Monday 7 March 2016

Anime REVIEW: Kamen Rider SD

Kamen Rider SD

If there’s one thing you’ll constantly see Kamen Rider fans question it’s why the franchise has never received some sort of anime adaptation. Whether it be an adaptation of the popular Kamen Rider Spirits manga or something wholly new, there is definitely an eagerness to see what Kamen Rider could do without the limitations that come with a tokusatsu series. After all – if it worked for Kikaider it can certainly work for Kamen Rider too. What many people don’t mention however is that Kamen Rider HAS in fact received an anime version in the past – albeit not in the way many people would have hoped. Kamen Rider SD is a one-shot OVA from 1993, based on the manga series of the same name. As the name suggests, it stars comical super-deformed versions of the various Kamen Riders battling against a unification of their enemies working under the name ‘GranShocker’.

Even Riders want the booty

Entitled “Strange?! Kumo Otoko”, this OVA episode prominently features the Battle Riders – a team consisting of Kamen Rider 1, Kamen Rider ZX and Kamen Rider Black RX along with their leader Tōbei Tachibana. Following a successful assault on a GranShocker factory, Black RX reveals to his teammates that he has fallen in love with Michiru – an instructor at a local sports club. As the team all agree to help the lovesick RX win Michiru over, GranShocker’s General Jark puts his own plan into attack using the kaijin Kumo-Otoko (aka Spider Man, the first kaijin to appear in Kamen Rider).

When Kumo-Otoko captures Michiru, it’s up to Black RX and the Battle Riders to save the day! However when its revealed Michiru has fallen under Kumo-Otoko’s brainwashing and the team are also ambushed by TV Fly and Cannon Buffalo, it’ll take more than just three SD Riders to defeat GranShocker.

Tobei Tachibana
The leader the Riders needed

Although Kamen Rider SD features appearances from all of the existing Kamen Riders up until the point of its release, many of these are limited to cameo status as the episode keeps its focus squarely on the Battle Riders. Logically speaking the trio of Rider 1, ZX and Black RX works rather well – Rider 1 was the first, Black RX the most recent (with the exception of Shin, but no real surprises he chosen as a main character) and ZX the one before him (discounting Black for obvious reasons). With ZX having done so little in his own special, it’s nice to see him running around here in a slightly more prominent role again. The idea of splitting the Riders off into various groups (V3, X and Super-1 are known as the Mechanic Riders) is pretty neat, but treated as a pretty throwaway fact in the OVA. Perhaps the manga gives to little more clarity to it?

One face that’s great to see again however is Tōbei Tachibana, complete with his original actor Akiji Kobayashi providing voice acting duties. The idea of the more serious Tachibana mentoring the childlike SD Riders is amusing, and the fact that he’s the same size of them while all the other humans are normal-sized adds more to the hilarity. There’s no really much however to say about Michiru, who’s role in the plot as the damsel in distress doesn’t really add up to much more than that. The comedy is pretty basic, but generally gets the job done for a one-off OVA episode. Very little of the humour relies on an extensive knowledge of the franchise, making it suitable to watch regardless of how well-versed in the Showa era you might be. The SD Riders all have their own unique little personalities, with some minor quirks based on their histories or move-sets. Basically if you’re the kind of person who finds the idea of Black RX constantly forgetting the name of his “destined rival” Shadow Moon funny, you’re going to get along with this OVA just fine.

Shadow Moon
Poor forgotton Sunshine Moon

Visually-speaking Kamen Rider SD looks like a product of its time, whether that be for better or for worse. That isn’t to say the OVA is badly animated, more that it very heavily maintains the animation aesthetics of the late 80s/early 90s. The super-deformed designs of both the Riders and the villains look great however, capturing all the necessary details of their full-sized suits while injecting their own life and personalities into them. Thanks to the recent high definition release of this OVA included on the 1990s Kamen Rider movie trilogy BD set it also looks the best it ever has, making now the perfect time for the curious amongst you to finally check it out.

X, Super 1 and V3
The cool guy cameos

Kamen Rider SD is half an hour of fun and silliness, but expectedly doesn’t really have a whole lot to offer outside of that. The short doesn’t try to be anything more than a snappy comedy piece and while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, the comedy isn’t really the kind that leaves you wanting more. If produced as a short series where each Rider had the chance to strut their stuff a bit more than maybe Kamen Rider SD wouldn’t feel like such an add-on piece of media, but as it stands this is a spin-off that fans can happily take or leave without any real consequence either way.

1 comment:

Tyler said...

Awesome stuff! I myself am starting to dabble in the Kamen Rider series, and I think I'll give this one a watch as well.