REVIEW: KAMEN RIDER FINAL RIDE DECADE FIGURE
Ever buy an action figure just because you thought it looked really cool, even though you didn't know much about whatever concept it might have come from? Well, I did.
Now, I have all the respect in the world for American-based action figures, and their background concepts. G.I. Joe, Masters of the Universe, DC Universe, Star Wars, etc. No problem with any of them, glad to have them around. But, as a discriminating toy collector, I do also have to admit that there are times -- quite a few of them -- when the Japanese action figure world has it all over us.
The sad thing is that very few Japanese-based concepts with cool action figures have ever fared all that well here in the States. Transformers and Power Rangers, that's about it. Sorry, but I don't count Pokemon and Bakugan or their relatives. And it certainly hasn't been for a lack of trying, especially on the part of one of the big boys in the Japanese toy world, Bandai.
To us, they're the makers of Power Rangers, and Ben 10. In Japan, they also turn out Gundam, Kamen Rider, and a host of other merchandise. Now, let's discuss those other two for a few minutes. Gundam is pretty popular in the United States, or at least it's tried to be. Cartoon Network ran several of its series for a number of years, even if they tended to put them on after midnight. Bandai marketed a wide range of merchandise for several years, including the various figural model kits, and my personal favorites, the action figures, which are best known in Japan as "Mobile Suit in Action", or were, until they met an unfortunate end a while back. Gundam managed about a four-year run in the States.
Then there's Kamen Rider, sometimes known as Masked Rider. There was a brief attempt to market this in the United States back in the 90's, after Power Rangers proved to be a hit. Some of the product was really pretty impressive, and I still have an 8" Masked Rider figure from that time that I'm very pleased to have.
More recently, one of the more current Kamen Rider series was brought to the United States, with a toy line from Bandai that lasted less than a year and which frankly, they should've been embarrassed to stamp out of plastic. The figures were barely articulated, and hung on the pegs gathering dust until they could very deservedly be shuffled off to the clearance section, to gather more dust.
Now, Masked Rider is a whole lot more popular in Japan than it's ever managed to be here (which is still no excuse for poor toys), but the toys that have been turned out by Bandai in Japan -- WOW! Most prominent, I would say, are those incorporated into a line of 4" scale figures called "Motion Revive". I did a review on a set of these a while back. Imagine Microman without the fragility. Imagine a level of detail that gives you eyestrain. Imagine an articulation level that lets these figures assume almost any pose possible by any human being this side of a professional contortionist.
But, those are not the only Kamen Rider/Masked Rider figures around. I subscribe to the e-mail newsletters of several online collectible toy stores. And one of them had a sale, with something that caught my attention. Some new Kamen Rider figures that I'd never heard of. Two of them, the lead characters from a particular series (Kamen Rider, like Power Rangers, tends to reinvent itself fairly regularly), that looked really outstanding in the detail and articulation department, and -- hey! They were on sale! Well, twist my arm, why don't you...
The figures are from a Kamen Rider series called "Final Form Ride Series", and are named MASKED RIDER DECADE and MASKED RIDER DIEND. This review will take a look at MASKED RIDER DECADE.
I realized that if I was going to do a proper review of this figure, I not only needed to learn more about the character, but also about the series from which he came. Fortunately, some online research gave me answers to both.
"Kamen Rider Decade" is actually the name of the series -- or at least a fairly close English translation. It debuted in Japan in 2009. The name is derived from the fact that it is the tenth series in the "Heisei Rider" series, which began with "Kamen Rider Kuuga" in 2000. The series was tied in with the arcade game "Kamen Rider Battle: Ganbaride", with Decade and Diend using cards resembling those used in the game to transform and access various weapons.
Cards seem to be increasingly popular in Japanese pop-culture concepts. Apart from a lot of the anime that's been brought over to the States that uses cards, the most recent Super Sentai (Power Rangers) concept in Japan, which has not (yet, anyway) been brought to the States, also has a card-based concept.
The synopsis for the show is as follows: The story revolves around the nine previous universes of the Heisei Kamen Riders merging into one, something that would destroy all the worlds. To prevent this, Tsukasa Kadoya transforms into Kamen Rider Decade and is told that to protect his own world he must travel to the other Kamen Riders' Worlds, and eliminate some "anomaly" in that world.
The series had 31 half-hour episodes, and several films, which apparently took place during the run of the series, one of which featured the cast of Kamen Rider Den-O, which I recognize since that's where some of those Motion Revive figures came from, and apparently they're being merged into a new media franchise called the Cho-Den-O series. Another movie featured over twenty-six Kamen Riders, including the successor to Decade, called Kamen Rider Double.
Brother, and I thought the annual overhaul of Power Rangers was a headache. I'd offer more information, but too much of this is either in Japanese, or transliterated-into-English Japanese, and my spell-check has had about enough as it is.
As to the character of Kamen Rider Decade, or Masked Rider Decade if you prefer (which interestingly enough is what his box says...).
Decade's real name is Tsukasa Kayodo, portrayed in the series by actor Masahiro Inoue. He is described as a hypocritical and self-righteous young man who does not know much about his past. He is a photographer, and has a strong desire to "catch the world" with his photos, but they never develop well. He sees this as a sign that he is not of this world, unaware of it being a prelude to it being supplanted by the worlds of the other nine Kamen Riders.
As Decade, given that his mission is to travel to the other worlds to prevent their merging, he is seen as an agent of destruction. It is also revealed that those who appear in his badly developed photos have some fate befall them, be it death or otherwise. In one episode, it is revealed that his purpose is to travel to the other Kamen Rider worlds and to be whatever is needed in order to save them - hero, villain, destroyer, savior, whatever.
In one of the tie-in movies, it is revealed that Tsukasa was the "Great Leader of the Dai-Shocker", an evil organization that is attempting to take over all dimensions. He commissioned the creation of the Decadriver in order to prevent the collapse of the Worlds and allow Dai-Shocker to conquer them. Due to circumstances not covered, Tsukasa suffers from amnesia and ends up in one of the Worlds. He regains the Decadriver and resumes his mission, gradually regaining his memories. Finally, after fighting Dai-Shocker through the alternate worlds, he and Diend kill the last of the Dai-Shocker's active leaders.
There's more, including a huge list of all the different Rider Cards he can use, but I'm not getting into that. The figure comes with one card that features the character's logo along with a UPC-like bar code. The logo resembles the character's helmet-face. Beneath the bar-code are the numbers 4 5 3 1 4 5 -- which correspond to the letters in the English alphabet that spell out the word "DECADE".
So, how's the figure? Extremely cool. Seriously, I wish Bandai was turning out stuff this impressive for the American market. Decade stands about 5-1/4" in height, and is very sturdy and well assembled.
His helmet is particularly complex in both design and paint detailing. There is a raised series of vertical lines, seven of them, across the front of his helmet, most of which are black on the front, but a sort of pink-magenta -- a primary color of the character's uniform -- on the insides. I can't even imagine what the paint stencils for this must look like. There's a little touch of gold on the top of the center ridge. Decade has large, metallic green eyes on his helmet, which connect to a smooth black wraparound that comprises most of the back of the helmet. There's some silver trim at the base.
The primary colors of Decade's uniform are the aforementioned pink-magenta, black, and white. The costume appears to be a tight-fitting outfit with some raised, armor-like details. Most prominent is a white and black stripe that goes across the chest and back, and over the left shoulder, and a second stripe which goes over the left shoulder at the neck. This forms a somewhat slanted, almost sideways Roman numeral "X", the number for ten, again a "Decade" reference.
The front and back of Decade's uniform is black, with some armored padding corresponding to musculature. The sides of his uniform, down to the feet, are pink-magenta, as are the outsides of the sleeves. The insides of the arms and legs are white, separated from the pink by a wide black stripe, which is raised on the legs. The figure shares a number of his parts, especially the arms and legs, with the Diend figure, which has a somewhat different detail system.
The figure's hands and feet are black. Decade is wearing a silver belt, with a huge device in the center, which I assume to be the Decadriver. It is sort of oblong, with a red circle in the center, and a tiny little green dot above the circle. Now, that's some serious attention to paint details.
One thing I really want to give Bandai Japan credit for is fully painting the figure. In America, Bandai has a nasty habit of skimping on the paint, especially on the backs of some of their Power Rangers. No such problem exists here.
Decade is astoundingly well articulated (something else Bandai's American counterpart could learn from). He is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. The figure can assume an astounding variety of poses, and even has enough balance to take on a couple of sort-of martial arts stances and successfully balance on one foot. Just don't jostle the table too much.
Of particular interest is the finger articulation. The four fingers of each hand are articulated in groups of two. It's impressive articulation, but I've never seen it done quite like this before. I've seen first finger and other three as a group done, and infrequently seen all four fingers individually articulated, but never groups of two. Not sure what the reasoning behind that was.
Decade comes packaged in a very nice and colorful box, with an assortment of accessories. These include a card which I'm sure is incorporated into the overall card game or whatever it is that this concept utilizes; a couple of gun-like devices, one with a retracted handle, and which almost look like they're designed to shoot cards; an impressive sword; and something that looks like it may be a display stand. If it has an additional purpose, I'm not sure what it might be.
So, what's my final word here? Okay, look, if you've been sitting there scratching your head over the story concept that I laid out as part of this review -- and trust me, you're not the only one, so was I -- don't worry about it. I don't think the latest attempt to bring Kamen Rider to the United States was particularly successful (certainly the toys weren't nor did they deserve to be), and the likelihood of this "Decade" series being translated into English, or being overhauled into something more agreeable to American audiences the way Power Rangers has been, is probably pretty minimal. Unless you actually speak and write Japanese, you're probably not going to encounter it. I just wanted to provide a reasonable amount of background.
The bottom line is -- this is a cool Japanese action figure. Full comprehension of where he came from is not required to enjoy him. The design, detail, articulation, and everything about this action figure should appeal to anyone who's into collecting action figures -- Japanese, American, or both. He's a very impressive piece of work, simple as that.
One other note -- the back of his package shows a picture of quite a number of other figures in this series. Not entirely sure who they are, and where I got Decade and Diend didn't have any others, but -- they've gotta be out there, if you think it's worth the search. And it might well be...
The KAMEN RIDER FINAL RIDE DECADE figure definitely has my most enthusiastic recommendation!