Fantasia 2023: Our Review of ‘Shin Kamen Rider’

Fantasia 2023: Our Review of ‘Shin Kamen Rider’

Hideaki Anno’s 3rd “Shin” reimagining, he wrote and directed 2018’s Shin Godzilla and also wrote, but let his friend direct, 2022’s Shin Ultraman, sees him attempt to reinvent and pay homage to yet another classic Japanese ‘tokusatsu’ series with Shin Kamen Rider. The original Kamen Rider series came out in the early 1970s and went through too many iterations and spinoffs to get into here. Based on a dark and violent manga, Kamen Rider was tamed way down for home viewers, much like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were when they launched in the 90s in the US. But here Anno decides to take us back to its more bloody roots.

For context, imagine the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (itself derived from a Japanese tokusatsu named Super Sentai) beat the literal living pulp out of the ‘puttys’ they fought every episode with blood, and viscera splashing across the screen before they finally exploded. This is basically how the film introduces us to our hero Takeshi Hongo (Sosuke Ikematsu) after he and Dr. Midorikawa (legendary Japanese writer/director Shin’ya Tsukamoto) have escaped the clutches of SHOCKER. SHOCKER is the evil organization responsible for transforming him into the grasshopper/human hybrid he has become. After a deadly run-in with another augmented human dubbed Aug-Spider (Nao Omori), Hongo teams up with Ruriko (Minami Hamabe) and with the help from 2 government agents (Takumi Saitoh and Yukata Takenouchi) also determined to take down SHOCKER, they set out to take down all the Aug’s one by one.

From there onwards it’s 2 hours of delightfully goofy and fun dialogue mixed with grandiose fights until the ending 2 hours later. Shin Kamen Rider is that rare spectacle that embraces the silliness of the source material and manages to maintain it and do so in such a manner that it does not make fun of the source material. Anno’s love of the Kamen Rider series is evident from the very start and shows up on screen through some of the more deliberately looking goofy special effects to the overall tone of the entire film. The film does feel like it’s trying to cram a lot of Kamen Rider lore into its 2 hour run time, and while it surely could have been edited, I personally did not feel like it dragged at any point.

The way the film is beholden to the goofiness of the source material and the way it relishes that inherent tone may turn off some audiences expecting Marvel-like effects and stakes, but those who enter in the right mindset, just ready to have some ridiculous fun, should be overjoyed.

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"Kirk Haviland is an entertainment industry veteran of over 20 years- starting very young in the exhibition/retail sector before moving into criticism, writing with many websites through the years and ultimately into festival work dealing in programming/presenting and acquisitions. He works tirelessly in the world of Canadian Independent Genre Film - but is also a keen viewer of cinema from all corners of the globe (with a big soft spot for Asian cinema!)
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