Saturday 10 January 2015

Anime REVIEW: The Boy with the Guitar: Kikaider vs. Inazuman

The Boy with the Guitar: Kikaider vs. Inazuman

Following his time on the Android Kikaider live-action series, lead actor Daisuke Ban immediately went on to star in another superhero creation of Shotaro Ishinomori - the moth-like energy mutant Inazuman. Like Kikaider, Inazuman also had its own accompanying manga series with notably differed from the its live-action counterpart - in this case even featuring a different protagonist and design for the hero. While the two never properly crossed over in live-action, an issue of the Inazuman manga saw the heroes cross paths. This issue was then adapted as part of the Kikaider anime series in 2003, becoming the one-off special The Boy with the Guitar: Kikaider vs. Inazuman.

Thunderbolts and lightning

After the tragic conclusion of Kikaider 01: The Animation, Jiro continues his self-imposed exile while battling with the dark thoughts brought on by the submission circuit installed in him by Professor Gill. Private detective Hattori Hanpei is still on the search for his robot friend, seeking information from a group of highschoolers with their own secret powers. When the leader of the group, Saburo Kazeta, comes in contact with Jiro, Jiro is overcome by the submission circuit and vows to kill Saburo. But Saburo can fight back with his own powers, becoming the mutant hero Inazuman to fight off the crazed Kikaider.

As the two great forces battle, Inazuman must find a way to bring Jiro around to his normal self while finding out who is behind the sudden strength of the submission circuit.

Saburo & Miyoppe
This would have never happened in Kikaider 01...

Kikaider vs. Inazuman may be the conclusion to Jiro's story (open-ended as it is), but much of the story actually focuses on Inazuman - with this crossover perfectly striking a rare balance between the two. When we last saw Kikaider he had committed atrocities he considered unforgivable, and the Jiro we see here is still wracked with that same guilt. On the other hand, Saburo has a serious demeanour about him but isn't adverse to some comical moments - whether its arguing with girlfriend Miyoppe or attempting to get Hanpei off his trail. It introduces some much needed humour into the Kikaider story, which had just suffered from being perhaps a tad too dark. When all is said and done Jiro's story is still a pretty tragic one, but at the end of this it feels like there's a chance he might one day get some well-deserved happiness.

The crossover doesn't really delve into the origins of Inazuman and his mutant (as in X-Men style powers rather than monsters) friends at all, providing only the most important of details to ensure that the story makes sense. His friends don't get any sort of proper introduction either, with them settling straight into the role of side characters without any fanfare. It's strange in that the story is quite obviously meant to be part of Inazuman, but works with the Kikaider element leading regardless. Not that it matters about the side characters anyway, because most of the special is made up of what people are probably watching it for in the first place - two Japanese superhero icons clashing.

"Dark Jiro"
Nothing says evil like red eyes and transparent skin

And what an interesting fight it proves out to be! Despite the title of the special being Kikaider vs Inazuman, the actual Kikaider form barely appears - Jiro instead opting to battle Sabu in strange "Dark Jiro" hybrid form that wields a pretty badass gun guitar. It doesn't take long for "Dark Jiro" to completely overwhelm Saburo's cocoon form (named 'Sanagiman', but not mentioned in this special),  prompting a transformation into Inazuman to really kick things up a notch. Inazuman makes a pretty flashy entrance in the lengthy opening for the episode, but this is where the special goes all out to show just how cool he is. In turn Jiro also transforms - becoming an all-red version of the hero in his evil state. Sadly the battle between the two fully-transformed heroes doesn't last nearly as long as it should and the actual villain is completely nameless, but the visuals more than manage to make up for the lack of a detailed story.

"Dark Kikaider"
Figuarts. Repaint. When?

Kikaider vs. Inazuman is a great little crossover that isn't too heavy on plot but provides an excellent (and most importantly optimistic) conclusion to the Kikaider anime story. Even with very little context behind him Saburo/Inazuman makes an excellent protagonist, making it all the more disappointing that this Ishinomori hero didn't get a similar animated series. Henshin hero crossovers always have that special feel about them, even if they've become extremely common and greatly vary in quality. It might not be live-action, but this is certainly one of the better ones.

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