Kamen Rider V3
a bi-weekly column by Don Houston, John Sinnott, Chris Tribbey, and Todd Douglass
Anime Talk has always featured reviews of the latest anime DVDs, and this week is no different. However, in addition to our take on the latest installments of Samurai 7, Madlax, and the new Neon Genesis Evengelion Platinum Collection, this installment we have a look at a DVD release that may have passed under most reader's radar: Kamen Rider V3! This live action super hero show from Japan is a lot of fun and will really appeal to a lot of anime fans. In addition Holly returns with another set of anime bargains and we also have our tables of upcoming anime releases.
One of the highlights of this edition of Anime Talk is clearly Samurai 7 volume 3. The series didn't win the top spot on last year's list of best anime for nothing and the episodes contained within showed the rest of the team joining as they clashed with the bandits and prepared the villagers for the coming war. The behind the scenes scheming by those in power continued too as this wonderful series expanded the classic Kurosawa tale of epic clashes between the evil bandits against the samurai and villagers in this modernized version.
Shotaro Kaneda sees the light in Tetsujin 28: Tetsujin vs. the Mafia when the mob steals Tetsujin and uses him to rob and plunder Japan. Figuring out that the robot itself isn't evil and can be used for great benefit to mankind, he struggles to regain control of his father's creation before more harm can come to the local populace. Risking life and limb won't be easy however since they have no intention of giving up their newfound tool for profiteering.
If you've seen the Divergence Eve series, you be familiar with the cast of Misaki Chronicles 1 but that might not save it for you. The spin off series follows the continued exploits of Misaki, Luxandra, Kiri, and Suzanna as their squad trains for their shot at the big leagues before noticing that something isn't quite right with their surroundings. Eventually finding themselves stuck in a time bubble of their own making, will they be able to solve the problem as the series progresses or will they find themselves the victims of the latest advances by their sworn enemies, the Ghouls?
In yet another version of the classic tale, Neon Genesis Evangelion Platinum Collection, ADV Films provides the remastered set for a double dip well worth considering for fans of the impressive show. The story itself is legend by now; a futuristic Earth is under repeated attack from some large mech-robot beings called Angels. The only means of fighting them off are some sophisticated weapons called Evangelions that are piloted by specially equipped children. The strength of the series is the complexities of the plot and writing, much of which is still being discussed (and argued about) ten years later in this series that truly stands out as a top notch roller coaster ride.
ADV Films is still on a roll with their conversion of past series in the form of boxed sets with Sakura Wars TV: Complete Collection. Set in 1920's Japan, the series was derived from a videogame but found new legs as a group of spiritually charged girls fight off hordes of demons invading Earth as well as find the time to excel at the finer things in life as opera performers. Focusing on a girl named Sakura, the series explored a lot of heady concepts but remained fun at the same time in a show that we found fun to watch in this value oriented boxed set.
Wrapping up a show is sometimes tough, especially when it kept getting better with each volume. Such was the case with Yumeria: End of a Dream as slacker Tomokazu Mikuri fought off powerful beings invading Earth as well as the perverted principle of his high school while assisting a group of his female friends in their dream state attacks on the enemy. While it didn't completely cover all the little plot threads, the general theme of self sacrifice was explored further and made the episodes fly by in this admittedly quirky show.
One show that has been a lot of fun, while also having a complex and intracate storyline is Madlax. The series just seems to get better and better with each DVD, and volume 5 is no exception. With Madlax and Vanessa trapped in Gazth-Sonika with the army, police, and mafia all looking for them, things look bad. Madlax is used to fighting against the odds though, and she's not about to stop fighting now. There are several interesting revelations in this volume, and the pieces of the mystery finally start falling into place. With a lot of action to fill in the gaps, this is an exciting volume.
The fifth volume of Burst Angel picks up the pace of the show with four action filled episodes. Not only are there a lot of fights, but the plot is advanced as well. More about Jo's background is revealed, and a major conspiracy is uncovered, and Takane, the Angel's friend from Osaka makes another appearance. This is a fun filled volume.
Giant robots and boy detectives are something of an anime cliché. One of the originals was a sci-fi creation called Tetsujin and nearly fifty years later the series has been resurrected from the scrap heap. Granted the show has seen several animated incarnations over the years and this new one isn't a whole lot different. The story takes place during the aftermath of the war when Japanese culture is starting to find itself again. A relic from the not too distant past appears in the form of a missile and literally lands on young Shotaro's lap. The boy quickly finds a remote control and now he has a new toy; a 100 foot metallic behemoth. This revision offers a fantastic premise with some great animation and vintage art design.
The fourth volume of Galactic Railways goes down a notch in quality from the previous discs. While the earlier episodes in this series toyed with melodramatic elements, most of the shows on this volume fully embrace it. There's just a bit too many people pining for their lost love and not enough action that had previously made the show so entertaining. While it's not a bad set of shows, it didn't have the charm of the other volumes.
If you can't get enough of teenage girl fashion accessories and fawning over boys then you'll probably dig Super Gals!. The quirky girl focused show offers a lot of personality and humor but not a lot of plot. The show basically follows a group of gals around and showcases their exploits with all of the fallout from their actions. Ran Kotobuki is the main character and while she may be the daughter of a cop, she certainly has no trouble trying to force her ways upon everyone else. She gets what she wants, when she wants it, and she doesn't let anyone stand in her way. The series is entertaining enough to warrant a recommendation, but it's not a very strong one. The frantic energy, offbeat material and girly atmosphere make Super Gals! an anime that focuses on a more specific audience than most.
If you ever wanted to learn about Japanese culture through the eyes of adorable little faeries, then does Geneon have something for you. No, it's not a straight jacket (not yet anyway), it's the super short series known as Bottle Fairy and the entire run is actually found on only two discs. The anime follows the adventures of four little fairies as they learn about the world around them through the musings of an eight year old girl. The show is cute and offers a fairly loose interpretation of life in Japan, but not the most endearing series to come along in recent days.
A short while ago we took a look at the complete collection for the Nuku Nuku Dash series, but for some strange reason ADV released that set before the first TV adaptation. All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku TV followed the OVA but just like the Dash series it took a few liberties. The characters were all present, much of the plot was still the same and even a lot of the jokes were similar. This version was much more lighthearted in nature than its predecessor but it just doesn't feel as well structured or interesting.
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Kamen Rider V3 - The Complete Series
Review by John Sinnott
With the incredible success of Power Rangers, a show originally made in Japan and adapted for US audiences, and the fact that anime currently dominates children's TV programing in the United States, it's curious that Japanese superhero children's shows haven't migrated to the US. Johnny Sokko and His Giant Robot and Ultraman were favorite after school programs for many children in the late 60's and early 70's in the US and are conspicuous in their absence on DVD. Yes, FUNimation did release four volumes of Ultraman Tiga in 2004, but aside from that, there hasn't been much in the way of live action Japanese TV. The Kyoryuu Sentai ZyuRanger series (that was used for the first season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers in the US) would have a built in audience, as would Spectral Mask, a masked-avenger series staring a young Sonny Chiba.
One company is doing their part to bring these adventure shows to US
viewers though. JNProductions, a company based in Hawaii, has licenced
and released Kamen Rider V3 in a very nice 6 disc DVD set that contains
the entire 52 episode series.
Kamen Rider is one of the longest running hero franchises in Japan (second only to Ultraman) with a new incarnation of the show (Kamen Rider Hibiki) currently airing. It has also been credited with being the first Henshin (transform in Japanese) series and started a whole genre of TV shows. Though it was preceded by Ultraman, Kamen Rider doesn't fight giant Godzilla-type monsters, instead he battles normal human sized villains. The first incarnation, simply titled Kamen Rider, started in 1971 and lasted two seasons. During this series Kamen Rider, a powerful cyborg, fought the evil organization Shocker. Over the course of 98 episodes Kamen Rider 1 (later aided by Kamen Rider 2) battled the creatures that Shocker created, and finally managed to defeat the group.
Following the conclusion of Kamen Rider, Kamen Rider V3 was
launched in 1973. This time the story involves Kazami Shiro (Miyauchi
Hiroshi). When he accidently witnesses the murder of a man, Kazami
and his family become targets themselves. That's because he saw the
operatives of Destron, an evil world wide criminal entity with a mysterious
leader who are trying to take over the world. Since they are a secret
group, anyone who sees them is killed. One night, a Destron mutant
breaks into Shiro's home. Kamen Riders 1 and 2 arrive in time to
save Shiro himself but not before the mutant kills his parents and sister
before his eyes.
The two Kamen Riders start perusing Destron, but quickly fall into a deadly trap. Kazami, who has dedicated his life to avenging his family, is able to save the pair, but in the process becomes mortally wounded himself. Riders One and Two are able to save Kazami's life, but only by turning him into a cyborg too. Now, with much of his humanity gone, he fights alongside the original Kamen Riders as Kamen Rider V3.
Not for long however. Almost immediately Destron attacks again. This time they have planted a nuclear bomb in one of their mutants, and plan to destroy Tokyo. At the last minute the two original Riders take the mutant and fly him out to sea, where he harmlessly explodes, killing the two heros (or do they really die?)
That leaves V3 to fight Destron alone. Aided by the original Rider's
mentor, Tachibana Tôbei, and the lovely Tama Junko whose life was
saved by V3, they set up a secret hide out for the newest Kamen Rider and
recruit a group of Rider Scouts, a bunch of Kenny clones who ride their
bikes around the country side and help V3 discover Destron's plans.
Though he has a lot going for him, V3 has some problems too. Riders One and Two died shortly after creating him, and they didn't have time to tell Kazami what his abilities and powers are. He knows that he has 26 secrets, but he has to discover them for himself. Even more importantly, V3 has four fatal weaknesses and he's not even sure what they are.
This was a really fun series. The great thing about it was that
it was more than a monster-of-the-week show. Yes, V3 did fight a
new monster in just about every episode, but there show was broken up into
two episodes stories. There would be a problem for V3 to solve, a
reason for Destron to attack, a usually great cliff-hanger after the first
show, and an exciting resolution. These two-part stories also advanced
the main story arc too, something that kept the show interesting.
They would also have smaller stories within the main arc too. The villainous Doktor G takes control of the Japanese arm of Destron with the purpose of killing V3 in one, and other officers are appointed during the course of the series too. Another exciting arc has Kamen Rider V3 meeting another masked person, Riderman. He was a scientist working for Destron, but has he changed his ways?
The show also keeps you guessing by killing off some unexpected people.
Not only do the original Kamen Riders fly off into the sunset, but there
are a fair amount of minor characters who are killed, and it often comes
as a shock because these plot points aren't telegraphed in advance.
If the scientist that V3 is looking for gets killed, what's to stop the
other characters from being sacrificed at the alter of moving the plot
With a new episode airing every week for an entire year, the production schedule must have been brutal. A lot of the credit for the show being so entertaining goes to star Miyauchi Hiroshi. He preformed all of his own stunts (though there was a stunt man in the Kamen Rider suit) and did a great job of adding an extra dimension to the production. He played the romantic subplot with Junko just right. With hardly any dialog he was able to establish that Kazami is attracted to her, and that he feels he can't have a relationship since he's a cyborg. He played it subtly and made sure that this plot never got too sappy. After watching this show it's easy to see why Hiroshi is one of the most popular SF sTV stars in Japan. He also went on to have staring roles in Secret Taskforce Goranger as the first Blue Ranger and Swift Hero Zubat.
This entire 52 episode series comes on 6 DVDs which are housed in a
fold out book (like the Buffy season sets) and comes with and illustrated
Originally airing in 1973 in Japan, the full frame image has been cleaned up, but is still showing its age a bit. While the picture is good and easy on the eyes generally, it looks like a 16mm print was used for the master, and there is some of grain to the image. There is bit of dirt on the print, but it's nothing significant. The colors look very nice though, with the colorful villains, not to mention Kamen Rider himself, are bright and vivid. The level of detail is generally fine, but some detail is lost in the dark scenes. While not a reference disc, this image is solid and acceptable.
Like the video, the Japanese two channel audio is acceptable not great. The range isn't great, and there is a slight bit of distortion now and again, but the dialog is easy to hear. The effects and music are strong and though I would have loved to hear this show in 5.1, this mix will do. There are two optional subtitle tracks, one a direct translation and the other with the mild swearing removed. Though I don't speak Japanese, I thought the translation was very good with the dialog sounding natural and seeming to capture the spirit of the original. The did not translate the word "kamen" (masked) when referring to V3 which was good (the less I recall of the American Masked Rider the better.) The term "henshin" (transform) was also left in tact when Kazami would change into V3 which also worked well, though when Boiler Toad wanted to attack V3 rather than Kazami he did goad him to "transform." As far as the cursing goes, it's limited to the frequent use of "damn" and "hell" to describe the Destron monsters with an occasional "bastard" thrown in when some particularly nefarious scheme is unveiled. There is no English dub.
This set has a lot of bonus material, much more than I was expecting. Each disc has copious liner notes discussing each episode and pointing out supporting character actors and production snafus. I'm not talking about 5 or 6 pages either, there are 50 to 70 pages of notes on each disc. These are very informative and contain more information than you'll ever want to know about the series. My only regret is that they didn't include them as a .pdf or text file so that you would have the option to print them out. Paging through 70 screens of information can get tiring, especially when you are looking for something in particular.
In addition to the notes, disc one also has two other text pieces. Who Was That Masked Bug-Man is a through history of Kamen Rider covering his creation to the latest feature film, and Destron: The Army with Roots in Hell is a nice background piece on the villainous organization that V3 fights in this series.
The rest of the extras are on the final disc. They include an interesting half hour interview with Miyauchi Hiroshi where he talks about his time working on the show and gives his opinions of the actors and talent he worked with. There are some interesting revelations such as the fact that he's never worn the V3 costume. (A stunt team did all of the costumed fight scenes.)
There is also a very complete set of character profiles, 71(!) in all. They describe the various villains and friends that appear in the series, and lists the episodes that they appeared. For those of you who can't get enough of the catchy theme music, there are six karaoke videos along with the option to play them all or to shuffle them.
The extras are rounded off with a listing of the staff and cast associated with the show, a trivia quiz, and a minute long promo for the DVD set. An all around excellent set of bonus material. JNProductions should be commended for their work in assembling such a nice package.
This series is a lot of fun for both young and older viewers. I viewed much of this series with my two sons, aged 9 and 13, and they didn't have any trouble reading the subtitles. Occasionally they wouldn't be able to finish reading before the word left the screen but this was the exception rather than the rule. I was also surprised to discover that the subtitles didn't diminish their enjoyment of the series. They never complained about having to read the dialog, and loved the show. We had a great time guessing the names of the mutants based on their appearance, often getting it right. (Though there were loud complaints when the costume wasn't accurate enough. "That doesn't look like an armadillo!")
I really enjoyed the show too. The series moves the story along at a good rate to keep things interesting and has enough surprises so you're never sure what's in store. The Destron mutants are hilarious at times, but the show is oddly addictive. Though the price might seem a bit steep at first, for the small, limited run that was pressed it really isn't bad at all. A 26 episode anime series on six discs would retail for more that these 52 episodes. If you buy this you'll also sleep, well knowing that you've helped support a company that's bringing entertaining Japanese children's programs to R1. This set comes Highly Recommended.
This set is available for purchase only through the Generation Kikaida web site.
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