Tuesday, July 17, 2012

On Kamen Rider Ryuki

So, I finished another Kamen Rider series. That's nothing new because I watch that stuff more than I watch TV. But, this one was a little different. I'm going to talk about why here in like seven seconds. Kamen Rider Ryuki was made in 2002 and was written by Yasuko Kobayashi, who is probably one of the better tokusatsu writers. Well, I shouldn't really say that because I've only seen this and Shinkenger. But still. I'm going to go ahead and say Ryuki is the smartest Rider show I've seen. It's not my favorite, but this one is really in-depth and clever. It's in that early Heisei era where things are serious and the toy commercials make you feel bad for buying them. I don't really know where to start, because there's about forty things this series ultimately covers. It's hard to cram it all into one overarching theme so I'll start from the end. Kamen Rider Imperer shows up at about episode 43 or 44 or something. Real late basically. There are thirteen Riders and they all fight and kill each other. This guy shows up after about twenty episodes and only one Rider death. He's woefully unprepared and he begs to join other Riders as a team. No one accepts him and he eventually gets killed. There is a scene that lasts at least five minutes of him slowly dying and begging to be allowed to live. Of course, no one can help him and he just dies. Of course, everyone knew this would happen. It was pretty much spelled out from the moment this guy shows up. But, we were waiting for it. "Come on, guys, hurry up. We have like six Riders left and like four episodes to do it." This is what the spergs at whatever toku forum you went to were asking for and then it happens. We get this awful, uncomfortable and sad scene where a man is just begging to live. He's not evil. He's not a good guy, either, but he's still not a typical Rider villain so him dying isn't something we're supposed to cheer for. Yet, we were. They turn it over on us and blam. There we are wishing for a death for no reason other than for it to happen. The whole series has things like this spread out within it. Constantly questioning of what it is to be a hero and what it means to fight. You see this primarily in the main character. Shinji Kido is constantly begging for people to stop the Rider Battle that he sees around him. But, he can't find any way to do that. Talking doesn't work, fighting doesn't work. He views every life as valuable, and that puts him at odds with the Battle. The fighting is, for the most part, pointless. Just dudes bashing each other occasionally killing someone. If you watch the series and you complain that the fights are bad, then you are missing the point so hard. SO HARD. Ryuki is pretty much all about how fighting for your life sucks ass. Asakura is the prime example. All he wants to do is fight. Fight and murder and maybe eat a lizard. He dies because all he wants to do is fight and when he finds out his last fight with Zolda is pointless, he flips out. Fighting was everything to him. When he had a chance to think about the consequences of his fight (looking over Goro's body), he can't stand it. That's what happens when all you do is fight. The chance that your fight might be over can be maddening. Which is why Asakura runs out and dies uselessly. Bascially, the whole series destroys what we once knew about Rider and even about toku shows in general. It put that sad, hopeless spin on it that the more mature fans joke about. "Hey wouldn't it suck to be a toku monster? Living for an episode and then getting kicked into oblivion?" Yeah, dude, it would suck ass. Of course, you can only really do a Ryuki once. It's like Watchmen, really. You can't copy that, and you can't copy this series. Of course, this makes Kabuto the Dark Knight Returns of Rider shows.

Monday, June 4, 2012

On not seeing a movie I'm supposed to have seen.

Yeah, I still have this, don't I? Cool. Hey, so, I have refused to drag myself out to see The Avengers. It's been out for a month, and I have not even glanced at it (although I did see how it ended via Wikipedia). Why? Oh, the same reasons that everyone else gives. But, there's a little more to it than that, and I find it hard to vocalize just what the problem is, but I'll try. See, when I was a wee lad, I ate up comics. You could probably guess this and, if you knew me, you can nod your head in agreement. You'd say "Dude loved his comics." and then flashback to that one time I made a comics joke and then everyone would laugh. Looking back on it, there was really only one reason why I ever liked comics in the first place. Because it was escapism and I needed to escape. I didn't belong in my hometown, and I never have. I never fit in and I was never able to find a real outlet there for me. So, I found comics. A couple of grocery store bargain bin issues was what I needed and that was what I got. Comics portrayed a new, exciting world and they allowed my creativity to flourish. The rest is history, as they say. Blah blah blah action figure battles blah blah blah higher reading level blah blah blah something to keep my mind off of my parent's dismal marriage blah blah blah. You know the drill. Basically every comics fan ever has the same story and the same background as me. Of course, that's not true any more. People walk through malls reading Watchmen. V for Vendetta had Natalie Portman in it. The Avengers made more wealth than a small country. Comics is big business now, and that's ok, because it means that there are more fans, and no one can really slam kids into lockers and call them fags for reading Spider-Man any more. Hooray. Comics are big now, and they're probably going to be big for a while. At least until Avengers 3: The Kovacs Saga bombs at the box office. Heh, that was a funny. But, really, this should be the best time for a comics fan. Watchmen movie, Avengers movie, Thor movie. Hell, we got it made in the shade. But, something's not right. These movies and these books and these new universes are different. It's not the way it used to be. There's something missing and it's really hard to locate or quantify. I have also not seen Captain America or Thor, which are two movies that we've pretty much been dying for. I figured I would have killed to see these movies ten years ago, but here I am. I think the problem can be traced easily back to Iron Man 2. Well, no, the problem can be traced back to that time Marvel decided to give Jack Kirby only 80 of his pages that he made for them, but let's stick with Iron Man 2 for the time being. I saw Iron Man 2 on the first weekend it debuted. I liked Iron Man 1 well enough, so I decided, hey, let's give it a shot. I mean, this wasn't going to be Fantastic Four 2 or Kick Ass or any of those other shitty comic book movies. Well, see, it was. It was boring and generic and there was no real stake or danger towards the main characters at all. We already knew an Avengers movie was probably coming down the pipe, and we knew Iron Man was going to be in it. So, the second movie had no drama. But, there was something more. There was something about the film that either made too much sense or not enough sense. See, these comic movies didn't have the same feeling to them that their source material did. There was this plastic sheen over everything. It was too polished, too. It seemed like we were telling a story just to tell it, and not to actually have anything good happen to the audience. It seems like we're already psyched for the next big thing, as we sit expectant in our dark theaters waiting to see what happens after the credits. Shouldn't a film be worth more than that? Why have a film series if the next one is going to be bigger and better than the one I'm watching now? There doesn't seem to be any of the feeling and gravitas in comic movies any more. There doesn't seem to be any purpose to it. Are there themes in these movies? Are there motifs? Sure, some old comics didn't have those, but most of them made you think. They gave you ideas and made you dream about things. What did the Captain America movie inspire? It didn't even inspire patriotism or nationalism. What did Thor inspire? A cult following of Idris Elba and...? Well, maybe it also inspired Anthony Hopkins to remodel his bathroom or something but the point remains! We can go further back? What was Iron Man about? Sure, Tony learned that his greed hurt people, but he still owned a Bugatti and banged mad babes. What was Spider-Man 2 about? Spider-Man 3? This films aren't about anything. Kick-Ass was the last movie that was about something, but it was so tainted by Millar's madness. I wonder if that movie's show in KKK meetings... Anywho, basically, comic movies don't mean anything. Sure, I know. It's just good clean fun, right? Well, sure. Some movies are dumb as hell and that's ok. But, has Captain America always been dumb? Has Iron Man? Thor? Spider-man? Are all those stories they wrote all about strong dudes hitting other dudes and then banging hot babes? Are those characters not characters? Are they JCVD in Bloodsport? No. There are dozens of good old stories that Marvel writers made with this characters that were about more than action. They were smart, endearing, well-crafted and all that stuff. Instead of seeing a movie version of that, we get ORIGIN STORY + VILLAIN FIGHT. And then we get VILLAIN FIGHT again. Now we get TEAM-UP + VILLAIN FIGHT + TWO CREDIT SEQUENCES. These movies aren't about anything. Just take a look at TV spots for the Avengers. Do they show any one-liners? Any of the stakes involved for the characters? Any pathos? Nope, just RDJ rambling and fights. There's more to a story than that. Maybe I should blame Rob Liefield. He had a hand in this, I'm sure. And then there's also the Kirby issue, the Alan Moore issue, the New 52, Blackest Night and all that dogcrap. So, no. I didn't see the Avengers.