Ikki and Sakura meet up with their childhood friend Ayaka Oketani, who is struggling with her little sister overshadowing her in their mother’s eyes. Things rapidly get worse when the Deadmans arrive on the scene and the two girls are taken hostage.
For better and worse these two episodes seemed to cement the initial strengths and weaknesses we saw in Revice. On the plus side we’ve still got a pleasing focus on interpersonal relationships and character conflicts. On the downside, well, it’s still a bit of an eyesore. Let’s dig a little deeper into those two aspects and see if we can break down what’s compelling and offputting.
This pair of instalments foregrounds the conflict between Ikki and his younger brother Daiji, and for the most part I think that’s a good thing. It’s obvious that Daiji is frustrated and jealous of his brother’s ability to battle the Deadmans, and the writing does a good job of conveying that tension while at the same time making neither party obviously in the wrong. I think I instinctively lean a little towards Ikki’s side, but that’s probably because I, like most people, have an instinctive scepticism of gleaming paramilitary forces who claim to exist for the world’s good. The brothers’ relationship is in an interesting place at the end of episode 4, and I can see this undercurrent of rivalry either continuing to bubble under in the background, or be largely dropped now that they’ve ‘officially’ reconciled. Naturally I’d much prefer the former, since there’s plenty of potential for storytelling opportunities to arise, up to and including a Micchy-style turn to the dark side. It remains to be seen if that’s the direction they go in, but there’s a rich vein of drama to be tapped if so.
Another encouraging sign that the writing team have their shit together is the parallel narratives we get between Ikki & Daiji, and the Oketanis, with both families having trouble with siblings being at odds with each other. This kind of narrative synergy is very basic stuff, but it shows a pleasing focus on thematic cohesion that was definitely lacking from Saber. It’s also fairly dark at points (well, by kids’ morning TV standards at least), with Ayaka’s understandable anger at her negligent mother boiling over into a highly effective rampage. There’s a reassuring amount of classic Kamen Rider material here, such as the misdirection about the monster’s true identity and the ‘evolution’ of the baddie of the week into a new, more powerful form. That last point also highlights some pretty decent expansion of the series lore, with the Deadmans given a more tangible goal to work towards and motivation for their week-to-week shenanigans. Again, it’s not groundbreaking, but a well-executed spin on familiar tropes is fun to see nonetheless.
What’s less encouraging though is the visual and action elements of the show. There’s not really any way to deny it – Revice is an ugly show with messy, unrefined aesthetics, and that’s a big problem when flashy action is your raison d’etre. The major issue, as it has been for quite a few years now, is the production’s addiction to horrible CGI to try and pump the action to blockbuster levels, while having nowhere near the time, budget or skill to do so. The chase scene which ends episode 4 is without a doubt one of the most horrible sequences I’ve seen in any toku production, right up there with Saber‘s dreadful all-CGI battles, and the dreadful ‘fused’ animal forms are very close behind. I won’t belabour the point, since I’ve said it many times, but to me an inherent part of the appeal of tokusatsu is the stylistic camp that comes from practical effects and traditional stunts, as ‘bad’ as they may look. I like to think that even the intended audience of children understand this on some level too, and certainly I can’t imagine they’d be very impressed by the PS2-cutscene level stuff that’s shown off here. It’s a shame since the fight choreography is actually pretty solid, if a little too addicted to shakycam.
Overall I view this pair of episodes as an important step forward for Revice, proving it has the chops to handle some decent character storytelling and build out its world a little. My hope is that the questionable VFX will drop away as we get a bit deeper into the show, and the plot machinations will come to the fore. With a new Rider showing up in the next episode, it doesn’t appear that the status quo is going to settle any time soon, so let’s hope the show can keep everything together as it continues to develop.
- Mammoth form is a fairly obvious tribute to the train-themed Kamen Rider Den-O, while Ptera form is a little more subtle but super-speed and Vice’s (extremely dumb and funny) appearance as a hoverbike peg it as a homage to Kamen Rider 555.
- Hard to miss the shelves full of Kamen Rider toys and figures in Karizaki’s quarters, which does provide an amusingly tongue-in-cheek in-universe reason for why the Revice system works the way it does.
- Karizaki’s belt container is clearly just an off-the-shelf gaming PC case and it’s very funny.