Friday 18 August 2017

Movie REVIEW: Kamen Rider Ghost RE:BIRTH: Kamen Rider Specter

Kamen Rider Ghost REBIRTH: Kamen Rider Specter

While many will argue that Kamen Rider Ghost is a series that suffered from a number of problems, even its fans often agree that Makoto Fukami could have been handled far better. After initially making a strong debut opposing Takeru’s collection of the Eyecons, Kamen Rider Specter quickly fell into the background as he joined the heroes’ side – lacking in personality and only highlighted by an often confusing evil doppelganger subplot. But even though the show’s now over there’s still a chance to salvage his character in Kamen Rider Ghost RE:BIRTH: Kamen Rider Specter – a V-cinema release following Makoto and Alain’s continued mission in the Ganma world following the show’s conclusion.

The cast of Ghost reunitedDanton

Two years after the conflict between the human and Ganma worlds have ended, Makoto and Alain are continuing their work to bring a blue sky back to the Ganma world. Just as a device built by Akari and Igor is about to be tested, a satellite crashes down from the sky. Inside is a man named Danton, who reveals he was imprisoned by Adonis for suggesting a very different means of immortality.

As contact with Danton awakens long forgotten memories inside Makoto, he learns the truth behind both his and Kanon’s birth. This also brings him in conflict with Alain, who’s determined to honour his father and put a stop to Danton’s schemes at any cost.

Makoto & DantonMakoto & Alain

Remember that scene in The Simpsons episode Krusty Gets Kancelled where Krusty has a confused reaction to watching Russian cartoon “Worker and Parasite”? That reaction best summarises what watching Kamen Rider Ghost RE:BIRTH: Kamen Rider Specter is like. Not in terms of quality, but the fact the film is just so far out in terms of story that you just can’t help but wonder how the hell things went from Ghost the series to this. It almost feels like a direct response to those who complained about Makoto’s unrepentant blandness, with writer Takuro Fukada lashing back by giving Makoto and Kanon the most unexpected origin story he could muster. But in a series that’s always valued the concept of humanity and explored multiple ways to bypass mortality, thematically it still manages to fit. Modern Kamen Rider daddy issues go into overdrive as Makoto adds yet another estranged parent to his checklist, giving him a grand total of three dads to choose from (okay one of them isn’t so bad, but the point still stands). At the very least at the end of this film Makoto certainly can’t be summarised as “boring” - and if that was the end goal then it’s a job well done.

As the title suggests the film mainly belongs to Makoto, however it also brings forth the final step in the character who developed the most during Kamen Rider Ghost’s tenure - Alain. Unlike previous recent “Returns” films the narrative isn’t split into two different parts, but neither arc suffers from their as putting their friendship to the test is the far more interesting dynamic. It’s a classic story of two friends being pushed apart by differing ideologies but the same goal, which while by no means original has been Ghost’s mantra. When Alain takes to the podium at the end of the film to give a rousing speech about friendship, hope and the future (complete with an instrumental version of opening theme “Warera Omou, Yue Ni Warera Ari”) both the show and his character feel like they’ve come to a perfect end. Even for someone who disliked the show, it’s hard not to be somewhat moved.

Makoto's origins revealedAlain makes a rousing speech

Rest assured the other key cast members also show up in the film as well though, with Takeru particularly used minimally to stop him from hogging the spotlight. The lengthy time skip also presents some great new dynamics – the scientist team up of Akari and Igor being the obvious one but also Jabel’s more disciplined approach to running the Tenkuuji Shrine. Even Saionji shows and finally earns his legacy, having died early on in the show only be resurrected in likely-to-be-overlooked DVD special. Of course with the rest of the cast in tow that means Onari isn’t far behind either, and unfortunately this isn’t an instance where his loud comedy styling is reined in. While a film filled with angst, existentialism and fights in the pouring rain does need a bit of humour injected into it every now and again, Onari flailing about wearing a comedy wig for the entire thing is a just a little jarring to say the least.

Danton himself is also a great character – the kind that would quickly overstay their welcome in a full series but works perfectly for a one-off movie appearance. It’s a shame that so many of Ghost’s villains are cut from exactly the same cloth in that methods are at the very least trying to work toward a noble (albeit distorted) cause, but unlike previous foes Danton has a certain charisma that often masks his true nature. His Evolude form isn’t particularly memorable, but the character himself, his powers and his place in the series are. This might also explain why Daigo Mukami felt like so much of an afterthought, placed in a film he didn’t need to appear in and back story that lacked any emotional resonance. With the added revelation of this movie Daigo feels even less relevant than he did in The 100 Eyecons - a random addition that felt like back story but was instead just a bridge between two other more significant figures (as far as the narrative goes anyway) in Makoto's life.

Danton as an EvoluderOnari being Onari

These films are never just about providing a finite conclusion to a show though, their existence also means an opportunity to squeeze out a few more toys just to rope fans in one last time. In this case it’s the Yujou Burst and Sin Specter Eyecons, which transform Necrom and Specter into those respective forms. Necrom Yujou Burst Damashii is a friendship-powered flaming gold variant of Ghost’s Toucan Boost, while Sin Specter continues Specter’s thematic reversal of Takeru’s powers with a Mugen Damashii variant. While Ghost’s powers have always developed through transcendence and positive attributes like unity and hope, Specter’s are gained through corruption – initially “diving too deep” and culminating in this seven deadly sins themed form. While the achievement of the two forms is fairly glossed over in the film, both resonate well enough with the emotion packed into their respective scenes to work without a second thought. Necrom’s feels largely inconsequential, but it’s nice to see him getting some sort of power boost after being denied one throughout the entire show. Specter’s on the other hand signals the big finale fight sequence, showing off all manner of flashy special attacks. For a film that draws more heavily on the drama side of Kamen Rider the fight sequence is a great change of pace and not only delivers as the film’s best action piece, but one of Ghost’s as a whole.

Kamen Rider Necrom Yujou BurstKamen Rider Sin Specter

Kamen Rider Ghost RE:BIRTH: Kamen Rider Specter is one hell of a wild ride. While undoubtedly one of the best things to ever come out of Kamen Rider Ghost as a series, its story and plot developments are just so out there that you find yourself constantly questioning what on Earth you’re watching. If you ever felt Makoto Fukami was lacking, they sure made up for it in back story here. Along with that come great character moments, fantastic action scenes and most of all an extremely satisfying end to the series. If Kamen Rider Ghost as a series could have been as good as its movies, then it really would have been something.

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