Tokusatsu 2008-2009 Recap [Part I] Kamen Rider Kiva Bites – Henshin Justice Unlimited

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By DaiKamonohashi of An Empire Generic


As many of you who frequent this blog may have noticed, my favorite hobby by and large is watching Japanese tokusatsu or special effects if I haven’t been over that already. Yeah, I am probably a strange, sad little man. Wh’ev.

If you do frequent this blog and you haven’t picked up on this then you are blind and/or illiterate.

Otherwise you guys know the drill here. I am a dork, blah, blah, blah, etc. So for awhile now I’ve been feeling like posting my two cents on some of the latest releases and developments in this brightest and colorfulest subset of the sci-fi/fantasy genre, right? It started out simply enough, really. I was just going to post the trailers for Toei’s latest installments of the Kamen Rider and Sentai franchises and make a few remarks about them and be done with it. Then the longer I waited the more I wanted to cover other subjects and to make it worse still, more stuff started coming to light! So now that I’m finally getting around to it it’s turned into a multi-part post covering multiple films, series, and short subjects and hopefully I won’t overwhelm everyone with my rampant nerdiness.

For this post I am starting off with the Kamen Riders. I’m not really sure why I’m starting off with the Riders but they seem as good a place to start as any so away we go!

Oh wait. First I need to say that there are going to be a lot (A LOT a lot) of spoilers in the following post. Turn back now if you don’t want to read them and don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Kamen Rider Kiva (Finale)
「仮面ライダーキバ」


Right, first thing’s first: Kamen Rider Kiva is over. Finished. Done. Before I get into how I felt about its ending, let me say a couple of things about the series that preceded the finale.

Well to start with I gave up on Kamen Rider Den-O a little over halfway through that series since it just couldn’t hold my interest any more (more on that later). Before that I’d watched the entirety of Riders Kabuto and 555/Faiz as my introduction into the franchise – both of which I found very fun, the latter of which is probably still my favorite to this day. When Kiva was announced people were raving about how awesome it was going to be and how it would be a return to the “Dark & Seriousâ„¢” style of Kabuto* and other previous entries.

* Hold up, Kabuto being the epitome of Dark & Seriousâ„¢? AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA– *coughcough* No, I’m okay! Honest! Well, I mean Den-O was mostly straight-up comedy so returning to any style set up by a previous series would be more serious but still.

Oh and additionally, it was going to be “horror-themed.” Well, Kiva’s forms and such were themed after the classic Universal monster staples – Dracula, the Wolfman, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Frankenstein, and the Mummy – but the final result was pretty much your standard Modern Rider Series.

And that more or less sums up my problems with it.

Kiva wasn’t really awful, it was just a lot of “been-there-done-that” and “seen-it-all-before” that made me really wish I were just watching Faiz again (or starting one of the older series I haven’t gotten around to seeing yet, like Kuuga or Agito or – going really far back – V3). When it started this was especially evident in the first few episodes. It was all solid but nothing really excited me until they broke out Nago and the iXA system.


Yeah, at that point I really got into the series, I’ll admit. For a few weeks it was a pretty awesome ride. But then it started losing steam for me again and it never really recovered. Sure, it introduced several neat concepts here and there but after how badly this was bungled in Kabuto I was pretty resigned to stuff like that never really going where I would want it to, even if it weren’t forgotten entirely. It wound up being just fun enough to keep following but it was never really satisfying – not unlike slightly-better-than-mediocre Chinese take-out.

Oh, and let’s not forget how the motorcycles were once again totally forgotten after awhile (naturally) and Toei’s attempt at cloning Den-O’s Denliner, the friggin’ Castle Dran. Thank God it became just another location for characters to go and talk about things at because those giant-sized battles were obnoxious. I’ll watch Ultraman if I want to see that sort of stuff (and done a helluva lot better), thank you very much. And none of the rider design-work did anything for me apart from iXA – every successive rider just seemed to get clunkier, really. At the same time, none of them bothered me much aside from the far too overdone Dark Kiva. Bleah. Something slimmed down and sleak would’ve worked a lot better, methinks.

It wasn’t without its positives, though. Aside from the awesomeness that was Nago and his version of iXA, the three leading ladies were all very easy on the eyes and I love that Yuria Haga came back to do another Rider series (even though she’s still at her best in Sh15uya!). The stained-glass motif that the Fangire – this series set of Monsters-of-the-Week – had was pretty sweet too and made for some really interesting designs. Oh, and the soundtrack was pretty good too; some great violin pieces and several kickass insert songs in addition to the catchy opening theme.

Now onto the finale itself: I was really hoping that maybe the end of the series would bring it to a decent enough close that I could walk away saying, “It had some low spots but overall it wasn’t half bad and man! What an ending!”

Did it? No. Not really, no. The finale was about the same as the rest of the series was for me: kind of bland and okay at best. The key difference between the final arc and the rest of the series was that there was one element that elicit a very strong reaction from me. …a reaction of mixed anger and annoyance, unfortunately. Why, you might be asking? Wataru’s time-traveling hijinks. Oh. My. God. Wataru’s time-traveling hijinks. Just thinking about them makes me want to go all stabby on something.

Okay, let me try and explain this as best I can for those of you who’ve never watched the show. Basically, Kamen Rider Kiva follows two plotlines – one the follows our primary protagonist and his companions in the year 2008 and another that follows his father and his father’s womanizing in 1986, among other things.

2008:

1986:

In the final arc, Wataru turns really emo (again) and uses the power of Castle Dran to go back in time to stop his mom and dad from doing the nasty so that he is never born. Okay, that’s already annoying enough but I can deal with that. While trying to complete this task, things keep happening so that you see that no matter what Wataru does, Otoya, his dad, will eventually bang the Fangire Queen and sire the future Kamen Rider Kiva. Destiny’s a bitch, ain’t it? That’s an old standby concept and it doesn’t really bother me much. What bothers me is this:

In 1986, the big baddie of the series, the Fangire King/Dark Kiva, is pretty much lording over everyone with an iron fist and no one at all shows any willingness to try and take him down, much less has the power to. So how – if the Fangire Queen is forbidden from seeing Otoya under threat the of death to herself, Otoya, and her other son, Taiga – how do they ever get together to make another baby? Why, that very child comes to them from the future to help his father defeat the Fangire king and ensure his birth! Even though he was going to be born anyway, even though everything pointed to him NOT being born ever. What? DOES THIS MAKE SENSE TO ANYONE?! Essentially, Wataru would never have been born if he hadn’t gone back in time to save his parents. In the long history of time-travel flubs, this one REALLY takes the cake for me and if mostly ruined the end of this series for me. Hell, even The Terminator makes more sense. Gah.

They did the time-traveling thing before in the series but that was harmless enough and filled with enough lolNago moments that I could overlook some of the continuity problems it could have conceivably caused. Plus it lead to some really great suspense that didn’t really pay off as nicely as I had hoped it would but whatever.

The one thing that I did really like about the ending was the romance between Megumi and Nago in 2008. It wasn’t entirely unexpected but at the same time it kind of caught me off guard in a very good way. I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic sometimes, I guess, and the whole bit with Nago going blind and Megumi being his eyes as he fights was very much a “d’aawwwwwww” moment for me. Very sweet. …Yeah.

Overall though, Kamen Rider Kiva was okay. I didn’t hate it and it certainly was not without its moments but it was bland and re-treaded to the point where it just felt tired where other bland and re-treaded shows still felt fun. Oh well, that kind of sucks but the movie was a return to the alternate reality concept so maybe it could stand on its own awesomeness?

Movie Edition Kamen Rider Kiva: The King of the Castle in the Demon World
「劇場版 仮面ライダーキバ 魔界城の王」


Alas, no. Not really, no.

I just feel very indifferent towards this movie – it’s just not very entertaining. Sure, there are moments here and there that are really awesome (including a fantastic wirework jump from iXA) but overall it just feels like a glorified television episode. When you’re making a glorified television episode of a show like Kiva, that’s really not a good thing.

Yes, they decided to go back to the Alternate Reality schtick that characterized most of the Heisei Rider movies but here it’s really weird. Where other movies would make some pretty big changes – see Kamen Rider Kabuto – GOD SPEED LOVE (2006) or Kamen Rider Faiz: Paradise Lost (2003) for examples of this – the Kiva movie may as well just be a side story to the TV show. Yet they change enough plot points to make that more or less impossible. Why? Hell if I know but it seems really, really dumb to me. Background characters from the TV series aren’t really used well here either. Instead of them blending into the new, alternate reality it feels more like Toei’s saying, “HEY LOOK, WE DIDN’T FORGET ABOUT KENGO!” or whoever.

That said, almost everything featuring the movie-exclusive Kamen Rider Rey was fantastic and I think he was terribly, terribly underused. Arc had a pretty swell design and they handled the size effect very well (he really does look three meters tall!) but, eh. In my opinion, Rey’s where it’s at and yet it hardly feels like he’s in the movie at all. The effects in general are pretty well handled, though the mega-CGI battle at the end gets to be a bit much after awhile.

I don’t know, I just can’t find it in me to give a damn about this one. Color me very unimpressed. Doubly-so after the show turned out the way it did.

Oh well.

Anyway, I wrote so much about Kiva in this post that I didn’t have room for all the other Rider stuff I’d intended to put in here. My bad! Stay tuned for Part II, coming soon! The worst is out of the way, so expect the following posts to be a lot less pessimistic!

What to expect next time: Decade and the rest of the Rider Stuff! What never to expect: a recap for Go-Onger! Screw that noise, I never watched it! In other news: I probably have far too much time on my hands! 8D

Night, folks!

-Jared

4 Comments

  • KamenRiderGP

    Do you know anything about time traveling? The past, present, and future are all happening at the same time and you can’t change time. If the past and the future are happening at the same time then that would explain why Wataru had to travel to the past to ensure his birth. The timeline is fixed and anything he does has already happened. This show, along with LOST, are the only shows to get time traveling right, and that is why they happened to be my favorite time traveling shows.

    What continuity problems are you talking about? Why write a big-ass review if you’re not going to give examples?

  • I’ve heard several different theories on how time travel might work and that’s the first time I’ve ever heard anything like that. Given how no one has ever been proven to actually travel through time, any one of those hundreds of theories could be true or all of them could be false. Personally, I respectfully think the version you subscribe to is bunk and I’m going to stick by what I said, sorry.

    Also, I addressed the continuity issues I wanted to address and stated my lack of interest in addressing the continuity issues that I didn’t care to address. I don’t see an issue here.

    Regardless, thank you for taking the time to read all of that. I honestly didn’t mean to ramble on so long.

  • KamenRiderGP

    I believe in this theory because it would allow for a predestination paradox, thus not changing the past and making the reason for the original time travel, null.

    Sorry if I sounded like a jerk in the original post and I do agree with you for the most part about the Kiva movie.

  • I tend to subscribe more to the parallel universes theories of time travel more than anything. Basically, if you go back in time it creates a new parallel universe (in addition to the infinite ones already out there! D: ) so that your original universe remains uneffected. That doesn’t really work for Kiva since it’s pretty obvious to be a single timeline. Plus it’s a kids’ TV show so I still just chalk it up to bad writing… XD

    On other days I feel more like time travel to the past is impossible and that only future-travel would work (and you couldn’t go back).

    BUT I DON’T KNOW, I AM AN ART MAJOR AND QUANTUM PHYSICS MAKE MY HEAD HURT! D:

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