Thursday 1 September 2022

Series REVIEW: Kamen Rider Revice

Kamen Rider Revice

On April 3rd 1971 Toei launched a brand new tokusatsu superhero series from manga artist Shotaro Ishinomori, and a legend was born. Fast forward 50 years later and the Kamen Rider franchise is still running strong, celebrating this momentous anniversary with the third instalment in its Reiwa Era run (and 32nd series overall) – Kamen Rider Revice. Introducing a two-Rider duo that together make up the titular hero, the series was written by franchise newcomer Hanta Kinoshita. Though the series commemorates 50 years of Kamen Rider, Revice is very much its own show and not an "anniversary special" in the same vein as Decade or Zi-O.

Ikki meets ViceThe Deadmans

In 1971, the "first Devil" Giff was discovered alongside an ancient artifact related to him – an artifact which led to the creation of devices known as Vistamps. In the present day, Giff's remains are in the possession of the Deadmans – terrorists who seek to resurrect him by release people's inner demons. Standing against them are Fenix – an organisation who have developed a special Driver to harness the power of the Vistamps and one's inner demon.

Ikki is the eldest sibling of the Igarashi family, who together run a local bathhouse. Whilst attending a ceremony where Fenix were to promote Ikki's younger brother Daiju to user of the Revice Driver, Ikki makes a contract with his inner demon Vice – the pair using the Driver to become Kamen Riders and fight off a Deadmans attack. From there, Ikki is drawn into Fenix's fight against Giff's resurrection – where it is later revealed that the Igarashi family are more central to this struggle than they realised.

GiffThe Igarashi siblings, Riders together

As Kamen Rider Revice begins it feels as though it has a clear vision – humans wrestle with their inner demons as a brightly coloured (and sufficiently over the top) cult attempt to resurrect their leader. Though for the most part it follows the typical tokusatsu "victim of the week" format, there is plenty of mystery to give it momentum. The motivations of many of its cast are shadowy and/or questionable, whilst what the Deadmans seek to achieve from resurrecting Giff – as well as the "sacrifice" of member Aguilera to them as their bride, is equally vague. The Igarashis as a loving family unit is a breath of fresh air compared to the string of deceased parents or evil Rider dads the franchise has had in recent years. It has a strong selection of characters that, despite the focus naturally prioritising Ikki and Vice, each get their own little storylines and ample development. The action ticks all of the boxes – combing great suit choreography with wonderfully bizarre sequences of Revi and Vice combining into CGI animal monstrosities for their final attacks. Early Revice is really good stuff.

But as the story progresses, Kamen Rider Revice begins on a downward spiral that it struggles to recover from. After the surprising twist of disbanding the Deadmans early on into the series the show tries to tease out the arrival of Giff for as long as possible, filling the space with various familial dramas that fit the shows overarching theme but often feel like they're there to just kill time. Olteca, a great villain who survives as the last remnants of the Deadmans, is largely forgotten about. Elements are repeatedly introduced that feel underdeveloped, and occasionally aren't even consistent with the lore that's been explained beforehand (how exactly demons work being the primary example). By the time Giff finally does show up it feels like the show has truly lost all sense of what Giff, and in turn the whole inner demon theme, was supposed to be. Throw in a brief but nonetheless bizarre anti-vaccine allegory that feels incredibly misjudged even if unintentional, and Revice doesn't even feel like the same show that was knocking it out of the park 20 or so episodes ago.

The Igarashi Family#NiceVice

But for all the story's shortcomings, Revice does right by its characters…for the most part anyway. At the very least Ikki Igarashi comes out unscathed, presented as a man that cares deeply about his family but also the "number one busybody in Japan" – someone who will not hesitate to help someone and get involved in their lives even if they don't want it. While a little static in its execution, it's a good take because while it shows that selfless heroism a Kamen Rider should have, it's also often highlighted as a flaw in that he sometimes acts against others' wishes and does not think of the consequences. Ikki maintains a good dynamic with nearly all of Revice's characters, but none better than his demon Vice – their relationship completely at the heart of the show. Though there was some concern about the character's mannerisms at the very beginning, Vice proved himself to be a fantastic counterpart to Ikki even with all the overly comedic and fourth-wall breaking moments he had. His initial introduction as a demon brought some sinisterness to the character even if it was clear that he was never going to be a villain per se, but that was able to give way to him become a (though sometimes misguided) partner in a true sense of the word – their relationship and the terms of their bargain remaining a key point of the series even through its worst moments (though another element that easily falls apart if you think about it too hard). That strength also allowed Revice to end on a strong note, stripping back all the complexities it had built up to focus on an emotional finale that focussed on them only.

The other siblings of the Igarashi family are a bit more of a mixed bag, with middle sibling Daiji going through some particularly tumultuous character development. While Daiji's inferiority complex and light/dark relationship with his demon Kagerou is interesting, his overall story arc is incredibly laborious and at times frustrating process – repeating the same ground over and over when the same outcome could have been achieved far more efficiently. The ideas themselves are solid, it's just that once again the execution lets the whole thing down. Thankfully Daiji is co-headlining a forthcoming V-cinema release, so there's still a chance that some of these great ideas can be presented a bit more succinctly there. Coming out of the show far better comparatively is youngest sister Sakura, who for many will easily be the most memorable thing about Revice as a whole. As Kamen Rider Jeanne, Sakura Is easily one of (if not the) most prominent female Riders the franchise has ever had, with her own insecurities about her strength as well as relationship with Aguilera (Hana once reformed) often coming to the forefront of the story. There's no doubt that the Reiwa era is looking to change things when it comes to the importance of female Kamen Riders, and Sakura is a big moment for those who have been patiently waiting for it. Kamen Rider Valkyrie walked so that Kamen Rider Jeanne could run.

Daiji and KagerouKamen Rider Jeanne

The other saving grace for many of Revice's biggest critics will also surely be Hiromi Kadota, the Fenix commander that goes on to become Kamen Rider Demons. Another character with a strong sense of justice akin to that of a classic era Rider, Hiromi's introduction and subsequent arc quickly confirms why he became such a firm fan-favourite. The fact the Hiromi is brought back (and will be co-headlining the aforementioned V-cinema release) long after what was clearly meant to be the endcap to his story is a testament to the character's popularity. And although that continuation might not have been originally intended, it's done in such a way that he doesn't feel completely tacked on. Strangely the opposite can be said for George Karizaki, a character who remains a constant throughout Revice but whose storyline feels less thought through. Creator of the majority of the Rider tech seen in the series, Fenix scientist George debuts in the series with a reasonable amount of unease. Though aligned with the heroes, both his motivations and methods "in the name of science" are often questionable. This is something that eases up over time, both as he spends more time with the cast and his rocky relationship with his father is revealed. But right at the very end much of this progress seems to be walked back on – creating additional drama that would have felt very in-character 20 or so episodes ago, but not so much as a penultimate note.

Kamen Rider Revice is a story about family, and its one where the parents prove to be just as integral to the story as their children. While the backstory for Genta and Yukimi Igarashi is laid out in the Kamen Rider Vail miniseries as opposed to the show itself, Genta's struggle with his own demon Vail becomes a core part of its story. Whether such a big element of the story should be supplementary material is a whole separate debate, but it is at least explained in the show reasonably enough that a viewer can get by with just the key points. It's another area of Revice that had a lot of potential but is ultimately squandered, with Genta spending a lot of the build up offscreen and little of interest being done with Vail as a villain. But the dynamic itself is solid, as is the payoff – which in hindsight is something that can be said of most elements in the series.

Kamen Rider DemonsGeorge Karizaki

And then there's the rest. From the Deadmans and Giff envoy Hideo Akaishi to George's father Masumi Karizaki and the members of underground resistance group Weekend, Revice really isn't short of characters. While some are more memorable than others, ultimately they all feel like they're there either to prop up other characters or make up numbers. For all the good the show tries to do with Hana/Aguilera in giving her a refreshed purpose after the Deadmans are disbanded, Tamaki/Julio's protectiveness of her is overbearing (but at the very least consistent). Akaishi's position as someone who's lived for millennia trying to ensure humanity's survival is interesting, but much like Giff himself isn't very well executed. Arguably even the show eventually realises it has far too many characters for its own good, given the way it began to gradually get rid of them episode after episode. While a bigger cast certainly made Revice feel more populated, it certainly didn't help the sense that the show tried to do too much and suddenly became overwhelmed with it all.

Although Revice doesn't delve into the world of cameos or wider franchise links (in the main series at least) like one might expect from an anniversary series, it still pays tribute to 50 years of Kamen Rider in its own unique ways. The most obvious of these would be Revi and Vice's initial array of forms, all of which are visually styled after previous Riders from Kuuga onwards. Unlike Zi-O's various armours these aren't directly based off the characters though, instead merging obvious design cues with (often unrelated) animal theming. It's a curious approach that sets Revice apart from the still relatively recent Zi-O, and the fact the narrative doesn't really draw attention to the designs being derived from them makes it all the better. That isn't to say the link isn't there though, with George being shown onscreen as something of a Kamen Rider fanboy. Again it's something that isn't especially talked about but instead repeatedly shown, with George surrounding himself in collections of S.H. Figuarts, belt replicas and various other bits of Rider merchandise. Despite George's questionable characterisation and motivation at times it makes a more relatable character to the audience, as well as being a fun nod to the franchise as a whole that wasn't just the usual tried and testing references.

Genta Igarashi and VailWeekend

In terms of alternate forms though the show does eventually move away from homages to a more conventional line of Revice upgrades – including sleek black berserker form Jack Revice, the garishly coloured Thunder Gale and satisfying final form Ultimate Revice. But just because Revice suddenly has a more straightforward line of upgrades for its lead characters doesn't mean there's any less going on, with the show going full force on the amount of Riders (and in turn Drivers) it can cram in. The early inclusions consistently prove to the best – with the Evil/Live dynamic, Jeanne and Demons matching the quality of their characters both in use and design. In fact, the bat/cobra/spider theming that pays tribute it the original Kamen Rider's initial line of kaijin is another example of the show handling homage well. But when the show starts introducing the likes of Over Demons, Destream and Juuga – suits that see very little screen time, it's hard to care no matter how good they may look. Kamen Rider Aguilera is perhaps the one exception to this thanks to Hana's already established relationship with Sakura, but even that all ties in to Revice's habit of trying to do too much too quickly. Unfortunately multi-Rider shows look to be here to stay so this is likely to be the norm rather than an exception going forward, but at the very least Revice was able to lay down a solid foundation of core Riders before going completely overboard.

No fear, no painRevice and the Weekend Riders - Aguilera, Jeanne & Over Demons

Kamen Rider Revice started out with a fresh feeling and clear identity, but as time went on it became increasingly obvious that the show wasn't quite sure what it wanted to be or where it wanted to go. What followed was a rollercoaster of highs and lows, ranging from an interesting premise plagued by bizarre developments and a wonderful cast where many suffer from inconsistent characterisation. But as muddled as it eventually becomes, it is at the very least able to pull it together for a satisfying and heart-warming finale. The ideal 50th anniversary series? Probably not, but at the very least the characters alone are enough for Revice for carve its own place in the Kamen Rider anthology.


Anonymous said...

(Sees the review pop up but hasn’t finished Revice, looks at review and see it got a 3 out of 5)………………. My disappointment is immeasurable…….. and my day is ruined.

Anonymous said...

What a payoff to that "Ikki in a suit" from the opening

Anonymous said...

(Sees the third anonymous commenter) Will somebody get him outta here!

Anonymous said...

One: thank you for not mentioning the whole thing with Vice's VA.

Two: if there is one thing you could fix in Revice, what would it be?

Anonymous said...

... And you just a streak, you had rated at least 1 in ever 4 seasons 5 stars:
- 2010 W:
- 2014 Gaim:
- 2018 Build:

I was hoping for Revice to be an excellent season to keep that streak up.

Anonymous said...

I liked revice,i just wish the second half bar the last two episodes didnt exist heh

Unknown said...

The show started going downhill come Daiji's ├žonflicted arc. After Giff's death is what killed all interest I had with the show. Juuga suddenly being a main antagonist for a couple of episodes together with an underwhelming finale and I just can't bother with it anymore.

A shame because Revice started well but ended in a car crash come the last quarter or last third of the series. Geats has started very well so lets hope it has the sustainability to complete 45-50 episodes in at least decent fashion.

Stephen Cassat said...

I personally found Revice to be really good. Sure some things about it did bother me, but I still had a great time with the characters.

The biggest fix: Hanta Kinoshita is a novelist. He could've broken each characters stories in arcs per say. Ikki, Vice, and Hiromi in arc 1, Daiji, Kagerou and Orteca in arc 2, and Sakura, Tamaki, and Hana into arc 3.

Then in the penultimate arc, have the stories revealed to be interconnected and give each character chances to team up with each other to fight off and destroy Giff.

Also throw in Genta and Yukimi here and there. Have them give some parenting advice when the kids ask for it or need it.