Do you know the magic word? I am back with yet another look into tokusatsu and this time it’s Kamen Rider. Wizard to be more specific. This is only quick, first glimpse to bring you up to speed, a movie review and lots of pictures for you to look at.
Kamen Rider Wizard began airing in early September, 2012, and ended a little more than a year later in late September, 2013. Infused with a fair bit of magic, in more ways than one, they’ve exchanged the space theme for magic, a rather stark switch. But then again, once you’ve gone into space, where do you go from there? And it’s all there: magic spells, fashionable accessories for kids to demand and lots of magical mecha creatures. Oh, and enough spandex and rubber to fulfill the need of the most die hard tokusatsu fan.
So without further ado, here’s Kamen Rider Wizard:
Kamen Rider Wizard
(Toei Company, 2012)
During a solar eclipse, a mysterious ritual takes place, the purpose of which is to birth Phantoms, magical creatures that reside within a subset of humans called “Gates”. All humans involved become Phantoms except one: Haruto Soma. Able to control his inner Phantom, he’s given a choice by the White Wizard: go about his life as normal or use his magical abilities to combat the Phantom and save the world. Haruto takes it upon himself to protect the world and become its last hope, becoming the mage Kamen Rider Wizard. But who is behind all of it and who is the White Wizard?
Unlike Fourze, which had a pretty strict theme of high school, Wizard has a far more lax theme with the magic. Meaning there’s not really a single setting permeated with the theme which is a shame, I really liked that. Instead Wizard goes from place to place with no immediate connection, the jewelry shop where he lives being the only thing that carries over from episode to episode. It’s not a very big place whereas the high school from Fourze offered a much bigger variety of locations and a good reason to reuse them. With Wizard, however, we’re back to the same old streets and plazas we’ve seen about fifty million times by now.
With the change of theme also comes a change in belt and since it’s magical it was either wands or rings and they wisely went with rings this time. And… I hate it. There is zero familiarity with the rings, they’re so tiny you can never see what he does in the heat of battle and even if you do see them, it’s crazy difficult to tell what any but the main four are.
Whereas in most Kamen Rider shows the hero starts out rather bare, Wizard starts out with a whopping four states, all aligned with the four elements: fire, water, wind and earth. Fire acts as the go to state for most of the time but the other states see a fair bit of use as well. Obviously Haruto gains additional states further down the line but for now let’s just stick to the basics. He has other rings as well, acting as different spells, but they have a nasty tendency to be introduced the same episode they’re useful in only to disappear for long stretches of time. This is something I hate and it’s something Fourze did as well but at least then they swept it under the rug with his ultimate state being able to use all of them at the same time. There was still a visible bump in the rug but at least it’s not out in the open.
So not only do I think the rings are horrifically ugly, they look just like toys and are not inconspicuous in the least. They’re almost the size of a golf ball and I refuse to believe it’s comfortable.
Eventually, as is tradition, Wizard gains an ally in the form of Kosuke Nito, an easy going sort of guy carrying the burden of the Chimera, an ancient beast that feeds on magical energy, in particular that of Phantoms. He transforms into Kamen Rider Beast and uses the power of… well, beasts to transform. He too eventually gains an additional, powered up state that uses a gun. And… frills… Sure, not running out of any ideas soon, I see.
I also think it’s kind of ballsy of Haruto to accuse Kosuke’s alternate form of being gaudy when… well, let’s just say all of his alternate forms are not all that subdued either.
Kosuke Nito was studying archaeology when he found the Chimera and became a warrior but I believe that characterization as much as I believe in ghosts. It’s a big case of “telling and not showing” because outside of his backstory this part of him never really factors into it at all. It’s alluded to from time to time but it’s not really integrated into the character.So far he’s a pretty vague character who’s only conflict comes from needing to defeat Phantoms to feed the Chimera or else the Chimera will feast on him.
The only other other thing to his character is his love for mayonnaise which only makes me hate him that much more… because fuck mayonnaise. It’s humorous for a while that he literally puts it on EVERYTHING but wears thin so fast. I don’t see how they possibly could’ve used it any better than they did so shame on them for dragging it out as long as they have. The only humor they squeeze out of it is that the label on Nito’s bottle changes to suit the current situation but unless you read Japanese then chances are you won’t even realize it unless the subs point it out.
Rest of the cast is about as interesting as well with the only outlier being Koyomi, a strange girl with no memory before she was brought before Haruto by the White Wizard right after the ritual. She’s a doll, or so she’s described, as she can’t survive without being given a regular dose of magic by Haruto, having no life herself.
She’s possibly the most interesting character due to her mysterious past but since this is Kamen Rider and she’s a cute, young girl with a mysterious past then it’s a pretty certain bet she’ll be the big bad in the end. She just lost her memory in the ritual or something or the White Wizard did it or a wind called amnesia did it. Whatever the case, the finale will no doubt be her going on a rampage and Haruto having to defeat her somehow.
The problem is that between her and Haruto’s other companions, it’s extremely difficult to get a grasp on them. Even though they went with two episodes per monster for the most part, it’s surprising to me how little time is actually spent on characters other than Haruto. Neither Shunpei or Rinko or the… uh, jewelry store owner has received any kind of characterization at this point beyond their most basic traits. Rinko is a cop, Shunpei is naive and an idiot and the jewelry store owner, surprise, makes jewelry.
The little, mechanical helpers Haruto uses to find Phantoms receive about as much characterization and it’s sort of distracting, quite frankly.
The supporting character that gets the most characterization is Donut Shop Hungry’s Manager played by Kaba-chan, a transgender woman. And she’s freaking awesome, just the fact that she’s in the series is noteworthy to me, pretty much making her the first LGTBQ person in Kamen Rider history, at least openly, who had a recurring role. Her interactions with Haruto are adorable and the fact that she’s just treated normally is fantastic.
But I suppose my political agenda is shining through. So instead of that, let’s talk about za mubi!
Kamen Rider x Kamen Rider Wizard & Fourze: Movie War Ultimatum
People all over the world are gaining psychic powers. And evil has just begun. After tracking the distributor all over the world, Ryusei Sakuta, Kamen Rider Meteor, returns to Japan to seek the aid of Gentaro Kisaragi, who is dealing with the evil on his own turf. Together they must travel five years back in time to join forces with Haruto Soma, Kamen Rider Wizard, to defeat the Akumaziers!
It’s that time of year again when the current Kamen Rider joins with the previous Kamen Rider to kick some ass. Kamen Rider Fourze returns and does so in a pretty big way and we get more of an insight into a Wizard supporting character.
Like the movie that came before it, Movie War Ultimatum revives an old, derelict tokusatsu show and casts them as the villains with slightly updated visuals. This time around it’s Akumaizer 3 that receives the treatment. Never heard of it? Me neither. Though it was fairly popular in the day and received a sequel, it didn’t make much impact on the genre.
Though it is currently getting subtitles, the process on it is slow so don’t hold your breath.
As far as villains go, I was rather underwhelmed by their presence. They don’t do a whole lot and despite there being three of them, it takes forever for them to get involved in the action. Since the movie was split up in three parts, one for each Kamen Rider and then one team-up chapter, I expected one villain to be central to the story in each and then… well, die.
But nope, it takes forever for them to do much of anything and instead the movie relies on a handful of other characters to do the busywork. Though, in all honesty, the final chapter was so retro I couldn’t help but to smile the whole way through. A huge van that is really a kind of subdimension that you can step into and they go into this cheap looking set that’s inside the van, or truck if you prefer, and there’s smoke and… it was just glorious.
The real joy of this movie, however, is seeing the cast and crew of Fourze back in action. Seeing Gentaro kicking ass and taking names again is fantastic and finding out what happened to everyone five years down the line was brilliant. It further cemented Fourze as a series about becoming an adult. Each actor seemingly stepped back into the role without effort because it was just like being back, watching a new episode of Fourze.
The Wizard part got kind of interesting as it involved a mysterious woman living in her own little fantasy world. The story actually directly linked with the Fourze segment in a pretty clever way and was pretty damn philosophical when it came to the inclusion of Donut Shop Hungry’s Manager. I definitely approve of that part, at least.
Sadly, the promise of more Kamen Riders was kind of bogus. Though other Riders did, in fact, appear, only one original actor return and that’s Shu Watanabe as Eiji Hino, Kamen Rider OOO and it’s a cameo. Considering Kamen Rider OOO is my favorite Kamen Rider series, that’s heartbreaking.
Ultimately (heh), the movie did some interesting things and it’s really just an excuse to see the former Kamen Rider returning for one last outing and that’s something I approve of. It’s no “Let’s Go Kamen Riders”, that’s for sure, but I didn’t dislike it nearly as much as some other Kamen Rider movies. I would have liked for a few more Kamen Riders joining the fray in a more substantial manner but oh well…
That’s about it for this post. Next time we’ll talk a bit more about the villain, the plot so far and some more about the suit designs… I’ve got a lot to say about them. Oh, and another movie.
Return next time, please!