Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Kamen Rider Retrospective #2 - Den-O

Now, this is a weird thing to retrospective. Even I know this. But hey, It got requested a few times and it's pretty hard to deny that the 2007 series, Kamen Rider Den-O is probably one of the most influential Kamen Rider series to date (Whether that's a good or bad thing, we'll get to later) So sit back, grab some popcorn or whatever while I talk to you guys about Kamen Rider Den-O.

Primary Characters of Den-O: Hana, Naomi, Momotaros, Kintaros, Urataros, Owner and Ryoutaro
Kamen Rider Den-O first aired in 2007 and had two motifs: Trains and Time. Imagin, the monster of this series have come from their time to go back in time even further to change the future. Ryoutaro (Kamen Rider Den-O) and his own trusty Imagin companions however, travel back in time using the DenLiner (Time traveling Train) to destroy the Imagin's. It's a pretty simple plot really. But it manages to entertain. As the series go on the secondary rider, Kamen Rider Zeronos (Yuuto Sakurai) is introduced and I'll stop there because 1. I'm not here to spoil (But I might.) and 2. I'm not here to talk about the plot or any of that.

What I'm here to talk about is the influence Den-O had on the future Riders along with the series as a whole and it's success as a series as well, along with why it has become so popular and continues to gain movie adaptations to this day.

Kamen Rider Den-O hit the nail on almost everything. Characters were a lot of fun, the actors portrayed their characters perfectly, it was full of comedy that was very slapstick-ish, had awesome forms and great fights, etc. One thing it lacked though was Plot. Den-O's plot is forgotten about for a good half of the series. But this is where the directors realized. "Hey, Look at that. Sure, we've thrown out the serious plot like we had in Kabuto (I use that as an example as it was the series just before it) But it's ratings are still great and the toys are selling well too!" That's right, they realized Kids don't necessarily care about "Deep, dark plots". Since then, Kamen Rider has indeed changed: This is evident in the more recent series (W-OOO) in which it's shown that those shows prioirty clearly wasn't their plots: it was the comedy aspect of the series and the toys. People will argue and say that W's plot was darker, and sure, it was darker then Decade and Kiva's before it, but was it the dark everyone seems to want in Kamen Rider? The Faiz-Level Grimdark plot?

Moving on to another point entirely, IS this good or bad? The change? I for one think it's good. People seem to forget that these Tokusatsu (Along with MOST Toku) is directed towards children. So, think about it for a second. The series like Den-O or W are CLEARLY more popular with the children, they also bring in a lot of opportunities for toys, which children can then get their parents to buy. Toei makes MOST of it's money this way. If they went back to a more "Darker" series, the children of today wouldn't enjoy it as much and then, guess what? The toy sales and ratings would begin to decline. If they decline too much, Kamen Rider might very well be canceled. So I think the changes to the franchise Den-O has bought are in fact a good thing, as it's made Kamen Rider more enjoyable for the children in Japan who watch it, along with us other toku fans outside of japan (Unless you're a Black/RX Fanboy. Then all you are likely to do is complain).

So, back to Den-O.  During the series run, Den-O released a...Movie. Yeah, surprise, right? But this movie was different to past rider movies. It was the first Kamen Rider movie since Agito to NOT be set in an alternate dimension sort of setting. Den-O's movie took place with in the continuity of the series (Some people argue Kabuto's does, but that's not official or anything) actually taking place between two episodes in the series, referenced in both of those episode, along with future episodes. In my opinion, this is also the best Heisei Era Kamen Rider movie of recent years. It had everything Den-O had, just with an added plot to it. I think this movie plays a part in Den-O's success, even if that was a small part.

Since then, Den-O has gone down hill though. I myself have yet to watch ALL the Den-O movies (All except Climax Deka) but I've heard it pretty much went down hill straight away. I've been told Climax Deka was a godawful movie (It was however the first Canon crossover since Showa era Riders) and Final Countdown was only mediocre at best (It did however introduce an awesome new rider, Kamen Rider New Den-O). Final Countdown was the last Den-O movie. Untill Den-O started anew with something of a "Mini-Series" mostly comprised of films that started in the 2009 series, Kamen Rider Decade.

It's time for a Super-Climax.
Starting in episodes 14 and 15 in Decade was the new Den-O series, "Kamen Rider Super Den-O". It was still the same Den-O, just more...Super. With one key difference. Takeru Sato no longer portrayed Ryoutaro. This is where Den-O started to slant even more down hill. Ryoutaro was for me, one of the best parts about Den-O, and that was mostly because I'm a fan of Takeru Sato and thought he was the perfect actor to play him. However, he wanted to move on to other things, but they wanted to continue Den-O. Meaning they needed a new Ryoutaro, and that we got. Cho Den-O's first movie, the Onighishima (Not sure if that's correct) Warship was just a clusterf*ck of...EVERYTHING. But, despite how bad the movie was, Den-O got 3 new movies the next year, the Super Den-O trilogy, so Den-O's popularity clearly wasn't dying.

This is due to the fact that the fanbase in Japan, is, well, children. Children didn't care about things like the actor getting changed out, they just enjoyed Den-O. After the Super Den-O trilogy, Den-O then went to star in the 40th Anniversary movie along with OOO and Kamen Rider 1, Showing that Den-O was still on top.

To recap, Den-O's popularity is mainly because the Kamen Rider fanbase is indeed children in Japan. The ratings and toy sales are mostly thanks to the Children, I think that international Kamen Rider fans have very little to do (Sure, they buy some figures and toys. But I'm sure more sell in Japan itself.) with how popular the series is, which is why Toei continues the fashion of Den-O-Esque Kamen Rider series. I personally however love this, and really hope it doesn't stop anytime soon. Keep in mind everyone, next year is Kamen Rider Den-O's 5th Anniversary! Meaning we might even see a return of Takeru Sato (Which would make Den-O basically the best thing ever).

I hope you all enjoyed reading this and look forward to the next Retrospective, I have some idea's but will be taking suggestions on our Facebook page. Until next time, guys!

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