Saturday, August 27, 2016
Black Hole Message: Kamen Rider Black episodes 21 - 25 + Movie
21 - Fun episode with Battle Hopper influenced by the latest monster, rampaging and causing (off-screen) destruction. Cool moment with Birugenia attempting to hijack the bike and meddle in Golgom's plan. Awesome to see Koutarou keeping an all night vigil for Battle Hopper, which leads him to discover the reason for the bike's erratic behavior. You'd think once Black killed the monster, its minions (which are infecting Battle Hopper) would die, as per toku tradition, but it's interesting they don't. Black takes a gamble on attacking Battle Hopper with Road Sector (stop trying to make Road Sector happen), and it's ridiculous that we care as much about Battle Hopper as we do. Sensible viewers were probably worried in '87 that Battle Hopper would be killed so they could focus on Road Sucktor, but that's thankfully not the case.
22 - A bit of a strange episode, with a clairvoyant kid who's convinced Koutarou's going to kill his scientist dad, so there's a couple of weird-ass scenes of this kid attempting to kill Koutarou. The dad is building some big solar powered laser gun and Golgom's funding it for their latest plan. Kid learns Koutarou's the good guy and helps a blinded Black fight by using his special abilities, which he...loses as a result of doing? Whatever, weird episode.
One thing I like, though, is when Koutarou questions the kid, he actually seems kind of hurt and insulted that the kid thinks he could be a bad guy. While I like the angry, lost, uncertain Koutarou of the early episodes -- it suited his age, as the youngest Rider at the time -- he's settling into his role of being a hero and paragon of justice that he doesn't want anyone to think he's bad.
This episode also marks the debut of Birugenia's Demon Kakka-inspired make-up upgrade (make-upgrade?). So long, sickly jaundiced look. This make-up looks cooler, makes the character look meaner. There's no real explanation behind it; they just cut to Birugenia watching from the sidelines and he just does it.
MOVIE 1 (Race to Oni Island) - Standard toku movie; big on action, low on plot -- that's not to say I don't enjoy it, I think it's fun for what it is. It's Uehara's last script for Black, and he brings back some nasty Golgom weirdness -- the sicko chameleon monster kidnaps kids, the suitable ones being made into new monsters, the ones that don't pass becoming monster food. The main objective is to lure Koutarou to a small island and capture him, turning him into a monster. There's some cool action, like an early fight with Birugenia and neat wire-work when Black takes on five chameleon monsters. Director Mishio Konishi brings back some of the dark, horror-ish atmosphere, mainly on the titular island.
A couple of strange bits in this movie, though. One is a scene showing kids eating the Kamen Rider Black snacks you could actually buy in '87/'88. An episode already had a kid riding the Battle Hopper you could buy, but it was in the background, so you could kind of overlook it. Maybe you could think that some kid idolized Black and had his parents build him his own little Battle Hopper. But Black snacks!?!? Who's making that money, within the world of the show -- Adrian Veidt?
The other strange thing is choosing to end the movie with Tetsuo Kurata's flat singing of the "Ore no Seishun" song. This isn't the first time a toku character has burst into one of their own songs -- both the song and the scene is reminiscent of Hiroshi Watari singing his terrible song in Spielban -- but as a way to END the movie...?!? Strange choice.
Everybody knows and loves Shoutarou Ishinomori's cameo in this movie, where he's a knowledgeable fisherman who gives Koutarou a ride to Golgom's island hideaway. I think it might be the most Ishinomori's been given to do in one of his cameos. When I first saw this movie, I totally expected him to be a Golgom kaijin in disguise, though, he was acting so strange and being suspiciously too helpful.
23 - This is the first episode of Black that I feel really plays to the kids. It's not exactly a funny or lighthearted episode, but it's certainly kid-friendly, focusing almost exclusively on the kid of the week. How much you hate the episode depends on whether you're an animal lover. I'm an animal lover, so I felt bad for the kid guest star, who just lost his dog, and has that hole filled by finding a miniaturized fragment of a Golgom monster and adopts it. (And loses THAT by the end of the episode, too.)
24 - The first episode to heavily feature Katsumi and it's an odd one. Girls at her campus are going missing, and of course it turns out to be the teacher Katsumi is fond of, played by that unlikable dude who goes on to play Godai's old teacher in Kuuga. I always think of this episode as "Oh, the one where the writer saw A Nightmare on Elm Street that week." It's not touched on a lot, but the episode IS called "The College Girls' Nightmare," and the monster does effect their dreams, but the thing that REALLY stands out to me is when Koutarou comes across the manipulated Katsumi in the evil teacher's lab and she's sent rolling all across the walls and ceiling like Freddy killing Tina in the first Nightmare on Elm Street. (I'm a huge Nightmare on Elm Street fan, so that's a plus.)
It's also this episode that debuts Black's attempt at a Shonen Rider Tai sort of thing, which seems random here, IMO. Now, if you know me from Japan Hero or HJU, I have always whined about the Showa Rider shows using the Shonen Rider Tai. I think they're lame, I think they're pandering. They're seriously uncool. But I LIKE this take on them in Black. Here, they're a Golgom experiment gone wrong, lab guinea pigs and freaks -- they were operated on when they were kids and stopped growing. They might still look like tweens, but they're technically in their 20s. That gives them a bit more sorrow than the standard Shonen Rider Tai, and you can take them a bit more seriously than previous ones. It also gives the episode writer freedom to KILL ONE OFF!!!
25 - A follow-up to episode 12, it sees a former coworker of that episode's Professor Daimon kidnapped by Birugenia in order to force him to make his own Road Sector type of super bike. This episode's mainly cool for a lot of motorcycle action and a night battle between Black and Birugenia. (This show, awesomely enough, has A LOT of night shoots. They sadly ease up on them later on, at the time in a series when Toei typically likes slashing budgets.) Black's and Birugenia's sped-up race is pretty cool, especially considering the small area of terrain they were covering -- they make the most of it they're able to. And where else are you going to see a death scene for a motorcycle? Kamen Rider Black's the only place, motherfucker.
I like that this episode kind of points out a crucial difference between Battle Hopper and Road Sector. Not just that Battle Hopper is cooler, but that Battle Hopper is alive, while Road Sector's basically a super-computer.