With my interest in Japanese tokusatsu at an all-time high after finishing Samurai Sentai Shinkenger, Tensou Sentai Goseiger and now nearing the conclusion of Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger, I thought it was about time I checked out the other big tokusatsu franchise.
Kamen Rider Fourze was actually not meant to be my first Kamen Rider season. I had originally wanted to jump into the franchise with the last complete season, Kamen Rider OOO so I could marathon through it. But it just happened to be the same weekend Fourze was premiering so I decided to just check it out first.
Now I’ve been watching the Gokaiger–Fourze pair every week for the last 19 weeks and Fourze has ended up being my introduction into the world of Riders. (The Shinkenger–Decade crossover notwithstanding.)
And what an introduction.
Kamen Rider Fourze is a crazy, fun mix of over-the-top slapstick and camp with kick-ass action and intriguing mystery. (And to get the worn out Power Rangers Samurai slam out of the way…) It has that perfect balance that Saban Brands could definitely learn from.
Much like Goseiger, Kamen Rider Fourze may seem campy and childish on the surface, but it balances that with a dark side, a more serious and mysterious undercurrent that works to ground both aspects of the series.
But what I’ve learned so far is that the Kamen Rider franchise has a much different production and style from Super Sentai. A different and unique sensibility that I was pleasantly surprised to find.
Kamen Rider Fourze tells the story of Gentaro Kisaragi, a kind-hearted troublemaker who transfers to Amanogawa High School and aims to make friends with everyone he meets. And it is because of his overly-friendly nature that he becomes Kamen Rider Fourze.
At the school he reunites with his cheerful childhood friend Yuki who introduces him to Kengo. Kengo isn’t much of a people person. After losing his scientist father at a lunar space station, he finds a portal at the high school that leads him to the Rabbit Hutch, the sole remnants of the lunar base his father had worked in. There he finds and learns about the powerful Astro Switches, developed by his father, that are used in the Fourze Driver transformation belt.
And using the Astro Switches and Fourze Driver, Gentaro, Kengo, Yuki and a slowly assembled Kamen Rider Club work to defeat the Zodiarts who have their own Switches they use for evil.
A Different Experience
I enjoy what Fourze brings to the table. I gather that Kamen Rider’s approach to action is very different from Super Sentai. Kamen Rider, at least Fourze so far, seems a little more slick and polished while Super Sentai feels a little more old school and traditional. Which is by no means a knock on either franchise. In fact, I very much appreciate the difference. That uniqueness adds to the enjoyment and excitement of watching.
In addition to the action, Fourze‘s setting is prime for the show’s comedic and sometimes satirical high school hijinks that definitely sets it apart.
I had actually seen a handful of episodes of the one and done (and 2nd attempt at) American Kamen Rider adaptation, Kamen Rider Dragon Knight. And like its Japanese counterpart, it set itself apart from the Power Rangers franchise, in part for its ambition.
It was an admirable attempt and that ambition and effort is more than I can say for Power Rangers Samurai. (There I go again.)
But back to what’s important. Kamen Rider Fourze has been an excellent introduction into the franchise for me. Kind of like my experience with Samurai Sentai Shinkenger as my first full Super Sentai season, Fourze has given me a great first impression and I am excited for more. With an incredibly likeable (and good looking!) cast, fun, balanced writing, slick production and exciting action, I can fully endorse Kamen Rider Fourze to anyone looking for more tokusatsu fun.
Now on to Kamen Rider OOO. =]