Kamen Rider W Returns: Kamen Rider Accel

Kamen Rider W returns in Kamen Rider W Returns… wow, that got… weird. Anyway, it’s time for yet another Kamen Rider movie. Whoopdee*******dee… huh? What’s this…?

I think I’ve mentioned Kamen Rider W in passing before. I’m not sure when but I’m sure I’ve mentioned them. It’s been a while since I watched this show, I’d wager at least five years so my memory on the series is a bit hazy. I do remember that I enjoyed it for what it was and that the detective noir thing mixed with some crazy Japanese stuff made for some thoroughly entertaining moments.

Not that I can say I remember the characters all that well, especially outside of the main characters and in going back I had to look certain things up. There were many moments in this movie where I went “That seems awfully familiar…” only to have it turn out that they had been part of the show, however briefly it may have been. So this won’t be as thorough a review as you may have expected because the original series is simply so far behind it me it’s kind of… well, too late for that.

Maybe one day I’ll go back, rewatch and review the series then but for now you’re just gonna have to settle for a review of Kamen Rider Accel!

Kamen Rider W Returns: Kamen Rider Accel
(Toei, 2011)

Some time after the end of Kamen Rider W, Terui Ryu is still on the force and chasing down abnormal crimes while settling into married life with Narumi Akiko. It’s during one of these cases that he runs into Katsuragi Aoi, a pickpocket that’s being hunted by a Dopant (this show’s monsters). This case will not only test Terui’s commitment to justice but it will also push his marriage to the limit. Can Terui solve the case and save his marriage without giving in to revenge?

While Kamen Rider Den-O definitely started the trend of keeping a series on support after the end of the primary series, Kamen Rider W was the one that gave Toei the blueprint on how to do it going forward. Instead of heading straight into a five year stretch of mediocre movies, they settled on a double V-Cinema release (straight to DVD, basically), something that they picked up again with Gaim and has continued since (as far as I know). They’ve also been trying something similar with Super Sentai, starting with Shinkenger, I believe.

I like this format.

I know not everyone in the “community” supports it to the same level as me. Some outright hate it because they just want to move on to the next series, regardless of whether they liked the last one or not. Perhaps they feel like this takes away resources from the current series or that it’s just… “unnecessary” and somehow ruins the show.

And while I can see some of these complaints as at least… somewhat relevant, I can’t really agree with any of them. That’s not to say that they’re all good or that some releases don’t suffer from some of these very complaints. But to generically complain about them in such a fashion I feel is doing them a severe disservice. And this review is going to be a partial examination of why I feel this way. But first, let’s do an actual review of the movie.

The movie opens on a dark and stormy night. In other words, it fits right into the whole noir-thing the series had going for itself. But it’s pretty evident very quickly that things are slightly different from the series. The often kooky stories have been replaced with a rather real and gritty setup where we learn in detail how pickpocketing works.

Terui apprehends one of the pickpockets but the team breaks her free and they run into an alley, content thinking they got away. But before they can celebrate too much, they run into a group of disguised men who attack and kill two in the team. Yes, they kill them. Not wound them. Not knock them out. Flat out murder them. While one of the team gets away, Katsuragi gets trapped. But before she’s killed, Terui comes to the rescue and engages the masked men, dispatching them in an uncharacteristically brutal fight.

One of my typical complaints about tokusatsu shows, especially by Toei, is that their choreography tends to be… standard. Nothing particularly bad but nothing all that good either. Most of the time it’s simply down to format, it’s hard to squeeze in good choreography in a 20 minutes episode per week and the budget rarely helps either.

But this fight about five minutes into the movie shows that they’re not mucking about this time. The choreography is fantastic and while the camera work is a bit too shaky for my taste, it does lend itself well to the style of movie they were going for. Even Kinemoto Minehiro, the actor portraying Terui, shows off some cool moves where it’s clearly him dispatching the kicks and a later fight in the movie is very impressive and entirely unmorphed, as it were. I’m sure Kinemoto didn’t do all of his stunts even when unmorphed but the seams are very well hidden so it’s not as easy to see when it’s the actual actor and when it’s a stuntman.

I mean, you still can, especially if you’re looking for it like I do, but it’s a step above how well they usually do.

Even the suit work was a notch above what I’m used to getting with the only really awkward fight being the last one where a load of wire stunts and effects were used and… it just doesn’t work as well. But other than that, the stunt fights are really impressive and feels more weighty than usual. Part of that is that they show Terui getting seriously injured. Not just a little bit and not something that magically disappears when he morphs again. For the most part, they do forget the continuity at times but that’s fine.

There was really only one time I genuinely laughed out loud at how bad the movie got and that was also in the final fight where time simply seems to stop for… I dunno, way too long. It involves someone falling off a great height and the hero somehow still having time to come to their rescue even though, by the laws of nature, he should not have been able to. I actually rewatched the scene in an attempt to figure out the timeline but it’s impossible. They messed up the writing/editing there.

Rest of the movie is just kind of… there. It’s a pretty standard fare of cop being framed and having to go on the run in order to bring in the real culprit. In the meantime he befriends a criminal who turns out to have a heart of gold but a troubled past that keeps pulling her back into crime. I do applaud them for not being extremely obvious with the villain which is what normally happens in movies like this.

With a runtime of 70 minutes, it does fill the time fairly well with little padding. What padding there is serves as fanservice so it’s… okayish. The only part that really dragged the movie down was Akiko. I’ll be quite honest here and say I never liked this character in the show either. I just don’t like this type of character and trope in general and I never understood what Terui saw in her. The two are so extremely different that I genuinely couldn’t see any sort of relationship work out. So while I’m glad Toei finally admitted that people do get together in their shows, I wish she had as token an appearance as Shotaro and Philip. And she always mugs for the camera too, doing these… “funny” faces that I guess are supposed to be endearing.

But instead she’s included as a sort of comedic relief because she instantly overacts and starts questioning her marriage to Terui because he was seen hanging out with another woman during work? To be fair, this is perfectly in line with what I remember of her character, completely overacting at the slightest opportunity (her character, not the actress). But I thought we got beyond that? I thought she and Terui became adults together? No?

And it’s a shame too because when the actress, Yamamoto Hikaru, does get an opportunity to, you know, ACT she does it quite well. When she finally does confront Terui about what’s going on and saying she wants a divorce (don’t even get me started on that) you do genuinely feel her sadness and it was the only point in the movie where I felt anything for Akiko.

I just don’t like this character.

If you think this review is incomplete, well… it kind of is. Truth is, I really liked this movie but ultimately I can’t go into characters too much because… I don’t remember enough of the series to give it an honest go. I was only going to watch this movie as a sort of filler while I wrote up my review for the first half of Gaim but I ended up enjoying it so much that I wanted to talk about it.

I know some people didn’t particularly care for this movie and perhaps I wouldn’t either if my memories of the series was fresher in my mind. But, on the flipside, I don’t really have anything invested in the characters either so to me it’s just a middling cop action with tokusatsu in it. I might return to this at a later date because rewatching this made me want to go back and watch W which might mean I’ll eventually go back and rewatch all series I’ve already seen.

But I do think this type of extension of the series fills a much needed purpose, at least how Kamen Rider is structured at the moment. Too often the series never gives proper closure to some of its characters. The secondary Riders in particular tend to get shafted in this department. Some would say that’s what the crossovers with the next Kamen Rider is about but I find it extremely rare that they actually do anything with the characters.

These movies then serve as a sort of “this is what happened and this is where they are now”. And I like that. Just because the series end, doesn’t mean there aren’t more stories to tell. It’s just important that they don’t overdo it, like they did with Den-O. And if they are gonna continue this, I’d like to see some even more daring stories told. And that’s one of the benefits of V-Cinema, you can take much bigger risks than you could on TV or in the cinema.

And with Kamen Rider Accel, I do think they did take some risks. The story is not just darker but the way it’s shot and the themes of the movie are considerably edgier than what you’d get on TV and nowhere near as safe as it would have to be in cinemas. And it does have me quite excited to see what they might do in the future.

But for now it’s back to Gaim. Maybe I’ll do a review of Eternal before that. We’ll see. Only time, and I, will tell.

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