Damn, that turned out to be a long title for a blog post. Wasn’t really what I was going for but oh well. I think you’ll manage. It’s time to discuss Kamen Rider anyhow.
Now I’ve discussed Kamen Rider before, then in the form of the Den-O movies and a few other straggling movies that I was mopping up at the time, but this will be the first time that I talk about one of the series. I know I promised to talk about OOO at one point and I still will. It’s just gonna have to wait until after Kamen Rider Fourze. Why? What kind of question is that, because I’m watching Kamen Rider Fourze now, obviously.
That’s the intro to Kamen Rider Fourze, a song the singer decided to do for two reasons: her son was a Kamen Rider fan and she herself used to watch Kamen Rider as a kid. I just wanted to say that to point out that Kamen Rider is now a way to bridge generation gaps. If I ever have kids, will I watch whatever version of Power Ranger they watch and remember how great I thought Mighty Morphin’ Power Ranger was? Part of me really hopes so.
Anyway, that was Anna Tsuchiya in case you liked what you heard.
Kamen Rider Fourze is the 22nd Kamen Rider series and began airing in 2011, following OOO. It is the 40th anniversary show of Kamen Rider but it also celebrates 50 years since the first space travel, giving it its theme: space.
It stars Gentaro Kisaragi, a recent transfer student to Amonogawa High where he continues his personal life goal: to make as many friends as possible. There he reunites with his childhood friend and space fanatic Yuki Jojima and is introduced to the school’s rather rigid social structure where jocks are jocks, cheerleaders are cheerleaders and nerds are nerds and there is no mingling between the groups. His arrival at the school could not have come at a better time, though. Shortly after his arrival, a monster terrorizes kids on campus and despite his best efforts he is powerless to help his future friends. Until Yuki entrusts him with her greatest secret: the Fourze system. A system designed specifically to combat these monsters by Yuki’s friend Kengo Utahoshi’s father. Together, the trio decide to defend the school from the monsters and soon find that they’re not alone in the fight as more and more people want to join the Kamen Rider Club.
If it wasn’t clear from my rather splendid synopsis, Kamen Rider Fourze is perhaps more than anything a high school drama but with a super hero twist. Gentaro doesn’t just battle monsters, he also battles the structure of the school, refusing to see any imaginary boundaries set and enforced by society. In the first few episodes he often clashes with various groups within the school only to eventually befriend them and break down the barriers. Eventually the Kamen Rider Club ends up consisting of various representatives from the groups, including a teacher and the rebel inside of me can’t help but to find it all very heartwarming.
More surprising than the high school setting, however, is the fact that they make it work so wonderfully well. While most characters start out ludicrously shallow you soon come to realize this is by design as they all, under the rule-changing Gentaro’s guiding light all grow and develop as human beings. There’s romance, there’s anger, there’s clashing between adults and children and it’s all carried extremely well by the cast. My personal favorites are Miu and Shun, the cheerleader and jock characters respectively. Their arcs are written wonderfully well and the actors, Rikako Sakata and Justin Tomomori, portray the changes in the characters expertly. So far my favorite episodes are definitely 25 and 26, Graduation Troubles and Perfect Round Dance which deals with Miu and Shun’s graduation as they are the seniors of the group and therefor graduation one year before everyone else.
While it did end with a bit of a cop-out, it was still a very emotional and heavy tale of love, friendship and having to see your school days come to an end.
The main bad guys this time are the Zodiarts, monsters given the powers of various constellations. The minor monsters are lead by the commanders called Horoscopes. They in turn are based on the big twelve, the ones most of us at least have a decent idea about. For the record, my own sign, the Capricorn, has yet to appear. So in case you were wondering when I was born, that should give you a timeframe. Well, I’m a Capricorn by sidereal rules at least! That should narrow it down further!
Don’t ask me why I go by sidereal rules, I just always have.
The designs of the monsters are overall pretty good. Though I don’t have much knowledge about constellations outside of a few Greek myths, it’s always fun to guess what constellation they’re supposed to represent. Unfortunately the theme of the series, space, forces a lot of black on the monsters but the designers have done their best to add colors where ever an opportunity presented itself. This stands in stark contrast with Fourze’s design which is primarily white in its main form.
I’m… not a big fan of this costume. It definitely goes against most Kamen Rider designs and borders on tack in my opinion. The helmet is childish obvious in its design and the belt is far too huge for my tastes. And it’s too white, it needs other colors to break it up a little more. And did I mention the belt is f*****g huge? Like, enormous? I hate that!
But! And I hate it when I say that ’cause then I have to admit that I may not be all right in this question.
The design also makes a lot of sense. White is the predominant color when it comes to space travel and the helmet is childish but so is Gentaro. The whole point is to celebrate space, not try to be difficult about it. Every time he transforms into Fourze he yells “Uchuu kita!” which translates into “Space, here I come!” or “Space is awesome!” depending a little on liberties taken (or so I’ve understood). So basically, the suit is not just themed after space but also after the character. It’s of course impossible to take him serious as is but I think that’s kind of the point. Gentaro isn’t supposed to be intimidate, he’s supposed to be a friendly, outgoing type.
So, while I may not like it on a personal level, I completely understand what they were going for. Not so much with Kamen Rider Metero, though.
I mean… what is that thing? It’s… the helmet is all kinds of wrong and what’s with that one shoulder pad? And the belt, again, HUGE! Why must you make the belts bigger and bigger, Toei, WHY!? And he’s shiny and sparkly. I get that it’s supposed to be a starmap but my initial reaction was that he was wearing a gimp suit. It just takes the space theme way too far. His special attacks even take on the appearance of planets… come on, we’re not that stupid. You don’t need to show us the planet Saturn when he throws energy rings, just calling it Saturn would be enough for most people. And we get why Mars ends up being a fire punch, you don’t need to have the planet there.
And let’s not even discuss his upgrade, Meteor Storm. That is the most “toyetic” I have ever seen Kamen Rider in my life. That’s Super Sentai levels, for god’s sake. You’d think the belt and the gauntlet would be enough to sell as toys but I guess not.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the character of Meteor. He’s an interesting aspect that adds more to the series and while I dislike him keeping his identity a secret from the rest of the group, the fact that we the audience know who it is and that they stick with it for as long as they have so far is good. Usually these loner heroes never last that many episodes in tokusatsu, converted into a team member in usually less than five episodes, but here I’m starting to question if they’ll even reveal it before the end.
And he does these Bruce Lee yells when he fights which I absolutely adore. Shoot me, I’m a nerd but Bruce Lee yells is a good way to get into my heart very fast. And it’s the same fighting style as legend Bruce Lee so it sort of make sense. Even if they don’t do that in real life, I have no idea, it’s an awesome reference that instantly elevated my love for this series.
So I’ve seen 30 episodes so far but I’ve also seen the two movies that take place during this time. The first is a crossover between Fourze and OOO known as Movie War Mega Max and the second is a crossover between Fourze and the Go-Busters known as Super Hero Taisen. But I’ll only talk about the first here because Super Hero Taisen is more of a crossover between the Gokaigers and Kamen Rider Decade so I’ll be covering that in a separate post, I think.
Kamen Rider Decade featured a protagonist that traveled between worlds, meeting other Kamen Riders. Before this, Kamen Rider was treated as singular entities in singular universes, never crossing over to meet except for the odd anniversary movie and the like. However, with Decade that all ended and in subsequent entries in the Kamen Rider franchise, the riders have been running into each other more frequently. When it came time for OOO’s movie, it ended up being a 40 year anniversary of the Kamen Rider franchise where all past main Riders got to show up and beat the snot out of a few more monsters.
And Fourze proudly continues this tradition with Movie War Mega Max, starring Fourze and OOO together with the seven first Riders although they appear mostly in a glorified cameo.
But the best part about the movie is definitely this:
Love that song so much.
As said before, the movie is a crossover between OOO and Fourze but Double also plays a part in the story. It aims to tell more of the story after OOO’s conclusion and tie up some loose ends from both Double. It’s split up into five parts: the retro Riders, Double, Fourze, OOO and finale. It starts out with the seven first Riders fighting to stop Foundation X, the organization that was the bad guys in Double, from retrieving something called the SOLU from meteorites that recently fell to Earth. From there we see how Double gets involved in it all, how Fourze falls in love (and a rare sight: a female Kamen Rider),a future Kamen Rider travels back in time to make trouble for OOO and finally the big team up we were all waiting for.
If you think I’m keeping it vague, that’s because I am. This plot is very heavy on emotions from beginning to end and it relies heavily on you having seen OOO before. If you haven’t, watching this movie could easily spoil what I can only describe as one of the most powerful endings in the history of tokusatsu. Seriously, it still makes me cry a little when I think about it. And Fourze’s segment is one that really cranks up the tension and reveals a side of Gentaro you don’t get to see in the series, at least not this far. The only ones that never do much are the seven Riders and Double despite having their own segments. They’re there mostly to set up the rest of the plot and act as fanservice. But I’m not gonna lie, it was great fun seeing Shotaro and Philip kicking butt again and more retro Riders is fine by me.
The only real issue I have, which is fairly common around here, is that the movie doesn’t really impact Fourze’s story in the series even a little bit. He receives upgrades to his arsenal and an entirely new state but they’re never used in the series. I guess they don’t want to confuse the people who didn’t see the movie but come on, you’re trying to sell tickets here, don’t pull your punches! Especially since they do make another appearance in the next movie so we know he still has them.
And the effects are ridiculous, the CGI fight towards the end look like something taken from the PS2 era in terms of pre-rendered cutscenes… which, all things considered, is a step up for tokusatsu’s normal PS1 quality.
But all of that doesn’t change the fact that I loved this movie and found it quite enjoyable. Much like Fourze and OOO as series, the movie has the ability to really tug on my heart strings. Or maybe I’m just overly emotional right now. Either way, it was hard not to weep if you’ve gotten to know the characters at all. Especially OOO. Damn you, OOO… like, for real, damn you.
The action was good, the story was great, acting top-notch and what flaws there are, aren’t enough to tarnish the fun this movie has to offer. The only real problem is that if you haven’t seen at least OOO beforehand, you’re not gonna get why it’s so good. But why would you watch this movie without having seen OOO? Why would you do anything without having seen OOO? You’re crazy!