zi_o_ultimate_posterOver the past 20 years the Kamen Riders have battled against the likes of the Grongi, Unknown, Fangire, Orphnoch, Greeed and so many more. They’ve been doctors, demon hunters, wizards and detectives. Some have journeyed through the decade and travelled through time, while others hail from parallel universes. But eventually all things come to an end, and as the curtain closes on the Heisei era a new one is about to begin. But before welcoming the Reiwa era with Kamen Rider Zero-One, Toei celebrated the longest consecutively-running period in Rider history with Kamen Rider Zi-O. As the 20th and final Heisei series Zi-O pays tribute to everything from Kamen Rider Kuuga all the way up to Kamen Rider Build, with plenty of guest stars and surprise developments to see the era off in style.14-FivemanIn the year 2018 Sougo Tokiwa is just a high school student who dreams of becoming a king. But fifty years into the future he will become Ohma Zi-O – the demon ruler of time who has harnessed the power of all Kamen Riders. When resistance fighters Tsukuyomi and Geiz Myokoin travel into the past attempting to prevent this apocalyptic future, Sougo is determined to become a benevolent ruler and prove his destiny isn’t set in stone.54511173_190579998587419_5902279553236073173_nAs a group known as the Time Jackers unleash monstrous “Another Riders” across time in an attempt to alter the history of the Heisei Riders, Sougo battles to save the time space continuum as Kamen Rider Zi-O. Aided by Tsukuyomi and Geiz as well as his future retainer Woz, Sougo meets the Riders of the past – gathering their powers while also creating a new future without the threat of Ohma Zi-O.Kamen-Rider-Zi-O-Time-JackersThe mantle of an anniversary series comes with certain expectations, and when said anniversary is the swan song to a whole era there’s a lot of pressure to do something big. And Kamen Rider Zi-O is a series not afraid to dream big. Right from the get go it offers a time travelling plot line, bringing back past Riders as the events of their shows became entangled in Zi-O’s own story. But it wasn’t plain sailing from the start, and tackling time travel always presents problems. Initially Zi-O proved divisive as it played fast and loose with Rider continuity, while at the same time setting rather strict rules its own story had to play by. Issues like how the Another Riders come into existence and how they’re destroyed had explanations, others such as why Sento Kiryu in a world without Kamen Rider Build would still be Sento Kiryu did not. As enjoyable as Zi-O could be, it said a lot that its plot holes were often the butt of jokes in comedic webisodes.hqdefaultThese early teething problems are no fault of the cast though, who all settle into their roles quickly and develop nicely over the course of the series. So Okuno brings a youthful charm to Sougo, brilliantly painting him as heroic and optimistic, firm in his dream no matter how delusional it seems. These qualities make him the perfect for both interacting with and leaving an impression on others, as well as leaving the viewer curious to see just how this boy could ever become the ruthless Ohma Zi-O. Sougo has the perfect foil in the stubborn and battle-hardened Geiz, and although Gaku Oshida’s portrayal can be (understandably given the context) irritating in his obstinance, Geiz’s growing trust in Sougo over the course of the series is among its stronger character moments. Tsukuyomi (played by Shieri Ohata) on the other hand is disappointingly short changed in how active her role is, though later plot revelations do try to make up for this. Finally there’s Woz, who strikes a fine line between comedy and moral ambiguity in his fanaticism of his overlord. Not to mention Keisuke Watanabe playing two different versions of him came completely out of left-field, and he does a fine job of it too.D1Kcar0VsAEmX8c.jpgUnfortunately the same high praise can’t be said of the villains. Not that any of them are especially bad by any means, more that plot seems content to keep them shrouded in mystery. Despite boasting some really strong appearances the over-looming presence of Ohma Zi-O remains more of a threat than a promise, so rarely does it feel like the Sougo we follow could become this tyrant. Similarly the Time Jackers are a constant presence yet their motivation and background is barely a footnote, until the story sheds some light on just one of them at the very end. It’s not that they’re bad characters, more that after several years of engaging and/or multi-layered villains they just seem very one-note.Kamen-Rider-Zi-O-Grand-Zi-OHowever when Zi-O finally lets go of all the rules it initially imposed upon itself, it becomes a cleverer and far more enjoyable series. The introduction of a series of “Future” Riders hailing from an altered timeline is an unexpected move for something which logically should be preoccupied with celebrating the past, but it offered the chance for a different kind of guest star as well as a reminder that Kamen Rider should always be looking toward the future. While Kamen Riders Shinobi, Quiz and Kikai will never get their own series, it’s fun to speculate on what they could have been as we inch closer to the beginning of Zero-One.65579730_337462070477383_7658486956301389148_nThe fact this change roughly times with Tsukasa Kadoya’s arrival as a reoccurring cast member as opposed to a one-off guest can’t be a coincidence. Like Zi-O, Kamen Rider Decade also tried to go big with its ideas on how to celebrate an anniversary – perhaps even more so as it attempted to do it with alternate universe Riders rather than the real deal. But while it’s generally agreed that Decade’s story failed to live up to its promises, it still manages to stand out thanks to the strength of its cast and the sheer spectacle of its more memorable moments. At this point it feels like Zi-O tries to follow a similar path, as issues like past Riders being erased by the creation of Another Rider or the cost of Geiz using his Revive form are either hand waved away or just outright forgotten. Bigger things like just who the hell Kamen Rider Ginga is don’t even matter. Rider continuity is brought into question once again with the late game revelation that each series takes place in its own world, which in itself highlights how much of a frustrating mess Zi-O is if you sit down and try to think about it too hard. But sit back, just accept what you see on screen and the show becomes a non-stop thrill ride that wastes no opportunity to celebrate the Heisei era in a variety of interesting ways.65958504_450158958864662_2913833760682147840_nWhereas in the first half merging the Fourze and Faiz episodes to make a funny little number pun was about as clever as the tributes got (depending on how you feel about an OOO tribute essentially being turned into the Kuroto Dan show that is), the second half takes a deep dive into each shows’ respective histories to make them truly exciting for fans. Both Blade and Hibiki get continuations that either redeem past mistakes or offer closure, while the Kabuto arc finally gives Arata Kagami the moment he’s always deserved. Meanwhile the Agito arc presents a neat spin on the Another Rider concept, and the loud out loud fun of the Imagin returning in the Den-O episodes is just further evidence as to why that show got so many sequels and spin-offs. Many of these tributes come complete with the shows’ original insert music to make them feel all the more complete.D1Kcar0VsAEmX8cThen of course there’s the cameos. With the exception of Kuuga there is representation from all 19 of the previous Heisei series, some much more significant than others (Fourze and Kiva fans should also prepare for disappointment). In many of the cases where the lead character was unavailable the show does its best to bring back someone that will resonate with the fandom, and as it approaches its endgame these cameos become all the more unexpected and exciting. No one truly expected to see Kamen Rider Aqua from Movie Wars Megamax again, let alone in a multi-part story arc that would see him face off against Kamen Rider Eternal. It might not be quite on something like Gokaiger’s level when it comes to scale, but when add up the numbers and it certainly isn’t that far off. But once again leading this charge is Tsukasa, with Masahiro Inoue completely stealing the show like he never left the franchise. Whether you love it or loathe it there’s no denying that Kamen Rider Decade was a troubled production, so it’s amazing to have him (along with Daiki Kaito/Kamen Rider Diend) back to continue their story. Of course in traditional Decade fashion his appearance and new powers raise all sorts of questions, none of which are likely to ever be answered. But Decade somehow manages to be that one area in the franchise where it never really matters, and that’s all down to just how good Inoue is in the role.65579730_337462070477383_7658486956301389148_nThe visual side of things also live up to the expectations of an anniversary series, with plenty of older suits (some in better condition that others) being brought out of the Toei store cupboard for a range of varied and exciting action scenes. The base suits for Zi-O, Geiz and Woz are all wonderfully designed with their different watch aesthetic and unique “Rider” eye pieces, with subsequent upgrades taking them all in different directions. Kamen Rider gaudiness reaches a new level with Grand Zi-O – covered head to toe in gold busts of each Heisei Rider along with a nearly two-minute belt jingle encompassing all of their individual sounds. Though they never get through all 19 in the show itself the Ride Armours are another really fun concept, and like how the shows themselves have evolved over the years the designs vary from restrained to outright ridiculous. The way the design team were able to take pieces of older suits and repurpose them into four unique-looking “future” Riders just highlights the level of ingenuity the design team had working on this show. But when it comes to design alone the real winners of the series are of course the Another Riders. The Ayakashi Diend from Decade’s Shinkenger crossover was far too good of an idea to only use once, so Zi-O bringing it back to produce monster equivalents to every Heisei Rider as well as the new future Riders really is a delight. As well as the sheer level of detail that went into each suit they all have their own individual quirks, many of which pervert those of the original Riders in subtle ways. The Another Riders are so good that it’s not only hard to pick a favourite, but also to pick a least favourite.imagesThough it may often struggle with the logistics and consistency of its lofty story, Kamen Rider Zi-O is a highly enjoyable series that excels where it truly counts – as a true celebration of the Heisei era. With only a few omissions to speak of nearly every series from the past 20 years is properly celebrated in some way – be it through guest appearances, clever call backs or even continuations that build upon established continuity. A true love for all things Kamen Rider shines throughout the show, and because of that even in its weaker moments it’s hard not watch with a huge grin on your face. As the last time fans may see some of these characters in any significant capacity, Kamen Rider Zi-O is a goodbye worth savouring.

REVIEW: Kamen Rider Drive Saga: Kamen Rider Brain

Kamen-Rider-Drive-Saga-Kamen-Rider-BrainLike many Japanese shows Kamen Rider has been known to put out some great April Fools’ jokes over the years, but no matter how great they’d be as a real thing they usually stay as just that – a joke. However clearly the power of Kamen Rider Drive shouldn’t be underestimated, as the 2017 joke has now become reality with the release of Kamen Rider Drive Saga: Kamen Rider Brain. Originally “teased” to be coming out in 2035, this two-part Toei Tokusatsu Fan Club exclusive fulfils the Rodimude’s comment about eventually becoming a Rider himself at the end of Drive Saga: Kamen Rider Heart as well as technically making him both the last of the Heisei era Kamen Riders and the first Reiwa era Rider.Drive-Saga-Kamen-Rider-Brain-KidnappedBrain wakes up to find himself rebuilt and the hostage of Mu – an evil organisation made up of past Kamen Rider enemies who plan to conquer the world using the Roidmude’s high brain power. After being saved from brainwashing by Professor Crystal Peppler, Brain suddenly displays the ability to turn into a Rider himself – Kamen Rider Brain! Hunted down by Mu’s forces, Brain puts his new abilities to the test before a final showdown with the organisation’s great leader.Drive-Saga-Kamen-Rider-Brain-RoidmudesAs an immediate disclaimer, anyone expecting Kamen Rider Drive Saga: Kamen Rider Brain to be a proper continuation of the Kamen Rider Drive story or something on a similar level to Kamen Rider Heart are probably going to be disappointed. Given that it was born out of an April Fools’ joke it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that Kamen Rider Brain is a comedy first and foremost, lampooning the classic Showa era Rider set up whilst playing up the character’s comic personality more than ever before. At only two episodes (with running times of seven and 14 minutes) it’s also incredibly short, so barely has much in the way of a story to begin with.Drive-Saga-Kamen-Rider-Brain-Glasses-BladeBetween the various Hyper Battle Videos and other web-exclusive specials Kamen Rider has produced some pretty fantastic comedy skits over the years, so Kamen Rider Brain is in pretty comfortable territory. Comedy is ultimately subjective but it feels fair to say that Kamen Rider Brain isn’t exactly the funniest thing Kamen Rider has ever put out (for me 555’s Hyper Battle Video still remains the gold standard), but when it does land a joke it does it particularly well. The whole first episode, which perfectly sends up the creation of the original Riders along with a snarky commentary from Brain himself is particularly great. It does become a little frustrating later on however when it’s abundantly clear that this special is nothing BUT comedy, as it would have been nice to see Brain get something that does have some genuine meat to it. That said, Kamen Rider Brain only exists thanks to just how much actor Shota Matsushima loves the character and you can tell he’s loving every second of this. Similarly revelling in his role is Chris Peppler, who may not be back as Krim Steinbelt but arguably has even more fun briefly playing the hilariously named Crystal Peppler.Drive-Saga-Kamen-Rider-Brain-Crystal-PepplerAnother reason to watch this however is for the suit itself. Kamen Rider Heart’s suit may have been divisive, but here once again Toei prove that they can kit-bash an older suit into something new and absolutely make it work. Kamen Rider Brain may be a reworking of Drive’s costume but the added cape and helmet detailing give it life of its very own. The fact they were able to rework Ghost’s SunglassesSlasher into a weapon that’s both completely fitting for the character AND make a joke out of it is just brilliant. The suit looks so good that it’s almost a shame that it was made for a one-off comedy piece like this, and it’s no surprise that Bandai Tamashii Nations haven’t passed up the opportunity to release it in the S.H. Figuarts line.Drive-Saga-Kamen-Rider-Brain-Old-VillainsWith Mu made up of past villains from across the Heisei era, it’s always fun to see old suits again even if they do appear for no rhyme or reason. Especially when there’s some more uncommon/recent ones in the mix, such as Another Para-DX, Dark Ghost and even Kamen Rider Poseidon. What they’re doing hanging around with the likes of Gremlin, the Cancer Zodiarts or Kamen Rider Duke is anyone’s guess, but since they’re only here to get beaten by Brain why not go with a diverse cast of villains rather than the same old favourites? But perhaps the most interesting thing coming out of Kamen Rider Brain is the suggestion that Drive’s story may not be over quite yet. While this special might not offer much in the way of wrapping up some of the series’ loose ends, its conclusion feels almost foreshadowy in the way it addresses the current state of Brain, Heart, Medic and of course Chase. The ship may have long since sailed on any more epilogue movies in the same vein as Kamen Rider Heart, but clearly Toei know there’s still potential in Drive’s story. Could Chase and Gou be reunited one day the same way Eiji and Ankh briefly were in Heisei Generations FINAL? Only time will tell.560x315mvKamen Rider Drive Saga: Kamen Rider Brain is fun, but the kind of inconsequential fun you can take or leave depending on how into the character you are or how you feel about Kamen Rider Drive as a whole. Some jokes don’t land quite as well as the writers might have hoped, but there’s definitely enough laughs in here to warrant a watch. And at the very least, it gives all hope to all April Fools’ jokes past and future that something may one day come of them.


Heisei_Generations_FOREVERAn end of an era deserves a proper send-off, and after 20 series’ worth of memories it’s finally time to say goodbye to the Heisei era of Kamen Rider. After hastily jumping the gun titling the previous film Heisei Generations FINAL, Toei have decided to round off the Heisei Generations trilogy of films with the more inspiring sounding Kamen Rider Heisei Generations FOREVER. Like the previous films in the series the film serves as a crossover between both the current and preceding Riders, in this case Kamen Rider Zi-O and Kamen Rider Build. However as part of the 20 Kamen Rider Kicks celebration it also includes appearances from all 20 Heisei era Riders, with particular reference to Kamen Rider Kuuga, Kamen Rider Den-O and Kamen Rider W.Kamen-Rider-Heisei-Generations-ForeverSomething is happening to the memories of the Kamen Riders. As Sougo Tokiwa and Myokoin Geiz struggle with memory loss during an encounter with Another Den-O, Kiryu Sento and Ryuga Banjou are confused to find their former comrades with their memories of their original Earth intact as they face off against Another Double. This is all the work of the Time Jacker Tid, who announces a plan to destroy the legacy of the Heisei Riders and rule the planet himself.Kamen-Rider-Heisei-Generations-Forever-Another-Den-O-Another-DoubleJust as Sento encounters a young boy named Shingo, Sougo is approached by Ataru – a high schooler who claims to have the ability to draw out Kamen Riders. As Riders team up to put a stop to Tid, they discover the full extent of how the pair are linked to the Time Jacker’s schemes.Kamen-Rider-Heisei-Generations-Forever-TidGiven that large scale crossovers have been a pretty common occurrence in Kamen Rider for some time now, the novelty of having every Heisei Rider appear in Heisei Generations FOREVER wouldn’t cut it the same way seeing them all side by side in Kamen Rider Decade: All Riders vs. Dai-Shocker did back in 2009. As the swan song of the Heisei era takes a rather different approach when it comes to celebrating the past 20 series of Kamen Rider, directly targeting the fan experience rather than the content of the shows themselves. Just as it deals with time travel between now and the dawn of the Heisei era back in January 2000, Heisei Generations FOREVER goes meta and plays with Kamen Rider as a show that continued to inspire over the past 19 years. It doesn’t always work quite as smoothly as the film hopes, but it’s a bold take absolutely fitting of a film as significant as this.Kamen-Rider-Heisei-Generations-Forever-MetaEarly Zi-O’s grasp of time travel was often questionable so it’s best not to put too much thought into just how the Build team’s appearance works here in correlation with how their arc in the Zi-O series was left. All you need to really know is that they’re here, it’s set after the events of Build and that the two teams are already somewhat familiar with each other. The characters work particularly well together, as Sougo’s more emotionally and instinctually-driven heroism is a good match for the Sento’s more methodical approach. Likewise disciplined Geiz and hot-headed Ryuga are similarly well-matched, particularly given the pair’s difference when it comes to personality and comic timing. The film does a good job of working the rest of the Build cast into the story without completely undoing the show’s ending , and it’s always nice to see Rogue and Grease back doing their thing. Especially when the anniversary nature of the film allows a certain Kazumi joke we’ve all been thinking to finally be made.Kamen-Rider-Heisei-Generations-Forever-Den-OEven the film’s unique characters are particularly strong. Tid might be fairly single-minded in his villainy but it’s nice to encounter a Time Jacker whose intentions are made clear, even if there’s unfortunately no interaction with his series peers. Heisei Generations FOREVER also leans heavily into Den-O lore on top of Zi-O’s own version of time travel, referencing both singularity points as they were known in the series as well as introducing a new Imagin in the form of Futaros. But key to the whole story are Shingo and Ataru, who as Rider fans themselves represent the audience more closely than ever. It’s a nicely done story with some very touching visuals, and both actors sell their respective characters extremely well.Kamen-Rider-Heisei-Generations-Forever-Zi-O-BuildThe revelation that in their world Kamen Riders are fictional takes the film down an interesting path, but given the shaky foundations of Zi-O’s time travel bringing in meta-verse ideas comes with its own questions. It’s presentation isn’t quite as simple as “Kamen Rider is a television show”, so when analysed closely some of the finer elements either aren’t explained or don’t hold up to scrutiny. It also results in a particularly slow style of storytelling that builds up to these revelations, relying on very limited Rider action in the interim. However there isn’t exactly much in the way of suspense since all the big revelations are very clearly signposted, so waiting for the film to get to explanations so it can move on can be a bit of a slog. It’s moments of existentialism are well worth the wait though, particularly with Build handling similar themes albeit on very different terms.Kamen-Rider-Heisei-Generations-Forever-Double-ArmourAnother issue is the amount of returning cast members the film has. The Build’s cast return were a given, but a lot of Zi-O’s charm (especially during those ropier early episodes) was the amount of returning characters the series had to celebrate the occasion. Despite the appearances of three Another Riders in this film, in terms of cameos the film only really celebrates one of their respective series. Given that said cameo is none other than Takeru Satoh (an actor who seemed long passed his days in Kamen Rider) reprising his role as Den-O’s Ryotaro Nogami (appearing along with both Owner and the Imagin crew) this is certainly nothing to scoff at, but even his appearance feels strangely done as we don’t see him outside of being possessed by Urataros. Kuuga’s involvement in the film is purely based in it being the first Heisei series, and Kamen Rider W’s is much less obvious. Masaki Suda (Phillip) was originally offered to appear the film in a similar vein to Satoh but ultimately had to decline, so what’s left is a slight detour to Futo City so that Sougo can pick up the Double Ride Watch from the Master of Fumen in a very quick scene. Zi-O has proved that you don’t always need the main star to come back to perform a fitting tribute, but it’s a shame that none of the other core cast members, or anyone from Kuuga for that matter, couldn’t be brought back to fill that Suda-shaped hole.UntitledBut as frustrating as these complaints are it’s hard not to smile when all 20 Riders finally appear on screen, culminating in an explosive (if CGI heavy) finale that Kamen Rider films have always excelled at. Imagery such as an onlooker transforming back into a child fan at the sight of Kuuga pull at the heartstrings, illustrating perfectly just how the franchise brings out the inner child in all of us. They aren’t quite as effective as similarly presented scenes in OOO, Den-O, All Riders: Let’s Go Kamen Riders, but they still get the job done. The introduction of two new power ups for Zi-O also nicely encapsulate just how much Kamen Rider has changed over the years. While the Double Armour proudly displays the show’s gimmicks in gaudy fashion much like many of the other Rider Armours, the Kuuga Armour is sleek and harks back to a much simpler time. Both have their merit, and though the Kuuga Armour could have perhaps done more in the film it’s still great to see them both here.KRHeiseiGenerationsForever-620x320Kamen Rider Heisei Generations FOREVER is a clunky and often frustrating film, but its heart is always in the right place. It’s clear that the filmmakers wanted to tell a different kind of story to round out the Heisei era, and though it could have arguably done far more to send it off in style their love for Kamen Rider consistently shines through. Takeru Satoh’s long awaited return will undoubtedly be its main talking point for many, its ability to evoke a certain sense of nostalgia and fondness for the franchise are what really make it stand out. Though the weakest of the three Heisei Generations films, it’s undoubtedly the most ambitious.


Rider_Time_Shinobi_title_cardCelebrating 20 series of Heisei era Kamen Rider is one thing, but Kamen Rider Zi-O definitely has some lofty goals when started playing around with the future of the franchise as well. But even though the future Riders of the years 2022, 2040 and 2121 certainly won’t be getting series of their very own when the time comes, conceptually they’re just too good to simply be relegated to one-off appearances. Clearly Toei felt the same, as Kamen Rider Shinobi returned in a three-part miniseries exclusive to the Toei Tokusatsu Fan Club – Rider Time: Kamen Rider Shinobi. The miniseries sees Hideya Tawada (Ninninger’s Kinji Takigawa/Star Ninger) reprise his role as the titular Kamen Rider, as Lupinranger vs Patranger writer Kaori Kaneko introduces us properly to his own time.815ATk+GGtL._SY445_In the year 2022 the world is headed toward environmental disaster. In order to preventthis, mankind has turned to the path of the ninja – harnessing their elemental powers to create a natural energy source. The Government then passed the “Ninja Nation Act” to make ninja training mandatory, and thus Japan became a ninja nation. However operating in the shadows are the Rainbow Serpents, a ninja clan secretly behind the Japan’s sudden shortage of resources. Standing in their way is Rentaro Kagura, who fights as the legendary ninja Kamen Rider Shinobi.Rider-Time-Shinobi-Isamichi-KonjoAt only three 15-minute long episodes Rider Time: Kamen Rider Shinobi doesn’t exactly have a lot of time to tell a very thorough story, especially since it’s not working off the back of established characters like most Kamen Rider spin-off media does. So to counter that it takes the sensible approach of keeping it relatively simple – creating a rich background to garner interest but keeping the content of the episodes themselves predominantly light-hearted. Between the events leading up to the Ninja Nation Act and the implications of the Rainbow Serpents, there’s plenty on offer here that Kamen Rider Shinobi could work with if it were a full series. But alas it isn’t so a relatively low-key character-focused piece will have to do. And though it’s style of comedy is fairly basic, getting a secondary Rider (Kamen Rider Hattari) on top of Shinobi himself isn’t a bad deal at all.Rider-Time-Shinobi-RentaroSimilarly there isn’t a whole lot of time to get to know the characters either, but the simplicity of the plot allows the few main characters to settle into their roles without any significant problems. Rentaro the audience will already be familiar with from his episodes in Zi-O, but it’s nice to see him completely in his own story and environment. His façade of being an inept ninja outside of the suit works well for concealing his identity, and actor Tawada uses his Ninninger experience to create a similarly likeable character. Meanwhile Iroha presents herself as a capable ninja in her own right, and if this were a fully-fledged Rider series it wouldn’t be far-fetched to see her become a Kamen Rider herself somewhere down the line (or maybe it would given Toei’s track record). Isamichi/Hattari is a little more forgettable given the character’s motivation hinges almost entirely on comic relief, but for a self-contained thing like this it’s hardly worthy of complaint.Rider-Time-Shinobi-YamininWith Toei not even patching up the Kamen Rider Ryuki suits for their respective miniseries there was never going to be a huge budget poured into Shinobi, but it’s hard not to be impressed with the way they’ve used what resources they did have. Both the Shinobi and Hattori suits (like the other future Riders that appeared in Zi-O) have been kitbashed from ones from previous shows, with Shinobi built from an Ex-Aid Ride Player and Dark Necrom while Hattori is a retooled Dark Drive. Even the mooks are from a different series, with Fourze’s Dustards rearing their head once again. This might all sounds pretty slapdash on paper, but what’s really amazing is just how well it actually works. Despite the resused elements the suits not only look good, they have their own identity and look as if they’d fit in with the mainline Riders. As for the Dustards, they feel far more at home here than they ever did on Kamen Rider Fourze. On top of all that you then have the few original elements that have been inserted in, which don’t play a huge part in the story itself but help give Shinobi a flavour that isn’t just reconstituted from other shows. Those giant animal mecha may only appear as part of the transformation sequences, but they immediately grab your attention as something you’d want to see more of if this was a full-length series.Rider-Time-Shinobi-KaguraBut what’s perhaps the best thing of all about Kamen Rider Shinobi is just how unashamedly old-school it feels. While a lot of that of course comes from the ninja motif, it’s also just refreshing to watch a simple Kamen Rider production free of flashy gimmicks, multiple forms and obvious toy sales. Instead you just get two Riders with very basic transformation trinkets and weaponry, and instead the action sequences rely on that alone. While it may not have the kind of effects budget you’d get in a proper Rider series, it’s definitely enough to hold your interest. At the same time the fact it primarily uses woodland scenery for its action sequences break it away nicely from the rut of familiar locations you usually get from Toei productions.Rider-Time-Shinobi-Kamen-Rider-ShinobiAlthough it remains fairly basic in what it sets out to do, Rider Time: Kamen Rider Shinobi is a fun little miniseries that just goes to show how many themes and motifs still remain untapped by the franchise. It might not have the same weight that Rider Time: Kamen Rider Ryuki did, as a proof of concept it works surprisingly well. Even when they’re kitbashed out of existing parts the suits look fantastic, and the characters all work despite the minimal back story involved. Considering this was something that could have been very easily left to just a two-part story arc in Kamen Rider Zi-O, Toei have got some surprising mileage out of the 2022 Kamen Rider.


20155732_892170100923629_1471179455307126854_nEveryone should know by now that the end of Kamen Rider series is never the last we see of its characters. Besides the various crossover movies that will keep bringing back characters for years to come, for the past five years or so each series has consistently received one or more V-cinema sequels focusing on some of the other Riders that appeared. That trend has followed through to Kamen Rider Build, which puts the spotlight on fan-favourite Ryuga Banjou in Kamen Rider Build NEW WORLD: Kamen Rider Cross-Z. The film enjoyed a brief theatrical release at the beginning of 2019 before arriving on Blu-Ray a few months later, with a special edition bundled with Cross-Z’s new Muscle Galaxy Fullbottle.NEW-WORLD-Kamen-Rider-Cross-Z-BanjouAfter defeating Evolto and successfully merging the world, Sento Kiryu and Ryuga Banjou are the only one with memories of the Sky Wall or the Pandora Box. But as they begin to rebuild their lives in this brand new world, a new enemy emerges from the white Pandora Box panel. After identifying itself as Evolto’s older brother Killbus, the alien begins his own plans to utilise the power of the Box and destroy the planet.Kamen-R-der-Build-NEW-WORLD-Kamen-Rider-Cross-ZHowever Killbus isn’t the only one that’s survived. When the fate of the world lies in the hands of Banjou, he finds an unlikely ally in his greatest enemy. Evolto has also returned, and Killbus’ resurrection of the Pandora Box also results in others regaining their memories of the former world.NEW-WORLD-Kamen-Rider-Cross-Z-KillbusFor the most part Kamen Rider V-cinema releases have to be fairly limited in scope. Acting as an epilogue of sorts to their respective series means that the overall threat has been extinguished, and so unless they dive into prequel/side story territory they’re usually more about mopping up any remnants that are left over. Unfortunately because Kamen Rider Build ended a lot cleaner than previous series, NEW WORLD: Kamen Rider Cross-Z hasn’t been left with a whole lot to work with. So rather than come up with something new and find a clever way to work around these limitations, the film goes about systematically undoing every finite part of Build’s ending in this most convenient ways possible. Any impact that ending had is lost in the first 15 minutes or so, and by the end of film the victory the team had achieved is left hollow and meaningless. A hero’s work may never truly be done, but NEW WORLD: Kamen Rider Cross-Z is less taking the band-aid off and more just ripping open the wound.NEW-WORLD-Kamen-Rider-Cross-Z-YuiLet’s start with Killbus, as Kamen Rider takes a leaf out of Dragon Ball Z’s book and casts its villain as the stronger, eviler brother of the main series’ greatest threat. But while Cooler is just a dumb bit of fun that is mostly ignored by Dragon Ball canon, Killbus just messes around with Build’s in the most unsightly of ways. Suddenly Evolto isn’t meant to seem all that bad in comparison to his brother who’s obsessed with nothing but destruction, and the way the film seems to paint Evolto’s stealing of the Pandora Box to “protect it” as some sort of heroic act just comes across as flat out bizarre. Killbus takes every complaint about Evolto being a less interesting villain as time went on and double downs on it, as if the writers’ are trying to prove a point about how much worse it could have been.NEW-WORLD-Kamen-Rider-Cross-Z-Cross-Z-EvolHe’s not alone either, since the film also brings Evolto back in a reluctant hero role to face off against his brother. While the way he’s resurrected makes sense from what we’ve seen of the character and how he’s able to control his cells, the fact he’s resurrected proper is the biggest way the film spits in the face of the show’s conclusion. It could have easily been a temporary resurrection that ends with his powers dissipating in film’s climax (especially as he merges with Banjou for his Cross-Z Evol form), but instead we have the cast not only willingly help make him stronger again but also allow him to leave Earth at the film’s end. Much like the oversight of leaving Phoenix continually get stronger as he repeatedly dies in the heart of the sun in Kamen Rider Wizard (how I wish that would be addressed one day), letting the villain that very nearly tore the planet apart to run around freely “regaining his strength” seems like a pretty big mistake. It raises the question of whether Shugo Moto had any idea he’d be writing any more Build after he completed the series proper, as he clearly felt he’d written himself into a corner with that ending.NEW-WORLD-Kamen-Rider-Cross-Z-Grease-RogueThe real silver lining here is seeing all of the main Build cast back in action again. Having Kazumi, Gentoku, Misora and Sawa eventually regain their memories is the one part of Build’s ending that was going to be inevitably undone, and is done pretty well. Even though Build himself is conveniently out of action for the film it’s great to see the gang back together, with Grease and Rogue picking up that brilliant dynamic they’d developed by the end of the series.



6e688f8c-f5a8-407d-8d66-62821baba17a-nogoodnick_101_unit_00008rAs the final farewell to Heisei era of Kamen Rider, there was no way that Kamen Rider Zi-O wasn’t going to go all out in celebrating the past 20 years of the franchise. The time travelling series has paid tribute to both the past and potential future of Kamen Rider, with numerous special guest actors returning to reprise their roles from their respective series. But when it comes to the obligatory spin-offs the show has, no one could have expected Rider Time: Kamen Rider Ryuki – a three-part miniseries that serves as a sequel to 2002’s Kamen Rider Ryuki. Airing exclusively on Japan’s Video Pass streaming service, the miniseries was written by original series co-writer Toshiki Inoue and brings back several members of the original cast to reprise their roles.maxresdefault (1)It’s been 16 years since the conclusion of the Rider Battle, with its participants having carried on without any memories of their time fighting in the Mirror World. However a mysterious person restarts the conflict once again, with its participants fighting to regain their lost memories as well as simply survival. Shinji and Ren are fated to meet once again, joining faces both new and old – some of whom remember the fight all those years ago. Meanwhile outside of the Mirror World Sougo Tokiwa and Geiz Myokoin face a different enemy as Another Ryuki goes on the rampage. How are these two incidents connected, and who will claim victory in the newest Rider Battle?maxresdefaultOf all the Heisei era series with potential for a sequel spin-off, Kamen Rider Ryuki is easily one of the most interesting ones to use given its ending. While there are plenty of Kamen Rider series readily open to more adventures, tackling the one that deals with a large cast, time loops and an ending where the characters forget the events of the entire show is definitely ambitious. But right from the get-go Rider Time: Kamen Rider Ryuki has that unmistakeable feel of an early Heisei-era Kamen Rider show, from its murkier visuals to strong mystery element. The brutality of the early noughties Riders hasn’t been lost either, and as has been the case with many Rider spinoffs of late Inoue uses that streaming platform status to take it considerably above what Japanese television these days would likely allow.Rider-Time-Ryuki-SaraThe three-episode structure doesn’t offer a lot of time to dedicate to character development, but that doesn’t prevent Inoue from expanding on the Ryuki cast in a reasonably satisfying way. But though the continuation of Shinji and Ren’s relationship and how it compares now after all they’ve been through is certainly a draw, it’s the way that it plays some of the other characters that proves much more interesting. Asakura is still his wild, bloodthirsty self but this time he’s partnered up with Gorou – taking over from his master Kitaoka as Kamen Rider Zolda. Though the story only alludes to Kitaoka’s fate it does a great job of highlighting both Asakura and Gorou’s feelings towards him. The miniseries also rewrites Miyuki (Raia) and Jun (Gai) as gay, and for the purpose of this Rider Battle at least lovers too. Though the scene confirming it may be brief, on top of being a rare example of LGBT representation in Kamen Rider it also adds an interesting twist to their personalities and motives when it comes to the original series as well. Did Muyuki view Yuichi as more than just a friend? It’s a shame the miniseries doesn’t have the time to expand on it more, as seeing just how the honest Miyuki would end up with someone as sadistic as Jun.Rider-Time-Ryuki-Imperer-Raia-Ryuki-VerdeCharacter time isn’t the only thing Rider Time: Kamen Rider Ryuki is short on either. Much of the running time is spent creating this new Rider Battle and building up the amnesia of its participants, which is great for the overall atmosphere but results in the resolution having to be hastily crammed in toward the climax rather than spread naturally throughout. It’s only in the final episode does Zi-O’s appearance become significant, and as the pieces come together it begins to comfortably line up with what Zi-O has been doing with its other Another Riders across the series. The appearance of Kamen Rider Odin only further complicates things, tying it even closer to Kanzaki’s earlier Rider Battles but without the context to help it fit into place.Rider-Time-Ryuki-Another-RyukiJoining the returning cast are also a few new faces in the Rider Battle, with new users cast for Kamen Riders Scissors, Tiger, Imperer and Verde. Though in typical Ryuki fashion most of these are despatched fairly swiftly to show off the atrocities of the Rider Battle, it is nice to see the miniseries make use of Ryuki’s cast and provide a bigger role to lesser-used Riders like Verde (who previously only appeared in the 13 Riders special). What’s even more surprising however is the appearance of Decade’s Kamen Rider Abyss, making his first canonical appearance in the Ryuki timeline. The only one sadly missing from the equation is Kamen Rider Femme, who doesn’t appear in any form. Given that other Riders were given new users her absence feels all the more noticeable, and is a real shame given that otherwise the miniseries does such a good job of drawing from all of Ryuki’s diverging paths.Rider-Time-Ryuki-Zi-O-GeizProducing a sequel 16 years after the fact also gives you a real reminder of just how old Ryuki is, and not just in the sense that the cast have obviously grown older in that time. Though the cinematography of the miniseries does a good job of capturing the feel of the series the flashbacks to the original series highlight just how rough the original series looks in comparison, and for the purposes of this special Toei haven’t done a great deal to update the effects either. What’s much sadder though is the state of many of the suits, which are visibly falling apart onscreen. Given that this has been a trend in Kamen Rider spinoffs for some time now it isn’t all that surprising but it does make you wonder just why these suits don’t at the very least get a good patch up job when they’re rolled out for use again.Rider-Time-Ryuki-OdinEchoing the darker tones of both the original Ryuki and the early Heisei era in general, Rider Time: Kamen Rider Ryuki is a wonderful short trip back to the Mirror World. Though the short running time results in some of the concepts not being quite as developed as they need to be, the overall plot is an interesting progression of Ryuki’s story and Inoue is able to offer some interesting expansion to some of its key characters. How Zi-O’s time changing shenanigans will affect its surprisingly downbeat ending (if at all) are yet to be seen, but for the time being this unexpected little spin-off still proves to be a very welcome one.


The Kamen Rider summer films have always been quite an interesting series. While most of the pre-Kamen Rider Decade films looked at their respective series in alternate universe scenarios, the arrival of Kamen Rider W brought along a closer connection between series and movie. More recently last two films, Kamen Rider Wizard in Magic Land and Kamen Rider Gaim: Great Soccer Battle! Golden Fruits Cup! have gelled the two together by taking the series’ Rider and then throwing them into an alternate universe for most of the action. Kamen Rider Drive however decided to take a different route for its movie, drawing inspiration from a different beloved sci-fi trope – time travel! So strap yourselves in, because its time for Shinnosuke Tomari and co to find themselves with a Surprise Future.

When Mr Belt has a sudden malfunction during battle, Shinnosuke is greeted by a man claiming to Eiji Tomari – his son from the year 2035. Eiji goes to explain that in the future Mr Belt’s AI will turn evil, with Krim Steinbelt subjugating humanity under a Roidmude rule. However before Shinnosuke can properly process this he’s attacked by another stranger from the future – Kamen Rider Dark Drive. Suddenly Shinnosuke finds himself not only on the run from Dark Drive but also the police as well, believing the “hero of the people” Kamen Rider to have suddenly gone rogue. Unable to transform and facing the possibility that he won’t even have Mr Belt to turn to, its up to Shinnosuke to help save the future from the Roidmudes.

One thing that’s always nice to see is a summer movie that has a strong connectivity with its respective series. But when it comes to Surprise Future, being up to date with Kamen Rider Drive is almost a necessity. Essential explanations such as where Mr Belt’s inexplicable evil streak may come across as simple foreshadowing in the show, but are in fact the entire basis for the film and something Surprise Future chooses to omit altogether. It’s tie-in media at both its very best and worst – offering fans something more than a simple side story but at the same making it hard to understand things on its own.

Kamen Rider Drive is a series with a pretty big cast. We certainly aren’t talking Gaim or Ryuki standards here but with three Riders, a group of villains and a fairly extensive supporting cast it isn’t a show short of faces. One might assume that as a result Surprise Future might feel rather overcrowded but in fact it is quite the opposite – the film focuses on a very small section of the cast in great detail, leaving the rest as mostly extras. If you’re a Mach or Chase fan this might leave you a little disappointed (although both get their fair share of good fight sequences), but focusing primarily on the bond between Shinnosuke and Mr Belt was a marvellous decision. In its latter half Kamen Rider Drive wasn’t a series that knew how to handle action and suspense, it was one that was really able to tug at the heartstrings when it wanted to. Surprise Future takes that same emotion and multiples it considerably, so if you haven’t already wept over the bond between a man and his toy belt once then this might be the thing that breaks you. Even Shinnosuke’s reactions towards his future son Eiji, a character whose introduction is rather undeveloped, are full of emotion. Kamen Rider Drive is the people’s Rider, and this isn’t just reflected in the way people feel towards him but also how he is towards others.

While the characterisation and drama is where Surprise Future really hits top gear, that isn’t to say it doesn’t have its share of great action sequences too. From high speed car chases to flashy hand to hand combat, this film offers a variety of different high-octane shots that perfectly suit Drive’s vehicle motif. Perhaps there is a little over-reliance on Toei’s hit-or-miss brand of CGI, but in general its use thankfully adds to the action rather than detracts from it. It’s nice to see Surprise Future remember that the Ride Crosser is a thing too – a interesting little concept that felt woefully underused in the series itself.

Surprise Future also features an impressive amount of new Drive gear, boasting not only three new suits but also two new cars as well (the Proto-Tridoron is rather predictably a black and purple Tridoron but it still counts). First you have Dark Drive Type Next and the NEXTridoron, sporting very Tron-esque black and blue colour schemes that suitably give off a futuristic vibe. The same can be said for Kamen Rider Drive Type Special, adding in some of Drive’s own design elements to create something similar but with much less of an evil Rider vibe. But before we come to that there’s also Drive Chou Dead Heat – a beefy hybrid of Type Speed and Mashin Chaser. Odd naming aside (there’s nothing Chou/Super about it – they even say it’s a pretty weak form in the grand scheme of things) the suit is a great departure from the usually sleek Drive suits and puts a next twist on the old favourite of Mashin Chaser.

On a pure enjoyment factor there’s little to fault this film on, but for time travel nuts all the minor details glossed over add up to something far bigger that leave you pondering it over long after the credits have rolled. Finally, as is often the case with these films Surprise Future also marks the first appearance of next Kamen Rider – in this case Kamen Rider Ghost. Ghost makes a very strong debut in this film, not quite stealing the spotlight by taking out one of the big name villains but at the same time leaving an excellent impression in the few minutes he appears for.If you aren’t one to get too caught up in nonsensical time travel paradoxes, then Kamen Rider Drive the Movie: Surprise Future is everything you could want out of a Kamen Rider summer movie. It was nicely woven into the events of the series, has features brilliant action, wonderful new suit designs and most importantly pulls at the emotions in all the right ways.