Kamen Rider (or Masked Rider as it's often called in the
US) is one of the longest running hero franchises in Japan (second only
to Ultraman) with a new incarnation of the show (Kamen Rider
Den-O) 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 (Hiroshi Fujioka), a powerful cyborg, fought the
evil terrorist organization Shocker that had their sights on world domination.
Early into the show's run however Fujioka broke his leg badly while doing
a motorcycle stunt and could no longer perform. To deal with this
the writers created a second hero to protect Japan, Kamen Rider 2 (Takeshi
Sasaki). When Fujioka recovered he rejoined the series for the rest
of the program's 98 episode run.
Fast forward nearly 35 years and the original Kamen Rider is reborn,
this time for the silver screen. In 2005 franchise owners TOEI Tokyo
Studios created a feature length movie based on this classic series but
updating it for the new millennium: Kamen Rider the First.
As with most updates of classic shows however, the charm and appeal of
the original is lost in this film and it would be surprising if this effort
made any new Kamen Rider fans.
Hongo Takeshi (Masaya Kikawada) is working toward his masters degree
and really love his research. He's able to relate his enthusiasm
for his work to Asuka Midorikawa (Rena Komine) who is writing a story about
him, and he starts falling in love with the attractive reporter.
He knows that he can't do anything about his feelings because Asuka is
engaged to marry Katsuhiko Yano (Hassei Takano).
Going home from work one day, Hongo is kidnapped by Shocker, a terrorist
organization, and transformed into a cyborg "Hopper", a grasshopper-helmeted
super-powered person with amazing abilities. Lacking free will, Hongo
is ordered to rob an office building. He then has to kill anyone
who saw him, and this included Asuka and Katshuiko. Though
he's ordered to kill the woman he once loved, Hongo can't. He rebels
against Shocker and saves Asuka. Unfortunately he isn't able to rescue
Katshuiko, who is killed, and Asuka wrongly thinks that Hongo is the person
responsible for her fiancée's death.
Katshuiko may not be as dead as everyone thinks however. Shocker
has taken his body and created another Hopper cyborg with him, the best
thing to send after their rouge hopper. He returns to Asuka but claims
to be a different person, named Hayoto Inchimonji. With his new found
powers, Hayoto vows to kill Hongo for the glory of Shocker and so that
he can have the lovely Asuka to himself.
There's also a subplot about two terminally ill patients in a hospital,
a man and a woman. The lady is outgoing and happy, while the man
is suicidal and constantly depressed. Over the course of the film
these two help each other deal with their diseases and fall in love.
Oh yeah, and this plot all happened in a flashback, at least I think it
This is a mess of a movie. There's just a lot of things wrong
with it. The dialog is horrid, the script is confusing and the plot
moves at a snails pace. The worst thing however is that there's not
a lot of action. Based on a monster-of-the-week kid's show, you'd
think that the movie would be sprinkled with fights and battles.
Wrong. There are a couple of fights but these are over quickly and
not very exciting. The big grand finale battle scene is the only
one that has any excitement at all. The producers for some unknown
reason added significant amounts of adult drama and removed the more endearing
qualities of the original show. There weren't any hastily choreographed
battles with men in rubber suits, instead we're treated to a love triangle
between Riders 1 and 2 and Asuka. This was incredibly boring and
only served to slow the plot down every time it started moving a little.
The movie didn't make a lot of sense either. Near the beginning
a Shocker general states that the cyborgs they make have to have regular
blood transfusions or they will die. This is one of the reasons that
Kamen Rider 2 is loyal to Shocker, and an important plot point. Unfortunately
they just drop this about half way through the movie. Why didn't
Rider 2 die? Or 1 for that matter?
Then there's Asuka. She sees Hondo hovering over her fiancée
just before he dies and is convinced that he killed him. She doesn't
call the police though. She just throws it in his face every time
they are alone. He, of course, never denies that he's a murderer.
For God's sake why?
The whole subplot about the two terminal patients seems like padding.
Though it eventually links back to the main plot, that whole section, about
a quarter of the entire film, could have been left out and the movie wouldn't
have been significantly different.
The acting wasn't great either. Both male leads were wooden and
drab in their roles, and though Rena Komine was nice to look at, she never
seemed to show any emotion. I was excited to hear that Hiroshi Miyauchi
was going to play Tachibana Tobei, the Rider's mentor, in this film.
Miyauchi, for those who aren't familiar with him, is a hensin legend.
He played the original Kamen Rider V3 and then went on to be the first
Blue Ranger. He is in this movie, but he's on screen for less than
a minute and only has one line. Another disappointment for a rather
I was astounded to discover that this theatrically released film that
was made in 2005 only comes with a stereo soundtrack in Japanese.
While an English dub would have been nice (after all young kids are the
target audience for the show) the lack of a 5.1 track for an action film
is unforgivable. The action scenes would have had much more impact
with stereo rear channels and a dedicated track for low frequencies.
As it is the stereo soundtrack is fine but rather lifeless. The battles
lacked the *umph* that they should have had. The dialog was
clear and the audio track was clean, but it was rather disappointing.
The 1.85:1 anamorphic image looks good at first glance, but the accumulation
of minor compression artifacts and defects leaves the disc looking less
than stellar. Aliasing is a problem with this disc, with fine diagonal
lines having a stair step effect instead of being straight. Posterization
was also very prevalent. This was most evident in large patches of
color like the afternoon sky. Instead of transmuting seamlessly from
one color to the next, the sky would have bands of color. This was
a problem with skin tones too and was particularly bad in the scene near
the end where Asuka and Hongo have tea by the sea. They both looked
very odd. The colors are adequate but on the dull side. A movie
like this should be filled with bright comic book like colors but it isn't.
Much of the movie takes place at night or inside, and the colors are never
as solid and strong as I feel they should be. Overall a rather unimpressive
In addition to a TV spot and theatrical trailer for the movie, there
is a making of featurette. This is not narrated, and simply a look
at the cast and crew shooting the film. There are occasional titles
to set the time or place, but generally the viewer is on their own to figure
out what's going on.
I really wanted to recommend this. I was hoping that it would
sell well and then some studio would license the original series and release
it here in region 1. Alas, in good conscience I can't do that.
This film doesn't work on a lot of levels, mainly because the creators
forgot what made Kamen Rider so much fun in the first place; cool fights
with goofy monsters. Fans of Japanese hensin shows will surely want
to check this out, but they should make it a rental. It's
really not worth buying the DVD.