I finished the series and now have a better grasp on my thoughts. But before then…
First look at Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters.
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.
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?
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.
The 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.
It’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.
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!
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!