I wrote previously about the complaints in the tokusatsu community about the newest Kamen Rider series, called Kamen Rider Gaim, and how much they hated the theme and pretty much everything about it. Of course, they hadn’t ever seen a single episode, they were just reacting to some of the information that was coming out about the new series and I was pretty clear that I was going to wait and see. Well, I did and here’s my initial reaction to the first seven episodes of Kamen Rider Gaim.
First, the story. Now that this show is actually on the air, this varies a little from my original formulation so keep that in mind. In the once thriving city of Zawame, the Yggdrasill Corporation has set up operation and has opened a lot of shops and businesses such that the city loses it’s feeling of collective happiness. To revitalize the people, Yggdrasill sends out teams of dancer called Beat Riders, to perform on special stages around the city. These dance teams are very competitive and fight over the limited availability of these stages and one way they do so is through virtual combat using Lockseeds in a Pokemon-like game called the Inves Games. These feature little virtual monsters that fight inside of a ring and the winner of the match takes the stage. However, if the fighters lose control of their Lockseeds, the Inves can break out of the ring and cause real damage. Kota Kazuraba is a former member of the Team Gaim dance crew, but he’s left to make his own way in the world. He works many part-time jobs for enough money to pay rent and food costs to his older sister and he feels like all of his childhood interests have been left behind and he’s aimless in the world. One day, he and is best friend Mai discover a portal to another dimension and when they explore it, they discover that the Inves are actually real, extra-dimensional creatures. They barely escape, but not before finding a Sengoku Driver belt, which bonds to it’s first wearer, which allows Kota to fight off the Inves. Unfortunately, there’s more than meets the eye here, Yggdrasill is seeding the dance groups with other Sengoku Driver belts to increase the competition and combat between them and soon, there isn’t just one Kamen Rider, but six, all fighting over the stages, to be the top-rated crew. Many people have described this as the Japanese Warring States era with powered armor and I think that’s a close enough approximation.
So do I like it? Absolutely. I was hooked almost from the very beginning and I know exactly why, and this is exactly the reason so many other people don’t like it. It’s silly. This is not a show that takes itself seriously, which means it’s right up my alley. Every single show in the past decade or so that I’ve really enjoyed has been an off-beat series that made a bit of fun of the whole genre. Kamen Rider Den-O, the most popular series in recent memory, Kamen Rider Decade, a show lots of people hate, Kamen Rider Fourze, an outer space romp and now Kamen Rider Gaim, dancers in battle armor, I’ve loved all of these the best. Why? Because Kamen Rider tends to take itself a little too seriously, even though it really is a ridiculous concept at its heart. Guys in magical metal suits beating each other up throughout the countryside, that’s a ridiculous concept, but if they give the audience a sly wink and say “we know it’s silly, just have fun with it”, that makes it a much better experience in my opinion. I’m sure the “serious tokusatsu fanatics” will disagree, but I think they need to loosen their shorts anyhow.
And the fruit theme? I think it’s fine. Every series has it’s stylized armor, this is no different. I think they picked the fruit theme because it is silly, to match the style of the show. So far, they have the orange armor, the grape armor, the strawberry armor, the banana armor, the pineapple armor, the acorn armor, and the watermelon armor that turns into a giant mecha suit. How can any of this be wrong? It’s hysterical. The show walks a line between outwardly ridiculous and ardently serious, the characters act as though it’s genuine, but there are enough nonsensical things going on that it’s a send up of the recent super-serious shows that will appeal to both young and old fans alike, at least the ones willing to pull their heads out of their back ends.
I’d say give Kamen Rider Gaim a shot, see if it appeals to you. I can only judge from the first handful of episodes that have aired, but I think that they’re fun to watch, the story isn’t too heavy so far and it’s entertaining to watch a bunch of fruit-themed armored suits bashing on each other over ultimately trivial things. Take a look, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.