A more adult take on the old school series just hit Amazon Prime and its definitely worth a watch!
I am not going to play cool, I am still relatively new to the world of old school Tokusatsu. Of course I grew up watching Power Rangers like most guys my age, but it wasn’t until falling down the rabbit hole of reviewing Shin Ultra Man did I start to get into the older, classic shows. On that thread I got into Kamen Rider, to get my homework done before Shin Kamen Rider hits theaters in Japan this January. This led me to not only enjoying the original Kamen Rider, but checking out the latest installment based on the lead being an actor from one of my favorite Oscar nominated films last year, Hidetoshi Nishijima from Drive My Car, yes THAT Hidetoshi Nishijima!
In the original setup for Kamen Rider, a motorcycle racer is kidnapped by the evil organization called Shocker and turned into a bug-like cyborg against his will. It was a monster of the week scenario as he tried to defeat Shocker who turned him into a cyborg, while foiling every plot for world domination they come up with week after week along with an animal themed monster. This was a show primarily aimed at kids, although the monsters were unintentionally nightmarish, and it still holds up rather well considering the show ran in 1971. The Kamen Rider universe has since exploded over the last 50 years with a plethora of different incarnations all with their own spin on the story.
As part of this 50th anniversary celebration we got Kamen Black Sun, which just dropped all 10 episodes of season 1 on Amazon Prime. It’s a big budget, very adult take on the hero, that to be honest went way harder than I could have even expected. In this flavor, we are thrown into a world in turmoil. There are humans and Kaijin — human-like creatures that have an animal form, putting a bio spin on the typical cyborg one from the original. The world is a powder-keg of discrimination and riots as the humans want the Kaijin race eradicated once and for all. It’s here we catch up with our Rider played by Hidetoshi Nishijima, a ketamine-addicted assassin. The narrative gets thrown into high gear when the Rider is sent to kill a young human girl who just spoke at the UN on the need for harmony between the two races.
This takes the form of a battle that has the Oscar nominated actor turning into a giant humanoid grasshopper and disemboweling another spider assassin before beheading him in front of his target. Its hyperviolent and surreal and left me speechless to be honest. Its not what I expected at all and that’s what locked me in. Not only for the racism metaphor, which is painfully relevant to Japan and its relationship to its constant influx of foreigners, but it contrasts that rather highbrow theme with a rather lowbrow show of pure madness and gore and I am there for it. Hidetoshi Nishijima just imbues the character with so much angst that really pays off when someone is stupid enough to cross him. Of course there’s a bigger story here that gets started as well, but I didn’t want to spoil too much for those looking to start this great series, which is presented with subtitles only, in UHD with HDR.