Sunday 17 January 2021

Movie REVIEW: Kamen Rider Den-O: Kamen Rider Pretty Den-O Appears!

Kamen Rider Den-O: Pretty Den-O Appears!

If there's always one thing you can rely on in the Kamen Rider franchise, it's that there's never too long to wait until another Kamen Rider Den-O special. When the series first landed all the way back in 2007 the cast immediately captured fans hearts and even though lead actor Takeru Satoh has gone on to bigger things, the Imagin and supporting cast have made numerous appearances in the years since. From crossovers with Kamen Riders Decade, OOO and Zi-O to the various New Den-O spin-off films, the climax has never stopped. Even a global pandemic can't stop the climax, with 2020 seeing them return once again in Kamen Rider Den-O: Pretty Den-O Appears! Released as part of the Toei Manga Matsuri omnibus film series, this half hour film introduces a new kind of Kamen Rider heroine.

AnnaAboard the Den-Liner

After running off following an argument with her mother, ten-year-old Anna finds herself being chased by Shocker combatmen. During her escape she stumbles aboard the Den-Liner, where the Naomi and the Imagin have also been captured by the evil organisation. The subsequent scuffle leaves Anna and Momotaros travel back ten years into the past, where Anna meets a young girl named Melon.

When Shocker reappear to take Melon's treasure, Anna is left with no choice but to team up with the hot-headed Imagin. Springing into action with a new body, Kamen Rider Pretty Den-O is born! But is the strength of Momotaros enough to take down Ikadevil in such a pint-sized body, and how are the other Imagin faring back on the Den-Liner?

Anna, Melon & MomotaroIkadevil

Judging by recent specials like Kamen Rider Brain or Gridon vs Bravo, it's fair to say that mini-movies like this always work best when they don't have to concern themselves too much with plot and can just run rampant with the silliness. This is one area where Kamen Rider Den-O has seemed to excel above any other entry in the franchise too, with the Imagin having time and time again proved themselves as a fantastic source of comic relief with plenty of heart behind it. So while it's short and ultimately inconsequential to the wider Kamen Rider universe, Pretty Den-O Appears still has everything that makes Den-O so damn loveable in the first place. A heartfelt story with time travelling shenanigans, it's absolute joy to see these characters again even though it's only been a few years since their Kamen Rider Zi-O appearance.

Anna's story is a basic one, but it's a wholly relatable story to both children and adults alike. Having worked on a number of Pretty Cure instalments writer Shoji Yonemura is adept at writing young girl protagonists, and the supervision of Yasuko Kobayashi ensures that the special keeps that Den-O flavour even with a brand new heroine. Though she may initially appear as scared and powerless, over the course of the story Anna is able to step up when her friend really needs her and become the hero she needs to be. As older fans it can often be easy to forget the age range that Kamen Rider primarily aims at, but seeing a child in the driving seat is sometimes the right thing to do so that they can see themselves on screen. Doubly so when the hero is a young girl, because women in Kamen Rider are sorely underrepresented as it is. Even when covered in frills and bows, Pretty Den-O is able to feel less like a magical girl stereotype and more an amusing clash between the hyper-masculine Momotaros and the ideals of a young girl. It was a fine line to walk, but the movie somehow managed it. Actress Hinata Takao deserves every bit of praise as well - not just for how well she plays Anna but also for how well she's able to pull off those Momo-possessed mannerisms. It's impressive every time we see an older actor pull it off, but to see a child actor do equally as well is just wild.

Momo's new bodyOre Sanjou!

If Anna and Pretty Den-O herself were the elements aimed at the kids in the audience, then the appearance of Ikadevil and the Shocker combatmen were definitely there for the parents (although saying that, many of those who watched Den-O growing up would be old enough to be parents now). Kamen Rider isn't as stringent at keeping its classic villain roster in circulation the same way that something like Ultraman is, but the regular crossover films ensure they're never truly forgotten and Shocker themselves have gotten plenty of reuse in recent years. Even if you weren't around in the early 70s and have only gotten in the franchise more recently there's something immediately nostalgic about hearing the combatmen's chant of "eee!", and generals like Ikadevil immediately have this air of importance about them onscreen even if you know very little about them. What makes Shocker work particularly well is that despite being this frightening, facist organisation that can still be portrayed pretty terrifyingly today, they lend themselves equally well to just being a complete joke too. After all, you can't get much more ridiculous than them travelling into the past just to steal money for a shiny new headquarters. The original Kamen Rider isn't the only classic series to get some love in this movie either - be sure to stick around after the credits for one of the movie's funniest scenes.

As obvious as the story beats might be to older fans, it's a tried and tested template that works exceptionally well no matter the show and a perfect one for parents to share with their children. It pulls off plenty of sweet moments with that perfect injection of Den-O comedy, with Momotaros having wonderfully settled into a hero role even without the assistance of his Den-Liner buddies. The rest of them (along with Naomi) get their moments, but it's fair to say this is very much a Momotaros story. And with a Momotaros story naturally comes some great action scenes with that slick Sword Form suit, both in child and full-sized versions. The Pretty Den-O suit looks fantastic, with elements like the bow still keeping that train motif to make them feel like proper implementations of the costume rather than just comedic additions. The Pretty Den-O fight sequence is a lot of fun as you find yourself totally buying into the idea of this ten-year-old Kamen Rider, and the suit actor brings a lot to the table to convey both that and the fact that it's Momotaros in the driving seat. With Pretty Den-O being the titular hero it's a little disappointing that the full-sized Momotaros is the one that delivers the climax, but Anna certainly leaves quite the impression before then.

Shocker's latest schemeDen-O: Full sized version

In a time when the world needs as much wholesome content as it can get, Kamen Rider Den-O: Pretty Den-O Appears! arrives to remind you just how wonderful Kamen Rider can be. Pulling at the heartstrings whilst appealing to multiple generations of fans, it's the kind of content that deserves to be more than just a one-off short movie that will inevitably fade into obscurity in a few years' time. A short but sweet distraction from everything going on around us at the moment, Pretty Den-O will jump straight into your heart. While I'm saddened that it's just this one-off thing, at the same time I'm eternally grateful that it exists at all.


SunnyC247 said...

This movie was quite a surprise, though given the overwhelming (or overrated) popularity of Den-O, it was bound to happen regardless.
It was nice to see a child, or in this case, girl transform to Rider, which hasn't happened in previous installments/series, so it was kind of refreshing.
While I may not be a biggest Den-O fan, nor I think Den-O is the best Rider series (I think it's overrated), I thought it was decent movie, despite it was clearly made for Den-O fan.
As for someone like myself, I think once is enough, unless I want to do Den-O marathon for some reason.
Since next year (2022) marks the 15th anniversary of the show (2007), I suspect we might see Anna again for potential/inevitable movie (theatrical or steaming).
It's kind of interesting that Rider has been getting lots of spin-off of past series such as Brain (Drive), Gridon vs. Bravo (Gaim), and upcoming Decade/Zi-O.

M said...

Who subbed the movie?

M said...

I hope that in 2022 we get at least a Kamen Rider Shinobi V-Cinema Movie.

Alex said...

The movie was subbed by a fabsubbber(s) named ERankedLuck!

Anonymous said...

It's just my impression or this movie was filmed when Rina Akiyama (Naomi) was pregnant? She was pregnant with her second child last year

Anonymous said...

Alex, do you think it’s important to watch toku movies. I find most of them boring and pointless. Like summer movies which have nothing better to prove (at least to me), other than remind you of how much more money and budget could have went to the main shows themselves to make them better. To me, most of them toku movies not pertaining to the overall story or plot of the actual show itself. But do u think it’s important to watch crossovers, summer movies, epilogues, and stuff like that. I guess the 199 is really the only one looking forward to, but I don’t know if toku movies are worth watching most of the time,

Alex said...

Depends really. Sentai summer movies I can totally understand that point of view - I do enjoy the bigger budgets they have but for the most part they are just pointless fluff that usually doesn't have much bearing on the shows. Hopefully Zenkaiger will have some good ones like Gokaiger did though!

Rider movies are a little different though. They do have plot bearing a lot of the time now, so I would say it's important to watch them. But even before W started doing that, I used to really dig the weird AU movies and more often than not they were another chance for me to enjoy shows I didn't really like. For example - I don't really like Faiz or Kabuto all that much but I LOVE Paradise Lost and God Speed Love. GSL is one of my favourite Rider movies.