Kamen Rider Fourze
Gentaro Kisaragi transfers to Amanogawa High School and is determined to make friends with everyone there, even the students and staff who are turning into horrifying monsters. Thankfully there is a secret school club fighting the monsters, who turn Gentaro into the superhero Fourze and restore friendship to the school.
This is what got me to watch a Kamen Rider show. Specifically, it was down to the fact that the show’s head writer was playwright, director and anime screenwriter Kazuki Nakashima (Gurren Lagann, Oh Edo Rocket). I’ve enjoyed pretty much everything related to Nakashima that I’ve seen, and was interested to see what he’d do with a venerable franchise like Kamen Rider. The show was directed by Koichi Sakamoto, who had spent much of the last 20 years working on Power Rangers and associated shows.
This mix resulted in the main setting of Amanogawa High School being a strange hybrid of American idealised TV high schools and Japanese TV idealised high schools. It’s a stew of Saved By Bell-style California TV high school, anime cliches and Ishinomori superheroics. This often results in something resembling a live action cartoon, complete with cartoon sound effects and visual effects.
This was totally my cup of tea. The acting of the teenage cast was highly variable, often breaking down into what can only be described as gurning, but most of them got better as the series progressed, and some were pretty good from the start. It really benefitted in the middle part of the run from a really good guest star in the form of Soran Tamoto playing that segment’s arch-villain. Also around the same it had escalated the visual quirks and gags to the level that the show is likely to be remembered for. For example, early in the show the filming of the 3-2-1 countdown to transformation is quite sensible, but slowly it begins to put more and more OTT cuts and reactions into the sequence.
All in all it was a lot of fun and felt like a show that was very much of the time, in that its hero Gentaro Kisaragi feels somewhat like Luffy from One Piece in his mix of enthusiasm, friendship and bone headed stupidity.
More importantly, I had been hooked on Kamen Rider shows, and so stuck around for its replacement…