To further apologize for not having this week’s Toku Tuesday up on time and then rewarding your long-suffering with a mere preview of Kamen Rider W, I have a surprise for all you loyal readers: a second Toku Tuesday feature in one week! And its a guest spot at that.
My man, and fellow toku-whore, Niko over at NikoScream has graced us all with his latest toku review – Kamen Rider Faiz (555):
Kamen Rider 555 is the 4th series in the Heisei-era Kamen Rider franchise. Airing in the 2003 year, 555 is about the fight between the humans and this series’ kaijin – the Orphnochs, beings which were once humans yet mysteriously transformed into demonic creatures upon a fatal accident.
The main character is Takumi Inui (played by Kento Handa), who is Kamen Rider Faiz (most of the time). Inui is introduced to the Faiz Gear, which gives him the ability to transform, by Mari Sonada (played by Yuria Haga), and both are joined by laundryman Keitarō Kikuchi (Ken Mizorogi). Then we meet friends from Mari’s past, including Masato Kusaka (Kohei Murakami). They also befriend mostly good Orphnochs Yūji Kiba, Yuka Osada and Naoya Kaidō (respectively Masayuki Izumi, Yoshika Katō and Mitsuru Karahashi). Crazy hijinx ensue.
How are the actual Kamen Riders of the series? The main three are Faiz, Kaixa and Delta. They all have fairly similar designs, with slight differences in shape and coloring. All three have a black base undersuit with shiny, metallic armor, conveying the similarly-manufactured technological origin of the suits. Faiz has yellow eyes, silver armor and red tubing. Kaixa has purple, dark grey and yellow, and Delta has red, black and white.
The really cool thing? The eyes and the tubing all over the body light up, mostly at night or in dark areas, adding to the unique visuals of the suits and making for some really neat night fight scenes. Faiz seems probably the most basic and functional, probably because of the rounded shoulder pads, as opposed to the broader shoulders off Kaixa and Delta, but that particular suit also comes with the most toys.
I love the gadget motif in 555. All the Riders get their abilities from Rider Gears, a combination of weapons and a transformation belt activated by an additional device, often a cell phone. The weapons include devices that aim the Rider Kicks, power ups for knuckle punches, lightsaber-esque swords, guns and more. Following a very Batman logic, there’s a weapon for almost everything.
Even more interesting is that all the Rider Gear, when not in use, doesn’t disappear in some pocket dimension where many Rider weapons tend to materialize from. They’re kept in a briefcase, one for each Rider. Riders have to actually put on the belts and equip themselves for battle. All the Rider Gear is branded by the Smart Brain corporate logo, adding an attention to detail and a familiarity of product placement. This unique emphasis on the actual equipment of the Kamen Riders is a neat element that makes the Riders a bit easier to grasp.
Another thing I like is that the Riders in this series use their bikes a good bit. It helps that their bikes transforms into robotic support. Kaixa has a cool side car attached to his bike. Also, technically, Faiz uses his bike for combat a lot with his sword coming out of his bike’s (called the Auto Vajin) handlebar.
Enough about the Rider concept and onto the plot. It’s fairly appealing. Humans are mysteriously turning into these Orphnoch monstors, some of which attacking people, so Takumi has to fight as Faiz to stop them. The series tries to add mystery to all the characters with a mysterious event before the show started that tied them together and changed everything. While I wasn’t really hooked on that concept, at least it was better executed than in Kamen Rider Agito.
Eventually, we learn there’s a secret organization behind the Orphnochs, which was an aspect I liked. However, the further evolution of the Orphnoch concept by the end of the series leaves parts that could use some explanation, and overall it lacks resolution. In fact, while the ending is actually pretty decent, it alludes to everything not being over, to there being more after the end. Sadly, somehow Kamen Rider Den-O with its tied-up conclusion gets post-series movies for further story, while 555, which could actually benefit from further development, does not.
The main weak point of the series is probably the characters themselves. For the most part, I really couldn’t find myself caring for any of them. Not until the latter half does the main character Takumi actually seem interesting, but it does happen. Masato Kusaka, Kamen Rider Kaixa, is entertaining at first, but he doesn’t really develop much despite so much screen time, leaving him almost tiring because of his unwillingness to change at all.
Wrapping up, Kamen Rider 555 is a pretty good series. The overall Kamen Rider concept, design and execution are done really well. They make this series. The Orphnoch villains work well for the most part. The plot is decent, aside from some lack of clarification towards the end, or even a complete resolution. It’s definitely one of the better series out of the current era. If you want a good tech-based modern Kamen Rider series, then keep your eyes on Faiz.
I must say, Faiz is one of my personal favorite Kamen Rider series, and Faiz is definitely one of my favorite Rider designs (in fact he has a prominent position on my figure self). I also recommend this series. No, I really do. See.
Thanks again to NikoScream. Go over there and be satisfied with more toku reviews and reflections from this year’s Dragon*Con. Until next time, folks – “The End JustiFAIZ the Means…”