Saturday 6 August 2022

Special REVIEW: Kamen Rider Revice Movie Spin-Off Delivered Drama: Birth of Chimera

Kamen Rider Revice Movie Spin-Off Delivered Drama: Birth of Chimera

One of the obvious problems with summer Kamen Rider movies introducing new characters (most of whom are Riders themselves) is that they rarely have time to develop them in a meaningful way. But with the arrival of streaming services such as the Toei Tokusatsu Fanclub, there's an opportunity to give them a bigger spotlight through prequel specials that can add a little more context to things. For example, just ahead of the release of Kamen Rider Revice: Battle Familia, the service launched (the rather lengthy titled) Kamen Rider Revice Movie Spin-Off Delivered Drama: Birth of Chimera – introducing fans to the characters that will be driving the plot of the film.


Somewhere in the woods Hiromi battles Azuma – a man who like Akaishi made a contract with Giff many years ago. Elsewhere George attempts to create a Driver that doesn't draw upon the power of demons, inadvertently unleashed Chic – his father's demon that dwelled inside him, in the process.

Nozumu is a medical student who dreams of one day becoming a doctor to help treat his sick mother. Ryu Makai is a former Fenix trainee now taking part in clinical trials to become a hero a different way. As Chic and Azuma form an alliance, the two friends become entangled in their scheme. As Kamen Rider Chimera is born, so is Kamen Rider Daimon.

Nozumu and RyuKamen Rider Chimera

Kamen Rider summer movies can be a curious beast. Ever since Kamen Rider W Forever: A to Z/The Gaia Memories of Fate many of them have made the effort to be far more linked into the shows themselves – sometimes simply through teases in the lead up to the film's release, while others manage to link up in a far more meaningful way. Revice seems to be no exception to this – with the special immediately playing on key points that have either happened or been brought up in the series. This raises a question of how important Battle Familia will be to the show's endgame, but to their credit Toei usually do a fairly good job of not alienating the portion of the audience that haven't seen the movie.

Birth of Chimera is interesting though for just how detached the bulk of it feels. Though the story may be built off pre-established plot points or characters, the main point of focus here are two brand new characters. While it might not seem like much it helps create a much bigger world for the series – one that doesn't wholly revolve around the Igarashi family. Nozumu's friendship with Ryu and the tragedy that eventually befalls them is the kind of thing we know has been going on in the background of Revice, but haven't directly been seeing to this extent. It’s interesting stuff, but dampened by the fact that Nozumu is the only one going forward into Battle Familia. A lot of time is spent with expendable characters who are essentially just there to be motivation of another character, which is an ambitious way to pull off a special but does on the other hand does make you wonder just how much of it is time well spent. Then again, maybe it’s an element that’s purely meant to enhance the movie (which is ultimately the whole purpose of this special) and thus has little standalone impact. Come back to me when I’ve seen Battle Familia for that one.

Nozumu's family and RyuTragedy befalls Nozumu

That all said, it's strange how very little Birth of Chimera does for Azuma in comparison. The excitement of seeing Kane Kosugi (Kakuranger's Jiraiya/Ninja Black as well as Kenichi Kai/Ultraman Powered) complete the trifecta by becoming a Kamen Rider aside, the special fails to introduce him any sort of impactful way. From the strange cold opening where it looks like he murders Hiromi to the fact any useful information about him comes from Hiromi or Chic just saying it out loud, it's clear that this special was never really meant to be about him. And that's a shame really, because it does feel like there's actually a story to be told here. Sure the idea of him being ANOTHER human who made a deal with Giff and received an immortal body is a typical piece of movie spin-off storytelling, but it's not like that element of Akaishi was particularly well-developed in the series either. A little piece about him travelling through the ages and coming to his conclusions about humanity (as opposed to a brief montage) wouldn't have necessarily been all that original, but certainly would have served a better purpose.

Chic's inclusion is only marginally better, with the character suddenly appearing at the beginning of the special and then turning up again at the very end to be the mastermind behind the events. That said Chic does at least have an allure that Azuma doesn't, which may largely be due to his origins as Masumi's demon (and the bearing that has on Revice as a whole) but isn't just because of it. There’s plenty to speculate on about why Chic is able to take physical form in the way the Igarashi’s demons are (and if the movie doesn’t shed some light on this, hopefully the end of the series will), but regardless the quirky horror movie Joker-like demon feels like he’d fall on the better end of movie-exclusive villains.

Azuma in the pastKamen Rider Daimon

While the introduction of all these characters might be at the forefront, ultimately it's the introduction of the Rider suits themselves that acts as the special's biggest draw. True to the title it's all about showing off Kamen Rider Chimera, the suit of whom further shows off the diverse range of aesthetics Revice seems to have. As a Rider not based on the power of one's inner demon Chimera's design feels decidedly less organic – taking the two base animals and blending them into this bulky powerhouse. The reused elements of Revice's Barid Rex form blend well with the newer parts, the combined animal theming also nice and clear in the design. What truly works though is, despite being a respectable movie Rider on its own, how well the design is enhanced by the added elements Daimon brings to it. Just goes to show how much purple eyes and a cool cape can go in making a Rider suddenly feel that much more evil, and the appropriately demonic shoulder spike doesn't hurt either. Even if the special failed to make Azuma particularly enticing, Daimon's debut will definitely make you look forward to see him facing off against Ikki and Vice.

All in all Kamen Rider Revice Movie Spin-Off Delivered Drama: Birth of Chimera is an interesting little special that provides plenty of additional context for both Battle Familia and its unique characters, as well as story beats that look to be key for the final stretch of the main series too. That said – what's presented here doesn't necessarily feel like it's anything that the movie couldn't have delivered itself in a fraction of the time, nor do the introduction of Ryu, Azuma and Chic make me want to see Battle Familia any more than the promise of seeing the Igarashi family battling it out in a movie setting did already. In short Birth of Chimera fits the bill for most Toei Tokusatsu Fanclub specials – fun for what it is, but not necessarily essential viewing.

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