Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Monster X Strikes Back/Attack the G8 Summit

I find it’s always very difficult to review a parody. On one hand, full enjoyment of a parody comes only from knowing the source material well. On the other hand, as Airplane! and Hot Shots proved, a parody should also be able to stand on its own two feet and amuse even the casual viewer.
And then there’s the fact that humor is subjective. What I find funny is obviously not what someone else finds funny so it’s difficult to base a judgment on that.

Anyway, hi everybody (all two of you), sorry for the long wait, haven’t really had much to write about in a while but here you go, a review of a kaiju movie. For those of you at home scratching your head wondering what a kaiju is, it’s basically a grown man in a rubber suit stomping toy houses. Godzilla is a kaiju and so is King Kong. Pacific Rim is a perfect example of an American kaiju flick.

Anyway, The Monster X Strikes Back was released in 2008 and it’s been one of those movies that I just never got around to seeing. It’s a sequel to 1967’s “The X from Outer Space” but taken in a more intentionally humorous direction. Frankly, I don’t see the point of making it a parody when the original was so sidesplittingly hilarious as it was… sure, it wasn’t intentionally funny but funny none the less.

This time the movie is set in modern day Japan where the most recent G8 Summit is taking place. In the middle of these meetings, a giant monster lands on Earth and begins wreaking havoc across the country. The politicians attending the summit decide that they’re the perfect leaders for this crisis and decide to take charge. At the same time we follow a reporter and her trusted cameraman as they investigate a mysterious shrine out in the middle of nowhere, not far from the summit itself.

What this results in is some of the most offensive stereotyping I’ve seen in a long time but at least here it’s done intentionally. And in all fairness, no country escapes the mighty wrath of director Minoru Kawasaki, not even Japan itself. All the cultural stereotypes are played tongue in cheek and are actually based around the political intrigue of the time and history in general. At times there’s quick wit displayed referencing World War 2 and it’s obvious much of the relationship between USA and Russia plays off the Cold War.
On a more political note, it’s a tool to show that all the grandstanding is entirely pointless since neither country actually manage to come up with an effective strategy against the monster, some even having comical effects such as the German’s gas being little more than laughing gas for Guilala, the giant monster. Instead we’re told to listen to the people more since they’re the ones who come up with the solution.

The rest of the comedy is a mixed bag ranging from a delegate having to run to the toilet all the time, a kid showing up out of nowhere with a fitting name for the monster in true kaiju-fashion, things being inserted in rectums and Takeshi Kitano showing up as a golden God to fight off the monster.

Yes, you read that right, the real centerpiece of the movie is a fight between Guilala and Take-Majin, a deity that has appeared at numerous times throughout history to save Japan from destruction. And this deity, of course, has the face of Takeshi Kitano, aka Beat Takeshi.

I don’t want to spoil too much of what happens since many of the gags are one-shots only, meaning you can laugh at them once and then they sort of lose their luster. I’m fairly certain that if I ever saw it again, I’d come away liking the movie less. But I can confirm that there’s a few surprising twists along the way and an unlikely country plays the hero in the end.
Can you enjoy it without knowing the source material? Yes, some of the humor is universal and you don’t have to be too politically savvy to get where the cultural stereotypes are coming from, like why the French delegate wants to shag a Japanese woman. But much of it will only appeal to kaiju fans such as myself but that’s just the nature of the beast here.

Do I recommend it? If you really don’t have anything better to do then sure. It’s not brilliantly acted, it’s not brilliantly directed, it’s not really brilliant anything and it’s not worth a rewatch. But I can’t say I regret watching it or that it was any sort of waste of time. So… take that for what you want.

Kamen Rider Blade – Missing Ace

I guess I am on a bit of a Kamen Rider craze lately but what can I say. I’m bored and Kamen Rider is just what I need to be less moody.

So, Kamen Rider Blade.

The series itself revolved around a competition that took place ten thousand years ago where 52 monsters called Undead fought to be the sire of all life on Earth. The winner was Two of Heart, the Human Undead, giving us the world we see today. But when scientists in modern times unwittingly release the Undead once again, the Battle Royal starts over with mankind’s fate in jeopardy.
At its core the series was all about our own nature and learning to overcome our dark sides. It’s not very subtle about it, there’s four main characters in this series and all of them struggle with very dark themes. Hajime slowly but certainly learns about compassion and fighting your own dark desires and Mutsuki struggles with what can only be considered as a parallel to drug addiction.

This was before they made a serious effort to appeal more to kids, as you might have guessed.

The series ended on a rather downer note with the main character having to make a very tough decision. There was no real right choice as both choices carried heavy consequences for everyone involved. It was a heartfelt but somewhat depressing end where it was hard to tell if it was truly a win. Sure, the world didn’t end but things would never be the same again.

Kamen Rider Blade – Missing Ace

So, Missing Ace then. Surprise, surprise, it’s a movie set in an alternate future, like so many Kamen Rider movies are. And fair warning here, here be spoiler territory as it’s impossible to discuss the setting of the movie without spoiling at least a little of the ending to the series.

So, Rider beware, here there be spoilers!

Kamen Rider – Missing Ace asks the rather interesting question: what if Kenzaki made a different choice. At the end of the series he had two choices: Letting his friend and comrade in arms Hajime go (under specific circumstances but again, trying to minimize spoilers) or defeat him in combat and seal him like the rest of the Undead. This movie shows the consequences of what would happen if he sealed him instead.

Four years after the final fight, life has moved on for all three remaining Riders. Tachibana remains with the company, Kenzaki has become a garbageman and Mutsuki is trying to get employed as a salaryman. It’s a very refreshing and sobering look at life for Kamen Riders after the threat ends. Their past deeds aren’t exactly helping them in the time after and the only ones who had some sort of success are Kotaro who wrote a book about the Kamen Riders and is now a millionaire and Ishori who is set to become a bride like she always wanted as a kid.
However, things are made worse when the Undead are once again unsealed but rather than calling on Kenzaki and Mutsuki to armor up once again, there’s a new generation of Riders who make their feelings about the old Riders clear: they are not wanted.

So not only is it an interesting “What if…” scenario but also tries to show that “Kamen Rider” on your resume doesn’t necessarily do you any good or even worse, is something you’d rather forget as in the case with Mutsuki who struggled a lot during his tenure as Leangle. It’s sort of a deadend job with no opportunity for advancement.

But the person hit the hardest in the aftermath is the young girl Amane who sort of adopted Hajime as her surrogate father during the series. She believes Hajime simply up and left, unaware of what he really was and the consequences of him living freely (the end of the world). Without his guidance, she’s lost her way and become a delinquent. Something Kenzaki tries to set right throughout the movie but is unable to do.

Kamen Rider Blade was very much about the characters themselves and their stories rather than about fighting monsters, often being reduced to monster of the week territory so characters can have more time to develop and evolve. It also had a tendency to stand in place and run for quite a while, the most egregious example being Mutsuki who seems to adamantly refuse to get better (again, the parallel to drug use is strong with this one). In the movie he is also the one most hesitant to armor up again due to his dark experience but realizes eventually that he has to transform.
Unfortunately one character goes incredibly underutilized and that’s Hajime himself who only shows up a little at the end and doesn’t do a whole lot. You’d think it would be more about him and Amane’s relationship but it’s incredibly one-sided with only Amane complaining a lot (like teenagers are wont to do). In fact, Hajime and Amane share very few scenes together and for the most part Amane is unconscious during these scenes.

Whether you like this or not, it does tie into the overall plot of the movie of moving on in life without Hajime. If he showed up and solved their problems for them again only to disappear it would take away from the message. As it is, Amane eventually gets a message from Hajime and is able to put her rebellious side away in order to enjoy life again with her mother and friends.

Honestly I don’t think they did everything they could’ve done with the plot. It’s a very interesting setting and first real possibility to see the life “after” Kamen Rider as it were. And they’re far too eager to provide a happy ending rather than continuing down the path of destruction or at least something tangibly real. But I suppose that after the stomach punch that was Kamen Rider Blade’s ending, they needed something a little more cheerful.

The new Rider are also terribly wasted, taken out of the equation with barely a consequence and a huge “OH COME ON!”-moment as they leave clues to their killer. They’re horribly antagonistic from the outset which gives their sudden departure no weight what so ever. I can barely remember their names now, let alone in a week.

Of course there’s a betrayal somewhere in the movie as well but that would be spoiling.

As for the action and effects, the final boss’ final form looks pretty good, actually, above what I was expecting but as for monster it’s the same ones from the series reused again. There is one new, though… but that’s a repaint so not exactly stretching the budget here.
And there’s a lot of monsters to get through in an hour and a half so expect a lot of them to be dealt with an expedient manner. Even the ones that posed a serious problem in the series. Which honestly doesn’t make a lot of sense but that’s not exactly rare in tokusatsu. Previous villains being dispatched easily, that is, sense is rare as hell.

So, time to ask the hard question: Was the movie any good?

Yes

It actually was a pretty good movie, especially if you enjoyed Blade and wondered what would have happened had Kenzaki chosen differently. All the actors return to their respective roles except Hikari Kajiwara due to little Amane now being a teenager. The music was good and the effects were above what I expected.
But perhaps more important the story is treated well and you get to see an interesting side of Kamen Rider that is usually not touched upon, namely what happens after. There are some things I wish they would’ve done differently and Hajime’s presence is far too brief.

But I can’t say I didn’t enjoy myself revisiting the old gang. Perhaps the movie is best watched after some time has passed or it might feel too much like a retread but here it felt rather… fresh and engaging. For once Kamen Rider actually had a movie set in a parallel time that had a point. Color me surprised.

Gingerclown 3D

Get ready for a surprise. Gingerclown has been released!

Wait, what do you mean you’ve never heard of Gingerclown? This is quite upsetting to me.

Gingerclown has been on its way for a good three, four years now and I heard of the film around the same time it was first revealed and to be fair, I got my knickers all kinds of wet from the news. It was multiple things that made me excited about this movie: it was intended to be a throwback to the old drive-in movies and horror flicks of yore. It featured puppets and animatronics rather than CGI. It takes place in an old, run down amusement park. But perhaps the thing that got me the most excited was that it featured three of my favorite horror actors of all times: Tim Curry, Brad Dourif and Lance Henriksen.

And I waited. Then I waited some more. God how I waited. And then… I forgot about it. Seriously, it took that long for this movie to be released even though it was supposedly done back in 2011. Luckily, though, I had told my friend about it and he was more diligent than me, keeping his eyes on Amazon until it was released. So great was his joy when he invited me over under false pretenses that he could barely contain himself, sitting me down in the sofa and going “Guess what movie!” as he played the first few seconds.

In case you’re curious, I guessed right.

Gingerclown 3D

Gingerclown takes place in the eighties and follows a trio of teenagers wrapped up in a dare. Biff, the stereotypical jock bully, dares the nerdy, weak Sam to enter the old, abandoned amusement park and bring back something awesome in return for a kiss from his girlfriend, Jenny. However, Jenny will have none of it and tired of Biff’s bullying ways instead joins Sam exploring the amusement park. But little do they know that the park is home to a pack of disgusting monsters just eager to pounce on their next prey. Unwittingly they’ve walked straight into Gingerclown’s trap.

Like I said, on paper it sounded like the most awesome movie in history. Did you read the part about the jock being named BIFF? There was nothing about this movie that wasn’t getting me excited. At least until the actors tried their hand at acting. Now, to be fair, Ashley Lloyd, Erin Hayes and Michael Cannell-Griffiths as Sam, Jenny and Biff respectively are decent in their roles but everyone else is horrible (not counting voice cast but we’ll get to that). There’s bad actors but there’s also an actor whose accent can best be described as a horrible mix of British, German and American and remember, this is supposed to take place in eighties America. I don’t think there were a lot of kids with that accent running around with the cool kid gang. I actually had to do a double take just to make sure I had heard right.

Luckily we mostly follow Sam and Jenny around but this is where the really ugly side of Gingerclown starts rearing its ugly head: there is no plot. The basic premise is there but it feels more like they came up with a bunch of different set pieces and monsters then tried to tie all of it together with the flimsiest of excuses possible. The result is Sam and Jenny aimlessly walking around an old amusement park, most often simply seeing cool stuff rather than being involved in it. There’s an entire scene where two monsters argue without Sam and Jenny even noticing despite the argument being quite loud.
Another scene has Sam and Jenny come across a grotesque form of some kind arguing about modernizing the sound system. And that’s it! That’s all you see of that monster and it’s not even related to anything that happens in the movie.

And that’s where the second biggest problem comes in: wasted voice cast. When you have three horror icons like Tim Curry, Lance Henriksen and Brad Dourif on your cast, you better do the most with them. Add Michael Winslow and Sean Young and you better deliver the greatness.

Henriksen’s Braineater

But the movie has no clue what to do with any of these actors. Both Sean Young and Brad Dourif show up for one measly scene and the Henriksen and Winslow duo is a painful slog of material a ten year old would find juvenile. I admit it was kind of funny hearing Lance Henriksen spouting very un-Lanceish dialog but that only works for so long. The only one who gets any kinds of decent screen time and material is Tim Curry but it was hard to tell it was even supposed to be Tim Curry. It sounded like Tim Curry doing an impression of how people think Tim Curry sounds like.

My best guess is that the director approached these actors merely out of fanboy eagerness rather than having anything in mind for them, fitting them in where he could. Everyone, even Tim Curry, is horribly underutilized and, like I mentioned before, terribly unfunny. Winslow, “Man of 10,000 Sound Effects”, at one point devolves into a minute or more long dialog exchange consisting primarily of burps and farts and changing the pitch of his voice up and down… this is not how you best utilize Larvelle “Motor Mouth” Jones’ talent!

If I didn’t know any better I’d say the voice cast were given no direction and were basically just told to goof off and they’d fit it into the movie later.

Which brings us to the third problem: the production. You can really tell this is the debut because it is shot in an extremely amateurish way and the budget was ridiculously low. They boast about using puppets and animatronics instead of CGI but the effects are so poor they don’t dare showing them on screen. The titular Gingerclown is barely in the movie at all and when he is it’s usually just in quick cutaways or partially off screen.
And the closeups, oh dear lord. The previously mentioned dialog exchange between Henriksen and Winslow is shot close up and never… ever… changes. It is literally the same angle from the same distance the entire time.

That’s not to say there’s no positives in the production at all. There are some genuinely creepy sets and the amusement park environment is sometimes used extremely effectively. There were times when I wondered how they pulled off certain shots and others where I simply had to admit they had done well.

But none of that takes away from the fourth and perhaps biggest flaw of the movie: it’s dull as shit. This movie doesn’t even make it past the ninety minute mark but it felt like it was three or four hours long. Towards the end I was honestly convinced it had a running time over two hours but then we still had twenty minutes to go.
It looks with envy at snails and molasses and glaciers moving at lightning speed compared to its own. I am not even kidding, we were seriously contemplating turning the movie off several times and doing something better with our time. And I sat through “A Scanner Darkly“… WITHOUT drugs!

And the ending leaves so much to be desired… so much.

All things considered, you have to cut this movie some slack because it was made in Hungary and it was the debut of a thirty something. It’s impressive that he did what he did. But with that said, it’s still an awful movie. Just awful…

Kamen Rider Faiz – Paradise Lost

Oh, Kamen Rider 555, let me count the ways I hate you. One, ha ha! Two, ha ha! Three, ha ha!

I know I’m going to piss off a lot of people with this because as far as I know, Faiz is fairly well remembered and I’ve seen quite a lot of people place it near or in their top fives. To say that I have no understanding of this what so ever is an understatement. And I’m not even ashamed!
It’s often credited as being the series that made the series darker than, say, Super Sentai and elevated it but to me it just comes across as cute. I feel no shame in saying that Faiz came across as laughable to me.
Let me point out that I have nothing against dark and edgy material. No, what I do strongly dislike is when something tries to be dark and edgy for no better reason than to be dark and edgy. Material with a dark and edgy nature doesn’t have to try, it just is and the difference in approach is immediately recognizable. Nothing in Faiz is dark and edgy and it offers nothing that no other Kamen Rider hasn’t already touched upon. And what few merits it does have has since been done again and better.
It wasn’t helped especially by a downright awful ending that never went anywhere. No, seriously, they had a cliffhanger ending! Not even Den-O pulled a cliffhanger ending!

But by far the biggest reason I hate this series is because it’s emo. My god is it emo. Pathetically so. There’s not a moment in this series that isn’t saturated with self-pity and moping.

Come at me, bro!

For those of you wondering, no, the cliffhanger ending is never resolved in the movie and to my knowledge, has never been addressed since. And I call it Faiz because that’s the alternative title. The series’ logo is the Greek letter “phi” and I guess because 555 can be said as “fives” which is close to “Faiz”? This iteration of Kamen Rider had a thing for the Greek alphabet.
I actually didn’t know that Faiz and 555 were the same when I started out but here you go, I just saved you the grief.

Two of the most prominent themes of Faiz is humanity and tolerance. Basically the whole show is about racism and why we can’t all just get along. It did try to discuss it from a nuanced level but fell short due to awful acting and a five year old writer. Character’s flit indecisively from one belief to another in a matter of episodes for no apparently good reason. And a lot of the plot hinges on misunderstandings between characters. Hell, practically the whole finale comes about because of a misunderstanding.

So I hate the series. But I’m dedicated to this blog and this was the first movie I could get my hands on to fill the void between big series reviews so Paradise Lost it is. Hold on while I go listen to Gosei’s theme song to cheer myself up! In the meantime, feel free to look at this movie poster:

Kamen Rider 555 – Paradise Lost

So, how does this movie tie in with the series? To explain this I have to go into great details and- oh, wait, no I don’t because it doesn’t. The movie takes place in an alternate future where the good guys lost. Seriously, that’s all you need to know: the bad guys won and took over the world. There are now only about 2000 humans left in the world but they’re putting up a good fight.
The main character of the show, Takumi, is allegedly dead, dragged to death behind motorcycles and the only rider still active is Kaixa, a self-absorbed idiot with no redeeming features. He dies. Again. Good thing they brought him back!

Dear me, this is getting really negative.

In fairness, I watched Kamen Rider 555 years ago so I don’t remember much more than the broadest of strokes. It sort of came back to me as I watched the movie while I struggled with where in the series everything went wrong. I do distinctly remember there was a third rider but I guess he wasn’t important enough. Or maybe he’s one of the many background characters that die.

Oh yes, there is death to behold.

And they recycle a fair bit of the plot from the series only in a more abbreviated form. Lots of the same people still die and the same misunderstanding that fueled the finale in the series is still present here. As in it happens again! I know it’s a thing that Japanese people really don’t talk with each other about problems but my God is it annoying. It’s no better than a generic romcom. That’s right, boys and girls, I just compared your beloved series to a romantic comedy… yeah, a shitty one at that.

Without going too much into spoiler territory, turns out Takumi, the supposedly dead Kamen Rider Faiz, is very much alive but living another life with fake memories. A chance meeting eventually restores his memories and he once again becomes Faiz… well, sort of, you see Takumi is a right selfish bastard who only thinks about himself. He also happens to be an Orphenoc (that’s the bad guys) which he’s kept a secret… even though it’s blatantly pointed out that he has to be. The series also went to great effort to try and make this suspenseful… but that also failed as it was really obvious early on.
Eventually Takumi must face the evil Kamen Riders Psyga and Orga in order to save his love interest and just maybe save the world in the process.

Effect-wise there’s not much to say, it’s sort of ugly but then that’s pretty much a staple of televised tokusatsu franchises, especially in the early 2000s. The Kamen Riders themselves are pretty minimal in terms of design. They don’t look cheap but they do look sort of plain and very samey but I guess that’s intentional considering the origin of the Riders this time around. The monsters are ridiculously poor and while I like the white/gray look, it makes it painfully difficult to see what they’re supposed to be. Took me a long while to figure out that they were even supposed to represent various animals or that Kiba, one of the main characters, was a damn horse!

Come on, I dare you to guess what animal this is supposed to be!

The music is pretty good, though.

Alright, I’m bagging enough on it as is. As a movie on its own it fails pretty hard. Nothing is really explained and you’re asked to take a lot at face value. If you haven’t seen the series at all your best bet would be to just go with it and hope you figure out enough to know who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy. It has no plot or pacing to speak of, really, and suffers from a very poor build up. “Lacking in direction” is very accurate.
As an entry in the series it’s even worse because it doesn’t really explore anything new so the setting is wasted. Despite reversing the balance in terms of good guys versus evil guys it still somehow comes down to the same characters doing the same things they did in the series with no different results.

When I first heard about this movie I was actually moderately excited. It sounded good on paper, a world where the bad guys won only for the heroes to be truly outnumbered. How would they change things up? How would characters adapt to this new situation? Who would step up and who would fall from grace? Would they actually win?

But, as it turns out, Paradise Lost was nothing but a quick cash grab with nothing original or creative to fuel it. There was potential here to make Faiz worth the watch but as it stands, there’s just nothing here. If you’ve seen the series, you know how it plays out. If you haven’t seen the series, you won’t understand anything. The only moderately cool thing about this movie is the stadium monster towards the end but by today’s standards, that thing is ugly. The fights are lazy at best and characters are used incredibly carelessly and there’s just too much recycled from the show.

This is a prime example of a movie being there just for the sake of it and really highlights the lazy nature of a lot of these productions.

Kamen Rider Cho-Den-O – Episode Blue & Yellow

This is how I will forever and ever remember Den-O. This is the opening to the series and does a fantastic job getting you pumped and ready for some good action. It gives you a good idea what the show is about and there’s some really nice editing done to give hints about the timetraveling shenanigans about to go down.

And the song is absolutely awesome!

There? Did I get your hopes up? Good, ’cause I enjoy crushing them, MUHAHAHAHA… *cough* Well, they don’t use that song for the intro anymore, go figure. I mean, it was only the series’ theme song so what are the chances people are attached to it?

I am going to start by saying “I was wrong.” For two reasons. One is that Episode Blue and Yellow are better than Episode Red. And two, there was no overarching plot to speak of unless you count that one shitty gag concerning the Owner. But I’ll get to that because as it turns out, there’s more backstory to be had… yes, it’s sort of important or the plot of Episode Blue is probably just a bit beyond understanding.

In the movie Final Countdown, we were introduced to the character Kotaro Nogami and his companion Teddy. If his last name sounds familiar it’s because he shares this name with Ryotaro and Airi. In fact, he’s Ryotaro’s grandson from far into the future brought back to save his grandfather who has been possessed and gone over to the dark side.

Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

Oh, and he’s also the future Kamen Rider.

Kotaro is portrayed by Dori Sakurada and his acting is… suspect at best. He’s not downright awful, he’s leagues better than Takuya Mizuguchi but then he’s not hampered by having to fill someone’s shoes.

Dori Sakurada as Kotaro

The move to feature Kotaro as the main character strikes me as an early warning that Takeru Sato was getting ready to leave the franchise. It could also have been a conscious decision on the writers since they were sort of tasked with keeping the franchise alive for as long as possible and the “easiest” way to do that is of course to introduce more characters to feed upon.

The movie concludes with Ryotaro and Kotaro settling their differences (that was a thing but I’m not going to go into it here) and Kotaro would then proceed to show up in Onigashima Warship, cementing him as an active character in the franchise.

I bring this up because “Episode Blue – The Dispatched Imagin is Newtral” (get it?) is all about Kotaro and his companion Teddy coming to terms with the fact that they love each other. No, don’t get me wrong, it’s not a matter of homosexuality but something the Japanese seem to treasure far more: a true bromance.
When Ryotaro fails the apprehend a ticket thief-

Oh yeah, I sort of never explained that. In Den-O, they travel around time in a train called the DenLiner. They never really explain this or how that’s even possible, it just is. To travel in time you need a ticket. Yes? Right? Alright.

Alright, so when Ryotaro fails to apprehend the ticket thief, getting severely beaten up in the process, Kotaro is again called in to save the day. But there’s a hitch: Teddy, his trusted friend, servant and companion, is taken from him by Owner and he’s told to instead work with one of Ryotaro’s Imagin.
What’s an Imagin? Didn’t I cover that in my previous review? No? Crap.

Well, to transform into Kamen Rider in this series, you need the help of an Imagin. Imagins are beings from the future that travel back in time to change the future. Aka, they’re mostly evil but as portrayed throughout the series, there are a few that are nice or at least ambivalent about the plans to destroy the future. Yuto, whom I covered in my previous review, works together with Deneb, Kotaro has Teddy and Ryotaro has Momotaros, Urataros, Kintaros and Ryutaros… and Sieg from time to time. He’s the main character after all, so he gets more of them. Basically, the Imagin you pair up with decide your Kamen Rider form.

The ticket thief in question is working for someone who wants to travel back in time to spend her birthday with her grandma who would pass on later in that year. It’s actually a very touching plot about death and loss and is handled really nicely, obviously paralleling what Kotaro and Teddy are going through about taking someone for granted.
It’s a lot more emotional than it has any right to be, quite frankly, and there are a lot of heartbreaking moments, both with the grandma and granddaughter and between Kotaro and Teddy.

It does make the movie stand out from the usual tokusatsu movies and definitely from the trilogy at hand.

The monster in question is also suspiciously feminine and uses a lot of her feminine wiles to fight the two Kamen Riders. There’s even a fight sequence where Kotaro is whipping her and she’s getting pleasure out of it. Personally I didn’t get offended by it but I can definitely see this monster not going over well in the west.

I do adore the design of her, however, as her sexual nature is also represented in her design, taking a form inspired by the preying mantis. And I’m sure a lot of people know the story of the mantis’ sexual habits concerning men. The Japanese sure seem to know! Point I’m trying to make is that they made her this way for a reason and I think it works, creep factor of her sort of hitting on a teenager Ryotaro.
Overall, I really liked Episode Blue. It gave Kotaro and Teddy some well deserved closure and the plot actually managed to touch my heart. It’s a bit sappy and the conclusion with the grandma boarders on insulin shock inducing sweetness but I’ll give it a pass. Be sure to watch through the credits for one last tug on the heartstrings.

“Episode Yellow – Treasure of the End Pirates” then.

Well, sorry to say but this requires more backstory, this time about the Kamen Rider series that took the place of the one that succeeded Den-O: Kamen Rider Decade. I’ll make it as painless for you as I can but while Decade isn’t about timtravel, it might as well be because this time we’re hopping between worlds, revisiting many of the old Kamen Riders.

The story of Decade is basically this: Tsukasa Kadoya doesn’t know where he comes from, what world he belongs to as there are many, and he remembers very little of his past. Basically, every Kamen Rider series is a world of its own and now something is destroying them. Tsukasa travels these worlds trying to unite the Riders against a common threat while at the same time looking for his own world.
But more importantly he’s followed by a man who calls himself Daiki Kaito, a thief who steals treasure and transforms into Kamen Rider Diend (get it?).
And he’s more or less the main character of Episode Yellow, hence the subtitle. It revolves around Daiki seemingly wanting to put something in his past right but while doing so he’s also being chased by the Time Police, something dreamed up for this movie. As it turns out, Daiki stole something valuable from the cop’s family and the cop has held a grudge ever since. While the movie does do things fairly straight up, there is a lot of complex scheming involved from Daiki’s side and it’s all wrapped up in a rather surprising manner.

Urataros

What’s even more surprising is that the character who takes the front row next to Daiki and the timecop is not Ryotaro, Kotaro or even Yuto but actually one of Ryotaro’s Imagin:

Urataros.

I say “surprising” because this hasn’t really been a thing in the previous movies. I understand why Momotaros, the red and first Imagin Ryotaro bonds with, hasn’t been featured as much because he was the prominent Imagin in the series but this still leaves Ryutaro, the purple teenager Imagin, and Kintaros, the yellow muscle Imagin, pretty underutilized. Outside of a fight here and there, most prominently in Episode Blue, they don’t do a whole lot throughout the trilogy which why this move surprised me as much as it did.
From a character perspective this makes the most sense as him and Daiki are not that far off from each other, both seemingly scheming and cold but harbor a lot of soft, gooey, squishy feelings about love and similar. Often covering for the softness by pretending they had different goals in mind. Urataros and Daiki turn out to be a force to be reckoned with and this saves a lot of the movie.

This also highlights one of my main problems with the trilogy but I’ll cover that in a little bit.

This part of the trilogy features a lot less fighting and while there is one or two big blowouts, they’re neither here nor there, being pretty forgettable in the long run. Other than Daiki, Urataros and the policeman Reiji, the rest of the cast feels pretty unimportant and don’t do a whole lot of anything, making me question why they’re even there when it could’ve been done in a much better way. They’re eager to start a new franchise with Cho-Den-O but they’re not quite willing to take the risk. Again, more on this later.

As far as the acting go, I was quite surprised at how good it was. Kimiti Totani as Daiki Kaito is just as good as he was in Decade and Yuto Furukawa as newly introduced Reiji Kurosaki delivers a very strong performance as a troubled policeman and I can’t exactly blame him for the shortcomings of the character as that lies solely on the writing department. But my golden star this time goes to the combo Koji Yusa/Eitoku for their joint depiction of Urataros. Yes, I know, repeating myself but I was honestly surprised by how effective the character got.
Not saying that the other suit actors didn’t do a good job. Den-O has always had an exceptionally good crew in that department but considering how much room the Imagin have taken up, that’s not very surprising.

So what did I ultimately think of Episode Yellow? I liked it. It had many of the same flaws as Episode Red and Blue but like Blue it balanced it out very well. The inclusion of Daiki is definitely something positive if a bit out of left field and the usage of Urataros is surprisingly enjoyable. There is a bit too much back and forth in the plot but it’s definitely the first one in the series that properly touches upon the intricacies of timetravel and use it effectively as a plot point. Had they just added a little more fighting and we’d be golden.

Translation: I, for one, welcome our new overlords.

So what is the problem I’ve been alluding to throughout the review? Well, it was one that Episode Yellow highlighted the best because of its inclusion of Daiki but also damned itself by using Urataros so well. Namely that the trilogy should’ve been about the Imagin. Consider this:
The Cho-Den-O trilogy, and largely the Onigashima Warship movie, takes place after the series in a time where Ryotaro intends to leave the tough job of Den-O behind and live a normal life and while the first two movies did a reasonable job of pulling him back in, his inclusion in the trilogy especially feels unnecessary. And I know the idea was to give closure to three characters that didn’t necessarily get one before but in my opinion, it wasn’t entirely necessary.
Yuto’s role should’ve ended when the invasion was prevented so his continued presence doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Why has he not buggered back back to his own time already to continue living out the life he left behind? I bet there’s some in-series explanation but still, there shouldn’t have needed to be.
And Kotaro didn’t need any kind of closure because his story had just started. For all intents and purposes, Kotaro was the main character moving forward. Dori Sakurada was all set to take over as the main character but it seems the creators were simply too afraid to take the step. If anything, Episode Blue undermines this which is a shame because there was some potential going forward here.
But by far the most troublesome example is Daiki Kaito who has nothing to do here. I love the character and it was done well but this just goes to show how unnecessary it all really was. Or worse yet, how they could’ve done it.

After all, the color coding was there. When talking about a show that color coded four of its main characters so blatantly you’d think movies named after colors would utilize this: Red would be Momotaros, Blue would be Urataros and Yellow would be Kintaros. All we’re missing is Purple to fit with Ryutaros and we’d be totally set. If you only want to make a trilogy and not a quadrilogy then just replace Red with Purple because Momotaros doesn’t need a movie.

But what would the movies be about? Again, Episode Yellow provides the perfect example: Urataros working with Daiki. Why not have each movie center around the three remaining Imagin breaking out and going on their own or finding new hosts, with Ryotaro pulling out of the race altogether to fulfill his own destiny and make sure Kotaro has a future. From what I understand, future incarnations of Den-O features only Kotaro suggesting this is what happened (and again proving why Kotaro didn’t need closure yet).

Now, it’s been a long time since I saw Den-O and the movies up to Onigashima Warship so I’m sure I’m talking pure blasphemy here but the series was already on its last leg when Takeru left and they haven’t dared taking the steps to preserve any momentum the franchise had. Have Kotaro and Teddy helm the franchise and give the Imagin the sendoff they deserve after such hard work.

Or maybe I just don’t know what I’m talking about and this is what fans want. Either way, there hasn’t been any news of future Den-O material outside of crossover movies and the like so I imagine the franchise within a franchise has gone to the grave. Which honestly is a shame because Den-O always had a lot of potential.

I will say that Episode Blue and Yellow did bring back a lot of the love I felt for Den-O when it was just a series which just makes it doubly painful. I still maintain that Episode Red was less than good, though.

For now I leave you with what should’ve been the opening theme for the entire trilogy: