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!

kamen-rider-amazons-2016-episode
“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!

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