When I was a child back in the 70's, I'd rush home from school to watch
Ultraman and Johnny Sokko and his Giant Robot on a local
UHF channel. These shows were much more action packed and vibrant
that the US made children's programming. I mean who wants to watch
the Electric Company when you can see a pair of giants fighting
and knocking buildings down? I remember at the time wishing that
we could get more Japanese programming. Surely those two shows weren't
the only exciting ones that they had. It's too bad I didn't live
in Hawaii. Back in the 70's a local station imported a pair of Japanese
henshin shows, Kikaida and its sequel Kikaida 01 (among others.) While
these shows weren't dubbed, they had subtitles for the non-Japanese speakers.
(I'm sure if I had the chance I could have convinced my mom that reading
the dialog was actually educational.)
The show was popular by all accounts and the Hawaiian company JNProductions
in association with Generation Kikaida released Kikaida on DVD a
couple of years ago. At the end of 2005 the released Kamen Rider
V3 on home video (read my review of that series here),
and just this past spring they released the second Kikaida series,
Kikaida 01. This latest release is another great series full
of colorful villains, big fights, and flashy henshin action.
01 (pronounced Key-ky-da zero one) takes place three years after the original
series ended. If you haven't seen the earlier show, it's still very
easy to follow the story. They bring viewers up to date in the first
minutes of the premier episode.
At the end of Kikaida, that hero destroyed the criminal organization
DARK and rode off into the sunset. Three years later the remnants
of DARK regroup and formed the Hakaida Force, lead by a robot that has
Dr. Gill's living brain transplanted into it. (Gill was the leader
of DARK in the first series.) Along with his three generals known
by their colors, Red, Blue, and Silver, Gil Hakaida is searching for blue
prints that will allow him to make the ultimate weapon; an unbeatable robot.
Kikaida 01 senses this and awakens by breaking out of the statue where
he was hidden. Programmed to come to life when Japan was threatened
by evil Kikaida 01, (who can change into a human named Ichiro at will)
fights Hakaida at every turn. Early in the series he also meets a
young boy who has lost his memory, Akira. For some unknown reason
Hakaida is hunting the boy, and Kikaida 01 vows that they'll never get
him. Akira is also aided by a strange woman, Rieko. She appears
at different times to protect and take care of the child, often showing
up in disguise. It's clear that she knows something about the boy's
past, as well as why Hakaida wants him, but the mysterious woman isn't
about to reveal any of that to Kikaida 01 if she can help it. 01
isn't sure if she's a good guy or not, since she acts in such an odd manner.
It's almost like she has a secret herself that she's hiding.
Hakaida is a formidable enemy, things go from bad to worse when Shadow
Knight arrives on the scene. He's a member of SHADOW another evil
organization that is more powerful than the Hakaida force and eventually
they take the weaker group over. Now Kikaida 01 really has his work
cut out for him.
Like most henshin (transform) shows, this was a lot of fun. The
show actually had a fairly complex opening for such a program, and the
first handful of shows weren't your generic monster-of-the-week episodes.
There was a fairly involved story that gets told over the first four or
five installments. One of the enjoyable things was the inclusion
of characters from the first series. Not only are Dr. Gill and Dr.
Komyoji (the creator's of both Kikaida robots) but when things start to
go poorly for Kikaida 01 at the start of the show he gets an unexpected
hand from... the original Kikaida, his little brother. The original
hero appears frequently in the first half of the series, but is rarely
seen in the later episodes. That's okay because 01 gets some help
from Bijinda, a robot originally set to destroy him who turns against Shadow.
(And she can transform into hot babe too, but she has a weakness when she
of the factors in this show's favor is that it has a sense of continuity.
Though they don't often refer to previous episodes, but things advance
as the series progresses. Minor bosses are defeated and others take
their place, the bad guys get a bit desperate, and mysteries are solved
and secrets revealed, and not just in the final episode.
This is a show aimed at kids, so there's a lot of action with Ichiro
transforming into Kikaida 01, fighting evil minions, and foiling his enemy's
schemes. The stunt fights were performed by Sonny Chiba's Japan Action
Club and they're enjoyable, with monsters flying through the air after
being punched, sparking explosions when someone is hit, and of course the
bad guy blowing up at the end of a fight. Who can't get into that?
the down side, the budget wasn't huge. This program looks cheaper
than either V3 or the original Ultraman, which were both on the air at
about the same time. The costumes for the villians don't have the
detail of the monsters on the other shows and they are more sparse and
simple too. This isn't a fatal flaw, but it is unfortunate.
The series does drag in places too, especially if you watch several episodes
in one sitting. They start to feel all the same and run together.
After a few lesser shows however something will change, a character will
be added or a new mystery will pop up, and it gets rather engaging again.
A word about the cost: 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 46 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 entire 46 episode series comes on 6 DVDs which are housed in three
slimline cases. The set comes with and illustrated slipcase.
This is a nice and compact set that doesn't take up nearly as much room
as the first Kikaida set does.
Originally airing in 1973 in Japan, the full frame image has been cleaned
up but is still showing its age a bit. Like JNProduction's release
Rider V3, the transfer was done from a 16mm master. The picture
is good and easy on the eyes though there is some of grain to the image
which is assuredly inherent in the master used. There was also a
bit of dirt on the print, some spots here and there but nothing major.
The colors look very nice and the colorful villains, not to mention Kikaida
01 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. As far
as the cursing goes, it's limited to the frequent use of "damn" and "hell"
with an occasional "bastard" thrown in when some particularly nefarious
scheme is unveiled. There is no English dub.
I viewed much of this series with my two sons, aged 11and 14, 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.
Rider V3 set, this collection has a lot of bonus material.
First off, 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 40 to 50 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 all of those screens
of information can get tiring, especially when you are looking for something
In addition to the notes, disc one also has an essay, What is Kikaida
01? This is a nice introduction to henshin TV shows in general
and Kikaida in particular. Written by August Ragone, owner of the
web site Henshin Online, it was interesting and well worth reading.
The rest of the extras are on the final disc. They include an
interesting half hour interview with Ikeda Shunsuke (Ichiro) and Ban Daisuke
(Jiro) which was filmed in 2002. They talk about their time working
on the show, relate some behind the scenes anecdotes and discuss some of
the people they worked with on both series. Next up is a 14 minute
interview with Joanne Ninomiya, the woman who brought Kikaida to
Hawaii. She talks about buying the show in Japan, getting it subtitled,
and the anime that her TV station used to run. Listening to her makes
me wish that I had grown up in Japan.
As if that wasn't enough, there's also a trivia quiz, a 3D interactive
CGI model of Kikaida 01, a How to draw Kikaida art lesson, and character
profiles. For those of you who can't get enough of the catchy theme
music, there are four karaoke videos along with three music videos with
music from the show. This is 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.
My two sons really got into it and I enjoyed the show too. The series
moves the story along at a good rate to keep things interesting, is filled
with kinetic fights, and has enough surprises so you're never sure what's
in store. Some of the monsters are rather over the top, but that's
part of the series charm. While we all enjoyed Kamen Rider V3 a bit
more than this series, Kikaida 01 is still a great show and comes highly