Thursday, August 6, 2009

No More Morphin Time? Part Two

...Kamen Rider Dragon Knight!

Remember Masked Rider? Maybe it's better that you don't. The third live-action production of Saban Entertainment (after Power Rangers and VR Troopers,) it ran from 1995 - 1997. The Power Rangers even met the Masked Rider (in a three-part episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers - I'll put up the YouTube link if you don't believe me.) Of course I liked it then, but watching it now, it is really bad. I like the old Saban shows and I think it's bad.

Why am I bringing up an awful show that was canceled twelve years ago? It was the Americanized version of Kamen Rider Black RX, the 1988 entry in Japan's long running Kamen Rider series - and while it was the first time Kamen Rider was Americanized, it wasn't the last. Adapted from 2002's Kamen Rider Ryuki and produced by Adness Entertainment, Kamen Rider Dragon Knight premiered on December 13, 2008 on CW Saturday mornings - and while Masked Rider was a flat-out disaster, this is terrific entertainment.

A brief (I hope!) review of Kamen Rider Dragon Knight's mythology: the Kamen Riders are the defenders of a parallel universe called Ventara. According to Len in A Rider's Challenge (episode four), there are twelve of them...or there were, until the evil alien Xaviax defeated all but one, turning Ventara into a wasteland in the process. Now he is coming for Earth. The sole remaining original Rider - Len\Kamen Rider Wing Knight - manages to cross dimensions, but he can't fight Xaviax alone, and the eleven remaining Advent Decks (transformation items - the Riders summon weapons and attacks via cards) will only work for the dimensional doubles of the original Riders. The series protagonist - Kit\Kamen Rider Dragon Knight - is one of those people, and he is brave enough to fight alongside Len. Some of the others are not...

This show is a lot of fun, but not perfect by any means. First, as you might have noticed, I said the other Riders were defeated, not killed. This being a kids show, the writers were forced to make constant reference to defeated Riders being "vented" and trapped between dimensions forever, but not killed. Second, and perhaps even worse, the various "bad" Riders are so undifferentiated that I have a hard time even telling them apart. I know who Kit and Len are, since they're the good guys, but someone else will start transforming and I'll be like "Wait, which one is this?" Given that the ending is obvious - the remaining Riders put aside their differences and team up against Xaviax - shouldn't there be a little more character development?

Still, this beats Power Rangers by far - and probably won't outlast it by far. Kamen Rider Ryuki had fifty episodes; these have been adapted into forty. While new episodes are aired far enough apart that the show may outlast Power Rangers, I seriously doubt ratings are high enough to justify another season - and then what will we be left with? Ninja Turtles?

Yes, they're still on too.


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