A little-known fact about me is that I LOVE Japanese tokusatsu film. Tokusatsu basically translates into “camera tricks,” and is the term used to describe any sort of Japanese super hero or monster series – the Super Sentai series (which became Power Rangers in America) and Godzilla are the best-known examples of tokusatsu series.
While I haven’t experienced as much of the genre as I would like, I’m always down for checking out a new one. And this weekend, I watched the first couple episodes of one: KAMEN RIDER W
Older readers (ages 25+) may remember the Masked Rider series that ran during the heyday of Power Rangers’ popularity. Much like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was an adaptation of Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger, Masked Rider was another one of Saban’s adaptations of a popular Japanese super hero show: Kamen Rider Black RX, the ninth show in the Kamen Rider franchise.
Masked Rider (“Kamen” is the Japanese word for “mask,” no da) ran for around 35-40 episodes (Kamen Rider Black RX ran for 47), but the series was not heard from again in America the following year, unlike Power Rangers or Saban’s other tokusatsu series, VR Troopers.
Kamen Rider Ryuki was brought to America in 2009 as Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight, but, again, the following series Kamen Rider Decade was not adapted for American television, nor was this year’s series, Kamen Rider Double (often typset as Kamen Rider W).
Kamen Rider Double is the eleventh Kamen Rider series of the new millenium, and the twentieth Rider series, overall (they franchise basically didn’t exist between 1989-2000). It’s the story of “hard boiled” detective Shotaro Hidari and his partner, Philip. The two describe themselves as “a two-in-one detective.” Shotaro is a typical noir-style detective (though, much more light-hearted, as the show is intended for children and teenagers), and Philip’s brain apparently houses every non-fiction book ever written. Philip can enter his brain (in shots very reminiscent of The Matrix‘s “white room” scenes) and use Shotaro’s keywords to find the particular book he needs, much like having a built-in search engine.
Meanwhile, the mysterious Sonozaki family has been selling “GaiaMemory” devices (which look like oversized USB drives) which allow regular humans to become superhuman monsters called “Dorants.”
In the first episode, one of Shotaro’s childhood friends comes to ask him for help in finding her boyfriend. It turns out that her boyfriend had bought the Magma GaiaMemory, and was a giant fire monster that was terrorizing the city. Shotaro and Philp both cried “Henshin!” (“Transform!”) at the same time – Philip’s consciousness left his body, and the two became Masked Rider Double, with Shotaro controlling the left half of the body and Philip in control of the right half.
Double has a series of his own GaiaMemory cards, each with their own special abilities. The default form for Philip is Cyclone, the green-and-gold half. Shotaro’s default is Joker, the black-and-purple half, making the default form of Double, “CycloneJoker.” The first change we see is Philip becoming Luna (forming LunaJoker), a gold-and-silver form that gives Philip’s half stretchy limbs. Double’s LunaJoker form makes quick work of the Magma Dorant, which causes Magma to return to his human form. But then, the former Magma is quickly tossed aside by a T-Rex-looking monster that came up from underground.
In the second episode, we learn that the T-Rex monster is, in fact, the girl who hired Shotaro to find her boyfriend in the first place. The two had a vendetta against the company they worked for, and bought the GaiaMemory devices to exact their revenge, but were then driven mad by their power, since absolute power always corrupts absolutely. The lady henshins into the T-Rex Dorant, and Shotaro and Philip become Double again. In this battle, we see Philip’s Heat power (HeatJoker), which allows him to have crazy firey punches and kicks. During the battle, we also get to see Shotaro’s Metal power (creating HeatMetal), and they use their Maximum Overdrive attack, Metal Branding, which explodes the monster and returns the girl to normal.
Of course, these are VERY abbreviated synopses of the two episodes, and completely ignore the subplot of Shotaro and Philip’s new landlord, or the subplot of the Sonozaki family introducing what seems like will be a new, evil Rider to match power with Kamen Rider Double.
I know that Kamen Rider Double has already concluded, and it appears as though every episode is available on YouTube, but I haven’t seen much other than a few cool action scenes that one of my customers at Comic Zone told me to check out.
Overall, the first two episodes were pretty cool, and if you don’t mind watching a silly show with English subtitles, I’d recommend checking this one out. It’s a little over-the-top and silly, but so is basically everything else that I talk about on here.