Monday 7 December 2020

Miniseries REVIEW: Gaim Gaiden: Kamen Rider Gridon vs Kamen Rider Bravo

Gaim Gaiden: Kamen Rider Gridon vs Kamen Rider Bravo

I’m not sure if anyone had “new Kamen Rider Gaim content” on their 2020 bingo card but it seems that the fruit never gets mouldy, as the 2013 series returns once again for yet another spin-off side story. After previous entries has focused on Kamen Riders Zangetsu, Baron, Duke and Knuckle (as well as further stage show entry for Zangetsu), this time it’s the turn of fan favourites Hideyasu Jonouchi and Oren Pierre Alfonzo in Gaim Gaiden: Kamen Rider Gridon vs Kamen Rider Bravo. This two episode mini-series was released exclusively via the Toei Tokusatsu Fan Club, also coinciding with the official announcement of Premium Bandai’s CSM series Sengoku Driver.

A new JonouchiA familiar Oren

Several years after Gaim’s conclusion, Jonouchi is now working as a world-renowned patissier whilst Oren has returned to the life of a mercenary. When Takatora Kureshima suspects Jonouchi is planning to use mutated Helheim Fruits in his latest creations, he hires Oren to take him out.

Kamen Rider Bravo seemingly shows no hesitation in battling his former apprentice, but is transformed into a fearsome evil form when attacked by a mysterious Helheim vine. It’s now up to Kamen Rider Gridon to return his master to his senses, while Kamen Rider Zangetsu tracks down the real culprit behind this sinister plot.

Gridon ReturnsMister Dangerous!

With the first episode of this special clocking in at only nine minutes long and the second a further 15 minutes, suffice to say that Gridon vs Bravo isn’t quite to the same standard as the previous Gaim Gaiden entries. It’s extremely minimal on plot or detail, has very little connection to specifics of the series itself and (in true Gridon and Bravo style) all a bit silly. However given how arguably none of the previous Gaim V-Cinemas quite lived up to the reputation of the series itself, going in a more fancy-free direction for this latest instalment might have been the right way to go. It also works doubly well for the characters this one focuses on, given that they are quite firmly established as the comedic duo of the show. While Gridon vs Bravo isn’t anywhere near as wacky as the Kamen Rider Brain special was, it’s certainly feels in a similar sort of vein.

Interestingly though, this is the only one of the Gaim Gaiden specials (with the exception of the Zangetsu stage show that is) to focus on a single story. Whereas the previous movies were split into two separate segments starring each character, this is one story that focuses on both. As previously mentioned this story is minimal at best, but it works for the running time. Gridon vs Bravo doesn’t ask you to worry about the logistics of Helheim still being such a threat so many years after the series or question the (non-existent) backstory of its villain, but instead to simply revel in these returning characters and the fact Gaim is still getting new content (not to mention suits) six years after its completion.

Help comes from a surprise faceMasako

From a character perspective so much seems to have changed, but at the same time very little actually has. Jonouchi has progressed nicely from the timid sidekick he once was into a suave, confident pastry chef, but it feels like a completely natural evolution for the character and when he comes under attack we still see the shades of his previous self. Oren is just as flamboyant and over the top as ever, saving Takatora in his phone as his “Gorgeous Melon” and coming at Jonouchi in full combat gear and a bazooka. Takatora now returns as a bounty hunter tracking down the last vestiges of Helheim, but this is barely covered within the story itself and really doesn’t change his overall personality or role that much at all. Even so, it doesn’t feel like too much of stretch that he would leave Yggdrasil behind and try to right some of his previous wrongs. His plans could still use some work though, with this one being both convoluted and a touch extreme in places.

The remaining key cast member and only newcomer to the story is Masako - Jonouchi’s secretary who is secretly masterminding the whole situation and able to transform into Kamen Rider Sylphi. Just who Masako is and how she managed to become an Armoured Rider is left completely unexplained, and her ominous final words to Zangetsu suggest that the fight is not over yet. On the one hand this could be perceived as plans for further Gaim adventures one day, but given the way Rider concepts are brought up and then subsequently dropped without fanfare (Foundation X being the big example) it’s more reasonable to look at “the never-ending battle” as a play on Gaim’s Sengoku era influences. What’s more notable about Sylphi is her behind the scenes background, with Masako being played by Kamen Rider Girls member Tomomi Jiena Sumi. Not only is she the first Kamen Rider Girls member to have graduated to playing an actual Rider, but it’s even more fitting that she’s playing one from her respective series - having represented Kamen Rider Gaim up until 2016.

A whole new LycheeIntroducing Mister Violence!

But really the main joy of these specials is seeing those weird and wonderful suits in action again, especially when they’re continuing to debut new ones on top of the existing roster. Gridon vs Bravo sees the debut of Bravo’s King Durian Arms form and Gridon’s Lychee Arms, both of which are basic kitbashes in a similar vein to the rest of the Gaidens but still give off that exciting upgrade feel. Bravo’s is simply an example in how effective a black repaint can be when it comes to making an evil Rider, especially if you go that extra mile and give the suit a cape as well. By comparison Lychee Arms is a much more extensive upgrade, giving Gridon a more Viking-like appearance as well as decking him out with a repainted version of Lord Baron’s sword. Seeing such a bottom-tier Rider like Gridon finally get an upgrade shows just how far the character has come, and the moments that lead up to him getting the new Lockseed (featuring a surprise appearance from another Gaim alumni) is easily the highlight of the whole special. Continuing the trend of making it the most recycled suit ever Sylphi is decked out in a variation of the Ringo/Apple Arms, however the new helmet and touches to the undersuit are enough to make it stand out nicely amongst the others. Ironically though it isn’t any of these new suits that’s it exciting to see onscreen, but rather seeing Zangetsu Kachidoki Arms in action once more. First debuting in the Zangetsu stage play and then making a brief cameo in Kamen Rider Zi-O the Movie: Over Quartzer, Zangetsu Kachidoki Arms quickly became a fan favourite and it’s a real treat to see it in a more extensive battle sequence with show-quality effects. If there’s one thing Kamen Rider Gaim’s always been good at, it’s been delivering the kind of visual delights that makes the viewer want to go and pick up the toys straight after. With new S.H. Figuarts and new Lockseeds coming our way very soon, that doesn’t seem to have changed all these years later.

Kamen Rider SylphiZangetsu Kachidoki returns

Ultimately Gaim Gaiden: Kamen Rider Gridon vs Kamen Rider Bravo is another piece of uneventful fluff, but this time around it doesn’t feel like there are any pretences of it being anything but that. Ryo Matsuda, Metal Yoshida and Yuki Kubota all slide back into their roles as if no time has passed at all, and if anything it’s just nice to be reunited with these faces once more rather than hold out for something of narrative value. Given all the merchandise being announced around its release this is probably more of a cynical toy advert than most Kamen Rider (particularly since it’s aimed at collectors rather than kids), but Toei didn’t have to go all out like they did for it. Gridon vs Bravo is a just bit of harmless, inconsequential fun and if there’s anything most of us needed this year it’s that.


Anonymous said...

Alex, what did you like more: Drive Saga Brain or Gaim Gaiden Gridon vs Bravo?

ZachTron552 said...

Happy to see the text when you slide over the pictures are back.

Alex said...

Tough question, possibly Brain just because it’s so wacky?

Unknown said...

the probability for a Re:Birth Necrom is higher than ever.