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KAMEN RIDER GAIM: GREAT SOCCER BATTLE! GOLDEN FRUITS CUP! (2014) is a movie spin-off of the 2014 Kamen Rider TV season and features a most unusual scenario that places our hero, Kouta, aka Kamen Rider Gaim, in some kind of alternate fantasy universe conjured up by Lapis, a mysterious teenage boy who first approaches Kouta to ask him about soccer. "Kamen Rider" has been an ongoing franchise in Japan, with movies, TV shows, and made-for-video productions, ever since the first TV series premiered in 1971. Kamen Riders are elaborately armored, masked superheroes who mostly ride motorcycles and fight primarily with swords and fists, usually confronting bizarre monsters and high-tech costumed criminal masterminds representing malevolent forces based here on Earth.
This film takes place after some catastrophic events in the TV show, "Kamen Rider Gaim," which I haven't seen, which has left the setting, Zawame City, in devastation and ruin. Once Kouta enters the alternate universe, where everything has been restored, he is surprised to see numerous characters who apparently died by this point in the regular series but are living and breathing here. Numerous Kamen Riders abound and many go mad and turn on others and begin fights that end with the one who went mad disintegrating, leaving only his armor, which gets absorbed by his "lockseed," the gadget that engineers a human's transformation into Kamen Rider. A single villain, Kougane, a high-powered Armored Rider with powers way beyond those of the other Riders in this film, is behind all the mayhem and our hero, Kouta, has to come up with some ingenious enhancements to confront him on an equal basis.
What I love about the Kamen Rider films is, quite simply, their elaborate action scenes and extensive location shooting in and around Tokyo. Kamen Riders burst into combat on a moment's notice all over the place and all through the running time of this 65-minute film. I counted a total of 13 Kamen Riders appearing in this film, although I may have missed a few. There are several particularly exciting action scenes, including one midway through where two opposing armies do battle on the streets of Zawame City using armed soldiers, fleets of motorcycle armored warriors and flying warriors in armored suits. It's quite spectacular. Late in the film, Gaim confronts Kougane, who has transformed into Armored Rider Mars, and they're both adorned in full armor, carrying swords and riding horses in a dirt plain far from Zawame City (and Tokyo), like a joust between knights-in-armor. Gaim is soon joined by ten other Kamen Riders and they all confront the main villain, who transforms into a giant flaming warrior.
There is a soccer motif in play here. Kouta's first scene in Lapis's fantasy world is in a massive soccer stadium with hundreds of fans in the stands turned out to support either Team Gaim (blue t-shirts) or Team Baron (red t-shirts). Gaim participates, as does his rival on the other team, Kaito, and both transform into Kamen Riders in the course of the game and continue to play that way. Later, at a soccer fair outside the stadium, Kouta meets an actual Japanese soccer star, Masashi Nakayama, playing himself. In the final battle with Armored Rider Mars in his flame warrior mode, the team of Kamen Riders fights like they're playing a soccer match with one of the warriors transformed into a blue ball of energy which is kicked around by the other players aiming toward Mars' flaming net.
The opening scene is set in a devastated cityscape that looks like a demolition site on the actual ruins of what was once a shopping mall. I wonder what site this was and where in Japan it is. The soccer stadium in the next sequence is huge and looks to be a real stadium and not CGI. The hundreds of extras in the scene are also real and not CGI creations, indicating a bigger budget than usual for such a film.
My copy of this film is in Japanese with no subtitles. I watched it the first time without consulting a synopsis. I then watched it again with a detailed, but terribly convoluted synopsis in hand, taken from a Kamen Rider website. I understood maybe half of the plot details described. It was much better without the synopsis.
This was directed by Osamu Kaneda, who has directed quite a number of Kamen Rider TV episodes and theatrical movies since 2001, having gotten his start as a stunt man and action director in the 1970s and '80s.
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