Kamen Rider Saber: The Book of Ruin and the Phoenix Swordsman-A movie?

If you read through my post about Kamen Rider Saber, you’ll know how much I hated yet appreciated the first part. Although I was angrier than usual in that post, I kept going because I wonder if the rest of the show will improve. Also, I already promised it and I’m going to finish it unlike my Mother 3 post. But we’re not here to continue the adventure. We’re here to talk about the sidequest that’s almost important to the adventure.

This show came out during the height of the pandemic, when the actor who played the Red Ranger in Kirameiger (the Sentai of 2020) contracted it. That moment was not only frightening because of how young he was, but also halted much of what Toei was doing. The sets were shut down for a while, meaning Kirameiger and Kamen Rider Zero-One was postponed until further notice. Kamen Rider suffered the most, as Zero-One lost 4 episodes from its 49 episode run and the summer movie was pushed back to December. This would not only be one of the few shows of this current generation to not have a summer movie, but also the first time there wouldn’t be a crossover movie known as a VS movie. Or the Generation series; it’s kind of complicated.

All this meant that Saber, in the long run, would not get a standalone, non-V-cinema film in the summer since Super Hero Senki, the crossover, was pushed to the summer. Although part of me was happy, it also felt strange and sad. But, Toei came in and rectified it by making a short film rather a feature length one. One billed next to Zero-One…which also meant no Super Sentai film. Jeez, this was a strange time. This film, the first ever gekijo-taban in the franchise, would be called Kamen Rider Saber: The Phoenix Swordsman and the Book of Ruin. A poster was released to showcase Saber, a book, and a floating ghost to act as our antagonist.

“Protecting the world from temptation, one rider kick at a time.

Coming back to be our villain, Kamen Rider Falchion, was veteran Tokusatsu actor Masashi Taniguchi, the blue ranger from GoGoV (Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue in America) and Amazonz Alpha in Kamen Rider Amazonz. A movie form would also come as well. Although not the same as a feature length film, this movie became a replacement as if the pandemic never happened.

I haven’t watched it for the obvious reason. Why watch a movie from a show you despise? But, this film would continue providing many firsts since Falchion, because of a later plot point about the Seiken, has a Seiken, meaning he would become important to the show. So, I thought it’d be good to watch it for the overall review in order to have the context for later. And…this movie sucked. Not bad, yet far from good. 

Side Chapter: The Immortal Swordsman Sends All to the Void

“Sir, please put your mask on and stop talking to me.”

We start with a loser kid watching a game of soccer like how I stalk my neighbor. Intense, with hands covered in Dorito chips. Just then, a mysterious stranger sits down next to him. Nothing bad happens. The guy just tells him to put the chip bag down and get a life.

Back in Wonder World, a man named Bahatobama steps off a cliff. Like a teenager who just discovered nihilism, he opens up a butthole into the sky and starts sucking out the life out of everything. Tassel opens up his window and smells the cringe like, “ooooh, that funky.” The shithole was created by the Book of Ruin, which came frooooo-well, it’ll destroy both worlds.

Touma: “Bahato. You shall not destroy all in your quest for those Gravure pictures.”
Bahato: “What! I can’t hear you. Speak up, I can’t hear you from down there!”
Touma:” What! Speak up. We can’t hear you from down here!”

The hole opens up in the sky, sucking up Japan like a political talk in a party. Everyone runs away while Tou Mama Caught Me Yankin and his band of bitches walk through the crowd, swords in hand. They appear before the portal, promising to keep to their abstinence and also to survive. They scream at Bahato that his twitter comments are cringe and unproductive. Bahato laughs at their ideals, before revealing his Wonder Ride Book: Eternal Phoenix. With the power of a poor understanding of nihilism he watched from anime, he unsheathes his sword, Kyomu, and becomes Falchion: The Void/Immortal Swordsman.

Touma and the gang transform and enter Wonder World with the power of abstinence and friendship. While the non-protagonists fight a horde of Shimi and Megid, Bahato takes Touma head on. Touma spouts about how fighting is wrong, while Bahato spouts how humanity is always set on obtaining power and will betray each other for it. Touma becomes Crimson Dragon and slashes Bahato so hard the explosive cells in his body activate.

However, as Touma lowers his guard, a single orange feather falls. Gas Money base boosts as Bahato returns. Touma’s gets stunned by the sick beat (seriously, listen to Gas Money by Xavy Rusan) that Bahato gets the hit on him. Touma falls down the cliff.

“Null? Void? Phoenix? Hotel? Trivago.”

Meanwhile, back on the homeworld of Albert Einstein and Hentai, citizens watch in awe as the world is close to being destroyed. However, Meiby it’s Meibaline tells them that the Kamen Riders will win. From their combined will of literally 3 bystanders, Jake the American Dragon leaves Touma and flies up to the butthole to bring out Toothless and that dragon from Shang-Chi. They all combine with the others to become a new book for him: Emotional Dragon. With this new power of wholesome youtubers, he becomes Emotional Dragon and faces Falchion one last time.

Touma: “Me and my friends will protect the world from temptation. You must not obtain those pictures.”
Bahato: ‘What in the world are you talk about?”

Swords clash and bodies fall as the others destroy their targets. Falchion and Saber fight until Saber gets the upper hand. With Falchion shown videos like Girlfriend Reviews before Rekka slaps him in the face, he becomes immobilized. Tootless and the Shang-Chi dragon deform Touma as they drag Falchion into the butthole. Falchion vows to return.

“It’s an eclair btw.”

With life returned to both worlds, everyone has a happy ending. The boy takes all that trauma and plays soccer with the kids who managed to survive. Our heroes watch when Mei suddenly whips out four black cocks. Rintaro gets excited and tries to take them to eat the cre-okay, I’m done. Hahaha…I’m sorry.

Cons

The Entire Plot

“Dammit book readers! You released hell on Earth.”

Since this is a 23-minute movie, I’m basically combining a bunch of sections. Anyway, what plot? This movie is basically a distilled version of every standalone Kamen Rider film. A dark rider appears to face our main team, they threaten the world, the good guy gets a movie form, they beat up the dude, and the day is saved. It’s very by the numbers with nothing making it stand out amongst the many others out there.

Bahato’s character gets expanded in the show, but here he just comes out of nowhere. None of the riders question why there’s a random dude with a freaking Seiken, even though up to this point everyone with one has been a member of the Sword of Logos. Sure, the fate of the world is at stake, but at least indicate something to the audience. The Book of Ruin comes out of nowhere, with no time to explain what the heck it is. Touma’s Brave Dragon flies into the butthole and pulls out 2 random dragons. Granted, most movie forms come out of nowhere anyway, but this one aggrieves me more than usual. There’s no time to explain anything in this movie, so it just jumps right into a fight for the rest of the screen time. 

The rest of the movie puts focus on these 3 civilians because the theme of the film is that “we live our lives normally while there are those fighting in the background to keep our lives in peace.” There’s a kid, a high school student, and a dad. However, it is so forced and blatant that it hurts. Understandably, the kid would stay with Mei since she’s an adult, but then she just makes him watch the Rider fight while parts of the city are getting sucked up. It might be a cultural thing, but wouldn’t this kid want to go to his parents or something? I love how they show his face, inspired, as Mei tells him about the theme of the story. It’s exactly like when Sophia ranted about how powerful books are to Touma. It’s so obvious.

“Well, now you just ruined it. Thanks Mei.”

When Mei helps the kid and tells him that her friends will help, the student just stops running away from the apocalyptic event to listen. Also, conveniently on center stage for the camera. Then, as Mei’s explaining the theme, the same student and the dad are just conveniently there, and the movie puts more focus on them than any other civilian. One, why are none of them running away and hiding in a bunker? Second, although there’s an apocalypse threatening the world, there’s nothing here to get invested in these random people. The kid? Yeah cause we had a scene establishing him. But the rest are these cardboard cut outs meant to be the beacon for the theme. I didn’t care when they go back to their normal lives at the end of the movie. Who were these people? 

Touma: “Here you go, Ren. Go play with your friends.”
Ren: “F@ck you Touma!”

The movie relies on two sets of cliches, both embedded in the franchise and within superhero movies in general. All the dialogue is non-stop exposition about good and bad, faith in humanity, and the friendship. Nothing about it is organic. Everyone talks like they’re in a TED Talk. When the beliefs of the 3 random civilians go into Touma as he gets Emotional Dragon, ironically, I felt no emotions from it. Nothing has weight in this film. This movie tried to be ambitious like the show but, also like the show, it falls hard on its face

Pros

Falchion Suit

“I don’t appreciate you calling my mom that!”

Alright, here’s the cosmetic stuff. Falchion is one of the best-looking riders in this show. Seriously, he got the good end of the stick. The orange and black contrast well, becoming uniform with his sword and belt. Something I forgot to talk about in the first review was how every rider’s mask are based on a sword swing. Saber’s is a cross slash, Blades’ is a vertical slash, Espada’s is a horizontal slash, Buster’s is a downward crash splitting a mountain, Kenzan’s is a cross but in the shape of a shuriken, and Slash is a thrust that resembles both the impact of the sword and the cartoonish bang used in cartoons to signal gunfire. Calibur does a downward slash as well, but his mask is more like a standard knight. Falchion follows this trend by having his eyes resembling explosions, which are things that reduce things to nothing. It’s one of the few consistent things with this series.

There’s also his main suit, which is just gorgeous. I love how inverted his armor is, with the phoenix head on his right shoulder, while the tails act as a skirt for the left side unlike the other Seiken Swordriver users work. It’s like a phoenix resting on him. I also love how the tails go around his base suit like chains or cracks. It’s visually pleasing, as if his own existence is breaking apart. As if he was corrupted to his core.

“You stealing ma look?”
“I can say the same for you, buddy.”
“*muffled screaming*”

On a side note, Falchion is an example of a rider suit reusing parts from previous suits, albeit very subtle. This is standard within the franchise, since it seems they don’t have the budget to always have new parts all the time. Not sure about that, since it’s not readily available information. For Falchion, his left side shoulder pad is taken from Kamen Rider Build’s TakaGatling form. Yes, there is a form where it’s a Hawk with a Gatling gun. Don’t question it, it gets explained in the show. The entire base suit was taken from Ghost’s, which painted over the translucent parts. It’s not very noticeable, and I only learned that from the wiki page pointing it out. A more obvious one is Emotional Dragon, which reuses the Hedgehog mask from Espada to be the white dragon head. The Brave Dragon shoulder pad from said form is mirrored to become the black dragon on the left side. The cape is taken from Kamen Rider Tsukuyomi from Kamen Rider Zi-O, while the shield was taken from the Shield Module from Kamen Rider Fourze. 

“Can I come onto your show? I need more screentime.”
“Nah, but I’ll take your cape.”
“Mom, Dad, I sh!t on the bed.”

While it may seem lazy, the best part of reusing parts is seeing how creative the team can be went retooling it for another rider…sparingly. It’s okay for them to reuse stuff for movies and specials. For the main show, it can be pretty abhorrent. Trust me…we’re gonna get to that soon.

The CGI

“Can we have a normal camping trip one time!”

I’ve always enjoyed the CGI backgrounds of Saber. Sure, it’s Tokusatsu CGI, meaning it looks like garbage, but it at least varies the locals that’s typical of these shows. Even if the concept was too ambitious for Kamen Rider, the CGI allows Wonder World to be fully realized as if it actually exists. This movie takes place primarily in Wonder World, where Touma fights Bahato onto of a tall mountain from day to night. While it does transition back to the same cliff area in every Tokusatsu show ever, it blends with the CGI. Nothing feels jarring, and, if you accept the CGI, the finale is an amazing spectacle. Seeing Saber fight Falchion under the night sky as a large portal is sucking up everything made the movie bearable. I wish the rest of the show was more like this, sparingly, since CGI be expensive, because this is really one of the last times Wonder World is explored.

The Credits?

“Yes? Hello, police? Hi, this Power Range is dancing in front of my house and causing a ruckus. Yes, he’s a Power Ranger-oh my god! He just fired a pink sidearm at a crowd of cosplayers. He’s stabbing them! Oh my god-“

The credits are pretty charming. Not because it’s the end, but because it’s cute. It has scenes of each character doing something as a picture book, with each scene being transitioned by the book turning the page. Ryo cutting down boulder after boulder, Kento flying in the sky, Daishinji testing out the gun mode of his sword, and other brief moments that give character. It’s visually appealing, fitting the book theme, and it’s one of the very few times I enjoy these characters. If the whole show was like this, I’d enjoy the hell out of it more.

Overview:

This movie is a hard pass for anyone who’s a veteran Toku fan or even a newcomer. There is no substance whatsoever, the plot is nonexistent, and it relies on cliches so much despite not doing anything different with them. I would even say I made a mistake. Though this story introduces Falchion, his introduction here is about as random as someone watching the show without watching the movie seeing Falchion come out of nowhere. I don’t think you need to watch this film to enjoy the show. It’s best left untouched.

At first, I thought of making an argument that this movie would be a good start for newcomers to Tokusatsu. I wouldn’t say it would make for a good Kamen Rider introduction, as the franchise is more story based than Power Rangers or Super Sentai. But, as an introduction to Toku, I think it may work. It has a villain who wants to end the world, as many Toku villains are. It showcases the toys that do plague modern Toku but isn’t so much that it’s overwhelming. It has all the themes of these shows, albeit cliché. And the main rider gets an upgrade form, which is something to be expected. Plus, it’s a short film, so they have all the time to watch and finish it. But what do you think? If you’re an expert of Toku, or have watched this movie, would you show this to someone looking to get into the genre as an introduction? Let me know in the comments.

“Hmmm…I wonder if we’ll see this guy soon. Also, don’t question this room. It’s briefly shown sometimes.”

Anyway, next time, we return to Touma’s adventure as he tries to discover who the traitor is; the person who’s caused all the events in this series. However, he’ll learn that such a quest won’t bide well with his companions, so he’ll need an ancient one to survive.

-Samuel Argueta

Kamen Rider is owned by Toei and Bandai. Please support the official release.

The Christmas Elves

A fine Christmas Day we have. I’m writing this Christmas Eve while watching “It’s a Wonderful Life”, but it’ll go up Christmas Day. Might be a stretch, but what 19 year old do you know that actually watches that movie? Who am I kidding, I shouldn’t lump my generation into one group.

Anyway, this time I’ll be writing a quick rant about The Christmas Elves, a 1995 Christmas movie made by Golden Films based on the tale of the Shoemaker and the Elves. I watched it a few weeks ago on Tubi, the streaming land of both popular movies and sad obscure ones that either never got to see the light or were too bad to grasp it.

“Elves are like Stands, you can’t see them unless you have them.”
Photo by Oleg Zaicev on Pexels.com

The Story: In the a distant kingdom, the King does everything he can to get the finest shoes. Unfortunately, that means raising taxes, getting into debt, and then later selling a bunch of land. Meanwhile, a man named Hans takes in a thieving boy as his apprentice and later finds out shoes are being made in his sleep. Despite never making shoes before, people believe the beautiful shoes are his, and so they pay him for them. Hans becomes a famous shoemaker around his parts, even better than the King’s shoemaker.

However, his wife becomes suspicious that he’s just able to make shoes in his sleep and convinces him to stay up on look out. As it turns out, a couple of elves, training to be apart of Santa’s crew, have been making the shoes. He confronts them, however, just as they leave, they accidently transport him back to their base.

He finds a elf training base not in the North Pole, as only elves that work with Santa get to live in the North Pole. The elves that make his shoes are a bit of misfits with no real chance of being with Santa. The head elf puts Hans to sleep just as Santa arrives, fearful of him seeing a human finding out about the base, and later sends him back home.

Hans wakes up and remembers the whole thing, due to one of the elf’s cloth being in his pocket, and makes new cloths for the elves. The elves come back, but they are unsure if they should help him now that Hans knows. However, they want to give their gratitude and end up giving Hans magic to continue making shoes. And so they leave.

Some time later, the dumb King, after promising a ham to a maid and to be a royal, sends for guards to Hans in order for him to make the finest shoes by Christmas…unless he wants to be imprisoned. Unfortunately, Hans wanted to make shoes for his apprentice. He stays up all night, until he wakes up realizing he didn’t make the shoes. The guards come and take him from his wife to rot forever.

However, the elves came back and made the shoes, sending it to the king and releasing him. The King puts on the shoes, but they take control of him and make him a nicer person against his will. The elves that help Hans become Santa’s elves, as they realize that them giving Hans the magic he needs despite it being against the rules is the true meaning of Christmas. The movie ends with them being on the back of Santa’s sleigh as they ride out the night.

“Can you tell there’s not a lot of pictures on this movie?”
Photo by Melvin Buezo on Pexels.com

My thoughts:

I was coming into this film thinking it was either gonna be bad or okay enough to like it. Afterwards, I came up with the latter. The film’s charm and wit made for a good Christmas film. I’m not sure if its true, but the animation is exactly like the animation from “Grandma Got Ran Over By A Reindeer.” The voice actors and actresses did a pretty good job, even if the movie didn’t credit them. That’s why the IMBD is pretty barren.

“I put this picture because I swear, Izzy from Digimon’s voice actress is in this film.”
Image from Digimon Fandom

The story is fine, but the wit and performances made for a fun sit-on-the-couch Christmas film to watch with my family. It tells of the heart of doing something for others, from Hans helping his apprentice to the elves helping him with shoes, and the evil of greed. Seriously, the king got his kingdom in debt for shoes. Good lookin shoes but still! It’s like some classmates I used to know would seriously spend so much on dang shoes.

Other than that, there isn’t much else to say about the film. It’s short, about 48 minutes, and I can’t much say about the original tale since I never read it. However, I did enjoy it, and I think it did its job as a solid Christmas movie. If you have a Roku, Tubi, and some time on this Christmas Day, I say take a chance and give the movie a shot. It might become a new holiday tradition for you.

Well, after all that, I leave you with a Merry Christmas. The end of the world might be around us, but I think this Christmas can be a time to remind us of the holly and jolly that we can share together…of course at a distance. It might be wishful thinking, but someone’s gotta dream a little. Anyway, happy holidays and pray for a White Christmas wherever you are.

-Samuel Argueta