Category Archives: Kamen Rider Fourze

Kamen Rider Fourze – Finale (+ Addendum)

First off, sumimasen! Sorry! I screwed up. And in a pretty unforgivable way too. Last post I wrote that I didn’t quite remember everything I had planned to write before all this business with my dad went down and I don’t really apologize for that. It’s a blog, after all, which means I can do whatever I want. That being said, however, I did forget something rather remarkable… something in the bloody title: the movie “Space, Here We Come!”. It’s one thing to forget specific themes you wanted to write about, it’s one thing to forget what monsters to write about… but this was in the title, how the hell could I forget THAT!?

So before I get into my final thoughts on Kamen Rider Fourze to close that particular chapter of this blog, here’s a quick addendum to last post.

Kamen Rider Fourze the Movie: Space, Here we Come!
Kamen Rider Fourze the Movie: Space, Here we Come!

Now, right off the bat I’ll be honest. I liked this movie. But I won’t be going into great details about it, for the most part, like every other tokusatsu movie ever, it’s more or less an extended episode with a slightly bigger budget for effects. The plot is simple, there’s a satellite in orbit equipped with an array of deadly weapons that’s been taken over by terrorists and the Kamen Rider Club are called upon to save the day. But when they come face to face with the terrorists, something appears off and they soon discover that there’s much more to this story than first assumed. Fourze must join forces with unlikely allies in order to save the day but can he befriend them in time?

For the most part, this appears like your typical Kamen Rider movie but there are a few things that it does that sets it apart from the rest. For one, there’s a surprising focus on unmorphed fights, not just for Gentaro and Ryusei but the Kamen Rider Club as a whole. Kengo naturally figured into the plot a fair bit but there’s a surprising amount of focus on Shun and Miu with JK and Yuki playing support. The final act had me surprisingly engaged for a movie like this but the inside of the satellite looks like it’s made out of concrete and pipes… aka, they shot this in a few basements and a garage which is all sorts of disappointing. Better location scouting is definitely called for.

However, none of that is why I like this movie. There’s something about me that you may or may not know… I am such a retro nostalgic it’s insane. I’m not just nostalgic for my own childhood, I devour everyone’s childhood (as long as it’s pre-2000). And this movie has me particularly interested because it features a tokusatsu series from the seventies that… well, I’ll probably never see. Space Ironmen KyodainSpace Ironmen Kyodain… or these guys:

Yeah, yeah, laugh all you want, get it out of your system. My first instinct is to remind you that it’s from the seventies. But something tells me that doesn’t help. But to me, it’s appealing and VERY fascinating and since I’ll probably never see this series myself, just getting a glimpse of what it was like is enough to appease me greatly. They have taken some liberties to make it more modern, though. For one, in the original they were brothers whereas in this movie they’re brother and sister. And secondly… well, let’s just say there’s a big change but revealing it would sort of maybe spoil the plot entirely and we don’t want that because I know you’re all rushing to watch it right now.

However, for those of you expecting them to give them the same treatment as they did Gavan in the Gokaiger movie, perish the thought for this has no connection with the ’76 series other than designs and names and is more simple curiosity than a full blown revival as was the case with Gavan. But perhaps in two years we’ll see the Kyodain 40 year anniversary? Yeah, one may dream, yes?

If you’re really hungry for more Kyodain info than this movie gives you, check out the net movies that accompanied it because it goes a bit more in depth about the series. It’s the “Everyone! Let’s go to Class!” segment for those curious.

So, overall, it was okay. The Kyodain aspect is really what makes it interesting for me but it has above average “most things” for a tokusatsu movie (except for locations) so if you like Fourze, you’ll like this.

Oh, and it’s the first appearance of Wizard… so there’s that too.

So on to the main event. My final thoughts on Kamen Rider Fourze.

Kamen Rider Fourze - Let's Go

I’m guessing the immediate question on everybody’s mind is “Did you like it?” and the answer is a solid yes. I mean, there’s no doubt about that. I genuinely think Fourze is a good show. That’s not to say it’s a flawless one though and the more time spent away from it, the more I come to see what I didn’t particularly like.

For one, while the villains did grow into something interesting, it takes FAR too long for them to get there. Early on there’s a big, big focus on the characters that would eventually end up being the Kamen Rider Club and the monsters were more background noise than anything, there to help Gentaro meet these people. But once that period ends, there’s nothing there to take its place and we’re left with some serious downtime where we’re mostly treading water while waiting for the serious threats to show up. And once they do, it’s pretty much straight down the highway to the ending.

But like I said in my very first Fourze report, I really enjoy the school setting and it’s surprising how well it works since I normally don’t care much for high school drama. However, perhaps it is because I finished university not long ago or some growing sense of nostalgia for school or perhaps it’s just this series in itself, the high school drama was captivating and I could honestly see the talented writing at work here. It really is the supporting cast that carry the series and make it stand out and it doesn’t take long for them to be almost more interesting than the “main characters”, if one can use that term here.

Kamen Rider Fourze Cast
The cast of Kamen Rider Fourze in the Rabbit Hatch. (From left to right: Kengo, Yuki, Shun, Fourze (Gentaro), Miu, Meteor (Ryusei), Ohsugi, JK, Tomoko)

I suppose that’s the biggest complaint otherwise: Gentaro, Kengo and Yuki, the three first, are… quite frankly forgettable in the long run. Gentaro doesn’t develop in the slightest over the series despite there being ample opportunity for it, such as exploring the effect his parents dying had on him. Kengo is the main support for Fourze but doesn’t really do anything plot related until the end and while he ties into the major plot, it is a bit out of left field and not nearly as interesting as it could’ve been. And Yuki… well, she’s Yuki and I don’t like her much. Instead it’s really Shun, Miu, JK and Tomoko that get the most development, all eagerly embracing their stereotypical cliques at first before slowly opening up to reveal their insecurities, dreams and fears. And it’s real shame that Chuta Ohsugi, the teacher that ends up joining the Kamen Rider Club, never really gets to be part of the plot but continues to work as a comic relief.

But I shouldn’t paint the comic relief too poorly because one of the series’ strongest points is exactly that, it’s humor. It’s the one time Sota Fukushi’s, man playing Gentaro Kisaragi, acting hits all the right notes and he is perfect for the role of the naive yet lovable buffoon that he is. Sure, some comic relief works better than other, Yuki… well, I don’t like her or her antics and Chuta Ohsugi, while funny is also… INCREDIBLY creepy and he’s the kind of character you expect to be caught sniffing someone’s chair. But the humor goes hand in hand with the naivety the series clings to and while there are no deep, philosophical jokes to be found the jokes, the pranks and goofy misunderstandings all… well, they just work.

Another thing I wholly liked about this series was the music. Everything from the opening to the licensed songs to the original soundtrack works beautifully and it’s been playing hot on my playlist ever since I got my hands on it. Like much of the show itself, it oozes 80s and 90s Americana with lots of rock and ballads to match the high school theme.

With the cliques, Gentaro’s pompadour, the music and the opening singing about burgers, it’s hard not to get drawn in by their merging of American and Japanese culture. That, coupled with the wonderful supporting cast, might be what saves the show because it otherwise lacks more interesting themes. Yes, I did speak about themes such as “fear of adulthood” and “friendship” but those themes become trite fast. This is a show with 48 episodes to its name so the constant recycling of these themes start to hurt a bit towards the end. Had the big twist of the show come earlier, the second half of the series could’ve easily focused on this instead, but that would require asking the viewer to think a whole bunch about God and the origin of the universe and such fun stuff.

Honestly, the big twist near the end was what ultimately saved the series from ending on a rather dull note since I had since long grown tired of the villains at that point and it felt more like mopping up than wrapping up. It goes on for just a few episodes too long and it really could’ve benefited from being axed a few weeks earlier. This also would’ve forced them to streamline the series considerably and it could’ve avoided a lot of the “monster of the week” episodes that plagues the middle of the series. But then the big twists comes and I’m hooked right in again but it never really goes anywhere. And that amuses me. They’re willing to discuss themes we normally would’ve reserved for shows for teenagers or even adults but then they chicken out in the last minute and goes for a sugar coated ending. Especially on the coattails of OOO that had the biggest, saddest ending ever.

But then again, that might be what ultimately made them go with that ending.

Eiji and Ankh
Homoerotic doesn’t even begin to describe these two

 

Why those two darn boys just didn’t admit they loved each other I will never, ever know. Oh, right… Japan.

But despite all that, I still enjoyed it greatly. Sure, it stumbled and it’s not necessarily the deepest Kamen Rider ever nor will it really figure in my top five but it’s memorable simply because of its delicious setting and its overall comedic tone. It’s very light hearted, to a fault at times, but perhaps it was exactly what the doctor prescribed after the gut-wrencher that was OOO. I plowed through the series relatively quickly and once you picked it up it was almost impossible to put back down again. If you’re willing to let yourself be a kid with no worries again, then it’s a lot of fun.

What’s up next for this blog? Not sure, we’ll see but I’m guessing we might be seeing some Doctor Who on here in a while and maybe some other stuff as well. But first up? Space Sheriff Gavan.

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Kamen Rider Fourze – Part 2 (Episode 31 – 48 + Space, Here We Come!)

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:

meteor-storm
Kamen Rider Meteor Storm

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.

KamenRiderGarren
Kamen Rider Garren

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.

Sagittarius_2
Big Bad Sagittarius

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.

Kamen Rider x Super Sentai: Super Hero Taisen

The event of a lifetime. The movie that settles the forty year old debate. Two sides clashing to decide the ultimate heroes. There can be only one victor. But no matter who wins… we get the team-up movie of the decade.

dcd527a
Kamen Rider x Super Sentai: Super Hero Taisen

Get it? Decade? Because it stars Kamen Rider Decade? Well, okay, no, you probably wouldn’t get it. Because I haven’t actually told you anything about this movie yet. Well, I did, a little bit here: shameless promoting of other posts. Where I stated my reasons for not covering this Kamen Rider Fourze movie while reviewing other Kamen Rider Fourze stuff. See him up there on the poster? All white and front and center and stuff?

Well, joke’s on us ’cause he ain’t in this movie! Okay, he is, it’s not total false advertising, just pretty damn close. And so are the Go-Busters though I know virtually nothing about them at this point since I’ve seen nothing from their show. But if  you go into this movie, expecting it to actually be a crossover between these two, you’re going to be disappointed. Because this movie has a theme.

And that’s “anniversary”.

For this is a crossover between Gokaiger and Decade, the two series in their respective franchises that went out of their way to celebrate the many years and teams that came before them. Was it ultimately necessary? Well, we’ll get to that eventually.

Enjoying a quiet day on the moon, Gentaro, Yuki and Miu are shocked when the entire Zangyack fleet suddenly materialize in Earth’s orbit. Rushing back to school, they find it besieged by Zangyack soldiers and it doesn’t take long for Fourze to come face to face with their leader: Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger’s very own Captain Marvelous who swears he will kill every single Kamen Rider in existence. Elsewhere, the Go-Busters rush to the aid of several civilians who have come under attack by strange monsters they’ve never seen before. And they too soon come face to face with the leader behind this sudden attack: Kamen Rider Decade, Tsukasa Kadoya, who swears he will wipe all Super Sentai from existence. Only one side can survive and it’s a fight to the death.

A crossover movie between Kamen Rider and Super Sentai is something some people have wanted for a long time and others have dreaded. Personally, I’ve never seen the appeal since even the regular crossovers within their own franchises tend to muddy the water plenty enough. It’s difficult enough to imagine there’s a yearly crop of villains stupid enough when there’s about forty years of villains before them that failed. Imagine then if there’s double that? Continue like this and there won’t be room on Earth for us regular people.

Kamen Rider has it easier in this department since their struggles tend to be a lot more confined. It’s normally a single person going up against an organization that tends to work fairly locally but every other Super Sentai ends with the world hanging by a thread and a huge climactic battle. Now you’re telling me they all take place in the same universe? And at times, the same city? Ehhh?

wizard44-1015
My reaction.

Alright, so practicing some “suspension of disbelief”, Kamen Riders are heroes that work in secret to protect the people of Earth whereas Super Sentai tend to be the ones that fight more openly for peace and all that. You’d think after twenty odd masked heroes on motorcycles, they’d be a little more than a myth but ignoring that, how come not all Kamen Riders know Super Sentai? Tokyo being attacked by a fleet of spaceships is the sort of thing that makes the news, even in Japan.

Ahhh, suspension of disbelief! When does it kick in?

The simple premise of the movie is that only one of the franchises can survive, sort of embodying the struggle between fans of Kamen Rider and their rival fans of Super Sentai. It adds a lot to the plot if you know of the rivalry between the series and it’s humorous to see the characters in the movie confused when someone else starts discussing the rivalry, saying it’s all because they lost their “slot”. This is a reference that dates back almost forty years, to 1975, when Himitsu Sentai Gorenger began airing and was given Kamen Rider‘s TV slot. Yes, the rivalry is that old.

Of course, and I hope I don’t spoil too much here, the ultimate lesson of the movie, one which it hammers in with the subtlety of… well, an elephant in a china shop, is that they can and should co-exist because it’s silly to think one needs to go away. The main characters continue to debate the question of why they must fight rather than just get along and while the sentiment in itself can get a bit tiring after a while, the actors really do bring their a-game in portraying the conflict they feel.

Another big surprise to me was that it’s not really Marvelous or Tsukasa that are the main characters. Instead that role has been given to Joe Gibken and Don Dogoier from Gokaiger, Daiki Kaito from Decade and Hina Izumi from Kamen Rider OOO. It’s surprising because, not to be too cruel, they’re b-listers. Joe and Don were Blue and Green respectively and when talking about Super Sentai, the red members are normally the ones you talk about. Daiki Kaito was the second Rider of Decade and Hina wasn’t even a Rider. The group are at odds with their former comrades who have chosen to go alone on this extermination quest and struggle to figure why they’re doing it and what lead to this happening since both Marvelous and Tsukasa tell different stories.

kamen-rider-x-super-sentai-super-hero-taisen-mkv_snapshot_00-57-39_2014-06-16_12-44-02The real star of the movie is Joe Gibken, again portrayed by Yuki Yamada, who is given far more screen time than anyone else. He’s the one who feels the most conflicted outwardly as he both wants to stop Marvelous while at the same time fiercely loyal to his former captain. Yamada really brings forth a much more emotional side of Joe than seen before.
After him, Daiki is really the one given the most space, partly because he remains a very popular Rider to this day but also because he was the most interesting character in Decade. His role as a loner thief and outsider gave him an air of mystery and he was slowly explored as a character whereas Tsukasa was more or less given his mysterious past on a silver platter. Daiki was further explored as a character in the Cho Den-O movie Episode Yellow which cemented him as a character that outlived his series in terms of popularity.

The conflict is again embodied in Joe and Daiki who repeatedly clash over the issue, Joe almost ready to kill Daiki from wanting to believe there’s a point to what Marvelous is doing and seeing his friends killed by Tsukasa in front of his very eyes. Don and Hina are mostly there to act as a voice of reason and ask the questions pertinent to the plot such as “Why? Who? When?”

And this is where I’ll be entering spoiler territory so if you want to go into this movie unspoiled, skip the lines of text between the lines:

 


 

Towards the end of the movie, it’s revealed that the big war was just an act put on by Marvelous and Tsukasa to root out the plans of the joint forces of both Super Sentai and Kamen Rider villains. The apparent deaths of their friends were nothing more than illusion while they hid them in a pocket dimension. Once the villains reveal their true plan, they summon forth all the Super Sentai and Kamen Riders believed dead for one big climactic battle.

However, my big problem with this is that the plan was stupid. While it was ultimately supposed to lead to something good, a lot of things could’ve gone wrong. For instance, what if Joe had actually killed Daiki? Imagine acting on the belief that you’re saving everything you know only to have it turned around and find out you in fact killed someone for no good reason at all.
How could Marvelous and Tsukasa expect the others heroes to just sit idly by and hope they didn’t do something stupid? Sure, you could try to sweep the question under the rug by saying heroes wouldn’t really kill anyone but… not all Kamen Riders were all that fair and good. Some would revel in the opportunity to fight and kill Super Sentai, I’m sure. And they’re working with villains who really DO want to murder every single person who they see as good. How do they make sure they don’t kill in the process? And for God’s sake, Marvelous invades a school and has his minions attack and harass students! Did he give them a specific “Don’t kill innocents!”-order? ‘Cause that would sort of give him away.

The movie sort of points this flaw out on its own as the joint forces of Kamen Rider and Super Sentai defeat the villains and foil their plans only for Daiki to appear, call Tsukasa out on his assholish behavior and that he betrayed what friendship they had. He then completes the villains’ plan and goes on a rampage to punish Tsukasa.

And you know what? I’m with Daiki on this. Maybe I wouldn’t go on a potentially murderous rampage but at the same time, I think he’s justified. Joe, on the other hand, seems to completely forget about the fact that Marvelous almost made him kill someone however indirectly. We’re talking straight up murder.

super-hero-taisen-joe-vs-kaitoIt’s kind of a big flaw in their plan and they were betting a lot of money on any other Rider unable to best them. That’s some serious hubris! What would’ve happened if Tsukasa and Marvelous were both killed? A bunch of heroes trapped in an alternate dimension and the rest fighting it out to the death. NOT a good plan. It was honestly enough to bring down my enjoyment of the movie quite a bit and it really shows how poorly the writers thought this through. Add to that that the giant robot piloted by Daiki isn’t even defeated by Decade or Gokaiger but instead the combined might of Fourze and Go-Busters? Sure, that makes sense since they were the two series airing at the time but more on this after the spoiler-line!

 


 

For the record, if you didn’t read the spoilers, from now on I’ll call those lines “Spoiler-Lines” so if you see one, chances are I’m talking sensitive plot information.

Now, if I were to ignore my problems with the plot then I still have some pretty damning complaints about this movie. For one, it’s sold as a Fourze/Go-Busters crossover which it is most certainly not. Fourze and the Go-Busters only figure into the plot a little in the beginning (and honestly, they could be replaced by anyone at this point) and at the end when they combine their powers to bring down the big bad. Other than that, it’s all Joe, Don, Hina and Daiki with Marvelous and Tsukasa occasionally trying to explain themselves. And it makes it feel very disjointed, it treats itself like a vehicle for the current (then, not at the moment of writing) tokusatsu heroes but probably couldn’t pry the cast away from their busy shooting schedule to feature in an additional movie outside of what they normally do so they had to rope previous actors into returning and sort of settled on who they could get.

Don’t get me wrong, seeing them back in action was a welcome sight but it still gives the movie a very rushed feel. Doubly so when the characters we’ve been following don’t even factor into the ultimate final battle. In part I feel lied to and it was a wholly unnecessary lie since I would’ve gladly watched this movie even without Fourze and Go-Busters. Hell, that’s something Toei definitely needs to look into more, bringing back old actors to feature in the occasional movie while their series are in full gear.

My other complaint is that the fights are sort of dull. First off, the twist is super obvious from the go. Partly because of the effects used but mostly because it’s a movie for kids! Even if you haven’t read the spoilers, I sincerely doubt it’s much of a twist. Secondly, you know their hands were tied and no one side could be seen as too powerful. If the Kamen Riders dominated, Super Sentai fans would be upset and vice versa. Realistically, Super Sentai would have an upper hand since in general they have five times as many members and I don’t care how good a fighter you are, that’s some pretty staggering odds. So you know from the start that no side is going to “win”. They also had to seriously reduce the number of Super Sentai members brought back or you’d have a hard time seeing the Riders in their midst. Even saying that, there’s still a very big focus on Super Sentai which to me is sort of boring since I do prefer Kamen Rider most of the time.

super-hero-taisen-all-riders-sentai1

Look at that picture then keep in mind that only the front TWO rows… of the LEFT side (from our perspective) are Kamen Riders. Two HALF rows. The rest are Super Sentai. Can you imagine if they did a role call for all of them? We’d be here all day!

But even ignoring the fact that no true winner can ever be appointed, the fights are still dull because there’s very little energy to them. Fights are first off very brief because there’s a lot to go through so there’s no real focus on anyone for very long outside of Decade and Gokaiger. Most heroes/teams get one real display of awesomeness before it’s on to the next one. For what it’s worth, the writers and director did try to pair them up as creatively as they could, either thematically or because they aired at the same time. But that’s a bone for the idle enthusiast and while I appreciate it, it’s not enough to salvage it. Secondly, they make these movies on a budget not much bigger than an episode and that’s exactly how the movie feels: like a longer, slightly prettier episode. It’s the same quarries, streets and warehouses that you see in any of Toei’s tokusatsu shows and it’s boring. You expect more from a movie, use some of that budget to get some new sets, dammit!

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There’s a joke in tokusatsu circles: you’re never more than an explosion away from a warehouse filled with empty boxes. But you’d think in movies they’d at least TRY to change it up.

And that really leads me to my biggest problem with this movie: it’s too cluttered. Even if you scaled it down to, say, one representative of each show, that’s still twentytwo Riders (I think that’s if you don’t count the movies) and 36 Super Sentai members for a joint cast of 58 characters. It’s obviously too much and the movie needed to be scaled down even further. Perhaps focus on a group of eight with four from each side and then Tsukasa and Marvelous as the villains (if you absolutely have to keep that damn plot). Then give each hero a villain from their own era to fight then change it up at the end, have Riders fight Sentai villains and of course the other way around. I get the appeal of having all of them on screen, it makes for a wicked ad but if the Gokaiger movies proved anything it’s that it doesn’t friggin’ work. What’s the point of having all of this nostalgia if you’re not ACTUALLY going to do something with it? It’s wasted money. The Fourze movies before have handled it far better, having only the seven original Kamen Riders showing up instead of all of them and it gives it a much heavier impact.

And for the love of Pete, try to bring back OLDER actors. I know it’s hard but I’m sure you could scrounge up some of the older Rangers and Riders. Don’t even have to be main ones, just from that series. But whatever you do, don’t have a different actor voice the character in the suit to pretend the character is back because we REALLY can tell, especially with the new ones.

Overall then, I found the movie to be seriously lacking. While great fun at times and great joy in seeing some of the old actors back in their roles, it squanders its potential almost entirely. It has no lasting impact and how can a crossover between two of the biggest tokusatsu franchises of all times NOT have a lasting impact? And I’m not alone in this, from what I read most people found the movie to be somewhat disappointing. Some people liked it, of course, and some people outright hated it but from what I’ve seen, most people place somewhere in the middle. And for good reason.

So it’s really just for the fans, I think.

Next time I’ll be wrapping up Fourze so look forward to that!

Kamen Rider Fourze – Part 1 (Episode 1 – 30 + Movie War + Super Hero Taisen)

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.

Kamen Rider Fourze
Kamen Rider Fourze’s many forms

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.

Kamen_Rider_FourzeI’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.

Kamen_Rider_Meteor_FullI 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.

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Kamen Rider x Kamen Rider Fourze & OOO: Movie War Mega Max

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!