REVIEW: KAMEN RIDER WIZARD IN MAGIC LAND

fw2The film begins with Haruto confronting a mysterious Golden Magician atop a building who is using an abducted Koyomi to perform a ritual. Kamen Rider Wizard confronts the magician, but fails to stop him from completing the ritual as he uses the Create Ring, causing a rainbow tornado to appear and engulf everything around them. When Haruto and Koyomi wake up in the next day, they find themselves in a different world instead, where all citizens use magic in their daily life and are surprised when they find Shunpei using magic as well and learn that he does not recognize them at all.Kamen Rider Wizard in Magic Land Kamen Rider SorcererWhile buying at the Donut Shop Hungry, Haruto is informed that in this world, the citizens’ mana is used as currency instead of regular money, when an army of Ghouls led by a Phantom named Kherpi appears and attack the citizens in order to bring them into despair. Rinko appears to fight the monsters and Haruto and Koyomi are once again surprised by finding that all citizens have the power to transform into Kamen Rider Mages, including their friends, and defeat them without their help at all. Haruto and Koyomi explain their situation to Rinko, who also does not recognize them, but are suspicious of their behavior and arrest them, bringing them to their leader, Emperor Maya, whose real appearance is concealed behind a curtain. Haruto confronts Maya in order to learn if he was responsible for transforming the world in its current state, but is struck by a lightning spell instead and Maya lets them go after learning that Koyomi is unable to perform magic at all. While looking for the Golden Magician, Haruto and Koyomi are brought to Kosuke Nitoh instead, who takes an interest in their story and reveals that unlike the other citizens, he uses a handmade Beast Driver he created by studying ancient texts, that does not need to consume Phantoms to sustain itself.wizard-magic15While taking a walk, they stumble across a Magic Ring Shop (the world’s counterpart of Okagedomo Antique Shop). When a customer wants to know the function of the Flexible Magic Ring, Wajima appears, transforms into Mage and demonstrate the power much to the customers’ disgust as they walk away from the shop save Koyomi and Haruto. Wajima introduces them to his worker, Shiina whom he also gave a shelter after his parents died. Temporarily, Wajima offers the duo a shelter too as Haruto reveals how did he and Koyomi get into their world to Shiina only for making him run away from the shop. Wajima reveals that Shiina’s mother and almost everyone were taken away by a giant rainbow tornado with the victims are nowhere to be found. He also had met Emperor Maya and requested that he bring the victims back, to which he agrees and will try his best.rx-088While Haruto and Koyomi are trying to find Shiina, the Golden Magician appears and uses his Tornado Ring to cast away a group of female street dancers into a rainbow Tornado. He walks away, unknowingly watched by Shiina who suspected him to be the culprit. Koyomi meets a guy, who reveals to be the emperor as he desires to talk to her for a while. While Shiina chases the Golden Magician, this eventually leads him to a group of Phantom, which revealed to be the alternate counterparts of Phantom Generals. Shiina transforms and begins to fight. When Haruto was chasing for Shiina, he encounters Kosuke, who tries to fishing for mayonnaise, much to Haruto’s shock. Haruto asks whether he sees Shiina or not but later interrupted when they realize that Shiina is under attack. As they arrive, Shiina is already under despair with the duo transforms and easily kill the Phantoms. They dive into Shiina’s Underworld and finally found his inner Phantom, Ouroboros. As the inner Phantom get tied, Wizard and Beast use this chance to perform Kick Strike, with both of their Phantoms transform into their Strike Phase and strike Ouroboros.[Over-Time] Kamen Rider Wizard - 45 [5562FB46]_mkv_snapshot_23_12_[2013_08_04_08_34_56]Shiina awakens, revealing he saw the Golden Magician too retreated to Maya’s castle, believing Maya is the culprit. Haruto calms the boy and prepares to investigate the castle again. As he manages to sneak into the castle with Kosuke, they then enter a chamber that shown a machine. Kosuke then reveals to Haruto that the emperor is using a forbidden machine that has the citizens mana, which made Haruto thinking about the Magic Scanners in the city (also knowing where the missing people were taken to). Among the skeletons which stacked at the machine, he saw one of it possessing Shiina’s Flower Ring, hinting the bearer to be the corpse of Shiina’s mother. As they hear footsteps, they hide as the emperor was having a meeting with the Prime Minister about the machine. After the meeting, the emperor then reveals the purpose of using the machine by draining the citizens’ magic. Kosuke accidentally got their cover blown as they escape from the emperor. While running, Kosuke tells Haruto that the emperor would die alone as it is impossible to gather all the mana into a machine. Sorcerer appears and attacks them as they transform, Beast let Wizard escape to tell the citizens of the emperor’s plan as he continues to fight Sorcerer alone. Sorcerer overpowers Beast as he uses the Vanish Strike Ring to finish off Beast. Back in the shop, Shiina tries to use magic but he notices that he can’t use it as Koyomi reveals to him that Haruto enters his Underworld in order to save him from despair, however, Shiina doesn’t believe what she said. Haruto tries telling his friends about the emperor’s plan as no one believed him as the emperor made an announcement of capturing Haruto and telling the citizens a lie about Haruto’s plan.Kamen Rider Wizard in Magic Land Kamen Rider MageAfter the announcement, guards appears to capture Haruto as he rides his Machine Winger to escape from the guards. While being chased by the Mages, Haruto transform and outsmart them. Wizard then shoots the Magic Scanners until the Captain of the guards stops him. The captain transforms and fight Wizard as he still trying to tell them the truth. The citizens started to hate Wizard after hearing what the emperor said as they throw stuff at him, until Koyomi stops them. She then defends Haruto along with his friends as Koyomi tells him that the emperor is suffering alone. Haruto decides to ride to the castle as Rinko and Shunpei transform to fight the guards. Overpowered by the guards, Kosuke arrives and reveal to the captain that he survive Sorcerer’s attack as he transform and overpowers the guards. As Haruto arrives to the chamber, he is too late to stop Maya from activating the machine as the citizens suffer from losing mana (less Koyomi and Shiina). Maya then reveals to Haruto that he is not a magician as no one would accept him. Sorcerer enters the chamber as he reveal himself to be the Drake Phantom and telling Maya the true purpose of the machine: getting all the citizens falling into despair. maxresdefaultMaya was shocked after hearing that as Haruto save himself from despair. He then tells Maya that he will destroy Magic Land as Haruto remove the Common Ring from the emperor and shatters it. Both magicians transform and fight each other, but Sorcerer overpowers Wizard. Before Sorcerer could finish off Wizard, he uses the Flower Ring to distract the golden magician before assuming into Infinity Style. As they are about to finish each other, Sorcerer uses to Final Strike Ring as Wizard uses Finish Strike Ring to perform their finisher. As their kicks collide, Wizard ultimately defeated Sorcerer as Magic Land started to vanish. Before return to his world, Wizard tell Maya that they will meet again in their world and Wizard grasp onto Koyomi’s hand. As they woke up, Haruto was checking if their friends had the WizarDriver belt, which they don’t – assuming that they had returned to their world. While Haruto and Koyomi went to a park, they witnessed a real-life Maya with his family and Shiina with his mother.UntitledExcellent visuals for a summer movie, a must see for wizard fans and Kamen Rider fans in general.

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REVIEW: KAMEN RIDER x KAMEN RIDER WIZARD & FOURZE: MOVIE WAR ULTIMATUM

Kamen Rider BeastThe movie begins with Phantoms Medusa and Phoenix approaching some Gates who are trapped in a strange machine and Xatan, Eel and Gahra, a trio of monsters known as the Akumaizers appear before them, claiming that the machine makes use of the captives’ mana to summon revived monsters endlessly as part of their plan to get revenge on the Human Race for banishing them to the underground thousands of years ago. Upon learning that the Phantoms were sent there by their leader Wiseman to assist them, Eel opens a time portal to travel to five years in the future.fw2

Kamen Rider Fourze

Five years later, Ryusei Sakuta, now an Interpol agent, defeats a group of criminals with psychic powers in South America, assisted by Inga Blink, after learning that they work under Kageto Banba, a man with a Zodiarts Switch. Meanwhile, in Japan, the Kamen Rider Club at Amanogawa High School is reduced to one member, a student called Miyoko Ohki whose advisor is Gentaro Kisaragi, who now works there as a teacher. Yuki Jojima is now an astronaut and is about to return from the International Space Station, but another of Gentaro’s students, Saburo Kazeta, causes a ruckus with his psychic powers and runs away with three of his classmates. Gentaro runs after Saburo while fellow teacher Haruka Utsugi tries to contain the other three. However, Saburo transforms into the monster Sanagiman and overpowers Kamen Rider Fourze when Banba appears to give him a powerful device called “Zeber”. Kamen Rider Fourze is rescued by Kamen Rider Meteor and they contact the rest of the original Kamen Rider Club to help them.UltimatumSome time later, Banba and Saburo assemble other youngsters with special powers to join their crusade to stop space exploration for the sake of focusing on Earth’s problems. Banba instructs them to channel their energies to fully charge the Zeber while he meets Eel and it is revealed that he is in fact working for the Akumaizers. However, Gentaro and his friends arrive with evidence against Banba and the students are dissuaded by them, except for Saburo and his clique. While Kamen Rider Meteor confronts Banba and Saburo’s friends are subdued by the rest of the team, Saburo claims that it is too late for him as he was shunned by his family because of his powers and had already turned into a monster while Gentaro is unlike him, a Kamen Rider. To win his trust, Gentaro destroys his Fourze Driver and claims that he just like him, who decided to give up being a Kamen Rider, Saburo also has the power to change himself into someone different. Miyoko appears to assist the others, just to be kidnapped by Banba who defeats Kamen Rider Meteor. The reformed Saburo transforms into Inazuman and defeats Banba, but Eel uses the Zeber to destroy Yuki’s return module as she descends back to Earth. However, Yuki is saved in the nick of time by Kamen Rider Nadeshiko. Eel then escapes back to the present and Gentaro travels back in time after him, accompanied by Ryusei and Nadeshiko. Before confronting the enemy, Gentaro meets his past self and borrows his Fourze Driver.Kamen Rider Wizard Specials

Kamen Rider Wizard

Some monsters who emerged from the Akumaizers’ machine are confronted and defeated by Haruto Soma, accompanied by his friends Koyomi, Shunpei Nara and Rinko Daimon. However, the Akumaizers prove themselves too strong for Kamen Rider Wizard to defeat by himself and they leave to a Gate’s Underworld taking the Zeber with them while instructing Phoenix and Medusa to stop Haruto and the others. However, instead of doing as asked, the Phantoms flee, claiming that they do not want to associate themselves with the Akumaizers. Haruto then dives to the Underworld after them but some monsters appear from the machine and Shunpei and Rinko accidentally enter the portal opened by Haruto, leaving Koyomi alone with the creatures. The three awake in what seem to be their own world, with no memories of what happened, but finds those around her, including some familiar faces, behaving strangely, as they only seem dedicated to arrange the birthday party for a person called “Poitrine”.Kamen Rider Wizard WisemanWhile exploring the streets, Haruto finds some children attacked by monsters and just while Rinko and Shunpei leads them to safety, Haruto confronts the enemies until a young woman called Yu Kamimura appears and transforms herself into “Belle Mask Poitrine” to defeat them. Some of the enemy monsters flee and Yu claims that they must not be pursued as they had quit the fight. While the children ask Rinko and Shunpei to remember the truth, Yu is brought by Haruto to the Antique Shop Omokagedō to celebrate her birthday with his friends. Haruto then awakens at the start of the same day and remembers the truth. When the monsters appear to attack the children, just like in the previous day, Haruto steps in and instead of waiting for Poitrine, finishes the enemies by himself. Both the passerby and Yu complain with Haruto for stopping the monsters instead of Poitrine and it is revealed that just like them, the four children are trapped in Yu’s Underworld by the Akumaizers’ machine. Haruto tries to dissuade Yu but Gahra appears to stop him and convinces her to have Haruto join the endless loop as well until Haruto and the children bring her to her senses. With Yu free from the Akumaizers’ control, Kamen Rider Wizard and Poitrine join forces against Gahra until the Akumaizers reunite, fending off Kamen Rider Wizard and taking Poitrine away with them after throwing several monsters to deal with Haruto.over-time-kamen-rider-wizard-41-13ada3f8-mkv_snapshot_17-00_2013-07-10_00-20-45

Movie War Ultimatum

Left behind in the real world, Koyomi is about to be attacked by the monsters until Kamen Riders Fourze, Meteor, and Nadeshiko appear to protect her. Meanwhile, Wiseman reveals to Phoenix and Medusa that when the Akumaizers throw the fully charged Zeber into the ocean of magic beneath the Underworld, the outside world will be overflown with enough magic energy to kill all humans. Upon learning the situation from Koyomi, Gentaro makes use of a Magic Ring that somehow is in his possession to gain entry in Yu’s Underworld with his companions, arriving in time to save Haruto from the monsters. Gentaro recognizes Haruto, who claims to not know him. However, the Akumaizers send a larger force to deal with the Kamen Riders as they escape with Poitrine and the Zeber. Koyomi is attacked by Ghouls that have emerged from the machine and is saved by Eiji Hino, who uses his powers to reach the children in the Underworld and grant them Magic Rings which they use to summon Kamen Riders OOO, Birth, Double, and Accel.Kamen_Rider_x_Kamen_Rider_Wizard_&_Fourze_Movie_Taisen_Ultimatum-0002After disposing of the enemies, the eight Kamen Riders rush to intercept the Akumaizers’ vehicle and rescue Poitrine. Eel and Gahra are destroyed, but Xatan makes a last effort to take the Zeber to the ocean of magic and both Fourze and Wizard are powered up by their companions to finish Xatan and destroy the Zeber for good. Back from the Underworld, Gentaro instructs Haruto to return the Fourze Driver to his past self and is sent back to the future with the others. All the Gates are saved, but while the children do not remember what has happened, Yu, who is revealed to be the owner of the Doughnut Shop Hungry does, much to Haruto’s chagrin. Back to his own time, Gentaro learns from Saburo that he and his friends will dedicate themselves to fight those who abuse their psychic powers and the Kamen Rider Club lends him their support, while the past Gentaro is approached by Haruto who returns his Fourze Driver and also gives him the same Magic Ring his future self used previously, claiming that he will eventually need it. After the credits, a gold-colored Kamen Rider makes a brief appearance.Wizard_and_Fourze_in_net_movieMovie Wars Ultimatum is a fun way to kill two hours if you just want to see a crossover between two particularly flashy Kamen Riders.

REVIEW: KAMEN RIDER WIZARD

TUTYUTYITIUITUITYITUIAfter a year of light-hearted fun with Kamen Rider Fourze, the 2012-2013 Kamen Rider series suggested that it would be taking things a little more serious once again. With an impressive arsenal of magic rings and a slightly more unorthodox costume design, Kamen Rider Wizard made his debut first giving off a showy fight in Fourze’s summer movie before returning  in the show’s finale.Kamen Rider Wizard Dragon StylesSix months prior to the beginning of the series, a mysterious ritual known as the Sabbath was held to give birth to magical creatures known as Phantoms, which are born from chosen humans (known as “Gates”) when they go into despair. Somehow Haruto Soma is able to survive the ritual, keeping his Dragon Phantom at bay inside of him. When the ritual ended, Haruto was met by a mysterious White Wizard who presented him with a girl who had lost her memories and a Wizardriver and rings to channel his magic powers. Becoming Kamen Rider Wizard, Haruto fights against the Phantoms – led by Wiseman and his henchmen Medusa, Phoenix and (later) Gremlin, to prevent more from being spawned.Kamen Rider Wizard HarutoEventually Haruto meets a man named Kosuke Nitoh, another wizard wielding ancient powers to become Kamen Rider Beast. Needing the mana of Phantoms to survive and satisfy the beast Chimera inside of him, Kosuke joins Haruto’s fight as the Phantoms plan to repeat the Sabbath once again. However lurking in the shadows is also the White Wizard, with his true intentions remaining unclear.Kamen Rider Wizard White WizardAfter a year of the loveable goofball that was Gentaro Kisaragi, Haruto is a very different Rider to get used to. Calm, stoic and ready to help at a moment’s notice, Haruto is perhaps the closest thing to a Showa-era style Kamen Rider in recent years. He’s a shockingly powerful Rider, boasting no less than 10 different forms in the show’s full run. He begins with four elemental forms (Fire, Water, Land and Hurricane) before having these upgraded with the power of his Dragon phantom. These four can also combine into one single Dragon style (which is used all of twice) before finally getting his ultimate form – Infinity Style.over-time-kamen-rider-wizard-41-13ada3f8-mkv_snapshot_17-00_2013-07-10_00-20-45After several series of a series secondary Rider to compliment the main one, it’s refreshing to see someone a bit more comedic to go alongside Haruto.Nitoh isn’t Haruto’s only ally against the Phantoms. Also appearing as regular characters are Wajima the ring maker, Koyomi (the girl from the Sabbath) and Rinko and Shunpei – two gates saved early on in the show. It’s harder to talk about the villains without giving away too many spoilers (and Wizard’s plot is one that heavily relies on its twists) but I will say that they are a mixed bunch overall. Wiseman is shrouded in mystery for the entire thing so there isn’t a lot to say, while Medusa is his loyal servant and does very little outside of crossing her arms, bossing people about and looking perturbed. The Phoenix Phantom is the true joy of the villains – a loose cannon that has little interest in some grand scheme and is just in it for destruction. Finally there’s Gremlin (or Sora as he’s rather be known as) – a Phantom with some pretty dark and twisted origins.Kamen Rider WizardAs I mentioned earlier the story of Kamen Rider Wizard is one that depends on build-up, suspense and plot twists. However it only makes good use of this in the final 15-20 episodes, with the rest of the episode count taken up by a “Gate of the Week” story line . When it does with these episodes it never looks back and the show has a massive turn around on quality. Wizard continues following the main story’s conclusion with an additional two episodes to celebrate 15 years of Heisei-era Kamen Rider and introduce the next Rider to the franchise – Kamen Rider Gaim. These episodes see Haruto enter a world populated by past Kamen Rider enemies, where two children are able to summon the past 13 Riders with the use of Rider Rings. Make no mistake these episodes are very silly, but perhaps one of the most fun crossovers I’ve seen in Kamen Rider. Even without actors returning to reprise their roles (although Masahiro Inoue returns as Tsukasa Kadoya/Decade, which is always welcome), this 2-parter still manages to bring the fun and leave a smile on your face. Which arguably is a bit strange for Wizard, but far from unwelcome.Kamen Rider Wizard SpecialsIn the end, flashy fight sequences and some impressive twists make wizard an enjoyable ride and one not to be missed.

REVIEW: KAMEN RIDER GHOST RE:BIRTH: KAMEN RIDER SPECTER

Ghost_v_cinima_specterTwo years after the conflict between the human and Ganma worlds have ended, Makoto and Alain are continuing their work to bring a blue sky back to the Ganma world. Just as a device built by Akari and Igor is about to be tested, a satellite crashes down from the sky. Inside is a man named Danton, who reveals he was imprisoned by Adonis for suggesting a very different means of immortality. As contact with Danton awakens long forgotten memories inside Makoto, he learns the truth behind both his and Kanon’s birth. This also brings him in conflict with Alain, who’s determined to honour his father and put a stop to Danton’s schemes at any cost.Kamen-Rider-Ghost-Rebirth-Kamen-Rider-SpecterAs the title suggests the film mainly belongs to Makoto, however it also brings forth the final step in the character who developed the most during Kamen Rider Ghost’s tenure – Alain. Unlike previous recent “Returns” films the narrative isn’t split into two different parts, but neither arc suffers from their as putting their friendship to the test is the far more interesting dynamic. It’s a classic story of two friends being pushed apart by differing ideologies but the same goal, which while by no means original has been Ghost’s mantra. When Alain takes to the podium at the end of the film to give a rousing speech about friendship, hope and the future (complete with an instrumental version of opening theme “Warera Omou, Yue Ni Warera Ari”) both the show and his character feel like they’ve come to a perfect end. Even for someone who disliked the show, it’s hard not to be somewhat moved.Kamen-Rider-Specter-CastDanton himself is also a great character – the kind that would quickly overstay their welcome in a full series but works perfectly for a one-off movie appearance. Danton has a certain charisma that often masks his true nature. His Evolude form isn’t particularly memorable, but the character himself, his powers and his place in the series are. Kamen-Rider-Specter-ClonesThese films are never just about providing a finite conclusion to a show though, their existence also means an opportunity to squeeze out a few more toys just to rope fans in one last time. In this case it’s the Yujou Burst and Sin Specter Eyecons, which transform Necrom and Specter into those respective forms. Necrom Yujou Burst Damashii is a friendship-powered flaming gold variant of Ghost’s Toucan Boost, while Sin Specter continues Specter’s thematic reversal of Takeru’s powers with a Mugen Damashii variant. While Ghost’s powers have always developed through transcendence and positive attributes like unity and hope, Specter’s are gained through corruption – initially “diving too deep” and culminating in this seven deadly sins themed form. While the achievement of the two forms is fairly glossed over in the film, both resonate well enough with the emotion packed into their respective scenes to work without a second thought. Necrom’s feels largely inconsequential, but it’s nice to see him getting some sort of power boost after being denied one throughout the entire show. Specter’s on the other hand signals the big finale fight sequence, showing off all manner of flashy special attacks. For a film that draws more heavily on the drama side of Kamen Rider the fight sequence is a great change of pace and not only delivers as the film’s best action piece, but one of Ghost’s as a whole.Kamen-Rider-Specter-Sin-SpecterKamen Rider Ghost RE:BIRTH: Kamen Rider Specter is one hell of a wild ride. fantastic action scenes and most of all an extremely satisfying end to the series.

 

REVIEW: KAMEN RIDER x SUPER SENTAI: CHOU SUPER HERO TAISEN

 

wrapper_1_origWhen the 1982 video game Xevious launches an full-scale attack on the real world, Emu turns to the video game “Chou Super Hero Taisen” for help – a world where Rider and Sentai clash led by Kamen Rider True Brave, a game version of Hiiro Kagami. For them to help, Emu must first win the game and earn the power of the Kamen Sentai Goriders. To do so, he forms a team with game versions of Momotaros/Kamen Rider Den-O, Kamen Rider Zolda, Beet Buster and AoNinger.Chou-Super-Hero-Taisen-XeviousAs Emu fights, the CR and Super Sentai members join forces to uncover the origin of Chou Super Hero Taisen. While Poppy and Naga Rei of the Kyurangers discover a young boy named Eito also living inside the game, Amu of the Zyuohgers uncovers the link between him and a case the real Hiiro has kept secret for the past yearChou-Super-Hero-Taisen-True-BraveWith Toei insistent that the majority of their crossover films must take some sort of “versus” format (even if it’s in name only), there’s always the problem of how you get two lots of superheroes to fight both conceivably and believably. Chou Super Hero Taisen gets around that by dropping them into the one place no one will ever question the logic behind it – a fighting game. Certainly there later comes the question of how exactly a child could have programmed a game with all these heroes, but with the video game-themed Kamen Rider Ex-Aid in the spotlight the idea fits perfectly. So much so that Bandai/Toei could have easily made an actual game out of it, as the five-member team concept has so much potential. Though many of the teams aren’t properly highlighted (it’s well worth looking up all the ones listed in the match-ups scene), the film does have a lot of fun with putting them together and the character selection segment for Team Ex-Aid is genuinely hilarious. It’s really wonderful to see Momotaros, Jin and Shuichi back. Yakumo less so, but to his credit he works great within the team and his inclusion was worth it just to set up an obvious (but definitely obligatory) Magi Yellow/Beet Buster joke.Chou-Super-Hero-Taisen-Character-SelectSpeaking of games Toei use their Bandai affiliation to good effect here by introducing classic Namco arcade games Xevious and Galaxian as the invading forces from the game world. Though not the only time actual games have been used in the context of Kamen Rider Ex-Aid, their implementation helps makes the show feel that little bit more “real” while at the same time giving off an added layer to that retro gaming vibe the show has going for itChou-Super-Hero-Taisen-Ex-Aid-KyurenohChou Super Hero Taisen also thankfully takes a leaf out of Super Hero Taisen Z’s book and focuses on a much smaller cast that doesn’t necessarily include the usual major players. The film is almost entirely led by the Ex-Aid cast, it does throw out a few surprises in terms of Super Sentai characters. Though present for the obligatory misunderstanding fight at the very beginning Lucky is actually absent for most of the runtime, with the Kyuranger quota filled by Naga and, to a lesser extent, Balance. As well as the BN thieves being two of the best characters in Kyuranger, Naga’s lack of emotions works perfectly alongside both Eito’s same infliction as well as Hiiro’s stoic disposition. Meanwhile it’s just Amu properly representing the Zyuohgers, which is great considering she was one of the more undeveloped characters in the show itself. What she gets here doesn’t really add anything of real value to her in terms of development, but it’s always nice to see how Sentai characters outside of their usual teams.Chou-Super-Hero-Taisen-Naga-Balance-AmuChou Super Hero Taisen is another excellent crossover films that sees some welcome returns and a few surprises. This is a must see for any Kamen Rider and Super Sentai fan.

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: KAMEN RIDER EX-AID

fewrfwfwafKamen Rider is a franchise that genuinely sticks to tradition, but every so often there comes a series that just seems to completely break away from the norm be it visually or thematically. With the titular Rider’s neon pink bodysuit, moulded hair helmet and anime-like eyes, it was immediately clear that Kamen Rider Ex-Aid was going to be one of those shows. Written by Lupin III Part 4’s Yuya Takahashi (who previously worked on Drive’s Type Tokujo specials) and directed by Toei veteran Shojiro Nakazawa (head director for Kamen Rider Wizard as well as numerous Sentai series), Ex-Aid brings video games and medicine together as it celebrates 45 years of the long-running franchise.Kamen-Rider-Ex-Aid-Lvl-2After having his life saved from an illness as a child, Emu Hojo’s life went in two new directions. He was inspired to practice medicine and become an intern at Seito University Hospital, and the WonderSwan console he was given by his doctor ignited an interest in video games – leading him to become the genius video gamer “M”. One day Emu discovers the game illness – a virus that infects humans and spawns creatures from the games known as Bugsters. Patients infected by the game illness are treated in secret by the CR (Cyberbrain Room), whilst the Bugsters are defeated by doctors using Gamer Drivers and Gashat cartridges to become Kamen Riders.Kamen-Rider-Ex-AidEmu joins CR, using the Mighty Action X Gashat to become Kamen Rider Ex-Aid. Also fighting against the Bugsters are the skilled surgeon Hiiro Kagami (Kamen Rider Brave), unlicensed radiologist Taiga Hanaya (Kamen Rider Snipe) and medical examiner Kiriya Kujo (Kamen Rider Lazer). Though sometimes at odds with each other, the four work together to collect the Gashats and prevent further spread of the Bugster virus. However at the centre of all this is games developer Genm Corporation and its president Kuroto Dan – creator of both the Gamer Driver and Gashats. As Rider and Bugster clash, the ultimate game draws ever closer to completion – Kamen Rider Chronicle.Kamen-Rider-Ex-Aid-KiriyaIf an argument ever needed to be made as to why a year-long show shouldn’t be judged solely on its first few episodes, you needn’t look much further than Kamen Rider Ex-Aid. This was a show that constantly evolved as it went on, neatly flowing into distinct arcs as the stakes were raised. The quirky antics of chibi level one Riders bouncing off of poorly realised CGI monsters seems pretty far detached from the MMOPRG madness of Kamen Rider Chronicle – where the general public are the players and one life is all you’ve got. And though the difference may not be quite as drastic, Chronicle in turn feels different to the arcs sandwiched between it in which the Dan family take their turn at having their respective god complex go off the deep end. Just as video games evolve the further you progress into them, Ex-Aid shifts as the characters gain more experience, beat the mid-tier bosses and learn of much bigger threats.c74nyj-vmaap8qp_origJust how much of this story was planned out from the get-go is another matter entirely though, it widely speculated that Ex-Aid went through several changes as time went on. Expectations were flipped in terms of production just as much as they were onscreen, as the long-standing tradition of an actor receiving their bouquet of flowers suddenly didn’t mean that their time on the show was definitely over and done. Just as lives and death are inconsequential in video games, Ex-Aid resurrects a number of fan favourites as its video game side clashes with the idea of mortality brought about by its medical side. Kamen-Rider-Ex-Aid-CronusEx-Aid makes has some some great character development throughout the series. With both the medicine and gaming elements of the show raising strong debates on life and death, there’s plenty of room for the characters to really shine. The show takes care to bring an element of humanity to the Bugsters, not just brushing them off as bits of data but instead properly acknowledging them as living beings in their own right. Just as a good doctor will treat a patient regardless of their life choices villains aren’t considered completely reprehensible, prompting some surprising redemption arcs as the show pushes forward.ex-aid-28On the subject of casts, Ex-Aid’s is quite easily among the most enjoyable and well-developed Kamen Rider has ever produced. Ryuki, Gaim and several other entries may have toyed around with larger casts, but Ex-Aid does a much better job of striking a balance between having a sizeable number of Riders and making sure each of them feels suitably fleshed out. Placing Emu as a medical intern works because it allows for the character to grow in experience both in and out of the suit, while at the same time giving him a youthful edge as a gamer. As the somewhat naïve intern he embodies the compassion and nobility a doctor should have, yet as a gamer maintains a somewhat cocky edge in battle (which in turn is actually a pretty important plot point).Kamen-Rider-Ex-Aid-Brave-SnipeIn contrast to Emu’s positivity are Hiiro, Taiga and Kiyira – all experienced Riders with their own personal demons and traumas from the initial Bugster outbreak five years prior. Hiiro maintains the composure of a no-nonsense surgeon detached from the emotional wellbeing of the patient, but behind that façade is a man emotionally broken over the loss of his girlfriend. Hiiro’s growth as a character starts off subtly, but culminates into something that’s both emotional and relatable to anyone who’s suffered a similar loss of a loved one. Meanwhile Taiga comes across as a jerk obsessed with collecting the Gashats for himself, but that in turn masks both his past guilt and a desire to shoulder all the responsibility himself. untitledThe introduction of Nico begins to bring out the best in him and the two together make a fantastic partnership. Finally Kiriya also blames himself for causing the death of a friend, manifesting in him keeping secrets and hiding the truth at the cost of getting close to others. It isn’t until they meet Emu that all three Riders are able to properly let go of these issues, in regaining both their passion and in some ways their humanity as well. Even when Toei are being Toei are severely under-using the only two female Riders the show has, both would still be excellent characters even if they’d never transformed in the first place. [Kissasian]_Kamen_Rider_Ex-Aid_28_Beyond_Your_Identity(10)Benevolent rhythm game Bugster Poppy Pipopapo might seem like a loud, colourful comedy character on face value, but is a exceedingly competent supporting character . Similarly Nico doesn’t in any way get the dues she deserves as a Ride Player, but quickly proves herself to be one of the strongest characters in the show – not only fighting alongside the main Riders despite the significant level difference but also fending off game illness infection on multiple occasions.Kamen-Rider-Ex-Aid-ParadoThe villains also shape up to be pretty great too. Kuroto Dan particularly as he’s more than just a character – he’s an experience. Actor Tetsuya Iwanaga hams up the role in a way that just has to be seen to be fully appreciated, cementing his meme-like status in the Kamen Rider fandom across the world. While an argument could be made for the character suffering from the law of diminishing returns, Kuroto is a pleasure to watch wherever his allegiance may lie. “Lead” Bugster Parado is another great villain produced by the show – a petulant gamer whose need to be recognised by Emu leads to a sadistic streak. Even lesser developed villains such as Graphite come off extremely well, offering an alternative viewpoint where a Bugster recognises and embraces their role as a video game villain.Kamen-Rider-Ex-Aid-CastFinally it also comes down to the core themes of the show, which is another element Ex-Aid seems to get spot-on. This review has already made several references to the conflicting concepts of mortality when it comes to both medicine and video games, but the blending of these two radically different elements works beyond that as well. While the stylised suits aren’t going to be to everyone’s tastes and the level one suits certainly take some getting used to, they definitely capture the aesthetic of video game Ex-Aid has in mind. Silly as some of them may seem, each suit and power-up represents a different genre or style of video game with powers befitting of it. While the games used within the series itself are all fictional (the Genm Hyper Battle Video however features some classic Namco Bandai titles), the catchy names and Gashat jingles really help give them a life of their own. Of course it also doesn’t stop inspiration and homages to real-life games cropping up every now and again, some of which are far from subtle. It also helps that the Gashats themselves are some of the better collectible trinkets to come out in some time, not only working thematically with the show but also tapping into the nostalgia of gamers from the cartridge-based days. Something like that won’t mean as much to the target audience of the show, but for older viewers it’s a nice throwback to their youth.Kamen-Rider-Ex-Aid-EmuKamen Rider Ex-Aid is an absolute joy. Rarely does a Kamen Rider series so brilliantly combine its differing themes into such a perfect package, with one of the most loveable casts in recent years. The series may end on a satisfying note but with further endings offered by both the summer movie and a trilogy of forthcoming V-cinema releases, there is still plenty of Ex-Aid action to still be excited about. After all, the game is forever.

 

REVIEW: KAMEN RIDER AMAZONS – SEASON 2

amazonss22There are two reasons why a second season of Kamen Rider Amazons was inevitable. Obviously the popularity of the Amazon Prime-exclusive spin-off (which later even received an edited television run) was a factor, but more importantly there was no way that Toei were going name each episode beginning with a different letter of the alphabet and then just stop at 13. So yes, Amazons is back for another 13 episodes of downbeat, colour-filtered gore and savagery – kicking things off with a hefty time skip, new protagonists and a few other surprises as well.amazons-orphans-ep2-01Following the release of Operation Tlaloc, Mamoru had left the Nozama Peston extermination group to live among the surviving Amazons whilst Haruka protected them from Jin’s attacks. Since then, Nozama Pharmacy has been restructured and a new organisation has risen to exterminate the remaining Amazons – 4C. Two years later they discovered Chihiro during a raid – a boy that appeared human but had the cannibalistic tendencies of an Amazon. After resisting experimentation, Chihiro eventually escaped 4C together with a new kind of Amazon Driver. Now five years on from the previous season, Chihiro rejects his Amazon urges by fighting the creatures as Kamen Rider Amazon Neo, working alongside independent Amazon hunters Team X. Kamen-Rider-Amazons-s2-ChihiroWhen the team crosses paths with 4C once more he meets Iyu – the first human he hasn’t had the overwhelming urge to eat. He also can’t sense that she is also a Sigma-type Amazon, implanted with the cells after her father killed and devoured her entire family. What follows is Chihiro’s resolve to prove the two of them as human, agreeing to work for 4C alongside Iyu. However it is revealed that the Amazon cells have become lysogenic, events unfold that tie Chihiro back to Jin, Haruka and everyone else involved all those years agoAZS2_d-1024x684

From the very moment Kamen Rider Amazons season two begins something doesn’t feel quite right. The previous season ended with very little real resolution, and now all of a sudden we’re five years into the future with a whole new cast. Things seem to generally gotten worse rather than better, and those few returning characters we see early on (for example Shido and Fukuda) have gone in very different directions and are quite unlike their former selves. Furthering this feeling of unease are the new characters, who lack the charm and charisma that the original cast did. While the Peston Service felt like a family, 4C’s extermination squad are cold in both their methods and personalities. Similarly Chihiro is a meek, whiny individual that’s difficult to gravitate towards as a main protagonist, and Iyu is quite literally a walking corpse with no semblance of a personality left. Throughout all the horror, gore and pain the first season of Amazons still had heart. Here everything feels empty, and it’s unsettling.Kamen Rider Amazons AlphaBut as the story finally begins to progress and Haruka, Jin and the rest of the returning cast start showing up everything starts falling into place – and the cold opening of season two begins to make sense. This is what happens when everything goes wrong, and from here on out Amazons is less of an “adult” take on the franchise and more a monster-based tragedy that was doomed from the start. There are no heroes here, and in some respects no real villains either – just people who make or have made mistakes with varying degrees of consequence. Chihiro’s Amazon biology and unwavering love for Iyu costs him plenty, which was in turn triggered by 4C’s dabbling in Sigma-type Amazonz. Haruka and the Peston Service’s failure to watch Mamoru has led to the once child-like Amazon to start an uprising, while every effort that Jin has made to correct his initial mistake of helping create the Amazonz just continues to be a downward spiral.Kamen-Rider-Amazons-Season-2-IyuThe effect is that Amazons season two is a pretty bleak affair from start to finish, with events heading towards their inevitable conclusion rather than being interrupted by any real signs of hope. The first season could be just as brutal at times, but the struggles and battles the characters faced came with a sense of victory no matter how short lived is was. Here any sort of win seems to come at a price, and by the end of the series the animosity between humanity and the remaining Amazonz is greater than ever. Neither side is right or wrong, and these episodes perfectly capture how both sides fluctuate between the two.Kamen_Rider_Amazons_13-M_12This season’s approach to characterisation also means it’s difficult to properly latch onto or root for a lot of the characters. Haruka may have begun the first season as timid and unsure of himself, but thanks to both Jin and the Peston Service’s influence he eventually outgrew that to become “champion” of the Amazons. Chihiro never gets any of that outside influence, so doesn’t progress like he did. His nature and impulses also begin to make a lot more sense as his origins are revealed, at which point he becomes an almost entirely sympathetic character – one you don’t necessarily want to see harm come to but deep down know that there isn’t any way around it. His growing relationship with Iyu is the only thing he’s confident in, and though primarily a slightly creepy infatuation with an emotionless husk there are some genuinely sweet moments as snippets of her original personality begin to bleed through. Amazons has a high body count in general but never before has the misery and suffering felt so personalKamen-Rider-Amazons-Season-2-HarukaFor the returning cast things are equally as grim, with Haruka acting almost as a witness to the horror surrounding him. Everything he has fought towards has fallen apart, and now even Mizuki stands against him as part of 4C. Meanwhile Jin has become more unhinged than ever, blinded and alone but as determined as ever to carry out his mission. He’s a loose cannon and his methods are extreme, but Jin is quite possibly the character that suffers the most. Perhaps the hardest change to swallow is Mamoru, who’s far from the glimmer of innocence he once was. His change from the heart and soul of 4C into antagonist is genuinely heartbreaking. The only thing more tragic is that he and his band of Amazon freedom fighters don’t even have the heart or stomach to properly carry out their goals – making their actions seem all the more desperateKamen-Rider-Amazons-Season-2-MamoruBut the change in story approach hasn’t had any effect on Amazons distinct aesthetic though, and if anything the grittiness it tries to convey feels all the more emphasised. Gore levels are at an all-time high, with the series now adding more even severed limbs, decapitation and more horrific ways of murder to its usual gallons of blood. Some of these moments dare a bit too much to push the show into “extreme territory”, but other moments of graphic horror (particularly the flashback to Iyu’s death or the Elephant Amazon’s methods) are effectively sickening. The trademark Amazons colour filter is also back in full-force, taking what is in actuality a rather brightly lit show and twisting it into something murky. For a short moment one episode even goes as far as to lift the filter, revealing to the audience just what the show really looks like behind it. The sudden surge of bright colours is extremely powerful even if the scene itself isn’t especially notable, and just goes to show how significant the filter has become to the show. You could come up with all sorts of theories about how this is a visual metaphor for the show’s inherent bleakness, but whether that’s the intention or not it’s undeniable that it fits perfectly.Kamen-Rider-Amazons-Season-2-New-OmegaNew Riders also means new suits, and the arrival of the Neo Amazons Driver brings an added technological aspect as well. On top of the mostly organic approach to the Amazon Riders, the new Driver also adds a layer of machine-like armour which gives Amazon Neo a rather unique appearance among his fellow “Rider Amazons”. There’s also an added ferocity to the transformation, with Neo burning far longer than Alpha or Omega ever did (an effect which while interesting, can obscure fight scenes from time to time). Sadly other than a nice twist on the fan-favourite “broken helmet” shot we only get a tease of what’s truly lurking under Neo’s armour, as the “true” Chihiro is mostly shown from a distance in the show’s most graphic (and arguably standout) sequenceKamen-Rider-Amazons-Season-2-True-FormWhile the Neo Driver aesthetic works brilliantly for Neo, the changeover for Omega (now dubbed “New Omega”) isn’t pulled off quite as well. From a story standpoint the change doesn’t really have a whole lot to offer either, since it doesn’t seem to function as a significant power boost and if anything Haruka seems to less successful in battle while using it. However the standard Amazonz are just as beautiful as ever, with Iyu’s Crow Amazon easily vying for “Rider” status even without the use of a Driver. With a much tighter focus on core cast members the more generic Amazonz feel more overshadowed than before (a select few notwithstanding), but that’s had no detrimental effect on the show’s caliber of suit design.Kamen Rider Amazons MamoruKamen Rider Amazons season two is a tragic, thought-provoking affair that’ll leave you with plenty of mixed emotions after each episode. Five years is all it’s taken for just about everything to go wrong, and after a slow start we truly experience the emotions behind the cast’s intentions, actions, and mistakes in a scenario where the “hero” is also the victim. The final episode ends with a sting for a potential third season.