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Kamen Rider Amazon is the 4th tv show in the mega-hit Kamen Rider series. The Riders is different from the others, he was raised in the Amazons. He is the Tarzan of Kamen Riders. He dresses, and swings like Tarzan. He has a yell similar to Bruce Lee's. Tachibana Tobe returns yet again to train Amazon. The series is one of the most violent tv shows I've ever seen. The plot is dark, and gloomy, the type of mood Kamen Rider always has. Definitely worth a view!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The 4th "Kamen Rider series" from Toei, following the cheap, dismal
looking "Kamen Rider X". At 24 episodes, it's easily the shortest of
the entire original run, and barely scratches the surface of what could
have been the most interesting character of the franchise.
Yeah. COULD have...
Sadly, though, there's a lot of problems. The series breaks up into two very clear halves, the first (episodes 1-14), where Amazon is more savage, and has little command of the Japanese language, and fights Geddon, and the final episodes (14-24), in which he battles Garanda Empire, and magically can speak perfectly, with no explanation. It's no surprise that the second half was more than likely responsible for killing off the series. It's obviously a case where the studio execs didn't like how much the formula, established in the previous nearly 200 episodes of Kamen Riders, had been altered. In fact, it's the changes that make the first few episodes so interesting.
Amazon is not a true Kamen Rider, but some kind of weird creature, granted his powers by the mysterious "gigi" armlet. The villains, Geddon, lead by the Ten faced demon Gorgos - the best main villain of all the series - are after Amazon's armband, to join it with it's second half, which Gorgos wears. However gimmicky this may sound, it provides a clear focus for each episode, rather than the generic monster of the week, out to destroy Tokyo format. Geddon are a grisly bunch, who drink the blood of their victims in many episodes. They also have all-female members, who aren't just the punching bags that the usual henchmen are in these shows. Also, by not having regular fights each episode with 5 or 6 goons, Amazon devotes more time to character, and the Geddon Mountain Women do actually seem vaguely competent, unlike the forces of Destron, Shocker, GOD, etc. The fights eschew the dynamic posing we usually get, and instead, are filmed very shakily, and with an emphasis on savagery, rather than excitement. It's the bloodiest of the series, with villains regularly spraying fountains of blood, in best "Shogun Assassin" tradition. However, they are quite hard to watch, and Amazon's lack of a final move in the first half, means we're spared the explosive finale of each monster, and instead, they slump in a bloody heap. Brutal stuff for a kid's show...
Amazon has the best supporting cast of any of the shows, with series regular Tachibana Tobei turning up, along with a young Japanese boy, Masahiko and his sister, Ritsuko, but the star of the show is "Mogura", an- ex Geddon beastman, who is spared by Amazon, and joins him, albeit reluctantly, in his fight against evil. Mogura's quirky personality is always fascinating, and the relationships between the characters are fascinating to watch - there's easily the most characterisation of any of the shows, as Masahiko tries to teach the savage Amazon to speak Japanese, and there's a lot of humanity here. Stand out episodes include those featuring the cat beastman, the golden snail, and episode 13, which features Kazumi Kitahara - star of "Zone Fighter" - as an evil infiltrator, and one of the few guest actresses on the show.
Sadly, though, come episode 14, everything goes pear shaped, as Amazon is no longer a fascinating character, but just a generic, and rather fed up looking guy in a weird outfit. Garanda Empire are unimpressive - leader Emperor Zero, a podgy westerner, is dull as they come, and the henchmen, tassle wearing, face-blacked goons (men this time), look singularly ludicrous. The plots are generic and uninspired, and more time is spent on similairly poorly filmed fights, and less on characterisation. Tachibana Tobei has a lot less to do as well.
The whole thing grinds on, lacking flair, until finally, in episode 20, in an effort to make things more interesting, Mogura is brutally killed, and the series follows after not much longer, with a terribly staged finale, perfunctory and illogical. Not only that, but we're also denied any team ups with previous riders - we have to wait for the Daddy of all last episodes in the far superior sequel, "Kamen rider Stronger", with all 7 riders.
Rider Amazon's costume is very weird looking, not one of the best, but the theme tune is dynamic enough - it also benefits from some of the best incidental music of any of the shows, as well as the usual mix of classic motifs from V3 and X. When I was a kid, I couldn't get enough of the end song, "Amazon Da Da DA!" Sadly, though, this was a series with a lot of potential, because it dared to be different, and gave us the most humanistic protagonist yet, female soldiers, a friendly monster, and a fresh take on the Kamen Rider origin mythos. Sadly, though, all that is jettisoned come the half way mark, and we get a degeneration of something decent into a very, very tired production.
Episodes 1-13 = 8/10
Episodes 14-24 = 1/10
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