Thursday 13 April 2017

Miniseries REVIEW: Kamen Sentai Gorider

Kamen Sentai Gorider

Ever since the Super Hero Taisen series became an annual thing, a lot of tokusatsu fans will probably tell you that a huge crossover film featuring both Kamen Rider and Super Sentai isn't necessarily a good thing. However one good thing that came out of 2015's Super Hero Taisen GP was Kamen Rider 4 - a web miniseries that expanded on events following the film as well as giving Kamen Rider 555 some much needed closure. With the release of Chou Super Hero Taisen in 2017 Toei are at it again with Kamen Sentai Gorider - another three-part internet miniseries featuring the aforementioned Rider/Sentai fusion team. More importantly it also features a number of returning Riders, including Kamen Riders Lazer, Blade, Baron, Marika, and Another Agito.

This review contains spoilers for Kamen Rider Agito, Blade, Gaim and up to episode 23 of Ex-Aid.

Kaoru Kino (Another Agito)Kazuma Kenzaki (Kamen Rider Blade)

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.

Yoko Minato (Kamen Rider Marika) & Kaito Kumon (Kamen Rider Baron)Kiriya Kujo (Kamen Rider Lazer)

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.

Emu solves the mysteryKenzaki plays his cards right

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 to true save the day. The internal logic of Blade's Battle Fight even plays a big part in unravelling the game world, which carefully straddles between being an amazing example of attention to detail and a cheap way of beating an otherwise unsolvable game. Either way the fact Blade is referenced in such a way puts Kenzaki at the centre of this miniseries, and with so many burning questions behind what happened to him at the end of the series his return feels much like the way Takumi's was handled in Kamen Rider 4.

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.

Kuroto DanGenm's new look

One thing which doesn't really have any bearing on the quality of Gorider but should be brought up is how this miniseries is yet another example of being especially brutal to Emu. Being beaten to a bloody pulp in the Kamen Rider Brave special seemed bad enough, but that's getting off lightly compared to what he goes through here. Admittedly Goriders doesn't do it in quite a way that's meant to be as edgy and over the top (at least it seems that way) as Brave's, but it still makes you wonder if these writers seem to have something against poor old Emu.

Finally despite the title of the miniseries, the Kamen Sentai Gorider actually serve very little purpose in this story - only appearing at the very end as a climactic power-up for the five returning Riders. While the concept itself is a great idea for a crossover special, in a strictly Kamen Rider special it almost feels wrong to do it without any acknowledgement or recognition of Super Sentai. Its yet another case of the longer consecutively running series getting the shaft, as the miniseries would have come out exactly the same if some of the returning Riders were swapped out for Sentai heroes that had fallen in battle (there aren't as many to choose from, but someone probably would have been up for returning). Ultimately the series could have completely done without it, but including them was vital to tie it into Chou Super Hero Taisen and thus without it would likely have never been made at all. So if that's what it takes to get this calibre of crossover, then maybe it's a necessary evil after all.

Kamen Rider crossover lineupThe Gorider bazooka

Kamen Sentai Gorider is another case of a unnecessary spin-off of an unnecessary film turning out to be something rather special. While the whole Gorider aspect adds nothing of value and actual mystery is only resolved through a cop-out masking as a reference, the character interactions and how they all work so well together despite being from completely different shows really make this something worth watching. 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.

1 comment:

Lucas said...

I'm just glad Yoko Minato is back