Thursday 10 May 2018

Movie REVIEW: Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: Another Ending - Kamen Rider Para-DX with Poppy

Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: Another Ending – Kamen Rider Para-DX with Poppy

After casting the spotlight on Kamen Riders Brave and Snipe in its first instalment, the Kamen Rider Ex-Aid V-Cinema trilogy now turns its attention to CR's benevolent Bugsters in Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: Another Ending – Kamen Rider Para-DX with Poppy. While this is the first time Poppy Pipopapo has received her own title story in the series, Parado more recently featured as the star of the show's second Televi-kun Hyper Battle DVD. The DVD also acted as a lead in to the Another Ending trilogy – not only being referenced in the films but also concluding with Kuroto's escape from his digital prison.

While the CR team slowly continue their search for the escaped Kuroto, Emu is approached by regenerative doctor Saiko Yaotome as a test subject for a game she's produced alongside the Genm Corporation. "Let's Make A Bugster" is a game where the aim is to raise your Bugster partner to become human, and its success could finally lead to the recovery of those lost by the game illness. Emu is tasked with raising Parado, while Saiko pairs off with Poppy.

However it quickly emerges that there's something different about this Parado, as Emu faces a near-fatal encounter with this mysterious imposter. Meanwhile Poppy has her own problems, as Saiko reveals her alliance to the ever-scheming Kuroto. Can the two Bugsters team up to overcome this new threat? And just what is Kuroto planning?

Whereas Brave & Snipe immediately struggled with the fact there wasn't much left to do with either character, Kamen Rider Para-DX with Poppy has the luxury of featuring the two characters with perhaps the most left to tell. Parado as the hero still feels like a relatively new concept, and Poppy is the one Rider in the show that could always do with more focus. The Bugster Raising plot is definitely a fun one, tying into the video game theme perfectly as well as providing the opportunity to show off some of the other games from Ex-Aid’s extensive library. It’s also nice to see Para-DX with Poppy continue the long-standing tradition of bloody violence against Emu, this time in the form of getting shot. As usual is hilariously graphic, but does a good job of keeping him out of action so these films can be all about the rest of the Riders.

Facing off against Parado in this film is his new doppelganger "Black Parado", who has the ability to transform into the rather appropriately (if lazily) named Kamen Rider Another Para-DX. An evil clone is hardly the most original trope to call on, but there's certainly no denying that the Perfect Knockout suit really rocks a black and silver colour scheme. Parado is also the one character this storyline can work really well with too, as even though Black Parado doesn't have an ounce of the original's personality the juxtaposition of the two does a good job of showing just how far the once evil Bugster has come. The once chaotic gamer has now fully become a force for good that truly values life.

Poppy's storyline on the other hand could have perhaps done with a little more development, but certainly wasn't short on the surprises. Naturally the film had a certain quota to meet when it comes to getting Ruka Matsuda into as many different costumes as possible, but surprisingly it doesn't play on this fact for as long as you might expect. Instead the film actually refers back to the fact that Poppy was born from Kuroto's mother Sakurako - something that felt so understated for such a big development in the series that it was genuinely quite surprising to see it brought up again here even if it’s the b-plot that isn’t fully realised.

The use of Saiko, who appeared briefly in the Brave/Snipe movie before being used to full effect here, also makes a surprise reference to another bit of Ex-Aid history – namely the Heisei Generations movie. While Dr Pac Man is certainly a big part of how the events of the series came to be, that part of Ex-Aid's story felt pretty much closed at this point, so to see it brought up again without feeling too shoehorned in definitely says a great deal about how well-structured the film is. Whereas new characters introduced this late into the game are usually forgettable, Saiko fits into the cast rather nicely. With Another Ending having already botched Nico’s conclusion, it’s nice to another female character in the mix even if she isn’t a Rider.

Of course once again the real star of the show here is Kuroto Dan. Given that Kuroto's apparent defection underpins the entire trilogy it doesn't take much to see that really these films are all about him, but Tetsuya Iwanaga sells it in such a way that he's always the character you're most interested in. Of course this could mostly be due to the fact these films are hamming the character up to the extreme, whether it be through the scenes themselves or the sliding scale of madness Iwanaga has branded his mannerisms with. If the sight of Kuroto standing buck-naked atop a waterfall creating a brand new Gashat whilst proclaiming how amazing he is sounds too much for you, then you've clearly come to the wrong movie.

What's particularly good here are the scenes he shares with the resurrected Masamune, which really highlight the differences between the two of them. On face value both are utterly deplorable villains, but Kuroto's story has been told in such a way that even when he's clearly in the wrong his arrogance and personality are enough to instantly make you want to root for him. Even though the full of extent of his plans are still a mystery, Another Ending is definitely benefitting from having the main man back in the villain role once again. Not just for Kuroto either, as with the roles reversed Masamune comes across as a far more interesting character – the once confident CEO who's now a powerless pawn in his own son's machinations. It's a pity none of this personality came through during his stint on the series, because a father who's clearly quite fearful of his son's "divine" talents adds so much more potential to the very basic dynamic they were otherwise thought to have.

Although the trilogy got off to a relatively weak start with Kamen Rider Brave & Snipe, Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: Another Ending – Kamen Rider Para-DX with Poppy is where things definitely start to get interesting. As well as focusing on two characters who benefitted far more from this epilogue setting, Kamen Rider Para-DX with Poppy is full of satisfying twists that call back to some of the final details of the Kamen Rider Ex-Aid series. As far as post-series V-cinema releases go this is definitely a film that stands comfortably among the best of them, leading into what will hopefully be an every bit as thrilling finale. The game certainly isn't over yet.


Anonymous said...

Whats your favorite Kamen Rider Series ? My favorite one is Gaim.

Alex said...

Mine is also currently Gaim, though there's every possibility Build could overtaking it depending on how this last stretch of episodes go!

Humam East said...

I thought the second part was a little bit weak because it's like a padding and build up to the last one. The story of Poppy and Pallad was not good enough imho but what was great is the twist and exposition of SHIN DAN KUROTO and Dan Masamune. Each time they interact was on point on the twisted fate and family they are.

Anonymous said...

For me, it's build right now. The character developments hit a jackpot for me. From how our hero sento always fight for love and justice..., banjou from real retard to real hero, grease uugh T_T, and gentok, that try to fulfish his father's last hope. There is almost a twist in every episode and the ending seems like the best for me(not a happy and not a sad one).

I hope zi-o will be as good as build and perhaps hopefully better !