Tuesday 12 May 2020

Movie REVIEW: Kamen Rider: Reiwa The First Generation

Kamen Rider: Reiwa The First Generation

It's the beginning of a new generation for the Kamen Rider franchise, and after a series celebrating the past 20 years of the Heisei era it's time to look toward the future. Kamen Rider Zero-One has kickstarted the Reiwa era in full force, but it seems Kamen Rider Zi-O has at least one more fight in him as the gang returns for the obligatory Winter crossover movie. But with Heisei Generations no more, it's time for a new banner to rise. Kamen Rider Reiwa: The First Generation sees the baton properly passed to Aruto Hiden, forging a new Kamen Rider legacy for the Reiwa era.

Another Zero-OneThe Zi-O Cast Return

After waking up from a dream about the Daybreak Incident, Aruto Hiden finds himself in a world where not only is he no longer the president of Hiden Intelligence but Humagears are pushing humanity to the brink of extinction. At the same time, Sougo Tokiwa and his friends find themselves surrounded by Humagears - leading Woz to appear and the RideWatches to restore their memories of the past. History has changed, and at the centre of it is Hiden's new Humagear president Will - also known as Another Zero-One.

With the human resistance fighting a losing battle, Aruto and Sougo travel back to 2007 to witness the events just before the Daybreak Incident. Not only do they encounter another Time Jacker with her own plans for the Kamen Rider powers, but Aruto discovers his Humagear father's own involvement in the catastrophe. With past and present hanging in the balance, Kamen Rider Zero-One must forge his own legacy and become the start of a new generation.

FinsZero-One vs Ichi-Gata

The Heisei Generations trilogy were some of the finest and most consistent films that the Kamen Rider franchise has put out in a while, so following them on with ones under a new banner was never going to be an easy feat. But while the format may remain mostly the same, there is one key difference between Reiwa the First Generation and its predecessors - the matter of legacy. Though the HeiGen films may have been primarily billed as crossovers between the currently airing Rider and their predecessor, in the case of all three what made them special was the inclusion of other Legend Riders as well. The first film gathered the (at the time) past five years of Riders for a powerful finale, FOREVER featured the (all too brief) reunion of Eiji and Ankh and as an anniversary movie FINAL's impact goes without saying. But none of this matters to the Reiwa The First Generation. Even ignoring the logistics of trying to outdo FINAL, this is a new generation with a new story to tell. For many fans out there Zero-One will be their first Kamen Rider series the same way Kuuga was back in 2000 - and it's their show just as much as it is longstanding fans'.

Of course, this would perhaps be an easy thing to achieve if not for the complications of including Kamen Rider Zi-O. This was a series that not only hinged itself on its anniversary element, but often revelled in the unrelenting mess the Kamen Rider chronology has become. For Reiwa The First Generation to work, all of that would need to be stripped. Not only that, but the series then has the added obstacle of having ended on a seemingly conclusive note. The Geiz, Majesty V-cinema may be on it’s way to undoing that, but with this film placed before that chronologically not only did it need to rewind that ending but also put the status quo back in place by the end of it. It could have very easily been a failure, but instead the film succeeds by largely stripping away that anniversary element and keeping Zi-O to its core concept - time travel.

Using the Zi-O cast as more of a vessel to facilitate the story, Reiwa The First Generation is instead able to pay homage to the legacy of Kamen Rider in different ways whilst at the same marking a new beginning in this nearing 50 year old franchise.  Elements like an alternate future with humanity on the brink of extinction harkening back to movies like Faiz's Paradise Lost or Kabuto's God Speed Love (or even just Zi-O's own twisted future, as Geiz comments upon) are more likely coincidental than anything else, but there's much more going on here than just surface comparisons. And at the centre of all this is the film's movie-exclusive Rider - Kamen Rider Ichi-Gata.

Soreo HidenKamen Rider Ichi-Gata

When the group travel back to the days leading up to the Daybreak Incident, Aruto discovers that his Humagear father Soreo not only creator the Zero-One Driver but also moonlighted as a Kamen Rider himself. The visual callbacks to Kamen Rider #1 speak for themselves, mixing Zero-One's impressive suit aesthetics with the colours and layout of the very first Rider to create something truly special. But on top of this and the fact Toei have (perhaps knowingly so) created themselves the perfect V-cinema scenario, Ichi-Gata's is one faucet of the film's dive into the franchise's roots. Its main antagonist, the Time Jacker Finis, plans to steal the past Rider powers from Zi-O so that they can return Kamen Rider back to it's original purpose - a weapon. The concept of taking a weapon for evil and turning it into a force for good is the very foundation of Kamen Rider, and though Soreo's story plays out very differently to that of Takeshi Hongo its message still remains the same. Here the core Kamen Rider story is reworked to fit within the confines of Zero-One, cementing it as the beginning of a new generation.

Despite just how big of a thing Aruto being raised by a Humagear father feels like it should be, surprisingly it's something that's only really been part of the series in passing so was perfect for exploration in this film. Though there's a lot of dealing in alternate futures not all of what transpires here is wiped from canon at the end, and even if was the emotional element would still be ever present. The dynamic between the two is strong - strong enough that it's even easy to forget that there are other things going on in the film sometimes. But it's a core that carries real weight across all of Zero-One, both challenging and cementing Aruto's belief in human/Humagear coexistence. Reiwa The First Generation really is Aruto's movie, and actor Fumiya Takahashi demonstrates exactly why he was chosen for the role.

Fuwa and Yua: Resistance FightersHorobi and Jin

And just because the Zi-O cast are used sparingly doesn’t mean that they aren’t used well. The film opens with a brief insight into their new lives but quickly dispels of that to return them to the status quo. It’s quite strange to see Sougo evolve into a mentor-like role to Aruto, not just giving him advice as the senior Rider but also as someone else who’s defied their supposed future. Meanwhile Geiz, Woz and Tsukuyomi may mostly be there for support but any excuse to get more Kamen Rider Tsukuyomi screen time is a good one. Though the story may stem from Finis’ plan a lot of the Zi-O stuff definitely feels more like background framework compared the emotional core offered by Zero-One, but any more would have definitely relied on the anniversary elements of the show. It’s hard to think of Zi-O as some sort of legacy character given that the series only ended last year, but the approach taken here certainly puts him on that path.

With so much of the story rooted in both the past and the film's new characters the roles of Zero-One's supporting cast is rather significantly reduced, however that doesn't mean that they don't all get a chance to shine in this strange alternate world. We get to see Fuwa and Yua reimagined as resistance fighters, not only giving their relationship the ability to develop without the shackles of AIMS but also really emphasising their teamwork as Riders. Similarly Jin and Horobi may only play a small role as Will's enforcers, but the pair are able to revel in the destruction without the skulking and scheming they do in the series' main timeline. Izu is of course present too, remaining that all-important Humagear anchor for Aruto. Of course an apocalyptic future also requires an appropriate wardrobe change, with all the characters leaning into this in some way. Metsuboujinrai.net especially, who really know how to dress to impress for humanity's impending extinction.

A Kamen Rider movie outing is always the perfect excuse to raise the bar visually, but the between both the series itself and this movie Zero-One and its director Teruaki Sugihara are making sure that the Reiwa era sets a whole new standard. Reiwa The First Generation features some incredible action set pieces, ranging from a full-cast warehouse battle to more emotionally-charged fights like the showdown between Zero-One and Ichi-Gata. These visuals are only enhanced by the brilliant suit design, not only stemming from Ichi-Gata but also the clashing visuals of Another Zero-One and Zero Zero-One - Aruto's movie exclusive form accessed through the ForceRiser rather than his standard Driver. The reimagining of Zero-One with the ShotRiser's more guerilla-like aesthetics is the perfect look for this film's setting, and the quality of Zi-O's monster Riders just continues to be unparalleled with Another Zero-One. So much so that even Another #1, the kind of CGI monstrosity most Rider fans would have laughed at a few years ago, turns out to be pretty impressive. We've clearly come a long way from the days of Movie War Core that's for sure.

Kamen Rider ZeroZero-OneAnother Ichigou

Kamen Rider: Reiwa The First Generation does everything it needed to do and so much more. It neatly fills that crossover void, offers a satisfying epilogue piece for Zi-O (if you choose to ignore the subsequent V-Cinemas that is) and enriches Zero-One's story in a way that won't result in the series relying too heavily on it. For regular Kamen Rider viewers it'll mostly seem like business as usual, but through clever righting and just the right level of homage it truly does feel like the first of a new generation. Although the jump from Heisei to Reiwa doesn't feel quite as monumental as the jump from Showa to Heisei did, hopefully both this and Zero-One will be remembered just as fondly in future Reiwa era milestones.


M said...

Nice Review! What is your opinion on Zero-One now that the show went on a hiatus?

Alex said...

I like Zero-One a lot. Like many I think the tournament arc dragged for quite a bit, but it really picked up again after that and I'm excited to see where it goes next!

Chengkeng said...

The movie okay, but they could have give zero one another movie form. My rating is 3.5 out of 5.

Ang Peng How said...

Good review!! This movie is really great for being the crossover between the last Heisei Rider (Zi-O) and the first Reiwa Rider (Zero-One) as the fight scenes have improved than the Kamen Rider Movies from recent years.

Heisei Generation FOREVER is still my favourite crossover movie.

Stephen Cassat said...

Great review! I honestly believe this is my new favorite Kamen Rider movie. The alternate timeline is always a great way to go. 001 is beautiful along with Ichigata and Another Zero One. Overall, great movie.

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