Kamen Rider (Masked Rider) - The First
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Takeshi Hongo, a man of extraordinarily keen intellect, has his promising future snuffed out by an evil secret society known as Shocker. They create experimental cyborgs in an attempt to take over the world. Eventually, Hongo is turned into a cyborg — Masked Rider 1 — but soon regains his self-awareness. Realizing that he is now controlled by evil, Hongo escapes. Shocker views Hongo as a traitor and dispatches a new, nearly identical cyborg — Masked Rider 2 — to destroy him. But they're too evenly matched and their duel ends in a draw. Growing impatient, Shocker sends two new cyborgs — Snake and Cobra — to kill them both. KAMEN RIDER THE FIRST is a new adaptation of the popular original manga created by Shotaro Ishinomori.
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Upon getting it, I was disappointed, but not surprised, to find the supposed 2-disc set was, in fact, one DVD.
The special features are surprisingly well-put together, featuring the trailers (without subtitles), trailers for other projects from years back that the company that released this DVD has apparently acquired (as is frequently done with import releases), and, shockingly, a very in depth and detailed behind the scenes feature that I really enjoyed and that was actually subtitled.
The film itself has an acceptable subbing job, and I was pleased to find that there was no poor dubbing to suffer through, I suppose they finally ran out of monotoned voices to lazily read out lines.
Picture quality is a bit off, but that might be due to transfer stuff (though I don't know why, Japan uses NTSC too), subtitles are clear and easy to read, and the sound quality is excellent
Highly recommended for the Kamen Rider fan or even just someone who has been looking for a good piece of tokusatsu to show to a friend in the hopes of getting them interested too. This flick also makes a surprisingly good date movie, it has action and romance, some slow bits where you can easily get away with a bit of making out, as well as some unintentionally funny bits
NOT for kids though, there is totally a naked dude in part of this film, parents'll want to take a look at this before showing it to the kids. Also, parents'll want to figure out if their kid is really ready to read and watch a film at the same time.
However I later learned of the Japanese Kamen Rider concept when I saw that Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight (which still has yet to have a DVD release, sadly), listed in its opening credits that the show was based on a show called Kamen Rider created by a man named Shotaro Ishinomori. Since I liked Dragon Knight I recently began researching the concept on wikipedia and TVTropes and a few fan sites. (This research has led me to create my own novel series inspired by the concept) I learned of Masked Rider The First via Wikipedia, and while I was leery of the name, expecting it to somehow be related to Saban's adaptation, I was more than pleasantly surprised.
From all I have learned, The First is an attempt at a condensed retelling of a 1971 show by the name Kamen Rider (literally translated, it becomes Masked Rider, as Kamen is the word for Mask and Masked in Japan), which revolves around a man named Takeshi Hongo, who is abducted by a terrorist organization called Shocker (which is apparently actually an acronym for Sacred Hegemony Of Cycle Kindred Evolutional Realm. Yeah, I don't get it either.) and transformed into a super powerful cyborg initially called Hopper since his armored mask is designed to look like a grasshopper, and brainwashed into becoming a willing servant of Shocker. He breaks free of his mind control and begins to oppose Shocker, using the powers they themselves gave him. This prompts the creation of a second Hopper, Hayato Ichimonji, who is betrayed by and in turn betrays Shocker outright.
These two characters, though never explicitly called Kamen Riders, proceed to battle Shocker's forces over the last half hour of the movie in an attempt to save a girl who is the love interest of both men, and who has seemingly gained an affection for Hopper/Rider 1. Ironically, the second Hopper, Ichimonji, was her fiance until he was apparently killed and later resurrected by Shocker as Hopper/Rider 2.
If the movie is this good (and it is. The ending song, Bright! Our Future is all kinds of awesome even if I don't understand a word of it since the song wasn't subtitled) the series must have been something else for being a show made in 1971. Well worth the money if you can find a copy.
Aside from the Ryuki's Dragon Knight and the abysmal Masked Rider adaptations and Generation Kikiada's DVD release of V3, there is no way to obtain one of Japan's greatest superhero franchises here. (unless you do it the sort-of-illegal way by torrenting or streaming fansubs. Which in most cases is your ONLY option aside from horribly subbed Hong Kong releases from shady dealers).
I'm glad that the movie that re-imagined the origin of the original Kamen Rider did get a release as it tells the bare bones of what Kamen Rider is. Dude with kung fu and superpowers activated by a belt and rides a motorcycle, kicks the butt of terrorists/aliens monsters/cyborgs who want to conquer/destroy the Earth.
The message the franchise has had throughout the course of its history is having the courage to face against impossible odds and that even the unlikeliest of people can make a difference for the greater good.
I only wish another company would buy the distribution rights so we USA KR fans could get more releases. I really want Kamen Rider Double on DVD or Blu-ray on my shelf with official English subs...And Kuuga..and Agito...and...well you get the idea.
As to the movie I wanted to enjoy it so much. I like the characters I loved the look, for the most part. The action was good, when I could get it. The problems however are to obvious to ignore. The first problem is that it is too crowded with stories, feels more like a condensed miniseries than a movie. Even though there are few characters I never got to know much about them. There were three main characters one of which has no back story at all. This also brings me to another point about characters, the title character is not even the protagonist it is the love interest , a Lois Lane type journalist.Yet the director also saw fit to add a second romance sub plot that takes most of the movie to even relate to the main plot and doesn't pay off until the final moments of the film. The worst part is that it is not even used to any effect. This, brings me to the last character related complaint, there are barely any extras in this movie, the world is empty. However that may be due to budget problems so, I don't think its that big of a deal. The next problem was the SYMBOLISM that ran throughout the film. It was used in such a ham handed way that I am surprised that it actually cause me to groan out loud every time I saw it appear. Lastly, there was not enough action in the movie. This is a romance movie that just happens to have Masked Rider in it.
Yet, I will still watch it again. Why? Because I was still entertained. I still cared what happened to the characters in spite of the plot holes and lack of characterization. I still enjoyed the minimalist take on the effects and the more "realish" natures of the monsters. I think that if the same director came at this project a few years later it would have gotten a fourth or fifth star from me. It was just obvious that it was a labor of love made by a very talented amateur. It was an attempt to take something silly and make a serious and compelling drama. It almost succeeded, but not quite. I am still going to buy the second one eventually.
So, in spite of its flaws. I still want to know what happens to our hero next and that is what is most important in a story anyway.