Wednesday 23 February 2022

Movie REVIEW: Kamen Rider Saber: Trio of Deep Sin

Kamen Rider Saber: Trio of Deep Sin

When it comes to Kamen Rider, there's no such thing as a happy ending. No matter how cleanly the series itself may have ended, you can almost guarantee that the battle isn't over yet – and in some cases, the threat the Riders face in their V-cinema/V-Cinext film might just be the worst of them all. Now the story of Kamen Rider Saber continues in Kamen Rider Saber: Trio of Deep Sin, with head writer Takuro Fukuda returning to pen the film after largely leaving the latter half of the series to other writers. In what's one of many departures this V-Cinext release takes, the story focus on protagonist Touma Kamiyama as well as supporting Riders Rintaro Shindo and Kento Fukamiya.

8 Years Later...Touma's new family

Eight years have passed since the fated swordsmen battled against the Megid and saved the world from Storious. While Rintaro continues his duties with the Sword of Logos, Kento is forging his own path and now engaged to woman named Yuina. Meanwhile Touma, with the help of Mei and his childhood friend Mamiya, now cares for an 11-year-old orphaned boy named Riku.

However the Mumeiken Kyomu has disappeared, and a new Kamen Rider Falchion has emerged to target the swordsmen one by one. With each of them slowly being erased from history Touma, Rintaro and Kento are the last ones left. How have each of their paths in the last eight years, as well as the actions of the swordsmen prior to that, led to this moment? 

Kento and YuinaThe new Falchion

Kamen Rider V-Cinema films have been many things in the past. More often than not they've primarily focused on secondary or tertiary Riders as opposed to the titular character, and have taken the form of everything from mid-series side stories to epilogues that represent a final end point for these characters. That said, they've never been whatever Trio of Deep Sin is before. Jumping the story eight years into the future, Trio of Deep Sin has very little to tie it to Kamen Rider Saber's main series outside of the characters themselves nor is it particularly focused on fight scenes and general Kamen Rider action either. Instead it takes a far more arthouse approach to the franchise both visually and conceptually, cutting to the emotional core of the characters involved and looking at the impact of Kamen Riders from a very different point of view. With a 75-minute running time it isn't especially long, but nevertheless a slow burn that lingers on the setting and atmosphere for maximum effect. As such it's a film that probably won't appeal to or appease everyone – even I wasn't sure if I liked it on first watch, but the attempt to stand out and do something different with the source material is definitely worthy of commendation.

That all said, just how different everything seems after this eight-year time skip gives the plot some immediate allure – particularly with how the viewer should be immediately able to realise that things aren't quite right. With a brand-new character introduced as another supposed childhood friends, something is immediately amiss and certain scenes are definitely framed as such. Because of this some of the revelations in Trio of Deep Sin could be considered somewhat predictable, but they work because they're immediately backed up by twists that are much less obvious. Though the main trio are obviously an important part of the story, the film belongs just as much to its supporting cast. Kamen Rider as a franchise rarely calls into question how their actions affect the people around them, but here it's been brought to the forefront to full effect. While they may have helped save the whole planet, what about all the people who lost loved ones in the process? It's a tale of grief, guilt, despair, love and revenge.

RikuFacing Yuina

Given that there are so many characters in Kamen Rider Saber who could have really done with a V-cinema release to flesh out their character, focusing on Touma once more might seem like something of a misstep. However this is undoubtedly a story that works best with Touma as the lead, and is actually a logical (if surprising) extension of the little we saw of him around children in the series itself. Touma being thrust in the role of a parent/guardian and taking it on so selflessly whilst racked with guilt is very much in-character for him, and his attempts to get Riku to open up are a powerful display of devotion. In turn actor Kiara Minegishi plays Riku brilliantly even barely saying a word – making the moment where he does finally open up all the more powerful. Even Mamiya is likeable despite being so immediately suspect, with the story really doing well to play him off as a long-time friend of Touma even though we the audience have never seen or heard of him before.

Meanwhile tragedy strikes in a different way for Kento, who has unknowingly become entangled in an emotionally-crippling scheme that's been years in the making. Kento was already put through the emotional wringer multiple times in the series itself, but doing all this to him right when he's managed to get his life on track almost feels cruel on Fukuda's part. While this particular story arc could have definitely done with a little more time to flesh it out, the raw emotions are still very much present. His doomed romance ends with tragedy, with the film's resolution leaving it somewhat up to audience to decide how much happiness Kento, as well as many of the other characters in the film, are able to take back from these events. 

Rintaro and ShinjiroBlades vs Falchion

With two extremely strong avenues to explore the effects of the swordsmen's actions, it's a shame that Rintaro's side of the story is where things fall a little short. While the introduction of his long-lost father Shinjiro as someone racked with guilt at the suffering they've caused over generations is an interesting direction to take it in, the use of fathers as villain (or at the very least antagonist) Riders has become such an overused trope in modern Kamen Rider that it's lost all impact. Doubly so when it's concerning characters like Rintaro, who's heritage didn't really factor in shaping either who he was when we first met him or who he would become by the end of the series. While Fukuda's previous work with Kamen Rider Ghost showed that he had interest in such familial relationships, that was far better woven both into the series and the Kamen Rider Specter V-cinema. His backstory and motivations don't feel all that detached from original Falchion Bacht either, and as underdeveloped as that was it still had considerably more substance. Ultimately Rintaro and Shinjiro's side of the story may work as another extension of Trio of Deep Sin's overall themes, but it just doesn't hit quite as hard as either Touma or Kento's parts. The fact that Mei is largely detached from Rintaro's story sours it all the more, given the light that was shone on their relationship in the series itself.

But even if viewers might not be able to agree on the subject matter of the film, one thing they will be united on is just how beautifully shot Trio of Deep Sin is. The film was directed by Kazuya Kamihoriuchi, a regular to Kamen Rider whose resume includes some of the artier episodes of Kamen Rider Build, its movie Be the One and Heisei Generations FINAL. Having previously worked with Fukuda on Kamen Rider Specter, Kamihoriuchi completely leans into his vision of a different kind of Kamen Rider movie and shoots in a style more akin to an arthouse J-drama. Selected elements, such as moments of first-person view, also feel out of the ordinary and add to the unease and confusion of the setting. On a wider production note, the minimal use of music in the film also serves to heighten both the tension and emotion.

Touma and RikuSaber transforms

And although the film may pay far less attention to the costumed elements of Kamen Rider, it nevertheless ensures that the moments it does have live up to those cinematic qualities. The transformation sequences have all been reworked so that they're completely unique to this film, forgoing the lengthy stock footage of the series for short bursts of visual wonder that properly play into the emotions of their respective scenes. The fights themselves are much more intimate, focusing solely on the characters in play with no additional action taking place in the background. As is typical for V-Cinema movies it debuts a number of new suits for some easy toy sales and promotional build up, but neither Fukuda or Kamihoriuchi seem particularly interested in showcasing them beyond that. Impressive as the newly coloured Kamen Rider Falchion suit may be, the film itself pays it little to no fanfare. Similarly Kamen Rider Espada's new Arabiana Night form comes at the emotional climax of Kento's story, but is a relatively fleeting moment in terms of showing off the suit itself. However unlike Valkyrie Serval Tiger's ungracious appearance in Zero-One: Others, at least this comes at a pivotal moment of the film to make it memorable. 

As an endnote it's also worth commending the fantastic end credits theme created for the film, Bittersweet - sung by Syuichiro Naito (Touma), Takuya Yamaguchi (Rintaro), Ryoga Aoki (Kento) and Asuka Kawazu (Mei). A similarly arty piece featuring the sharply dressed cast reflecting on things, it's the perfect end cap to this unique chapter in the Kamen Rider franchise.

Espada Arabiana Night"Bittersweet"

Kamen Rider Saber: Trio of Deep Sin isn't quite like anything the franchise has ever done before. It's less an epilogue to Saber's story, and instead an introspective piece on loss, grief and the victims of these stories that are so often forgotten. A beautifully shot film from start to finish, what it lacks in connection to Saber as a whole it makes up for in its very clear direction and vision – something Saber as a series often lacked. While perhaps not a film that'll please everyone, a more experimental side is perhaps exactly what these V-cinema releases need to thrive.


M said...

Alex, which V-Cinema do you think is better: Ghost RE:BIRTH: Specter or Saber: Trio of Deep Sin?

Alex said...

I prefer Specter. Trio of Sin is probably the better film on a technical level but Specter is so wonderfully insane that I can't help but love it.

Humam East said...

Seeing another Vcinema written by Fukuda is better than the show itself, I'm convinced that Fukuda should just focus on short story like this. His writing and theme is more consistent and more fleshed out rather than him doing a series.

jaejae_jynx said...

Is this film a good way to introduce people into Kamen Rider?

Big Boy said...

The entire time, all I was thinking was "Wow, the Build V-Cinema tried to do this same concept, and did it so magnificently badly it was kind of unbelievable", so I'm glad they gave the idea of "who is affected when riders fight" another go around.

Anonymous said...

I felt like, the whole movie gave me that phase 1 heisei vibe where the fight tend to happen at the end of its runtime. Imo, its definitely some of the best rider movie, though i can understand as to why this isn't for everyone.

I absolutely adore the short transformations. Compared to anyone, blades' is my favorite.

Cofield Jman said...

Why couldn't kamen rider blades and espada get extra final forms