Friday, July 1, 2016

Kamen Rider Amazons Season One Review (Episodes 1-13)

When this was first announced, I was hyped because I loved what I saw of the Showa Amazon. I thought Alpha's suit was awesome when it was revealed but didn't care at all for Omega's suit. Then I saw the trailer and my first thought was "This feels like Kamen Rider The First and The Next". Not a good first impression. How did the show actually turn out for me? Read on and find out. Since its only 13 episodes, I will have to do spoilers. So with that said: SPOILERS INCOMING!
This show lacks color. Everything looks so muted because of the grey filter they put on the footage. I get that the filter is supposed to make it look like an early heisei series but even in those early series we had lots of bright color. Its makes the show sort of uninteresting to look at. The color palette is also too limited, mostly featuring red, green, grey, and black. I can't tell you how happy I was to see some blue because of how badly the filter muted everything. It also mutes certain details on the Amazons because of the color of the suits in certain shots. The picture below is the best example I could find. The Amazons in the background are missing a lot of details compared to the ones in the foreground because of the way the filter shows the color black. The Amazon in the middle of the picture actually has purple on her chest-plate but you can't see it outside of close-ups because of the filter.
A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across some magazine scans of the show. The difference between those scans and the show is astounding. The scans made the show look so bright and lively. This is a tokusatsu and I expect to see lots of colors like that.

The show itself is depressing, more depressing than Faiz for me. The show is also so edgy its not even funny. It feels like its so wrapped up in trying to be dark and mature that it actually ends up being kind of childishly angst-y. Early on it kept repeating that its impossible for Haruka to live without killing someone. This is despite the fact Haruka's own backstory shows that is possible. Its just done to reinforce that fighting is the only logical thing to do in this show. It also really doesn't help that the show takes every chance to throw Haruka's naive outlook back in his face. To make matters worse, in the season finale, Haruka basically admits that Jin is right about needing to kill to survive. Then he immediately says that Jin might be wrong and there might be another way. So he basically went right back to where he was when he first got his powers. I can handle a dark show if its done well and gives me some moments of happiness and admittedly, Amazons did indeed give me a couple. It gave me one in episode 11 but then it snatched it away from me at the very end of the episode. Mamoru basically goes feral because of an accident that happened in episode 9 and its only revealed via flashback after a legitimately happy moment. I'll get more into that in a bit. The finale did give me a nice moment of the extermination squad being brought back together but I've got a feeling season two is going to snatch that moment away as well. Its far too cynical of a show in my opinion. I get that its trying to be realistic but the lack of optimism is staggering. Its essentially ignoring that not everyone in the real world is so cynical and beaten down.
The show has brought up a comparison between the humans and amazons quite a bit and well the comparison doesn't exactly work. It outright fails in episodes 7 and 8 because they draw the comparison with a human who is a serial killer and an Amazon who merely can't control himself. The Amazon even regrets that he is starting to lose control of himself while the human takes joy in outright murdering people. It falls apart when they kill the Amazon but let the human serial killer get away with no consequences whatsoever. They outright say that the only reason he gets to live is because he is human. This was after he nearly beat a member of their team to death. If that is the justification for letting him live then there was no point in contrasting the two characters in my opinion. The show is trying to sound much more deep and profound than it actually is. Its particularly evident whenever the show brings up the aquarium metaphor in regards to Haruka.

I can't get into the action of the show. Not only is the fight choreography sub-par but it doesn't feel like there is any power behind the hits. Most of the fights in the show just look off because of that. There are also spots where the timing for the impact sound effects is off. At certain points it doesn't even look like a hit connects. If you've got an eye for fights, noticing stuff like that can get distracting. Normally the camera work is supposed to hide stuff like this. It doesn't help that the show isn't even that brutal and it actually avoids a lot of the gore. It goes out of its way to hide the brutality a lot of times by having the camera cut somewhere else or zoom out so you can't see it. Even worse though, what gore it does show is done in unconvincing CGI so I can't really count it as gore because it doesn't feel or look like its really there. Its effectively based on the Showa Amazon, one of the most brutal shows I've seen and yet Amazons lacks the bite the original show had to it. I get that its not a show made as a tv production but I was expecting more practical effects in the fights.
The Sigma stuff pretty much amounts to nothing in my opinion other than just to be there for a twist. The show tries to play up how important he was to the team when he was alive without actually showing how important he was to the team. It really doesn't help that the scene they keep showing in flashbacks is his death in episode 2. Sigma's whole chess metaphor didn't work for me either. The metaphor would've worked out better if he was out-thinking his opponent instead of just over-powering them imo. I like Mamoru but he started annoying me during the Sigma stuff. Granted, it did lead to a legitimately happy moment of Mamoru using the teams motto of working for whoever pays them to get them to fight alongside Omega again. It was a rather nice moment in my opinion. Then they undercut that with the flashback I mentioned earlier. He basically ate a burger made of human meat during a fight at an Amazon restaurant in episode 9 thinking it was a regular burger. It felt like a really forced way to add more drama. It would've worked a little better in my opinion to have his armlet run out.

This season felt padded and I honestly don't think the corporate side of things added all that much. Even though it was half the show, it felt like it was there just to provide a justification for the Amazons existence. It plays out almost exactly like you'd expect, right down to Haruka's backstory and it essentially being revealed that its not an accident that the Amazons got released into the city. I'd have personally down-played the corporate aspect and focused more on the extermination squad. The season's run time also diminished drastically going from around 45 minutes to roughly 30 minutes over the course of 13 episodes. Granted it went back to 40 minutes in the season finale. Even with the cuts to the run-time, it still felt padded. I really don't think they knew what to do with all that time.

Now for the visuals. I find most of the Amazons suits uninteresting to look at. They do capture their animals decently but again, the filter and lack of variety in the color palette hurt the look of the suits. Lots of red, green, brown, and black. As I said before, the filter they're using really doesn't do this color palette many favors. As for the rider's suits, I don't care for Omega or Sigma that much.
My main problem with Omega's suit is that it looks too sleek and robotic. It feels too much like a modern rider design. It doesn't look animalistic enough for me which is kind of a problem. It lacks that whole "be afraid" vibe. I think they over-shot the mark while to modernize the Amazon suit. I get the in-story reason why it looks like that and I get that its supposed to show the personality contrast between him and Alpha. It just doesn't feel like an updated Amazon. It feels more like a current Heisei rider.
Alpha's look is probably the best of the three rider suits. I can easily look at this and immediately get that its an updated Amazon. It has this nice savage and scarred appearance. Using the SIC design was a great idea. I particularly like the green scars and they compliment the red scales nicely and so do the green eyes.
Sigma's suit is meh overall. The bone-y scales are an ok touch and I do like the purple eyes. My major problem with it though is the color scheme. The silver would be nice on its own but the way it fades into the red looks off to me and I can't quite figure out why. I do like that it has a visible mouth on it and it may have been slightly move-able. With that being said, I don't care for it being a repainted version of Omega's original Amazon form. I've got this weird feeling that Sigma wasn't actually planned from the beginning. Not shown in the picture but the filter reacts weirdly with his suit as it makes the silver look green-ish in some shots.

This season was not fun. It was boring, annoying, and depressing. Its one of those times where I probably should've listened to my gut feeling. I'm not even kidding when I say that the only reason I kept watching was because I had friends who were willing to watch with me. I was also able to call most of the twists by episode 3. Its a problem for me because I'm kinda dense when it comes to tv shows. If I can figure it out that soon, it means the show isn't hiding its mysteries that well. If other people enjoy it, more power to them, I just can't stand the show as it stands right now and I hope it improves during season two. I also hope they drop the grey filter next season. My overall verdict for this season: Predictable, boring, depressing, and overly cynical. With season one having ended, I think I might actually dislike this show more than Faiz.

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