Editor’s Note: This post was partially written over a month ago before stuff happened so I ask forgiveness for how disjointed it may be. I don’t remember exactly what I wanted to write about so there may be gaps in the first parts of the text and the later. I hope you can overlook this.
As I sit here, listening to Kamen Rider Girls sing in their made up language about things that I don’t understand, I’m hit with the realization that I’m invested in a culture that I’ve never actually experienced. And yet at times I find myself thinking “Man, I was so born in the wrong country.” Like when your mail gets sent to the wrong address and nobody ever comes to pick it up so you don’t quite know what to do with it. Is that me? Am I a letter lying on the shelf, waiting to be picked up by its real owner, eventually being forgotten and throw away? Or maybe there’s a Karl in Japan that was meant to be born in Sweden and is now sitting there thinking “Boy, was I ever born in the wrong country desu.” Or maybe he’s thinking “Man, I was totally born in the wrong country… but thank God I ended up here!” What an asshole!
If you’re starting to wonder how this applies to Kamen Rider Fourze, the answer is simple: barely. But I’m fresh off the heels of having finished Kamen Rider Fourze and before I give my final thoughts, I figured I could go over a few things. There’s a few things I want to talk about AGAIN and others that I just find mildly amusing. Then I’ll get to the meaty stuff in the center… or whatever.
First off, I retract my statement about Kamen Rider Meteor. Yes, I still think his base appearance is stupid. Again, I get what they’re going for, comet tail and star maps and what not but I still don’t like it. It feels unfinished and unnecessarily… black. I know that can be taken as a racist statement but it’s merely a judgment on their choice of costume color, nothing else. Just thought I’d get out ahead of that one. On the other hand, I said THIS about the second state:
“And let’s not even discuss his upgrade, Meteor Storm.“
And I’ve changed my mind. Let’s discuss. Let’s discuss this:
You know you want to.
I’ll be honest, when I first saw this, I didn’t like it. The first thing that really pissed me off was his weapon. I mean, no, f*** you, that’s a toy. It’s a wind up toy, a spinning top. Is this what we’ve come to, Toei? Beyblade? Urgh.
But that aside, I really grew to adore the costume and its design. First up, it’s way more complete than its base state. See that? There’s two shoulder pads and his helmet is symmetrical. I’m not saying asymmetrical designs don’t work but you need to do more than what they did with Meteor’s base state because it was… empty, lacking. Meteor Storm feels like the real deal. No more gimp suit, this has good colors and an actual armor-look unlike… well, the gimp suit before.
I also weirdly like the color scheme. At first I thought it clashed something horrific but it too grew on me. Sure, if I was a flag waver you could blame my bias on that but it’s… odd, I can’t explain it. You get a real American super hero vibe from it which goes well with its high school setting inspired partly by American stereotypes. It’s a far more vibrant and energetic look which Meteor greatly needed.
Though, its introduction really spelled the end for the Jeet Kune Do stuff since the staff became the primary weapon. He still does the “Wacha!” sounds but it just doesn’t work as well without the kicking and punching.
Now, another thing I wanted to point out was that I actually recognized one of the actors in this series… from ANOTHER Kamen Rider series and it’s a bit embarrassing that it took me this long. It’s actually a Rider, though not a main one, that I’ve talked a bit about on this blog before. Let me give you a hint: It was Garren from Kamen Rider Blade.
I’m not very good at this hint stuff. Anyway, I spoke about Blade’s movie here. It’s just a fun thing that I noticed right around the time when the show itself started making fun of it. Twice, in fact. Once in the net movies that were released when Super Hero Taisen (shameless self promoting for the win) hit theaters and again in the net movies that went up with the show. I highly recommend these net movies, both sets, in particular the one where Gentaro meets previous Riders (like Garren here) and the one where the suit actors give you a brief view of their profession from the other side, as it were. Highly fascinating, that latter one.
And this sort of gives me a nice segway into the next topic I wanted to discuss which is the villains. I didn’t really talk about the villains last time because I didn’t have a good grip on them. 30 episodes in and it was still hard for me to understand what the villains were really after. I knew their goal was to create the twelve Horoscopes which could only be done by finding specific people and giving them a switch.
However, outside of that the series never really spends any time discussing the villains and that really hurt my enjoyment of the series. While I in no way want them to focus solely on the villains or necessarily give them a huge backstory, something resembling reason would’ve been nice. Eventually they do reveal who the big bad is and the further the series progress, the more they reveal of his reasons and I have to say, I enjoyed where they went with it.
But while the revelation of their intent was an interesting one, the end suffers from being rushed. I knew it had to happen, they had twelve Horoscopes to get through and they start introducing them steadily far too late. Despite being a huge obstacle in the past, their power levels seem to be no greater than your average Zodiarts which cheapens them as threats. The last few episodes feel cobbled together from at least twice as many episodes which is unfortunate because it deals with some really heavy stuff. And there’s some really good writing mingled in with the patchwork pacing.
Now, one recurring theme in this series is “secret identities”. The audience knows the identity of not only Kamen Rider Meteor well ahead of the cast but also of several of the Horoscopes. This does create an interesting dynamic in terms of audience experience but it all comes off as moot since very little time is spent on the Horoscopes that really matter. The Horoscope that gets the most attention is Libra but I’m not entirely sure since at one point he’s pretty much forced back into the plot for no other reason than to have him around still. He’s not very interesting as a character and while I enjoyed what they did with him towards the end, especially his finale, it all comes out of nowhere.
The same goes for Leo who is the big bad’s right hand man but despite knowing exactly who he is and who he’s working for well before the main characters, so very little of his face time is actually spent exploring his character. The only Horoscope, other than the big bad, who ends up getting any sort of exploration is Virgo but again, the reveal comes pretty suddenly and it’s wrapped up just as fast which is a huge shame all things considering. There was some interesting gender twists peppered throughout the series and Virgo is perhaps the most interesting twist of them all.
What I’m trying to say is they don’t seem to do anything useful with all their time. Despite having ample time to give us an insight into the villains, it’s mostly spent in dark rooms looking menacing and so little of their characterization shines through. And when it does, you know it spells the end for them.
That being said, however, the final reveal gives the villains something different. While their individual portrayal lacks, their overall goal gives them a unique twist and strangely their ultimate goal can actually be deemed… well, sort of reasonable in the grand scheme of things. It comes down to perspective, a difference in world view between the good and the bad guys despite both sides reaching for the same goal. Basically, different ways of getting there. As such, this really is one of those times where you can say the bad guy was just sort of misguided.
Like with Gokaiger, I’ve decided to write an additional post where I just talk about the series in general and less detailed stuff like design and such.
And again, I deeply apologize for the delay of this post (see the top for reason) and I hope to be back on the horse, riding forward at a dashing speed soon. I’ve got at least two tokusatsu posts and where we go from there shall be interesting.