Kamen Rider V3
The series appeals to a generation of fans who watched it as children
Okay, we confess: Even though most of the articles we write for this fine publication focus on the worlds of Japanese animation and comic books, we never thought we would ever find ourselves writing about the world of Japanese live-action costumed superheroes.
These types of series, commonly known to fans as tokusatsu, can fall into a predictable cycle: Joe Schmoe, usually a character with a tragic past, encounters lackeys of an evil organization with aims to take over the world; hero goes through an elaborate sequence of poses to transform into the mega-powerful costumed Superhero X; giant rubber-suited monster gets pummeled into oblivion; catchy closing theme plays as footage of the hero riding off to meet his next challenge rolls under the credits. It can get tedious when repeated over multiple episodes.
So when the opportunity arose to review JN Productions' six-DVD, 52-episode "Kamen Rider V3" TV series boxed set, we were admittedly skeptical. Insert Kazami Shiro, a man who watched as his family was stabbed to death, as the tragic Joe Schmoe hero, Destron as the evil organization and Kamen Rider V3, the successor to the legacies of Kamen Riders 1 and 2, as Superhero X, and we could just call it a day.
Yet there is so much more to "V3," a series that holds a certain appeal for a generation of fans that watched it as children.
To understand that appeal, we first turned to local "V3" fan Zarli Win, who watched the show after school when it originally aired in the 1970s -- around second or third grade, by his estimates. He said he and his friends watched the show and talked about it at school. Sometimes, he said, they tried duplicating the stunts.
"Someone tried to do the V3 pose while on a bike," Win recalled. "While standing up on the bike."
Seeing the series as an adult now, Win said he enjoyed it both for its entertainment and nostalgic value.
"It's just good, clean fun overall," Win said. "There's a certain basicness to it all. You strip away all the fancy special effects and sound and you just got the script, the characters and the acting. ... And the bad costumes."
Bad costumes are a fun thing?
"For the purposes of (tokusatsu), cheesy costumes are considered a bonus," Win said.
Which is what makes this show so much fun to watch. Sure, there are moments when older viewers may want to make humorous comments on the action, a la the late, lamented TV series "Mystery Science Theater 3000": Some of the special effects are cheesy, the sound effects and music scream of That '70s Era, and there are plot holes big enough to drive a tractor-trailer through.
But perhaps we're just jaded products of modern times, where special effects reign. Setting aside the cheesiness of the past, "V3" still remains strangely addictive and compelling.
Most of the credit goes to actor Miyauchi Hiroshi as Kazami Shiro, who performed such stunts as hanging on a cable car 400 feet above ground and the aforementioned V3 transformation pose on a moving motorcycle without the use of a stunt double. (Remember kids, don't try this at home.)
It's a blast for children to see for the first time, with all the elements that draw kids in -- superheroes, action, fighting, bad-guy monsters and more, although some scenes may be too violent for the younger set; parental guidance is suggested. For older fans, it's a great trip down memory lane.
JN Productions does an excellent job with its DVD extras to help series newcomers understand its appeal. Text "factoids" on all 52 episodes offer interesting trivia tidbits and information on the actors. In fact, it could be argued that there is more information than casual viewers would ever want to know, as some of the more extensive biographies would likely interest only the most hard-core tokusatsu fans.
Rounding out the extras are informative essays on each character, the "Kamen Rider" franchise and the background of Destron; "V3 Karaoke," with lyrics to six songs set to music videos made up of series footage; and a half-hour interview with Miyauchi Hiroshi.