Tuesday 21 May 2019

Miniseries REVIEW: Kamen Rider Drive Saga: Kamen Rider Brain

Kamen Rider Drive Saga: Kamen Rider Brain

Like many Japanese shows Kamen Rider has been known to put out some great April Fools' jokes over the years, but no matter how great they'd be as a real thing they usually stay as just that – a joke. However clearly the power of Kamen Rider Drive shouldn't be underestimated, as the 2017 joke has now become reality with the release of Kamen Rider Drive Saga: Kamen Rider Brain. Originally "teased" to be coming out in 2035, this two-part Toei Tokusatsu Fan Club exclusive fulfils the Rodimude's comment about eventually becoming a Rider himself at the end of Drive Saga: Kamen Rider Heart as well as technically making him both the last of the Heisei era Kamen Riders and the first Reiwa era Rider.

Brain wakes up to find himself rebuilt and the hostage of Mu – an evil organisation made up of past Kamen Rider enemies who plan to conquer the world using the Roidmude's high brain power. After being saved from brainwashing by Professor Crystal Peppler, Brain suddenly displays the ability to turn into a Rider himself - Kamen Rider Brain!

Hunted down by Mu's forces, Brain puts his new abilities to the test before a final showdown with the organisation's great leader.

As an immediate disclaimer, anyone expecting Kamen Rider Drive Saga: Kamen Rider Brain to be a proper continuation of the Kamen Rider Drive story or something on a similar level to Kamen Rider Heart are probably going to be disappointed. Given that it was born out of an April Fools' joke it shouldn't be a surprise to hear that Kamen Rider Brain is a comedy first and foremost, lampooning the classic Showa era Rider set up whilst playing up the character's comic personality more than ever before. At only two episodes (with running times of seven and 14 minutes) it's also incredibly short, so barely has much in the way of a story to begin with.

Between the various Hyper Battle Videos and other web-exclusive specials Kamen Rider has produced some pretty fantastic comedy skits over the years, so Kamen Rider Brain is in pretty comfortable territory. Comedy is ultimately subjective but it feels fair to say that Kamen Rider Brain isn't exactly the funniest thing Kamen Rider has ever put out (for me 555's Hyper Battle Video still remains the gold standard), but when it does land a joke it does it particularly well. The whole first episode, which perfectly sends up the creation of the original Riders along with a snarky commentary from Brain himself is particularly great. It does become a little frustrating later on however when it's abundantly clear that this special is nothing BUT comedy, as it would have been nice to see Brain get something that does have some genuine meat to it. That said, Kamen Rider Brain only exists thanks to just how much actor Shota Matsushima loves the character and you can tell he's loving every second of this. Similarly revelling in his role is Chris Peppler, who may not be back as Krim Steinbelt but arguably has even more fun briefly playing the hilariously named Crystal Peppler.

Another reason to watch this however is for the suit itself. Kamen Rider Heart's suit may have been divisive, but here once again Toei prove that they can kit-bash an older suit into something new and absolutely make it work. Kamen Rider Brain may be a reworking of Drive's costume but the added cape and helmet detailing give it life of its very own. The fact they were able to rework Ghost's SunglassesSlasher into a weapon that's both completely fitting for the character AND make a joke out of it is just brilliant. The suit looks so good that it's almost a shame that it was made for a one-off comedy piece like this, and it's no surprise that Bandai Tamashii Nations haven't passed up the opportunity to release it in the S.H. Figuarts line.

With Mu made up of past villains from across the Heisei era, it's always fun to see old suits again even if they do appear for no rhyme or reason. Especially when there’s some more uncommon/recent ones in the mix, such as Another Para-DX, Dark Ghost and even Kamen Rider Poseidon. What they’re doing hanging around with the likes of Gremlin, the Cancer Zodiarts or Kamen Rider Duke is anyone’s guess, but since they’re only here to get beaten by Brain why not go with a diverse cast of villains rather than the same old favourites?

But perhaps the most interesting thing coming out of Kamen Rider Brain is the suggestion that Drive's story may not be over quite yet. While this special might not offer much in the way of wrapping up some of the series' loose ends, its conclusion feels almost foreshadowy in the way it addresses the current state of Brain, Heart, Medic and of course Chase. The ship may have long since sailed on any more epilogue movies in the same vein as Kamen Rider Heart, but clearly Toei know there's still potential in Drive's story. Could Chase and Gou be reunited one day the same way Eiji and Ankh briefly were in Heisei Generations FINAL? Only time will tell.

Kamen Rider Drive Saga: Kamen Rider Brain is fun, but the kind of inconsequential fun you can take or leave depending on how into the character you are or how you feel about Kamen Rider Drive as a whole. Some jokes don't land quite as well as the writers might have hoped, but there's definitely enough laughs in here to warrant a watch. And at the very least, it gives all hope to all April Fools' jokes past and future that something may one day come of them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Are the Hyper Battle Videos of Kamen Rider good ? I never watched them.