Thursday, June 19, 2014

Toku Movie Flashback: Kamen Rider Decade The Movie: All Riders Vs. Great Shocker

The one-two-three punch of producer Shinichiro Shirakura, writer Shoji Yonemura, and director Osamu Kaneda have collectively been responsible for plenty of the most heavily derided tokusatsu of the last five years. Even titles that the trio have worked on individually are usually blasted by fans and critics alike (Shirakura's Kikaider: REBOOT, Yonemura's Kamen Rider OOO two-parter, Kaneda's Space Sheriff Gavan: The Movie). It has gotten to the point where whenever any one of those names are announced to be attached to a new project, it immediately sends the fanbase into a pessimistic state.

Believe it or not, these three men once worked on a project together that actually worked. The writing was mostly solid, the spectacle was actually spectacular, and the action was competently filmed. So what happened? Is it possible that this one success got to their heads and felt that their next endeavors didn't need that amount of effort and quality control? It's hard to say for certain, but today, instead of poking fun at this creative trio for the millionth time on this blog, let's actually highlight the one movie they made together that actually worked. Of course, I am referring to the movie responsible for Toei's obsession over celebrating anniversaries every year no matter how flimsy they are. Being the highest-grossing Kamen Rider film ever will do that. So, without further ado, I bring you Kamen Rider Decade The Movie: All Riders Vs. Great Shocker.

TV-Nihon, it's okay to translate "dai". It literally means great, no mythical "untranslatable" Japanese about it.

We begin the film in medias res as Tsukasa/Kamen Rider Decade is standing alone in a stadium as he transforms. An announcer that sounds an awful lot like the DecadeDriver introduces Decade and his opponent: Kamen Rider Amazon. It turns out they are taking part in a Kamen Rider battle free-for-all and the winner will be crowned the strongest Kamen Rider. Before you roll your eyes at the idea of Kamen Riders fighting each other, it actually works in the context of this film. You just have to keep going. Anyways, Amazon and Decade are trading blows and the match is dead even. Before they land Rider Kicks on each other, our title card appears and we flash back to three days prior.

As it turns out, Tsukasa and gang have this time landed in what appears to be Tsukasa's home world. Yuusuke/Kamen Rider Kuuga and Natsumi tour around with Tsukasa, trying to jog his memory. Finally, they arrive at a house that Tsukasa just happens to have the key to in his pocket. For once in his life, he shows actual hesitation but Natsumi convinces him to unlock the door since it might lead to hope. Those are not my words, those are Natsumi's. Trust me, the movie's still full of corny lines like that.


The three walk inside and meet Sayo, who immediately embraces Tsukasa and calls him her older brother. This news surprises everyone, especially Tsukasa since he doesn't remember her. This breaks Sayo's heart as they are also introduced to Sayo's caretaker, Tsukikage. Tsukikage has cared for her ever since Tsukasa left to go on his journey one year ago, and because Tsukasa and Sayo's parents have been dead for 10 years. Tsukikage scorns Tsukasa for leaving her alone, but this moment is interrupted when portions of the world start to disappear. Tsukikage explains that because the worlds are being drawn together by the powers of all the Kamen Riders, they are trying to become one. To stop this, Tsukikage proposes a Rider Battle that will whittle down the number of Riders to one and hopefully restore the balance between worlds.

I dunno about you guys, but I see a fair hint of foreshadowing. Has nothing to do with the bright moon in the middle of the day, however.

Tsukasa is hesitant, but he notices a strange symbol on the moon. This triggers his memory, and he orders Tsukikage to gather all the Riders and begin the battle. Flash forward to where we began the movie, and Decade barely beats Amazon. Amazon retreats, and the next battle is with Kamen Rider Black RX. As the two square off, all the Riders are facing off against one another. ZX fights Ryuki, Stronger takes on Blade, Kuuga goes up against X, and so on. Finally, only six Riders remain. Decade, Kuuga, and DiEnd (who appears about as nonchalantly and without reason as one would expect) battle against V3, Black and Super-1. During the match, DiEnd retreats (because fuck you, DiEnd) and Kuuga is outmatched, leaving Decade by himself. However, he turns the tables and manages to win the Rider Battle.

However! It turns out this whole battle was one big scheme by Tsukikage and Tsukasa to revive Great Shocker! Gasp! And Tsukasa is actually their Great Leader! GASP! And Natsumi's grandfather, Eijiro, is actually Professor Shinigami! GA---wait, what? Yeah, this plot twist right here isn't really well thought out and isn't followed on convincingly, so it seems like such a waste that this is Eijiro's "true form". Well, Natsumi and Yuusuke are forced to run away back to where Sayo lives. They ask if Sayo knew about Tsukasa, and they realize he's only doing this so that their world doesn't come to ruin. However, Sayo argues back and tells them that Tsukasa has always been selfish and refuses to be with her. We learn that after their parents died, Sayo became afraid to go outside. In her solitude, she gained the ability to see into different worlds. Tsukasa, on the other hand, learned how to pass between them and would constantly leave her behind. This left Sayo feeling alone until Tsukikage came into her life. At that time, Tsukikage appears and reveals his true form: Kamen Rider Black's eternal rival Shadow Moon. GASP! And Sayo is in cahoots with Shadow Moon! GASP! And she uses a special stone she's had since she was a child to turn Yuusuke evil! GASP AGAIN! Trust me, this part of the movie is about as ridiculous as it sounds with its numerous plot twists. But we're not done yet!

Looks like SOMEONE is awfully comfortable being on the throne. Or insert Game of Thrones reference here.

You can tell he's evil now because he's starting to use the word "whom".

'80s suit designs 4eva.

After Natsumi is forced to run away yet again, Sayo and Shadow Moon decide to usurp Tsukasa from his throne after telling Tsukasa he killed the Riders for naught, they had nothing to do with the worlds colliding. Sayo is now taking on the persona of High Prisetess Bishium (from Kamen Rider Black as well) and uses her new puppet, Kamen Rider Kuuga Rising Ultimate, to force Tsukasa to retreat. He tries to return to Natsumi's photo studio, but she turns him away since she's unable to take being betrayed anymore. You and me both, Natsumi. These last 15 minutes have been virtually nothing but heel turns. Meanwhile, Shadow Moon and Bishium launch an all-out invasion on all the worlds, and in a simultaneously horrifying and ridiculous scene, Shocker grunts launch themselves like rockets all across the worlds like suicide bombers and cause massive havoc. Numerous monsters also lay waste to the worlds as Natsumi tries to survive.

You can't make this sort of thing up.

Yes, that is blood. Because kids can handle it.

Narutaki suddenly appears with an "I told you so" attitude, having warned them constantly that Decade would be the destroyer of worlds. He takes Natsumi away, but they're cornered in another world. However, Kaito appears, transforms into Kamen Rider DiEnd, and fights off the grunts. He explains that he knew that Tsukasa was the Great Leader, even explaining that he stole the DienDriver from Great Shocker. Holy shit, what are answers doing in my Kamen Rider Decade?! The three decide to start recruiting surviving Riders in order to fight back, although at this point in the movie, Narutaki just sort of leaves. A shame too, because I liked the idea of Narutaki being someone who is less villainous and is more genuinely concerned with trying to save all of the worlds from someone he sees as a threat. In his next few appearances, Narutaki would be inexplicably evil but it seems he's returning to this anti-hero persona in Kamen Rider War. I welcome that change with open arms.

Meanwhile, Tsukasa is sulking in some ruins when a dashing man appears and threatens to kill him. It turns out the man is Yuuki Jouji, a former agent of Great Shocker whose arm was taken by Tsukasa as punishment for abandoning the group. Yuuki doesn't kill him because at this point, Tsukasa would embrace it. Instead, Yuuki basically tells him to get a grip and shows him how to ripping off his robotic arm and replacing it with a cannon. And then he never shows up again. I'm not even kidding.

Mmm. So dreamy.

Okay, before I continue, some backstory is in order here. Yuuki Jouji is the name of Riderman's alter-ego from Kamen Rider V3, and his power includes replacing his arm with various devices like a grappling hook. Anyways, Jouji here is played by none other than J-rock sensation Gackt. Gackt was the singer of the TV show's theme song, "Journey Through the Decade", and this movie's theme, "The Next Decade". He was approached by Toei if he'd like a cameo as a Showa Rider of his choice in the movie, and he happened to choose Riderman. A few-blown costume of the AU Riderman was designed by none other than Keita Amemiya, but it wasn't finished in time for filming. Instead, only the cannon was produced and thus Gackt's cameo had to be cut back. It was not much more than a publicity stunt thrown together by Toei and Gackt's record company, but it ends up as an annoying distraction that's never paid off.

Back to the movie, Kaito and Natsumi are trying to recruit Kamen Rider Ouja and Kamen Rider PunchHopper, but they instead feel more inclined to join Great Shocker. Natsumi and Kaito flee, but are cornered by General Jark from Kamen Rider Black RX. Tsukasa returns and proceeds to kick Jark's ass. The two jump to another world and face off against the combined forces of Professor Shinigami and Ambassador Darkness, who have both transformed into Garagaranda and IkaDevil, respectively (Shinigami's transformation was foreshadowed earlier when Eijiro was treating himself to beer and squid. Because Japanese puns). Our heroes look cornered, but at that moment, all the Riders appear and an all-out war begins!

Hey look. It's two of the only actors Toei could bring back for the movie.

It looks cool, but this Rider march goes on for like 5 minutes and is covered by every camera angle imaginable. It's like "LOOK AT THE RIDERS. LOOK AT THEM."

$$$ shot.

During the battle, Sayo is convinced by Tsukasa to let Yuusuke go. This infuriates Tsukikiage and he heads to the battle as Shadow Moon. He fights the combined forces of Decade and Kuuga Rising Ultimate for a time, but it seems our heroes are about to fall. However, a new Rider arrives on the scene. Is he a green Rider? A black Rider?

He is Kamen Rider W. W somehow then swiftly kicks Shadow Moon's ass and drives off as suddenly as he arrived. Hooray for the beginning of a unnecessary tradition every summer Kamen Rider movie would have for four years! Well, all of the Riders get together and kick the holy loving shit out of Shadow Moon, which also causes the Great Shocker building to explode. The battle seems to be won, but King Dark inexplicably rises from the rubble in his giant form. Kamen Rider J arrives on the scene and the two duke it out. However, DiEnd gets the idea to make Decade take J's power and Decade grows giant as a result. In his new giant form, Decade finishes off King Dark and the day is won.

Nope. Even when giant, that suit still looks like garbage.

So, aside from some strange choices made purely for fanservice, the final battle is honestly one of the best Kaneda has directed (although he suuuure loves his crane shots). One of his worst flaws is that his action gets too busy because of the numerous amounts of heroes Toei has him use, but he also tends to throw things in for no reason whatsoever (for example, it was Kaneda's idea to use Heisei era villains when Shocker gathers in Let's Go, Kamen Riders). This battle, however, seems very focused. All of the Riders get some time to shine and even get many of their trademarks in (Kabuto's point to the heavens, Faiz's pre-battle hand whipping, Ryuki's use of "All right!", etc.), so it definitely feels more like there are people in the suit rather than just costumes Toei happened to have. It's easy to get invested in this battle, and I give the director major props for pulling it off.

After the battle, our heroes see the Riders off, but a few of them have some things to say to encourage Tsukasa. Kotaro/Kamen Rider Black RX tells him that the Riders will have Tsukasa's back, Momotaros/Kamen Rider Den-O tells Decade not to call him since he's busy, and Shouichi/Kamen Rider Agito (surprise cameo!) tells Decade this his real journey is just beginning. Tsukasa asks Sayo if she wants to journey with him, but she refuses and she says it's time to start her own journey. Tsukasa and gang are ready to depart again with Eijiro in tow (even though he died...and he seems to regret being evil....what?). Their next stop? Who knows? There are infinite worlds out there to explore. (The answer is Kamen Rider Amazon's world, by the way.)

Oh, the plot holes possibilities this opens up.

So, that wraps it up for Kamen Rider Decade The Movie: All Riders Vs. Great Shocker. One of the things you might have noticed while reading this review is that this crossover extravaganza has one thing many of the newer ones don't have: a plot. Yes, the movie certainly has its flaws but you can tell there was some genuine effort here to make the whole thing work. It wasn't just Shirakura ordering Yonemura and Kaneda to throw together some superheroes and have them fight each other for no reason. Yes, the Riders do fight but there is a more legitimate reason (they're tricked into thinking the worlds are doomed if they don't) than what we usually see.

Like I said, the movie still has its problems. Gackt's cameo is completely pointless, W's cameo is too short, the numerous heel turns become ridiculous since they're concentrated in roughly a 15-minute period, and Kaito is once again just an annoying character with no rhyme or reason to anything he does. On the other hand, the movie does a commendable job tying up many of the show's loose ends by developing Tsukasa's backstory, exploring how Kaito knows Tsukasa, and rightfully justifying the existence of the Showa Riders in Kamen Rider Decade. It's a real shame the TV show and following movies immediately squanders the potential this movie built up, because this movie is not that bad. It's a solid stand-alone feature if you don't want to watch Kamen Rider Decade (and I wouldn't blame you if you didn't), but it works best as a theatrical companion to the show since it feels like a big conclusion to everything the series had been leading up to at that point. This was one occasion where a big, epic crossover was warranted.


4 out of 5

Subtitled version courtesy of TV-Nihon


Samurai Sentai Shinkenger The Movie: The Fateful War

Wow, TV-Nihon. Thanks for not making the title card look incredibly cluttered or anything.

Every year, Toei packages a Super Sentai movie based on the currently airing season alongside their summer Kamen Rider film. This has been practiced since 2001 and continues to this very day. In this case, we have Shinkenger who had just appeared in a two-part crossover with Kamen Rider Decade, the first time this has been done in the history of both franchises (although Kamen Rider V3 does have a brief cameo in JAKQ Blitzkrieg Squad Vs. Goranger).

Unfortunately, usually the Sentai movies get the short end of the stick and are left with only 20-30 minutes to play with. This usually hurts some of these films (Gekiranger's movie would have been MUCH better if it were feature-length) while others just decide not to do anything and just crap out a quick short. Samurai Sentai Shinkenger The Movie: The Fateful War is an example of the latter.

The film begins in medias res (as you can tell, I love that term), as we learn the Shinkengers have been fighting a new army of Gedoushu led by the powerful general Aburame Manpuku for at least three days with little time to rest. After the evil army is forced to retreat because they're short on the water they need to survive, the Shinkengers fall back and tend to their wounds as they think of a new strategy of attack. Hikoma, Takeru/ShinkenRed's retainer informs the Sentai that they have found the special Secret Disc used by the first ShinkenRed to seal away Manpuku hundreds of years ago. Knowing they have no time to lose, the Shinkengers head into the shrine it was located, which happens to be deep in Gedoushu territory.

Boo hiss. Oh, Manpuku is pretty evil too, I guess.

Everyone, meet your Super Sentai veteran of the movie: OhBlue! *claps*

Oh hey, it's the token appearance of the ACTUAL bad guys from the series.

Kotoha/ShinkenYellow and Ryuunosuke/ShinkenBlue come up with a plan to disguise themselves as Nanashi, the Gedoushu foot soldiers, and sneak inside in one of the movie's few moments of humor/personality. They find the disc (which is just hanging on a wall in plain sight) and activate it, only to learn that it only plays a message explaining that the power will come forward only when power comes before ShinkenRed's eyes. Seemingly out of options, the Shinkengers decide to launch an all-out attack after overhearing two children pray to the shrine that they wish for the monsters to go away. How they managed to sneak past the Nanashi is anyone's guess, but whatever.

I would call this a really stupid plan, but Kotoha is cute so it gets a pass.

Director: "Could someone get that kid to stop looking at the camera? Anyone? I mean, I know it's my job to but that's too much work..."

The next day, the Shinkengers do battle. While the Shinkengers take on the army, ShinkenRed's rival, Juuzo, is prepared to strike when Genta/ShinkenGold intercepts him. ShinkenRed, meanwhile, takes on Manpuku and the battle quickly turns in Manpuku's favor. However, ShinkenRed realizes that the Disc's power had to have been sealed away inside Manpuku and strikes at a weak spot. This unleashes the Disc's power and ShinkenRed powers up into Hyper ShinkenRed while his sword becomes the Kyoryumaru, a dinosaur-shaped sword that has the ability to stretch to great lengths and cut down anything.

We have a movie budget? Fuck it, LET'S RENT SOME HORSES.

"Sorry, Juuzo! I'm here to cancel out your competence with my annoying presence!"

Ohhhh! I get it!

Ahh! *ducks*

With this new ability, Manpuku is defeated but he becomes giant. The Shinkengers bring out Tenku ShinkenOh, but it loses to Manpuku's true form. However, the Dinosaur Origami powers up ShinkenOh and this new sword makes quick work of Manpuku and that's it. The end. Yup, no epilogue whatsoever. Oh, we do see the Shinkengers sing and dance along with the ending but okay.

Mecha design was never one of Shinkenger's strong suits.

Yeah, this movie has about as much substance as a single slice of bread. The action is not bad, but the plot is threadbare, the new villain is bland and it's just plain boring. To add insult to injury, this was the first Japanese movie ever shot digitally in 3-D but this movie makes very little good use of it. Occasionally, Kyoryumaru will stretch out at the screen or you might get a few energy blasts shot at you, but for the most part it's just a waste of time and money. It's a shame this movie isn't better because the show itself is pretty strong at times, but it's clear this was intended as an afterthought and toy commercial first and foremost.

Oh, come on, Tsukasa. Grow some standards.


2 out of 5

Subtitled version courtesy of TV-Nihon

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