Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Tokusatsu Review: Top 16 Main Kamen Rider Final Forms Part 1 (Spoilers)

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Welcome back kids, time for the proper list. These are in my opinion the least liked to my personal favorite Kamen Rider Final Forms. We start with #16 and what I consider my least liked Final Form.
#16 Armed Hibiki
Now I'll just keep this short since I haven't seen Hibiki and from what I was able to see from reviews it could have been good. But of course no matter where you are in the world, almost anything that's aimed at kids and tries to push the envelope will eventually be ruined by Soccer Moms. I personally see this form as the culmination of bad management by Toei in the face of complaints about Hibiki the show and its lack of toy sales. The two original writers of Hibiki were given the boot and replaced with the Japanese Frank Miller himself Toshiki Inoue; and his asshole protege Shōji Yonemura, who you would have recognized having wrote the piece of crap called Kamen Rider Taisen.

So yeah Hibiki looks like a mess, and this form and its introduction highlight that mess, one of Inoue's tropes is that he hates writing episodes to just introduce more toys, so he barely puts any effort into establishing them and just basically says "here's some new hunk of plastic for you to buy see ya I'm off for lunch". Apparently this form was obtained from some dangerous training from a quack scientist that would either increase an Oni's (Hibiki's term for Riders) powers dramatically or cause them to lose their powers. Now admittedly that kind of does fit into the modus operandi and themes of Hibiki that everyday you are constantly improving yourself in someway and that even once you master something you never stop training. But that's definitely an all or nothing scenario and to me it smells like a way to drum up some quick drama.

Oh but that's not just me saying that, apparently most of the staff working on the show including Hibiki's actor flat out hated the changes enforced by Toei, and if that doesn't say how bad a show's gone down hill I don't know what does. Hibiki Armed From, the culmination of bad show handling and skewed priorities. Also we're not done with Inoue just yet kids, the next three entries on this list were series that Inoue was involved with (some more then others) and let me tell you; the way some of these forms were handled; it shows.
#15 Ryuki Survive
Now, let me make this perfectly clear, just because Ryuki Survive Form is so low on this list; it doesn't reflect my opinion on the show. I say that because some people consider Ryuki to be one of the absolute worst Rider series. And I honestly don't see why. Because it went in a different direction from the rest of the series? Because there were too many Riders in it? Because the title character is an idiot?

Well let me give my opinions on each of the guesses. First, just because it's a formulaic kids show it doesn't mean it can't go outside the box and try something new? Second, the multiple Riders can give us different characters, motivations and can help show that not everyone who gets the power of a Rider is a good person; though on the other hand, too many characters can easily make a show feel crowded if there isn't enough time, focus, and character development to go around properly. As for Shinji, yeah the guy is a dolt, no denying that. If anybody knows why Ryuki gets all the hate please let me know.

Now for me to talk about Ryuki Survive Form, it's not very good in my books. Ryuki gets pauldrons that look like Dragreder's head (his contract monster and the source of his power), gold highlights on his armor, his helmet gets gold antenna meant to look like a dragon's whiskers and his Drag Visor becomes a gun that can turn into a sword. The pauldrons unfortunately don't look all that good in my opinion, it's the upturned shoulder pads that kill it for me; it just looks clunky. How Shinji even gets this form is underdeveloped too.

 I mean we already knew that Ren got his survive card from Tezuka when he died and that he was planing on using it. But Shiro had to have known that Shinji would use that card against him and try to stop the Rider War when he gave it to him so what the hell?
Also we knew that there at least two other Survive cards out there since according to the design of the card Tezuka got from Shiro the cards we based off a bird and its two wings so we knew there were other Survive cards out there and that Shiro had them. So this form did have some foreshadowing and didn't just come out of nowhere unlike some other entries on this list.
 But the question still remains, Shinji had no intention of participating in the war, in fact the only reason why he participated is to save people from the Mirror Monsters and stop the fighting between the Riders so why would Shiro willingly give a power boost to someone who he knows will not play by his rules? So a flimsy reason, somewhat average upgrades and a bad appearance, yeah #15 looks like a decent spot for Ryuki, sorry Shinji.
# 14 Agito Shinning
I have not seen this show, I however have seen reviews of this show. I do not think I will like this show very much given the evidence I have seen. Everyone in the show is in someway an asshole, the main bad guy is a hypocritical idiot and it is filled to the gills with Inoue's tropes. But that's a topic for another day when I finally talk about Jetman. As for Agito, aside from the writing, characters and repetition of plot points I do like the designs of the Riders. Agito's Shining Form however is not one of them.

Now this form is supposed to be the true power of the Overlord of Light, the pinnacle of human evolution. Yet we've seen Riders before and after Agito that are far stronger then him. It's essentially Burning From with weaker defenses, faster and with his weapon becoming two swords instead of one long double bladed one. Though there are somethings about the design that I do like; the black under-suit does do its job of making the color on his arms, feet and chest; mainly silver and red pop.

The main reason why this is so low however is because this form, like the rest of his forms just comes right the hell out of nowhere; he just steps into the sun and BAM Final Form. Also Agito can only transform into this form in the sunlight, so if he ever needs to fight at night he's hosed. Agito Shining Form, the form of Ultimate Evolution or the form of the Ultimate Hippie? YOU MAKE THE CALL!
#13 Decade Complete
 This suit is just plain old fashioned bad. Decade in my opinion was a very messy show with a very poor execution. Now I get the concept of Decade, a celebration of the Heisei era with a hero that can harness the powers of those who came before, however the writing was sloppy, the portrayals of the previous Riders ranged from boring to insulting and Tsukasa himself was an egotistical schmuck whose Photographer's eye really needed a monocle, contacts or glasses take your pick. This form like the rest of the forms that Inoue wrote just comes out of nowhere, the K-Touch needed to become Complete Form just happened to be held by the Dark Riders. How did it get there, who made it, why did the Dark Riders know to hide it, why didn't they try using it themselves, how did Tsukasa know how to use the damn thing? Say it with me kids, it's never explained!

As I said the design does not look good, just using the Final Ride Cards as Pauldrons that change to a specific Rider when one is summoned alongside Decade, also Decades' Card is just placed on his forehead with two glaring Magenta lines going between both of the eyes on the helmet no doubt obscuring Tsukasa's vision that's smart design work right there! Also not a big fan of the mostly silver color scheme with nothing aside from black and small traces of magenta to try and balance it out, it just doesn't work for me. Decade Complete From is a complete washout.
#12 Stronger Charge Up Form
The trope had to get its start somewhere, so why not in the Shōwa era? Yes the Final Form didn't start with Kuuga but with the seventh Kamen Rider, Kamen Rider Stronger! While it was the first it isn't necessarily the best; but it did help to set up the tropes of what I believe a good Final Form should be. Power needed to defeat stronger enemies, check. Before Charge Up Stronger would have been reduced to scrap before the power of the Delza Army, hell if he had this power sooner he might have been able to save Tackle. But that's just a "what if" kind of thing and we really shouldn't dwell on these types of things right?
RIGHT? Though admittedly Stronger barely showed up in this thing so, good.
 Power that comes at a great cost, check. See Charge Up may give Stronger greater power but if he doesn't power down from this form in less then a minute then he'll overload and kablam! Bye bye bug man. It fits all the criteria except for the "story-line significance" part of the Final From, he just got the upgrade from a random scientist that he apparently saved from Black Satan (the organization that Stronger fought against in the first half of his series and the ones who turned him into a Cyborg), real gripping story telling there kids. However while this Form is essential to the history of the franchise, I am just not a fan of the design, and that directly ties in with the design of Stronger, now I know that this was the 70's and the show was trying to innovate with the designs of the Riders but I just plain old don't like the design of Stronger. The size of the helmet, the eyes and football armor just doesn't work for me and adding big blobs of white and silver on it really doesn't make things better. Stronger Charge Up; strong enough to be #12 but not much else.

#11 Fourze Cosmic States
Ugh this form and Rider, honestly I have a hard time deciding what's the worst Heisei Kamen Rider series from the ones I've seen so far, Decade or Fourze. Because just like Decade the biggest problem I had with Fourze was the ending which I won't spoil here, but just check out Fourze and prepare to have your barf bags on stand by. Now back to Cosmic States, this form allows Fourze to use the powers of all Forty of his Astroswitches (his collectible trinket/ power totems) which he can channel and combine through his chest plate for extra powers. Though he mostly just stuck to using the elemental switches as far as I can remember. This form also allows Fourze to generate wormholes which he uses to take out the Horoscope of the week in the void of space where it can be turned back to a normal human with no excessive area damage. Yeah just knocking out a normal human in Earth's Mesosphere should present no life threatening consequences what so ever. Look doofus if entering that high in a planet's atmosphere didn't work for Iron Man or Shepard what makes you think a normal human teenager would fare better?

Also this form is apparently only maintained by the stability of Gentaro's (Fourze's user) friendship with the members of the Kamen Rider Club. Yes, this form literally runs on friendship.
Yeah yeah call me cynical and what not but a form that runs on friendship and with a dude as stupid and annoyingly perky as Gentaro; yeah not gonna work for me. Design wise, like Stronger I am not a huge fan of Fourze's design. Now the rocket design I get because Fourze was designed around the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's Vostok 1 flight in 1961 and the main themes of Fourze revolves around space. But were the eyebrows on the helmet really necessary? Some people have taken to saying that he looks like a retarded storm trooper, I wouldn't go that far, to me he looks more like a little kid mixed a NASA mascot with a PlayStation controller. Fourze Cosmic States, not even the most hardcore of bronies would accept this form at base value.
#10 Faiz Blaster Form
Now we're getting to the good ones; ironically with another Rider whose adventures I don't want to see. Faiz is another of those series that I have no intention of seeing, not just because of Inoue but for two more reasons, from what I have seen it just seems too mean spirited and spiteful for me to get any entertainment out of it. Also this particular series has the most despised character in the history of the entire franchise who almost always gets away with his crap. As I mentioned in the third part of my review of Kamen Rider Taisen; Masasto Kusaka is a human shaped turd and I refuse to withstand the sight or mention of him for more then is necessary. In fact, now is the time to introduce the Bastometer (TM) a meter that shows how much of a bastard someone is in my eyes and how they stand, from those who are likable because of how much of a bastard they are starting with Rusty Venture; to scum of the earth ending with Chris Brown.
And as you can see Kusaka is right in the sweet spot between George Swell from Silent Hill Downpour and Right from Toqger.
But enough about that, time to discuss Blaster Form which is definitely one of the cooler Final Forms. As the name implies this thing has a giant gun that can also become a sword, but it also has shoulder mounted Gatling guns and a jet-pack that allows Faiz to fly. Also his design is really good too; a nice balance of just four colors and I really do like the designs of the Faiz Riders with an smooth armored look that kind of reminds me of the first Tron movie. But the biggest problem with this form is just like with the rest of Inoue's writing when it comes to new forms, say it with me kids it comes right the hell out of nowhere! Yeah apparently the former head of Smart Brain (the Orphnoch's organization and the company that designed the Faiz Rider Gears/belts (whichever you want to call them I don't care)) was working on this and just decided to mail this to Mari (the one who got the Faiz belt in the first place) which relied on a Smart Brain satellite to unlock the transformation by beaming down to the belt, but if that's the case why didn't Smart Brain just destroy the satellite since they knew they didn't have the belt and.
Yeah if you stop to think about this, the writing really doesn't hold up, but I have a bit of a soft spot for this form and this is my list after all. Faiz Blaster, just managing to blast it's way to the top 10 despite Inoue's lazy ass writing.
#9 Wizard Infinity Style
OOOhhhh boy Wizard; I already know I'm going to have some people after my blood after this, but such is the path I've chosen, well showtime. Now for context as to my feelings about Wizard; at this point in my life I was pretty much on my way to becoming a full fan of Kamen Rider and was starting looking back on the earlier parts of the Heisei era. However this was also the point in my life that I was in my senior year at college so I didn't exactly have a whole lot of time to watch the then running series at the time; Wizard. It also didn't help that, well I just found Wizard to be rather boring and by the books in terms of show format, I was really getting tired of the 2 parts episode plot formula of the show and the fact that I found Haruto to be a rather meh protagonist didn't help much either. I mean when the most memorable thing about the guy is the type of doughnut he eats there's something wrong here.

That said I do get the significance of this form. Haruto just had his inner Phantom; Dragon destroyed by Legion.
NO, Not that Legion.
So yeah his source of magic is destroyed and a uber-powerful Phantom is on the loose. But he manages to restore Dragon with his resolve to never give up and was reborn with this new form. Now in terms of fitting in the show's themes of dealing with despair it fits in rather well. You've lost everything, those that you cherish are on the verge of being lost to you forever, do you just give up and become consumed by your inner demons, or do you pick yourself back up and face the despair head on and; through your own perseverance and the help of those around you find that ray of hope that helps things turn out alright? Infinity style is the personification of that notion.

I also like the symbolism behind this form. For starters, the crystal design. Since all of Wizard's other forms revolve around precious stones and those stones have ties to various magics since they come from the earth, some speculate that crystals help to draw in power from the earth to fuel arcane powers of wizards, warlocks, witches and other magic users. While the other four forms are based around precious stones, specific elements and areas of magic; crystals and thus Infinity Style draws their power from the most primal parts of the earth, for Haruto, his most primal instinct, hope. It's just that the crystal color is a tad bit overwhelming for my taste, and the dragon design for the other forms of Wizard is very diluted.

But his Axcalibur weapon is really cool, it's an axe that turns into a gun and can grow to giant size to chop enemies in half. He can even move the damn thing without having to hold it so he can chop enemies in the air like if Paul Bunyan became a psychic hibachi chef. Wizard Infinity Style, a great shining hope and a pretty decent Final Form. Next time I start to talk about my Personal Favorite Rider Forms.

Kamen Rider is owned by Ishinomori Productions, Toei Productions, and Bandai.
Venture Brothers is owned by Adult Swim, Williams Street, AstroBase GO!, World Leaders Entertainment, Noodlesoup Productions and Titmouse inc.
Grand Theft Auto IV is owned by Rockstar Games and Take-Two interactive.
South Park is owned by Matt Stone, Trey Parker and Comedy Central.
Sleeping Beauty (1959) is owned by Walt Disney, Walt Disney Productions and Buena Vista Distribution.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica is owned by Gen Urobutchi, Studio Shaft, and Studio Aniplex.
Silent Hill Downpour is owned by Vatra games and Konami Computer Entertainment.
Super Sentai is owned by Ishinomori Productions, Toei Productions, and Bandai.
Family Guy is owned by Seth Mcfarline, 20th century fox television, Fuzzy door Productions and Fox Television animation.
Austin Powers: Goldmember is owned by Gratitude International, Team Todd, Moving Pictures, and New Line Cinema.
Mass Effect 2 is owned by Bioware and Electronic Arts.