I just finished watching the show Amazon Riders as it’s known in the west (it is also known as Kamen Rider Amazons), and I have to say I really enjoyed it. Now it could be because I haven’t watched a rider show in a long time (probably since this show first came out), but I decided to watch it as the first season was supposed to leave Amazon Prime Video on March 30th. Also, because in the time it has taken me to right this, it’s the 50th anniversary of the franchise. Happy Birthday Kamen Rider!
This is an interesting show in that it is another example of Toei trying to update older franchises into the modern day. This is the first time with Kamen Rider Amazon, but it’s been done a couple of times with the OG riders of Ichigo (#1) and Nigo (#2). It’s an idea that has come up a number of times along other tokusatsu franchises out there. The most recent examples being the anime adaptations of Gridman and Ultraman. Amazon Riders is a show that is a more “adult” updated version of the original show, Kamen Rider Amazon. By adult, I mean that it handles a few more mature subject matters, but mostly its due to the use of blood and gore throughout the season. It deal with some more mature subject matters, such as moral lines, what it means to be a human, and finding a reason to fight. These are subject matters that aren’t dealt with much in the main line rider series. The main-line rider shows are more for kids and as such are very toy based, which this series doesn’t have much of. It feels kind of old school, as a lot of the series from the early days of rider continued the story going on after finishing the story of the season, which this series does as there is a second season. This review will see a lot of spoilers, so here is the warning.
The storyline is well done, but it is one that is used a lot in kamen rider shows. The show is about a morally dubious corporation lead by a weird and eccentric CEO that created the monsters of the show, known as Amazons, and had an accident 2 years prior to the start of the show that released a large number of test subjects out into the city. The show mostly revolves around their efforts to control the situation, mostly through extermination of known awakened amazons. Done through the use of a number of a couple of teams of people who hunt down and kill amazons. We follow the extermination team throughout the series along with 2 different types of amazons, ones with control over themselves through the use of a rider belt. The main conflict of the series is the motivations of the characters, we have the extermination team who hunt amazons for money, we have Jin Takayama (Amazon Rider Alpha) who hunts amazons to get rid of them out of some form of guilt, and Haruka (Amazon Rider Omega) who for most of the series is trying to find why he fights. It’s a very common story among the various rider shows, but I like how it sets itself apart from other shows. Probably the biggest way the show sets itself apart from other rider shows (especially in the modern era) is in the prior mentioned blood and gore. I’ll get more into that later, but for now let’s move on to the characters.
I really enjoyed all the characters and felt that they were all effective. Haruka Mizusawa is what I would consider the protagonist, as we learn a lot about the world and see a lot of stuff about the world because of Haruka. He starts off as a very timid and shy individual who is forced out of his shell when he enters the world of the amazons, finding out that he himself is one. His main arc throughout the season is essentially a coming of age story, but also about finding his humanity in a way. He’s a naive and shy character that has been locked in a room for 2 years and given needles everyday for the medication to keep his amazon side suppressed. He’s an interesting main character as he’s going through a coming of age story, while also finding what it means to be human. He’s learning to live and learning wha the real world is like. He has to figure out his way through life, and has to find his reason to fight. He’s learning new parts of himself, like that he truly enjoys fighting. That fighting can allow him to control his inner amazon, to put those urges to good use. His interactions with the other characters are interesting as he’s the most inexperienced of them all at the start of the show.
It’s cool seeing him develop into a mature character who has decided to help the non-violent amazons after project Tlaloc.
Jin Takayama is the second protagonist of the series. He’s both protagonist and antagonist as he is one of the driving forces at making Haruka grow and decide what he wants to be. He’s another interesting character as he’s very laidback with the way he lives. But behind that he hides anger and hate against the amazons. His motivation is to kill them all, to the point where he made himself one to have the power to go through with his plan. Jin was one of the people who created the amazons, but he left after making the amazon rider belt to help control his power. I enjoy the differences the series establishes between Jin and Haruka, outside of their motivations. Jin has been at this for a long while, and his fighting style shows that. He’s an experienced fighter, with full control over his actions, and he doesn’t use the weapons the belt gives him. Even his rider suit shows him being experienced as it’s covered in scars from past battles. It shows how he has been fighting this war for a long time (at least two years, since the release of the lab subject amazons). He knows pretty much all there is to know about the amazons, as he was one of the scientists working on the project originally. It’s not really shown much through the series exactly why he wants to kill the amazons, but it’s that he views them as monsters. That to survive in the world you have to eat someone else. For humans, it’s other creatures, but with amazons it’s human flesh. He will protect humans, any humans at that, at the cost of even his own life. Now in the series its to a fault, as something happens that will be covered later. This drives him to essentially become a monster in his own right at the end of the series, after operation Tlaloc.
Next is the extermination team. They are the side-main characters of the show. They’re important to the show as they serve as allies-ish to the two protagonists throughout the season. The team consists of Makoto Shido (the leader), Nozomi Takai (assault captain/melee badass), Kazuya Misaki (support fighter/shotgunner), Kota Fukuda (sniper), and Mamoru (support fighter/mole amazon). This is the team line-up that lasts through most of the season. I really enjoy the team as they are where a lot of the development for Haruka come from and where a bit of the comedic relief come from. Each member serves their role for team well, and provide a lot of action for the show. They serve in the police kind of role for the season, as they find out and fight the awakening amazons. Though most of the time they’re better as the support for Haruka, who later joins the team to learn about the world. The team serve as the driving force for Haruka discovering his reason for fighting. As well, they have interesting relationships with Haruka. Mamoru is one of the things that shows Haruka that not all Amazons are evil and deserve to die (which is repeated later on in the show). The team shows another side of a reason to fight, or a morality, in that the team fights for the money. They know how to fight and the better they get with the more amazons they kill the more money they make. As the series goes on it’s weird to me how they are even able to continue doing this, especially if it wasn’t for the riders as the amazons get to a point in strength that their weapons don’t really do anything. It’s funny to me that Shido throughout the series talks about how he can’t trust Haruka as he doesn’t have a reason, and doesn’t really get one for a while, even though without Haruka and Jin they would be dead ten times over. Everyone but Haruka has a line they won’t cross, which is brought up in an episode that will be covered later on. Back to their role in the series, they are best served as backup for the riders to do their thing as they lose 2 members within the first couple episodes of the season. They help Haruka grow as a character, and help him grow as a rider and discover more things about himself and his new self. There’s a link between the characters from the very beginning as Haruka’s first transformation as an amazon and as a rider ends up near the extermination squad. I said earlier that their role in the series is to be kind of the police of this series, in that they serve as the people that show up first to the scene of an attack to fight the monster (and usually get bodied) until the riders show up. I like hoe they made them part of the main cast instead of just being random police members. I mean they do hold their own against the lower level amazons in the season, but higher tier ones need the attention of the riders.
This needs a little explanation. So in the series amazons were created by Nozama Pharmacy, the aforementioned morally dubious corporation. Amazons are born from the artificially created amazon cells that require a lot of protein which makes them hunger for humans, especially after awakening/feeding on humans. When an amazon awakens, its amazon register (a device that is on their arm that has medicine in it to help control their amazon instincts, lasts for 2 years) sends a signal to another team that confirms its identification tag. Each amazon is then given a lettered grade for danger (A being the most dangerous). In this season there are a few types of Amazons, the main lab experiments, the riders, and newly introduced sigma types. The lab experiments are the amazons with the registers who eventually awaken and hunger for human flesh. The second type are the riders, even the riders also have two types. Jin injected himself with amazon cells and doesn’t hunger for human flesh, while Haruka was made as a bit of a weapon as he was created by injecting human cells into amazon cells. This is why he is one of the stronger Amazons (probably the strongest). The last type of amazons introduced this season is the Sigma type amazons. In this season there is only one made, as it isn’t able to work until more about the amazon drivers is studied by the company. This type is introduced close to the end of the season, with the introduction of Amazon Rider Sigma. This is a weapon made by injecting amazon cells into a dead person (this one being a former member of the extermination team). Sigma is the strongest rider as they’re able to give him the abilities needed, as well as the ability to not feel pain. Sigma creates for some cool fight scenes.
Now I will get into some of my thoughts on the morality of the characters. I think the morality of the characters is interesting as they’re pretty human in that a lot of the characters can be hypocrites. I mean, outside of the team doing it for money, there’s an episode that shows how hypocritical they are. In episode 7 and 8 they discover that the amazon they’ve been hunting hasn’t actually been killing people. They’ve just been finding dead bodies at a scrapyard and doesn’t want to eat them. In case the owner of the scrap yard is an amazon, they leave Mamoru and Nozomi behind to scope the place out. Turns out the owner is actually a serial killer. Who then goes on to torture the two, and almost kill Nozomi. As Haruka goes to (rightfully) get some vengeance on the guy, he’s stopped by Jin. Who states that he’ll protect him because he’s human, even though this guy is a murderer and has probably killed more people than a majority of the amazons they’ve hunted. No one else tries to do anything as they don’t fight for justice, and Nozomi doesn’t even get a little revenge on the guy for BEATING HER WITHIN AN INCH OF HER LIFE. The worst part is they just let the guy go and don’t even report him to the authorities. They just let him go to kill again as it’s not in their wheelhouse. Like come on guys, at least report him to the police for ALMOST MURDERING YOUR FRIEND. At the end of the season, after operation Tlaloc, the squad finds out that there are still a number of amazon survivors out there that have been in hiding for a few weeks, and that Mamoru may be a part of them. So they come back together to go get their friend. The thing is, at this point he’s awakened and ate Misaki’s arm during the operation. They still act like they’re all friends and want him back, even though he is now a danger to them all. Also at this point Jin has gone full crazy person and vows to kill all the now harmless amazons that Haruka is now protecting.
Moving on to the technical side now, I really enjoy the suits in this show. The riders are great updates of the OG Amazon suit, and still different enough to set themselves apart. I like how the belt now gives them weapons to use, even if Omega (Haruka) is the only one to use them. The Amazons look pretty good as well. With talk of the riders an monsters of the weeks comes the fight scenes. I really enjoy the fights in this show. Being a non-mainline series this allows the fights to be more brutal, animalistic, and violent in comparison to other riders. They’re still able to be a bit flashy in movements, but they’re not as flashy as the main-line rider series. Not many big fx with form changes and flashy finishers. The only drawback to me is the not that well done gore, especially the digital blood. It can take you out of the show a bit. What brings it back is how each rider fights differently. Alpha (Jin) is more level-headed and experienced. He trounces almost everyone he fights due to his power and his experience as a rider. Omega (Haruka) is more animalistic when he starts off, relying on his natural amazon abilities to win the fights, but gets more under control as the season goes on. He learns how to use his natural amazon abilities and put them to better use. The nature of this season allows the creators to do something different then a majority of most rider seasons. The show is able to depict the riders being truly injured, there are no sparks, the riders bleed and get hurt repeatedly. Heck in Omega’s first fight with Sigma, Sigma puts his hand through his chest. Now the riders are able to take this kind of punishment as their amazon abilities give them accelerated healing. They can heal from things that would kill other humans and amazons. I also enjoy how they’re able to show these, like we actually see Sigma’s hand go through Omega’s chest. Other series have done impalings, but we never fully see them for reasons. This series is not afraid of showing people lose limbs or die.
I think the camera work and editing is done pretty well, it’s able to do some more cinematic stuff that the main-line shows might not have the time to do. Another plus for me is the music. It makes scenes feel more brutal and sounds great. The theme is amazing and I’m upset that the Amazon version only uses it at the end of the episodes. It doesn’t have the weird-ass visuals intro that other riders get, at least the Amazon Prime version doesn’t.
Over-all I really enjoyed this show, and can’t wait to see more series of this type (especially the ones announced during the 50th anniversary celebrations). I think that it makes sense to update Kamen Rider Amazon in this way as that show was surprisingly brutal for it’s time, and is one of the shorter seasons at only 24 episodes long. This is a good show and I think it’s worth a watch, especially as a rider fan. Two-Thumbs up !!