Sweet As Syrup: Kamen Rider Amazons Review

Something I’ve always found odd about reboots of beloved properties is that they are always done on something that was popular at a time, instead of something lesser known. Take the Kamen Rider series, for example. You have over 30 different series, about 70 films and specials, and a crap ton of videogames! This motorcycle riding superhero has been a Japanese icon for the past 45 years.

As with a lot of series, Kamen Rider had a lot of iterations, some remain relatively obscure. One such series is Kamen Rider Amazon, a series that was dark and violent when compared to its predecessors. Amazon is mostly forgotten today, though hardcore Kamen Rider fans do remember it fondly. However, this year marked the return of the Amazon brand. After almost 40 years we finally got a new series called “Kamen Rider Amazons”! Sure, it has little to do with the original, but I still feel its worth talking about!

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“I AM AMAZON!”

Plot and Characters

Japan is facing a bizarre threat: The Amazons. The Amazons are mutant creatures made in a lab by a company known as “Nozama Pharmacy”. About 4000 of these mutants escaped from a facility and made their way into the nearby surrounding city. Worse still, these mutants appear as humans and can only be detected when they transform into their monster form. The monsters are also wearing special armlets that inject medicine into their bodies. When this runs out, the monsters go berserk and start attacking humans.

At the center of this is Haruka, a seemingly normal young man. Haruka is kept inside at all times by his strict and overprotective mother, who also happens to be a high-ranking member of Nozama Pharmacy. Haruka is one day driven from his secluded life by a bizarre force after he refuses to take his medicine one night. This results in Haruka transforming into an Amazon.

Haruka becomes an Amazon, but finds that he is different from any other Amazon. Haruka meets Jin, who is another unique Amazon. Through the use of high-tech belts, they are both able to transform into superior versions of their Amazon forms. They become the well-known warriors from the franchise, powerful superheroes known as “Kamen Riders”.

Both Jin and Haruka find that they have differing views on dealing with Amazons. While Jin would prefer to wipe them all out, Haruka finds that some Amazons are less deserving of being killed than others. In the middle of this is the “Nozama Peston Service”, a group of Amazon eradicators who are surprisingly competent fighters despite being ordinary humans in a Japanese superhero show.

I found myself being constantly engaged by the plot. Sure, it had its slow moments, but had a lot of good twists here and there. I loved the grey area invoked by the creatures that our heroes fight. Even though they are human eating monsters, the Amazons pass as normal people and even have lives of their own. They are like any other living being, they must eat to survive. This creates an interesting dynamic and makes the audience question if killing these monsters is a necessity or a waste of effort. The Nozama Pharmacy group makes this even more of a grey area, as they only want the Amazons dead to protect their own company.

This show is also one of the bloodiest, violent, and darkest entries in the franchise. Despite the fake-looking blood, fight scenes can be surprisingly brutal and gory at times. Even though I really enjoyed the action sequences and story, the show did have several problems that I noticed. For one thing, the show fails to go into detail on certain elements of its world. The first season seems to skim over how the Amazons actually escaped and ignores how Jin got the belts in the first place. I know that they are probably saving more of these reveals and plot revelations for season 2, but at times I felt like I wasn’t being given enough information.

There just wasn’t enough information being thrown my way to keep me completely satisfied with the story. I still enjoyed the story, but felt like the plot was taking a backseat to the action on occasion. Another thing I didn’t like was the pacing, at least in the first couple episodes. For the first two episodes, it felt like the story was spinning its wheels. Action scenes felt like they were spaced out a bit too far and certain characters weren’t given enough time to get used to.

In fact, I feel like Amazons greatest weakness is choosing not to focus on certain characters in season 1. For example, there’s a female member of the Peston Service named Nozomi Takai. She’s one of the most badass members of the team, choosing to fight with an electric knife and extremely electricity-charged boots. She’s a tough character with a good head on her shoulders and is probably the best member of the team. Sadly, we learn next to nothing about her! She has a well-defined personality and likeable characteristics, but her backstory is kept extremely vague. Sadly, most of the Peston members are like this.

The show mainly focuses on its main characters, which is Jin and Haruka. Sadly, most of the cast lacks an interesting backstory. Even though I didn’t like what they did with the characters, I have to say that I loved the monsters in this show! A fair amount of the monsters are given introductions that feel right out of horror films. Before we see our heroes fighting the Amazon, there is usually a sequence of the Amazon killing some hapless person.

One of the most memorable scenes involve the monsters is one where an old woman had a fridge repairman come up to her room. As the man looks at the fridge, he finds disembodied hands stuffed in bags! The woman then walks up behind him and transforms as his blood-curdling screams fill the air. The show is full of intense atmosphere scenes such as this and it really adds to the show. It makes the monsters feel like actual monsters, as opposed to just guys in rubber-suits who show up and do generic evil things.

Generally, I really enjoyed the plot, setting, and characters. While it’s true that the characters aren’t as well-developed as they could be and the first couple episodes are riddled with pacing issues, I still found this show to be immensely enjoyable. Good action sequences, a fairly good plot, and enjoyable characters make this something worth watching in my eyes.

Visual Stimuli

The suit design on this show was fantastic! From Kamen Rider Alpha’s sleek and shiny red-colored armor, to Omega’s nostalgia-infused appearance. There’s a lot to love here! As cool as the suits look, some of them sadly feel like the kind of suits you’d see on the televised shows. Nothing wrong with those suits, but I feel like this more mature adaptation would’ve benefited from some more unique costume designs. Adding more moving parts to the costumes would’ve added more flare to their designs, at least in my opinion.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with the costumes but I feel that the effects team should’ve gone a bit more crazy on the costumes. Despite that, the suits resemble the early Heisei era of Kamen Rider, which is my single favorite era of this series. The show has a fairly good soundtrack, special credit goes to the ending theme “Armor Zone” which just sounds extremely awesome!

The various blood and gore effects have a tendency to look pretty face. The thing about Japanese cinema and television is that they don’t usually put as much effort into CGI as other countries would. You can still get some series with amazing effects, but sadly this is not one of them. It just feels lacking and looks extremely fake at times. Luckily, it’s not thing that pulls me out of the show too often.

It’s hard for me to comment on the acting, since Japanese acting is a bit different than American acting. For example, the comedy relief in Japanese productions usually emotes a lot more, including stretching their face out and doing weird expressions. This is unlike the comedy relief in American productions, who are normally just actors who act silly as opposed to making exaggerated expressions constantly. You can find a certain amount of American productions, but not to the same level as Japanese content.

Still, I enjoyed the acting. There never was a character that felt too droll in my eyes, aside from maybe Haruka’s actor on occasion. I found that I rather enjoyed the acting, music, and character designs relating to this show. Sadly, I wish the special effects were more up to snuff.

In Summation

This show is violent, fun, gory, and unique. It’s an adaptation of an old 70s TV show that manages to eclipse the original in every way. The introduction of non-Rider enemies that can fight the monsters is a welcome change and I especially like the suit designs. Despite all that’s good about the show, it still has a fair bit of problems. These include pacing issues, fairly bad CGI, and the lack of character depth and backstory. Still, if you’re a fan of Kamen Rider and want to see it taken in a more adult direction, then I highly reccomend checking it out. Just be warned that the first two episodes were a bit slow and that season 1 doesn’t provide a lot of answers to what’s going on. Still, it’s a show that’s grown on me and I can definitely say that it is as sweet as syrup!

Hey Everybody, I’m Back!

Sorry that I haven’t posted in a week. I came down with a fairly nasty cold, and as a result I didn’t feel like writing during that time. I was tired constantly and coughing quite a bit, but now I’m mostly over it. I feel refreshed, like a new man! I’m going back into the job hunt, but I’ll still have time to write and post on this blog. I think you guys will like what I got planned! I’ve been practicing my writing style and feel I’ve gotten better. I think my content quality will go up at least 13.63 percent in the next coming weeks. Stay tuned!

Sweet As Syrup: Costume Quest Review

You know, Halloween is right around the corner. You got free candy, cartoon-ish depictions of characters you would normally not find adorable, and just a general good atmosphere for children to spend time with their parents. And by that definition, it sounds like a really good time. So, that’s why I chose this hallowed month of October to talk about a Halloween-themed game. Why not, right? So, without further adieu I bring you the  ultimate Halloween classic: Costume Quest.

Background Information

Costume Quest came into existence when its development team “Double Fine” held events for their workers. These events were known as “Amnesia Fortnights” and involved the developers splitting into several smaller groups to work on prototype for potential new games. This was due to the developers being unsure of their developer, and need backup plan in case their upcoming project “Brutal Legend” failed. So, the developers came up with several concepts for new game franchises.

One such concept was Costume Quest, a Halloween-themed game that ended up being released in 2010. This game was a turn-based RPG with simple mechanics aimed towards not only kids, but people of all ages! The game was re-released with an added expansion pack later which was labelled “Grubbins On Ice”. A sequel was released in 2014, several years after the original.

Plot

It’s Halloween night and two young siblings known as “Wren” and “Reynold” are about to go trick-or-treating. Their family has moved to a new town and the twins have yet to make any friends. In order to keep the pair in line on this tremendously important day, Unfortunately, bizarre goblin-like creatures known as “Grubbins”, have started stealing all the candy in town. Not only that, but they’ve also stolen your sibling, who is a clad in a candy-corn costume. It’s up  to you to stop the Grubbins, save your sibling, and defeat the evil mysterious witch known as Dorsilla.

The plot is pretty basic, and brings to mind a lot of old Saturday morning cartoons. The characters don’t receive that much development throughout the game. Despite this, the dialogue for each character is extremely entertaining and well-written. I was grinning from ear-to-ear the first time I played through this entire game! Despite the game’s basic plot, it has a lot of heart put into it. It’s not a story that will rock your world, but it will definitely make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Gameplay

Much like the plot, the gameplay is pretty basic. The game itself is a turn-based RPG and it requires you taking turns to attack, defend, or heal during a battle. You can also do special attacks as well, which do extra damage or cause special effects such as healing you or buffing your entire party. You can also equip stamps to your party, which provide extra boosts in combat. Your entire party has the special and unexplained ability to turn into whatever costume you’re wearing, which is great for party customization! You’ll gain various costumes throughout your playthrough, each with their own pros and cons.

Despite the amount of costumes you can use, I found some of them to be pretty worthless. One such costume was the Black Cat costume, which didn’t really offer that much bonuses, despite the fact that you need to complete most of the game to get it. While the combat itself is an RPG, the gameplay outside of the combat is strictly an adventure game. You adventure around while attempting to solve area puzzles and trying to find as many costume pieces as possible. Of course, you also trick or treat in this game. Candy acts as a currency in this game, which allows you to buy stronger battle stamps.

Aside from the final bosses, I never found the combat all that difficult. The puzzles were never too intricate and I never found myself getting stuck for too long. On top of this, the game is only about 6-8 hours long, although the free-expansion included with the game adds an extra 1-2 hours. On top of this, it doesn’t take too long to 100% complete the game. This lack of content and difficulty may be a turnoff for some folk. This game was made with children in mind, and it’s short length is there for people so they can complete it in a day or two. Still, don’t let the simplistic combat and gameplay turn you off. Costume Quest is fun despite its lack of difficulty and length.

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Yes, you can become any of those big giant battle creatures in the back. Halloween games sure are a magic time…

Visual Stimuli

The game boasts cartoon-y 3D graphics, which look really nice. Each character has a simplistic design that becomes far more detail during combat. Each costume has its own unique battle-form, you will never encounter any palette-swaps here. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the enemies which re-use a lot of their designs for later enemies. The game has a pretty good soundtrack as well. It’s nothing spectacular, but it sounds good enough and definitely sets the mood for virtual trick-or-treating.

The controls I found to be pretty basic, much like a lot of the game. If you’re like me and playing this on PC, make sure to turn sticky keys off, as the game asks you to mash the ctrl key a lot. The game features a lot of speech bubbles as opposed to having actual voice-actors. I can understand that they were cutting costs with this, but I feel like having actual voice actors would’ve brought a bit more charm to the character’s dialogue. This isn’t an insult against the game, as I found the production values to be pretty top-notch. It’s rare to find a game that is both charming and nice to look at in this day and age!

In Summation

This game is simple, yet entertaining. It’s mechanics are easy to grasp, but still fun to use. Sure, while the game is short and at times kind of repetitive, it makes for it with heart. I reccomend getting this game on sale, as opposed to full price though. I don’t think it’s worth the 11 dollar price tag. I got it for about 2 bucks, and that’s how much I think one should pay for this game. No more than five dollars, at the most. Still, if you can get it, you’ll definitely have a great time with it. That’s why I can say that this game is definitely as sweet as syrup. Just keep in mind that what you getting is not very long, doesn’t offer a lot of replay value, and is not worth full price. It’s worth getting on sale definitely though, especially if you love Tim Schafer’s comedy writing and the Halloween atmosphere.

Sweet As Syrup: Super Turbo Atomic Ninja Rabbit Review

Hey everybody! I thought that after my review of the ReBoot Forever art-book, that I’d try and do another free-form review. After all, I can’t really review today’s subject like how I normally would. That’s because today’s subject was a short film, posted online about a year ago. It’s something that I discovered just this year and watched a surprising amount of times. Pretty much everything about it I love.

I love that it is essentially a faux 90s cartoon, that it has good animation, good music, and pulls on the heartstrings of all action-cartoon fans. I’ll be honest, I love good ol’ cheesy action cartoons from the 90s. It’s been an interest of mine since childhood! Sadly, there are few action cartoons on the market as of writing. I’d love for there to be a resurgence, and it’s good to see that people still have an interest in this genre. I’ll stop beating around the bush here, let’s talk about today’s subject: Super Turbo Atomic Ninja Rabbit!

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That’s some pretty spiffy battle-armor right there! One wonders how a ‘wabbit could walk in that much metal, though.

Now, I said this is an animated short, which is true. However, it’s a little more than that. Before I get into more of what I mean, let’s talk about the short itself. This short depicts a team of anthropomorphic animals, lead by a rabbit in battle-armor. This rabbit is none other than the titular “Super Turbo Atomic Ninja Rabbit”, who also goes by Stan or Mizashi. The first part of the short acts as a theme song intro for STANR.

We’ve got our heroes doing cool poses, fighting a bunch of bear-dude in battle gear, as well as facing off against an evil wizard vulture. The first thing I gotta say is that the animation is spectacular! It’s good old hand-drawn animation, and it looks SO GOOD! Characters are designed well and are varied enough in their designs so that they don’t feel stale. The artists take into mind animal anatomy and combine it with clever costume-design, creating a team of combat critters that don’t feel like five different animal skins pasted onto 5 similar-looking muscly dudes.

Seriously, I love the concepts behind some of these designs and the way the physicality of the animals is brought into them. For example, the giraffe villain is wearing an eye-patch. Giraffes in real-life are known for having their eyes on the sides of their head, which makes this poor fellow severely limited in terms of vision. There are tons of other small nods to animal physiology, such as Stan’s raised plantigrade feet.

Weapon designs are great, from the frog’s nunchakus to Stan’s samurai sword, everything looks great. Even though the characters never talk during this opening theme song, you get a really good idea of what the characters are about. This comes down to both the animation and character design. Believe it or not, you can tell a lot about a character without them needing to say a word. This comes down to expressions, design, and animation style. It’s like meeting someone in real-life, you build your perceptions off what your interactions with said person.

From this intro, I can tell that the frog Wyatt is the brainy yet combat ready nerd, that the rooster is the cocky (pun intended) cool guy of the bunch, that the bear is the silent stoic one, and that the fox is the spunky battle-hardened female of the group. Again, a lot comes down to character design and animation. Body language in cartoons is just as important as it is in real life. After all, who would want to watch a cartoon full of bland characters with bland designs? Heck, even their vehicle has a cool design, complete with rabbit-like buck-teeth!

After the introductory theme song, we get the “episode”. And by episode, we get a 5 second clip set in the past featuring Mizashi’s master ready to test his pupil. Afterwards, the end credits play, complete with an instrumental theme and retro storyboards of the character’s designs. This makes up the entirety of the 2 minute long short film. We have a sequence with great music and animation, an extremely short bit of an episode, and then ending credits. It’s small, but effective. Believe it or not, the short is just part of this small multimedia sensation.

In 2015, this short made its way online and was advertised as some sort of lost 80s or 90s anime-style cartoon. This was coupled with “official” merchandise of the show ending up online, such as a thermos and lunchbox, both bearing the likeness of characters from the show. Then you have people online vaguely remembering the show, despite it not existing in that period. And this wasn’t due to ignorance or playing along, as a lot of really good stuff can be forgotten from that early period of childhood.

Of course, this was all just an elaborate prank by animation company “The Line”. If you’ve never heard of this animation team, I suggest checking out their Youtube channel. They have a great video called “The Roadtrip” which features two tiny animated characters drinking about in an RC car. Anyway, The Line based this short off of a comic one animator drew as a kid. This comic featured a rabbit-like samurai character who was essentially a combination of one of the Samurai Pizza Cats and comic book character Usagi Yojimbo.

The Line not only chose to make an animated short and an elaborate ruse, but also made it into a multimedia project! This includes a short VR experience where you can actually view the action from the eyes of characters within the cartoon, in a CGI recreation of how an episode would normally play out. It’s got a very 80s vibe to it, and I wholly reccomend checking it out!

Of course, you also have the purchasable art-book as well, featuring artwork from the short. Now, I still have yet to buy this, since I’m a little on the fence. Yeah, I love the art-style and animation, but it’s a bit tough to pony up the cash for an art-book that’s based off a 2 minute animation. Yes, it’s animation with a lot of hard work put into it, but I would like to see more STANR before deciding to invest cash in the series. However, knowing that the creators are hard at work on other projects, I may buy the art book regardless. After all, I like supporting hard work animators. I suggest if you have some spare cash picking up the book as well!

Sadly, this series is not more well-known. While the prank did get some attention, it was not enough to catapult it into the eyes of the public. To this day, the short still has a fan-base and a fair amount of attention, but it’s still an underground thing. I’d love if they decided to air this on Cartoon Network or something. Sadly, this series exists as just as a single short. And that sucks, but it’s hard to sell a series to a network, especially when it is just an action show.

Who knows, though? Maybe STANR could get picked up by a network, or bought by some major animation company. Maybe we’ll see our fuzzy and scaly friends again in another great animation! One can always hope, that’s all I can say. I loved this short, and I can definitely say it’s as sweet as syrup. And hey, if anyone reads this, tell everyone you know about this short. Watch it, spread the word, and try to get a following for it. Sure, it’s a year old, but any attention helps. I’m hoping that one day we can see the ideas expanded into a full series, movie, or even another short! There’s a lot to go off of here and it’s something that I think a lot of people could enjoy. We need more stuff like STANR, stuff that hits that special 90s sweet-spot. At least, that’s my opinion on the subject.