Wednesday 5 July 2023

Special REVIEW: Geats Extra: Kamen Rider Tycoon Meets Kamen Rider Shinobi

Geats Extra: Kamen Rider Tycoon Meets Kamen Rider Shinobi

He may be a year and half late, but finally the real Kamen Rider of 2022 has returned. In a parallel universe somewhere, Rider fans have been enjoying the adventures of Kamen Rider Shinobi for some time now and his series is reaching its endgame. Over in this universe however, we've been left in the lurch after first meeting him in Kamen Rider Zi-O and then an all too brief introduction to his story in Rider Time: Kamen Rider Shinobi. It's been a long wait, but now he finally returns in Geats Extra: Kamen Rider Tycoon Meets Kamen Rider Shinobi! The second of the Toei Tokusatsu Fanclub's Kamen Rider Geats spin-offs unites our current ninja-themed Rider meet the alternate world hero, along with other ninja Riders from across the franchise.

Rentaro KaguraKeiwa and Sara

Last time on Kamen Rider Shinobi: Dark ninja clan Ninjinohebi leader Amakusa Shiro Tokisada has taken over the Konsei Company, and now set his sights on the world. Whilst trying to save his sister Iroha from Shiro, Rentaro Kagura loses his ninja powers. His friend and rival Konjo is also killed in the battle, putting Rentaro into a deep depression.

Now: Having gathered the powers of all the ninja Riders in his world, Shiro now turns his attention to harnessing those from other worlds as well. Among those transported are Keiwa Sakurai and his sister Sara, the latter of whom is kidnapped after being mistaken for the target ninja Rider. Arriving at the Gekonin clan training ground, Keiwa is filled in on the situation and attempts to pull Rentaro out of his depression. Can the two ninja Riders defeat Shiro and save their sisters before he enacts his plan to marry Iroha? And what about the other ninja Riders that have been pulled into the world of Shinobi?

Amakusa Shiro TokisadaThe Ninja Riders

Even before getting into the actual content of this special, there’s a unique joy to the way Toei have decided to handle Kamen Rider Shinobi content. Naturally quite a lot of time has passed since we saw the beginning of Shinobi’s story back in 2019, and this is reflected in the fact that this actually takes place toward the end - episode 46 in fact. The opening “recap” section fills the viewer in on what’s been happening the same way any other Kamen Rider opening would, and the opening theme/sequence is even the same from the one used in Rider Time. As far as both the story and the viewer are concerned, they are part of the same show. All of the principal cast members from the Rider Time miniseries have also returned to reprise their roles, which helps bring the viewer comfortably back into the fold even with the huge jump in story there’s been since we last saw them. It’s a double-edged sword because despite being a brilliant framework for the story, it also ends up being a gigantic tease for a hypothetical show that we’re never going to get. While nothing laid out here is obviously as complex or developed as you’d find in late-game Kamen Rider episodes, it’s certainly interesting enough that you’d want to see more of it.

But despite the large pieces missing here from Shinobi’s overall story, this special pieces the parts we do have together to weave together a wholly competent story. Moments like Rentaro's depression after the loss of his ninja powers and death of his friends are perhaps treated a little more humorously than they would be in a proper series (but at the same time, very in-keeping with what we've previously seen from Shinobi), but it still has the makings of a sensible endgame. This is the first time we're introduced to Amakusa Shiro Tokisada as the big bad of Shinobi, but straight away he slots in well with the rest of the cast and presents himself as a character that would work as a credible threat within the confines of what we've seen from the "show".

Keiwa and RentaroSara and Iroha

One of Keiwa’s greatest strengths on Geats has been how his resolve far outweighs his abilities, and this is a trait that makes him just as engaging in the world of Shinobi as well. In a world of strong ninjas he’s completely outclassed, but its his ideals that are the key to Rentaro getting his powers back. Moments like him cheering up Rentaro with his cooking also highlight just how much of a down to Earth character he is as well. There are so many parallels between the pair (their sibling dynamics, the fact they’re both viewed as a bit hopeless) that it’s no wonder they work so well together, but its their absolute hearts of gold that make them ideal Kamen Riders. Similarly Sara shares a really good dynamic with Iroha, bonding over their brothers as well as working together to escape Shiro. Even though the special takes place before Sara becomes a Rider herself (and thus she’s blissfully unaware of her brother here too), it just goes to show that shouldn’t define her - she’s always been a great supporting character.

But great as seeing Tycoon team up with Shinobi is, their dynamic is only part of what initially made this special so alluring. What’s just as notable is the appearance from the other ninja Riders – Kamen Rider Saber's Kamen Rider Kenzan, Kamen Rider Ex-Aid the Movie: True Ending's Kamen Rider Fuma and of course Kamen Rider ZX. ZX's return is the most significant of these, with actor Shun Sugata returning once again to reprise his role as Ryo Murasame. Though it's a fleeting appearance Ryo's presence is treated with the same gravitas as any other Showa Rider cameo, with him bursting onto the scene out of suit before launching into his timeless transformation pose. By comparison Fuma and Kenzan's appearances are much less memorable, though the fact they remembered to include Ex-Aid's one-off movie Rider is notable in itself (even if it is a completely different voice actor). While it would have been nice to have a bigger story that centred more around the gathering of these ninja Riders, it still makes for an excellent climax to the special as they unite in the familiar Mt Iwafune setting. Of all the Showa Riders ZX is the one that has been short-changed the most onscreen, so any excuse to bring him back is a welcome one.

Ryo MursameKamen Rider ZX

It’s a Toei Tokusatsu Fan Club exclusive too so of course there’s a new Tycoon form thrown in there as well, and while it’s nothing to write a great deal about it also just feels right. In the world of Kamen Rider Shinobi, of course Tycoon should get a Shinobi-themed power up. It takes the basic design of Shinobi’s armour and jazzes it up in the typical style of Geats forms, while the added metallic purple clashes with Tycoon’s bright green in a way that by all accounts shouldn’t work but still somehow does. Like most things in this special its time is fleeting, yet memorable.

Kamen Rider Kenzan and FumaKamen Rider Hattori

Geats Extra: Kamen Rider Tycoon Meets Kamen Rider Shinobi is a wonderful little excursion into a series that we'll never get, and as such its biggest crime is that it simply isn't enough. In an ideal world Shinobi's crossover with the ninja Riders of the past would have been at the very least a two-part spectacular, but in the absence of that a quick detour into that potential will have to suffice. Keiwa and Rentaro make the perfect partnership, while Ryo Murasame is just as badass as ever. As brilliant as Kamen Rider Geats has been over the past few months, the allure of that fake "episode 47" preview at the end of this special couldn't be stronger. The year of Shinobi might almost be over, but his spirit will certainly live on.

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