Saturday, October 29, 2016

Kamen Rider Black Wrap-up & The RX Meltdown

I know I've been a real wise-ass about the past few episodes of Black, and even the finale, but I like them for the most part. It's just hard not to feel disappointment in the show's final 20 or so episodes, especially when you think of those early episodes and what Uehara might have done with the show if he stayed with it. I really feel like Sugimura kind of just didn't care when he took over, and then the budget's reduced and that's twice as harmful to the show. A lot of those big, epic, Biblical moments the show goes for at the end, and the scenes of cities ravaged, just aren't given the attention and depth they need. (Hey, no-budget backlot stuff still beats the way Gaim tries to convey Zawame's destruction by radio updates!)

And the final face-off between Black and the injured Shadow Moon IS cool. I mock the redecorated Golgom lair, but it at least gets the mood right. When I think of Black Sun and Shadow Moon having their massive, final fight, I picture it in a darkened city, or on a mountaintop while it storms at night. Darkness, is the point. So, they made the best use of their little blackened out studio space as best they could. It's quick, it's brutal, and it's the words exchanged that are more brutal than the fight. No real complaints about how Shadow Moon was defeated.

There's a lot in the second half that could be trimmed or done better, but there was obviously a lot of behind-the-scenes troubles and budget cuts and, in the end, the show turned out better than it could have ended up under those conditions. I might not like Sugimura's style, but he was able to deliver a strong finale. I still can't let go of my disappointment that the show starts so strong and unique and dark and descends into old-fashioned kidsville, I still mourn the dip in quality the show takes. It's not as severe a situation as Liveman, though. Liveman has a great start and just fizzles and ceases to resemble the same show by its end. Black changes, and not for the better, but it at least doesn't totally lose its identity, it's just a show that zigged when it should have just kept on its course. (What happens to Liveman is heartbreaking; what happens to Black is just frustrating.) If Black started out seeming like a precursor to Tim Burton's Batman, then the second half of the show is Batman Forever -- there's some good elements there, but A LOT of moldy cheese you have to navigate around. Terrible analogy, but whatever.

The biggest change for me on this viewing is Shadow Moon. I used to be kind of disappointed in how they handled him. I always thought he looked goofy just standing still at the center of the Golgom lair the way he always did -- couldn't they have built an awesome throne for him, one made out of skulls or something? I always thought he was extremely overrated. But I tried to pay attention to suit-actor Iwata's performance this time, listen carefully to Terasoma's voice-overs. They both do a good job, and Shadow Moon has this huge, ominous, dangerous feel to him, the way Iwata carries him. And I've made peace with the fact that the show doesn't exactly do a good job of giving you a sense of Nobuhiko, so we don't really care as much as we could that Nobuhiko is lost inside Shadow Moon. We needed a better actor for Nobuhiko, we needed SOME dialogue for him, we needed more scenes of who we was before Shadow Moon.

This is one of my many, many problems with RX. Put aside the fact it's a stupid, horrendous, moronic pile of garbage. Ignore that it's a terrible sequel to Black. Think of Black's problems. Think of how a potential sequel series would offer many opportunities to fix, or at least smooth over, some of Black's rough patches. You had a whole year of show to do, and you NEVER fix the blunder that was shipping Kyoko and Katsumi off to America? You don't have to get the actresses back, have them send Koutarou a fucking letter. "Hey, when you went for your nap at the bottom of the sea, we left Japan, as you instructed. You can write us here. Hope to hear from you soon, because I don't know why you act like we're fucking dead when we're just in another country. Love, Kyoko. P.S. I hear you're driving a ladybug car now. That's why I haven't returned to Japan, I would be too embarrassed to be seen with you. What kind of Kamen Rider drives a ladybug car?"

How about acknowledging how tragic it is that Koutarou, having survived a long and personal battle, is pulled back into fighting? This isn't the '70s Riders, where Shocker's main branch was defeated, so Hongou travels the world to fight other branches. This isn't the '70s Riders, where Shocker just keeps mutating, so the '70s Riders' job is never finished. Golgom was destroyed, Koutarou won, the end. And now he's targeted and brought into a new battle against his will. No, don't explore that at all, just have him be a goofball who laughs it all off.

But, no, RX would rather barely ever mention the more successful show which it wouldn't exist without. As much of a problem I have with Sugimura, why wouldn't they get him as main writer for RX? Why flip through your candidates and settle for the guy who brought you Super fucking One? A guy who had NOTHING to do with Black? Why choose him to head its sequel? (Takashi Ezure basically is Sugimura without the penchant for weirdness. That means jack left town, and you're left with the excessive amount of kids, but even MORE generic storylines.) And, hey, I enjoy Super One, it's mostly goofy fun -- but it ain't a Rider show. There's not a Kamen Rider-y bone in its body! So you get THAT guy to pen the follow-up to the show that was trying to modernize the classic Rider formula, making practically the epitome of Kamen Rider? Bad, bad, BAD decision.

Rather than be a proper follow-up, rather than look to Black and extend its world, fix some pot holes in the road, be an actual continuation, RX would rather try to fuse together the dead style of the Space Sheriffs with the out-of-place "comedy" found in the stop-trying-to-make-them-happen Fushigi Comedy series for their sequel to Black. Like, why in the hell did they think it was such a good idea to depict all of the supporting players the way they do? The Saharas are the most unlikable, unsympathetic, obnoxious, useless, loud, worst supporting "characters" in toku. The show never tries to make them realistic, tolerable or likable, and the show devotes FAR too much time to their antics. (Really, this show should be called "That Screeching Chubby Kid, Featuring RX.") I know they're supposed to be "funny," by why did even the Sahara parents have to be shrieking nitwits?

Being surrounded by such imbeciles, being such a lighter show that doesn't resemble its predecessor, this changes Koutarou into a generic buffoon. If Black went from being Batman to Batman Forever, then RX is definitely Batman & Robin. How the shows' creators could be so clueless, so tone-deaf, so misunderstanding of their audience that they let their work fall so quickly is a mystery. I dislike RX so much that I refuse to even call it "Kamen Rider *Black* RX." It's so far from Black, so far from Koutarou, it's an entirely separate thing. To me, it's just "Kamen Rider RX." And even then, if you view it as its own thing, it's still way past the boundaries of being watchable; a horrifically written and acted mess. And I'm not trying to be cute or humorous or simply hyperbolic here -- I loathe RX. I say I hate Go-onger or Den-O for being stupid, but they're just stupid shows. RX is stupid...AND bad...AND inept...AND tarnishes a good show while it's at it.

A solid example of a bad sequel, RX is one of the absolute worst toku shows, in the truest sense of the word. It's unwatchable, a Mt. Fuji-sized pile of radioactive, worm-infested chimpanzee shit. Time freezes when you try to watch the show, and everything sucks in that moment -- watching RX could be used as a form of punishment. The ONLY good things to be found in it is the soundtrack and Atsuko Takahata's performance as Maribaron, and the show deserves neither. People like to think Saban's Masked Rider is some embarrassing failure and blemish on Kamen Rider's record, one that Ishinomori took as a huge insult, but it's mostly that bad because RX gave it nothing good to work with. Ferbus > Kasumi no Joe. The best thing to come out of Kamen Rider Decade was splitting the two shows up and bringing Black back into things.

You know who should have written Black RX? Susumu Takaku. He had proven with Machineman and Byclosser that he can write entertaining, kid-friendly, episodic escapist fare -- which RX wanted to be, for some reason -- but he also showed with Metalder just what an emotional and deep show he could do. He would have walked a line between lightness and depth. (RX has the depth of a piss puddle.)

All in all, for as much as I look like I complained, I still really like Black, and had a damn fun time watching it again. It's a classic, it was influential. (I think Keita Amemiya's entire career has been trying to make a perfect Black. I certainly think he thinks GARO is Black done right, but he's wrong.) Still, it's hard for me to not feel frustrated in turns it took. Is it too much to hope for Tetsuo Kurata to return in his own movie next year, for the show's 30th anniversary, giving us the proper follow-up to Black we should have had? And keep your new sucky Rider out of the movie -- just make it Black, dammit, keep your sugary new crap out of it, Toei!


  1. I would feel better if Toei wasn't so hellbent on giving us 48-52ish weeks of a series. Why not take the time, work out a story and feasible budget, and get it all in within 26 weeks. I get that the Rider and Sentai franchises are slaves to their own toylines, but a solid series done in six months would have a greater impact, I think. Maybe have a better movie to fill out the extra time rather than a short special-mecha film that nobody cares about.

    As for RX, you know my feelings on the show. Should've been a new guy entirely...

    1. I've LONG thought Toei should try cutting their shows done. 30 episodes, max. They're kind of encountering the same problem American shows have begun to address -- you get a lot of fat when you're churning out 24 episode seasons. Things are smoother and people are happier with 12 episode seasons.

      I always just assumed there was some issue with marketing. Like, they feel safer mapping out toys for a show they know is on and working versus having the second half of the year be a question mark by having to launch something completely new.

    2. Lately Tsuburaya has been doing that very thing, and frankly the quality of their shows as of late have been blowing the latest Sentai shows out of the water.(Just my opinion at least!) Hell, if Toei decided to do the same, yeah, their toy sales would suffer, but increased energy into storytelling and creating a tense plot as Ultraman Orb has done may just spike Sentai's middling ratings.

  2. "People like to think Saban's Masked Rider is some embarrassing failure and blemish on Kamen Rider's record, one that Ishinomori took as a huge insult, but it's mostly that bad because RX gave it nothing good to work with. Ferbus > Kasumi no Joe. The best thing to come out of Kamen Rider Decade was splitting the two shows up and bringing Black back into things."

    I kind of want to disagree. Saban's Masked Rider was a failure because of bad writing. I don't blame RX. Personally, I still like RX over Saban's Masked Rider. Saban's Masked Rider almost had no plot though I could agree with some of your opinions about RX like they could have made Katsumi and Kyoko send a letter to Kotaro during RX.

    Though I still find it uncomfortable that Kotaro got split into two during Decade. I guess you know how I like to say Kamen Rider Decade is nearly as bad if not just as bad as Saban's Masked Rider in terms of writing.

  3. It´s always good to read your blog, Shougo. I don´t agree with 100% of your opinions, but I like read them. I hope you can write reviews of other series.

    I have some questions:

    1 – Maskman, Metalder and Kamen Rider Black – the Toei´s series in 1987 (a great year for tokusatsu, IMHO). Which is your favorite?

    2 – In the post about Spielban you wrote about your admiration for Makoto Sumikawa/Jun Takanomaki. What is you opinion on her role as Reiko?

    3 – The Kaima´s saga (episodes 14-17) are generally viewed as RX´s high point. Do you like these episodes?

    4 – Talk about the 10 Riders in RX. I think they were portrayed badly, as useless warriors.

    5 – Jiraiya, Liveman and Kamen Rider Black RX – The Toei´s series in 1988. Wich is your favorite?

    1. Thanks!

      1 - If you asked me this question ten years ago, I would have probably said Metalder. But I've come to like Maskman so much over the past several years, that when I watched it as it was being released on DVD, it hopped over Flashman and Liveman to become my second favorite Sentai show. So, Maskman is my favorite of the 1987 shows, followed by Metalder and Black. (And that's probably why I'm extra hard on Black -- when you had Maskman and Metalder doing such good, fresh, interesting things, and then Black starts playing it safe, it's sad to see.)

      2 - I was always disappointed by how little they used her in RX, and what a disposable character they made her. I don't expect Reiko to be an action-y character like Diana, but it was sad to see Sumikawa just wasted in such a pointless role when you know what she's capable of. They used her for only comedic relief, at the expense of the actress's talent and the character's intelligence. Reiko could have been a good character, a good replacement for Kyoko and Katsumi if she had been allowed to seriously take part in Kotaro's life as a hero. I hate how they basically turn Kotaro into a bumbling Clark Kent-type so he can hide himself from Reiko.

      3 - I'm very fuzzy on a lot of RX. Like I said, when I just tried to rewatch it, I couldn't get past episode 10. Are those the episodes where the Sahara's daughter grows up to be Rie from Jetman, and RX gets his ugly new forms? I remember thinking those episodes were silly, and they seemed really out of place, like they were from a different show in a different genre. So that's sad if they're the RX's high point.

      4 - I generally hate when the old Riders show up for no real reason, suit-only, AND with random voice-actors. It always feels unplanned and like a ratings ploy when that happens, and that's how it felt with RX. What I really didn't like is I remember it seeming really rushed and forced, trying to pretend like they always had a plan to tie Kotaro -- and therefore even Black -- to the '70s Riders and the Great Leader and all that. The pre-Black Riders kind of choked on trying to be interconnected, and it was something the franchise needed to break away from, but here it was, pointlessly returning.

      And that pipsqueak guy with the whiny voice who cosplayed as Black Shogun was the one who ended up being Great Leader, right? Yeah, that was awful.

      5 - Liveman's definitely my favorite of the '88 shows, even with all of the faults in its second half. I used to not really like Jiraiya much, but it's a show that grew on me. I know Juspion, Changeman and Jiraiya are the big shows in Brazil, but I don't think I've ever seen much said about Black -- was it popular there?

    2. Shogo, I hope you can read through these and share your thoughts:

      Recovering From The Decade Meltdown Since 2009 Up To 2016

      That article is about how much I really couldn't stomach Decade and I love to call it as the unofficial sequel of Saban's Masked Rider.

      Another is this:

      Was Kamen Rider Black RX Really That Bad?!

  4. RX in a lot of ways really is kinda like a Star Wars Prequel (except RX at the very least had some decent action). Just chock full of stupid scenes. And none of the decent actors (including Tetsuo Kurata) sadly are given any decent material to work with. No one had a good role in this show.

    Anyway, wow, I always knew you hated RX Shougo. But I never knew you hated it THAT much, lol. Even picking Go-onger and Den-O over it? Wow. xD But you explain precisely why you hate this show, and I really can't blame you for feeling the way you do. I too find the show in a lot of ways quite infuriating.

    I too love the music, and Maribaron is decent. And the action is decent. But yeah, none of that saves the show for me. I generally tend to just kinda forget it exists, lol. The show is so... wtf. Kinda like Ohranger or Kamen Rider Blade. I just don't know what they were thinking with RX. Can't help but just laugh at some of the things they okay'd with this show. xD

    1. Wow, it IS sad that I like Go-onger and Den-O more than RX. I've actually been able to rewatch both of those shows, but never can make it all that far into a rewatch of RX. I think maybe RX and Voicelugger are, like, maybe the worst toku shows?

    2. I can agree with you on Voicelugger.
      RX?.... I dunno. At worst, I just tend to either get kinda bored or irritated. I never feeling like chucking my laptop out the window. So I suppose I can sit through RX "well enough." Though I'd question why I'm not doing something more worthy of time (unless I really was just THAT bored and was going crazy xP ).

      But for worst toku shows... shows which have made me cringe are stuff like Shougeki Gouraigan, KR Kabuto, KR Kiva, KR Decade, and just about all of the Power Rangers seasons (if that even counts).

    3. I'm personally a fan of KR Kabuto and KR Kiva but Decade... I'd still crigne over it. And of course, I usually choose not to watch Power Rangers as much as possible.

  5. I disagree almost completely about RX. If there's one thing it did better than Black, it was its filler. Black just keeps stalling every time it begins a new, interesting plotline with filler that goes nowhere. Kotaro's search for Nobuhiko stalls. Birugenia stalls and ends up doing nothing. Shadow Moon's arrival stalls. RX starts off weak but gradually picks up steam after the Roborider/Biorider arc and keeps raising the stakes. Honestly, I like both shows but I do feel Black gets overhyped by the fandom while RX is underrated. Black sounds great on paper but the filler... it got frustrating after a point during my rewatch.

    It's RX first quarter that's really the biggest problem. Your issue with Kotaro being funny... isn't RX supposed to take place a few years after Black? Anyway, the show should have set up Kotaro slowly going back to a normal life instead of suddenly dumping it all at once. I particularly think episode 7 was a severe misstep with bringing in a childhood friend of Kotaro's: it really ought to have been Reiko's: it would've fleshed her out more and been sort of a callback to Kotaro's past. I don't know why you hate the Saharas though: the detective Hayami is the one I couldn't stand, but thankfully he's written out early on. Crisis should've had more of the creepy vibe that Golgom did (more Coast to Coast AM and less "generic beings") but I did like some of the "Ancient Aliens" vibes they had at points.

    Speaking of Batman: I know you'll probably take umbridge at this, Shougo, but I do feel that Kotaro kind of has a Bat Family by the midpoint to end of RX. Granted, they're not written as well as they should've been: Reiko comes out the best out of them; Joe the Haze has a good backstory but it's never fleshed out and he ends up not doing a whole lot. I suspect that the bumbling around he does was meant for Hayami before the show's "retool"; Kyoko's abilities are all over the place, all of a sudden being a psychic and archer. But I still like the concept of it and I enjoyed seeing them all in action with Kotaro toward the end.

    I see Kotaro as the Stefan Zweig of Kamen Rider (a guy who was just enjoying life and paid little mind to politics and world affairs), with Black and RX together as the equivalents of Zweig's experiences in the two world wars. I guess reading Zweig's "The World of Yesterday" and also Jean Raspail's "The Camp of the Saints" made me appreciate Black more and even see RX in a different light than most.

    1. That Black would interrupt story momentum for standard toku hero fare or filler was disappointing, but...I don't think the episodes are as outright bad as you make them sound. There at least wasn't one about Golgom turning keys into bananas or Kotaro and Taki pretending to be bride and groom.

      As for Kotaro's shift in attitude, yeah, he's not going to be the same after the (vague) time jump. Have him be cheerful, yes, but not a moron. I used to excuse some of his behavior because he'd seem like he was putting on a Clark Kent act to hide who he really was from people he cared about, but he acts like a doofus even on his own! (Check his "comedic" reactions when building the car.)

      How can you not dislike the Saharas, by the way? For as obnoxious as I find the boy -- who annoys me any time he pops up in a toku, he's the brat who gives Gaku a hard time in that early Fiveman -- I find the parents to be even more annoying than the kids. They put on that whole cartoony, comedic act, and they're ditzy and always bellowing at one another. To be honest, when they get killed in one of the final eps, I don't find it to be a dramatic moment. They never had enough down-to-earth, human moments to make you care for them. They were obnoxious, and it was like, good riddance.

      Man, there's just not much that the show does right, IMO.

    2. I didn't say those filler episodes were bad. It was just irritating how they accomplished nothing. If this had been like the other Showa Riders, I wouldn't mind so much but Black was doing new things. Stop wasting time. Episode 10 is titled "Where's Nobuhiko" and while it is a good episode, Nobuhiko has nothing to do with the story! Zubat and Spielban are better shows in this regard; Black really should have taken a page from Zubat in Kotaro's search for his brother.

      I think you and many others exaggerate Kotaro's silliness. It's not like he was never silly in Black; most of his scenes with Kyoko and Katsumi are the running gag of him being their pack horse while they go shopping. What he does in RX doesn't bother me: it couldn't certainly be worse, like many Heisei shows. Besides, Kotaro's silliness in RX does simmer down toward the middle and end.

      I figured the Saharas were just a joke about how families can act dysfunctional despite the public airs they put on. And like Kotaro's humor, that gets dialed down majorly as the show progresses. I figured Kotaro takes it all in stride like how Harry Potter shrugs off the Weaselys' issues because, compared to his own life, this was paradise. Mr. Sahara mentions that he had met Kotaro during his post-Black depression and wanted him to make the most out of life. (Granted, as I said the first quarter of RX is the weakest but it still has some elements I liked.)And then toward the end Utako (Mom) cools toward Kotaro because of how he's endangering her family, which leads to a nice scene in one episode where Reiko tries to encourage Kotaro as he rides off, which sums up the whole theme of RX which is "you're not alone". I don't really see what you do regarding them. And I despise most of what passes for "humor" in 'Phase 2' Heisei Rider

      I think you should give RX another examination. It definitely could've used improvement and developed its ideas better, but honestly so did Black. I feel the two shows complement each other: RX is strong where Black is weak, and vice versa.