Kamen Rider Fourze Episodes 1-4
November 27, 2017
Space is awesome! ...so why do we spend so much time on earth?
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. Patreon-sponsored review time again and, of course, it's something people have been wanting me to look at...or rather, to become of a fan of, for a while now: a Kamen Rider series.
Linkara (vo): Kamen Rider, for those of you new to all this, is a long-running series of Japanese tokusatsu shows, very much in the same vein as Super Sentai, a.k.a. where they got all the footage for Power Rangers from. In this case, Kamen Rider is about a single - usually, anyway - superhero known for having an insect theme to their look and riding on a motorcycle. It actually predates Super Sentai by a few years, starting in 1971, but like Sentai, it's lasted since then with multiple different series, usually going for a single season before doing something different for the next.
Linkara: And while I really have no interest in Kamen Rider, as a reminder, get the Patreon up to a certain level, and maybe the handsome devil who does History of Power Rangers might put out some videos for certain Americanized tokusatsu like Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight, hint hint wink wink?
Linkara (vo): Speaking of, Kamen Rider has indeed had a handful of attempts to cross over in the same way Super Sentai and the Power Rangers did. Saban attempted to make Masked Rider in 1995 to...less than stellar results, not helped with their choice of adapting a series that was apparently quite dark and violent into something for much younger viewers. Slightly better off was the aforementioned Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight, which, while still cancelled before finishing its run, did win a Daytime Emmy, which is more Daytime Emmys than I've ever won for over 475 episodes of this show. I never watched it.
Linkara: But I did watch Masked Rider when I was a kid...and I then realized now, as an adult, that Furbies are just the offspring of (points to a picture of) this creature named Ferbus!
Linkara (vo): The Patron has requested I take a look at the first four episodes of Kamen Rider Fourze (pronounced four-zuh). You may recall that last week, I pronounced it wrong as "four-zee". My mistake - I hadn't watched it yet for the pronunciation - but my confusion comes in when people justify the proper pronunciation by the fact that Fourze is meant to be a composite word of "four" and "zero", since Fourze is supposed to be the 40th anniversary Kamen Rider series, except shouldn't it be "four-zee" going by that logic? Different people told me it was either "four-zay" or "four-zuh", but people don't say "zay-ro" or "zuh-ro". I dunno, maybe zero is pronounced differently in Japan; just seems like a weird thing when trying to justify the correct pronunciation to me.
Linkara: I got nothing else to say, so let's dig into the first four episodes of Kamen Rider Fourze and see what it's got.
(Intro sequence rolls, followed by the title card, accompanied by Kamen Rider Fourze's theme song)
Linkara (vo): We open on the moon, where a base on it is exploding.
Linkara: See? Both Doctor Who and Apollo 18 tried to warn you guys about moon spiders, but nobody ever listens!
Linkara (vo): Two astronauts flee the exploding base and struggle over a suitcase.
(Red eyes glow from out of one astronaut's helmet. Clip from a Clear Eyes commercial is then shown)
Ben Stein: For dry, red eyes, Clear Eyes is a hit!
Linkara (vo): Monster-Eyes manages to flee the moon in a lunar lander towards what's either a space station or a spaceship. We then cut to 17 years later.
Linkara: And that's why we haven't had any moon bases since 1994.
Linkara (vo): We meet Kengo, a teenager going to school, who is given a letter by an admirer.
Kengo: This is a waste of time. (Throws the letter over the bridge)
Linkara: Kamen Rider Douchebag.
Linkara (vo): Some other guy, whose hair looks like it just settled down after being in Super Saiyan mode, agrees with me, grabbing him and saying that he should at least be courteous enough to read the letter before turning her down. As such, he tells them both to wait there and leaps into the water to retrieve the letter...and after he breaks his ankles in the foot-high water, Kengo just rolls his eyes at this display of awesome.
Kengo: What a complete idiot.
Linkara: Better an idiot than a tool.
Linkara (vo): We cut back to the moon, where a damaged capsule contains a bunch of people in a white void, as well as a narrator discussing how space is cool and stuff.
Narrator: The young will create the future by using Astroswitches to open the door to that world! Space on your hand!
Linkara: (imitating the narrator) Your fidget cubes are the gateway to the future!
Linkara (vo): This is actually our lead into the theme song, which is...okay. The music isn't particularly memorable for me, and the visuals go a bit faster than I'd prefer, mostly showing teenagers doing random stuff, space stuff, hanging out in high school, and that guy from earlier shaping his hair into a fauxhawk. Also, this might just be a result of the fansubs I'm using --
Linkara: Making this another episode where I'll be shocked if it isn't taken down in a week.
Linkara (vo): -- But we also get the lyric "Handling a burger one-handed every day".
Linkara: So, what, does Kamen Rider have a burger morpher too? (points to the Starninger burger morpher on his shelf)
Linkara (vo): And afterwards, we get our episode title: "Youth Transformation".
Linkara: Well, I didn't think we'd be tackling puberty this early in the show, but here we are.
Linkara (vo): Kengo opens some blinds and a little CGI robot bounces inside when no one's looking. It displays something for him, and the student in front of him, named Yuki, asks what's up.
Kengo: The Hole is activating. Maybe it's finally time to use Fourze's powers.
Linkara: Yeah, I agree. I sent a girl with a letter to you with instructions on how to use it. Didn't you ever get it?
Linkara (vo): The teacher comes in, and the CGI robot reveals itself to be a Transformer, turning into...a burger?! Holy crap, I was just kidding about the burger morpher thing! The teacher introduces a new student, Captain Hair from earlier, a.k.a. Kisaragi Gentaro.
Gentaro: My dream is to be friends with everyone in this school.
Linkara: If these kids were genre-savvy at all, they'd learn to pair up with the person talking about friendship and crap. That person's gonna become a freaking all-powerful god or something like that.
Linkara (vo): Kisaragi already knows Yuki, and they loudly explain how they knew each other from elementary school. The teacher finally asks him to take his seat, but he has unfinished business, slapping the letter he retrieved on Kengo's desk. He says he did so because they're friends, which, of course, Kengo denies.
Gentaro: We just became friends. I don't like you. I can't forgive you for throwing away a girl's letter.
Linkara: (imitating Gentaro) I hate you! Be my friend, dickhead!
Linkara (vo): He does have a strange bit of logic: if he can't make friends with the unlikeable asshats, then he can't be friends with everybody in the school.
Linkara: This is a weird remake of Mean Girls.
Linkara (vo): Later, the teacher for the class is lamenting her selfish students in the teacher's lounge when another teacher shows her an anonymous internet bulletin board message warning that the school is a "den of devils", and that they will destroy it.
Linkara: Hey, those devils have a right to education, just like everybody else! Just, you know, keep them away from anybody's marriage.
Linkara (vo): At lunch, Gentaro sits down at a seat in the middle of the lunchroom, much to everyone's shock. Yuki reveals that everyone sits according to their respective cliques.
Linkara: Holy crap, this is Mean Girls. Why do all my jokes keep coming true?!
Linkara (vo): And indeed, he sat at the table for jocks and cheerleaders. They attack him, but surprisingly enough, he's actually really good at kicking the crap out of them. They take Yuki as a hostage and force the fight outside. However, before things can fully get settled, a monster appears and the jocks flee. Gentaro saves Yuki from getting blasted by it.
Gentaro: He also on the football team? ...no, of course he's not.
Linkara: Yeah, I'm pretty sure that thing's into soccer.
Linkara (vo): After knocking Gentaro aside again, the monster tries to attack Yuki once more, but now she's saved by Kengo in a large yellow robot called a Powderizer. The two recognize the thing has a pattern somewhat resembling the constellation Orion, identifying the monster as a Zodiarts.
Linkara: Collect them all, naturally.
Linkara (vo): He forces the monster to retreat, but Kengo is ill afterwards. He and Yuki go to a disused part of the school and enter a magic door, which sends them to their base on the moon. He wants to use Fourze to kill the Zodiarts, but clearly he's in no shape to do that. However, it seems Gentaro followed them and is having fun with the lower gravity on the moon. Having also overheard that Fourze can destroy the monster, he takes the device Kengo was prepping. Kengo is in no shape to stop him, and Yuki...does nothing. So, for the record here, Yuki has been held captive by being lifted up a few inches for several minutes, needed to be rescued twice, defers to the jackass jocks, and just kinda stands around being useless when Gentaro steals a device he clearly doesn't know or understand, and thus will likely get injured or killed trying to use it.
Linkara: I'd call her a load, but maybe she's just very cleverly trying to get everyone else around her killed?
Linkara (vo): She does prove useful by finally arriving after Gentaro and slapping the device around his waist.
Yuki: Now flip the Switches.
Yuki: Yeah. They'll give you the power of space.
Linkara: (as Yuki) You'll be danger and disease wrapped in darkness and silence!
Linkara (vo): She flips the Switches for him.
Gentaro: Hey, what are you running for?!
Fourze Driver: Three! Two! One!
Linkara: It's a bomb!
Linkara (vo): He transforms.
Gentaro: I don't understand what's going on...but space is awesome!
Yuki: Yes! That's Fourze!
Linkara: Wait, that's not the power of space! Clearly that's the power of bleach!
Linkara (vo): The various Switches activate different weapons for him, like a wrist-mounted rocket that can send him and the monster flying, or a leg-mounted missile launcher...or a chainsaw on his leg.
(scene from Evil Dead II is shown)
Linkara (vo): Also, is it just me or does Kamen Rider Fourze just look like a human version of Eve from Wall-E? Anyway, with a combination of the rocket-arm and his drill-leg attachment, he destroys the monster and a figure in an egg-chair grumbles about it.
Gamou: So Fourze is at my academy. (Eyes glow red)
Linkara: (imitating Gamou) I'm giving Fourze the longest detention ever!
Linkara (vo): And so the episode ends with Kengo showing up in the Powderizer and, pissed off at Gentaro over all this, grabs him, ending the episode on a "To Be Continued". Leading into episode 2, "Space First Class", Kengo says that Fourze is emergency equipment and he "can't let an idiot use it". Says the sickly guy attacking said emergency equipment with a giant power suit, and thus potentially damaging it. Yuki gets them to stop and Kengo explains that the Zodiarts are normal people who use Astroswitches - those devices on the belts - to channel cosmic energy and become monsters. As such, Kengo's actually pissed that, while he did destroy the monster, the guy who used the Astroswitch was allowed to escape. Gentaro's approach to finding out who the monster was is to...get into fights with the various cliques. Kengo's approach is to send out the burger robot, Burgermeal --
Linkara: Come on, no pun name like "Roburger"? Not even alliteration like "Burgerbot"?
Linkara (vo): -- to do it for them.
Kengo: I will stop the Zodiarts. You can't do it.
Linkara: Yeah, you've done a bang-up job so far. I was especially impressed with how you threw up all over yourself while trying to get the belt ready.
Linkara (vo): Getting back to the moon base, Gentaro discovers, by pushing random buttons, that indeed he's on the moon, and he's clearly moved by it as he sheds a tear. Pity that this is played for laughs. Feels like it needed a proper quiet moment for it. Yuki explains to him that this is "Moonbase Rabbit Hutch".
Linkara: This is why we don't let Sailor Moon name our lunar colonies.
Linkara (vo): The Astroswitches are what allow them to get from Earth to the moon so quickly, but let's ignore that, because Yuki has decided to start stripping.
Yuki: Gen-chan, you should take your clothes off too.
Linkara: Look, let's be honest here, some people just really, really wanna try zero-G sex.
Linkara (vo): Yeah yeah, it's just to change into spacesuits and walk around the moon. She brings him to the crater where the moonbase from the first episode used to be. Kengo's father was developing the Astroswitches there, but a villainous force destroyed the base trying to steal them. Kengo discovered the magic door to the moonbase remains and has sworn vengeance on the Zodiarts. Upon learning this, Gentaro admits to Kengo he can't figure out who the monster is on his own, but also says that clearly Kengo needs his help for the larger mission. Before they can settle anything, Gentaro gets a phone call from a girl identified in the first episode as an otaku. She's been hanging out in the background in a few shots and claims to know who the monster is, getting Gentaro to come to the stadium. Points for screwing with expectations; I really thought they'd reveal that she was the one who was the monster, but Gentaro shows up and stops just short of shaking her, demanding to know if she's the one. However, she actually shows some of the most competence I've ever seen in a TV show. Remember that message from the first episode about the "den of devils"? She actually traced the IP address of the person who sent it!
Linkara: Congratulations, Fourze. You showed up half of Hollywood movies or TV shows involving the internet!
Linkara (vo): It turns out to be a toadie for the lead jock, who's pissed off at him because he loved playing football and never got a chance to play.
Gentaro: Then impress this asshole through football! Don't rely on that weirdass power!
Linkara: Man, Japanese NFL Superpro went off in weird directions.
Linkara (vo): The kid turns into a monster and Kengo arrives with the Fourze changer, allowing Gentaro to transform. While the two fight, this is a show with "Rider" in its name, so Gentaro finds Kengo's motorcycle and uses it to fight the monster. With Kengo's help, Gentaro drags the monster into outer space with his motorcycle and defeats it.
Linkara: (beat) What? Do you expect me to be shocked by this? After all the tokusatsu I've seen, the only way they could have surprised me is if the two had actually had sex in the moonbase.
Linkara (vo): After they disable the monster's Astroswitch, the kid recovers and seems none the worse for wear. However, it's the otaku who points out that Fourze is a Kamen Rider, showing footage of previous Riders to them. Kengo accepts Gentaro as part of the team...but, this being a Japanese high school thing and all, Gentaro has begun a Kamen Rider Club, even hanging a flag in the moonbase and leading us into episode 3, "The Election of the Queen".
(Scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail is shown)
King Arthur: You don't vote for kings.
Linkara (vo): We learn that Kengo was left with 40 different Astroswitches, with potential upgrades and attachments for the toys-- uh, I mean the Fourze belt-- I mean, the toys. This latest one is a "Hopping Switch".
(Gentaro is shown using the Hopping Switch and chaotically bouncing off the walls of the room)
Kengo: The Hopping Switch isn't usable. Adjusting it was a waste of time.
Linkara: (Imitating Kengo) Ugh, we tried using a device meant for high jumps in a small enclosed space. Clearly this thing has no purpose or use!
Linkara (vo): The plot of this episode has to do with the school holding some kind of weird popularity vote for the queen of the school. Naturally, everyone assumes jackass head cheerleader lady will win. Gentaro, still out to make friends with everyone, even the crapheads, makes a bet with her that if she loses the vote, she has to become friends with him.
Miu: And if you lose, you'll never show yourself before me again. Transfer from this school.
Linkara: (imitating Miu) As the queen of the school, I will have the power to make radical changes in student positions! All will love me and despair!
Linkara (vo): After yet again beating up a clique while seeking information on the Queenfest, Gentaro is instead greeted by a student named JK, pronounced "Jake", who's willing to give him info if he gets info in return.
JK: I'll give you info, so what'll you give me?
Gentaro: Friendship. (turns to show the beat-up clique)
Linkara: Have I got this all wrong, and "friendship" is just his way of running a protection racket?
Linkara (vo): While interviewing a girl who might have a chance against the cheerleader, Miu, the chalkboard writes a message on its own, as well as some invisible force knocking them around.
Linkara: Piss off, ghost!
Linkara (vo): It's another monster, some kind of chameleon. However, a second monster appears after Gentaro transforms right in front of Jake. I do love Gentaro's complete and utter disregard for a secret identity. Sure, he's not running around proclaiming he's a Kamen Rider, but he's happy to change right in front of people without a second thought. Anyway, he fights the monster, a Scorpio Zodiarts, but gets his ass kicked. The girl they had hoped to recruit isn't interested after the monster attack, and it seems the other two candidates against Miu also have met with incidents with the invisible monster. As such, they get Yuki to enter to try and attract the Zodiarts out. While her dancing in a cardboard satellite costume is not exactly anything to wow crowds, the monster is attracted out...but tries to strangle Miu's sidekicks. Gentaro chases it off while something else causes Miu's downfall.
(TV in the stadium turns on, revealing hidden footage of Miu)
Miu: This pendant is unbelievable! Did they think I'd wear this?! [...] The handwriting is so sloppy that I can't read it.
Student (?): My letter!
Miu: Did they think that'd please me?!
(audio from Batman Returns plays over the footage)
The Penguin: I played this stinkin' city...like a harp from hell! (chuckles)
Linkara (vo): This leads us into episode 4, "Transformation - Secret Maneuvers". After everyone boos her and rips up their support posters for her, Gentaro runs up to her.
Gentaro: You okay?
Miu: Don't look at me like that!
(clip from Mystery Science Theater 3000 is shown)
Mike Nelson: You and your stupid thoughtfulness can go to hell.
Linkara (vo): However, one of her sidekicks starts grinning at this, and is holding a Switch!
Linkara: Wait a second, I know who the monster is...it was Kengo, wasn't it?!
Linkara (vo): Later, at a bowling alley, Gentaro confronts Miu, who's ready to quit the Queenfest. He gives her a pep talk about the fact that she clearly wanted this harder than anyone else and worked for it. What's more, it doesn't matter if he loses the bet. She needs to get her crap together and act like a real queen if she wants it, not give into those who would take her down.
Linkara: I notice that none of this pep talk involves her recognizing how much she was a jerk for discarding all those gifts callously.
Linkara (vo): The monster attacks them, but Kengo arrives, having deduced its identity as the sidekick. She admits she did it because she was jealous of Miu, having gotten the Switch from the Scorpio Zodiarts. Oh, and jock boyfriend, just to be a total dick, starts hitting on the sidekick...since she's apparently the lead in the running of the Queenfest now? The rules of this contest confuse me, b-but yeah, let's focus on the fact that jock dude is a complete asshat. But yeah, Miu decides that she needs to stand up for herself, and let's see if she can win the crown over.
Miu: Sure, there are people who hate me. Why give presents if you don't consider what the recipient wants?
Linkara: Uh, because they thought you might like it anyway, not realizing that you were very stuck-up?
Miu: Why write a letter if it's illegible?
Linkara: Because they may just have trouble writing and they're working on it, and it's the effort that's what's important?
Miu: I don't call that support! That's just doing things out of self-satisfaction.
Linkara: Wow, you suck at this! Sometimes, you give stuff to someone because you're trying to be nice to them! I know that may be an alien emotion to you, but perhaps if you tried not being a remarkable jerk!
Miu: Even if I'm hurt...even if others mock me...I don't plan on giving up the role of queen to anyone else.
Linkara: Show of hands: all in favour of a coup d'etat?
(Gentaro starts clapping, and the rest of the crowd joins in)
Linkara (vo): Stop clapping, you morons! Hard work doesn't entitle you to anything, especially when this is her attitude! Ugh, whatever, the sidekick transforms again, Gentaro defeats it, Miu and the sidekick make up, and so our episode ends with Miu joining them in the Kamen Rider Club, Gentaro bringing her to the moonbase...so that, you know, he doesn't have to transfer away from the school.
Linkara: These episodes are pretty good for the most part, though, of course, I have some critiques.
Linkara (vo): Let's get the good out of the way first, and that is a great big helping of Gentaro, because the character is a delight! I personally like really cheerful characters, especially if they defy convention in their cheeriness to be badass at the same time - look back at my Yu-Gi-Oh GX chapter 1 review for how much I enjoyed Jaden Yuki - and Gentaro does it perfectly. He's friendly, but not naive, willing to swallow his pride for the sake of achieving something better, and truly believes in honour, goodness and friendship. It helps that he can kick ass both in and out of Kamen Rider form too.
The writing is pretty good for the most part. Despite my objections over the moral lesson of the Queenfest two-parter, the characterization and presentation are top-notch, using the two-part format to let the episode breathe and make sure the concept keeps moving without getting bogged down in repetition. Each fight feels different and emphasizes different things, so it doesn't feel like it's a chore to get through. That being said, the moral lesson is horsecrap, especially when Gentaro himself said at the beginning of the episode that she should be more respectful of the gifts given. This didn't need to be some self-esteem narrative.
The fight scenes are...not the best. They're not terrible, but one of the problems with the Rider outfits versus the Sentai ones is that the Kamen Rider suits are a lot bulkier, meaning they're more restricted by how fast they can go and what they can really do in them. It makes the fights a little bit slower and a bit more reliant on CGI special effects to carry it, and they succeed for the most part, but...I don't enjoy it as much.
Linkara: Next time, the holiday season starts up, and we're not only gonna have fun; we're gonna raise some hell.
So at what point does Kengo have to save Yuuki in the Powderizer while proclaiming "Get away from her, you BITCH!"?)
"Transformation Secret Maneuvers" – this episode title brought to you by Japanese Word Salads! When you need your title to be overly long and descriptive, trust Japanese Word Salads!
Shun: I didn't see a thing. You guys can handle the rest. (runs off)