Wednesday 19 October 2022

Anime REVIEW: Fuuto PI

Fuuto PI
Fuuto PI is available in streaming form via Crunchyroll

When Kamen Rider W made a surprising return in 2017 in the form of the Fuuto Tantei manga series, many fans automatically assumed it would probably never get an anime adaptation despite being perfect for it. After all, Kamen Rider Spirits is right there and Toei still haven't done anything with it. But Kamen Rider's 50th anniversary celebrations brought along some big announcements, one of which revealing that the two-in-one detectives would be returning to television screens in the Fuuto PI anime series. Animated by relatively new anime studio Studio Kai, the 12-episode has been adapted for screen by Tatsuto Higuchi – with the manga's story having been penned by original Kamen Rider W writer Riko Sanjo.

Shotaro HidariPhilip

Some time after the defeat of Museum, Shotaro Hidari continues life working as a private detective for the Narumi Detective agency alongside Philip and Akiko. One night he encounters an amnesiac girl named Tokime, who is later revealed to be entangled in a case the detectives have been asked to investigate. It later emerges that Tokime not only possesses her own Gaia Memory, but is also being targeted by Dopants.

Joining the Narumi Detective Agency as their newest assistant, Tokime assists Shotaro and Philip in their battle against Fuuto's remaining Dopants. Together with help from the police and paranormal crime division superintendent Ryu Terui (Kamen Rider Accel), they slowly unravel the mystery of her past and her relation to the city's newest threat.

TokimeFuuto's latest threat

A proper Kamen Rider anime existing is a pretty momentous occasion, but the choice to start with Fuuto PI is a rather curious one when you consider Kamen Rider on a worldwide platform. Thanks to the likes of Crunchyroll the anime series has seen widespread release, but meanwhile the original series isn't just 13 years old by this point – it's also pretty unavailable outside of Japan by legal means. You can watch the first two episodes over on the Toei Tokusatsu World YouTube channel, but it can't be denied that Toei still don't really know how to market this series worldwide. This might not be an issue for existing Rider fans, but with a lot riding on the success of Fuuto PI Toei are certainly missing a trick not making W more readily available in preparation of the anime's release. That said if you were to stumble onto Fuuto PI without having seen W beforehand, the series is surprisingly welcoming. While it's true to say that the viewer would get more out of it having seen the original series first, Fuuto PI is careful to cover all of its major beats so that nobody is left in the dark. This approachability is also conveyed in the show's format, which follows the original's multi-part cases set-up but starts by leaning into the detective side of things a lot more. This approach gives a far better set up to the characters, so by the time that first transformation rolls around at the end of episode two the viewer is more prepared to dive into the henshin hero aspect of the series.

But for existing fans of the series there's plenty to sink your teeth into here, and not just the pleasure of seeing all these characters return either. One of the key aspects of Kamen Rider W has always been its depiction of Fuuto – whereas the majority of Kamen Rider shows simply use "generic Japan" as its setting, Fuuto is as much a part of the show as the characters themselves. That hasn't changed here in Fuuto PI, and while that "lived in" nature of the city continues to develop as the story progresses there's also plenty of nods to what the original established too. From blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameos from Shotaro's various friends and informants to faithful animated recreations of the locations seen in the show, this version of Fuuto feels familiar despite the stark change in medium. The show may fill in the blanks for those jumping on here but at the same time it doesn't ever come at the expense of that sequel feel. Again many Kamen Rider shows feel like they have finite endings but Double's is a story that never has to end – and Fuuto PI is the evidence to why it shouldn't. Throw in all those familiar Gaia Memory/Double Driver sounds as well as a brand-new rendition of original opening theme W-B-X (now W-G-X ~W Goes Next~), and you're right at home.

Kamen Rider Double FangJokerKamen Rider Double CycloneJoker Xtreme

Kamen Rider W might have aired over a decade ago but slipping into Fuuto PI it feels like no time has passed at all, and a lot of that familiarity with the characters is thanks to how well Yoshimasa Hosoya and Koki Uchiyama are able to assume the roles of Shotaro and Philip respectively. Having already cut their teeth as the characters in the Memory of Heroez video game, the pair do a wonderful job of taking over from Renn Kiriyama and Masaki Suda - neither of whom of course were likely to reprise their roles for this. As has always been the case Shotaro makes a great protagonist, his half-boiled nature making him the ideal combination of cool yet dorky. However there's also a newfound air of confidence to him, something which really shines through as he becomes a mentor to Tokime. But Shotaro is just half a man without Philip, whose often clueless curiosity in spite of his vast knowledge is just as endearing as ever. Philip has the skills Shotaro lacks and vice versa, making them the perfect pair when it comes to Kamen Rider Double. And although the two detectives share one body as the titular Kamen Rider, the show ensures they share plenty of screen time out of suit to show off their respective skills as well.

The big shake up here is the addition of Tokime, who in many ways acts as the audience surrogate for those unfamiliar with the world of Kamen Rider W. Being the only core cast member that wasn't present for the events of the original series, she's a means to ask all the big questions about the show newcomers might need to know in a way that doesn't just feel like one big exposition dump. There's an argument to be made that Tokime does feel a little more "anime" than the rest of the cast, which could largely come from her being the only one not to have a live action counterpart but the overabundance of fanservice surrounding the character – Fuuto PI is more than a little horny for her that's for sure. But nevertheless she's a great addition to the cast, especially as the newcomer that causes a shakeup to their established dynamic. While her relationship with Shotaro may feel like it has a romantic implication to it, it isn't so heavy that it dominates the series or takes away from her own qualities. It is however enough to create some initial friction between the detectives, with Philip jealous of this new dynamic. Initially presented as somewhat enigmatic and arguably dangerous, Tokime's development into an equally headstrong detective('s assistant) is something very much at the forefront of Fuuto PI.

Akiko & TokimeRyu Terui

Supporting them are all the familiar faces from the original series, with regular appearances from Akiko, Ryu and police detective Jinno. Whereas the latter doesn't really play a huge part in the story the other two are a constant presence even though the story doesn't focus on them. Akiko is just as over the top as ever, but she also brings a much-needed balance to the Narumi Detective Agency – offering insight to Tokime on Shotaro and Philip in a way that neither of them are able to themselves. Likely due to not being directly part of the Agency Ryu plays a much smaller role comparatively, but remains a key link for the group in that his intel is able to forward the story in areas the detectives cannot themselves. It also leaves plenty of room for Kamen Rider Accel appearances and fight scenes, which the show would certainly be amiss without.

With Museum defeated Fuuto PI has some big shoes to fill when it comes to villains, which it tries to do with the introduction of a shadowy organisation operating in a parallel dimension version of Fuuto. Led by Yukiji Bando (who transforms into the colourfully flamboyant Aurora Dopant), they are is made up of some of the strongest Dopants Double has gone up against – people whose compatibility with their Memory deems them a "High Dope". But while designs like the Brachiosaurus and Scream Dopants certainly stick in the mind, the characters behind them simply do not have the time or development to become much outside of that. Instead it’s the episodic Dopants that really shine in Fuuto PI, which plays nicely the show's focus on the various cases it features. Storylines like the stalking of a video game idol or a murder mystery set in a snowy mansion really vibe with W's overall style, and both have the villains to back them up too. Both the Alcohol and Reactor Dopants are particular highlights, and comfortably sit among some of the best the original show had to offer too.

Alcohol DopantReactor Dopant

The jump from live action to animation brings about plenty of challenges, but also an opportunity to reimagine Kamen Rider in a way simply not possible for a tokusatsu production. This is immediately evident with the character design (admittedly also present in the manga), with touches like Philip's now green hair widening the colour palette of the show as well as working as a not-so-subtle nod to his status as Double's right side. But far more significant is how much more dynamic Kamen Rider is able to be in animation, both when it comes to designs and action sequences. Not limited by the constraints of physical suit construction or a limited CGI budget, the Dopants here take on far more monstrous forms – still true to the kind you'd see on the original show but able to move and emote far more fluidly. Likewise many of Double's more impressive abilities, such as Lunar's extending limb, benefit greatly from being conveyed in animation. It came as a bit of a surprise that Toei weren't going to be handling this series in-house but Studio Kai did a wonderful job here, and even with their limited credits as a collective their talent really shines through.

The only thing that really lets this series down is its length. Having been initially announced as only 12 episodes long it doesn’t really come as any surprise that the show only covers a fraction of the manga, but it doesn't make it less any painful. It also means that the resolution comes around all too quickly, as although there is a gradual build up to the mystery behind Bando and Shadow Fuuto this is simply the prologue to a much bigger story. If you're even vaguely familiar with the manga then you'll know there are plenty of things that aren't shown off here (the onscreen debut of the manga-exclusive FangTrigger or FangMetal being a prime example without delving too much into story details), but even without that knowledge there are plenty of stones left unturned and that the conflict with Bando has barely begun. The mere mention of Foundation X is something that'll surely entice existing fans, the shadowy organisation arguably being one of the biggest lingering plot threads in the history of the franchise by this point. For now we can only hope that the series has been successful enough to convince the powers that be that a season two is in order, but if it isn't it'll mean that Fuuto PI was criminally cut short.

Kamen Rider AccelYukiji Bando

Though Fuuto PI sadly isn't long enough to show off everything this manga continuation has to offer, it does achieve something considerably more important – just how well Kamen Rider can work in animated format. Though it might do things a little differently from its live-action counterpart, all of the fundamentals that made Kamen Rider W so popular are still intact and reworked in a way that suits this more dynamic medium. With plenty more of the manga to adapt here's hoping this isn't just the last we see of Fuuto PI, but Toei are also cooking up plenty of other ideas on how Kamen Rider can break into the anime landscape.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, it would be een better if it would be 26 or even 22 episode season. And apprently they skipped at least 2 arcs. And scanlation picked up not too long ago, they're at the end Alchohol dopant case.

Anonymous said...

Fuuto PI is a great show and as a huge fan of W I was more than pleased.

But I just hope Toei makes good on their word and this show can prove that Kamen Rider can be successful outside of Asia. Because their apporach lately has been less than desirable. They need to do better because as is where like someone who doesn't know hoe to swim in the middle of the ocean just struggling to stay afloat. It's working for now but I don't know how long until we sink.

Anonymous said...

Oh my GOD this show is so good how come none of y’all told me!?

In all seriousness though, despite the short length, this is such a good show and i really hope it gets a season 2. From what i heard, especially in this review, the anime barely scratches the surface with the manga, and if that’s true then I’d love to see more of it adapted and ex[anded upon in another season. Just please let there be another season

Big Boy said...

It was the three-part arcs that killed this for me (in addition to not liking Tokime particularly--frankly, a lot of the show hinges on whether or not those two things work for you)--it always felt like the third part ended way too early into the episode (due to usually being ONLY the resolution of the arc) and left the rest of the episode feeling very "filler"-y.

Dinobolt1 said...

Thanks for reviewing this. I'm really excited for this anime. One question, was there any nudity in the series?

Alex said...

Nope! A few cleavage/underwear shots, but no direct nudity.

Dinobolt1 said...

Thank you so much! I was so scared that they might show that new character's bare butt or have her barely covered or censored by something.