Kamen Rider: The Next takes one look at The First’s problems and says, “you ain’t seen nothing yet!”
Like its predecessor, Kamen Rider: The Next attempts to modernize the origin of a Showa Rider. This time V3, Kazami Shiro, is at bat, but I get the feeling writer Toshiki Inoue noticed how little attention he gave Takeshi Hongo in The First and decided to make up for it at Shiro’s expense. This time the relationship between Hongo and his student is front and center, when the film can remember it has a center.
Hongo’s student, Kotomi Kikuma, is the quiet and withdrawn girl in his otherwise unruly and out-of-control class. Turns out she’s feeling down because her friend Chiharu became a popular idol but her music seems to be killing certain listeners. Together, Kotomi and Hongo look into these mysterious events. Meanwhile, Shocker has created new cyborgs to hunt down the rogue Riders and do other Shocker-type evil things. Lest we forget they’re called the “Double Riders” for a reason, Hayato Ichimonji has his own plot thread too. He’s abstained from transforming for two years in an effort to stay alive, and instead spends his time drowning in booze and women. As you can see, there’s a lot going on, and the problem is none of it really fits together.
I don’t know about you, but as I was watching I really got tired of hearing the name “Chiharu.” She’s at the center of the film’s horror plot, but she barely shows up. She’s a horror villain in a movie that doesn’t commit fully to being horrific. The sad part is there’s some interesting stuff in her backstory, but the fact that this is a superhero film means that she has to be tied into Shocker’s shenanigans and those pieces just don’t fit.
Shocker, strangely enough, is the element that feels most out of place in The Next. They’re a loud, bombastic group of villains in a film with more subdued, quiet heroes. They’re basically as flamboyant as they are in the original show, but without the benefit of an equally larger-than-life hero to play off of. When no one else in the film is yelling at the top of their lungs as they fight, that makes the inclusion of Scissors Jaguar and Chainsaw Lizard feel sillier than it needs to.
Director Ryuta Tasaki did the best he could, considering the script and considering horror isn’t really his wheelhouse. The action is on point once you forgive the multiple violations of the laws of physics. Hongo’s actor, Masaya Kikawada, gets more time to shine here and reveals a character with gentle intensity that I really would have liked to see in a better film. Whereas The First felt like one film told out of order, The Next feels like two very different films that are forced to sit in the backseat together on a roadtrip neither of them wants to be on. I could at least suss out the theme of The First, but this film is too busy fighting itself to decide on a clear statement.
That’s it for the TokuNet Film Club’s March 2015 chapter! Feel free to keep on discussing the films in the forums and keep an eye out in April when we announce our films for that month!
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