying gruesomely to the left and to the right and a rather gruesome twist for the lead protagonist leading to one of the weirdest endings in Kamen Rider history, I think.

There was seven series of this which equals seven years.

And then Den-O happened.

It turned out to be a huge success. It’s pretty much the only Kamen Rider series I know of that more or less spawned its own franchise. You’d think, considering they change the setting and plot every year, that this would be a common occurrence but no. Den-O was hugely popular to the point where they felt they had to continue the franchise after the series came to an end and ANOTHER took its place.

This is when they started making the movies, starting with Climax Deka followed by Final Countdown. Then they started the so called Cho-Den-O series which consisted of The Onigashima Warship and then this trilogy and here we are.

Quick word about the Onigashima Warship movie: it sucks. In my opinion, Kamen Rider movies have a nasty tendency to not be very good and Den-O’s movies were never that different in this regard. However, what charm the series had carried over in great deal to the movies and it was one of the first series since they restarted the franchise that had a movie that actually took place within the continuity of the series so kudos to them for daring to pull that off again.
However, a lot of the love I had for the series pretty much petered out with The Onigashima Warship and I can very easily point at exactly what did it:

Takuya Mizoguchi

This is the actor who portrays the main character of Den-O, Ryotaro Nogami. Seems weird, right, why would I suddenly have a problem with the actor? Well, this is what he looked like before Onigashima Warship:

Takeru Sato

If you spot certain differences then that would be because they’re two entirely different actors. The reason for this in-series is that events in the movie distort time and Ryotaro becomes a worse actor. The real reason for this was of course that Takeru Sato wanted to pursue an acting career, eventually landing the leading role in the Ruroni Kenshin movie adaptations. So I imagine he’s looking back on that decision very favorably at this point.
Amazingly this wasn’t the first time Den-O pulled this stunt and in my opinion it went roughly as well. Yuriko Shiratori was hit by the Kamen Rider curse and fell ill during shooting and was replaced by much younger Tamaki Matsumoto, the in-series reasons being pretty much the same.

Time travel, not even once.

Takeru Sato was simply a better Ryotaro and actor overall. There’s also the problem that little Takuya Mizoguchi has shoes to fill and needs to emulate the mannerisms of Takeru’s Ryotaro which just comes off a painfully fake and simply not as charming or attractive. For one, Takuya doesn’t have the acting chops for this and furthermore, at times Ryotaro becomes a womanizer… keep in mind, this is a much younger Ryotaro. The Japanese might think that’s cute but honestly it’s a bit creepy.

But that’s pretty much Japan for you.

So I was already set against disliking Episode Red before even watching it. I admit that but I make no excuses or try to apologize for it. I stand by what I said: the change was detrimental. But perhaps sensing that people had taken to the actor-change poorly, they opted to set Episode Red about the OTHER Kamen Rider in Den-O: Yuto Sakurai or Kamen Rider Zeronos.

Yuto is probably the most complicated character to explain since to do so I’d have to go into detail about time-wimeys and orbital wobble. Basically, and I write that sarcastically, in the timeline where timetravel didn’t mess everything up, Yuto would grow up to be Ryotaro’s sister’s lover and future husband. But when the time invasion began, the adult Yuto traveled back in time to give his younger self the arsenal with which to combat it at which point he fastforwarded to 2007 (when the series takes place) to join in the fray. Because the timeline was upset, adult Yuto disappeared and Airi (that’s Ryotaro’s older sister) forgot all about him. Oh, and Hana, the girl traveling and mentoring Ryotaro is actually his unborn niece that sort of ceased to exist when Yuto and Airi never became a couple… or something.

Timetravel, not even twice.

So this movie revolves around Yuto romancing Airi as his much younger self. This of course falls in the category of icky because she is older than him (I’m not entirely sure by how much but she definitely looks A LOT older) and, oh, she regained her memory about him at one point and sort of figured out what was going on. So she KNOWS he’s a younger version of the guy she was set to marry. Talk about imprinting.

There’s also a subplot about Airi having a stalker because everyone falls in love with Airi the second they lay eyes on her. Some might consider that the plot of the actual movie but in all honesty, it’s barely explored and is treated more like comic relief (you hear that, girls, stalkers are funny!) with the stalker being so shy and cowardly he can’t approach her. Instead he concocts a plan together with a monster where he can be seen as hero for saving her only he consistently screws it up and that whole plot sort of goes unresolved at the end with the stalker more or less just going unpunished, I think.

And Ryotaro is barely featured at all.

Yeah, I’m not above using memes!

Congratulations, you made it to the review part of the review!

So what did I think of the movie itself? Well, it’s not very well written and feels more like a monster of the week episode from the series itself rather than something to be taken seriously. From what I understand it ties into an overarching story but keep in mind I’ve only seen the first movie and these are my first impressions.

The one really big disappointment is the fact that there’s barely any fighting at all. Neither Kamen Rider featured transforms more than once or twice and the ensuing fights aren’t all that impressive so the wait is not really worth it. And even though I complain a lot about the new Ryotaro, a Den-O movie not really featuring Den-O seem a bit like false advertising. The principal cast all return and it does feature Zeronos a lot more but still, they better shape up in this particular department for the next two movies.

My main gripe is mostly how unimportant the plot seems at this point. I’m sure it ties into the coming movies, which I promise to ogle today or this weekend, depending on how much fun Bioshock Infinite is.

But there’s more to it than that.

I think even the cast themselves have grown weary of the franchise as they’re not really putting their all into it anymore. Even Yuichi Nakamura who portrays Sakurai seems to have grown bored with the role and he was boring even before he lost interest. It also seems very odd to that this plot even exists since surely all Sakurai would have to do is travel back to his original time and let things take their natural turn? Or is that no longer possible due to the timelines being all kinds of messed up? And even if the two get together, does that restore the timeline somehow? Surely it would just create a divergent timeline instead? Would it still lead to Hana’s birth? The show seems to think so.

Time travel, not even thrice.

Oh, and the monster is very disappointing. It’s based on the “Three little pigs” fable but they don’t do anything particular with it and he doesn’t seem to have any sort of power at all other than strength, seems kind of a weak monster to center you movie around. I mean, surely, if you have something based on the three little piggies you could come up with something slightly more interesting than “Punching” as a superpower. He’s eventually defeated by Den-O in a less than spectacular fight involving a lot of punching. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear this was a script left over from the series.

But this is a common problem with a lot of tokusatsu movies that spawn from series. But this is something I’ll probably come back to at a later date. But now I’ll let you go, this blog post has gone on long enough. In short, the movie wasn’t particularly good, even for a tokusatsu movie.

In related news, I have started watching OOO as well and to sum it up quickly: I like it. But you’ll get to hear more about that once I’ve finished the series. Next time… probably more Cho-Den-O.

Tensou Sentai Goseiger

Tensou Sentai Goseiger Header… you’d totally get the joke if you saw the series.

Oh, Japan. If there was one good thing to come from the tragedy of last week, it’s this: I had forgotten how much I love tokusatsu. When tearing my computer up, looking for something to cheer me up, I came across the final twelve episodes of Tensou Sentai Goseiger which I had at one point told myself I’d watch. I never did until yesterday. Spent the better part of that day completing this series and I’m glad that I did.

Now, this won’t be a review per say. Mostly because I watched the previous 38 episodes a… well, it was a very long time ago. A hell of a long time ago so it took me a few episodes to actually catch back up. Which is a bit of a shame because Goseiger does have a different story structure than most sentai but I’ll get to that.

Faaaabulous!

Tensou Sentai Goseiger is the story of five angels in training who are marooned on Earth when the Warstars arrive from space (no, really) and destroy their only means of travel between the Gosei World and Earth. Left to their own devices, they come together and through friendship and teamwork overcome impossible odds.

 

 

All while being saccharine adorable, of course.

 

 

This series’ core message is very much “Never give up.” as the Goseigers have a tendency to defeat most obstacles by simply hurling themselves at it enough until it breaks, usually powered by some insipid speech by Alata. Even in episodes about one of the other members Alata has a tendency to be a focal point as well. If you don’t do things Alata’s way, in the world of Goseiger you’re more or less doomed to fail. Through his childish naivety he conquers impossible odds which inspires his fellow team members.So, what did I ultimately think of Goseiger? Well… I liked it alright. It’s not my favorite Super Sentai, not even close (yes, DaiRanger, I’m looking at you), but after the fairly serious romp that was Shinkenger, Goseiger is a welcome break. It definitely takes a much more light hearted approach and keeps it very light and “friendly” through the entire series. There’s no real moral dilemmas to speak of and what little darkness there is tend to be dealt with quickly only to be quickly left in the dust. Unlike Shinkenger which was heavy with character development, practically chanting “Better yourself!” throughout, the Goseigers are more or less static from beginning to end. And the series itself seems to be aware of this. When Alata, the leader of the group… sort of, goes back in time to just before the series started, he joins up with his friends from the past and despite not having a full year of training together, they still somehow manage to pull perfect teamwork out of their spandex covered butts.

Alata, aka GoseiRed

 

In the world of Super Sentai, the Red Ranger tends to be a perfect creature everyone else should emulate. There are some exceptions to this and then there are the ones that embrace this to the bitter end.

 

As for the plot itself, this is very much monster of the week territory as few episodes have any sort of lasting effect. There are a whopping FOUR enemy factions this time around and the speed with which they go through them is almost laughable. When MagiRanger pulled a faction-shift halfway through it was extremely shocking (for me since it was the first time I saw it done) but when Goseiger did it a second time I could barely contain my laughter. And then there was the third time! (Four if you count the first crossover movie)

BUT!

Once everything is revealed, it actually makes sense and I looked back at the twist and found myself nodding approvingly. I’m not going to spoil but the payoff was ultimately worth it, I must admit, showing a surprising amount of character for a villain and far more thought than I expected from a series that reveled in its “Monster of the Week”-pacing. The villain in question is actually sort of interesting and looking back it was obvious that something was weird about him from the very start. Of course, the reveal itself isn’t done very well but it is a kids show so I suppose expecting a Fight Club reveal was a bit much. But still, at the point where I had figured it out entirely on my own, the Goseigers themselves still failed to connect the dots and ultimately had to be told… by the villain. This after half an episode putting the mystery in focus with all the clues given to you on a silver platter… all I’m saying is it would’ve been a bit more gratifying to see the Goseigers figure it out.

“It took you guys this long to figure it out? GEEZ!”

So where does this leave us with Goseiger? Is it a good series of Super Sentai? Like I said, I found it entirely alright. It’s best experienced in small doses as its childish naivety can get a bit grating at times but it’s ultimately harmless. The worst that can be said about Goseiger is that it’s just a little too forgettable for its own good, acting more like a stepping stone from Shinkenger to Gokaiger than something striving to be its very own thing. However, like I said before, considering the presence of Shinkenger, this is perhaps for the best as everything I’ve so far heard about Gokaiger suggests it’s also a series with a lot of presence. And you need a break from that or you’ll be tired out.

I do say a fond farewell to the Goseiger and I look forward to seeing them in the next crossover movie. However, now it’s on to motorcycles and coins for me. Up next is Kamen Rider OOO.

My thoughts about JewWario

Justin Carmical. JewWario. My number one go-to guy for inspiration and faith in the human race is gone. Killed himself four days ago. Depression. Shot himself.

A part of me really hates him for that. The cliches are heavy in my mind: it’s not worth it, things get better, it’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem, think of all the ones who love and care for you.

But I know they don’t work.

I know this because I’ve been there. I’ve seen the world through the darkest eye and nearly didn’t come up for air. People who don’t know cannot understand just what hellish world you live in when you’re depressed. When you stand on that darkest edge overlooking the blackest pit and you think “That’s where I belong. Down there. Not up here. I’m not worth it.”

When I was a teenager, I think around when I was 17, I was miserable. I didn’t feel like I fit in and I was paranoid to the point of delusions. I couldn’t do anything right, the harder I tried the harder I failed. And then everyone would laugh at me. At me, no-one else but me. Every time I heard someone laugh I immediately thought they were laughing at me. When I couldn’t quite hear what my family was saying to each other, they were talking about what a huge failure I was. I was ugly and unloved and would be for the rest of my life.

So why drag it out?

And that was almost it. No more me. I turned back at the last minute but most people have no idea how close I came to ending it. I was literally standing on the balcony railing when I turned back. I’m glad I did now but back then I hated myself for being a coward.

So JewWario’s passing hits just a little too close to home for me. And I’m going to play the “You don’t get it.” if you criticize him. Because you really, really don’t. To some of us, life is an eternal battle, a burden we carry that sometimes weighs just a little too heavily.

It’s been sort of heart warming to see so many who suffered like Justin did, myself included, rally together and talk about the dangers of clinical depression. Because I really think we need to. A quick check online confirms what I almost already knew: suicide rates are going up. Especially now during the economic downturn.

I know no-one is going to read this but I had to write it anyhow. Clear my mind and think a little. I know what I must do now. I have a new goal. For a long time, one of my biggest goals in life was to one day able to meet Justin Carmical himself in the flesh. That’s how much he meant to me. But I guess we’ll just have to wait with that meeting a while. So until then the only thing I can do in his honor is to not give up.

In my last blog post I said I might not have time or the energy to do more videos. Well… you know what? I will. It’s not just for myself any longer. I know it’s not much in the grand scheme of things but to me it’s incredibly important. I need to keep my memory of him alive. He once inspired me to do videos and now he’s done it again. Creature Feature Theater and A Fistful of Tokens is back but now with a new dedication.

When I do finally meet up with him, no matter where he is, I hope I’ve done him proud.

Good bye, Justin “JewWario” Carmical. You were a beautiful man so go to rest and find peace and we’ll have a big blowout party with all your fans when we next meet. But I hope you understand that that won’t be for a very, very long time yet.

Hey, how do you use this thing? What’s that ove- oh shit!

Hello!

So I suppose I should start using this thing that I parked about a year ago. One of those spur of the moment things when I was forced to create a blog for my school. And I thought “Hey, isn’t there something else I was supposed to do!” But then I couldn’t figure out what that was so I decided to return to this thing here, instead.

So what’s up? Why haven’t I been keeping my end of the bargain when it comes to my videos? Well, there’s a few reasons and I’m not going to bullshit. Part of me lost interest. Not because of you guys, don’t ever think that. I just entered a phase in my life where I the energy I would have to put into the videos was greater than the enjoyment I would have gotten out of it. See, I’m unemployed and living with my dad in what more or less amounts to his storage room, sleeping on a mattress on the floor because my bed can’t actually fit. Just to give you an idea of how little space I have to work with.
Add to that the fact that I do not have an actual desk to sit at, meaning I sit on the floor when using my laptop, and having to store my clothes on top of boxes just so I don’t have them on the floor and you can sort of see that I simply do not have the amount of space that I would need to make videos on a regular basis.
Furthermore, I only have enough money to make my life go around.

But all of that will change eventually and I could get back to making videos. Will I? See, there’s the issue.

I studied game design for three years and it’s very much the thing that I want to do in the future. To that end I’m currently trying to start up my own studio so I can make what I want to do. Selfish, I know, but it’s kind of my dream.We’re already designing and prototyping and concepting a game that we want to make and with any luck you won’t have to wait much longer for the first taste.
I’m currently in the process of learning the ins and outs of the engine of our choice (Adventure Game Studio) so you’ll at least get a shitty adventure game with graphics from paint… so, yeah, look forward to that!

I’m sure I’ll come up with more stuff to write soon but for now, just know… that I’m not thinking about you. And stay tuned for more news about… well, anything, really.