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.
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?
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.