Monday 25 April 2022

Special REVIEW: Kamen Rider Genms -Smart Brain and the 1000% Crisis-

Kamen Rider Genms -Smart Brain and the 1000% Crisis-

April Fools' Day – a date where millions of people play pranks across the globe, and Toei use it to humorously reveal their latest Toei Tokusatsu Fanclub exclusive. This time their big announcement was Kamen Rider Lovelica: -LOVE IS ALL-, due for release April 1st 2066 to mark the 50th anniversary of Kamen Rider Ex-Aid. But the following day came the real announcement – Kamen Rider Genms -Smart Brain and the 1000% Crisis-, a sequel to last year's Kamen Rider Genms -The Presidents-. Tetsuya Iwanga and Nachi Sakuragi reprise their roles as Kuroto Dan/Kamen Rider Genm and Gai Amatsu/Kamen Rider Thouser once more, with Ex-Aid and Zero-One writer Yuya Takahashi also returning to pen the special.

Gai's latest planKuroto reborn

Resurrecting him as a Humagear, Gai Amatsu needs Kuroto's help. He warns of a new threat – Zein, an artificial intelligence created to learn of humanity's benevolence. But Zein has zero tolerance to malice, and after taking over the world Gai predicts that they will deem humanity's extinction necessary.

However the self-proclaimed god has other ideas, and would rather continue his goal of returning GenmCorp to its former glory. In order to win his help, Gai challenges Kuroto to a duel – allying himself with the Ark to become the powerful Kamen Rider Thousand Ark. However even when overwhelmed Kuroto never stops scheming, stealing the Ark's knowledge to become even stronger.

Kamen Rider Thousand ArkKamen Rider Genm Musou Gamer

In my review for Kamen Rider Genms -The Presidents- I previously said that I was very much suffering from Kuroto Dan burnout, and after the events of Zero-One Others: Kamen Rider Vulcan & Valkyrie I'm probably not alone in saying I'd be happy if the curtain was closed on the Zero-One universe for good. However -Smart Brain and the 1000% Crisis- proves there might actually be life in both of these things yet, and it all comes down to the rather wonderful dynamic Kuroto and Gai have. There's always been something gratifying about the permanently smug Gai getting his ass kicked in battle, and his relatively calm demeanour is the perfect foil to Kuroto's over the top mannerisms. Gai constantly likes to think he's the smartest person in the room, but is repeatedly outdone by this cackling madman who ran a video games company. It's almost beginning to feel like a borderline obsession for Gai, as ultimately he's not just bringing Kuroto back to life to ask him for help – he's doing it to try and get one up on him as well. But whereas previously it was enjoyable to see Gai defeated because he was a villain, he's become rather endearing as a protagonist because he's actually kind of pathetic. You almost feel sorry for how much he's constantly outdone by Kuroto, but it's charming that he keeps on trying anyway.

Kuroto is on good form here too, with his new status as a Humagear as well as newfound love for his father giving Iwanga new ways to make him completely ridiculous. Jokes about his new body running out of power are obvious but hilarious nonetheless, but its moments like him suddenly producing a framed photo of Masamune out of his jacket that really emphasise how there's nothing remotely serious about this character any more. While his progressive decay as a villain has been disappointing, Iwanga clearly has a lot of love for this role – so much so that he continues to embrace it all these years later. And if it's relegated to bizarre April Fools' specials like these, maybe there is still a place in the world for Kuroto's slapstick antics. The cameo appearance from Ren Amagasaki is also a nice touch, providing a nice opening gag for the special whilst also providing context for the April Fools' joke Toei used to unveil it.

More Kuroto madnessRen Amagasaki, an unexpected cameo

The problem here is that -Smart Brain and the 1000% Crisis- isn't just silly shenanigans, or at least that's the pretense that it's acting under. As well as giving Kuroto a new lease on life and furthering Gai's escapades at Thouser-Intellion with his Humagear assistant Rin, the special presents a new threat to the world of Zero-One and throws the established status quo into disarray. It's a surprisingly engaging storyline for such a short special (clocking in at 15 minutes, around 10 minutes less than -The Presidents- despite having more plot), especially with the Ark also allying itself with Gai in order to combat this new enemy. But for all the audience know this plot could be nothing more than window dressing, because other than a very vague description to provide some context Zein aren't a presence in this at all. The rivalry between Gai and Kuroto is the focus, which is probably what most expected this to be but in that case did it really need to tease anything more? Especially since the final scene throws another curve ball (which isn't really that much of a twist given the title) by throwing Kamen Rider 555's Smart Brain into the mix as well. Bringing all these assets together sounds great if there's a plan to do something with them, but the timing and circumstances of these releases could easily suggest the opposite.

Instead what -Smart Brain and the 1000% Crisis- is about, other than being another avenue for Kuroto shenanigans, is the opportunity to show off some new forms for both Genm and Thouser whilst having some shiny new gimmick toys to sell at the same time. In Thouser's case we have Thouser Ark, perhaps giving us a glimpse of what Thouser could have been like in Zero-One had he remained the villain throughout. The Ark's black and white colour scheme actually works really well on the Thouser suit, and it acts as a much-needed upgrade to the Rider even it is coming far too late to be of any real value. On Genm's side it was only a matter of time before he got his own version of Muteki Gamer, and as expected that black and purple colouring works beautifully. There are no qualms about making Musou Gamer as overpowered as possible, making its appearance entertaining whilst no doubt making that Premium Bandai transformation item all the more desirable.

The Musou Gashat: now available to pre-order!Smart Brain Queen

Whereas -The Presidents- failing was in that it ultimately didn't amount to very much, Kamen Rider Genms -Smart Brain and the 1000% Crisis- is frustrating because it's the promise of a really good time. The Kuroto/Gai dynamic has developed into something that's both engaging and hilarious, and there's the teasing of a story here that could easily work as a multi-part special. The problem is right now we have no idea if that’s what Toei actually want to do with these specials, and it's entirely possible that leaving audiences dangling might be the biggest April Fools' joke of them all. Is this the start of something bigger or just a flashy special to show off some new suits and sell some toys? I guess we'll find out this time next year.


Anonymous said...

2023 is the 20th Anniversary of 555 and given that the third part of Genms will likely release in April 2023 and the involvement of Smart Brain, I wonder if next year we will have something related to 555.

CPF said...

I honestly have to disagree with your Zero One series take: I want these people back at Toei to FIX the mess they left behind with that Vulcan and Valkyrie special. Seriously, is closing it out like that something you really want to see?

Alex said...

No, but I don't trust Toei enough to fix it. I feel like they'd just double down on it instead.

Anonymous said...

so basically, another mediocre V Cinema

Red Rocket said...

Great article!