October 17, 2016

Kamen Rider Ex-Aid Episode 2: Another Prodigy with No Thank You?

 So yeah, things happened and I couldn't get this out sooner. But hey, all good things to those who wait. Right off the bat, I have to say: I liked the episode. What's going to make these easier is that since the first episode is out of way, Kamen Rider has a tendency to deliver plot relevant elements at SLOW pace so everything after last week will be smaller (though they certainly get a lot out whenever they can). It's already got a leg ahead of Ghost in terms of quality, so let's see if we can keep that pace. This is Kamen Rider Ex-Aid Episode 2: Another Prodigy with No Thank You?

Our first scene is the actual intro to the series. I have to say, I dig it. The music and editing reminds me very much of early Heisei Riders, specifically Kamen Rider Ryuki's. We can only hope that it lives up to the tone the intro sets up.

Now the first thing that I want to bring up is a character I neglected to mention last episode due to saving space in the review and only needing to cover plot important elements. This character is Kuroto Dan, who showed up last episode as the CEO of Genm Corp, the parent company behind Mighty Action X and supposedly every other game featured in this series, and also revealed in the first scene as the creator of the Gamer Driver being thanked by the Ministry of Health for said Driver, all while discussing that the Ministry is hiding all information regarding Ex-Aid's debut incident. Why? Who knows? All I know is that if this is anything like RWBY, keeping the public in the dark NEVER goes well.

Back at CR Headquarters, Director Kagami is told that Emu will be joining CR and is welcomed with no problem, the latter even getting a nifty stethoscope/communicator in the process. But, happy times are soon out the window with the introduction of the genius surgeon, Hiiro Kagami, the director's son. Kagami walks in like a tool/boss (depending on your viewpoint) saying that CR doesn't need two doctors, even going as low as to insult Emu's status as an intern.

We cut over at night to our villains again in the process of spreading the Bugster Virus where the human, named "Parad" decides to get involved with future events.

The next day we're given an odd treat of nurses being flailing over themselves over Hiiro performing a surgery as Asuna gives the low-down of his history: that being a genius surgeon recently pulled from America to use a Gamer Driver and help CR; in fact, he was the original candidate before Emu took the one Asuna possessed. Emu, realizing the situation, laments that he isn't really necessary. But no time for realizing your uselessness, THERE'S A NEW BUGSTER STARTIN' TROUBLE.

Asuna and Emu head over to couple Rensuke and Asami, where the former is lying on the ground in pain. But, before Emu can even examine him, here comes Mr. Pompous Hiiro himself to take over with his posse. After a quick scan, he puts on his Driver. Or rather, his nurses do it for him because doctors don't grab the tools themselves. I get this is establishing his snobbishness, but I can't imagine there's a lot of dignity being a nurse trained to save lives and ease pain, only to end up being this dickhead's back-up dancers and putting on this gaudy lookin' 90s lunchbox because he can't be bothered to. On the plus side, we get the best genre to show up in a video game themed Rider show: the RPG. Represented here today by: Taddle Quest!

"I CANNOT believe I spent four years in school to save lives only to be this guy's damn dresser. Sonuva bitch..." 

The Bugster takes over and we get an octopus-lookin' crawler just as Hiiro begins to transform.

In retrospect, I do approve of the Level 1 form. While it's utterly silly, it kinda reminds me of old 2D sprites from games of old. And when Leveling Up, they transform into a more modern day game form.In fact, referencing Mega Man once again, it's like if you took original Mega Man and compared him to Mega Man X.

In fact, we learn that the Level 1 form is actually CRITICAL and NECESSARY to fighting Bugsters. Because when Emu transforms and goes straight to Level 2, Asuna just flips his driver over to downgrade him back to Level 1. While his reasoning applies to games, this is an operation.

So, logically, we can assume that Level 1 separates the Bugster from the patient, while Level 2 outright destroys the Bugster. Meaning you take a Bugster out in Level 2 while it's still an orange blob? Congrats, you just killed a patient. I LOVE that they give an actual reason for the chibi form. Granted its probably just to sell more toys, but at least they try and justify it instead of trying to BS it.

Regardless, Emu and Hiiro fight the Bugster both at once, though we had to hammer this message in again in case you missed it the first time.

Emu gets knocked away by surprise while Hiiro delivers the final blow to the first form. And now, we're introduced to our RPG antagonist: the wizard Aranbura Bugster.

But, before either of our heroes can take down the wizard...

Our new Ex-Aid just crushes the two of them, but disappears along with the Bugster as CR gathers up Rensuke and places him in their ICU monitoring to keep him somewhat stable, because the Bugster could still kill Rensuke and be a whole being if not dealt with soon. When Hiiro questions Asuna, she doesn't know where the new Rider came from. Hiiro leaves to eat some cake, while Emu expresses confusion why he isn't checking the patient. Hiiro explains that he doesn't get attached to patients and only cares that they get better. Emu, passively disagrees.

Emu decides to examine Rensuke and learns that he and Asami were meant to be married until Asami got cold feet, and got stressed. Emu deduces that because stress weakens the immune system, when the infected become stressed, they're immune system weakens enough for the Bugster to activate. He goes to walk with Asami, who explains that she cancelled the wedding because she didn't think she wasn't good enough for Rensuke. She reveals she still wants to marry him just as the Aranbura Bugster shows up again and kidnaps her, intend on marrying her after Rensuke disappears.

Emu transforms and prepares to fight, but with Asami hostage, he's not allowed to go to Level 2 and promptly gets his ass handed to him. Luckily, he's soon rescued by the prompt arrival of our shining knight, Hiiro. Emu warns him of going Level 2, but he just goes for it anyway.
God I was hoping his quirk would be germs...oh well.
 Both run past each other, Hiiro to his sword in the stone and Emu to Asami. But, even with a speed power up, he doesn't reach her before Hiiro, who brings out his ODDLY familiar sword and strikes Aranbura, transforming it after the strike to the Gashacon Sword.
I see what you did...and I grant a thumbs up
They take the fight outside the church and the mook clean-up begins. Emu takes care of most of the mooks (I SERIOUSLY don't know what they're called besides "Bugsters" so we can just call 'em Turkey Heads because that's all they look like to me...maybe shrimp?) while Hiiro takes the Bugster boss directly. Even after kicking its ass a bit, it casts Cure to fix itself.

Though personally I would've gone all out and used Meteo, but that's just me. Hiiro switches things up and change his sword to its ice form, even switching the blade underhanded. It works, and Aranbura is frozen stiff so he can't wave his wand for spells. Both Hiiro and Emu decide to go for a weapon finisher instead of a kick (to show off the toys, duh), but while Emu sets up the pitch, Hiiro makes the home run and secures the kill.

Afterword, Emu informs Poppy that Rensuke and Asami made up and are going to get married. When Director Kagami walks in and announces he'll put Emu back in pediatrics only, Emu decides to stay in both that and CR so that he can still help the patients instead of leaving them to Hiiro. Director Kagami reveals that the patients thanked them with an apple pie. As Poppy prepares to cut it, Hiiro uncharacteristically decides to show..."enthusiasm"  for wanting to cut the pie, making it seem like it's a surgery on its own.

So...that's your schitck? Sweets? Man, this really IS heading towards the same direction as OOO...

Over at Genm Corp, Dan is speaking with previously seen Kamen Rider Snipe, "Hanaya-sensei", offering him a Gamer Driver and a Gashat with the promise to either help patients as a doctor, or...you can figure it out.

Overall, this episode was strong. We got some rule establishment on how to fight Bugsters primarily as far as long game plot goes (or until it pulls a Ghost and changes things for no good reason). We have our second Rider introduced as well as showing that our hero isn't an all challenge-beating Jesus who's always on top of things, as well as establishing that these guys ARE NOT friends...yet.

Compared to the first episode, this one lacks a bit of the heart that Emu had with Souta in the previous. While it did have some more emotional backing in Emu's defense of the patient and valuing Rensuke a helluva lot more than Hiiro did, it just wasn't as effective as him and Souta. Bonus: the odd jump cuts in the editing have stopped (for now). It only jumped ONCE as Director Kagami repeated "pie" three times in a second, its forgettable.

As for downsides, I do dislike Hiiro a tad if only because he stole the show a little too much. Obviously he and Emu have to have a rivalry as typical of all Heisei Rider/Secondary Rider relationships, but they never really outshine the protagonist. This could've been avoided if Emu was at least allowed to save Asami after Hiiro Leveled Up. Hiiro's snobby and acts like a douche, but this is standard Secondary Heisei Rider when they first show up. I do think it's a little early, too, to be introducing the Secondary Rider in only the second episode, but to be fair its at least far more focused than Ghost. I apologize for all the salt towards Ghost, but comparing one series to its predecessor is just going to happen, so its good that we get it out of the way now. Though I am a bit fearful in that we'll be having rival Primary and Secondary Riders with a Third seemingly blurry the moral line/coming from enemy territory AS WELL AS having Riders who share the same belt for cheapness a little too close to Ghost territory.

But, as a whole, I have to say that Ex-Aid is still looking good so far. Let's just hope it can keep the pace going.

October 9, 2016

Kamen Rider Ex-Aid - Episode 1: "I'm a Kamen Rider!"

With a new October, comes the arrival of another latex suit lined with rubber and plastic defending our world from evil. Yes, friends, its the arrival of a new Kamen Rider! And he is...

In all fairness, this can't be the strangest design in tokusatsu history. It simply can't be. Admittedly, he is one of the wildest color schemes I've ever seen. Nothing wrong with pink, but man, you gotta tone it down.

Otherwise, this year, I'm going to follow through with a plan I had for Kamen Rider Ghost last year, which fell through because Ghost...lost my interest. I ashamedly admit that Kamen Rider Ghost is the first Rider I dropped midway through. And I do mean MIDWAY through. I was on Episode 24 before I dropped, but I had a feeling I would be dropping it the first time Takeru's 99 days were extended. Not to mention that, while I accept that Kamen Rider exists the sell toys, Ghost was just unashamed of itself.If you're gonna whore out, the least you can do it take some dignity with it. Alas, my gripes of Ghost will have to await for another day. For now, let's go ahead and recap Kamen Rider Ex-Aid, and follow the new Rider from his start to his completion! *Note: This may not include any movies or specials, depending if my resources are able to grab them in a timely manner. So, without further ado, let's begin telling the tale of Kamen Rider Ex-Aid!

Our episode opens on a flashback 16 years ago to our main character being saved from an accident from a doctor as he narrates about how doctors are heroes, followed by a flash forward to the present where our now pediatrician intern, Emu Hojo, is forgetting his rounds while playing a handheld..."game"; one I'm pretty sure Nintendo would put out for old NES enthusiasts (aka a good 60% of their fanbase).

During Emu's rounds we get a brief glimpse/setting up plot at some arc villains pondering over their plans, followed by a quick look at the ministry of health searching for a suitable user of the "Gamer Driver", a device that could possibly save humanity from a mysterious virus infecting people without them even knowing it. Asuna advocates for a mysterious genius gamer named "M", while her boss prefers their own candidate.

We go back to Emu dealing with a rather feisty brat (seriously, if they're not being cute, kids in Kamen Rider are ASS. HOLES) named Souta wanting to go outside despite being sick. He gets away and slapstick hi-jinks ensue across town until Emu and Souta literally crash into Asuna from earlier, forcing her mysterious suitcase to open and reveal our Rider's belt and his shtick.

 Apparently, the "Mighty Action X" (I'm getting Mighty Number 9 flashbacks. Anyeone else?) is a real video game in the world, with Souta calling it by name and wanting to play it since its just been released.

Oh that's some goood photoshop, man

Souta collapses and some strange CGI, I mean, creatures, appear on his neck, forcing Asuna to transfer him to a secret floor of the hospital Emu works out called "CR: Computer Rescue Center". Now we meet our newest Kougami clone, Haima Kagami, who switches from sweet and eccentric to serious and no-shit taking. I don't know if its more common in Kamen Rider than I think, but lately every since OOO there's been a recurrence of "enigmatic/kooky-on-a-flip-of-a-coin" mentor characters in Kamen Rider. I'm just sayin' we could use another Kamen Rider Skull is all...

Any how, Emu is dismissed, but he doesn't want to stop trying to help his patient like the doctor who helped him and inspired him, so he finds a way into their secret section of the hospital (apparently Kagami is an idiot because he just leaves the door unlocked). I'll admit, its pretty touching seeing Emu being so dedicated to helping his patient. After Souta is secured, Asuna leaves to go find the gaming genius M while we get a brief glimpse at our first monster, who contemplates that he's not ready yet.
"You think the babies from Alien are terrifying? Try having this spring out your stomach.
Emu finds his way into Souta's room and notices that Souta has a key chain of the character "Mighty" from the earlier mentioned video game and encourages him to be brave as Mighty fights the virus in him. When Souta wishes he could play the new Mighty Action X, Emu gets an idea to help Souta. We move to the release party of Mighty Action X, where Asuna is certain she'll find M (bit of a leap in logic but hey, gamers are gamers). Sorta pointless until we get more about "what happened five years ago", but apparently Mighty Action X has been in development for five years. FIVE YEARS FOR...THIS?!
Asuna spots Emu and Souta, with Emu explaining that he believes Souta's dizziness and aches are from overly exerting himself on waiting for Mighty Action X, so he took him here to alleviate that stress. I mean...it's well meaning but dude, this is crap we would see on Scrubs. Minus the giant CGI prototype of Yellow Devil-wait what?

So yeah, the "Bugster" virus reaches its peak and transforms Souta into a giant monster, which begins rampaging. Emu and Asuna escape, where Asuna reveals that "Bugsters" are an evolving virus that come from video games and are infecting people, transforming them into monsters like Souta, Emu falls to his knees in anguish for failing his patient and being unable to save him in time. Asuna responds, however, that there IS a way...

"It can be used to perform an operation to separate Souta-kun from the Bugster"
The Bugster monster storms out the building to a field, and Emu resolves to use the Driver to become a Kamen Rider and perform the operation. He puts on the belt, and with a push of a button, he seemingly turns the world around him into a video game.

With a smile, a determined voice, and an action pose, its time...

"Gashat! Let's game! Metcha game! Mutcha game! What's your name?!"
"I'm a Kamen Rider...!"
Introducing Kamen Rider Ex-Aid! ...He's really somethin' ain't he? To be fair, if you've read the preview stuff, this is just his Level 1 form. And I gotta say, after seeing him fight, I like it. It's goofy, yes, but going by the editing, tone, and random sound effects everything, I think that's the idea. But, we'll get into that later. For now, Emu has to deal with the Bugster monster. Emu runs around the area dodging and taking shots at the monster, bouncing around like he was a combination of Mario and Mega Man. He even gets a toy hammer to whack the monster around with!

 He even breaks the generated blocks everywhere to gain bonuses, the first one being speed. With a couple extra hits to the head, Emu destroys the monster and Souta returns. But, Emu can't touch him. The level isn't over yet. Like any video game, there's still the boss. In fact, its a boss from the Mighty Action X game itself: Count Salty, a snail monster.

Emu wants to level up, but when Asuna says he can't, he responds with:

Oh, I get it. Because his name is "Emu", and his nickname, "M", is pronounced pretty much the same in engrish. See, the Japanese have a habit of both impressing me and pissing me off with their wordplay. Though I'd like to see someone make sense of THIS.

Flipping the driver's second half over and crying "Dai Henshin", he transforms into his Level 2 form: the REAL Kamen Rider Ex-Aid!

He just starts smashing through the mooks of this new series (who I think are supposed to have...chicken heads? I was unsuccessful in finding a name for them), with each hit needing a special effect "HIT" over each corpse until he reveals a sword form and starts cleaving through even more until Count Salty steps in.

Figures, Ex-Aid is only winning because he's using a Game Shark...

But it makes little difference. With only ONE HIT to Ex-Aid, Salty is defeated with this Rider's finishing kick, the trademark of any Rider. And it's not just ONE kick. Hell no. We gotta juggle this bitch like a cheap Kung Lao. With a "MIGHTY CRITICAL STRIKE", Emu destroys the salty Bugster with EIGHT kicks and a satisfying explosion.

Souta is scanned again and is found cured of the Bugster virus. The day is saved, and its the beginning of a new Kamen Rider. The credits start rolling with the theme song as we are shown shots of incoming characters, and once again if you've payed attention to any of the press release stuff, you know who is who, but let's recap.

Kamen Rider Snipe
An unamed Rider, but I have a guess of his theme. Gimmie a few episodes...
Kamen Rider Brave
We go back to the hospital where Emu is shown the CR headquarters. Small, but practical in my opinion. Then, he notices an odd gaming cabinet tucked away in a corner. But as he approaches it, Asuna reveals a secret about herself...she's a video game character

Gonna break the frame here for a bit so you guys can actually READ the game titles on the screen. Ain't I so gracious?

So..."Poppy" reveals that Emu must clear every game on the screen in order to become a "super doctor" and save the world, her own game (a rhythm game to the best of my wild guesses) being one of them.

Yeah...that face about sums it up.
Due to the amount of space being used, I'll keep my first impressions brief and saved for much more after episode three airs. Ex-Aid can be best described as "goofy". But, that seems to be the INTENDED tone, and rather than try to mix drama with the weirdness, it EMBRACES that its goofy, with small nods to gaming culture and lingo here and there. I mean, he blows the cart to do his final attack for god's sake, how can you NOT find that endearing?

And that's honestly what this show is about and has more than Ghost ever did. It's endearing, its complete fun through and through, and makes the best out of its wacky design choices and concepts. I mean, we once had a whole series about fruit samurai and look how that went! I mean, with the same guy who captained Madoka Magica, whaddya think you were gonna get? I do like how the "heart" of this series is going to be Emu dealing with his patients. As a pediatrician, he's going to have to be a lot gentler with kids, and seeing hims interact with Souta and his dedication to help others like a true doctor should is honestly pretty refreshing. Like W and OOO, he has an actual REASON to want to be selfless and want to help other people at any cost. Because unlike the previous two mentioned, its not just his job as a Rider, it's his ACTUAL job.

Of course, there were some problems. I get that Emu is a NEW doctor and is just an intern learning the ropes, but seriously, what idiot takes a sick kid to a public place like that panel, ESPECIALLY when its a strange illness you know nothing about. At least when J.D,'s first patient died on him in Scrubs it wasn't something in his control. But this was just stupid.

The sound effects that happen whenever people make physical contact with each other can get old pretty fast, especially when they don't really serve a purpose other than establishing the tone. That goes with the special graphic that shows up each time Ex-Aid makes a hit. I get the concept, but seeing it pop up everywhere makes things hard to keep track of and just HOW Ex-Aid is sealing the hits.

Which brings up the editing. Throughout the episode there will be these random cuts and zoom-ins one peoples faces accompanied by these strange sound effects. I don't think we need a cut from a mother reaching her hand and smacking her son's head to show that its a fat joke and it doesn't add to the comedy, its just annoying. The odd effects and cuts can be applies to actual slapstick scenes like Emu running into Asuna, but when its being used when characters are just talking to each other or drinking tea, it gets aggravating and I can feel a seizure coming on (not helped by the color scheme of everything). As if my good eye's twitching wasn't bad enough...

But overall, I consider this first episode an absolute success. Editing gripes aside, I can't help but fall more in love with this Rider the more I see him. I'm genuinely interested in the other games/Riders we're going to have, I want to see where the plot goes from here, and just how Emu will accomplish his goals. I won't do anything with the "next time" segment because I usually skip those. I've come to the point where I can figure out a story or episode with just previews alone, and I want to stay surprised. Next time, I'll have Episode Two's recap/review up earlier than this one. This was rather last second but seeing as I missed Ghost last year, its better to try new things spontaneously, right? A new Rider, a new review series, 2016 is ending on a good note.

Kamen Rider Ex-Aid
Episode 1: "I'm a Kamen Rider!
Rating: B+