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Climax Jump!

April 26, 2010

        Like a lot of kids in the 1990s, I grew up watching the Power Rangers.  When I say that, I mean the original one, not any of the generally not-so-good sequels.  The Power Rangers franchise was based on the popular tokusatsu (super hero, special effects, generally features guys in suits) series Super Sentai, using a lot of footage from various Super Sentai series.  On the recommendation of a friend, I tried one of the series in one of the other major tokusatsu superhero franchises, Kamen Rider, specifically Kamen Rider Den-O.  Arguably the most popular iteration of the franchise, it features a young man, Nogami Ryoutarou, who has absolutely unbelievably bad luck.  One day, he happens to find a pass which gets him access to Den-Liner, the mysterious time-traveling train.  Then, he gets possessed by an Imagin, a being from the future that is going back to the past to change time.  However, said Imagin, later named Momotaros, shows little interest in that mission.  Ryoutarou, along with Momotaros and three other Imagin, Urataros, Kintaros, and Ryuutaros, as well as the young woman Hana, the Owner of Den-Liner, the attendant Naomi, and later Kamen Rider Zeronos, otherwise known as Sakurai Yuuto, and his Imagin partner Deneb, fight to protect time and the people they care about from the evil mission of the Imagin.  All the while, Ryoutarou has to deal with his sister’s lost memory of her fiance, who was also named Sakurai Yuuto.

     Although I have the nostalgia of Power Rangers, as an American, I find most of the special effects and costumes of the tokusatsu genre to be very silly.  They’re rooted in very Japanese concepts that don’t quite translate across cultures, even if you understand why.  However, that did not really affect my enjoyment of the show at all.  Kamen Rider Den-O is indeed a very fun show.  The basic plot may just be another derivation of various tried-and-true tokusatsu themes, but the cast is full of great, colorful characters that help to make the show enjoyable anyway.  The four Imagin are particularly fun.  Momotaros, voiced by Seki Toshihiko, is my personal favorite, partially because I like Toshihiko for his work as Rau Le Creuset.  Urataros is voiced by Yusa Kouji (Ichimaru Gin), Kintaros by Terasoma Masaki (Hidan), and Ryuutaros by Suzumura Kenichi (Shinn Asuka), and they’re all really quite good.  The actual actors are not quite so good, partially because, for some reason, in live action dramas, Japanese actors tend to overact a bit.  Especially with their faces.  Nakamura Yuuichi, who plays Yuuto, is the biggest example of that, while Satou Takeru, who plays Ryoutarou, gets visibly better over the course of the show.  It’s not that big a deal, but it’ll make you laugh a tad inappropriately when, for example, Yuuto does some over-the-top mouth motions when he’s trying to be serious.  My only real plot complaint was that we never really got to understand Kai’s motivations for leading the Imagin.  The soundtrack is absolutely superb and very memorable, particularly Climax Jump, the opening theme song.  Everything is well-filmed and generally well-polished, so it’s no wonder it was so successful.  It spawned four movies, with a fifth coming up later this year, more than any other Kamen Rider show.  It’s easy to understand why.  This show has, as Satou said in an interview, great comedic timing and fun characters, such that I already miss them having finished the show.  I’m not going to become a big Kamen Rider fan, but at least my one foray into the tokusatsu genre was very fun.

Story: 8.5      Cinematography: 9.0      Soundtrack: 9.4      Acting: 8.0      Overall: 8.6

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