Friday 16 September 2022

Miniseries REVIEW: Kamen Rider Jeanne & Kamen Rider Aguilera with Girls Remix

Kamen Rider Jeanne & Kamen Rider Aguilera with Girls Remix

If there's one thing we can all agree on, it's that the Kamen Rider franchise shouldn't just be considered the "boys' toys franchise" that it once was. Over the years the writers behind each series have made an increasing effort to bring the women of the franchise to the forefront, with lead female Kamen Riders particularly becoming more prominent in the last few years as things moved into the Reiwa era. With this fact being particularly true in Kamen Rider Revice and its focus on Sakura Igarashi/Kamen Rider Jeannne and Hana/Kamen Rider Aguilera, the Toei Tokusatsu Fan Club has brought together (nearly) all of the heroines of the past few years in its latest three-part miniseries - Kamen Rider Jeanne & Kamen Rider Aguilera with Girls Remix.

Hana & SakuraForming the Girls Remix!

As Hana receives a mysterious letter from someone claiming to be her older sister, reports of an electronic-wave humanoid causing chaos have spread. In response to this, the Narumi Detective Agency's Akiko assembles a team of heroines - Sakura, Hana, Reika Shindai, Izu and Poppy Pipopapa, to investigate. It isn't long before the group become entangled in the revival of the evil terrorist organisation Black Satan, led by the powerful Ms. Titan.

Black Satan has their sights set on Hana, who in turn as fallen out with Sakura. Joined by more familiar faces from across the years, it's up to the Girls Remix to save Hana from the clutches of Ms. Titan and end Black Satan once and for all.

Ms TitanGirl Riders Assembled!

While technically this miniseries is about the heroines across a number of Kamen Rider series, as far as the main plot is concerned it's all about Sakura and Hana. With the popularity the pair garnered across the run of Kamen Rider Revice it isn't all that surprising that they got their own special, but there is the sense that Toei how they want to commit to the characters. Whether you choose to read it as being particularly implicit or not, there's no doubt that Revice has hinted toward a more romantic angle between the two. It's also been visible in both the promotion of the show and its merchandising, but in Girls Remix they've suddenly moved to a more sisterly relationship between the two. Though not necessarily bad in itself, it does almost feel like Toei want to capitalise off of how fans perceive the pair whilst not fully committing to the bit themselves. The end of Revice felt much the same in the way they suddenly separated the two in the last few episodes despite their stories being so intertwined beforehand. On purely face value what we get in Girls Remix isn't bad stuff – though the argument that launches the story feels a bit too manufactured Sakura realising that family isn't solely based on blood is a very good moral to have.

Hana vs SakuraSome non-Rider girl love

For the rest of the girls it's more about getting them together for one big reunion, and that's in no way a bad thing. What makes Girls Remix so special is that it isn't just about the girls who became Kamen Riders, so we get to see characters like Akiko, Rinko, Sawa and Kanon (who should have really turned up as a Rider by this point, but at least they try to explain that away) do things. Akiko may be a lot more comedic than the others that appear here, but she firmly establishes herself as the glue that holds them all together. As usual though the real fun comes in seeing how these characters interact with each other, and in some cases it's more beneficial that the development their own series gave them. Reiko for example really gets to shine here, free from all the character traits based around her brother and just getting to be a bit of a dork around other women. Izu and Poppy also make a brilliant team, so much so that it's definitely a pairing I'd like to see in future specials. And even though some characters get much less focus than others – Valkyrie only appearing in-suit (due to Hiroe Igeta's filming schedule) and Tsukuyomi right at the very end, they aren't forgotten about. The miniseries also does a great job of tying everything together where appropriate too – not only mentioning the Revice cast's previous adventures with Reika and Kamen Rider Accel in Beyond Generations and The Mystery, but also tipping its hat to moments like Yukari Tari (Sawa) having previously met Akiko as a different character in Kamen Rider W Returns: Kamen Rider Accel.

But for classic Kamen Rider fans undoubtedly the most interesting element of this miniseries is the revival of Black Satan from 1975's Kamen Rider Stronger, which is of course significant in that it introduced fans to the very first Kamen Rider heroine – the Electro-Wave Human Tackle. Here we get a feminine twist on an iconic villain with the appearance of Ms. Titan, as well as a glimpse of what Tackle might have been like had she become a villain rather than joined Stronger on the side of justice. It even gives us a modern take on Black Satan's rabbit-eared soldiers, which is a surprising detail but certainly shows a level of dedication to be appreciated. But as nice as it is to see the return of Black Satan after decades, there is a bittersweet element to it in how little there is left to tie it back to Stronger. Much of the show's principle cast is no longer with us, so Girls Remix is left to build up new characters on the foundations left instead. But even so, the lack of any acknowledge of the real Tackle is a real shame – it didn't need to be much, but some recognition of the character beyond simply an evil version would have really helped tie it altogether. These girls owe a lot to Yuriko Misaki.

Black TackleA Hundred Eyes

As tends to be the case with most Toei Tokusatsu Fan Club specials Girls Remix has some new suits to debut, but from a "to sell toys" perspective the miniseries is surprisingly scarce. As far as new Vistamps go it's recolours that are on the menu here, with Aguilera receiving both a new weapon (a repaint of Gaim's Kiwi Arms blades) and an evil suit variant with Kamen Rider Aguilera Dark. Both are fun within the context of the special, but neither really leave that much of a lasting impression. The things Girls Remix does with the Stronger material is far more interesting though, particularly in its design of Black Tackle. Without straying too far away from the core elements of the original design, Black Tackle is a clever modernisation of the Electro-Wave Humanoid that looks like she jumped straight out of a Stronger sequel to Kamen Rider The First/The Next. Meanwhile Ms Titan doesn't stray too far from her namesake, which is all the better in emphasising just how iconic that design is despite its simplicity. In both its original state and later powered up form (a homage to Mr Titan's own hundred-eye upgrade) the suit looks fantastic, again showing just how strong Showa-era designs can be in a modern setting. But as mentioned earlier the biggest surprise here was the update of the Black Satan soldiers – turning them from something that arguably looked a little silly even back in 1975 into a really solid design that doesn't lose any of its charm. It’s a crying shame that the First/Next reboots weren't solid enough to get as far as Stronger, because these designs suggest there might have been a lot of mileage there.

Girls Remix features plenty of Rider action but is still fairly story orientated, with plenty of out of suit action for the characters as well. This means not only is there still plenty for the non-Rider characters to do, but it's more time for the actors themselves to shine as well. With each episode around 20 minutes long there's plenty of time for the story to progress at a reasonable pace before ending with a decently-sized fight scene. Though admittedly many of these costumes aren't that old it's nice to see them still in great condition, while the various fighting styles and onscreen graphics will no doubt be nostalgic for those fond of these past shows.

Kamen Rider Aguilera DarkBlack Satan - Renewed for 2022

Kamen Rider Jeanne & Kamen Rider Aguilera with Girls Remix is exactly what it set out to be – an incredibly fun little miniseries that brings together the (often unsung) heroines of the Kamen Rider franchise. While it would perhaps have been nice for it to pay a little more reverence to the original Tackle given her significance, the storyline has some interesting beats and for Kamen Rider Stronger fans especially some really nice surprises. But most of all, it's just great to see all these characters interacting – many of which for the first time. With plenty of other Rider heroines absent from this, fingers crossed that Girls Remix is something that can just keep on expanding.

1 comment:

rogerph2015 said...

Of all the Kamen Rider Revice Spin-offs, this is arguably the most light-hearted one of all. The reasons why Kanon Fukami didn't transformed into Kamen Rider Kanon Specter are: The Kanon Specter suit has been remodeled into Kamen Rider Aguilera suit and her elder brother Makoto has confiscated her Kanon Specter Eyecon for fear that the peril would endanger his younger sister's life. About Shieri Oohata, she retired from the Japanese Entertainment Industry and this is her final appearance as Tsukuyomi. We'll bitterly miss her! When Akiko Narumi said that she saw a woman resembling Sawa Takigawa, she's referring to as Aoi Katsuragi of Kamen Rider Returns: Kamen Rider Accel. Yukari Kuroi is not the elder sister of Hana Natsuki/Aguilera. And Actress-Singer Rica Matsumoto played Mitsuko Fujimito/Ms. Titan of Black Satan.
Overall Rating: 4.6/5