Tomoya Warabino (First Kiss)
Fumika Baba (Code Blue)
Shōta Matsushima (Godhand Teru)
Chris Peppler (Tokyo Eye)
Taira Imata (Super Hero Taisen GP: Kamen Rider 3)
Rei Yoshii (Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger)
Kenta Hamano (Segodon)
Ryoma Takeuchi (Detective Pikachu)
Yu Inaba (Clone Baby)
When a Kamen Rider series draws to a conclusion, rarely is it truly the end. Not only does that Rider make a return alongside the current one in next year’s Movie Wars release, but in recent years the additional Riders have shared the spotlight in their own V-cinema releases. This trend initially kicked off with Kamen Rider W’s Accel and Eternal movies but has recently been revived with Kamen Riders Gaim, Drive and Ghost. In terms of Drive movies Kamen Rider Drive Saga: Kamen Rider Chaser, may have been a side story taking place during the course of the film but the second – Kamen Rider Drive Saga: Kamen Rider Mach/Kamen Rider Heart acts as a true epilogue to the show, bringing back Gou Shijima/Kamen Rider Mach and the Roidmude Heart for one last outing.It’s been three years since the defeat of the Roidmudes, and Gou Shijima has travelled the world to learn the skills needed to resurrect Chase. Finally returning home, it isn’t long before he, Rinna and Kyu put these skills to the test and attempt to revive their fallen comrade. However something goes wrong and it isn’t Chase that returns – it’s Heart, complete with Brain and Medic’s consciousness also merged into his body. In Kamen Rider Heart, the three Roidmudes team up with First Division inspector Genpachiro Otta as a Roidmude amalgamation targets the humans previously copied by Roidmudes. While the two unlikely partners don’t get along, the weaker Heart learns where true strength lies as he sets out to extinguish this bug from the Roidmudes programming. Meanwhile in Kamen Rider Mach, Gou has developed a close friendship with Reiko Nishihori – supporting her during her prison stay and then meeting her upon release. However when Roidmude 005 returns and begins to haunt and frame Reiko with his own string of murders, it’s up to Gou to prove her innocence and free her from her father’s curse once and for all. If there was any Kamen Rider Drive character deserving of their own V-cinema movie, it was definitely Heart. As one of the most fascinating and layered villains that Kamen Rider has produced in years, it’s great to see him take the lead and develop from his defeat at the end of the series. Heart’s strict code of honour continues on into this story, which instantly covers any questions of why he’s allying himself with humanity here. His weakened state also makes him considerably more vulnerable, putting the character in a position he’s never really been in before since his only real ‘defeat’ was his death. As a character that plays far more on intelligence and emotion than he does on brute strength, this is the perfect setup for a Heart movie and the writers play on it wonderfully. With Brain and Medic almost acting like his conscience, Heart gets one last hurrah where he truly gets to play the hero – acting both as redemption and progression of his former status of a villain with a (somewhat) noble cause. Plot-wise Kamen Rider Heart is fairly by the numbers – the Roidmude amalgamation 5886 makes for a good one-off villain. What his inclusion does bring however is some nice cameos and call-backs to Drive’s episodic cast members. Shinnosuke himself is also used sparingly, only really appearing to offer a few words of advice to the Roidmude who’d happily call him a friend. It’s just about the right amount, as it doesn’t take away from the fact this is Heart’s (and later Mach’s) story but means there isn’t something integral missing from the proceedings either. Since it is of course impossible to make a Kamen Rider movie without the debut of some new Rider or form, Kamen Rider Heart of course sees the Roidmude himself become the hero – appearing in retooled Type Tridoron suit complete with a new Heart-esque head and other elements that reference the character’s evolved form. Upon initially seeing images of the suit I wasn’t exactly won over by it, but both learning of how it comes about and seeing it in action definitely leaves a far more positive impression. Kamen Rider Mach definitely draws from its more serious side, tackling murder, depression and attempted suicide while littered with corpses and a pretty graphic hanging scene to boot.. All in all it’s a pretty serious affair that suits Mach’s character perfectly, given that he easily the most emotionally and tonally varied Rider in the show. Despite the entire film’s set up focusing on Gou’s attempts at resurrecting Chase, his portion of the story sidesteps into completely different territory as it takes place on a smaller and more personal scale. The Nishihori storyline is one of the more significant cases in Kamen Rider Drive (running through Episode 0 as well as the series itself), and having the characters return again hammers it home that Drive isn’t the kind of series where cases and characters are simply forgotten about. With Gou having mostly gotten over his daddy issues and Roidmude xenophobia, it’s time for him to do the same for considerably more damaged Reiko. Even though prior to this movie the pair have only spent a minimal amount of time onscreen together, the development of their relationship feels surprisingly natural thanks to the close parallels between them. If anything the film is actually about letting things go and then being able to move forward creating a new family, something Kiriko explains to Gou in a particularly poignant scene.
This core theme also means that the reuse of Roidmude 005 doesn’t feel lazy either. Even through the voice alone Toru Nomaguchi’s portrayal of Koya Nishihori is chilling, and coupled with his sadistic murder pattern 005 makes for a rather compelling villain that’s far more human than he is monster (in a purely outward sense anyway). The claustrophobic warehouse fight scenes also contrast nicely with Heart’s brighter forest fights, highlighting the differences in tone between the two segments even if it was done unintentionally. Kamen Rider Drive Saga: Kamen Rider Mach/Kamen Rider Heart is an excellent send-off for two of Drive’s best developed characters. While their wider implications as an epilogue are relatively small, both parts play wonderful service to individual episodes of Drive and (especially in Mach’s case) build them up into something far more substantial. If the Returns movie is now going to be an annual thing with the franchise, then this movie seem like a big step in the right direction.