Before I dive back into trying to explain Kamen Rider Gaim to people who probably don’t know much about tokusatsu, let’s talk about… well, something even more obscure!
Oh, Kamen Rider 555, let me count the ways I hate you. One, ha ha! Two, ha ha! Three, ha ha!
I know I’m going to piss off a lot of people with this because as far as I know, Faiz is fairly well remembered and I’ve seen quite a lot of people place it near or in their top fives. To say that I have no understanding of this what so ever is an understatement. And I’m not even ashamed!
It’s often credited as being the series that made the series darker than, say, Super Sentai and elevated it but to me it just comes across as cute. I feel no shame in saying that Faiz came across as laughable to me.
Let me point out that I have nothing against dark and edgy material. No, what I do strongly dislike is when something tries to be dark and edgy for no better reason than to be dark and edgy. Material with a dark and edgy nature doesn’t have to try, it just is and the difference in approach is immediately recognizable. Nothing in Faiz is dark and edgy and it offers nothing that no other Kamen Rider hasn’t already touched upon. And what few merits it does have has since been done again and better.
It wasn’t helped especially by a downright awful ending that never went anywhere. No, seriously, they had a cliffhanger ending! Not even Den-O pulled a cliffhanger ending!
But by far the biggest reason I hate this series is because it’s emo. My god is it emo. Pathetically so. There’s not a moment in this series that isn’t saturated with self-pity and moping.
For those of you wondering, no, the cliffhanger ending is never resolved in the movie and to my knowledge, has never been addressed since. And I call it Faiz because that’s the alternative title. The series’ logo is the Greek letter “phi” and I guess because 555 can be said as “fives” which is close to “Faiz”? This iteration of Kamen Rider had a thing for the Greek alphabet.
I actually didn’t know that Faiz and 555 were the same when I started out but here you go, I just saved you the grief.
Two of the most prominent themes of Faiz is humanity and tolerance. Basically the whole show is about racism and why we can’t all just get along. It did try to discuss it from a nuanced level but fell short due to awful acting and a five year old writer. Character’s flit indecisively from one belief to another in a matter of episodes for no apparently good reason. And a lot of the plot hinges on misunderstandings between characters. Hell, practically the whole finale comes about because of a misunderstanding.
So I hate the series. But I’m dedicated to this blog and this was the first movie I could get my hands on to fill the void between big series reviews so Paradise Lost it is. Hold on while I go listen to Gosei’s theme song to cheer myself up! In the meantime, feel free to look at this movie poster:
So, how does this movie tie in with the series? To explain this I have to go into great details and- oh, wait, no I don’t because it doesn’t. The movie takes place in an alternate future where the good guys lost. Seriously, that’s all you need to know: the bad guys won and took over the world. There are now only about 2000 humans left in the world but they’re putting up a good fight.
The main character of the show, Takumi, is allegedly dead, dragged to death behind motorcycles and the only rider still active is Kaixa, a self-absorbed idiot with no redeeming features. He dies. Again. Good thing they brought him back!
Dear me, this is getting really negative.
In fairness, I watched Kamen Rider 555 years ago so I don’t remember much more than the broadest of strokes. It sort of came back to me as I watched the movie while I struggled with where in the series everything went wrong. I do distinctly remember there was a third rider but I guess he wasn’t important enough. Or maybe he’s one of the many background characters that die.
Oh yes, there is death to behold.
And they recycle a fair bit of the plot from the series only in a more abbreviated form. Lots of the same people still die and the same misunderstanding that fueled the finale in the series is still present here. As in it happens again! I know it’s a thing that Japanese people really don’t talk with each other about problems but my God is it annoying. It’s no better than a generic romcom. That’s right, boys and girls, I just compared your beloved series to a romantic comedy… yeah, a shitty one at that.
Without going too much into spoiler territory, turns out Takumi, the supposedly dead Kamen Rider Faiz, is very much alive but living another life with fake memories. A chance meeting eventually restores his memories and he once again becomes Faiz… well, sort of, you see Takumi is a right selfish bastard who only thinks about himself. He also happens to be an Orphenoc (that’s the bad guys) which he’s kept a secret… even though it’s blatantly pointed out that he has to be. The series also went to great effort to try and make this suspenseful… but that also failed as it was really obvious early on.
Eventually Takumi must face the evil Kamen Riders Psyga and Orga in order to save his love interest and just maybe save the world in the process.
Effect-wise there’s not much to say, it’s sort of ugly but then that’s pretty much a staple of televised tokusatsu franchises, especially in the early 2000s. The Kamen Riders themselves are pretty minimal in terms of design. They don’t look cheap but they do look sort of plain and very samey but I guess that’s intentional considering the origin of the Riders this time around. The monsters are ridiculously poor and while I like the white/gray look, it makes it painfully difficult to see what they’re supposed to be. Took me a long while to figure out that they were even supposed to represent various animals or that Kiba, one of the main characters, was a damn horse!
Come on, I dare you to guess what animal this is supposed to be!
The music is pretty good, though.
Alright, I’m bagging enough on it as is. As a movie on its own it fails pretty hard. Nothing is really explained and you’re asked to take a lot at face value. If you haven’t seen the series at all your best bet would be to just go with it and hope you figure out enough to know who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy. It has no plot or pacing to speak of, really, and suffers from a very poor build up. “Lacking in direction” is very accurate.
As an entry in the series it’s even worse because it doesn’t really explore anything new so the setting is wasted. Despite reversing the balance in terms of good guys versus evil guys it still somehow comes down to the same characters doing the same things they did in the series with no different results.
When I first heard about this movie I was actually moderately excited. It sounded good on paper, a world where the bad guys won only for the heroes to be truly outnumbered. How would they change things up? How would characters adapt to this new situation? Who would step up and who would fall from grace? Would they actually win?
But, as it turns out, Paradise Lost was nothing but a quick cash grab with nothing original or creative to fuel it. There was potential here to make Faiz worth the watch but as it stands, there’s just nothing here. If you’ve seen the series, you know how it plays out. If you haven’t seen the series, you won’t understand anything. The only moderately cool thing about this movie is the stadium monster towards the end but by today’s standards, that thing is ugly. The fights are lazy at best and characters are used incredibly carelessly and there’s just too much recycled from the show.
This is a prime example of a movie being there just for the sake of it and really highlights the lazy nature of a lot of these productions.