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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Kikaida 01 - The complete series
Kikaida 01 - The complete series
Other // Unrated // May 18, 2007
List Price: $165.00 [Buy now and save at Generationkikaida]
Review by John Sinnott | posted August 19, 2007 | E-mail the Author
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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The Series:

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.

Kikaida 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.

While 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 does.)

One 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?

On 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.

The DVD:



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.

Video:

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 of Kamen 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.

Audio:

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.

Extras:

Like the Kamen 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 particular.

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.

Final Thoughts:

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 recommended.

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