Tuesday, January 25, 2011

In short: Kamen Rider ZO (1993)

A guy (Hiroshi Tsuchikado) wakes up in a rather strange looking cave in the mountains. Someone informs him through the telepathic powers of an overly large grasshopper that he has to protect a little boy named Hiroshi from something called a "Neo Life Form".

Once our hero arrives wherever it is Hiroshi lives with his grandpa, a semi-mad scientist, he realizes that the voice in his head was just too right: a few nasty beasties are trying to abduct the boy, obviously not realizing into what a world of painfully whiny child-acting that would transport them. Fortunately for the sanity of monster-kind, our nameless hero can transform into a variation of the always popular Kamen Rider (what a surprise in a Kamen Rider movie!), and will spend the rest of the film enduring said whiny child-acting himself and beating (and, being a Kamen Rider, of course, kicking) the stuffing out of the nasty creatures.

The whole affair turns out to be the fault of Hiroshi's father, whose attempts to create a perfect life form went so pear-shaped that the best idea he had to correct the problem was to transform his lab assistant (our nameless hero) into a cross between grasshopper and human, obviously without the guy's consent.

Little Hiroshi sure is lucky Kamen Riders like children.

This is the first of the two short Kamen Rider features Keita Amemiya signs responsible for - the second one being Kamen Rider J - and it's also the weaker of the two by far.

The creatures and much of the strange bio-technological stuff that makes up that part of the backgrounds for the scenes of creatures mauling each other that doesn't consist of the usual empty factory buildings are as lovely designed and lovingly executed as one can expect from Amemiya, and the monster fights are fun enough if you like this sort of thing (and really, if you don't, no Kamen Rider show or movie will ever make you happy). Alas, the film makes it needlessly difficult to enjoy these elements by giving Hiroshi (and the gnome who plays him) way too much room for that most terrible of all mawkish and syrupy things - terribly executed child-actor melodrama. It sure doesn't help that the script spends so much time on Hiroshi that it either forgets to provide the Rider even with the most basic of motivations or forgets to inform the audience what that motivation might be. It's possible that leaving out the random J-Pop video clip right in the middle of the movie could have provided the time to go into the Rider's psyche for the two seconds of motivation I'm asking for here, but then as now, selling merchandise is much more important than providing a satisfying movie.

Anyway: if you just look at those pretty (and "green child-face in a big petri dish"-type grotesque, once Amemiya gets really going) monsters and the hitting, and go and make yourself some tea once Hiroshi begins to whine, Kamen Rider ZO is still watchable enough, just not as merrily insane or fun as the best examples of its superhero franchise.


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