REVIEW: GIRLS IN TROUBLE: SPACE SQUAD EPISODE ZERO

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Starring

Ayumi Kinoshita (Travelers: Dimension Police)
Mika Kikuchi (My-Otome)
Suzuka Morita (Samurai Sentai Shinkenger)
Misaki Momose (Girl’s Blood)
Mayu Kawamoto (High Kick Angels)
Minami Tsukui (Kamen Rider Gaim)
Sanae Hitomi (Kamen Rider W Returns)
Mikie Hara (Cutie Honey: The Live)
Ryoko Yuui (Code Blue)
Michie Tomizawa (Saint Tail)
Mami Kingetsu (Princess Nine)
Tetsu Inada (Kobato)
Junichi Haruta (Dai Sentai Goggle-V)

girlssquad-space-squad_origWhile Toei tokusatsu hero crossovers have become fairly commonplace these days thanks to the annual Super Hero Taisen movies, every so often one rolls around that promises something really special. The Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger  and Space Sheriff Gavan crossover Space Squad: Gavan vs. Dekaranger is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated events in sometime – bringing together these space-faring heroes in a crossover that not only sounds good on paper but also makes perfect sense continuity-wise as well. But before we get onto the main action there’s also Girls in Trouble: Space Squad Episode Zero – a prologue V-cinema release starring Jasmine/Deka Yellow and Umeko/Deka Pink as well as the new Space Sheriff assistants Shelly, Sisi and Tammy.Girls-In-Trouble-Space-Squad-Episode-ZeroWaking up in a strange place, Jasmine, Umeko, Shelly and Tammy are being hunted by a feral alien. No matter what they do every outcome leads to the same eventuality – their deaths. However each death leads to them waking up in the same place once again, repeating events over and over until they can defeat the monster and break the time loop. Meanwhile the Galactic Police are putting together a team for a special mission to rescue their President, who has been captured by the reformed Genmakuu.Girls-In-Trouble-Episode-Zero-DeathIf the recent Kamen Rider Brave special has taught us anything, it’s that children’s tokusatsu can get a lot more violent when detached from its usual Sunday morning television slot. Whether that violence is warranted however is a different matter entirely. Girls in Trouble opens less like the sci-fi space cop special it is and more like a J-Horror survival film, as we watch the leads run around cramped corridors – dripping in sweat and wearing the shortest shorts possible as they’re repeatedly killed. The means of death aren’t especially gruesome, but the Kamen Rider Amazons-esque blood spurting is enough to remind you this is no picnic. The obvious fetishisation of the whole sequence should come as no surprise when you see the director is none other than Koichi Sakamoto – a man whose talents for great action sequences are unquestionable.Girls-In-Trouble-Episode-Zero-Space-Sheriff-GirlsBut in spite of the somewhat sleaziness of this first section, the film does a lot of good with its characters and setting – going as far as to even play up some of the viewers’ expectations based on previous films. We expect the Horusian alien with the creepy laugh in the darkened room to be the villain based on a similar villain appearing in the Next Generation Sharivan/Shaider movies, but then the film goes and subverts that by revealing that Birdie is just adverse to light and her “evil laugh” is her species equivalent of hiccups. Genius, even if the costume is just as ridiculous here as it was there. While it’s a pity Sisi isn’t more directly involved with the action (although there is a good reason for that), the characters immediately work together brilliantly – to the point where it doesn’t even feel like this is only their first meeting.Girls-In-Trouble-Episode-Zero-CastJasmine and Umeko are both on top form, and after 13 years it feels like the pair have just kept getting better and better over time. Umeko especially, who between this and Dekaranger: 10 Years After has established herself far beyond the cutesy, bath-loving persona she’s usually lumped with. Meanwhile Shelly, Sisi and Tammy all a decent amount of focus in their respective films but the chance to see them without the action focused on the Space Sheriffs shows not only shows just how brilliant all three of these characters are, but also how perfect they would be for a full Metal Heroes television revival. Toei has lined up an absolutely brilliant cast for the new generation Space Sheriffs, yet for the most part have barely been used.Girls-In-Trouble-Episode-Zero-DekarangersThe most commendable thing about Girls in Trouble is it’s proper dedication to keeping an all-female cast. While surprise cameos from the likes of Doggie Kruger and Juspion’s Mad Gallant are always welcome, the story completely revolves around the shows respective female casts and not once do the males ever gatecrash the party. Even the plot comfortably removes this unwanted and unneeded element from the film, cliche as it may beGirls-In-Trouble-Episode-Zero-HellviraGirls in Trouble: Space Squad Episode Zero is a wonderful enjoyable film that not only highlights two of Dekaranger’s best characters but also gives the Space Sheriff girls to shine away from their metal-clad partners.

 

REVIEW: KAMEN RIDER GAIM GAIDEN: DUKE & KNUCKLE

Gaim Gaiden Kaito & Shapool

 

Starring

Tsunenori Aoki (Stray Dogz)
Yuki Kubota (Meiji Tokyo Renka)
Minami Tsukui (Geisha Assassin)
Kazuki Namioka (13 Assassins)
Jun Toba (Love Fight)
Gaku Matsuda (Tenshi no iru toshokan)
Yutaka Kobayashi (Meiji Tokyo Renka)
Ryo Matsuda (Lychee Light Club)
Metal Yoshida (Last Mail)
Atsushi Shiramata (Mischievous Kiss)
Yuumi Shida (Saki)
Ryusuke Nakamura (Crows Zero)
Maari (Kamen Rider Drive)
Kanon Tsuyama (Soften!)
Miina Yokota (Hi-Zai)
Ren Ozawa (Magic Night)

tumblr_inline_o1dxk6gk7w1qk32ya_1280Set just before Ryouma Sengoku appeared on the scene with the rest of the New Generation Riders, the Kamen Rider Duke segment of the story follows the scientist as he investigates a number of terrorist attacks on the Yggdrasil Corporation. The attacks are being carried out by seemingly brainwashed civilians carrying explosive Lockseeds, linked only by the mysterious Black Bohdi cult. As Ryoma and Takatora look into the matter further, Ryouma comes face to face with a supposedly dead colleague – now brandishing Lockseeds of his very own.Gaim Gaiden Kamen Rider Zangetsu Watermelon ArmsOne of the biggest issues with the Gaim Gaidens is the way that they introduce their exclusive Riders and/or Lockseeds. They’re often shoehorned in with little to no explanation about how they’ve managed to get their hands on Drivers, and ultimately serve little purpose than to help sell the web exclusive toys sold in tandem with these films. However Kamen Rider Duke is one of the few characters they can get away with making such additions. With Ryouma being the creator of the Drivers, it seems only natural that he might have a few other trinkets up his sleeves that didn’t show up in the series narrative. Lemon Arms is the perfect precursor to the Duke we saw in the series – adding a crucial glimpse into Ryouma’s past as a Rider while in no way overshadowing the far much powerful Energy version. The fact such a minimal amount of fuss is made about it in the story works to its favour as well – if anything Lemon Energy is the one that receives all the fanfare. Less can be said however for his opponent – Kamen Rider Saver Blood Zakuro Arms, a zombie-like mishmash of any parts Toei probably had lying around the studio at the time. While ultimately a Kamen Rider Duke Gaiden is going to be a story primarily focusing on Ryouma, that doesn’t stop it from giving a bit of insight into the other Yggdrasil Riders either. Gaim Gain Kamen Rider Baron Ringo ArmsAs well as getting some better insight into his relationship with Takatora, we also get some glimpses into how Ryouma became associated with the likes of Sid and Minato. Presented in flashback sequences with some truly brilliant haircuts, these origins of sorts for the two characters aren’t fleshed out enough to provide a full sense of satisfaction but are comforting in that they’ve provided some background for them should their Gaidens never come to fruition. The important thing is that these first meetings perfect capture Ryouma as a character – a master manipulator with a superiority complex, able to read people and use them for their strengths but with every intention of casting them aside. He’s a villain through and through, but you still can’t help but feel charmed by him.Kamen Rider Gaim Gaiden Duke Kamen Rider SaverIt isn’t long enough to give them full back story the character deserves, but the Kamen Rider Duke Gaiden defies all odds to be a genuinely enjoyable production. The new characters don’t feel as shoehorned in as usual, and actually work without raising more questions than they answer (plus it feels completely in Ryouma’s character to be as blasé as he is about these things). It isn’t so much an exercise of filling in all of the gaps like many probably would have hoped, but a true side story that gives a new look into one of Gaim’s most memorable characters.Kamen Rider Gaim Gaiden Knuckle Jimber Marron ArmsMeanwhile the Kamen Rider Knuckle chapter acts as the latest entry in the Kamen Rider Gaim story, taking place one year after the events of the series and Movie Wars Full Throttle. After Zack leaves Zawame City to chase his dreams in America, he is called back by Peko’s elder sister Azami when a group of thugs appear in Zawame naming themselves Team Neo Baron. Soon Zack is facing off against someone from his past as well – Shura, a dancer and former friend thrown out of Team Baron shortly after Kaito took over as leader. Donning the mantle of Kamen Rider Black Baron, Shura plans to continue Kaito’s legacy in his own twisted way by ensuring that only those he deems as strong survive. With a new Driver and a new Lockseed at his disposal, Zack becomes Kamen Rider Knuckle once again to defeat Shura and honour Baron’s memory.

Kamen Rider Gaim Gaiden Knuckle Zack & ShuraThe story randomly kicks off with taking Zack to New York for all of five minutes (complete with an impressive amount of English dialogue) before having him return to fight Zawame City’s own fight club, led by a man thrown out of Team Baron by Kaito but now practically idolising him. And this man’s ultimate plan – killing a bunch of people with a random weapon that’s suddenly been pulled out of nowhere by the apparent remnants of Yggdrasil (who have even had the means to make their own Drivers). The whole set up is dumb, and laughably so. But it’s like the writers were completely unaware of this, making the whole thing seem as dramatic as possible with its gritty fistfights and final showdown in the pouring rain. Once again it pulls brand new characters out of thin air and creates an overly forced emotional attachment, only this time it expects the audience to believe that they’ve effectively been around the whole time. And the less said about Peko the better – at this rate he’s going to need a Gaiden of his very own just to be a character that ever amounted to anything. Kamen Rider Gaim Gaiden Knuckle Kamen Rider Black BaronThe new suits added aren’t much better either, as Knuckle’s new upgrade misses far more marks than it hits. The Jimber Arms concept was one that was woefully underutilised in the series itself (anyone remember that Zangetsu Jimber Melon rumour? Who wouldn’t have wanted to see that?) so it is nice to see it re-explored here, but perhaps Knuckle wasn’t the best character to do that on. The ornate qualities of the Jimber pieces do not mesh at all with Knuckle’s scrappy boxer aesthetic, so the end result is something that’s trying to look quite regal and imposing but has giant walnuts for hands. Gaim was hardly a series to shy away from ridiculous weapons, but previously it knew how to streamline things a bit better when it came to the bigger power ups. Meanwhile Black Baron is exactly that – a black version of Baron. In its defence it comes off much better visually since it isn’t a mishmash of parts like Saver, but a black recolour is only so exciting and in the hands of such a forgettable character doesn’t leave much of an impression.  The Kamen Rider Gaim Gaidens still have a way to go to be of the same high quality as the series itself, but this feels like a step in the right direction.

 

REVIEW: KAMEN RIDER GAIM: ZANGETSU & BARON

Kamen Rider Gaim Gaiden

Starring

Yuki Kubota (Meiji Tokyo Renka)
Gaku Sano (My Little Monster)
Tsunenori Aoki (Stray Dogz)
Minami Tsukui (Geisha Assassin)
Mahiro Takasugi (Ghostwriter)
Minori Terada (Kamen RIder W)
Sayuri Iwata (An Assassin)
Yutaka Kobayashi (Meiji Tokyo Renka)
Yuumi Shida (Saki)
Gaku Matsuda (Tenshi no iru toshokan)
Saku Momose (On)
Ryo Matsuda (Lychee Light Club)
Metal Yoshida (Last Mail)
Gamon Kaai (Immortal Hero)

640full-kamen-rider-gaim-the-movie_-great-soccer-battle!-golden-fruits-cup!-photoIf there’s one thing that both Toei and Bandai like doing it’s making money. So if a particular series has proven especially popular and/or profitable, you can bet that the two will milk it for everything that it’s worth. In terms of Kamen Rider shows you only have to look at the slew of Kamen Rider Den-O movies or the Kamen Rider W Returns Accel and Eternal movies to realise that. And now it seems fair to say that Kamen Rider Gaim officially falls under that category too. The series struck a chord with the older fanbase and this combined with good merchandise sales was enough for a Kamen Rider Gaim Gaiden V-cinema project to go ahead. This straight to DVD release is split into two side stories, with the first focusing on Kamen Rider Zangetsu and the second on Kamen Rider Baron.Gaim Gaiden Kamen Rider Zangetsu Watermelon ArmsThe Zangetsu portion of Gaim Gaiden takes place following episode 20 of the main series, where Takatora reveals the truth behind Helheim to Kouta and strengthens his resolve to carry out Yggdrasil’s Project Ark. When a mysterious assailant able to control the Helheim cracks begins attacking Yggdrasil’s members, a face from Takatora’s past resurfaces – Touka Akatsuki, a servant of his father Amagi Kureshima who was employed at a very young age. While the two seem happy to be reunited, Touka comes with the news of his and Micchy’s father’s passing. As Takatora investigates the mystery attacker, he not only discovers their connection with Touka’s arrival but also the dark secrets of his father and the Yggdrasil Corporation.Gaim Gaiden Takatora & ToukaIf there’s any Kamen Rider Gaim character that has plenty of story left to tell, it’s Takatora Kureshima. Not only have both he and Ryouma Sengoku presumably been Riders for a considerable amount of time before the start of the series, but the chapter of Helheim’s discovery and the decision to go ahead with Project Ark is one left completely unexplored. Not to mention that there wasn’t actually a whole lot of light shed on Yggdrasil other than its Helheim based activities. Gaim Gaiden’s Zangetsu chapter does address these things. With so much of Takatora’s past available that would only need to centre around core Gaim characters, it’s a little baffling why this story needed to bring a whole new character and involve Takatora in a situation he knew absolutely nothing about. It’s almost as if Gaim Gaiden actively avoids covering any subject that would have real ramifications on how you’d view the series, but also wants to make passing comments that potentially lead to bigger things (again: Ryouma). With the fight scenes minimal and largely unremarkable, t begs the question of what Gaim Gaiden is actually offering the viewer other than the chance to get to see all of the cast agaiGaim Gaiden Kamen Rider IdunnThe Kamen Rider Baron side story takes place shortly afterward, following Kaito’s allegiance with Ryouma Sengoku as he begins to hunt for the Overlords. Upon returning to Zawame, Kaito is met with a man who looks identical to him – Shapool, the heir to a foreign country. Wishing for some freedom, Shapool forcibly switches places with Kaito and goes on to confuse the Beat Riders with his cheery demeanour. Meanwhile Kaito discovers that Shapool’s butler Alfred is targeting him, and is quickly thrown into a battle against an all new Armoured Rider.Gaim Gaiden Kamen Rider TyrantOne thing that’s always impressed me about Kamen Rider Gaim was its ability to juggle rather dark and serious content with light-hearted antics. As the series progressed there was naturally considerably less comedy, but even comedy characters like Bravo and Gridon didn’t feel at all out place right at the very end.  The story opens with an abrupt insight in Kaito’s childhood and glimpse into how he became the way he is and right from the beginning it involves visuals that they probably wouldn’t have gotten away with on the show itself. It’s a considerably dark opener all things considered, and it alone would have made a much more engaging spin-off story in itself – even if it means there would have been no Rider action whatsoever unless it was told in a series of flashbacks.Gaim Gaiden Kaito & ShapoolBut instead the story then jumps into this overly comedic piece that probably would have fit the earlier episodes of the series, but doesn’t feel quite appropriate being placed when things were starting to hit the fan. Yutaka Kobayashi displayed his brilliance for a comedic side of Baron in the Gaim Hyper Battle DVD and he shines again here, but while that a Hyper Battle DVD is always just a bit of fun it feels like so much could have been done here. But instead the story is rather predictable throughout, centring on a character that has absolutely no stake in the overall Gaim story. Kaito is just thrust into the middle of it out of pure chance.Gaim Gain Kamen Rider Baron Ringo ArmsOf course this portion also features another new Armoured Rider, this time going by the name of Kamen Rider Tyrant. Though arguably looking a bit more original than Idunn, Tyrant also uses Arms repurposed from the main Gaim story – specifically the Dragonfruit Energy Arms worn by mecha Ryouma in Kamen Rider x Kamen Rider Drive & Gaim: Movie War Throttle (although it does have some notable differences to Ryouma’s version). Visually it’s quite striking, but like Shapool belongs to a character that ultimately doesn’t matter. The whole story seems to add as some sort of foreshadowing to Kaito being prepared to embrace the power of Helheim/the Overlords to attain his goals.  Kaito’s origins are enough to provoke a spark of interest and as usual the combination of Oren (Kamen Rider Bravo) and Hideyasu (Kamen Rider Gridon) is a pleasure to watch.

 

 

 

REVIEW: KAMEN RIDER GAIM: GREAT SOCCER BATTLE! GOLDEN FRUITS CUP !

Kamen Rider Gaim Great Soccer Battle

Starring

Gaku Sano (My Little Monster)
Yutaka Kobayashi (Meiji Tokyo Renka)
Mahiro Takasugi (Ghostwriter)
Yuumi Shida (Saki)
Yuki Kubota (Meiji Tokyo Renka)
Gaku Matsuda (Tenshi no iru toshokan)
Saku Momose (On)
Ryo Matsuda (Lychee Light Club)
Atsushi Shiramata (Mischievous Kiss)
Tsunenori Aoki (Stray Dogz)
Minami Tsukui (Geisha Assassin)
Kanon Tsuyama (Soften)
Miina Yokota (Hi-Zai)
Hiromi Sakimoto (Kamen Rider Zero-One)
Metal Yoshida (Last Mail)
Kazuki Namioka (13 Assassins)
Tomomitsu Yamaguchi (The Floating Castle)

640full-kamen-rider-gaim-the-movie_-great-soccer-battle!-golden-fruits-cup!-photoThere’s always been two types of Heisei era Kamen Rider summer movies – those set in parallel worlds separate from the main canon, and those that actually tie into the series. The pre-Kamen Rider Decade films mostly fell into the former category, while the post-Decade ones fell into the latter. Kamen Rider Wizard cleverly tried to avoid these categories with a film that had the show’s fall into a parallel universe, but Kamen Rider Gaim took it even further with a parallel universe movie which tied into the show itself – twice! But that’s not all there is to Kamen Rider Gaim: Great Soccer Battle! Golden Fruits Cup! – in the summer of 2014 Japan was firmly in the grips of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, prompting Gaim to do a very unlikely bit of cross-promotion. Kamen Rider Sengoku Movie Battle Bujin WAfter meeting a strange boy named Lapis in the ruins of the Helheim-infested Zawame City, Kouta Kazuraba finds himself transported to a parallel universe where the Beat Riders face off against each other in a football (or soccer if you prefer) tournament named the All Riders Cup. The prize – any wish you desire from the mystical Golden Fruit. Not only do things seem a lot more peaceful, but having never seen the threat of Helheim Kouta is surprised to see many people still alive – Hase, Sid, Takatora, even Yuuya.vlcsnap-2013-10-26-00h42m04s164But the peace doesn’t last, as one by one the Armoured Riders begin to inexplicably turn on each other before being enveloped by what seem to be Helheim vines. As Lapis watches the riders fall one by one, a rusted golden Lockseed begins to regain its colour. Mitsuzane (who slowly regains his memories of the real world) discovers that Ryouma had succeeded in resurrecting Kougane – an artificial version of the golden fruit created by the Overlords. Proclaiming himself “god of a new generation”, Kougane has set about using humanity’s desire for the Golden Fruit to break the seal placed on him and regain his power. Together with Lapis and his Armoured Rider allies, Kouta must face off against the darkness inside himself before putting a stop to Kougane once and for all.Kamen Rider Sengoku Movie Battle Gold Infinity Dragon Wizard ArmsSo yes, Kamen Rider has done the unthinkable and gone football mad. And not in half measures either, with the film also featuring cameos from a number of Japanese players. The leap from dancers to footballers would have been strange when the early, more carefree Gaim episodes were airing, so to see it happen around the considerably more serious mid 30s (where the film roughly takes place in-show) is one hell of a jump. Not just because of the massive juxtaposition of the Riders playing football, but how innocent everything has suddenly become. Baron’s fierce rivalry has turned into friendly sportsmanship, while Takatora is busy exclaiming that Yggdrasil will take the world over with soccer. At this point the television series was diving headfirst into all kinds of doom and gloom, so it’s actually kind of refreshing to see all the characters having a bit of fun for once. And by the looks of it, the actors are having a blast as well.Kamen Rider Sengoku Movie Battle Haruto's UnderworldIn true Kamen Rider movie style, the film also features a few new exclusive ones – adding three new Riders and one new Gaim form to the show’s already huge roster. That said, Kamen Rider Mars (the golden apple Rider form of Kougane) is the only one that’s at all memorable. The other two new riders (Lapis’ rider form Kamen Rider Kamuro and Shin Kurokage – the energy Rider form of Team Baron member Peko) are barely in it at all. Kamuro doesn’t even get a decent fight sequence, instead turning into a football almost immediately after transforming for the first (and only time). Finally Jimber Arms gets a black repaint, which is both everything you’d expect an evil Gaim that isn’t the infinitely better Bujin Gaim to be. The upside to all this though is the filmmakers’ remembering Gaim’s fruit swapping arms gimmick. Switching from his own forms into Banana, Durian and Donguri/Acorn arms, Gaim makes better use of this key feature in one fight than the 47-episode television series ever did.Kamen Rider Sengoku Movie Battle Legendary Rider ArmsKamen Rider Gaim: Great Soccer Battle! Golden Fruits Cup! is a real oddity. Despite revolving around a forced gimmick and not actually having a whole lot to it the film still manages to be something of an engaging watch – not just because of the sheer absurdity of it all but also by having some genuinely good action sequences.

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: KAMEN RIDER x KAMEN RIDER GAIM & WIZARD: THE FATEFUL SENGOKU MOVIE BATTLE

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Starring

Shunya Shiraishi (Good Morning Call)
Makoto Okunaka (The Ghost Photo Club)
Junki Tozuka (We Are)
Yuko Takayama (Travelers: Dimension Police)
Tasuku Nagase (Zutaboro)
Hisahiro Ogura (Killer Bride’s Perfect Crime)
Erina Nakayama (My Little Lover)
Shinta Sōma (April Fools)
Shingo Kawaguchi (Aragure)
Kaba-chan (Stormy Night)
Gaku Sano (My Little Monster)
Yutaka Kobayashi (Meiji Tokyo Renka)
Mahiro Takasugi (Ghostwriter)
Yuumi Shida (Saki)
Yuki Kubota (Meiji Tokyo Renka)
Ryō Matsuda (Lychee Light Club)
Atsushi Shiramata (Mischievous Kiss)
Gaku Matsuda (Tenshi no iru toshokan)
Kanon Tsuyama (Soften)
Miina Yokota (Hi-Zai)
Ren Ozawa (Magic Night)
Saku Momose (On)
Tomomitsu Yamaguchi (The Floating Castle)
Tsunenori Aoki (Stray Dogz)
Minami Tsukui (Geisha Assassin)

Bujin_Wizard_is_killed_by_Bujin_GaimAs a men Rider series draws to a close and another begins, one thing is always for certain – the two will be meeting up in a few months time for an annual Movie War crossover film. Kamen Rider Wizard and Kamen Rider Gaim are of course no exception, even if Toei have decided to slightly mix things up when it comes to the naming. Gone is the tiresome “Movie Wars…” monicker, replaced with Kamen Rider x Kamen Rider Gaim & Wizard: The Fateful Sengoku Movie Battle – which is probably just in time as I’m not sure how many more random words could be added on the end of the “Movie Wars” titles.Kamen Rider Sengoku Movie Battle Bujin GaimUnlike the previous Movie Wars Ultimatum, this movie doesn’t feature a prologue setting everything up (nor does it feature any rebooted tokusatsu veterans), instead jumping straight into Kamen Rider Wizard’s grand finale . Following the end of the series, Haruto is now travelling the world alone along with the Hope Ring left after Koyomi’s death. During his journey he is attacked by the Ogre phantom, which seeks to become the ultimate Phantom by consuming all of the others and taking their power – and now Haruto’s dragon is on the menu. After returning home and meeting up with Nitoh, Rinko and the others, the Ogre Phantom attempts to bring Haruto to despair by resurrecting Koyomi using the Hope Ring. Only this time the magically-infused Koyomi (taking her father’s guise of the White Wizard) aims to help bring Haruto to despair by destroying everything around him.Kamen Rider Sengoku Movie Battle Bujin WWizard’s ending  was a fairly satisfying one – very much a “the story is over but the journey continues” kind of affair. So even though this epilogue to Wizard isn’t entirely necessary, it does to a good job of wrapping everything up neatly. Matoko Okunaka gives her strongest performance as Koyomi.  Her appearance here is more important than ever as helps bring out the emotional side of Haruto. Wizard’s swan song hits all the right emotional notes and succeeds at being the Kamen Rider Wizard finale we didn’t even know we wanted.Kamen Rider Sengoku Movie Battle KoyomiMoving into the Kamen Rider Gaim portion, the Armoured Riders (Gaim, Ryugen, Baron, Gridon and Kurokage) are in the midst of a battle royale tournament when a mysterious monster appears from a crack and attempts to capture Mai. When Gaim, Baron and Ryugen give chase they find themselves in a parallel universe where a warring states period is taking place – and the battles are between the previous 14 Kamen Riders. They soon learn that the balance of power has been shifted in favour of the mysterious Bujin Gaim, who has been consuming the Riders one by one. As Armoured Rider Zangetsu and Mai also join the group in this strange world, Kouta must not only help defeat his evil counterpart – he must also affirm what it is he’s fighting for. With so much going on in the world of Kamen Rider Gaim each week, it seems strange to step back an take a look a (canonically-debatable) side story when the characters were a lot less troubled. Sengoku Battle Royale takes the warring states motif of Gaim at its most literal, not only reimagining each Heisei-era Rider but also bringing back side characters as their reimagined versions of historical war lords. It’s a very cool concept that could have easily made its own film.vlcsnap-2013-10-26-00h42m04s164Bujin Gaim is a ridiculously cool villain, evoking a “Dark Rider” feel while at the same time doing enough to keep himself from being lumped in with the rest of them. But not nearly enough is revealed about him – we never find out who he is and his motivations are typical paper thin villain stuff.  Finally we come to the main event, which isn’t as neatly placed in its own section like previous Movie Wars so just flows straight from the Gaim section (let’s just say it begins as soon as the two stories have caught up with each other). As Bujin Gaim uses the powers of the 14 Bujin Riders to merge with the God Tree and gain the ultimate power, the six Kamen Riders – Wizard, Beast, Gaim, Baron, Ryugen and Zangetsu (who enters the alternate world later in the Gaim part) team up to defeat him, bring order to this alternate world and find a way to return home.Kamen Rider Sengoku Movie Battle Haruto's UnderworldThe conclusion of the Gaim section sets things up for a really explosive finale, but Sengoku Movie Battle never really delivers. It certainly has its moments and manages to impress while onscreen, but as the credits roll you soon realise there it actually had very little substance to it. Bujin Gaim’s “Lotus Position” form is both dumb-looking and underwhelming, making the climactic fight into an all-CGI fare where lots of shots are fired, details are blurred and explosions happen. Just about the norm for a Movie War finale then.

 

 

 

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REVIEW: KAMEN RIDER GAIM

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Starring

Gaku Sano (My Little Monster)
Yutaka Kobayashi (Meiji Tokyo Renka)
Mahiro Takasugi (Ghostwriter)
Yuumi Shida (Saki)
Yuki Kubota (Meiji Tokyo Renka)
Kanon Tsuyama (Soften)
Miina Yokota (Hi-Zai)
Ren Ozawa (Magic Night)
Gaku Matsuda (Tenshi no iru toshokan)
Saku Momose (On)
Atsushi Shiramata (Mischievous Kiss)
Ryō Matsuda (Lychee Light Club)
Metal Yoshida (Last Mail)
Tsunenori Aoki (Stray Dogz)
Minami Tsukui (Geisha Assassin)
Rika Izumi (Koisuru Hae Onna)
Tomohisa Yuge (Higanjima)
Kazuki Namioka (13 Assassins)
Tomomitsu Yamaguchi (The Floating Castle)

aesirkamen_rider_gaim_-_33hd50158a20-mkv_snapshot_21-45_2014-06-14_01-19-04

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Yui Natsuki (Kamen Rider Fourze)
Hiromi Sakimoto (Kamen Rider Zero-One)
Takashi Kitadai (Jyouou Virgin)
Meiya Yuma (Girls Step)
Jingi Irie (Kamen Rider Zi-O)
Hiromi Iwasaki (Last Doctor)

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Kamen Rider Gaim we all  loved. Written by anime hot topic Gen Urobuchi and his first foray into writing both Kamen Rider and tokusatsu as a whole, Gaim has been a hotly talked about series thanks to its imaginative gimmicks, multiple riders and multi-layered story.Kamen Rider Gaim New Generation RidersGaim takes place in the fictional Zawame City, which is now largely maintained by the massive Yggdrasil Corporation. In order to escape the sense of oppression brought on by the city, the youths of Zawame have formed dance crews to help bring joy into people’s lives – calling themselves Beat Riders. Coinciding with this is the rise of the popular Inves Game – where players use devices known as Lockseeds to summon monsters that battle each other. Kouta Kazuraba is a former member of the dance group Team Gaim, who is now trying to go on to find his place in the world and a proper job. But when Team Gaim’s captain goes missing after telling Kouta of a strange belt known as a Sengoku Driver, Kouta discovers the truth behind the Lockseeds and the Inves – they both come from an alternate dimension known as Helheim Forest. i_ZOMBIE_311_005Using the belt and an Orange Lockseed he becomes the Armoured Rider Gaim to fight off a rampaging Inves and rejoin Team Gaim as their champion. However Kouta also receives a warning from a mysterious girl that resembles his teammate Mai to be wary of the path he has chosen.  It isn’t long before the leader of Gaim’s biggest rivals Team Baron, Kaito Kumon, gains his own Sengoku Driver – becoming Armoured Rider Baron and challenging Kouta. Soon more Beat Riders gain their own Drivers and a power struggle begins to emerge between them. Unknown to them is that they are being monitored by Yggdrasil, the creators and distributors of the Drivers. As the Helheim Forest’s influence begins to spread further in Zawame, Kouta and the rest of the Armoured Riders learn the full story behind it and Yggdrasil’s plans. In Zawame City, nothing is quite as it originally seemed.Kamen Rider Gaim Kikaider Crossover.pngThis is a show that’s full to the brim with story and it can get incredibly difficult to describe things without giving too much away. This is a show with constantly raising stakes, with the Zawame City we begin at slowly breaking down as things progress. Urobuchi has always done a wonderful thing with settings and giving them a rich mythology, and with a year-long show at his disposal he is really able to go to town with both Zawame and Helheim. It also helps that Gaim drops the 2-episode story format the franchise had been using since around 2007, instead opting for varying formats that come together to form much larger arcs within the series itself.Kamen Rider Gaim But as rich as the setting of Kamen Rider Gaim is, that pales in comparison to the strength of its characters. With a total of 12 main Riders (plus a further three movie exclusives and one epilogue appearance) it could have been very easy for Gaim to throw a significant portion of these to the wayside and use them just to sell toys. However while the show gives a primary focus to four Riders in particular (Gaim, Baron and the Kureshima bros Takatora and Mitsuzane/Micchy, aka Zangetsu and Ryugen), almost all of them have a significant impact on the show, great characterisation for the most part and manage to leave some sort of emotional resonance when they’re gone. After all, this is a show written by the Urobutcher, so not everyone is lucky enough to be getting out alive.IMG_1694These characters go through so many changes throughout the course of the series that it really hammers home the theme of growing up. In a world filled with backstabbing Riders with ulterior motives, Kouta really shines as the Zawame’s ray of hope. His naivety and eagerness to see the best of everything certainly gets him into a lot of trouble, but Kouta is everything you want in a main Rider – incredibly selfless and willing to sacrifice a lot in order to protect the ones he loves. This parallels nicely to the ideals of Kaito, who instead is obsessed with gaining the strength – not only to protect the weak but in order to topple those that have oppressed him throughout his life. Meanwhile Takatora is much more than his initial appearance of Yggdrasil’s “white armoured Rider” suggests, with him being the character that’s had to make some of the hard decisions in order to save humanity. Finally Micchy is perhaps one of the most ranged characters you’ll ever see in a Kamen Rider series, playing pretty much every field that’s available to him. Any love you have for the character will eventually turn to hate, and in turn that hate will turn to sympathy and pity.1477536195-tacad14 Then of course there’s the likes of shorts-wearing megalomaniac Professor Ryouma Sengoku, shady Lockseed dealer Sid, flamboyant ex-miliary pastry chef Oren Pierre Alfonzo and more – all with their own Rider personas and impacts on the series. Again it’s a topic that’s difficult to talk about without giving too much away because the show is so full of surprises, but as a show that even manages to make most of its non-Rider characters memorable you should get a good idea of how strong the extended cast of Gaim is. There’s also the subject of the fruit lock/gimmick, which sounds completely ridiculous on its own. But woven in with the Sengoku era themes and armour styles, it’s surprising how much colourful padlocks that summon fruit that unfold into armour actually work. It makes for a brilliant gimmick both visually and practically, with the various fighting styles each Arms commands adding an extra kick to the show’s already great fight scenes. As the show and technology progresses into the likes of Yggdrasil’s New Generation Energy Riders and Gaim’s various power ups, the armours become start to look a little like the fruits their supposed to as the armour inspiration becomes more apparent. Whether intentional or not, it also feels like this ties into the show’s larger theme of growing up and getting “serious” – as Gaim goes from a samurai wearing a giant orange as armour to a silver Sengoku warlord with an armada of weaponry at his disposal.vlcsnap-2013-10-26-00h42m04s164In conclusion, Kamen Rider Gaim is a brilliant show and great entry point for new fans to the Kamen Rider franchise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: KAMEN SENTAI GORIDER

 

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Starring

Hiroki Iijima (Kamen Rider Ex-Aid)
Toshiki Seto (Yowakutemo Katemasu)
Ukyo Matsumoto (Ultraman X)
Ruka Matsuda (Scarlet)
Tetsuya Iwanaga (Meiji Tokyo Renka)
Hayato Onozuka (Dear Sister)
Takanori Higuchi (Kamen Rider Agito)
Takayuki Tsubaki (Kamen Rider Blade)
Yutaka Kobayashi (Kamen Rider Gaim)
Minami Tsukui (Kamen Rider W)
Kazuki Yao (Ninja Sentai Kakuranger)

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With the release of Chou Super Hero Taisen in 2017 Toei released a new mini web series,  Kamen Sentai Gorider featuring the Rider/Sentai fusion team. More importantly it also features a number of returning Riders, including Kamen Riders Lazer, Blade, Baron, Marika, and Another Agito.Emu wakes up in mysterious deserted theme park, with no memory of what just happened to him or how he got there. After being attacked by a number of Shocker combatants he encounters five past Kamen Riders – Kaoru Kino (Another Agito), Kaito Kumon (Kamen Rider Baron), Yoko Minato (Kamen Rider Marika), Kazuma Kenzaki (Kamen Rider Blade) and his friend Kiriya Kujo (Kamen Rider Lazer). These five people all have one thing in common – all of them had previously died (or in Kenzaki’s case, become an Undead).As well as gaining the trust of these deceased Riders, Emu works to find out how the six of them were brought to this strange place and for what purpose. Realising they are trapped within a supposedly “unbeatable” game world, the figure pulling the strings slowly becomes clear. Kamen Sentai Gorider gets off to a pretty slow start with its first part, but does a good job of building up its atmospheric, mystery setting. The mechanics of this game world don’t actually feel that dissimilar to the time loops of Kamen Rider 4, but the point is gotten across without too much emphasis on the repetitive nature of it all. The events that are happening outside of the game world feel fairly glossed over, but what’s going on inside of it is full of surprising twists.What really makes Gorider work though is just how well writer Kento Shimoyama (best known for his work on Shuriken Sentai Ninninger) has a handle on all of the returning characters. When past Riders return years after their respective series have passed there’s always the risk of them being written completely out of character, but here everybody slips comfortably back into their roles without any problems. Gorider even goes as far as to further their development, as we watch the characters not only come to terms with the situation they’ve found themselves in but also their deaths and what it means to them. Yoko particularly deserves praise because Gorider actually betters the minuscule development she was given in Gaim, with her actions representing more than just blindly following whoever she considers to the most powerful. This also allows Kaito an opportunity to reflect on his actions, with him eventually making steps to become the ‘hero’ he could have been.But the real star here is Kazuma Kenzaki, as Gorider shows some great ties to Kamen Rider Blade while playing on everyone’s suspicions as to why a Rider that isn’t actually dead has been lumped in with this group. Despite this seemingly odd set up everything eventually makes perfect sense, with Kenzaki arguably being the only one to truely save the day. The internal logic of Blade’s Battle Fight even plays a big part in unravelling the game world. Of course Kenzaki’s inclusion also gives way to the return of everyone’s favourite gaming lunatic Kuroto Dan, who’s still finding new and exciting ways to cheat death. This time Dan is clearly channelling his inner-Phantom, as he gathers the despair of the past Riders to allow his resurrection. It’s a typically elaborate scheme that fits in perfectly with his usual modus operandi in Ex-Aid, which again shows the care to fit together all the different elements of Kamen Rider on display here. Shimoyama also has a great grasp on how how nuts Kamen Rider Genm is, with Tetsuya Iwanaga giving one last over the top performance that does the character justice even in death.Forget the Super Hero Taisen films or even anniversary shows such as Kamen Rider Decade or Gokaiger, when it comes to multi-show crossovers that do the returning characters justice it’s these miniseries that are setting the standard.

REVIEW: Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger: Gaburincho of Music

Starring

Ryo Ryusei (Hiyokko)
Syuusuke Saito (Kamen Rider Zi-O the Movie: Over Quartzer)
Yamato Kinjo (Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger)
Akihisa Shiono (Prince of Legend)
Ayuri Konno (Another)
Atsushi Maruyama (Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger)
Toshiyuki Morikawa (Naruto Shippuden)
Shizuka Nakamura (Tomica Hero Rescue Fire)
Misaki Momose (Space Sheriff Shaider: Next Generation)
Minami Tsukui (Kamen Rider W)

 

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Taking place roughly between episodes 20 and 21 of the series, Gaburincho of Music sees the six Kyoryugers face off against D, an ancient Deboss Knight who uses evil Zyudenchi powers to become the evil Deathryuger. By kidnapping a pop idol named Mikoto Amano (nicknamed Meeko), who is descended from a race that had special powers through song, D plans to use the #00 Zyudenchi to awaken the ancient Zyudenryu Tobaspino and force him to help him conquer the planet. Daigo “King” Kiryu (Kyoryu Red) is an old friend of Meeko, and with the five other Kyoryugers will stop at nothing to rescue the idol and put a stop to the rogue Deboss plan’s for destruction once and for all.
The first thing to note is that it predictably isn’t a musical in the way many were expecting it to be – there’s plenty of songs, but the majority of them are background music rather than have our characters sing their way through a 30 minute epic. Naturally with a central character being a pop star there are some moments of proper singing, and the Kyoryugers do have their own little moments every so often. Even regular villain Candelira gets in on the action with a nice little tangent number.
Ferocious knight D is an excellent villain, and his Deathryuger form features some great little homages to the evil dinosaur-themed rangers of the past (how can you look at a musical weapon and not think Dragon Ranger?). The Deathryuger suit itself is nicely done, standing out from the others with its own unique motifs but at the same time feeling very much inkeeping with the heroes’ suits.
With such a good looking movie-exclusive mecha, you can guarantee that the film has plenty of gratuitous mecha action. This comes in both practical suit and CGI forms, with the balance between them held nicely. The suits are used exactly where they’re needed, but the explosion battle between Kyoryuzin and SpinoDaiOh is something only CGI would be able to do justice and is certainly a highlight of the entire film. This film certainly does a lot of good feeling like an epic adventure that still relates to the series. New characters like Meeko and D have are well acted and and a great addition to the film. all in all a great short film (30 mins long) would of been better had it been longer, but its still awesome.