Shin Masked Rider
The third reimagining of a Tokusatsu series by Hideaki Anno, after 2016’s Shin Godzilla and 2022’s Shin Ultraman, Shin Kamen Rider (or Shin Masked Rider as it’s called on Prime Video) is based heavily on the 1971 show Kamen Rider, retelling the original story to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The film follows Takeshi Hongo (Sosuke Ikematsu), a young man who was transformed by the sinister SHOCKER organisation into a powerful human-grasshopper hybrid. Freed by former SHOCKER member Ruriko (Minami Hamabe), Hongo vows to use his new abilities to fight against the organisation, but struggles with reconciling his desire to protect lives with the overwhelming destructive power he has been burdened with.
The original Kamen Rider directly grappled with a lot of complex ideas, such as transhumanism, the insidious influence of fascism and the tragedy inherent in the constant fight for justice, and Shin Kamen Rider follows suit with its own storytelling, marrying incisive political commentary with its superhero action, with these two elements weaving into and informing each other effectively.
One of the film’s core themes is the dichotomy of happiness and pain, with its reimagined version of SHOCKER having a similar vibe to cults such as Happy Science, and its exploration of this central idea is heart-wrenching and deeply compelling. Shin Kamen Rider doesn’t quite land every point it sets out to make, but it hits far more often than it misses, and when it does stick the landing on a narrative beat, it’s with gusto and heaps of emotion.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Tokusatsu production without some intense action, and Shin Kamen Rider delivers in spades with some truly phenomenal sequences. Dynamic, distinctive and brimming with a clear passion for the source material, the film is a visual delight, with choreography that perfectly captures the essence of the original Kamen Rider show and manga while building upon it, making something at once familiar and refreshingly new.
Much like its companion piece Shin Ultraman, Shin Kamen Rider is a love letter to a beloved Tokusatsu series that maintains a fine balance between a satisfying experience for Toku aficionados while also providing an excellent gateway experience for newcomers. Similarly to its predecessor, Shin Kamen Rider’s script is also a little scrappy in places, but Anno’s enthusiasm for the source material hits like a Rider Kick to the head, more than making up for any inelegance in the writing.
Shin Masked Rider is released on Prime Video on 21st July 2023.
Watch the trailer for Shin Masked Rider here: