Tuesday, January 7, 2014
Guyferd : Toho's Kamen Rider like show
In 1996, Toho produced a 26-episode long TV show named "Shichisei Tōshin Guyferd (Seven Star Fighting God Guyferd) which aired on TV Tokyo. The aim of this post is to decribe the main elements of that show, and review it.
Takeo Shiroishi, a scientist, working for the Crown company, was doing research about a parasite life form named "Fallah" for medical purposes . However, one day, during a failed experiment, one researcher turned into a monstrous creature after exposure to Fallah. While he was horrified by that incident, his superiors were thrilled by it, given that by becoming a monster, the researcher became very powerful. It was then that Shiroishi realized that Crown had nefarious purposes, doing research for military purposes, and likely, nefarious schemes. At the same time, Gou Kazama, a young man who had wandered through the world, notably Peru, went back to Japan, to investigate the disappearance of his older brother Masato. Soon after going back in the Ken'nou-ryu dojo, where his brother was teaching, he ended up being kidnapped by Crown, and turned into a cyborg like creature, a Guyborg. However, when he was in Peru, he had been infected by the Fallah parasite, and, as such by the combination of his cyborg modifications and the abilities brought by the Fallah parasite, turned to be able to change into a strong warrior form, Guyferd. After escaping the Crown facility with Dr Shiroishi, learning about the nefarious plans of Crown and their potential involvement in his brother's kidnapping, Gou Kazama decided to fight the evil Crown and thwart their sinister ambitions. He was helped by Dr Shiroishi and two young martial arts sibling students , Rei and Yuu Kujou.
In this part, I'm going to talk about main protagonists, the only characters seen through the whole show.
The main protagonist of the show, who was trained in martial arts, but wasn't motivated to fight, because of his pacifist mentality. However, after having his body modified by Crown and realizing that he was the only one who was able to stop the evil organization, he decided to start fighting. At first, he had trouble using his powers, but after meeting the spiritual mentor of the Ken'nou-ryu, he managed to use the power of the five elemental "energies " ( Fire, Water, Earth, Nature and Metal) and the two ethereal energies (Air and Star), and turn those energies and his life force into deadly attack to defeat his enemies. Besides, as a trained and very talented martial artist, he was already a dangerous match for his opponents. While he is a good-natured man, he was very angered by the misdeeds of Crown. Moreover, he suffered from not being an human being anymore, even if his friend reminded him that the most important thing, his good heart, was still making him being human despite his modified body.
Dr Takeo Shiroishi
A scientist who worked for Crown until he realized their evil intents. After leaving Crown, he did everything to stop Crown's plans. He became Guyferd's mentor, and did the technology and investigation work for him. However, he lacks fighting skills and is often clumsy and often shows over the top behaviour. Despite those few shortcomings, he's a very good friend and an essential part of the team.
A young girl who was a pupil in the Ken'nou-ryu dojo. She has feelings for Masato Kazama, and, later for Gou as well. She's a very talented fighter, and the most down to earth member of the team, being the one doing the chores, notably the cooking. While she wans't able to fight the most powerful Crown minions, she was still able to be a good match for the footsoliers, especially after receiving special boots from Shiroishi, which made her kicks become 30'times more powerful.
Rei's younger brother, and also a pupil in the dojo. He's a very talented hacker, being able to find plenty of information by pirating computers, and as such, helped a lot the team's investigations. He has good technologic skills, seen for example when he helped fellow hostages escape a Crown's building. He's also a skilled fighter, using special gloves built by Dr Shiroishi to strenghten his punches.
The team was often helped by a police officer, Detective Yuki Nakano, who was trying to investigate Crown despite his colleagues's skepticism, and often brought good help to the team, notably thanks to his police training and marksman skills.
Guyferd : a story in three main arcs
The main storyline is told in three parts, with the fight against Crown going into three different stages. Each of those parts has a different theme and different antagonists, and the following chapters are gonna describe each of those arcs, the antagonists and the themes.
First arc : Guyferd vs Bycross and his team : episodes 1-8
The first arc of Guyferd shows Crown as being an huge organization, involved in several areas of research, all of them aiming to create super strong soldiers and fighters, in order to take over the world. The leader of that organization was Bycross, a crime lord like leader, who had two main research teams. The most important team, at least initially was the team involved into cyborg reconstruction, with the creation of the powerful Guyborgs, the cyborg warriors of Crown. The leader of that team was Dr Minoh, a unscrupulous and arrogant scientist. However, after the first Fallah incident and the realization of the incredible powers brought by it, the biotechnology team, involved in Fallah research started to get more importance, and its leader, after Dr Shiroishi's defection was an ambitious and cruel woman, Megumi Shion.
That first arc is mostly storyline driven, with Gou discovering his powers, and the major arc being Gou's quest for his missing brother. During that arc, Crown's main aim was to create the most powerful warriors, notably by using the Fallah parasite and turning humans into powerful monstrous fighters, the Mutians. Crown didn't hesitate to kidnap innocent civilians, even children to use them as guinea pigs for their twisted experiments. At first, Crown tried to capture Guyferd to analyse him and understand what was making him such a strong fighter, but, after undergoing important losses to Guyferd, then merely wanted him dead. Crown was interested in getting strong fighters to turn them into supersoldiers, either Guyborgs or Mutians: as such, they turned an arrogant teacher from the heroes's dojo into a Mutian, and Gou's brother, Masato, into a Guyborg. The final arc of the Bycross arc involved the kidnapping of an anti-terrorist unit to turn them into Mutians and build a strong army. However, that plan was thwarted by Guyferd, who at the same time, found his lost brother who was released at the same time as the kidnapped soldiers. However unbeknownst of Gou, Masato was in fact turned into a powerful opponent, Deathferd, fueled by his strong rivalry with his brother and his desire to duel him. Fed up with Guyferd's interference, Bycross decided to become himself a Mutian and fight Guyferd in duel, but while he was rescued by Deathferd after their first confrontation he was finally defeated by Guyferd during their second fight. It was at thattime that the true leader of Crown, the mysterious Zodiac, revealed himself to Shion, and asked her to destroy the Crown headquarters and kill all the research teams, only keeping the research data. She soon killed Dr Minoh, planted bombs in the Crown headquarters. However, while she was escaping , Dr Shiroishi tried to stop her and recover the researhc data, and when trying to go, she fell into a cliff, seemingly to her death. After a intense fight with his brother, Gou managed to get the upper end, but wasn't able to stop him from going back in the Crown's headquaters when they were being destroyed, and Masato apparently died. At that time, Gou and his friend believed that Crown was over.
That first part used a lot themes used in Showa Riders, with the hero feeling isolated because of his modified body, feeling an outcast among fellow humans, afraid of having other finding out that he wasn't an human anymore. As a result, he hid from his companions (except Dr Shiroishi) his identity as Guyferd, even if Yuu and Rei actually were admiring the fighter. Rei and Yuu only learnt about Gou being Guyferd when Shion, in her cruelty revealed the truth to the siblings, but, of course, it only made Rei and Yuu even feeling closer to Gou. Like in the Showa Riders, the enemy was a powerful terrorist like organization, using technology to transform the human body into modified humans, with the Mutians having an animal theme, like the Showa Rider Kaijins. Crown, like Shocker, had no qualms killing humans to advance their plans. An interesting element was to show Crown as an human team, with a leader and rival researchers, as in a classic military research facility and show those humans experimenting on their own kin, without any empathy for their suffering and killing innocents without second thoughs.
Second arc: the Fallah plan : episodes 9-16
During that second arc, Crown became more a completely hidden group, and used a completely secret base, without any official front. The leader was the unseen Zodiac, communicating with his generals thanks to a device having a stone dragon appearance. Zodiac had two generals working for him, the robotic Metal Master and a reconstructed Shion, who was revived by Metal Master and transformed into a Guyborg. At that time, Crown's true aims were revealed, with Zodiac wanting to wipe out the human race using the Fallah parasite, and have the world only inhabited by creatures transformed by Fallah. Zodiac tried to convince Guyferd into joining them, by showing him human's follishness and telling how similar he was to them, but to no avail, and the fight between Guyfed and Crown was more intense than ever, with Crown using Metalferds, which were guyborgs infected with the Fallah parasite, and having, as a result similar abilities as Guyferd.
Unlike the first arc, that second arc was much more character driven. While in the first arc, Shion was fueled by her ambitions, in that second arc, she was driven by revenge against Guyferd, seeing him as the one responsible for her becoming a Guyborg and losing her humanity.
During that arc, each memeber of the Guyferd support team got a focus episode, one with Rei and a school friend, another with Yuu and a female friend of him, with his father being targeted by Shion, and even Shiroishi had a ficus episode with a former pupil of his and his awkward relationship with her. Another episode focused on a Guyborg hitman working for Crown and his dilemma when his next victim reminded him of his mother. Even Shion herself was shown t have hidden depth, with a backstory involving the tragic death of her mother. She ended up killed during a failed attempte to avenge her mother.
A theme explored in that arc is what it means to be human. Indeed, while Metal Master was a true machine, devoid of any emotions, other transformed characters, like Guyferd, and even evil ones like the killer and Shion, showed their human side by showing strong emotions, notably how Shion was driven by her revenge instead of being merely a cold blooded killer. Likewise, it's during those arcs that the protagonists were shown the most deveopment as characters.
That second arc ended up by Guyferd defeating Metal Master and stopping the plot involving spreading the Fallah parasite to the whole world by destroying a device where Shion's brain was stored and used as a vital part of the Fallah spreading bomb.
Third and final arc: the Gaia-net plot : episode 17-26
During that final arc, Zodiac decided to involve himself in the plots, and, after the failure of the Fallah plot, decided to used mystical items to get rid of humanity. His plan involved using three mystical devices, linked to a mysterious tablet, the Daruga Tablet, to awaken a strong power which would be able to destroy all life on Earth. Zodiac was helped by a crazy scientist, Dr Kuzan, who wanted to have revenge on his fellow colleagues and prove that he was right about the Gaia-net powers. Zodiac used Gaia-Soldiers, Metalferds enhanced by the power of the Daruga tablet, to find the items and defeat Guyferd.
Guyferd and his friends tried to prevent Crown from getting the sacred items, with the help of a female archaeologist, but, unfortunately, two of the items, a tablet and a sword fell into the hands of Zodiac. The fights ended up more dangerous as ever, wit the loss of the heroes's spiritual mentor and with Guyferd even dying after a fight. However, at that time, he had been able to find the last item, a sacred orb which was able to resurrect him by fusing with him. Besides, soon afterwards, Gou was reunited with his brother Masato, who had actually survived and became his precious ally in their fight against Zodiac as Deathferd. However, in order to get the last item, Zodiac kidnapped Gou himself, while he was in a weakened state, and forced the power of the orb out of him to begin the Gaia-net destructive operation in Mount Fuji. Shiroishi, Masato, Rei, Detective Nakano, Yuu and the female archeologist managed to rescue Gou, and at the end, Gou and Masato, as Guyferd and Deathferd confronted Zodiac in a last showdown which ended in Zodiac's defeat. However, the Gaia-net operation was already in motion, with Dr Kusan even bombing the headquarters in order to stop the two brothers from stopping it. Masato and Gou had to sacrifice themselves in order to save the world, leaving their friend into a deep sorrow, when they realized that the world was saved at the expense of both Gou and Masato's lives.
That final arc is certainly the most conventional of the three, with a basic arc involving a item hunt by both heroes and villains and a basic good vs evil plot. That arc was also noticeable by its focus on mystical and archeological themes, in contrast with the more science themed previous arcs.
Guyferd was certainly an interesting show, with a nice cast and an interesting protagonist group, with the hero's supporting team being a very useful help to him, even saving him from the enemy in several occasions. The interactions between the heroes was fun, and the cast had a nice chemistry.
Guyferd used very interestingly the theme of transformed humans and their consequences, the classic theme of old Kamen Rider shows, especially during the two first arcs.
The most striking element of the show was its three arc structure, with each arc having a different theme. However, while that choice was an interesting idea, its execution was far from optiaml, with each arc often feeling disjointed from the others, and Crown's plans feeling inconsistent through the show. The third arc was especially weak, using in an excessive way the "killed and then resurrected" plot device, and often showing the portagonists as incompetent, losing in very stupid ways the items.
Masato's return came pretty much out of nowhere, even if it allowed Masato to have more interesting development after his pretty lame arc in the first arc.
One of the most interesting antagonists was Shion, who was involved in the two first arcs, and showed interesting development, being in the first arc an ambitious and unscupulous scientist, but, after her death and resurrection as a Guyborg, came back as a bitter woman, who hated being a Guyborg and was more driven by revenge than by ambition. It was interesting to see how she hated having become herself what she forced almost others to become without remorse, as a pretty ironice fate for her. While the attempt to make her look more sympathetic with her arc involveing her dead mother wasn't the most convincing, she still managed to have a tragic end, since she ended up as a living brain used by her former allies, and finally accepting death to be freed from her sorry state, being nothing more than raw living material used by Crown.
Guyferd had some nice fighting action, not only from the main hero, but also from his support team.
Lastly, unlike most toku, Guyferd didn't end with a happy ending, but rather a bittersweet one, with the world being saved , but at the price of the hero and his brother's lives. This was a very interesting choice, which was pretty fitting in a show where the hero felt as if he was cast away from humanity because of his modified body, and felt that their only role in the world was to fight the enemies (not unlike the Riders), even if they appreciated a lot the support that their friends brought to him.
Guyferd, while not an awesome show, was far from being a bad show. It deserve a 6.5/10.