“Shin Masked Rider is Hideaki Anno’s love letter to the original series. This is a two-hour action-packed film with an electrifying score by Taku Iwasaki. But at its heart, it’s a dark and deeply moving story that is also hopeful.”
The latest entry in the Kamen Rider franchise has now been released outside of Japan. Shin Masked Rider (Shin Kamen Rider in Japan (シン・仮面ライダー)) was released in March in Japanese cinemas. But people around the world can now experience the film on Prime Video. Though, one can wonder why the international title isn’t named Kamen Rider instead of Masked Rider. Firstly, it would be easier for the audience to find the film on the streaming platform. Secondly, Kamen Rider is a famous pop culture franchise, its name should be featured in the title.
Shin Masked Rider is a film that was produced to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Kamen Rider franchise. This is the fourth and final film in the Shin Japan Heroes Universe. This universe is a collaborative project developped by Hideaki Anno and includes his works Shin Godzilla, Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time and Shin Ultraman.
Shin Masked Rider follows Hongo Takeshi (Sosuke Ikematsu) who awakens to discover he has been transformed into an hybrid called Grasshopper-Aug 01. He is set free by Ruriko Midorikawa (Minami Hamabe), a former member of SHOCKER. SHOCKER is an evil organisation that transforms humans into brainwashed augments hybrids. The duo decides to take on SHOCKER in order to protect humanity with the help of secret government officials. Ruriko and Hongo who becomes a Kamen Rider hunt together the Augments throughout the film.
The opening scene sets the tone right away – it’s two-hour action-packed film. It delivers on that side with intensity. The film has a fast pace. Yet, it still has plenty of moments to breathe and let its characters being fleshed out. In fact at its heart, Shin Masked Rider is a story about loss and how you deal with grief. It’s a very human and character-driven story as expected from Hideaki Anno. It’s dark and deeply moving but it is also hopeful. The hopefulness is important when you do a Kamen Rider story.
With Ruriko and Hongo on the road to hunt the bad guys, there is also a road movie aspect to the film. That element favours the bonding of the characters. Their bond is the emotional driving force of the story. Throughout the film, Hongo learns what it means to be a Kamen Rider and what it takes to be one while facing his inner torments with the death of his father. Ruriko is actually the one who helps him overcome his struggles. Despite being a machine and under her cold appearance, Ruriko shows she is very much human. Indeed, she has her own inner struggles with her family. She cares enough to save them and to be the one who leads this quest to stop SHOCKER.
By the end of the film, Ruriko and Hongo’s stories are given an emotional conclusion. Though, the story of Hayato Ichimonji (Tasuku Emoto) is just beginning. This leaves the door open for a sequel and I do hope there will be one. There could be a lot to explore with Ichimonji.
Furthermore, Sosuke Ikematsu delivers an heartfelt performance as a tormented Hongo. Through his performance, we see his character evolve and embracing his heroic side. Minami Hamabe’s performance is more serene which works for who her character is. While Tasuku Emoto brings more energy with his character. The villains are over the top in their performances, which is exactly what you need with villains in this franchise.
VISUALS & SOUNDTRACK
Moreover, the visual aesthetic of Shin Masked Rider heavily relies on the original series Kamen Rider from 1971. Obviously, this means it’s a bit old fashioned but it works incredibly well. Watching the film, you really have the impression of watching something that was made back in the 70s-80s with a dash of modernity. The cinematography brilliantly mimics the one from the 70s. The colors are vivid and yet slightly discolored. On top of that, the action often takes place in the Japanese countryside or in abandoned places.
Additionally, the design of the Kamen Rider suit is basically a “back to basics.” It’s a suit that worked at the time and I think it still works today. It’s just so cool. The other costumes for the Aug are based on the same aesthetic so everything is harmonized. As for the action scenes, they are skillfully choreographed creating a sense of epicness.
It brings out the right amount of nostalgia for fans of the franchise. Director Hideaki Anno knew exactly what he was doing when he made this film. You can tell he made this film as a love letter to the original series while also bringing the same sensibility he brings to each of his projects. He really puts the emphasis on capturing his cast’s emotions in the most authentic way.
Finally, Taku Iwasaki has composed an explosive score that is absolutely electrifying the audience during the action scenes. The track “Bajra” uses backing vocals that elevates the intensity of the score. Make sure to watch the credits until the end, not for a post-credits scene but because of the songs played during the credits.
Shin Masked Rider is Hideaki Anno’s love letter to the original series. It brings the right amount of nostalgia, brilliantly recreating the atmosphere of the 1971 series while also telling a compelling story. This is a two-hour action-packed film with an electrifying score by Taku Iwasaki. But at its heart, it’s a dark and deeply moving story that is also hopeful. I loved watching this one and I sure hope for a sequel because Hayato Ichimonji’s story is yet to be fully told.
Shin Masked Rider is now streaming on Prime Video.
Collectables Editor at Future Of The Force.
Star Wars and Marvel specialist, anime expert