Team TokuNet writer Malunis talks about some of the worst examples of product placement in Kamen Rider. While it is a toy-centric franchise, these are some notable examples where products get worked into the fiction in unconvincing ways.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, so let’s defuse this one right now: No, this list isn’t solely about the main show gimmick items. While these can be rough depending on the series, and there is one notable thing in the list that relates to the main gimmick, I consider those part of the intended fiction. What all of these examples have in common is they don’t fit in.
To understand these, I do feel it’s worth seeing things from the perspective of the writers. While I don’t know the exact process, it can be surmised that Bandai is ultimately the one coming up with toy ideas and form changes, and it is the task of the writers to work with what they’re given. As an avid Gaim fan, I remember that Gen Urobuchi remarked how it was tricky writing for this show because he had to keep in mind working toys into the episodes. When you see things like Build‘s brilliant use of its forms and how they come into existence, applaud the writers for working well with what they’re given.
5. Kamen Rider Build’s cards
Let’s get the title image out of the way. Kamen Rider Build is one of my top favorites, for its solid story and original setting with clever mysteries. Though its lore involving the mysterious Takumi Katsuragi is intriguing, one thing that always stands out is his Project Build videos.
In these old recordings, Katsuragi explains certain forms used by Build, using trading cards. These are specifically real cards made for the Ganbarizing arcade game, which are based on the old Rider Card model of Kamen Rider Decade. They made a fair number of Ganbarizing cards in this style, namely showing off all of the Best Matches that are exclusive to the arcade game, and cards even exist for some Riders and TranSteam Gun users.
In a series where the fiction is so tight, where the forms are largely explained with (tokusatsu level) science, working in Ganbarizing cards is particularly hokey for this show. But it may have been a thing they were told to do, so I guess it can’t be helped.
4. Kamen Rider Gaim’s Tulip Hopper
The Lockvehicles in concept are not bad, in fact, I like most of them, but they don’t get a lot of focus and the two that appear after episode 2’s introduction to the bikes are basically forced into fiction in a gimmicky way.
If you don’t know them by name, Gaim’s is the Sakura Hurricane, while Baron’s is the Rose Attacker. They do a cute thing later where some of the other Riders get copies of these, and it fits those characters. They also introduced the Dande Liner, a hoverbike initially poorly implemented into a movie, but later becoming a solid vehicle of choice for Yggdrasill’s Kurokage Troopers.
The one that stands out, though, is the Tulip Hopper from episode 19. It’s a goofy mecha of sorts that is used by the Kurokage Troopers as a means of keeping the Riders out of the Helheim Forest – it’s treated as a formidable vehicle with a few different abilities, the most pertinent being the ability to open Cracks at will and send the Riders through it with a gust of wind.
Gaim and Baron quickly overcome the Tulip Hoppers in the same episode, and I don’t think they even appeared again after that. It’s goofy and feels almost like it solely exists to sell a toy. This is a fair assessment since the Tulip Hopper was packaged with the Kurokage figure. Given what I prefaced with, it’s possible this was one of those Bandai demands that Urobuchi couldn’t quite come up with a good story reason for.
3. Kamen Rider Kabuto’s ZECT Mizer
This one always comes up as one of Kabuto’s lesser ideas. The ZECT Mizer is a weapon that launches dozens of miniature drones modeled after that Rider’s Zecter, sending them swarming after a given target as a distraction.
While not a bad idea in concept, it does stand out specifically because it’s a random weapon that comes up a few times, and each time it does make you go “Oh right, that exists. Or wait, does it? Have I seen this before?” – it also stands out because every Rider already has their signature weapon, which are a little less toyetic than this one.
These days, it’s not uncommon for a Rider to have multiple weapons, but consider what time period Kabuto came from. Every Rider had an armored form and default form, and they had their one weapon. Within that context, the ZECT Mizer feels unnecessary.
2. Kamen Rider Kiva’s Shoodoran
You probably thought this was going to be Ixa’s goofy bike, huh? That’s pretty bad too, seeing as it’s a bike that tosses giant pellets. However, the one that always stood out to me was Shoodoran.
In this show, the defeated Fangires leave behind soul energy? Which is then consumed by Castle Doran, Kiva’s sentient castle monster that I still do not fully understand. There is one episode where Castle Doran fights the Sabbat, a fellow CGI monster, and gets overpowered. That is until Shoodoran shows up. This is a tiny winged structure that rests on the roof of Castle Doran, which somehow manages to even the odds and help defeat the Sabbat.
And we never heard from it again. Like, ever. It was in one episode, and had absolutely no context. But a toy sure does exist.
1. Kamen Rider Ex-Aid’s Genm Spinoff
We’re not talking about Genm VS Lazer – we’re talking about Kamen Rider Ex-Aid [Tricks]: Kamen Rider Genm, also known as the YouTube spinoff. This is the one I wanna go into more detail about.
This is split into three parts, which follows the formula of the shows directly before and after it: Parts 1 and 2 were available on YouTube (to people living in Japan), while part 3 was exclusive to a DVD release of the spinoff which came packed with a gimmick item relevant to its conclusion.
The format overall is pretty weak and paper-thin. Ghost gets away with this narrowly by being a consistent theme of Legend Rider content (and giving us some returning voice work), and Build‘s is pretty decent. But Ex-Aid is…
Okay, so let’s go through this one. The story overall is that there’s a Collaboss Bugster that has a light blue Rider Gashat lodged in its head and Ex-Aid needs to defeat it. Part 1 features Ex-Aid taking on the Bugster with various Legend Rider Gashats provided by the then-trustworthy Kuroto, then Kuroto transforms into Genm using one of these Gashats to give Ex-Aid some trouble.
We lead into part 2 when the Bugster summons past Riders to challenge Ex-Aid, and get the return of Dr. Pac-Man from the movie who provides the crew with Legend Gamer Gashats. These are used by Ex-Aid, Brave, and Snipe to take on armors based on Bandai Namco games, and they proceed to beat each Rider enemy with a different game scenario. However, to beat the Bugster with the light blue Ganbarizing Gashat, Ex-Aid must face a certain Rider.
Part 3 reveals that Ex-Aid’s opponent is Kamen Rider Hibiki from the Ganbarizing game, who fights using drumsticks. Dr. Pac-Man tosses him one last Legend Gamer Gashat, the drumming rhythm game Taiko No Tatsujin, and he beats Hibiki. In the end, Dr. Pac-Man takes all the Legend Gamer Gashats, then Genm uses the Ganbarizing Gashat to unleash an All Rider finisher to give Ex-Aid and the others a swift beating before leaving ominously. It turns out Parad was Dr. Pac-Man and was collaborating with Kuroto – with all of the Legend Rider AND Legend Gamer Gashats, he proclaims everything is going according to plan.
But that plan seemingly has nothing to do with anything in the entire series, nor is it ever brought up again. They had that problem as well with the Kamen Rider Brave spinoff which featured a cliffhanger alluding to the return of Foundation X, but this spinoff has several other problems going for it.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the content. I like some Legend Rider items, and getting to see what happens when they’re used. I also love the idea of the Legend Gamer forms and think they did some clever recolors to make it all come together. Hibiki with Taiko No Tatsujin is also one of those “Oh you’d BETTER do that” ideas – bit of a shame they didn’t give it a form.
But the problem with this spinoff is, mainly, that it has no reason to be called the Kamen Rider Genm spinoff. It features him here and there and is supposed to have this overarching grand scheme, but saying there’s a scheme isn’t the same as having there be a scheme. I initially thought maybe it had something to do with Kamen Rider Chronicle, seeing as that was namedropped in the show around this time, but we can see in retrospect these are very separate things, and this spinoff just isn’t connected to anything in a substantial way.
Not to mention, the way Legend Rider stuff is worked into fiction is also pretty bad. The implication is that Kuroto Dan has figured out how to create Gashats based on past Riders, which is likely in reference to the fact he managed to do this in the Heisei Generations movie with the Kaigan Ghost Gashat, but it doesn’t give much explanation for the why/how/when of the whole thing, which would’ve made for some interesting crossover fiction in of itself.
The Legend Gamer Gashats don’t even GET story context; they’re just there because of Dr. Pac-Man and this is to say nothing of the Ganbarizing arcade machine Kuroto just has in his lair, with no context whatsoever. It all feels like the level of promotion given to the YouTube videos with Poppy Pipopapo, except there, they showed their hand when it comes to how seriously it should be taken. This spinoff is delivered with the same tone as the show, implying that it should belong, but it doesn’t.
While the YouTube spinoffs largely exist as a loose plot that sales toys that otherwise would not be used in the show, this is for sure the weakest attempt yet due to how little explanation it has. Not to mention it was trying to juggle Legend Rider Gashats, Legend Gamer Gashats, and figure out how to lump in the Ganbarizing Gashat which is its own separate thing altogether, all while lying to you about how this is a Genm story and that it’s definitely gonna come together in the end.