Tuesday 3 June 2014

Movie REVIEW: Birth of the 10th! Kamen Riders All Together!!

Birth of the 10th! All Kamen Riders Together!!

Not every Kamen Rider makes his debut in a full length television series. While these a movie-exclusive Rider is almost obligatory, back before the franchise's Heisei-era revival there were a few "main" Riders that first appeared in films. However Kamen Rider ZX (pronounced "Zed Cross") is a bit of a special case. First appearing in his own manga series in 1982 and then a special radio broadcast, ZX wouldn't appear on television screens for another two years later in Birth of the 10th Kamen Riders All Together!! With this crossover special starring the first ten Kamen Riders not leading into a full series, ZX was all but forgotten as Kamen Rider Black took the mantle in 1987. But after making numerous appearances in recent crossover movies, particularly a prominent one in this years Heisei Rider vs. Showa Rider: Kamen Rider Taisen feat. Super Sentai, now seems like the perfect time to dive into this one-off piece of Kamen Rider history...

Kamen Rider ZX
Introducing Kamen Rider ZX!

When aircraft pilot Ryo Murasame was taking his sister for a flight over the Amazon Rainforest, his plane was shot down by a mysterious UFO. Found by the evil Badan Empire, Ryo's sister is murdered before he is brainwashed and turned in a combat cyborg known as ZX. Eventually, Ryo regains his memory in an accident and manages to escape Badan, vowing revenge on them for what they've done.

The Badan Empire and their leader, Ambassador Darkness (the brother of Kamen Rider's Ambassador Hell) near completion of their ultimate doomsday weapon - the Space Break system. As the Empire gathers the Badancium 84 they need to finish the project, the nine past Kamen Riders catch wind of their scheme and band together to stop them. However also facing them is Ryo, thinking that the Kamen Riders are also cyborg warriors part of Badan.

After being brought to his senses and learning more about his nine predecessors, Ryo joins the Kamen Riders for a final fight against Badan as their newest ally - Kamen Rider ZX!

The newest hero - Ryo Murasame!
Aka Ryo Murasame

While one of the primary functions of Birth of the 10th is to introduce television audiences to Kamen Rider ZX, this version doesn't quite leave the lasting impression fans say his manga interpretation does. With his origin story sped through in the first five minutes, this special jumps straight in with Ryo Murasame determined to take revenge on Badan. This thirst for revenge sees him mistake his fellow Kamen Riders for enemies...for all of two minutes before they explain the situation to him and he "officially" joins the side of good. This birth of Kamen Rider ZX is so sped through that it almost feels like a summary episode than a special, not helped by the fact that all the new characters are so damn boring. Ryo doesn't really have any distinct personality traits, while his "girlfriend" Rumi (whose doctor father was also killed by Badan) is a complete blank slate.

The cyborg ninja look of the ZX suit is pretty nice though, and what little is seen of the Rider's powers certainly leave you wanting more. Especially since he's able to hold his own against both Riderman and Super-1 at the same time. With more time ZX could have turned out to be something special onscreen, but sadly its up to the pages of Kamen Rider Spirits to leave a lasting impression of this now-veteran Rider.

The veteran nine Kamen Riders
Getting by with a little help from his friends

Meanwhile there isn't a whole lot to say about the Badan Empire either, who other than being a generic Japanese evil organisation seem to made up of mostly reconstituted suits from older Kamen Rider productions. Even their leader is the near-identical brother of another classic villain (the Riders' momentary confusion over this is one of the more memorable moments). The most memorable member of Badan is Eisuke Mikage, a fellow brainwashed cyborg who has the ability to transform into the gloriously ridiculous Tiger-roid. The friendship angle between the two cyborgs naturally has nowhere near enough development to work on an emotional level, but the sheer craziness of a humanoid tiger with guns growing out of his back is enough to carry their fleeting fight sequence. 

Ambassador Darkness
Don't mistake Ambassador Darkness for his brother

But even though this special is mainly about introducing ZX to the (televised) world of Kamen Rider, it's name is still Birth of the Tenth! Kamen Riders All Together!! So naturally the reappearance of the past nine Riders (Rider-1, Rider-2, V3, Riderman, X, Amazon, Stronger, Skyrider and Super-1) plays a huge part in it. Shiro Kazami (V3), Joji Yuki (Riderman) and Kazuya Oki (Super-1) all make appearances in the special with the actors reprising their roles, while the others are left with just in-suit appearances. While the mid portion of the film sees the three returning actors teaching their junior about the Kamen Riders, there's still plenty of time for glorious fight scenes complimented by a classic soundtrack. It's good old fist-fighting Kamen Rider fun, and for a while enough to make you forget that ZX isn't really that important to the plot itself.

Tiger-Roid! RARRR!
What makes a Tiger better? GUNS. LOTS OF GUNS.

45 minutes simply isn't enough to properly introduce a brand new Kamen Rider, and so ZX's television debut doesn't really hold up that well in that regard. His origin being the generic Kamen Rider cyborg origin isn't a bad thing (in fact, its rather fitting given the nature of this special), but it being covered in all of five minutes results practically no attachment to Ryo whatsoever. Meanwhile the crossover portion of the special is a lot of fun, if a little dated when compared to the annual specials Rider fans are treated to these days. Birth of the 10th! All Riders Together!! is by no means a bad special, but very much typical Kamen Rider fare that offers little standout attraction. Certainly worth a watch if you want to see every Rider in action, but by no means something you should hurry to see.

No comments: