It’s been a while since I talked about tokusatsu and more in particular, Kamen Rider Wizard, because I got stuck in the land of HOPA but now, here in Madrid, I feel like I have the time and energy to devote to finish this chapter in my tokusatsu reviewing and get back to my Japanophile ways.
Last time I gave you a brief outline of the story, introduced some of the main characters and talked about a few of the gripes I had with the show and the plot. I know because I just read it again to catch up because it’s been four-five months since I finished the show and needed to remind myself what I actually wrote. In fact, I’m reading right now as I write this!
But I promised to talk a bit more about the suits, the monsters and the rest of the plot and so I shall, believe you me.
First, let’s discuss the suit. And… well…
This thing exists. Now, to outsiders this may just look like run of the mill insanity from tokusatsu… and well, it is. But once I realized he had a big ass diamond ring on his head, I just stopped being able to take the thing seriously. And that, in turn made me go back and look carefully at his base state and to my surprise it turns out he totally has a ring on his head then too. Except the jewel is his faceplate whereas here it’s the top of his head.
I know they try to tie the theme of the show into the design of the suit every year. But it’s just a little bit too on the nose for my taste here. With Fourze the theme was space and you could see it in the design of the suit as well. But the theme here should be magic, not rings, and there are so many lost opportunities here. It could’ve been a classic wizard with a pointy hat and robe (part of which is reflected in the base suit) but it could also have been a street magician or a gentleman wizard with a top hat and frock.
Hell, the White Wizard far better designed than Wizard and much more in line with what I would’ve wanted to see. That as Haruto’s upgraded form or even base form would’ve been way better even if they made it black. But then I’m even more of a fan of the Mage suits than I am of Wizard’s design.
Point being, anything is better than a damn ring on his head. There were alternatives, is what I’m saying. Instead the theme seems to be jewels, something that isn’t really reflected in the show itself, not in any other designs or the plot. Sure, there’s an element of it and they live in a jewel shop but it’s superficial at best and it could’ve been incorporated better if that was the intention.
The monsters themselves aren’t even jewel-inspired but rather magical creatures such as unicorns and gremlins and a slew of other mythical creatures. And there’s an inherent problem with this as many of this mythical creatures aren’t that well defined appearance-wise in world lore while others look different depending on the region of the world you’re in. So trying to figure out what some of them are just by looks is near impossible and it doesn’t help that many of them are over designed.
I mean, is Gremlin your first thought when you see this? I know mine wasn’t. Honestly, I think he looks more like a Kamen Rider than he does a gremlin. And you kind of have this problem throughout except for some of the more obvious ones, like Phoenix, Medusa and Minotaurus for instance, all with very distinct and defined looks.
Perhaps even worse is that I barely remember any designs now or even right after watching. I’d be hard pressed to mention any beyond the three big ones and that’s more because of repetition as I probably would’ve forgotten them if they were one-offs like the others.
That said, I did like the three villains up to a point; Medusa, Phoenix and Gremlin. Phoenix does end getting the short end of the stick here, though, and it feels like a lot of drama was potentially missed by writing him out as early as they did. Medusa was definitely the least interesting of the three and unfortunately the one to get the most screentime during the show. Gremlin comes somewhere in the middle, interesting at the core but the way he’s used often undermines his potential. The twist, however, was brilliant and surprisingly dark. I approve wholeheartedly!
But it’s partly thanks to Gremlin that the show even gets interesting because once he’s on the scene he starts unraveling the mystery of the plot that has gone mostly unaddressed up until this point. It’s sort of funny that I railed against the plot last post and then in the episodes that follow the plot actually starts to get interesting. No thanks to Haruto, though, but Gremlin and actually Kosuke, for wildly different reasons.
Much of the mystery, unsurprisingly, ends up circulating around Koyomi and who she is and what part she plays in all of this quickly becomes the center piece of the story. Thankfully. Because before this the story didn’t really have any sort of drive or focus but just like flipping a switch, it changes almost between two episodes. The main bad guy also steps up his efforts significantly on more than one front leading to some actually interesting developments that add even more drama.
But more about that in the next post.
As a final note, before I move on to reviewing the movie, the last two episodes were a joy to see and I hope they continue with that tradition in future Kamen Rider. It’s the least they can do, if you ask me.
Now the review.
When Koyomi is kidnapped by another wizard, Haruto rushes to her aid but before he can save her, they’re caught in a rainbow colored tornado and whisked away into lands unknown. Where did they disappear to? Well… Tokyo, actually. But not the Tokyo they just left but rather a different one where everyone can use magic and all of society revolves around magic. You clean with magic, you cook with magic, you even pay with magic. Hell, everyone can even turn into Kamen Riders to fight Phantoms. They may have to start over but Haruto no longer needs to fight as Kamen Rider Wizard and with more than enough magic energy to go around, Koyomi never needs to worry again. But soon they realize that there’s more going on and if they don’t do something, this world will be in even greater danger than their own.
Kamen Rider movies, especially the solo ones, tend to be very hit and miss, more miss than hit, honestly. Fourze had a decent one but even I admit that OOO’s was terrible. And I like that series, it’s my favorite, so just imagine how much it must suck for me to admit that.
What we have here, however… is more of the same. To say that I found In Magic Land to be tedious and dull is putting it lightly. I like the alternate world thin, it allowed them to play around more with the different characters than they otherwise would’ve been able. Unfortunately they never really get much done with it, Shunpei and Rink remain virtually the same and even Kosuke, who had his backstory changed, don’t really change all that much. Instead of making one or more of them villains, perhaps succumbing to the Phantoms that Haruto wasn’t around to stop, would’ve added far more drama and question whether sacrificing this almost perfect world would’ve been worth getting their friends back.
Instead they’re given a cop-out excuse to go back to how things were, never really having to make a tough decision at all. And I know that they’re restricted by budget and they wanted to show a world very similar but still changed by magic but for a world revolving around magic, it was rather… drab. I’m pretty sure a world where everyone has magic powers would turn out quite differently.
I’m just saying it would’ve been a perfect opportunity to infuse the series with some much needed darkness and since it was an alternate universe and everything, predictably, goes back to how it was, it would’ve been consequence free. You don’t get a much better deal than that.
The best thing about this movie was the promotional online videos released leading up to the movie, Kamen Rider Wizard in Magica Land (it’s a Japanese pun). It was more or less a series of 24 mini-episodes making fun of Wizard, Kamen Rider and various other tropes while at the same time trying to teach the viewer a bit about older Kamen Riders in humorous ways. My favorite was definitely the Kamen Rider Cops, which sees a bunch of older Kamen Riders (trying to) solve crime, and Koyomi’s Room Premium which almost seemed unscripted to great success.
But the movie itself, eh, nothing I really remembered shortly after watching it and it has no impact on the series itself so you can easily give it a miss if you feel like it. But then it’s only about an hour long so you don’t lose much of your time. It didn’t even have any cameos from old Kamen Riders or glimpsed the new one so… meh.
Next time we’re wrapping this up with some more thoughts on the disappointing Wizard series! Stay tuned!