Monday 8 May 2023

Movie REVIEW: Revice Forward: Kamen Rider Live & Evil & Demons

Revice Forward: Kamen Rider Live & Evil & Demons

One of the great advantages of the Kamen Rider V-Cinext (formerly V-Cinema) epilogue movies is the opportunity to focus on the extended cast of a series - characters that might not have had quite the development they deserved in the show itself but still have plenty to offer. When it comes to Kamen Rider Revice, there's quite an extensive roster of Riders and that could be said for plenty of them. But for the first of Revice's V-Cinext releases the spotlight is cast on what are perhaps the two most obvious candidates. As its name suggests, Revice Forward: Kamen Rider Live & Evil & Demons focuses on Hiromi Kadota and Daiji Igarashi, along with the latter's demon Kagero. Timeline-wise the film takes place after the events of Kamen Rider Geats x Revice: Movie Battle Royale, was written by Nobuhiro Mouri (who served as a secondary writer on Revice, among many other shows) and directed by Koichi Sakamoto.

Hiromi & DaijiShunichiro Somei

Since the dissolution of Fenix, Daiji continues to work toward peace as part of Bluebird. Joining him is Hiromi, who has begun to recover from his accelerated internal aging thanks to the work of Bluebird scientist Dr. Kagetaka Ichimura. Together the pair work as a unit fighting against Alicon - a dangerous new organisation claiming to be the guardians of this new world. In an operation Bluebird are seemingly able to capture Alicorn's leader Shunichiro Somei, with Rumi - a teenage girl held prisoner, taking a particular liking to Hiromi.

But as Hiromi is suddenly framed for abducting Rumi, it emerges that there are two Hiromis running around. Has Hiromi somehow been able to spawn another demon? While both his friends and colleague struggle to determine which is the real one, Hiromi is on a mission to save Rumi and clear his name. Meanwhile Daiji follows his own leads in the investigation, clashing with Alicorn as well as his own inner demon.

Hiromi & RumiMuramasa, the evil Hiromi

Whether Hiromi and Daiji were truly the most in need of additional development from a Revice epilogue is debatable given the ample amount they had in the series itself, but given their relationship as well as their position in the series it certainly makes the most sense. As two key figures helping to rebuild this post-Giff world it allows the viewer to get some more insight into Bluebird, as well as check off some unfinished business with Hiromi by repairing his body and allowing him to become a Rider again. But while the setting allows for pretty much any story to be told, the one Kamen Rider Live & Evil & Demons opts to do feels like something that could be slotted into any post-series epilogue. Though there are whiffs of Revice's demon mechanics, those are more to do with the characters themselves than the actual story. Moving away from demons and towards genetically enhanced soldiers makes sense in that it's seeing the Revice cast face new threats that they're not necessarily equipped to deal with, but there's no denying that it makes the end result feel that little bit more generic.

In fact "generic" is almost to perfect way to sum up the plot of this film, which relies quite heavily on common tropes. From the main character having to protect a special child to mistaken identities and an all too obvious twist when it comes to the true villain of the piece, Live & Evil & Demons is pretty predictable in its story beats. That isn't to say all of its elements are pulled off badly, but it does mean that there's little to say in how it develops. There isn't really a single surprise in its 77-minute runtime, which is a shame because these films are often an opportunity to experiment with the characters/setting and potentially do something interesting with them - whether it's for better or for worse.

Hiromi & RumiKagero

What the film does have going for it though is that Hiromi is just a really great character to begin with. Whereas the Igarashi siblings all have something special about them, Hiromi very much feels like the "regular guy" of the show's core Riders. He doesn't have a demon of his own to call upon, and within the series itself he's undoubtedly the one who experiences the drawbacks of the Rider systems worst of all. Yet throughout it all he continues to act like a hero, whether it's with or without a Driver. The film opening up with Hiromi getting beaten up is pretty on brand for him - he's life's punching bag but he never backs down from a fight. The relationship he develops with Rumi over the course of the film is sweet, and you can see that he genuinely cares about her other than just protecting her from a sense of duty.

Meanwhile Daisy's story has some crossover with Hiromi's in that he is among the people seemingly unable to tell which one is the real Hiromi, but in following his own investigations into Alicorn it becomes more about developing his relationship with Kageru. The duality of the pair was fairly well fleshed out in the series itself, and with the pair now having a good team dynamic (in the same vein as Ikki and Vice) it's a little disappointing to see the film essentially retreading old ground with the pair. Having Kageru seemingly want to distance himself from Daiji and Daiji then suffering a crisis of confidence are all things that have been done before, and because of how predictable the plot is there isn't even any tension to be drawn from it either.

The focus may be on its titular characters but the rest of the Revice cast are there to lend a helping hand - although in this case many of them actually do the exact opposite. With the emergence of Muramase the film tries to play with the idea that Hiromi's closest friends and allies might actually struggle to tell the two apart - which is ridiculous given the two dress and act completely differently. Outside of the fake Hiromi (who later adopts the name 'Muramasa') initial kidnapping of Rumi there isn't any real indication of the two being remotely alike, which makes Hana and Go's instantly belief that the blue-haired Hiromi wearing a black suit and wielding a katana is probably the real one all the dumber. Ikki has much less of a place in the movie (as tends to be the case for the lead Rider), but is on hand to give Daiji some words of advice when he most needs it - in-keeping with his busybody nature. George also plays a somewhat limited role but works well as (presumably) the head of Bluebird and a mentor of sorts to both Daiji and Hiromi.

The TransamzaYukio and Mariko

Villains are also another mixed bag, possibly due to the fact (in a rather unusual move for modern Kamen Rider) there isn't a villain Rider present. In some ways this is good because the show has become a little too over reliant on evil Riders, but at the same time what Live & Evil & Demons has isn't really interesting enough to fill the void. For the most part Alicorn just presents itself as super-powered humans, which while perfectly fine in itself lessens the opportunities for transformed Rider fights. It also doesn't really help that again, the characters are just really boring. Shunichiro is just forgettable, while Yukio and Mariko are fine as (mostly) silent henchmen but don't really have much to offer outside of that - other than the latter being the obvious sign this is a Koichi Sakamoto film that is. That said Junya Komatsu is clearly enjoying the opportunity to play an evil version of Hiromi, with Muramasa wonderfully over the top in both his appearance and mannerisms. The film does get some monster/suit action in the form of the mutant-like Transamzas, but the suits themselves are fairly simplistic in both design and colour - again not really helping in making them particularly memorable.

And finally there's the new forms each Rider receives for the climax, which is something plenty of fans will have an opinion on even if they haven't watched the film. From a story perspective the build-up to the pair/trio's transformation into this new movie-exclusive forms is very well-done. Up until this point it had been recommended that Hiromi didn't transform again due to his condition (with Demons being one of the few Revice Riders that didn't appear in Movie Battle Royale), while Daiji and Kagero using the Revice Driver is a big moment for the both of them - finally overcoming his failure to do so right at the very beginning of the series. But the suits themselves just don't work at all. While it's easy to see what they were going for with Live and Evil's Marvelous forms (a parallel to the Ultimate Revice forms), all semblance of colour theory is thrown out the window to create these gaudy monstrosities of teal, magenta and purple. The designs themselves are solid enough, but the colours are just so in your face that it's hard to take either form seriously. Comparatively Imperial Demons' is much better design and colour-wise, but the overall look of it has a bit of a mixed impact. As elaborate as Demons' original design may have been with its asymmetrical shoulders, there was always something tactical about it - it used the Vistamp motif well but at the same time looked like something a prototype soldier may wear. Imperial Demons attempt to enhance that look with a more symmetrical web pattern and flowing cape, but in doing so it loses that charm entirely. On the one hand you could look at it as Hiromi becoming less of a soldier and more of a superhero (which is admittedly a really good evolution of his character), but on the other the bulkiness and overall gaudiness of it makes it almost look like a final-boss villain Rider as well. There are certainly worse movie-exclusive forms out there (and it isn't the worst one here by a wide margin), but overall given the build-up the movie has to the Riders actually transforming the end result is definitely underwhelming.

Kamen Rider Demons ImperialKamen Rider Live & Evil Marvelous

Kamen Rider V-Cinemas are often hit or miss, and unfortunately Revice Forward: Kamen Rider Live & Evil & Demons is largely another case of the latter. While more Hiromi is always something to be celebrated, the film doesn't really feel like it expands upon or progresses any of the core characters involved - instead just retreading things in a setting that feels even more removed from Revice's overall story. The plot isn't especially original or interesting, while the plot-convenient stupidity of the characters just makes it all the more frustrating. With so many other supporting Riders in Revice there's plenty of scope for another of these films, but hopefully the next will be a lot better than this.

1 comment:

CPF said...

This is espically damning considering how well done Trio of Deep Sin was.

Also, from the looks of things Demons final formed was well recived. How would you fix it to make it work better?