Saturday 13 August 2022

Special REVIEW: OOO 10th Kamen Rider Birth: Birth X Secret Birth Story

OOO 10th Kamen Rider Birth: Birth X Secret Birth Story

If there's one thing I think we can all agree on about Kamen Rider OOO 10th: Core Medal of Resurrection it's how underused Kamen Rider Birth was. Despite both Shintaro Gotou and Akira Date appearing in both the film and a prequel net movie minisode, the characters largely fell to the wayside in the main story. This is even more surprising (or less so depending on how cynical you are about Bandai's toy shilling) considering Birth got a new form in the movie in the form of Birth X. But thankfully the Toei Tokusatsu Fanclub is here to rectify the situation, with the story of OOO's secondary Rider continuing in OOO 10th Kamen Rider Birth: Birth X Secret Birth Story!

Gotou tests Birth XHina as OOO

Whilst testing the new X Unit and Arthropod Core Medals, Shintaro Gotou is transported to a parallel world where Hina is Kamen Rider OOO! With Uva acting as her partner in place of Ankh, Hina fights against the Kyoryu Greeed with assistance from Akira Date and the Date Foundation.

Meeting familiar faces in very difference roles, Gotou must now find a way home whilst working alongside Hina to uncover the identity of and defeat the Kyoryu Greeed.

The Kyoryu GreeedKamen Rider Birth X debuts!

First things first, if you're coming into this special expecting it to be a reasonable explanation on Birth's new form then you're going to be sorely disappointed. The 18-minute episode picks up immediately after the Birth X Birth Prologue Net Movie, with Gotou beginning his test of the X Unit. While there's plenty of story potential surrounding the Kougami Foundation's continued pursuit into creating their own Core Medals and the Ebi, Kani and Sasori Medals, ultimately that is not the story writer Nobuhiro Mouri wanted to tell – and at this stage it seems unlikely Toei are going to tell it at all. While somewhat disappointing, it's just another piece of vagueness that makes up the landscape of OOO's 10th anniversary so really is par for the course. In some ways this might be for the better as arguably the overall story doesn't hold up too well as it is under such scrutiny, but it is a shame that a specifically Kamen Rider Birth special has so little of what sets Birth apart from the rest of OOO as a whole.

So what we have instead is something that comfortably fits into the realm of most Toei Tokusatsu Fanclub specials – a comedy-focused parallel world story where the cast of Kamen Rider OOO take on each other's roles. Immediately there is a lot to play with here, particularly with the super-strong Hina taking the mantle of OOO while Eiji acts as sidekick. Unfortunately there isn't a lot of time to play with (in something longer it would have been great to see series events properly paralleled with the changed roles), but it is nice to see the idea of Hina as OOO get some recognition here. The overly comedic nature of the special also clashes quite harshly with the comparatively dour setting of Core Medal of Resurrection, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing – Kamen Rider OOO had its fair share of drama but at times it was also a fun and colourful series, something many felt was lacking from the film itself.

Hina and the GreeedDr Ankh

But as throwaway as this all may seem, what really makes it work is how much fun the cast are having. Each one of them absolutely throw themselves into their alternate roles – both playing great parodies of their colleagues but also adding their own little quirks where appropriate. Particular highlights include Ankh's stint as Doctor Maki as well as Hiroaki Iwanaga getting to ham it up to the extreme as this world's Date. But on top of that, as inconsequential as this special may seem it also feels like it values the OOO cast as a whole more than Core Medal of Resurrection did. For example, while the four Greeed don't really do much here either their stint as wannabe partners for Hina OOO stands out as far more memorable as the brief cameo they had in the movie. Maybe it's just that because this special is shorter the roles feel punchier, but either way it definitely feels more like an acknowledgement of the whole cast as opposed to just the Eiji/Ankh dynamic.

The special does at least end with the "proper" debut of Birth X though, and thankfully it's a little more substantial than the form's appearance in Core Medal of Resurrection. It's a pretty great looking suit – combining the technological look of Birth with the wild multicolours of OOO into something that's able to pull off the best of both. Sadly though there simply isn't the time and budget here to show off any specific abilities for the form, which is a shame because that's an area where Kamen Rider Birth really shined. Nevertheless a proper fight scene as well as the rest of the OOO cast cheering Gotou on manages to be memorable in its own special way – capping off the 10th anniversary of OOO in a way that isn't especially grandiose, but it's gut-wrenching in the way Core Medal of Resurrection was either.

Akira DateCheering Birth on

While ultimately OOO 10th Kamen Rider Birth: Birth X Secret Birth Story doesn't really give the context to Birth X that Core Medal of Resurrection lacked, it is a really fun little special that in some ways utilises the extended cast of OOO far better than the movie did. Parallel worlds might be an easy concept to do but when done properly they can develop into something really interesting, and even with the emphasis on comedy a world with Hina as OOO is something I'm probably not alone in saying I'd like to see more of. Though the pieces of 10th anniversary OOO fiction continue to be somewhat puzzling, the cast are clearly having fun with this one and at the very least it's nice to have fun along with them.

No comments: