Joshua Dysart’s review published on Letterboxd:
A tokusatsu exploration into the importance of sadness. Reminding us that sadness is a fundamental part of being human. That sadness is necessary to achieve actual transformative happiness. It's charming and interesting stuff to hang a whole bunch of wonky ass action on.
Obviously, I’m here for the production design, kitschy weightless last-gen CGI, and overall super fun vibe... so I’m not sure I needed as many momentum-killing scenes centered around longwinded emotional elucidation, but I ain’t mad. There’s probably something very true to the source material in all of that.
I don’t really know because this is my first Kamen Rider. KR is something I’ve admired from afar but felt too daunted by the long history and different permutations to jump into, so I came to this with no context, nostalgia, or thematic concerns.
And I felt the joy of it from the start, but I didn’t really fully invest until the scene where Ruriko goes to see her brother, Ichiro. After that I was hooked for much of the rest of the runtime (only to then emotionally disinvest again during the last act battle between Hongo, Ichimonji, Ichiro).
I did enjoy the parade of emotionally frail, bio-tech-enhanced asshole boss villains throughout. Each an offspring of a eugenicist billionaire’s madness, and each trying to manifest a “happier” more “blissful” world through eliminating human sadness at any cost. All under the command of an Artificial Intelligence that controls the “Sustainable Happiness Organization”.* Solid, fun, stuff.
None of the bosses actually feel dangerous, though. We’re told the stakes are high for all humanity, but it feels more like a local (familial) gang fight. Which isn’t necessarily a criticism.
The movie’s emotionalism was a little hit and miss for me, but they did manage to invest the image of dead people turning to evaporating soap with some heart-tuggies.
That second (classic Rider?) song over the end of the credits is a fucking banger.
In closing, if anyone could suggest some Kamen Rider that maybe is a little less morose and more fun, let me know. But still, this was the best episode of the Masked Singer I've ever seen.
* Full Title: Sustainable Happiness Organization with Computational Knowledge Embedded Remodeling. Haha... stupes.