Superhero Time

Annotated Tokusatsu: Garo Gold Storm Soar episode 7

Jun 01 // Salvador GRodiles
Well, folks; Gold Storm has delivered a good follow-up to the last episode, as it managed to flesh out Zinga and Amily’s story a bit more. One of the neat things about their characters is that the two villains were a Makai Knight and a Priestess before they became Horrors, since it was an improvement over Garo: Makai no Hana's Monster-of-the-Week that was once a Knight. Sure, they’re obviously meant to be Ryuga and Rian's opposites, but their abilities made way for some great fight sequences. Not only that, it gave us a cool-looking Horror suit during the scene, which had the same Makai Knight vibe as Sonshi’s Horror Form from Garo: The One Who Shines in the Darkness. Aside from the great clash between two guys in costumes, the intensity behind Zinga and Amily’s actions gave that strange feeling that our heroes wouldn’t be able to escape from this situation unharmed. Of course, the sword clashes and aerial combat maneuvers in this episode were fun to follow. While they could’ve used some green screen techniques to add some special environments to improve the scene, the segment worked nice as a first encounter between the major players in the story, since they got to jump around as they fought to the death. Most importantly, we got the Makai Knight on Horror suit action that the franchise’s famous for, so that’s a major positive aspect about this whole sequence. Thanks to this scenario, Masahiro Inoue finally put his acting skills to good work, which shows how a major confrontation can go a long way. In a way, his performance shared some elements with his egotistical lines as Tsukasa in Kamen Rider Decade (like the segments where he steals the show in the alternate Rider Worlds). Hell, I guess you could say he’s like the evil counterpart of the Destroyer of Worlds. Depending on show turns out in the end, this might be one of the few instances where he’ll end up in a toku series that’s actually good. In regards to Amily's character, she still has a long way to go before she can become a great villain, as she’s still depicted as Zinga’s loyal right hand woman who follows his lead. Other than that, her attempts to one-up Rian were entertaining on their own behalf. This was due to the opposing chemistry between the two ladies, since it complements Rian’s winning streak of being a fun Makai Priestess to keep up with. Gold Storm may be far from reaching its halfway point, but first big encounter between the main heroes and the villains left us on the edge of our seats. Combined with the mysterious Makai Priest’s move to unite the special daggers, episode 7’s banquet has prepared us for the next big course in the series. Seeing that Zinga's the cannibalistic Horror, I think we can assume that he’ll use Ladan to create an unlimited food supply to feed his need for demonic creatures. Once this moment happens, then the show'll get realer than before.
Garo: Gold Storm Soar photo
Suit on suit action is back, baby
You know that a show still has some tricks up its sleeve when it starts to get even more intense than its preceding episode. Honestly, it’s hard to believe that Garo: Gold Storm Soar’s already placing Ryuga and Ri...

Annotated Tokusatsu: Garo: Gold Storm Soar episode 6

May 25 // Salvador GRodiles
For a series that’s supposed to run for 25 episodes, Gold Storm is really pushing it to the limit in these past few episodes. Each segment introduces us to a piece of the big mystery, and our main heroes make sure to follow up on every clue that comes their way. Honestly, it was amazing to see that the story hit a major point in the big conflict this early in its run. I mean, did anyone expect for Ryuga and Rian to find the source of the increase in Horror activity so soon? My assumption is that no one saw this coming. Since the secret behind Kiya Antiques felt like a halfway-point twist, the show’s staff has proven to us that things are bigger than they seem. However, what made this chapter interesting was how they grounded the key aspects that Horrors are attracted to. Even though Rian was the kind of girl who flirts with people to get what she wants, her inner desires and actions aren’t classified as Karmic feelings. All in all, it’s good to see this type of trope being implemented in the franchise, as many shows that are about hunting evil demonic creatures tend to force its heroes to be lawful good and/or fully pure. While this element has always appeared in the previous Garo installments (such as Takeru from Garo: The One Who Shines in the Darkness and Germán from Garo: The Carved Seal of Flame sleeping with various women), there’s something nice about having the series remind its viewers about this rule, since it adds an extra layer of goodness to the experience. Despite the appearance of another CG elite Horror, the action between the suit actors and the models are still an improvement over the third Garo series. Hell, the monster’s multiple arms and elephant-like features made it a neat creature. Perhaps if it was a costume, the fight might’ve been better, since the 3D creature didn’t feel much impact from the Golden Knight’s slashes. Nonetheless, there were some satisfying moments in the fight, and the end result gives us hope that the staff’s holding back their greatest assets. This hidden trump card lies in the mysterious cannibalistic Horror, since the figure's lighting shows that the creature is an actual suit. If this is anything to go by, Garo: Gold Storm Soar’s still holding a few things back from its viewers. Seeing that this new villain sports a cool undead demonic look, it’s safe to say that Amemiya and his team managed to leave us with a tasty sample to get us excited for the next course. Of course, a fight scene that features a classy old dude that pulls off Captain America-like moves with an antique shield is another great sign for things to come. At this point in the game, it’s a good thing that I chose to stick with Garo: Gold Storm Soar. Zinga and Amily may lack the qualities of being great villains, but the show’s plot manages to imply that they hold more control over the city than it seems. Based on the previews for episode 7, their time to shine might finally arrive, and things might start to get more intense. With the special daggers’ role and the mysterious young Makai Priest's motives, there are plenty of potential recipes for the staff to exploit in the upcoming weeks. One thing for sure, my stomach is ready for the next huge meal.
Garo: Gold Storm Soar photo
Boxes with anteater logos equal doom
I may’ve been keeping my fingers crossed for Garo: Gold Storm Soar to blow our minds with some amazing suit on suit action, but that isn’t stopping me from enjoying the show’s story. Since the series’ ...

Annotated Tokusatsu: Garo: Gold Storm Soar episode 5

May 18 // Salvador GRodiles
If there’s one thing that Gold Storm does right, it’s that it continues to establish continuity between its episodes each week. Even when a segment feels like a side-story, its key moments somehow manage to link the chapter to the main plot. Hell, I never expected for that one girl from episode 1 to return recently, since she seemed like she was just a random victim. In a sense, this type of format can make a program fascinating, because it lets people ponder on which characters’ll become important later on. This following issue may not affect the show’s quality, but I found it strange that the girl’s sister resorted to fooling around with guys to help her raise money to study abroad. Couldn’t she have gotten her younger sister to sign up for a grant, scholarship, or some other form of financial aid? I guess the show’s staff was trying to convey the concept of going through great lengths to help someone-- even if there were better alternatives to cover this situation. Either way, the scenario helped pave the way for Ryuga and Rian to catch on about the recent increases in Horror activity in the vicinity. Going back to what I said earlier, the way how Gold Storm handles its story allows us to feel amazed when a empty slots gets filled by a new puzzle piece, which works well in taking its viewers along for the ride. While Zinga and Amily haven’t become appealing villains yet, the mystery behind their plan to give Ladan more power is what keeps us on our seats each week. As long as the show keeps linking the Horror activities to their actions, then their first encounter with Ryuga and Rian should lead to a good breaking point in the story. If Garo: The One Who Shines in the Darkess' twist is anything to go by, then the Destroyer of World's actions should leave us with a shocked expression. Gold Storm may have not given us a cool-looking Horror suit, but this week’s design is at least a step in the right direction. While the creature was a beefed-up guy with monster arms, the staff’s detail on the man’s face made it seem like his monstrous form was about to jump out of his skin. Since the franchise’s suits are supposed to give off a scary movie vibe, I’d say that episode 5 managed to fill in this requirement, which acts as another beacon of hope. But hey, the big dude made Ryuga’s fights look cool, as they got the right shots and choreography techniques that make a fist fight between a muscular person and a normal-built dude look spectacular. Based on the program's progression so far, Garo’s sixth series is slowly feeling like the franchise we all love, which is a good sign that this'll be a good installment for the franhise. To add to its positive elements, you know a series is promising when the hero partakes in a well-shot game of darts. In actually, any sport or competitive activity could work as well. As we start to see minor characters and events link the show’s main plot together, Garo: Gold Storm Soar should start reaching new heights in the next episode. If the suits show their face again, then we might have a huge winner here.
Garo: Gold Storm Soar photo
When helping someone goes wrong
Back when I said that Garo: Gold Storm Soar had potential, I wasn’t fooling around. With each passing episode, the show continues to shine brighter than before. As we start to see the series' various story elements come together, the big mystery continues to leave us intrigued. From the looks of it, the franchise is still in good shape.


Annotated Tokusatsu: Garo: Gold Storm Soar episode 4

May 08 // Salvador GRodiles
If there’s one thing that the Garo franchise does well, it’s the world-building aspects in regards to the Makai Knights, Horrors, special realms, and all the other toppings that make up the show’s various settings. To an extent, this is one of the aspects that makes the series’ side episodes shine, since it rewards the viewers for being invested in the franchise. In regards to this week’s adventure, Daigo Akizuki’s introduction helped show off Ryuga and Rian's growth as characters. Sure, it wasn’t a big conversation, but it felt that Daigo's interpretation of Ryuga and Rian was similar to how they were in Garo: The One Who Shines in the Darkness. In a sense, this episode conveyed the two heroes’ resolve in prioritizing on the important matters during a mission, such as saving lives and what not. Basically, it’s an extra little reward for those who enjoyed following Ryuga and Rian’s development. Perhaps the big surprise this week was that Daigo’s Makai Knight Armor was an actual freaking suit, which means that Amemiya’s likely saving the costume designs for Gold Storm’s major heroes and villains. Better yet, the staff’s decision to give the guy a bulkier suit compliments the warrior’s axe fighting style. To top it all off, the emerald green color acts as the final ingredient to gives the design a badass look. Interestingly, Giga the Beast Body Knight was originally featured in a Garo pachinko game called Makai Kessen Gaoh. That being said, it’s great to see that the show’s steam used a design from the pachinko machines in the toku series, since it gives us the chance to see these characters in action. While there wasn’t a powerful Horror causing trouble in the city, the group’s fight against a horde of normal creatures helped change up the Golden Knight suit on CG Monster-of-the-Week action that’s been going on for three weeks. Hopefully, this type of thing’ll happen in future episodes. That way, the viewers can be blown away by the stunt work done by the actors that are in and out of suit. For now, Daigo's fight scenes in his human and Makai Armored Form left us with some impacting moves, which increases my hopes in him returning later on. When it seemed that Garo: Gold Storm Soar was going to follow in the same footsteps as Garo: The One Who Shines in the Darkness, the program’s team showed us that viewers are still getting their taste of well-made suits. Even though we were only treated to a new Makai Knight suit and a bunch of recycled Horror costumes, the action that was done with these suits made up for it in the long run. One thing for sure, this scenario was a tasty appetizer to keep us full until the major story with Ladan starts to kick in. Since the plot's beginning to show a transition between episodes, the payoff should be worth our time.
Garo: Gold Storm Soar photo
Hurray for more actual costumes
It may’ve been unfortunate that the latest Garo series hasn’t featured any new amazing Horror suits, but that isn’t stopping the show from bringing us a new costume. Once again, Keita Amemiya might be the gu...

First Impressions: Garo: Gold Storm Soar

May 04 // Salvador GRodiles
Just like Garo: Makai no Hana's early episodes, the sixth series throws us into the main conflict. In this installment, two mysterious figures called Zinga and Amily are behind the increase in Horror activity in the surrounding area, which leads up to them releasing Ladan, another powerful Horror, from its seal. In other words, Ryuga and Rian are in for a mission where they have to prevent these two figures from completing in their plan. Compare to the previous toku series, Gold Storm’s basic premise doesn’t do too much to pull viewers in. Instead, the show’s big appeal is getting to see Ryuga and Rian in action again. Seeing that it’s been a good while since Garo: The One Who Shines in the Darkness, the staff manage to show us that their characters have grown from back then. Ryuga seems to be more aware of his environment in battle, and Rian continues to mess with her opponents while using a gun and brush in combat. All in all, as a person who enjoyed the third Garo series, the main cast's evolution was a nice way to spice up the story. That, and Ryuga’s shuriken-shooting sheathe is an amazing way to make the guy stand out from Kouga, Raiga, and Leon. As nice as it was to see Ryuga and Rian again, the series fell short of delivering a solid performance. Sure, the show established the main conflict early on, but show’s tendency to rely on CG Horrors prevents it from reaching the same level of greatness found in the Kouga and Raiga Garo installments. Unfortunately, this continues to be a trend in Gold Storm’s second and third episode, which means that the franchise’s team might be saving the Horror costume designs for the upcoming Garo movie that stars Raiga from Makai no Hana. Nonetheless, the action choreography between the human characters continue to be a treat, since the action's still dynamic and well-shot. On top of that, each Horror-of-the-Week sports a unique design, which is an improvement over the third installment's decision to mostly feature the same creature models. Speaking of improvements, Ryuga’s battles as the Golden Knight utilize a new-and-improved Garo suit, which shows that the team’s still capable of creating cool outfits. From the detail in the armor's neck to the shoulders' new shapes, the current costume is a nice change from the one that was featured in the earlier titles. If anything, this is one factor that’s an improvement over the third series in the franchise, since we get to see the Armor’s Suit Actor partake in more stunts. Interestingly, Masahiro Inoue (Kamen Rider Decade’s Tsukasa/Decade) appears in the series as Zinga, which means that he’s retained his title as the Destroyer of Worlds. Based on his performance so far, he might evolve into an interesting villain later on. I guess it’ll all depend on how he interacts with the show’s cast during the first major encounter. For now, it's hard to determine whether he'll be a good or terrible villain, since his appearances have been brief for now. In terms of continuity, Gold Storm doesn’t require for its viewers to be familiar with its prequel film. Judging from the show’s first three episodes, the only thing that people likely missed out on was the introduction of D. Ringo, his assistant Yukihime, and Ryume, the show’s main Watch Dog. While these characters likely played a big supporting role in series’ prequel, the two shopkeepers seem to provide Ryuga with any information about his targets. Nonetheless, there’s a good chance that they’ll be more fleshed out in this installment, so viewers shouldn’t worry about feeling left out. Seeing the Gold Storm TV show’s premise is different from its movie, the program’s timeline won’t be an issue here. Even though Gold Storm lacks the same strengths that made Makai no Hana’s beginning worthwhile, the show still has the potential to be a good installment for the franchise. Since the program’s been leaving us with hints of Zinga and Amili plan for Ladan, I’m certain that the plot’ll get juicier in the later weeks to come. Hopefully, we’ll get to see some actual new Horror costumes in future episodes, since it’s one of the fine ingredients that make the Garo franchise great. Considering that the series’ visuals are an improvement from Garo: The One Who Shines in the Darkness, this is a great sign that Amemiya’s direction will turn this program into a shining success-- even if the well-designed Monster-of-the-Week suits are absent.
Garo photo
Ryuga is back, baby!
Back when it was announced that Ryuga from Garo: The One Who Shines in the Darkness would appear in a new Garo series, there are two possible outcomes that could come out of this. On one hand, we get to see Ryuga as a more ex...

Japanator Awards 2014: Sals Top 3 Toku Shows

Dec 31 // Salvador GRodiles
  3. Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger When Koichi Sakamoto and Riku Sanjo were announced as Kyoryuger’s Main Director and Main Writer, it was certain that this show was going to click well with me, since I was a huge fan of Kamen Rider Fourze and W. Luckily, the their involvement with the series resulted in a super campy series that brought joy and excitement to many viewers. While the show’s beginning was all over the place, Kyoryuger eventually found its ground, as the heroes and villains were fun to follow. Since Riku Sanjo wrote every episode, the series is also one of the few Sentai shows where the side episodes were all solid, as the writing's quality remained more consistent this time around. In fact, there were even a few occasions where the side episodes surpassed the show’s main story. Even though Kyoryuger had its moments where it became Daigo Sentai Kingranger, this didn’t stop it from becoming a terrible series that abandoned the important aspect that's present in every Sentai series. I guess you could say that the Kyoryuger’s teamwork was more similar to the ones found in shows like One Piece than the usual format that people were used to. Even then, there were still segments where the cast had to work together as one, so things balanced out in the long run. On top of that, it’s hard to go wrong with a show that features Dancing Dinosaurs, Western Dinosaurs, Kung Fu Dinosaurs, Space Dinosaurs, Dinosaur Gladiators, and a whole assortment of goodies and explosions that only serve to pump people’s enthusiasm to the max.   2. Gun Caliber: Bootleg Edition Perhaps one of 2014’s biggest treats was Garage Hero's showing Gun Caliber on their YouTube channel. At first, the film came as a raunchy comedy movie where the show’s main hero drinks, does drugs, fools around with women, and partakes in some random actions that include ruining a young boy’s birthday; however, the indie toku film’s big surprise was that these segments were used to build up to the real story where Soma’s given the opportunity to redeem himself as a hero. At the same time, Bueno and his crew’s hard work has shown us that you don’t need a huge budget to create an amazing movie, due to the fact that the production team made use of what they had to the best of their ability. Of course, the end result paid off when they made sure that Gun Caliber’s first half kept us laughing until the serious moments kicked in. While I could easily list Gun Caliber: Bootleg Edition as my number one tokusatsu for the year, I felt that it would be unfair to give the award to a movie that hasn’t reached its complete form yet. Since we haven’t seen the final finished product, Gun Caliber is still eligible to appear in my 2015 end-of-year list. For now, it’ll just have to settle as number two, which is still an impressive feat.   1. Kamen Rider Gaim Speaking of great delicacies, this year was also the time when Kamen Rider Gaim reached its true potential. Even though Urobuchi’s involvement with the series ensured that it would become a whole new beat for the franchise, it wasn’t until 2014 that we were hit with the big moment that changed the story for everyone. The show's premise about bunch of teens fighting in Pokémon-like battles for control of the dance stage ended up taking the backseat, as the series transformed into a dark tale that changed the way how people viewed fruits. Just like Gen the Butcher’s previous works, the story went into a downward spiral towards despair during the second arc and above. Other than that, Gaim even decided to take a member of the main cast that we didn’t care about much, and turn him into one of the most hated characters of the year-- and that’s not even the tip of the iceberg, folks. Despite the show’s issues with its epilogue, Gaim has shown us that under the right hands, a tokusatsu series can break out of its usual formulas (such as the Monster-of-the-Week format) on certain occasions. Since it's not everyday that a franchise breaks out of its style in a well-written manner, Kamen Rider Gaim has earned its rightful place as my favorite toku shows of the year.   Honorable Mentions: Kanpai Senshi After V, Garo: Makai no Hana
Sal's Toku Picks of 2014! photo
Don't say no, just list more!
Due to there being a short amount of tokusatsu airing on television these days, I was on the fence on doing a list about my favorite hero shows for the year. Compare to the 70s and 80s, there aren't that many shows airing bes...

Final Impressions: Garo: Makai no Hana

Dec 24 // Salvador GRodiles
For a franchise that’s known for staying away from saving people from death, Garo: Makai no Hana loves to find ways to protect its main cast from harm. Not that it’s a bad thing, since Amemiya and his crew always managed to justify their action for saving certain characters. While it might feel weird for Crow to overcome Eiris’ possession, the series’ rules state that only individuals who give off a large amount of Karmic Energy (a.k.a. people who’ve done terrible deeds or have corrupt desires) can be taken over by Horrors. This aspect also prevented characters like Kaoru from losing their humanity when they were placed in a dangerous situation like this. That being said, it seemed that Amemiya intended for this moment to be a shout-out to the first season’s finale, due to the similarities between both events. At the same time, it served as a nice way to get the viewers concerned over Crow’s well-being, since he was a great member of the show's main cast. Speaking of returning elements, Amemiya made sure to utilize various aspects from the original Garo series into the finale. From the giant topless woman to the Golden Knight's Soul Loss Form, Garo: Makai no Hana’s last two episodes didn’t hold back from bringing back the major moments that Raiga’s dad experienced during his adventures. Despite the similarities between both final battles, the battle between Raiga and Eiris still had its own unique moments, due to the Makai Flower’s ability to manipulate the vines in her body, along with Raiga’s one-time special form. Overall, the battle itself was another fine spectacle for the series, due to the great effects, action scenes, and dynamic camera work that was present during the finale. One interesting thing about Garo: Makai no Hana's story was the fact that Raiga and Mayuri’s roles were a reversed take on Kouga and Kaoru’s relationship during the original series. While Mayuri didn’t exhibit any of Kouga’s heartless intentions (such as using an innocent person as Horror bait), she basically had the same tendencies as him where she had trouble expressing her true feelings to people. Since Raiga was a better at showing people his kind side than his father, this helped create a neat chemistry between the two characters, as it brought us back to the original series’ format. Combined with Mayuri learning to adapt to human life, Makai no Hana managed to bring some cute moments to the series, which acted as a fine element to go with the story’s dark tone. While it was neat to see Garo: Makai no Hana deliver a new take on the original series’ main aspects, the show failed to wrap up the situation with Raiga’s parents. Because of this decision, the series felt like it ended on a sudden note, which disregarded the story elements that were foreshadowing towards Raiga learning about Kouga and Kaoru’s whereabouts. Perhaps if the series left us with a cliffhanger or teaser to hint at Raiga’s quest to find them, then Garo Season 4 could’ve had a more satisfying conclusion. Nonetheless, this didn’t prevent the show from being an enjoyable installment for the Garo franchise. In exchange for the lack of Kouga and Kaoru-related elements, Mayuri’s story came to great close, since the series did a good job on developing her into a character that started to feel real emotions. Of course, this aspect made Raiga's final task a difficult scene to watch, as it made us worry over Mayuri's well-being. Due to this event, the show's finale was still a wonderful closing scene for the franchise's fourth season. Unfortunately, this angle didn’t help the show’s progression, due to the series having a few side episodes that weren’t that great. Sadly, this was one of the downsides that came with the series returning to its roots. That being said, it's a shame that the team didn’t take notes from Garo: The One who Shines in the Darkness’ structure, a series where that mostly focused on the main story and characters, since it would've strengthened Garo: Makai no Hana's quality. Thankfully, there were a few interesting Horrors in the series (such as the Horror that loved scary movies), and the character-focused episode were always a nice touch (such as the segment with Gonza trying to make the best soup for Mayuri). That being said, Garo: Makai no Hana was still an entertaining series when you compare the good episodes with the decent ones. Even when the show had its decent episodes, the return of the insane-looking Horror costumes and Makai Knight Armors helped turn a majority of the show’s scenes into great segments for people who love detailed horror movie-like creatures and armored warriors. With the team being at their top game again, the series’ visuals and special effects returned to being a wonderful treat for the eyes. If anything, the show’s team has shown us that they were able to manage their budget better this time around, since the differences between Garo: Makai no Hana and their previous project, Zero: Black Blood, weren’t too major. In fact, the one of the major budget issues that the series faced was when they did the spirit beast episode, since it didn’t feature an updated version of the creature that was shown in Garo: Makai Senki. Either way, the series’ visuals were still an improvement from the third season, which means that the franchise’s staff’ll come up with some great costumes during the next series. Also, having the an improved 3D model of the Golden Knight's Soul Loss form and a special transformation with a giant golden howling wolf sword is a fantastic way to please its viewers during the final showdown. Despite Garo: Makai no Hana’s minor hiccups and issues with the usual format, the franchise’s fourth season was still entertaining. Even though the story wasn’t as good as Garo: The One who Shines in the Darkness, the exchange is that we were treated to a hero who inherited Kouga’s dedication as a Makai Knight and Kaoru’s kindness towards others, which resulted in a person who ended up being a skilled and lively character from the get-go. While it was unfortunate the series didn’t wrap up all of its loose ends, we can only hope that the upcoming Garo movie with Raiga’ll focus on the guy’s quest to be reunited with his parents. Nonetheless, the series was still an enjoyable delight, due to the features that made it feel like the Garo that we all know and love. On top of that, the team continued to show us why the Garo franchise has some of the best action sequences and special effects in tokusatsu-- well done, Tohokushinsha and Omnibus Japan. Since the fourth Garo season is a step in the right direction for the franchise, there’s a good chance that the upcoming series with Ryuga will continue this trend. One thing for sure, it’s great to have Keita Amemiya back as the show’s Director, as there are certain things that only his touch can accomplish. If anything, I guess that he following phrase could apply to this situation. Yet by the blade of knights, mankind was given hope.
FI: Garo: Makai no Hana photo
Like father, like son
When Keita Amemiya decided to return to the Garo franchise, this gave the show's fourth season the opportunity to go back to its roots, as the detailed costumes made a triumphant return. Despite the great callbacks ...

Final Impressions: Kamen Rider Gaim

Nov 19 // Salvador GRodiles
After Roshuo and Redue faced their demise, it was hard to determine the next direction that Gaim’s story was going to take. The main threat was gone, and there wasn't anything that could get in Kouta’s way-- at least that’s what Urobuchi made us think. Because of this deception, Kamen Rider Gaim’s transition towards the true finale was a wonderful experience, as the show’s loose ends with Micchy, Kaito, and the rest of the cast lead to a surprising turn of events. Despite Micchy’s downward spiral towards becoming one of the most hated characters in the series, Urobuchi did a fantastic job in his development. Honestly, it was surprising to see that he survived in the end, since it seemed to be the fate that most viewers wished for the character. In a way, this decision signifies that Micchy’ll have to live his life with the regrets of his previous actions, which made his punishment a better fate than biting the dust. Thanks to Mahiro Takasugi's great work in expressing the character's empty state, Micchy's story during the last part of the series was a solid way to bring joy to those who hated the guy with a passion, due to it fulfilling Urobutcher’s tropes that involves making a character regret their path in life. To an extent, this new level of satisfaction helped strengthen Gaim's quality in the end, as the drama made way for some great smiles and shocked expressions on the audience's faces. Of course, Kaito’s evolution towards becoming Kouta’s final obstacle was brilliant on its own behalf. Never did I expect for Ryouma to play such a big role in this event, since his kill-switch maneuver was something that caught us of guard in a clever manner. Overall, this action helped make Kaito’s transformation into an Overlord Inves a satisfying moment when a certain scientist paid the price, due to Urobuchi placing the character in a hopeless situation. At the same time, it helped show how dedicated Kaito is when it came to gaining strength, due to the delicious ingredients that were used in the transition. While the guy’s special ability felt a little far-fetched, the Butcher managed to throw in an element that justified Kaito’s power, as it complemented his determination to change the world; thus turning him into a great endgame adversary. With these aspects put into play, Gaim’s final countdown flowed in a manner where the drama and twists continued to astound the viewers as the intensity went up constantly. This was thanks to the biblical references that were thrown during the last stretch, as Urobutchi fully utilizes his ability to create philosophical statements to the fullest. One of the most interesting parts of the segment was how they connected episode 1’s first scene. Did anyone expect to see time traveling elements in Gaim?! I don’t think so. Either way, the truth behind the alternate Mai was a well-written twist, as it pieced the previous events together. Even though she was turned into a prize towards the end, it was a nice surprise to see that Mai was given a bigger role outside of being the girl who wanted everyone to survive the destruction, since it lead to some great reactions. Combined with Sagara’s true identity, the series knew how to surprise its viewers when it came to revealing certain things. All in all, the show’s staff did a fine job with playing with our expectations, and payoff worked out nicely after the big decisions were made. It’s also worth mentioning that the Butcher was able to give hope to all female Riders everywhere, as Minato/Kamen Rider Marika movie or special exclusive character. While she wasn’t part of the surviving group, her lifespan set a new record for the franchise. Despite her unfortunate death, it was great to see that she received plenty of screen time throughout the show's story-- take that, Mayu/Kamen Rider Mage from Kamen Rider Wizard. Sure, her desire to follow those with great ambition remained the same throughout the series, but she at least managed to play a good supporting role during the post Yggdrasill episodes. That being said, Minato showed us that there was more to her character outside of her preference, which made her an interesting Rider in the long run. Aside from the major twists and plot direction, it was amazing to see a good chunk of Gaim’s cast drop like flies. Even though the series is geared towards children, this didn’t stop the Butcher from unleashing his knives on the unsuspecting fruits that rest within the bowl. While the Kamen Rider franchise is no stranger to human deaths, Kamen Rider Gaim might have the most deaths in regards to important characters in the story. Perhaps the best part out of these moments was the fact that they weren’t done in the typical toku manner, as we see many Riders get knocked out of their transformations before they met their doom. On top of that, there are even some scenes that featured characters back-stabbing each other and using explosives or traps to kill off others; thus giving each confrontation a special element of surprise. In the end, these decisions intensified each death scene, as the shots and executions left us with a shocked expression. In a way, you could think of it as a Disney death taken to the extreme. Obviously, the deaths weren’t the main thing that made Gaim a solid show, as Kouta’s struggle to bring hope to everyone made way for a story that tested his resolve. Even though the guy was just a good person that desired to find a job to support his sister, his will to grow in the face of danger was expressed in the same manner how Urobuchi writes most of his main protagonists, as Kouta had to suffer on multiple occasions. From accepting his responsibility for Yuuya’s death to fighting for control of the Fruit of Knowledge, Kouta’s development was one of the great things that made his journey worthwhile. To an extent, his decisions were similar to the challenges that an adult faces, since making sacrifices is related to many real life situations. Speaking of growth, another one of Gaim’s strengths is how each story arc represents the different stages of growing up. The Beat Riders Arc focused on the teenage phase when people are discovering themselves while living a carefree life, the Yggdrasill and Helheim Saga symbolizes the perils that people face when they have to come to terms with reality after high school, and the Overlord Saga covered the importance of finding one’s resolve in the heat of crisis. Lastly, the Forbidden Fruit Storyline is all about accepting one’s path while moving forward in life. To an extent, these elements were represented through the way how the characters overcame the big players in the series (such as Pierre calling out the Beat riders on their skills, or Kouta’s opposition to Yggdrasill’s ultimate solution for saving humanity). Overall, this concept was one of the main factors that allowed for Gaim to tell a story where the Monsters-of-the-Week weren’t dominating the stage, which made the plot's progression a feel more natural this time around. In regards to the designs that appeared towards the end of the show, Kaito’s Overlord Inves Form gave off a nice Fangire vibe, since body had a stain glass-like pattern. Even though it felt like something that would fit better in Kamen Rider Kiva’s universe, Overlord Baron’s appearance was still a good choice in the end, as it suits Kaito’s fancy/royal theme that his team shows off. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about Ryugen Hell Fruit Arms, due to it being a fusion between Grape and Kiwi Arms. Seeing that Micchy’s Final Form grants him the power to use the Overlord Inves’ weapons, you’d think that it would look like a hellish warrior. Instead, the current look lacks that powerful feeling that the Gaim’s Triumphant and Zenith Arms gives off. At least the other Riders make up for the poor design, since the fusion between the fruits/nuts and the actual armors managed to create a cool look instead of looking downright ridiculous. While Gaim’s main story ended on a satisfying note, one of the show’s downsides was how the real final episode wrapped things up. For a segment that was supposed to act as an epilogue, the entire segment left a rotten stain in the exquisite fruit that Urobutcher diced up, due to Micchy’s characterization in the series. While it’s understandable for most programs to redeem a despicable character, I felt that it was too early for Mitsuzane to be accepted by everyone else-- even if Takatora was there to help him. This element alone tarnished the build-up that lead to the character becoming an empty shell filled with regret, since a seven month time skip isn’t long enough for the rest of the surviving cast to forgive him. Seeing that Urobuchi didn’t write this episode, the segment suffered from the same issues that were in the ToQger x Gaim special, as the tone didn’t go well with the way how the characters were written. If there was one positive aspect about this segment, it’s that we got to see what the rest of characters were up to after the shows ending, which added some minor satisfying aspects to Gaim's finale. Most importantly, the show’s biggest issue is that Pierre didn’t get the spotlight that he deserved. Seeing that the guy didn’t get a Soda or Ultimate Form, Gaim missed their chance to turn the pastry chef/former military personnel into a powerful warrior that would make Team Durian proud. Worst of all, they took away the man’s power-- I call shenanigans! This travesty shall continue to haunt the series for many generations to come; thus turning Gaim into one of the worst toku shows in existence. In all seriousness, while Bravo didn’t become the strongest Rider in the series, his role after the Beat Riders Arc changed him into a person who uses his expertise to help Kouta and his group instead of ridiculing them. This change allowed for us to experience a different side of the character while seeing him use his expertise in a new way. Not only that, he gave us fabulous Jonouchi, and his contribution to Zack’s plan during the final storyline was a solid event for the series. Even though Gaim’s epilogue left us with a bad taste in our mouth, this doesn’t change the fact that Urobuchi brought us an great Kamen Rider series. Thanks to the show utilizing a more organic storytelling format, the program’s event flowed more naturally than many recent Rider shows, as each segment would get resolved while opening up for more juicy bits to pull the viewers in. On top of that, Gen the Butcher’s style brought us back to the era when the series used to feature mature themes, which showed that the franchise is willing to go back to its roots from time to time. Considering that the man was a fan of the franchise before becoming the series’ Main Writer, his efforts have shown us that he cherished this position throughout the show’s run. If anything, the guy deserves a huge round of applause for his hard work on his first toku show, as he left us with a great Rider series that made up for Kamen Rider Wizard’s bland flavor. In other words, Gen the Butcher has shown us that bittersweet fruits are a way better than plain sugar doughnuts.
FI: Kamen Rider Gaim photo
Now thats how you make a Fruit Salad!
Back when it was announced that Urobuchi would become Kamen Rider Gaim’s Main Writer, it was certain that 2013’s Rider series was going to be an interesting tale. Despite Gaim being a children’s show, t...

Annotated Tokusatsu: Garo: Makai no Hana episodes 19-23

Sep 22 // Salvador GRodiles
Even though Garo: Makai no Hana’s had a hit-or-miss run, the main episodes continue to be the best ones in the series. However, there are many cases where the side stories can entertain us if the Horror uses a sinister method to feasts on its prey. Speaking of great monsters, Abiscore has to be one of the silliest Monolith Horrors in the series, as his ability to create music with people’s souls lead to an amusing segment. Combined with his creepy yet goofy appearance, the actor that played the Horror’s human form did a phenomenal job in winning us over with his insanely enthusiastic personality. Honestly, it’s moments like these that make me enjoy the Garo franchise, due to the twistedness behind the most of the creature’s hunting routines-- especially the ones who do it with a huge smile. When these villains are done right, you can tell that the show’s staff had a blast with the way how they have the Horrors murder their victims. The same can be said with the other two episodes, as Duoct and the Gogeet both came with some intriguing twists that made their segments worthwhile, as they both handled the victims differently from the previous episodes. Also, it’s hard to go wrong with a series that has the hero go up against mechanical golem that’s accompanied by a schoolgirl and a guy who resembles a Horror Makai Knight on two different occasions. Aside from the creative creatures, the build-up towards Eiris’ awakening was one of the best parts present in these episodes. While the culprit wasn’t a recurring character in the series, his connection to Crow helped strength the guy’s presence. This was thanks to the connection that Raiga shard with Eiji, as Garo’s team foreshadowed this moment earlier in the series. Speaking of which, did anyone expect for Akari to be important again? Honestly, it was unexpected to fined out that her role was used to emphasize Eiji’s motives for going rogue. Sure, his reasoning was simple, but it was strong enough to leave an impact on the main cast; thus leading to a dramatic moment that surprised the show's audience. Surprisingly, the action present in these episodes flowed quite nicely, since the show’s staff applied some creative aspects to each battle. This application came from the team’s decision to have Raiga fight to an orchestrated theme. All in all, the whole segment had a harmonious balance between the music and the action, which gave the scene an artistic feel. While the other battles didn’t have any major stylized elements added to them, the fights’ swordplay, choreography, and special effects were still breathtaking, due to the show’s action budget remaining consistent throughout episodes 19 through 23. Of course, the Horror designs continue to shine, as we witness a scary wrinkly demonic old man-like creature, an impressively detailed mechanical golem, and a monstrous knight that looks like a major enemy from Dark Souls. Based on the articulation behind each monster, Garo’s staff deserves the award for Best Tokusatsu Monster Design of 2014. Other than that, Giru the Serpent Bone Knight gave off a Kiba the Dark Knight vibe, as his armor had a sinister look to it. Personally, I think that the horns and spikes on Eiji’s suit was the factor that made his armor feel villainous. At the same time, Giru’s design played a nice role in messing with our expectations when the next unexpected event started to unfold. Thanks to these decisions, the show’s costume designers deserve some praise for using a great-looking armor in this manner. As Garo: Makai no Hana begins to prepare for its final two episodes, the series did an amazing job in guiding us through these five great episodes. The show's monster designers continue to show off their great creativity, and the Eiris-related events took the show to a whole new level, as we were hit with many great surprises (such as Eiris’ host). Based on how the events unfolded recently, let’s hope that Crow survives this ordeal somehow. Considering that Eiris is only using Crow as a vessel at the moment, there’s a small chance that Raiga might save him, since the situation is similar to Kaoru’s scenario where she was being used as a medium to awaken Messiah during Garo Season 1's final arc. Even if Crow ends up with a terrible fate, I’m certain that Amemiya and his crew’ll deliver a solid finale for the show’s fourth season. Who knows, we might see the return of a certain couple before things come to an end.
AT: Garo: Makai no Hana photo
Aren't flowers supposed to be beautiful?
It looks like Garo: Makai no Hana is on a roll again. As the show begins its final arc, Amemiya and his crew have managed to remain on a solid winning streak for five episodes. Come to think of it, it wasn’t too hard for Garo: Makai no Hana to impress us, as there were a some great bits of comedy and serious moments present in these segments.

Annotated Tokusatsu: Ressha Sentai ToQger episodes 23-26

Sep 11 // Salvador GRodiles
After leaving us with a surprising cliffhanger during episode 22, ToQger managed to hit us with another intense segment. Yes, I've used the word "intense" a lot recently, but that's basically the feeling that the whole marriage arc gives off. While it was obvious that Zed was going to return somehow, the way how the plot transitioned towards this event was a fine example on how to surprise an entire audience. Aside from that, the part where the main ToQger started to awaken their new memories of their hometown served as a nice way to bridge the episode’s segments together. At first, it felt like the scene was going to ruin the spine-tingling momentum that episode 22 created, but the character development benefited the arc’s overall quality in the long run. Perhaps the most interesting part in these episodes was the fact that the ToQger’s Line Transfer mechanism played a big role in their next journey. Originally, I dismissed this feature as a poorly-implemented gimmick, but the way how the team’s new mission came into play helped give me a more positive outlook on the special transformation. Hell, the system's true purpose served as a way for the show to thread into new grounds, since it required for the team to change their usual routine. Considering that these segments have the potential to be the most intense part of the series, Yasuko Kobayashi managed to take the show’s aspects to a whole new level. While the show’s intensity levels started to drop after during episodes 25 and 26, both segments helped flesh out the characters in a silly manner. Since the show’s quality has been going up lately, the scene about Tokatti’s hero and Akira’s passion for bathhouses were both enjoyable for what they were. Despite the differences between the two episodes, one common aspect that they shared was the concept of holding on to something dear. Even though this is another trope has been used in the Sentai franchise, Tokatti’s development and Akira’s bathhouse 101 moments both managed to expand on their interests and personality. Seeing that there were a few silly aspects from these scenes, the two episodes have proven to us that ToQger’s side episodes are getting better. On the design side of things, the ToQger’s new mecha combination looks alright. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the Super Duper ToQ Dai-Oh might have one the longest giant robot names in the Super Sentai franchise. Either way, the machine’s design wasn’t too bad, since the Build Dai-Oh’s parts were able to combine with the ToQ-Oh’s Total Recall-like train boobs to create a better chest for the colossal machine. All in all, the combination worked well as a means to resolve the team’s issues with Grita and Schwarz, as it symbolized the team's desire to overcome all odds while they search for their hometown. At the same time, the scene itself lived up to the emotional moments that the franchise is known for. Also, Akira's reasoning for strengthening the group's bond was priceless.  Seeing that Zed’s been a great villain so far, it’s great to see that ToQger has given him a monster form that suits his personality. From the fabulous coat to the amazing Demon Overlord physique, the Emperor of Darkness sports a look that shows off his threatening power. Hell, Zed's white coat helped represent his desire to absorb anything that exhibits high levels of “Shining,” as it's the most vibrant part of his design. While I was expecting for his true form to be saved for the show’s final arc, the team’s decision to reveal it before the halfway point served as neat way to hint that things are going to get fierce during the later Shadow Line-themed episodes. On top of that, Zed’s monster form helped solidify the ending of the marriage arc, due to unexpected outcome that came from the scene. Of course, the Rook, Spotlight, and Coin Shadows deserve a mention for helping the series keep up its track record in having cool or creepy monsters go up against the ToQger. Obviously, this isn't much of a surprise as most toku shows that Kobayashi's involved with tend to feature villains that can strike fearful elements to its viewers. I mean, it takes a good amount of creativity to turn a spotlight and a normal coin into a scary-looking creature, which is a good sign that the show's designers are at the top of their game. Even though ToQger’s been on a good roll recently, there were a few minor issues that bothered me recently. This has to do with the fact that Akira lifted a bathhouse without destroying the entire foundation. When you take how a building’s structure works, it’s hard to believe that the Build Express was able to life the place without it falling apart. If the guy would’ve found a way to hook up the equipment to the ground, then the segment might’ve worked better for the scene. But wait. What about the pipeline that runs through the establishment? I guess we can just add this element to the list of cheesy aspects that can be found in tokusatsu. In other words, Akira’s crazy plan didn’t ruin the bathhouse episode’s quality. Based on the way how ToQger’s episodes haven been handled lately, the show has proven to us that it’s in the clear, as it delivered a fine resolution to Noire’s grand scheme. Combined with the concept of liberating the towns that were consumed by darkness, there’s plenty of new potential for the series’ plot to grow and exceed our expectations even further. As long the side episodes remain enjoyable, ToQger’s next half should remain on track until its successor is ready to battle evil. Since the chapters that happened after episodes 23 and 24 were enjoyable, I believe that the staff’s imagination has improved.
AT: ToQger photo
Imagination Express!
Honestly, I never expected to use the word “Super Duper” around here, since the term feels rather childish. Then again, ToQger is a children's show after all, so I shouldn't be surprised when a term like this pops...

Final Impressions: Kanpai Senshi After V

Sep 03 // Salvador GRodiles
In many toku shows, one never questions the team’s state after they defeat their main adversary, since they tend to have a happy life after their show ends. However, when you take into account that the After V gets paid for being heroes, one starts to wonder what'll happen to their career when they take out the Commander. Would they move on to the next threat, or will our heroes have to consider a new line of work? Thanks to this situation, After V’s final three chapters managed to transform into an emotional experience, as we’re given many segments that made us concerned for the heroes and the villains' well-being. Speaking of which, After V’s new direction was pure genius, since it conveys the saying where “you can’t have good without evil” in a simplistic yet funny manner. On top of that, the show's staff lays down the proper ingredients for the viewers to care for the Commander and Kee. Hell, the moments that involved the show's main villains were some of the most emotional segments that the series had to offer, since there was a slight chance that the program would end in a depressing manner. Part of the final arc’s success was the fact that we all grew to care about the show's heroes and villains throughout their bar-hopping adventures. Prior to this event, the main thing that made After V great was the interesting chemistry between the team's members. While the running gag with Red trying to keep the team together didn’t last too long, part of the show’s entertainment factor was watching the main cast develop when they had to overcome certain obstacles that could hinder the team’s ability to work together (such as Green's inability to hold his liquor). These challenges showed that the team’s hangout sessions were no different from the ones that regular people experience. As a person who tends goes out with his friends every week, I was able to connect with the After V’s scenarios, since they were a few moments where my buddies and I faced a few obstacles before we became close comrades. While the New Yellow episodes were After V’s weakest segments, it’s understandable that the character’s purpose was to show how the team would act when a cute girl interferes with their usual routine. Honestly, these segments weren't that great, as New Yellow didn’t contribute to the show’s comedic aspects. Nonetheless, the series managed to restore its honor when they showed how the Commander’s struggles would affect the rest of the team. In a way, this build-up worked as a great way to show how the show’s heroes and villains are similar when it comes to making a living. Even though After V lacked the campy/flashy action sequences that make toku shows entertaining, the series still managed to hold its own with the dialogue between the characters in the two bars. From the various expressions to the timing between lines, the show held its own with the way how the wacky conversations were handled. To an extent, the costumes helped make the show look like a Sentai series from the 70s, which made the show's cheesy designs feel right at home. With all said and done, After V showed us that you don’t need flashy fight scenes and explosions to make a costumed hero show fun. As long as we’re treated to a program with a premise where we can connect with the characters through serious and/or humorous moments, then there’s a good chance that the audience won’t be disappointed. While After V isn’t on the same level as other toku parody shows like Akibaranger, the show’s sitcom-like presentation gave it the strength to win people's hearts regardless. On top of that, the series brought us a great take on the endless battle between good and evil that managed to change our outlook on evil organizations. On that note, let’s give one last toast to After V for being an enjoyable sitcom that made us laugh and cry. Since the show’s team did a great job with this series, let’s hope that they’ll bring us another interesting project down the road, as I’d like to see what they’ll do next. For now, show's team deserves a drink on the house for their great efforts in creating the wonderful concoction known as Kanpai Senshi After V. Cheers, everyone!
FI: After V photo
Its time for one last drink
Back when After V premiered during the Spring Season, I couldn't help but to be excited over the fact that we were getting a sitcom about a Sentai team that spends their time in bars after battle. While the show’s premi...

Annotated Tokusatsu: Kamen Rider Gaim episodes 40-41

Aug 25 // Salvador GRodiles
Whenever a show forces their protagonist to make an important choice, you know that something big is about to go down. While this is a recurring element in most fictional materials, this didn’t prevent Gaim from doing a solid job in conveying Kouta’s inner conflict. One element that sealed the deal was how they placed the hero on the receiving end of the situation when the team chose to go with a "what if" scenario where Yuuya became Gaim. Aside from acting as a great build up towards Kouta’s final answer, the series gave us an idea of what the Inves are thinking when they're attacking other individuals. In fact, Kouta’s situation made us question the previous monster battles in the series, as most of fights weren’t as one-sided as we thought. All in all, this segment worked great as a means to help Kouta discover his personal goal before the show transitions towards the real climax. In addition to our main hero's development, the show has finally paved the way for the series’ final part when they chose to kill off Gaim’s two major characters. Honestly, it’s hard to believe that things went the way they did, since one of the Overlord's king has the ability to warp his surroundings. While this segment was foreshadowed earlier in the series, most viewers were expecting for this moment to happen during the show’s last stretch. Thanks to Urobuchi's deception, the actions shown during Roshuo and Redue’s last stand acted as a phenomenal way to resolve the show's current conflict. Even though Gaim hasn’t reached episode 45 yet, Urobuchi and the rest of the show’s staff have made some interesting decisions with the way handed the endgame content. Perhaps the best part out of the main battle was how the recent betrayal happened so unexpectedly. Normally, a show would leave a few pieces for the viewers to assemble before the big moment. However, Gaim's team managed to shoot the scene in a manner that left the program’s viewers with a shocked expression. Of course, Redue's acting helped spice up the moment, since her expressions were priceless during the scenes after Roshuo's death. In a way, this action helped make her demise turn into a satisfying treat for Gaim's viewers, due to the way how her reactions changed when she learned about Roshuo's final action. Overall, Kamen Rider Gaim continues to leave a solid mark with the way how the story has progressed. Our hero’s resolve was achieved through a manner that was meant to break him, and the major battles made us yearn for the next act's big events. Since Toei did a great job in handling the Overlord Inves’ demise, the upcoming episode should lead to some amazing reveals-- especially with the way how Kouta’s powers have developed recently. Considering that these two episodes have left us with some interesting leftovers (such as Mai’s situation), the show’s dramatic moments are going to mess with our expectations again. Judging from the tone that’s been set, I’m certain that Urobutcher’s planning to cut up a new cuisine when the alliances change during the next arc.
AT: Kamen Rider Gaim photo
Ill turn you into fruit juice!
We’re at the bottom of the inning, and Urobutcher continues to hit his home-runs like it’s no tomorrow. Based on the current score board, Kamen Rider Gaim's events from episode 40 and 41 have changed the playing field for the upcoming segments. One thing for sure, the last stretch is going to be an intense journey through the fruit aisle.

Annotated Tokusatsu: Garo: Makai no Hana episodes 17-18

Aug 20 // Salvador GRodiles
Despite Garo: Makai no Hana’s tendency to weaken during a few segments, Amemiya and Tohokushinsha managed to grace our presence with the way how they handled Raiga’s childhood. While the nostalgic element was the main thing that sealed the episode for many viewers, the way how Rei tested the young Knight played a big part in making this episode great, as it gave us an idea on how the kid developed in the Knight that he is today. Even though this theme has been shown many times in the earlier Garo seasons, the franchise somehow managed to make each moment stand out, as each main Knight has been well-established. Part of the appeal comes from the fact their resolve tends to be conveyed in a powerful manner. In Raiga’s case, the scenarios that he was placed through were typical situations that normal kids would back out of. I mean, if you were given this choice as a child, would you give up your normal life to protect society from evil demons? Actually, that might depend on one's upbringing. Anyway, Garo’s staff handled the kid’s development in a manner that helped justify the reasoning behind the show's main hero's determination and compassion. Coincidentally, the Makai no Hana was able to convey a similar theme in the next chapter, which gave both episodes a fine transition in terms of good story progression. While the concept of a Horror Makai Knight was covered in the previous season, the show never touched upon the idea of having a Knight get possessed by a Karmic Horror. In many other fictional mediums, these tropes tend to cause certain characters to become soft when a close person faces a terrible curse or transformation; thus contributing to Garo’s theme about how no one can be saved once a Horror takes over their body. However, the real kicker in this episode was the fact that it gave the show's new character Biku the time to shine. For a character with a simplistic role in episode 18, Biku's drive to complete her mission helped shape the commitment theme that episode 17 presented. In fact, her presence helped establish episode 18's Horror, as there was a connection between the two characters. Overall, the team's decision to handle Biku's role the way they did managed to make up for the Profandes episode from a few weeks back. Once again, the series hits its high notes with the costume designs, as Ratel's appearance looked like a fusion between a Makai Knight and a grotesque alien. Honestly, it was the ragged clothes that added to the design, since it helped give the creature a mysterious feel before we saw its face. In a way the lack of a monstrous body helped make the confrontation move smoothly, as the guy in the suit was able to pull off some swift moves without any issues. All in all, the decision to keep his body clothed was a good element that helped the episode’s choreography shine. Other than that, the team did an impressive job in handling the training fight between young Raiga and Rei. It's not too often that you see a well-made fight with a child doing kicks and slashes while performing various jumps. Of course, Biku's fight scenes remind us of the jaw-dropping Makai Priest techniques that mixes magic and martial arts. Hell, the show's visual effects team even gave her a few moves to make her stand out from the usual Priest (such as the magical bow and arrow), which worked great in the long run. That being said, Garo's crew gone out of their way to ensure that we're entertained with the show's two recent episodes. After having a weak 16th episode, Garo: Makai no Hana was able to deliver two good episodes, which was thanks to ingredients that managed to push the plot forward. Of course, Rei’s cameo added to the show’s positive aspects, as the character’s veteran status played a nice role in both shaping Raiga as a person, along with causing Garo’s viewers to rejoice over Zero’s return. Overall, the show has set some new grounds for how the next set of episode will develop, and it’s going to take some good planning to make sure that these segments shine. More importantly, the main villain’s motive will be a key factor as well, since Eiris’ special ability screams for the mysterious Makai Priest to have an interesting reasoning for breaking the seal. In the meantime, let’s hope that Biku will contribute to the story in the later episodes, as the Red Lotus is something that Garo’s staff could use to improve the show’s world-building aspects.
AT: Garo: Makai no Hana photo
Watch out for the hooded figure
Whenever Garo: Makai no Hana goes through a weak moment, the show somehow manages to come out strong during the next episode. That being said, a backstory and a progression segment is just what the doctor ordered to help improve the program’s quality. Thanks to a special touch, things are still looking bright for the series’ overall quality.

Annotated Tokusatsu: Ressha Sentai ToQger episode 22

Aug 10 // Salvador GRodiles
If someone told me that ToQger’s story had the potential to be dark back when the show first premiered, I might’ve laughed at their face for spouting out random nonsense. To be honest, I’m not that bad of a person, so I wouldn’t resort to such a devious action. Anyway, it’s surprising to see that the show has experienced a tonal shift when we learn the truth behind Noire’s master plan. While we were already aware that Grita’s mother had an ulterior motive for getting her daughter to marry Zed, the way how ToQger transitioned into the moment was rather surprising. Because of Zed’s current situation, it’s impressive that the show brought up a scenario that’d be better suited for a final arc. Thanks to this sequence, the series has exceeded my expectations when the Shadow Line started to gain the upper hand on the Rainbow Line’s heroes. Well played, Toei and Yasuko Kobayashi. Overall, this episode has proven to us that ToQger has what it takes to become an enjoyable Sentai series when the show reaches its last moments. Both Schwarz and Grita gave off a menacing feel when they started their backhanded plan to destroy the ToQger once and for all. Since it’s not too often that we see a major General use the team’s own power against them, this episode had the right ingredients to put us at the edge of our seats. Sure, the ToQger should’ve won with their superior machines, but Schwarz’s experience with controlling trains was too much for the team to handle. So how does this contribute to the episode’s quality? Basically, the Shadow Line’s recent victory represents the story’s turning point where it seems that all hope is lost for our heroes; thus paving the way for another two-part segment with a fierce vibe. Seeing that ToQger’s villains are the life of the party, it feels really nice to see these evil doers pull off a job where they trick the heroes into losing one of their prized weapons. Also, it was a big surprise to find out that the one General who we thought was going to be the major one to betray Zed ended up being the most loyal of the bunch. In a way, this outcome has changed the way how ToQger’s viewers perceive certain villains. Of course, we also have to thank Noriko Hidaka for her performance as Grita during episode 22. Compare to her usual lines, Hidaka actually managed to make the Empress of Darkness’ sinister voice look convincing, since this isn’t the Schwarz-obsessed lady that we all know and love anymore. Seeing that we need a convincing villain to make turn this arc into a solid moment for ToQger, Hidaka nailed her role with flying colors. Originally, I came in expecting a wedding that’ll improve the villains’ morale. Instead, I received a fantastic chapter that’ll affect how the show’s later episodes will go. Hopefully, this is a sign that ToQger’s heading into some darker territories soon. However, before I count my chickens too early, let’s assume that new robot combination will resolve this whole mess. Either way, this episode has given us some great progress, so it’ll be nice to see how the ToQger will turn things around next time.
AT: ToQger photo
Being married is suffering
Wait a minute! I thought that marriage was supposed to be a wonderful time when two people who love each other want to start a family. Normally, everyone gets to partake in some food and an extravagant cake during the ceremon...

Annotated Tokusatsu: Garo: Makai no Hana episode 16

Aug 04 // Salvador GRodiles
There's something off about starting a Garo episode without establishing the Horror's presence first-- especially when the show throws the viewers into the middle of a conflict before building things up. While Kiera's attraction was hinted to play a role in her plans to feast on the masses, I would've preferred to have had a segment where we see the Horror possess her first, as the victim's corrupt desires is one of the key aspects that makes the Horror-of-the-Weeks interesting. When this ingredient isn't placed in the show's story well, the rest of the chapter tends to lose its momentum. Honestly, Profandes’ tendency to rejoice over people’s screams could've made her an enjoyable character with the right backstory. Even though Kiera had the right spark to make her first kill fascinating for the audience, I would've liked to have seen a segment that explains her obsession with wanting to see her victims in fear before eating them. Since the episode didn't push the story forward, Garo's production team missed their chance to have this Horror steal the show. In regards to the episode's action scenes, Raiga’s recent battle felt like watching two people fighting inside of Disney’s Hollywood Studios' Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride. I mean, what else can I say? The production team was able to come up with another fine spectacle that goes with the episode’s theme; thus acting as another treat for fans of over-the-top action sequences. Seeing that it would be lazy of me to leave things like this, the battle’s Tower of Terror vibe mostly came from the transition from the motion simulator to the Demon World. Just like the actual Disney attraction, the fall ended up being the most intense part of the scene when you realize that there's no ground at the bottom. In a way, this feeling is similar to the sensation that most people get during a long drop. Unfortunately, Profandes’ design didn’t invoke any form of terror, as her appearance was just another sexy Horror with a creepy face. Personally, I was expecting Kiera to be one of those monsters who would give people nightmares whenever she gave off a creepy laugh. Normally, the Horrors’ forms tends to suit their motives, so it was a bit of a bummer to see that Profandes wasn't a frightening creature. Perhaps if they switched episode 14’s Horror with 16's, then we might’ve ended up with a scary monster. Either way, any Garo series that Keita Amemiya’s involved in is known for showing good craftsmanship in the costumes used for the monsters, so they still manage to remain top notch-- even if they don’t meet our expectations. Despite the segment's disappointing elements, Garo: Makai no Hana's 16th episode wasn't terrible, since the visuals used in the motion simulator were creative. Luckily, the show's experienced more hits than misses, so things'll most likely get better when they cover Raiga’s backstory next time. If we’re lucky, we might see Kouga again (fingers crossed). 
AT: Garo: Makai no Hana photo
Try not to wet yourself
Congratulations, Garo: Makai no Hana. You’ve managed to remind me that it’s been a long time since I’ve ridden on a roller coaster, let alone a motion simulator. Oh great. Now a part of me wants to experienc...

Annotated Tokusatsu: Kamen Rider Gaim episode 39

Aug 02 // Salvador GRodiles
As much as I enjoyed the whole build-up towards Kouta and his group sneaking into Yggdrasill, it seemed that Urobuchi was missing an important ingredient in his diced fruit salad. Due to this predicament, it almost felt like this episode was less than ten-minutes long. I guess that this has to do with the fact that there wasn’t a big moment to surprise or leave us in shock, as the majority of Gaim focused on a series of random fight sequences. Sure, there were a few important moments that occurred during the episode, but there’s something strange about having this sort of pacing when the show’s about to hit its final stretch. Despite this episode being mostly action oriented, there were some interesting tidbits that made it enjoyable (such as Micchy's ongoing quest to become a huge jerk). Overall it was surprising to see that Urobuchi chose to handle Micchy’s recent descent into madness realistically, as he could've turned the character into an full-fledged maniac. This shows that even Mitsuzane can't shrug off his emotions and doubts that easily. While I still hate the guy’s guts for treating everyone around him as expendable tools, you still have to hand it to Gaim for having the guy stay true to his motives as he battles his inner regrets. Speaking of which, I found Micchy’s huge obsession with Mai to be pathetic. For goodness sake, the girl has no interest in the guy, and yet, he continues to hold her against her own will (what a creep). It’s no wonder why Mitsuzane’s insane right now. Poor Mai. And to think that Mai still has faith in seeing Micchy redeem himself. Then again, it’s moments like these that show how well Mahiro Takasugi’s performance is when it comes to playing a character that’s meant to be despised. Hell, Micchy might get a special award for being the Most Hated Tokusatsu Character of 2014. On the action side of things, it’s nice to see that the supporting Riders were given the chance to shine once more. Even if the scene overstayed its welcome, I won’t deny the fact that the episode’s prolonged battle was entertaining. I mean, how often do you see a giant Mecha Watermelon with a pair of --that’s right-- Watermelon Boxing Gloves go up against a horde of Flower and Fruit-themed robots? Only in an Urobutcher Kamen Rider series, folks. Thanks to these touches and more, it’s hard to not be surprised with the way how Gaim’s battles play out from time to time-- especially when a minor characters gets to kick butt. If there’s one thing that still bothers me about Gaim, it’s how the show continues to throw random Overlord Inves at us. Compared to Roshuo, Redue, and Demushu, these guys don’t seem to have much of a purpose in the story, except for being a random target for the main Riders to crush. While I enjoy seeing people in crazy-looking hero or monster costumes go up against each other, the villains should have a justified reason for sending a bunch of unexpected minions to destroy the hero. If Gaim would've hinted at the existence of other Overlords, then their presence would've been better established.  Once again, this issue is still minor, as Gaim’s narrative obliterates its problems like a single grape that gets overwhelmed in a blender that’s filled with bananas. In the end, the people can barely taste the grape in the mixture, since the banana is the dominant ingredient in the recipe. The same can be said about Gaim’s overall quality, as the show's dark premise about fruits and the end of the world overshadow the Overlord-of-the-Week flaw that arose lately. As we’re getting closer towards the show’s final episode, there are many promising things to come. From Ryouma’s ulterior motives to Kouta’s fate, Gaim has some tragic events that're the works. Hopefully, the show’ll handle the next parts differently from Kamen Rider OOO, since it would feel strange for Gaim to copy an existing theme without adding its own original take to the mix. In the meantime, we'll just have to wait for Gaim to return from its short break. Curse you, unexpected interruptions! 
AT: Kamen Rider Gaim photo
Unlimited Fruit Works
Man. Time sure flies when you’re watching the world end. One moment, we're listening to a bunch of characters spouting out random lines about their ideals and what not. Then things break out into an all-out Fruity Warfa...

Annotated Tokusatsu: Ressha Sentai ToQger episode 21

Jul 29 // Salvador GRodiles
It turns out that Noire has a secret reason for getting Grita to marry Zed. Of course, when the young lady learns about her mother’s plan, she decides to escape her fate with the help of the Bubble Shadow, a monster that’s capable of switching people’s consciousness. Little did Grita know, but there’s a terrible aftermath that results from using her subordinate’s power. Once again, ToQger managed to take a filler-like theme and make it relevant to the show’s main story. To add to Toei’s great decision, the Freaky Friday elements were applied to the entire ToQger team, so we were treated to a slightly intense moment where our heroes had to return to their bodies as soon as possible. In reality, the body-switching theme wasn’t the the episode's main attraction, since the real winner in this chapter was the Shadow Line’s current state. For a good while, we knew that Nero, Noire, and Schwarz had their own plans to gain power within the Shadow Line. While the General was acting behind the scene, the other two elite members were always quarreling when they weren’t commencing their unknown agendas. Perhaps the best part out of this situation is that Zed allows each party to do what they wish, since he finds the whole thing to be rather amusing. All in all, these situations prove that the Shadow Line’s one of the most dysfunctional evil groups in a Sentai series, which adds to one of the key elements that's improving ToQger’s plot. While the Mio segment wasn’t that great, the scenes between her and Kagura acted as a decent way to teach kids to be more honest to their close friends. Personally, I felt that this moral has been conveyed better in other Sentai shows; however, this episode’s main focus was to expand on Grita’s story, so we could let this situation slide for now. Speaking of which, Riria deserves some praise for adding some new life to Grita's character when she was lip syncing Noriko Hidaka's voice. As Noire’s plan becomes ToQger’s main point right now, I think we’re about to see the first major battle against one of the Shadow Line’s elite. Since we’re nearing the show’s halfway point, Grita’s wedding’ll probably be the first big thing to occur soon-- unless if Schwarz’s plan kicks in first. If things are going the way I’m thinking, then we’ll start to see Yasuko Kobayashi’s creepier elements kick in soon. Since the royal matrimony's going to be a major event, I’m certain that the ToQger are getting a new Robot combination. If we end up with another terrible-looking machine, then we can just settle with seeing ToQger’s new story developments become even better than before.
AT: ToQger photo
Freaky Fridays back, baby
I love Fridays. Whenever this day arrives, I can’t help but to rejoice over the fact that the weekend has started. Even if I have to work during that time frame, there’s something refreshing about reaching the fif...

Annotated Tokusatsu: Kamen Rider Gaim episode 38

Jul 27 // Salvador GRodiles
Right when our heroes lose their opportunity to fight back with Takatora’s help, Ryouma returns to help the group retaliate against the Overlord Inves. Of course, this action has caused most of the gang to reconsider their options, as they’ll be helping a man that only wishes to use the Fruit of Knowledge to become an omnipotent being. In all actuality, the only thing that matters is seeing Micchy transform into a bigger scumbag that no one loves. Prior to Takatora’s death, Mitsuzane let his emotions mess with his actions. Even then, the guy’s manipulative tendencies have always made up for his lack of fighting experience. However, when a person ignores their feelings in a fight, they’ll be able to achieve a state where they'll gain tremendous advantage over their opponent. In fact, when Micchy abandoned his fear and doubts, he was able to put up a good fight against Kouta and Kaito. Since Micchy caught Zenith Arms' Mango Punisher, the wannabe Melon Soda Rider's on a whole new level right now. Then again, the two former rivals weren’t at their top game, so there's a chance that the inferior Shin Zangetsu just got lucky. All in all, Kamen Rider Gaim did a fantastic job in handling Micchy’s inner battle, as we got to see Takatora trying to make the guy regret his current actions. Whether the Hawk Tiger was a ghost or a figment of Micchy’s imagination will depend on how things unfold later on. One thing for sure, I think it’s safe to say that Mitsuzane has reached the point where his own obsession has gotten the best out of him. In fact, the guy might be considered as an evil maniacal psychopath right now. While many of us hate the guy even more, I think that we can all agree that Micchy’s progression towards becoming a villainous madman was well-written. Judging from Kouta’s current state, I could see one of the other Riders (perhaps Kaito) slaying Mitsuzane while he tries to knock some sense into him. Then again, Micchy went a bit too far when he captured Mai and sent an Overlord Inves to injure Peco, so our main hero might have to reassess his goals. Even though Kouta has already found his path, the man's ideals still revolve around everyone’s well-being. That said, our hero's desire will determine if his position in the battle for the Fruit of Knowledge, which could lead to him having to face his comrades. As Gaim gets ready to embark on its final arc, I'm interested in seeing where Kouta's decision'll take him. If the show plans to take some notes from Kamen Rider OOO's finale, then the Orange Rider's goal'll play a major role in the last battle. Since Kouta and Kaito are joining forces with Ryouma, we might be getting closer towards the gang’s final confrontation against Redue. Once that situation’s been taken care of, then Gaim can finally commence the real battle that’ll determine Earth and Mai’s fate. Seeing that we have a few characters who have a bone to pick with Micchy, there are still plenty of fruits for Urobutchi to dice in his scrumptious dish known as Kamen Rider Gaim. Thanks to the show's consistency in bringing us some great episodes, the next course'll be a satisfying treat for us to consume.
AT: Kamen Rider Gaim photo
Emotions Squashed!
It’s time to go back to Kamen Rider Gaim’s main story, and things are about to get fierce again. Is there no more hope for our heroes to triumph over evil? Well, I guess there’s one option that Gaim’s ...

Annotated Tokusatsu: Garo: Makai no Hana episodes 14-15

Jul 25 // Salvador GRodiles
Eiris’ seed has finally showed herself, and it’s up to Raiga and the gang to seal her once and for all. While it seemed that Garo: Makai no Hana was rushing the Horror’s debut, the show came up with a plausible excuse to prevent our main heroes from confronting the evil entity. At least we got to learn that Raiga and Mayuri’s quest to stop Eiris won’t be a simple one, since they’ll need to seal the other Monolith Horrors before they can kill the Demonic Flower. More importantly, we were treated to Mayuri’s backstory, which was rather depressing. Seeing that the girl’s mother was possessed by a Horror when she gave birth to her, one can see that Mayuri went through a tough childhood. Due to her special powers, the Mystic Tool has to keep her inner Cage under control; otherwise the Horrors that she sealed away would turn her into a monster. Ironically, I had a feeling that Mayuri was going to experience a scenario like this sooner or later, so I wasn’t too surprised when episode 14 had her overcome a Horror that was trying to escape from the Cage. In regards to episode 14’s visuals, I really enjoyed the grainy effects when Raiga fought the Horror-of-the-Week in the place with the spinning clock gears. Of course, the ink effects used in the show’s backstory segments continue to give off an artsy vibe. As always, Omnibus Japan and Tohokushinsha Film’s work on the series always manages to make up for the chapters that were filmed on a smaller budget. Overall, Garo: Makai no Hana did a great job with the way that they handled Mayuri’s conflict, as she was thrown into scenarios where she could’ve eaten an innocent bystander. It also helped that the Horror-of-the-Week wore a sinister sexy grin while tempting the girl to feast on human beings. Other than that, we got to see Raiga’s true kindness towards Mayuri when he entered her subconsciousness to slay the Horror inside of her. I mean, shortening your lifespan to save someone is one of the noblest things that you could do for someone, which means that Raiga’s truly a good person. Since we still have a way to go before the show’s final arc, I can’t help but to be concerned about Raiga and Mayuri’s well-being, since both characters might be in for a depressing fate later on. Who knows, Raiga’s act will probably lead to him being the last Saejima family member to hold the Garo title; thus setting up for Ryuga to inherit the armor during Garo: The One who Shines in the Darkness. While I found Garo: Makai no Hana’s 14th episode to be very entertaining, I wasn’t too fond of the next chapter, since it ended up being a recap episode. Thankfully, the segment was told through Gonza’s perspective, so we at least got to see how he feels about Raiga, Mayuri, and Crow. On top of that, there was a random twist that went on during the episode that managed to give the scene a bit more life. Heck, the last moment made me feel all fuzzy inside when Raiga complimented Gonza for being a great butler to the Saejima family. Sadly, this doesn’t change the fact that this episode wasted our time, which is a bit of a bummer. Thankfully, the next episode’ll pit Raiga against a female magician, so there’s a good chance that we’ll be in for a good time. Based on the episode’s title Raiga’s true fear might be revealed to everyone.
AT: Garo: Makai no Hana photo
Twisted temptations and recaps galore
Don’t you hate it when a show releases a recap episode after impressing you with a solid segment? Well, Garo: Makai no Hana has fallen into this category, as we’re exposed to a chapter that almost wastes our time ...

Annotated Tokusatsu: Ressha Sentai ToQger episode 20

Jul 22 // Salvador GRodiles
As a means to support Schwarz in his grand scheme, Grita sends in a new Shadow that’s able to hurt people with their own laughter. Since it’s obvious that comedy isn’t connected to despair, one can’t help but to wonder why someone would go out of their way to make their victims crack up? Then again, the Jack-in-the-Box Shadow could use its ability to destroy the ToQger once and for all; thus allowing the Schwarz to continue with his secret plan. For a second, I almost thought that this episode was going to be a side episode, since the premise felt like a segment that was character-focused. Lo and behold, Schwarz’s plan and Akira’s inability to smile show us that ToQger isn’t ready to take a break from its story yet. One of the best parts of this outcome is learning that Zed is aware of the General’s plan, due to the Emperor’s desire to see Grita shine even more. On top of that, the Jack-in-the-Box Shadow did a skit that involved dancing Sumo Wrestlers was really amusing for some strange reason. Also, the monster's crazy design deserves some praise for looking like a fat creepy clown. Surprisingly, the other ToQger weren’t annoying when they were going through their comedic training regimen with the Conductor and Ticket. If anything, this is a perfect sign that the show’s team knows what they want to do with the series finally. Aside from that, it was nice to see that Akira’s a fully determined fighter in battle, regardless of the silliness that was present. Hell, the guy's entrance was priceless when he caught everyone off guard with his new temporary instrument. Speaking of Akira, I was a bit bummed out over the fact that we were deprived of the opportunity of having a kitten join the ToQger. Due to this outcome, Toei blew their opportunity to turn Akira into the one of the most happy-go-lucky characters in the show. Either way, the skit was great while it lasted, as it made the episode’s giant battle fun to watch. Even though we won’t get to see ToQ Neko/ToQ Meow (I can’t decide on which nickname to give the kitten) anymore, ToQger managed to continue with its entertaining streak at the moment. As we’re beginning to understand the Shadow Line Generals’ ulterior motives, the series continues to throw some intriguing elements our way. While the next episode has to do with the typical Freaky Friday trope that’s in many Sentai shows, ToQger’s viewers might be rewarded with Grita developing as a character. Best of all, it’ll be neat to see if Zed can distinguish his fiance from the person that accidentally takes her body.
AT: ToQger photo
Orange you glad to see a rose?
Normally I don’t repeat a pun during my segments, but I couldn’t resist using another “orange” pun, since it’s relevant to ToQger’s 20th episode. That, and I guess this pun is sort of a las...

Annotated Tokusatsu: Kamen Rider Gaim episode 37

Jul 17 // Salvador GRodiles
Kaito may be working with Kouta and the others to save the world, but that doesn’t mean that he’s giving up on his quest to become stronger. In fact, DJ Sagara is aware of Kaito’s desire, so he decides to intervene once more; however, a mysterious teen ends sending Kaito into an alternate world. Unbeknownst to the Knight of Spear, this new world will require him to master the ways of soccer (a.k.a. football in the regions outside of the U.S.). For a filler episode, I found Gaim’s soccer segment to be entertaining, since it went back to the show’s silly aspects before Urobutchi started dicing fruits with his Butcher Knife. Not only that, seeing Pierre with a soccer uniform over his Armored Rider suit was simply amazing. On top of that, we got to see Mister Dangerous go back to his personality when he was belittled the other Beat Riders for not knowing how to fight and dance properly. This might just be me, but I was getting some Mario Strikers vibes when Kaito and Pierre used their finishers to kick the soccer ball towards the goal. While this feat gave both characters the upper hand, Gaim’s staff at least managed to get to Japanese professional soccer players, which showed that people can overcome the Riders in that world with proper training. On a different note, if Bandai Namco ever decides to make a soccer game that features every single Kamen Rider, then I jump in, since it might be a spiritual sequel to the Mario Strikers series. Anyway, the Kamen Rider Gaim movie’s alternate world does a decent job in showing us a Zawame City that hasn’t been invaded by Helheim yet. Aside from the sillier setting, it was interesting to see that Hase was alive. Also, seeing the former Pinecone Rider fighting alongside Junouchi and Pierre shows that his obsession with being the best isn’t as bad as his previous incarnation. Thanks to this episode, Gaim’s staff managed to get me interested in the series’ upcoming film. Since I did enjoy the Beat Riders Saga back when the show first started, I’m looking forward to the experiencing more of Gaim’s lighthearted humor that was lost when the darker tone started to kick in. Overall, the soccer episode and the Kikaider one are the best side episodes that the show has had. Despite my content with Kamen Rider Gaim’s most recent episode, I’m still glad that we’re going back to the main story next time. With Ryouma making a return to the series, something big is about to go down soon, and it’s most likely going to be another huge twist. Who knows, Sagara might jump in and turn the tides once again.
AT: Kamen Rider Gaim photo
The Fruit Bowl has begun!
Are you looking for a more exciting soccer match than the World Cup?  If so, then you’re in luck, my friend. It turns out Kamen Rider Gaim is taking a break from their main story to deliver the All Rider Cup, a soc...

Annotated Tokusatsu: Kanpai Senshi After V episode 9

Jul 16 // Salvador GRodiles
Well, it looks like Red, Blue, Green, and the Commander are still lamenting over Yellow II’s departure. Perhaps if one of the male After V members confronted the former Yellow member about her relationship status, then the two groups might’ve been in better shape after the lady left on maternity leave. At least we got to see Pink anger the team when she worded her lines in a manner that almost sounded like a sexual innuendo towards Yellow II's status. To be honest, I was disappointed by the team’s reaction to the original Yellow’s return, since it contradicted with their reaction to Yellow switching jobs a few episodes back. I guess that the After V’s staff intended for this episode to be about the male member’s trying to accept that Yellow II won’t date one of them. Even if the team didn’t react the way how I expected them to, Yellow’s return is a sign that After V’s hilarity levels'll go up.  You know that a series’ getting ready for its final moments when the main villain’s resources are dwindling. In a way, this situation proves to people that evil organizations require some sort of funding to create their monsters and gadgets to conquer the world. Seeing that the Commander’s been relying on a part-time job to support his group, we can assume that the guy isn’t that evil. Otherwise, the After V’s archenemies would’ve been robbing banks left and right. My guess is that the reason behind the Commander’s inability to steal money is probably related to his motive to create a better world. During After V's second episode, the Commander talked about how his life was ruined when his father’s workers screwed him over. Who knows, the guy might share some of his father’s traits, since his dad was an honest boss. At the same time, it’s moments like these that make After V’s main villain a great character. Even though the Commander’s a powerful villain, the man still needs to make a living to support himself and his organization. Personally, you have to give the man some credit for managing two different lifestyles that require lots of hard work. While Red, Blue, and Green’s mopey attitude held the episode back, it was still nice to see Yellow return to the series. Since the team’s reaction to Yellow’s antics were great, let’s hope that the old man’ll make After V even funnier than before. Based on the show’s current progress, the final arc should begin soon. Then we can make way for the ultimate drinking party of the century. Also, there might be a karaoke segment as well.
AT: After V photo
Taking over the world requires a huge budget
Things are getting difficult for the After V again, as Pink has to deal with her comrades crying over their recent loss. Considering that they’re short on one member again, the team’s going to have to restructure ...

Annotated Tokusatsu: Ressha Sentai ToQger episode 19

Jul 14 // Salvador GRodiles
Step aside, ToQ-Oh; there’s a new Express Train in town, and he means business. Unlike the simplistic trains that the five main ToQger use, the Build Express is an amazing monstrosity that towers over every train in the series. Did I mention that the engine has a crane? In other words, this new train is serious business, which means that ToQger has a train that actually looks great (not counting Diesel Express). On top of that, the Build Dai-Oh actually looks nice, since it feels like a robot that came straight out of Boukenger. Personally, the best part about Akira’s new mech is how he modified the machine’s controls to look like an old-fashioned system. Seeing that many sixth Rangers have piloted their robots without any issues, it was a nice change of pace to see ToQ 6 tinker with the Build Express’ switches and levers, since Akira basically MacGyvered his own train. While the Build Dai-Oh’s debut was the star attraction in episode 19, the real treat was seeing Tokatti learn how to make friends, which served as a great way to teach children the importance of being themselves in front of new people. Sure, the friendship moral has been done to death in many shows that are targeted towards younger viewers, but there’s something neat about the idea of seeing a show's major character involved in this theme when it's done right. Because of Tokatti’s memories of how he became friends with Right, the guy managed to learn that one should be honest when befriending people. Since Akira’s a peculiar fellow, it’s best for one to be straight-forward with the guy. That way, you don't give the person a terrible first impression on accident. Now that we’re fully acquainted with ToQ 6, ToQger’s ready to hop on its next course. Depending on the route that the show takes, things might get bumpy when we return to the side episodes. However, Akira might continue to make things interesting for the team, so there’s a chance that the staff knows where they want to take the series next. With Grita now secretly supporting Schwarz in his plan to create his dream railway system, let’s hope that ToQger gives the Shadow Line’s top members their own arcs, as their clashing ideals make it perfect for them to go down one by one. For now, let’s hope that Yasuko Kobayashi’s experience with Kamen Rider Den-O will help make the upcoming episode about Akira's sense of humor a hilarious ride. If not, then we can blame this mishap on the episode’s director.
AT: ToQger photo
Welcome to MacGyvering Train Control Systems 101
The ToQ 6 Saga's about to wrap up, and ToQger’s ready to unveil Akira’s signature machine. Since our rainbow-loving hero repairs railroads for a living, the man’s blessed with a train that suits his position...

Annotated Tokusatsu: Kamen Rider Gaim episode 36

Jul 13 // Salvador GRodiles
Takatora’s back in action, and he has a bone to pick with his brother. Since we have two Melon Riders, the obvious outcome is that there can only be one fruit, regardless of the belt’s properties. While there are two lemons right now, Kaito and Ryouma will have to fight to the death some other time. Right now, it’s important for the two siblings to end their quarrel, so that we can give the Melon Crown to the rightful victor. For a second, I almost thought that Gaim was foreshadowing that Micchy was going to join Kouta’s group later on. Thankfully, things didn't go as planned for the gang when the big meanie head went up against his older brother. Based on this outcome, I doubt that Urobuchi’s going to let Micchy redeem himself. Then again, Mitsuzane's true purpose might've been for Gen the Butcher to make sure that our built-up anger doesn’t go away, so there's a slight possibility that he'll try to atone for his actions later on. However, if the guy sacrifices himself to save someone, then I'll be okay with that action, as most of us would rather see Micchy dead. When the two brothers squared off, I was happy over the fact that Takatora was doing well as Armored Rider Zangetsu. While Micchy had the superior Rider Form, his older brother proved to us that having good combat experience can really make a difference in battle. Even though the opposite can be said about Pierre, the main difference between both battles is that Kouta knew how to use his power better than Mitsuzane. Seeing that Micchy has barely any experience in close-ranged combat, Takatora didn’t have to worry about being outmatched in this fight. Sadly, Takatora’s true personality got the best of him during the match, which led to his demise-- unless if he somehow comes back again. Unlike Micchy’s motivation, Takatora was only doing what he thought was best for his little brother and the rest of society. Since he never showed Mitsuzane his kinder side, it wasn’t too hard for Micchy to become the terrible person that he is today. To some extent, Gaim’s portrayal of Takatora’s defeat did a great job in ruining the cast's "hope" completely. Other than that, I loved how the show's staff decided to have Takatora's helmet break in battle, since it's rare to see a Rider's human face while they're already transformed. Unfortunately, we’re going to have to wait a bit before Gaim follows up on Micchy’s recent actions, as the next episode’s taking place in the Kamen Rider Gaim movie's universe. Due to this strange decision, we won't get to find out if Kaito’s injury will cause him to turn into a Helheim fruit plant for a while. Since the effects of an Overlord Inves’ attack might be different from a regular Inves' strike, the guy'll probably go through the same change that Kouta's currently facing. Seeing that Gaim’s drama has been on a great roll, Kouta and Kaito’s dilemma’ll be worthwhile when their bodies start to experience abnormal effects. If things are going the way I’m thinking, Kamen Rider Gaim’s 38th episode will astound us all, as something huge is bound to happen. Since DJ Sagara and Professor Ryouma haven’t made an appearance in a while, let’s hope that one of them will stir things up soon.
AT: Kamen Rider Gaim photo
There can only be one
Holy moly! Did Kamen Rider Gaim just do what I think it did? Since the show's plot has developed in a depressing way recently, I think we can all agree that there's no hope for anyone in this series. In fact, there’s no...

Annotated Tokusatsu: Garo: Makai no Hana episode 13

Jul 09 // Salvador GRodiles
As Garo: Makai no Hana takes another break from the Horror battles, we’re introduced to another new creature that’s used by Crow and his Makai Knight buddies to purify their weapons. Sure, they could go to their local Watchdog to cleanse their blades, but we can assume that these guys prefer the company of each other when going through their special ritual. Little do they know, but one of the Knights causes things go out of whack. You know, the usual Garo-related stuff that happens usually. Even though Garo: Makai no Hana had some entertaining fight scenes during its 13th episode, I felt that Raiga, Crow, and the other Knights were being too hard on Barg. Yes, the beast killed a few Knights earlier, but that doesn’t mean that it’s an aggressive creature. Since Barg took a liking to Mayuri, it’s possible that the beast was tired of being used as a tool to purify Makai Swords. Seeing that the creature was trapped in a pit all by itself, one may wonder how the other Knights treated it during the ritual. That being said, I felt bad for Barg when Raiga, Crow, and his comrades slayed it. Personally, it would’ve been better if the gang waited for the beast to be at its death bed before creating the Magic Circle, since Barg was going to die anyway. Come to think of it, Barg’s action might foreshadow Mayuri’s fate when she absorbs all of the Monolith Horrors into her body, as Eiris’s presence might be too much for the living Mystic Tool. When that day comes, I’m expecting to see Raiga face off against other Makai Knights, Makai Priests/Priestesses, and the Tribune’s elite to make sure that Mayuri doesn’t die. That, or Raiga’ll try to kill her, and Crow will try to knock him back to his senses before things go out of hand. Either way, the show’s finale’s going to be glorious, regardless of what happens. Design wise, I loved that Barg was a cross between a hippopotamus and a tiger. Hell, the creature looked so cool to the point where I wish that it became Mayuri’s new pet. But alas, Barg had to die, since every Knight in the episode chose to go on the offensive. On a more positive note, it’s always great to see more supernatural life forms in Garo that aren’t Horrors, since it adds more depth to the franchise’s universe. For an episode that left me disappointed with the way how Raiga handled Barg, Garo's staff still managed to make things entertaining. Seeing Crow fight in the air again was spectacular as usual, and it’s always nice to see the relationship between the main characters grow. Since the next episode’s going to feature a Makai Priest, the clues towards the culprit who broke Eiris’ seal might be unveiled soon. Also, it was great to see that Garo: Makai no Hana’s opening visuals changed when JAM Project did their thing. If anything, this is a good sign that Garo Season 4’s second half will give us hope.
AT: Garo: Makai no Hana photo
Don't judge a beast by its appearance
Just as I predicted last time, Garo: Makai no Hana’s team didn't cut any corners in the show's production, as they fill our stomachs with more great visuals. On top of that, the series received a new opening theme ...

Annotated Tokusatsu: Ressha Sentai ToQger episode 18

Jul 06 // Salvador GRodiles
It was only a matter of time until Zed realizes that Zaram’s now a ToQger, and now he intends to discover the secret behind the former Shadow’s “shining.” Sadly, the Emperor of Darkness won’t be swayed to leave his position yet, due to his desire to achieve his goal while being a ruler. Of course, the Shadow Line’s King has the power to subdue any of his subordinates-- even the ones who’ve turned over a new leaf. Also, this whole scenario’s an excuse for ToQger to take advantage of “the team learning to accept the new member” trope that’s in almost every Sentai series. Since every Sentai show that I’ve seen has done something different with their sixth Rangers, it’s hard to accuse the franchise of following the same formula over and over again. I mean, it’s not too often that you have a Ranger that’s a monster, which means ToQger took right turn in Albuquerque when it introduced Zaram to the series. Surprisingly, Right's help managed to make this episode fun-- and this is coming from someone who can’t stand him. Despite my slight annoyance with Right’s impulsive actions, I like that his decisions help keep the rest of the team in line, since his random actions help everyone develop as characters. Even the Ring Shadow was in for a surprise when Right tricked him after figuring out how to counter the monster’s special ability. I guess you could say that I like Right more for his actions than his personality, which works well for ToQger in the long run. If there one thing that surprised me this time, it was the way how the team used the Coupling Bazooka to give Zaram a new name. While having a name that means ”Vivid Rainbow” sounds kind of lame, I felt that Akira Nijino suits ToQ 6 well, since it represents his love for rainbows. All in all, Zaram’s new identity works with his personality, due to his imagination being different from the other ToQger. Hell, I love that he’s a wanderer, as it gives him an excuse to fix the tracks while he ventures off to protect the Rainbow Line. In the end, ToQ 6 proved to us that light can be found within one's inner darkness. Aside from our Orange Railroad Worker's transformation into a new person, his Drill Dark Liner became an Express Train when Akira switched sides. In a way, it was a nice surprise, since we all thought that the Drill Express was a default Support Express that came with ToQ 6’s arsenal. To an extent, Akira’s kind of similar to Shinken Gold from Shinkenger in terms of having an Assist Unit before getting their signature machine. Speaking of which, Akira’s robot’s looking to be one of ToQger’s best mechas, so I’m definitely looking forward to our next stop on the itinerary.
AT: ToQger photo
Rainbow Power!
Attention, all passengers. The ToQger Express has taken a scenic route during its most recent episode. Now let's give a round of applause to our special railroad worker, as he’s been a great help in improving our experi...

Annotated Tokusatsu: Kamen Rider Gaim episode 35

Jul 04 // Salvador GRodiles
Right when I thought that Redue was going to get taken down soon, the entire world faces an even bigger crisis. Thanks to Roshuo’s action from the previous episode, Helheim's vegetation is now consuming the entire planet. Judging from the crisis show, there's a chance that Zawame City might be the last city on Earth when Gaim comes to a close. Since Yggdrasill’s higher-ups refuse to let the world end so easily, there’s a chance that Ryouma’s working on a countermeasure to help the fix the problem at hand. Even when things look grim for the rest of the planet, hearing Mai’s speech about hope gave off a great sense of relief, since it put Micchy in his place again. In fact, I think that it’s safe to say that Gaim managed to express the concept of hope better than Kamen Rider Wizard. Sure, Kouta and his allies haven’t been able to gain an advantage against Redue yet, but there’s something about their drive that ensures us that they’ll pull through somehow. My money's on Takatora being the key to victory, as his former position with Yggdrasill will benefit the group. Of course, we can’t have a Gaim segment without mentioning Micchy’s current status in the series. Aside from being obsessed with crushing Kouta, the guy now wants to implement Takatora and Ryouma’s plan to save mankind again. From the looks of it, it seems that he only cares about having Team Gaim as the main survivors, since he doesn’t care about the other humans that were being sacrificed to Redue’s machine. While Micchy thinks that his plan is full proof, it’s going to be great when Redue tries to sacrifice the people that Mitsuzane wants to save. Since Micchy declared his hatred to Kouta recently, I’m looking forward to seeing the Mighty Warlord will squash the wannabe Melon Soda Rider again. However, I’m expecting to see Takatora to interfere with the battle, as he was one of the key figures that changed Micchy during Gaim’s first arc. At this point, Takatora’s probably the only person that could handle Micchy, due to Kouta’s shock from learning the truth behind his former buddy’s intentions. While I’m not expecting Kouta to hate Micchy yet, Kamen Rider Gaim has ensured its viewers that the relationship between the two former friends will get worse later on. Once again, Gaim is giving me some Kamen Rider OOO vibes, since Kouta and Micchy are obviously going to have a fight to the death later on. Considering that Kouta’s losing his appetite for human food, there's a good chance that our hero's changing into an Overlord Inves. Thus completing the Kamen Rider OOO side of my prediction. If anything, I’ll have to wait and see if my theory comes true during the next intensifying episode of Kamen Rider Gaim.
AT: Kamen Rider Gaim photo
Wheres your hope now?
Wow. It’s surprising to see that things are getting even worse in Zawame City. Just when you think that the current crisis will be resolved, another calamity jumps in to remind viewers that the world’s in grave da...

Annotated Tokusatsu: Garo: Makai no Hana episode 12

Jul 01 // Salvador GRodiles
Garo: Makai no Hana's next experimental episode begins with Karina encountering a living fuzzy cotton ball or giant dandelion seed while she was outside. Obviously, the lady thinks that it’s a good idea to bring an unknown creature to her home without taking into account that it might be a dangerous life form. Luckily, Garo’s staff chose to divert from the Horror occurrences in favor of something different, so Karina got lucky this time. Unfortunately, the episode’s execution wasn't that great. While the Spirit Beast was a nice way for Garo: Makai no Hana to introduce some world-building elements, I felt that Karina’s role held the episode back, since she isn’t a major character that affected the show's main plot. Sure, Karina’s backstory with her grandfather had a great moral about creativity, but it’s hard to connect with a character that mistreated a living creature. I mean, placing a baby Spirit Beast in a jar isn’t a good way to house a mystical life form. Despite the build-up towards reuniting the baby Spirit Beast with its mom, we didn’t even get to see how the full-grown creatures looked like. Seeing that Garo: Makai Senki had an episode where we saw the Spirit Beast, I was surprised that the show’s staff didn’t reuse the same creature design from the show's second season. Instead, Karina’s grandfather’s Spirit Beast sculpture was used to give people an idea of what the creature may look like. Unfortunately, the team’s decision resulted in a scene that felt cheap for a Garo series. Hopefully, this isn’t a sign that Garo: Makai no Hana’s budget is dwindling. Otherwise, we might be in for a show that’ll make Garo: The One who Shines in the Darkness’ visuals look extraordinary. Even if Karina’s adventure is nowhere near as good as Kaoru’s encounter with the Spirit Beast, it was neat to see the shout-outs to Garo: Makai Senki, since Raiga was using the same potion that Reo used when he and Kaoru were searching for the mystical creature. Unlike Kaoru’s trip, Karina ended up forgetting about the whole experience, due to rules that prevent normal individuals from learning the truth behind the Horrors and the strange life forms that inhabit Garo’s world. While Karina manage to appreciate her grandfather’s work by the time this episode came to an end, it’s unfortunate that the low budget ruined the story's quality. Anyway, does this mean that we should be concerned for Garo: Makai no Hana’s later episodes? Absolutely not! The franchise’s fourth season has been doing a great job so far with its visuals and fight sequences, so there’s a chance that Keita Amemiya’s building up his strength for the show’s next half. That, or Garo’s staff members were scrounging up money for JAM Project, so they can get the group to go all-out with Garo: Makai no Hana’s inevitable second opening theme. Then the show's quality will jump through the roof when the glorious Anisong band takes the stage.
AT: Garo: Makai no Hana photo
Respect the ball of fluff!
Garo: Makai no Hana’s taking a bold move again, as the show’s 12th episode has decided to go with a special segment between a girl and a living fluffy ball. Sure, we’re not being blessed with another action-...

Annotated Tokusatsu: Ressha Sentai ToQger episode 17

Jun 29 // Salvador GRodiles
If you thought that the Rainbow Line was a magical railway that’s capable of self-repair, then you'll be sad to know that the tracks are in need of maintenance from time to time. Of course, this new story element is used to introduce ToQger's viewers to Zaram, who happens to be a railroad worker and a former Shadow Line member. Instead of throwing a random monster-of-the-week at the ToQger, General Schwarz acts as the first target to experience ToQ 6’s power. Thanks to the new Ranger’s backstory, we get to learn more about the General’s true motives, and the connection that Schwarz shares with Zaram. While Zaram didn’t kill many innocent bystanders back when he was creating darkness for the Shadow Line, it was interesting to see a monster that felt guilty about his evil deeds. Personally, one of my favorite aspects of the Super Sentai franchise is when they introduce Rangers that have ulterior motives or dark backstories (such as Zyuranger’s Dragon Ranger, Hurricanger’s Gouraiger team, and Abaranger’s Abare Killer), as they add a new spark to the series’ established formula. Since Zaram had to come to terms with his past before becoming ToQ 6, I was fond of his development, since his motives were rather silly. Also, ToQ 6 is officially the second Orange Ranger in the Sentai series (or third if you consider Dekaranger's Deka Swan as an Orange Ranger), which means that Battle Fever J’s Battle Cossack won’t be alone anymore. Other than Zaram’s introduction, I found it hilarious that Ticket ended up becoming ToQ 6 for a brief second. Unfortunately, we didn’t a fight scene where the puppet tried to use his Ranger skills on the Shadow Line. Either way, Ticket’s scene was great while it lasted, and I hope that both he and the Conductor become extra Rangers later on. While we’re at it, Wagon would make a great ToQger as well. If the three characters become Rangers, then the Rainbow Line’s main team will be complete! Once again, ToQger continues to develop into a better show, with Zaram becoming a member of the team. Once the proper pieces are in place, it’s going to be interesting when Zed realizes that a Shadow Monster’s fighting alongside the ToQger. Who knows, ToQ 6 might inspire the Emperor of Darkness to focus more on his plan to obtain more “Shining.” While I’m expecting Zed to join the Rainbow Line, a part of me thinks that he’ll form a new group where his generals are all named after “white” in different languages (such as Weiss and Blanc). But first, ToQger will need to get us acquainted with ToQ 6’s abilities and giant robot before Zed develops again. Since Zaram's part of the show's main story, ToQger's next stop should be an entertaining experience.
AT: ToQger photo
Orange you glad that the sixth Ranger's here?
For a good while, I had a feeling that ToQ 6’s debut would help ToQger get right on track again. Lo and behold, I was right, since the new Orange Ranger’s debut managed to boost ToQger’s quality once again. ...

Annotated Tokusatsu: Kamen Rider Gaim episode 34

Jun 26 // Salvador GRodiles
I have to give props to The Kamen Rider EX magazine for revealing that Redue’s officially a female Overlord Inves, since it added an extra layer of depth to her character. While Redue's gender isn't a major story element, I find it intriguing that it’s difficult to determine an Overlord Inves’ sex through their voice. On top of that, the voice adds great monstrous tone to the character. And to think that we almost thought that Redue was a fabulous male monster. Well played, Toei. While Gaim hasn't reached its final phase yet, I’m amazed that Redue almost wiped Zawame City off the face of the planet. In many Rider shows, villain-related crisis tends to remain in one location; however, Kamen Rider Gaim actually went the extra mile to get the entire world involved. To an extent, the way how the planet reacted to the Helheim crisis is very similar to how they would act in real life, especially when an otherworldly being declares war on the entire Earth. The best thing that came out of it was when we got to see Roshuo in action. We've seen Roshuo’s mysterious telekinetic abilities when he killed Sid, and now he’s capable of disintegrating objects, which makes him one of the biggest threats in the series. Then again, the Overlord Inves’ head honcho is the guy that ate the Fruit of Knowledge, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that his abilities are God-like. One thing for sure, it’s going to be interesting to see how Kouta will fight him later on. My guess is that DJ Sagara, Redue, or Micchy will have the honor to take him down. It was nice to see Minato call Micchy out on his villainy, as the guy deserves to be insulted big time. Once Redue’s out of the picture, I’m interested in seeing who Micchy will leach off of next. Who knows, the guy might steal the Fruit of Knowledge from Redue after she makes Roshuo's dream come true. Until then, I have to commend Urobuchi for building up our hatred towards Mitsuzane. Knowing the Butcher, he’s probably going to make us loathe him even more after Redue’s out of the picture. Also, I predict that the Queen that Roshuo’s trying to resurrect is the alternate Mai, since Gaim’s first episode showed her waking up from a deep slumber. Since Kouta’s about to learn the truth behind Micchy’s actions soon, the Gaim’s next episode isn’t going to be happy. Depending on Urobuchi’s mood, Kouta’s big sister might be the next character to bite the dust. Then we’ll have the ultimate beat down where Kouta beats Redue with every fruit at his disposal. Hell, I’m expecting for our hero to lose his humanity when he transforms into Gaim Zenith Arms again. Speaking of mysteries, I wonder what DJ Sagara’s been up to this whole time. If anything, I’m expecting him to act after Redue's demise. Most importantly, I hope that we get more scenes where Junouchi uses the Watermelon Arms, since he and Pierre made a great team in battle. All in all, it’s good to see that Gaim’s other Riders are getting some screen time here and there, which shows that Kouta, Kaito, Micchy, and Minato didn’t make them obsolete. However, I’d still like to see an Energy Durian, Walnut, and Acorn Lock Seed later on. Better yet, a Triumphant-like Lock Seed would be amazing, since it’ll give Pierre, Junouchi, and Zack a weapon that’s cooler than a silly Nerf Bow.
AT: Kamen Rider Gaim photo
Never Give Up!
Gaim has returned from its one week break, and the show doesn’t pull any punches with the state that the main cast is in. With many lives placed at stake, the Butcher (a.k.a. Urobuchi) continues to place Kouta and the g...


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