Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cool Guy: Kamen Rider Kuuga

Ever since I began watching Kamen Rider (which wasn't all that long ago, really), I have mostly exposed myself to Showa era shows such as Black, Stronger, and V3.  I'm not sure I have any particular reason, but I've always been fond of old shows, whether live-action or animated.  I decided to switch things up a little bit and watch a Heisei show, and I had seen an almost-unanimous thumbs up for Kuuga on the web, so it seemed like a natural choice.

A new hero.  A new legend.

As stated in a previous entry, my first viewing or two was a little bit jarring, seeing as I had only really been previously exposed to Showa Rider shows.  Kuuga is a very different animal in regard to both story and production, so I admit that it took some getting used to.  The main character, Godai, is very different from most Showa protagonists.  He's cheery and goofy most of the time, rarely getting down in the dumps about anything.  He's a plucky hero, and despite not emanating JUSTICE from every pore in his body and every word that he utters, he is always fiercely determined and dependable.  Godai is the kind of person from which the other characters draw inspiration and encouragement.  Nothing keeps him down for long, not even death.

Our plucky hero.

In addition, Kuuga sports a very likable, colorful cast of characters, many of whom have their own personal problems to deal with throughout the course of the show.  I don't particularly feel like dwelling on any of them in particular, but they are all interesting to watch as they develop and interact.

Kuuga's got some eye candy. (Sorry about my crappy screenshots)

Jean:  Making every scene he's in awkward as hell.

In contrast to the cyborg riders of the Showa era, Kuuga appears to be more mystical in nature, drawing power from an ancient artifact known as the Amadam.  He is exceedingly versatile, with a number of forms suited for various situations.  He is also amazingly powerful.  The Showa riders I've seen are able to pull of some of the most insane stuff, but as far as raw power goes, Kuuga is definitely top-tier.  The fiery aftermath of his rider kick is powerful enough to prompt the police to move his fights to secluded areas. 

Kuuga's Rider Kick

This brings me to a very interesting aspect of this show.  Kuuga actually actively cooperates with police, and his level of cooperation increases as the show progresses.  One of the most important side characters, Ichijou, is a police officer that becomes Godai's close partner and confidant.  Also, the police aren't useless by any means in Kuuga.  They are especially useful later in the series when the lab develops special bullets and stuff.

Brodai and Ichibro:  Bros

Now for the enemies.  The baddies in Kuuga are a tribe of beings known as the Grongi (or Gurongi).  They're an interesting bunch, participating in Gegeru, which are game-like hunts with human prey.  They engage in these hunts one at a time, keeping track of their kill counts.  The purpose is to eventually lead to a Final Gegeru and ultimately bring about the "Ultimate Darkness".  The Grongi aren't immune to infighting and drama, as some of them get butthurt over who gets chosen for a Gegeru and things like that.  Also, their Gegeru are usually governed/guided by some sort of pattern.  All in all, they make for interesting enemies, and their designs and concepts are pretty cool as well.

Cool-looking Grongi dude.

Battles in Kuuga can be quite brutal.  The death toll from Grongi attacks are frequently specified, and they are very high.  Violence is also a bit more graphic than some of the older Rider shows.  People get decapitated, slashed across the face, necks snapped, and all sorts of cool stuff like that.  Even Godai isn't immune to Grongi attacks and is hospitalized several times throughout the course of the series.  Seeing Godai get injured can be almost wince-inducing at times, like during the battle where Godai is rather painfully poisoned and another one where he gets shot through the arm. It definitely helps that the man who becomes Godai's physician is an important character and confidant as well, so secrets are safe and whatnot.

Kuuga takes death pretty seriously.

As for the production values, Kuuga has this interesting camera-work that I found to be a bit cheap at times.  There were moments when it seemed too obvious that somebody was just kind of toting a camera around and filming some people.  Either it got better as the series progressed or I just kind of got used to it.  I haven't really decided.  There's also some cheap CG, but it didn't last long enough to bother me much.  The music is decent, often a reworking of the opening theme.  The opening and closing themes are both nicely done and suit the show very well.

Overall, Kamen Rider Kuuga was a fantastic experience.  As a former Showa guy, I can say that even though it is a bit different, it is still a good watch.  In fact, I was so hooked that I blew through episode after episode in a rather short amount of time.  Despite any flaws, if I were to give Kuuga some type of rating, I would go ahead and give it a 5/5.  I was that entertained.  Every toku fan should try Kuuga out and see if he's enough of a cool guy for you. (and he likely will be)

A very cool guy.


  1. Where did you watch it?

  2. Midnight Crew Subs did Kuuga (http://midnightcrewsubs.blogspot.com) They have a complete batch torrent listed somewhere on their blog. I think this is it: http://www.nyaatorrents.org/?page=torrentinfo&tid=155263

    Midnight Crew is currently in the process of doing V2 updates for their Kuuga subs, with better encoding and timing and everything, but the old subs should be fine.