Shin Kamen Rider (Fantasia International Film Festival 2023 Review)

Mark Pacis

Shin Kamen Rider

Hideaki Anno is one of the most respected animators of the modern generation. His work has significantly influenced the anime industry and Japanese pop culture. Neon Genesis Evangelion became one of the most revered anime titles since its creation in the 90s. Hideaki has recently reimagined the stories of some Japanese icons: Godzilla and Ultraman—his “Shin” series. To celebrate the Kamen Rider’s 50th anniversary, Hideaki is ready to reimagine another Japanese icon with his new film, Shin Kamen Rider. Screening as a part of the Fantasia International Film Festival’s 2023 programming, Shin Kamen Rider is a must-see film for any genre fan.

Unlike Shin Godzilla and Shin Ultraman, explaining what happens in this film is challenging since there’s no buildup. It puts you right into the action, accelerates rapidly, and never looks back. So, if you are a fan or know about the source material, you are already ahead of the pack. Unfortunately, if you’re new to the franchise, it will be hard for the rest of the audience to understand the story from the get-go. You might pick up some things here and there, but the filmmakers made this strictly for those familiar with the source material.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to enjoy the movie. Shin Kamen Rider is a highly entertaining homage that infuses Hideaki’s style and thoughtful themes into the mix. Fans of Neon Genesis Evangelion will progressively notice the similarities between Takeshi Hongo and Evangelion’s Ikari Shinji. Both deeply flawed characters do things selfishly because they think they are doing the right thing. The internal struggle with his protagonist is a concept that Hideaki Anno has made a career on for a few decades now.

Shin Kamen Rider is an entertaining and intentionally campy film that is a loving and respectful tribute to the classic television show.

Yet, much like the show itself, the film is as campy as it gets. The music, sound effects, and tokusatsu style are a touching homage to the original Kamen Rider series from the 70s. Hideaki Anno created a film that celebrates the character more than modernizing what fans have seen before. It is an homage and a love letter to the fans and creators of the show. The director’s love for the source material is bleeding from the screen as it comes from the heart.

Unfortunately, that tribute comes at a price. The Japanese filmmaker has to cram the lore and explanation of the Kamen Riders into already jam-packed scenes. In addition, they divide the film between unloading one plot exposition and then later going into a fight scene. That isn’t bad; you’d expect such an arrangement from these types of movies. The problem lies with the new audiences—they won’t be invested in the characters. Also, their personalities are weak and lack proper development in their respective arcs.

Overall, Shin Kamen Rider is an entertaining and intentionally campy film that is a loving and respectful tribute to the classic television show. Unfortunately, newcomers may find the movie overwhelming with the lack of setup. However, the film might serve as a welcoming gateway into learning more about source material after you finish watching. After all, Kamen Rider is the older sibling to a franchise you might know (and love): Power Rangers.

Rating: 4/5 atoms

For more Fantasia International Film Festival reviews, click here.