Monday 3 June 2024

Series REVIEW: Sentika F8ABA6 Jisariz

Sentika F8ABA6 Jisariz

Based on his numerous appearances as both Tsukasa Kayodoya/Kamen Rider Decade in Kamen Rider and Jinga in GARO, it's fair to assume that Masahiro Inoue is a man that loves tokusatsu. So much so that in 2023 following his appointment as representative director of AIC RIGHTS he started up the PINK no Tokusatsu project, the name of which of course refers to Decade's colour scheme. The first major work to come out of the project is Sentika F8ABA6 Jisariz – a 12-episode web series starring AKB48 member Manaka Taguchi alongside Inoue. Though the series was originally made freely available on the GGE YouTube Channel with English subtitles, it has since been put behind a paywall.

AyukaJisariz

Schoolgirl Ayuka finds herself in a forest, running from a mysterious man dressed in pink. Eventually the man, a Sentika named Jisariz, catches up to her. He tells Ayuka that the only to return to her world is either for him to kill her or her to kill him, before pushing her off of a cliff.

But rather than dying, Ayuka finds herself reincarnated in another world. It is revealed that Ayuka must travel to different worlds, changing them somehow and collecting Rev Seals along the way. However standing in her way are unknown enemies as well as other Sentika, with Jisariz appearing to defend her. Is Jisariz friend or foe? And will Ayuka ever return home?

Jisariz transformedThe Rev Seals

A series about an arrogant pink-clad hero shrouded in mystery traversing the multiverse? If you think Sentika F8ABA6 Jisariz sounds a lot like Kamen Rider Decade then you'd be exactly right. Masahiro Inoue clearly knew what he was doing with this series, as even beyond the core premise Jisariz shares more than a few similarities with the show that helped make him a star. Each world has its own unique twist or puzzle that needs to be solved, with Ayuka's actions being viewed as changing or destroying them. Meanwhile Jisariz clashes with other Sentika, armoured warriors that use mobile phones to transform. While it's true that there are only so many truly original stories in the world, Jisariz owes a lot to Decade. Fun fact: the "F8ABA6" in the title is the hex colour code for a shade of pink (though strangely not the RIGHT shade of pink).

But as a vehicle to tell a similarly-styled story without having to hit all the expected beats of a Kamen Rider story, Jisariz does have some more unique qualities to offer. To start with despite its title Ayuka is very much the star of this series, as we view most events from her perspective and are just as much in the dark about them as her. It's also free to be a little edgier, with Ayuka travels through the various parallel worlds prompted by Jisariz killing her via various means each time they're finished. It's often explicit without being too graphic, but the fact each episode is subtitled "Kill #1", "Kill #2" does perhaps hammer the point a little too much.

Jisariz kills AyukaMonster battles

And despite the series only being made up of 12 15-minute episodes, there's a whole lot of lore behind it. From the mechanics and reasoning behind Ayuka's world-hopping to Jisariz, the Sentika and the shadowy figures behind them its clear the creators have a whole world figured out here. Unfortunately what they don't have is the time (or perhaps the willingness) to show it, resulting in a series that's extremely light on explanations. Though in some respects they aren't needed as at the heart of Jisariz is a very human story, it is frustrating to watch the characters constantly talk about things that sound important but completely lack context. Similarly relationships between the Sentika have already been established, so sometimes it only feels like you're getting half the story with them too.

What this does mean however is that Jisariz is extremely good at creating atmosphere. As previously mentioned the audience has as much information as Ayuka herself, so each passing development only serves to raise more intrigue. In terms of both story and visuals the series very much has the vibes of early 00s tokusatsu, with often more low-key and dialogue-focused elements at the forefront rather than big set pieces. Though little may be explained over the course of the series there is still enough that continues to provoke interest, and together with visuals cues and/or symbolism there's plenty to invite viewers to start drawing their own conclusions.

Sentika FobiaSentika Vanitas

When it comes to the characters there’s a surprisingly hefty cast due to the frequent world-shifting, but the two constants throughout are of course Ayuka and Jisariz. Ayuka is a fairly straightforward protagonist - a normal schoolgirl thrown into a series of strange situations. Though there may not be anything especially unique about her, she is immediately likeable - attempting to do the right thing whilst trying to navigate her predicament and who exactly this strange man following her is. Jisariz on the other hand should feel familiar to anyone who’s seen Inoue as Tsukasa before. A man who’s true motives are hidden behind an air of arrogance and self-importance, this is very much the same character in a slightly different form. However again whereas Tsukasa was always very obviously the hero by way of the franchise he’s a part of, Jisariz is a character who genuinely does feel like an unknown for the most part. This is only further complicated by his relationships with the other Sentika they encounter - all of which he comes to blows against. The pair’s dynamic remains an uneasy one for the entirety of the series, even after it’s clear that they’re beginning to warm up to each other.

Local heroes and indie tokusatsu alike are proof that you don’t have to be a big budget venture to impress when it comes to suit design and/or fight choreography, and this is another area where Sentika F8ABA6 Jisariz has quite a lot to offer. Though the use of distinct colours and the word “Sentika” might give the impression of a Super Sentai-style series, the suits that appear here feel far more unique - united by certain traits but each boasting their own unique armour, weaponry and transformation specifics. The transformations themselves are one of the most interesting parts of the visuals, with a cellphone slotted headset turning the user into uncanny valley black-clad CGI figures that are then contorted as armoured parts fuse onto them. The show uses a fair amount of CGI to add some more spectacle to the fights but isn’t adverse to a good out-of-suit sword fight either, meaning there’s plenty to offer when it comes to action sequences. Given the (presumably) lower budget of the project it’s perhaps worth noting that the CGI isn’t great, if anything that only enhances that early 00s feel of the whole thing.

RadkeeperDegeal

Mashiro Inoue isn't the only big name draw from the tokusatsu world in this either, as he's clearly used his connections to bring together an incredible ensemble of alumni along for the ride. Among some of the names appearing in Jisariz are Toshiki Kashu (Shoichi/Agito in Kamen Rider Agito), Satoshi Matsuda (Ren/Knight in Kamen Rider Ryuki) and Kuriyama Wateru (Ryuga Dougai in GARO). Although all the mystery surrounding story means they don't have a whole lot to work with, much like Jisariz they're all suitably enigmatic characters which the story will hopefully develop on in a second series. Kashu's appearance as Degeal brings with it a rather climactic finale, while Matsuda is particularly curious in the role of Radkeeper – a looming figure that stalks Ayuka and Jisariz with varying visual signifiers of their time running out.

Tokusatsu actors isn't the only surprise cameos Jisariz has in store either, with local heroes (or rather villains) that have become rising stars in the past few years also showing up. Episodes five and six see Ayuka land blinded in a world inhabited by monsters, where she is assisted by wolf siblings Gulf and Gallia of Dogengers fame. Not only that, but Yabai Kamen himself even shows up as the main villain for those episodes. While there isn't any real context to their appearances or reference to their antics in Dogengers, the trio turn out to be a very welcome surprise to the story and work rather well in a less-comedic setting. Gulf and Gallia get some nice characterisation in more heroic roles, while Yabai Kamen is very much his usual self – a rather bumbling fool prone to the odd moments of pretty effective villainy. 

Gulf and GalliaYabai Kamen

As derivative of Kamen Rider Decade it may be Sentika F8ABA6 Jisariz still proves to be a fun little show, perfectly capturing that early 2000s tokusatsu atmosphere. While it certainly could stand to explain its lore a little more (or even at all), that sense of mystery still helps drive the story along. And when all else fails, it still has a great cast, interesting suits/visuals and plenty of cameos to fall back on. More legally available (and fully subtitled) indie tokusatsu is never a bad thing (as is more Mashahiro Inoue), and with a second season already confirmed maybe all those questions will eventually be answered.

2 comments:

M said...

Do you plan to review early 2000s Tokus someday?

Alex said...

Definitely looking to do a lot of 90s stuff this year, so potentially!