Sunday, September 21, 2014

Tokusatsu Review: Kamen Rider Taisen Prologue

 This next review isn't going to be easy for me. This will not only be my first Tokusatsu review for my site, but also my first negative review. Because, by god does this thing deserve it, it has a scene that literally invokes this trope!


 However, of course there quite a few things to talk about before we even get to the movie itself. Since I am fully aware that the general exposure most Americans have to Tokusatsu today is by Power Rangers, and these days it is NOT a good first impression; especially when you discover what the current season Super Megaforce got most of its fight scenes from, there is quite a bit to explain. For the more adventurous, who have a Netflix account Super Megaforce is not their only case example. For you may know not only of the previous seasons of Power Rangers, but also Beetleborgs, VR Troopers and Ultraman, but for the general public that's where it ends. However, for the more curious among you, you might start to do research on where those shows got their stock footage. Power Rangers comes from Super Sentai, Bettleborgs and VR Troopers from the Metal Hero series, but those are topics for another day. As for Ultraman, well from what I can tell it is pretty much presented as intended just with the characters speaking English instead of Japanese, just a dub job. Back on topic, in the Toku genre there are four big T.V franchises (Godzilla is a movie franchise so I'm not counting but it is a legitimate entry in the Toku genre). There are Super Sentai,
The First Super Sentai, Himitsu Sentai Goranger
Ultraman,
The Original Ultraman
Metal Heroes,
The First Metal Hero, Space Sheriff Gavan 
and the topic of today's rant, Kamen Rider.
The First Rider, Kamen Rider #1
 Now Kamen Rider did have two chances at a proper international market, but they both failed for various reasons. The first was Saban's Masked Rider that adapted footage from Kamen Rider Black RX and Kamen Rider Dragon Knight which was adapted from Kamen Rider Ryuki. The movie, Kamen Rider Taisen is the movie to commemorate the Fifteenth anniversary of the Hesiei era of Kamen Rider. Now you may very well be asking, "What the hell is Heisei?" Well in Japan, eras are named posthumously after the next emperor has taken charge, so after the previous Emperor, Hirohito died and his son took charge, Emperor Hirohito was named as Emperor Shōwa and the current Emperor, Akihito will be named Emperor Heisei when he dies. Basically, think of them as administrations, the Bush years, the Clinton years, the Bush Jr years, the Obama years etc, etc, etc. Political history lesson over, back on topic, Kamen Rider premiered in 1971 and continued until 1989 with three short movies made during the early 90's directed by franchise creator of not only Kamen Rider but, Super Sentai, Cyborg 009, Kikaider, and many other classic franchises and one of my personal heroes, Shotaro Ishinomori.
The man indirectly responsible for most of my childhood ladies and gentlemen.
 During the Shōwa era, Fifteen Kamen Riders were created. However, the series ended with Black Rx and the movies and era with Kamen Rider J when the movie premiered in 1994. However after Shotaro's death in 1998 Toei, the company that owns most of these franchises, decided to honor his memory by reviving the franchise with Kamen Rider Kuuga in 1999. From then on there was a new Rider series in the following years with no break in airtime. As of this movie there were 15 series made during the Heisei era of Kamen Rider. That is the crutch of this movie, the two eras have caught up to each other, and this is where Heisei will surpass Shōwa. Now, there are several Kamen Riders that get their actual actors on screen during this movie and I feel I should cover them. However this has gotten WAY too long as is and will get longer so I will direct you all to people who have been doing this for longer then I have and have gone to videos so I will drop the links here for their reviews of the Riders' series.
The Original Kamen Rider
Kamen Rider X, Part 1, Part 2
Kamen Rider ZX (Pronounced Zed Cross)
Kamen Rider 555 (Pronounced Faiz)

 That just leaves three for me. First is the man who is known as the destroyer of worlds, the great death, the one who is destined to end all that comes across his path, the man known as, Decade.
I may have given this guy too much build up.
Yep, too much build up.
 Kamen Rider Decade tells the disjointed story of Tsukasa Kadoya, an amnesiac who travels to alternate worlds containing Kamen Riders to prevent them from merging and being destroyed. Decade is unique among the Riders as he can change into any main Rider that preceded him, from #1 to Kiva. Decade is a very disjointed Rider series for various reasons. From my perspective, the writing is sloppy, the characters are underdeveloped, and what little development they get is chucked out the window, and the portrayals of the previous riders is at best boring and at worst insulting. I would not recommend this series unless they have seen the previous nine Rider Series to see where they botch up, but also see them for Decades movies that are actually really good and show what this show could have been. There's not much else to say about this series to say except for one character.
Staring contest!..... you win, you always do.
This is Narutaki, like Tsukasa, he's a world traveler who seems to hate Tsukasa and regards Decade as the devil. Throughout the series, Narutaki does everything in his power to kill Decade and stop his journey. He has the ability to not only summon Evil Riders but also can transform into Generals from the evil Organizations that the Kamen Riders have defeated. As of this time, nothing has been made clear about this guy, his motivations, or why he has the power to travel between worlds. You know who Narutaki reminds me of?
Far better artwork then this guy deserves, believe me!
Narutaki is basically a Japanese Judas Traveler from the Spider-Man Clone saga. A big, super-doper mysterious character with vague, unexplained powers, who is mega, double decker mysterious for absolutely no good reason. Even in his own series he is given no explanation as to what his deal is, all we know is that he hates Decade, can travel between worlds and can transform into Evil Generals. Now on to a Rider series that I can recommend. There are many stories in the Windy city of Futo, some of joy and prosperity, others of crime, broken dreams, and abuse of power. There are two men who hear the stories of this city and work to give a happy ending to the stories of those who walk through their door.
Those men are Shotaro Hidari, the half-boiled detective whose empathy and goofiness is only matched by his intuition and dedication to the people of Futo.
NOT A HIPSTER!!!
 The other man is Philip, the young cold genius whose wit and intellect are second to none, but lacks, among other things, his memories, common sense and empathy.
Yes, I do get up everyday and think I look good in this. Why do you ask?
 Together the two become the warrior who protects their city from those who seek to corrupt the people of their busy, blustery, burg. Kamen Rider W (pronounced Double)
Now, count up your sins!
Kamen Rider W tells the story of Shotaro Hidari and Philip, a pair of Private Detectives who are based in the city of Futo. Together they solve various cases that involve the mysterious Sonozaki family and the tools known as the Gaia memories, Flash drive like devices that allow people to transform into monsters known as Dopants. Shotaro acts as the main body for W while Philip transfers his mind into the body; Shotaro acts as the left while Philip the right. Double transforms using their own Gaia memories. Starting with six for nine combinations for various situations.
Multiform heroes, for fashion and function for every occasion ;)
Double is a series that I would definitely recommend to anyone who not only wants to jump into the Neo-Hesei era of Kamen Rider, but for those who love Noir detective stories. Now for the last Rider, the current series, the fifteenth series of the Heisei era and currently, my personal favorite. In Zawame city, there are two popular trends, the beat riders who dance for not only themselves but for people to watch and have fun, and the Inves games that acts as the battleground for various beat rider teams to settle territory deputes in this modern Feudal era war. In these games teams use devices called Lockseeds to summon the Inves monsters that the game is name after, which are said to come from another reality entirely.
It's not a Pokeball, but it'll do. Plus it looks tastier.
A young man named Kouta Kazuraba has recently quit leadership of his team Gaim, to get a job, help out his older sister, and generally grow up.
Orange ya glad I didn't say banana? Sorry, low hanging fruit.
But when the current leader of Gaim, Yuuya, disappears into a zipper like rip in reality; Kouta and his friend and teammate Mai enter the rip which leads to a mysterious forest whose trees bear strange yet familiar fruit. They find not only a Lockseed but also a device referred to as a Sengoku Driver. Using the belt and Lockseed Kouta transforms into Kamen Rider Gaim. As Gaim, he not only fights the Inves that the other Beat Riders summon; but fights those who have also gained a Sengoku driver from the shady Lockseed dealer Sid, who has connections to Yggdrasil, the corporation that oversees Zawame since the company revitalized the town years ago into what it is today.
This is my stage now!
Kamen Rider Gaim is currently my absolute favorite Rider series. The writing is great, the fight scenes are awesome, the main characters are diverse, not just in suit designs but also personality, and the suit designs, not just for the Riders, but also the monsters are fantastic. There are barely if any filler episodes and every episode has development whether it's for a character or the overarching story, even in the very few bad episodes. However, it's not perfect, the side characters don't get much if any development, some of the early episodes are there just to set up the world and characters. Moreover, some episode placement is bad, for example, an episode that acts as promotion for an unrelated movie is placed right in the middle of an important arc. However, I highly recommend this series, especially once Tv Nihon subs the final movie. If that hasn't convinced you yet, then this might. You know the guy that wrote this?
For the record this is not only one of my favorite anime, but the only magical girl series I can stand; asides Kill La kill.
He also wrote Gaim! Yep Gen Urobuchi, the Urabutcher wrote Gaim, and if you are familiar with his other works then it is just as good. I cannot stress this enough, watch Gaim! Also, Madoka Magica in case you haven't yet! (In which case WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!) Now that everyone has caught up on the basics, it's time for me to experience pure, unsalvageable, pain.
That's a start!
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Kamen Rider is owned by Ishinomori Productions, Toei Productions, and Bandai.
Judas Traveler is owned by Marvel Entertainment.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica is owned by Gen Urobutchi, Studio Shaft, and Studio Aniplex.
Nostalgia Critic is owned by Doug Walker, Channel Awesome, Blip.tv, and The Walt Disney Company