I am only now getting the chance to finally watch Kikaider Reboot (キカイダー REBOOT) almost six years after it was first released. The film that aimed to, as the title indicates, reboot the Kikaider franchise is slick, gritty and certainly with some flaws. But ultimately, a great look at the potential for what could have been a revitalized franchise.
Obviously, six years later, there hasn’t been any new Kikaider production since. Various factors hindered its commercial success. But creatively, the film laid a strong foundation for what could’ve been a strong franchise.
Now, my first exposure to Kikaider was the crossover on Kamen Rider Gaim which was essentially to help promote the film. I hadn’t (and still haven’t) watched a single episode of any of the original series. But I definitely enjoyed the Gaim episode.
Kikaider Reboot tells the story of Jiro, an android developed to help the public, as he fights to protect the children of his scientist developer from an organization hoping to use the androids for nefarious purposes.
It’s certainly a familiar set-up (especially watching this film in the middle of one Kamen Rider Zero-One). But its story and execution allows it to still feel exciting and different.
The hook is in following Jiro who is essentially a heroic robot with a heart while he protects the children of Dr. Kohmyoji (his developer). The elder daughter Mitsuko resents her now-deceased father thinking he neglected his children in favor of focusing on these machines. The younger brother Masaru, however, feels close to Jiro, perhaps yearning for that connection to his father.
That emotional aspect of the film is the strongest aspect. And yet, it feels like it doesn’t get enough of its due. There’s certainly plenty of material they could’ve touched on in this film with regards to both Jiro’s Conscience Circuit (aka heart) and his relationship to the siblings. There are a few emotional kicks in the film, but no true emotional knockout that a film like this could greatly benefit from.
The action sequences are well-choreographed and feature great special effects. But a few feel far too long, especially the final battles that essentially string together into one, long brawl in the final third of the film. Some of that time really could’ve been used on deeper character moments for Jiro, Mtsuko and Masaru.
But the film, a Toei production, certainly feels like a real cinematic experience. Usually, the theatrical releases of Kamen Rider and Super Sentai basically look and feel like extended TV episodes.
But Kikaider Reboot felt more like the usual Hollywood superhero blockbuster. In a good way. The slick, polished production gave the film excellent visuals. It had a very cinematic feel throughout with some great direction choices that complimented the story. And the suit designs are just perfect.
It certainly made me wish Toei would give the same kind of cinematic treatment to Kamen Rider and Super Sentai too. When appropriate of course. Not necessarily the darker theme, but just the production level itself. That would certainly pique the interest of a wider audience.
Kikaider Reboot has a good, strong cast. Aimi Satsukawa is great as Mitsuko. Her performance was measured and realistic, careful to keep Mitsuko a sympathetic, but strong character. Yuto Ikeda as Masaru is also wonderful, especially in his scenes with Jiro.
But the film definitely shines the spotlight on Jingi Irie. I thought he was great in his Gaim appearance. But since then, he’s also appeared on Lupinranger VS Patranger as villain Zamigo Delma and on Kamen Rider Zi-O as Kamen Rider Kikai. (*wink*wink*)
Jingi Irie is a great actor. Very charismatic with a strong presence. He was criminally underused on LuPat even though he was easily the best character in the season. And his fun guest role on Zi-O as Kikai, an obvious nod to this film, had him proving he deserves headlining his own Kamen Rider season. And he’d absolutely knock it out of the park if he ever did.
Sadly, Kikaider could’ve been that headlining role for him. A Kikaider film franchise is ripe with material. This film shows the great amount of potential for such a franchise, especially as technology allows for better editing and special effects. And the story being past the origin stage would open future films up to more ambitious ideas.
Perhaps Kikaider (hopefully with Jingi Irie back as Jiro) can still see some life in the future. But until then, Kikaider Reboot is certainly an exciting and fun ride to hop on for.