First Look: Fuuto PI

Alternative title(s): Fuuto Tantei, Fuuto Pie
Tokusatsu/Manga adaptation by Studio KAI
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

In the sequel to the 2009 tokusatsu series Kamen Rider W, the Narumi Detective Agency protects the windy city, Fuuto, from attack by hideous monsters known as Dopants. The agency is headed by wannabe hard-boiled detective Shotaro Hidari, and his mysterious partner Philip. Together, they are the world’s first two-in-one Kamen Rider.

Zigg’s verdict: Half and Half

Firstly I should make one thing clear – this is absolutely not a good place for newcomers to Kamen Rider W to jump on. The show does basically nothing to introduce the existing cast, assuming viewers are already intimately familiar with them, as well as with all the gimmicks and terminology associated with its predecessor (Gaia Memories etc). In other words, this is strictly for those who are already familiar with the city of Fuuto and those who live there.

On those terms, it’s clear that this is a production with a lot of love and reverence for the original source material. Kamen Rider W‘s head writer Riku Sanjo returned to write the manga that Fuuto PI is based on and his understanding of the characters and setting is immediately apparent. Shotaro is still the lovable loser and hopeless tryhard we all know and love, Akiko is still giving him as much grief as it’s possible to give someone, and Philip is still mysterious and aloof (although he has green hair now…for some reason). The opening sequence, which reimagines the first scene of the original series, is absolutely stunning and demonstrates that Studio KAI has the chops for serious action, while also proving it’s possible to make Double look far more kinetic and superhuman in the animated medium than he possibly could in live-action.

And yet…there’s something curiously hollow about the whole affair. Part of it is definitely the absence of the original cast – while replacing them with professional voice actors makes sense on a number of levels, there’s no denying that it’s weird and alienating to hear markedly different performances of these lines. This is also where the medium shift cuts both ways – live action Kamen Rider gains a huge amount from all the scenery chewing and camera mugging which happens outside of the suited fights, and you inevitably lose those tics when moving to the much more static genre of TV anime. As I noted previously, the opening sequence is terrifically animated, but apart from that it’s an episode that’s more workmanlike than spectacular, and which occasionally looks downright rough, such as the first person entry into the agency office. Then there’s the frankly off-putting level of fanservice, with new character Tokime showing enough skin and bounce to rival the glory days of Gainax. It’s pretty crass and puzzling in what’s ostensibly a sequel to a children’s show (though it’s fairly obvious the target audience in this case is adult fans).

The net result of all of this is that it’s hard to say just how good Fuuto PI is going to be based off just this opening episode. There are certainly promising signs, and the presence of Sanjo at the helm is generally reassuring, but history shows it’s very hard to capture the cornball appeal of tokusatsu in another medium. It’ll be interesting to see how this attempt goes.

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