Like 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.Brain 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.As 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.Between 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.Another 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.With 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.Kamen 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.
An 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.Something 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.Just 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.Given 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.Early 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.Even 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.The 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.Another 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.But 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.Kamen 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.
Celebrating 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.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.At 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.Similarly 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.With 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.But 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.Although 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.
Everyone 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.After 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.However 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.For 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.Let’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.He’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.The 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.
As 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.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?Of 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.The 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.Character 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.Joining 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.Producing 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.Echoing 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.
Kamen Rider 4 is a net series which was released as an accompanying special to the film Super Hero Taisen GP: Kamen Rider 3. It introduced a new rider, Kamen Rider 4, who is the fourth Kamen Rider cyborg created by Shocker after Kamen Riders 1, 2, and 3.
Consist of three episodes; the first two was released on March 28, 2015, while the third was released on April 4, 2015. However, the first episode also was released as a DVD to the first million viewers of the premiere of Super Hero Taisen GP: Kamen Rider 3.
Shocker’s plan to alter the past to rule the future was foiled, returning the past to its rightful place, at the cost of Go’s life. Or has it? Strange events are happening around the Kamen Riders of yesterday and today as Shocker returns to try again to take over the world. But can Drive save Go’s life, who seems fated to die?
Kamen Rider 4 is born. The Kamen Riders realized that Shocker’s History Modifying Machine is not quite as destroyed as previously thought, but Shocker’s newest Rider cyborg that flies under Shocker’s flag confronts them, bringing with him legions of war planes. With other Kamen Riders under the hellish army’s flag, the Riders will be in for the fight of their lives.
Kamen Rider 4 is a great addition to the Kamen Rider Franchise and it finally asks the question of what happens to Go as anyone who seen Kamen Rider Drive knows hes still around by that series end. It’s worth watching but make sure you have seen Kamen Rider 3 film first.
Six months ago, various parts of Japan faced a brutal massacre under what was since then dubbed the “Global Freeze”. It birthed a phenomenon called “Slowdown” which would cause people to fall under a sort of neural lag in which the brain retains its average function and cognition, while the body becomes subject to extreme slow motion movement. The “Slowdown” crippled the populace as they met their deaths at the hands of cybernetic monstrosities known as Roidmudes, who began walking and blasting through commercial and residential areas without prejudice.
In another ruined part of the city, a young Metropolitan PD cop had his hands full trying to apprehend thugs taking advantage of the chaos. However, as he readied his pistol to defend his partner from an incoming attack, a Slowdown wave overcame him. His pistol discharged just a second too soon as the bullet intended to stop an armed thug set off a flammable structure behind the young cop’s partner, his body flying off the upper railing of the construction site he stood upon. To make matters worse, a large pile of debris and steel beams came down upon the cop’s partner. The young cop could do nothing, powerless against the Slowdown as he watched his partner get crushed before his eyes.
The Roidmudes’ rampage would not last very long. From a distance, an expanding rail of RC car tracks began stretching throughout the affected area as three little cars the size of matchbox cars raced along the tracks and began destroying the Roidmudes with their own special powers of flames, spikes and illusory tricks. From the shadows, an armored humanoid appeared, brushing the rain away as he called for his automotive supports to return to him. Who is he? What were those little cars? What kind of state is Japan in now after facing such a catastrophe?
Kamen Rider Drive is the newest entry in the long-running Tokusatsu franchise produced by Toei Company. This entry goes in a more grounded area than most of the recent Heisei-era entries. Instead of having walking allegories of godhood or total caricatures for protagonists, we’re presented with a policeman by the name of Shinnosuke Tomari (played by Ryoma Takeuchi). With a slightly frumpy detective uniform and a red tie adorning his collar, he comes off as a real average Joe, a refreshing break from Deus Ex Machinas like Decade and Kabuto or monsters in human skin like Faiz and Kiva. Instead, we have a more classic type of hero that I’m sure long-time fans will appreciate.
Flash forward to the present. Slowdown awareness is a day-to-day issue for the status quo. Posters are everywhere reminding people to report any related incidents to the authorities. Our protagonist, Shinnosuke has been transferred to the Special Crimes Unit of the MPD following the Global Freeze. Since then, he’s become a listless, lazy man who often misses meetings or important information due to constantly playing hooky with his job and slacking off. The only other person able to deal with his laziness is his SCU co-worker Kiriko Shijima (played by Rio Uchida), who keeps constant tabs on Shinnosuke’s every move (complete with a notebook/checklist of all he does) in the hopes of getting him back on track as a policeman.
Aside from Kiriko and the rest of the SCU peanut gallery, we meet “Mr. Belt” (portrayed by radio personality Chris Peppler), a mysterious sentient attachment mostly present on the dashboard of Shinnosuke’s car, the Tridoron. A voice of encouragement to the traumatized cop, he aims to aid Shinnosuke in not only being free from his anguish of the past, but to also lend his power to Shinnosuke to become Kamen Rider Drive in his battle against the Roidmudes. We still don’t know how Mr. Belt or Tridoron came to be in Shinnosuke’s possession, but it can be assumed that whoever saved Japan six months ago chose him to continue the fight against the lag-switching baddies.
Drive’s general gimmick of miniature cars plays out interestingly. In his debut battle, Drive employs a “Tire Swap” in which he switches between several abilities based on the Shift Car used in his Shift Brace. Aside from his default Type: Speed car, he also uses Max Flare, Funky Spike and Midnight Shadow, each granting Drive access to projectile and melee supplements. His finisher Rider Kick is one of the most unique in a long time, one that has to be seen to truly enjoy.
I find Drive’s general design truly different. It exudes the traditional Rider feel in all the right places (bug-like eyes, bulky belt), but various aspects like the piping by the sides of his mouthpiece and the giant tire sash around his body are what really help its design stand out As the series went on Drive, became one of the best entries in the Kamen Rider franchises, as we got to know the villains they weren’t evil they had feelings and emotions and turned out to be more human than some of the actual humans on the show. When Medic is introduced she brought a great dynamic to the show and some grace to the show. Kamen Rider will be missed I just hope Kamen Rider Ghost (the next season) will just as heartfelt as this one.