I have tons of posts in the works right now as many of them are going to be long like another character design post and more about Baby Driver. To get something off my mind though I simply wanted to talk about Kamen Rider Double. This show is still my favorite Kamen Rider series to this day and I still debate if my overall favorite Toku show is Double or Metalder. Either way, even if modern rider has not gotten my eyes, I can still watch Double again and again. Double was the beginning of a new era for Kamen Rider and it started off great. For me Double is not only important in some good story telling for the franchise, but also for great world building and amazing ascetics. I have a personal taste for the noir style and the whole cyber punk look is something I wish can be done again (Build is getting really close to this style). I got some hopes for Kamen Rider Build, but still after Double the franchise seem to hit an interesting time. Sure I still liked Fourze, Wizard, and Gaim, but OOO is rather disastrous and shows like Drive, Ghost, and Ex-Aid failed to catch my attention when they first came out. I tried to give Drive and shot and I still want to as well, but still that initial feel was not good. A show like Kamen Rider Double had the best of both old and new, remembering what made the franchise great while taking a nice step forward. One of those aspects had to be Kamen Rider Skull.
I been having some thoughts on who my overall favorite Kamen Rider is. When Double first aired, it was Accel, but the more I really look back, Skull is really important and awesome! Kamen Rider Skull is first an homage to the Skullman which again connects well to the past of what Kamen Rider could have been. Also being a lone rider harbors back to many original rider series even if they had team-ups a couple of times. The look of Skull is simple and yet a strong image. The first thing about is image is how the suit actor portrays the body language. The man has a relaxed look even while fighting, his arms usually stay down when he is standing still or even during some attacks. Also how he carries his hat around even when transformed gives off that cool and relaxed vibe as well. The skull motif is a bit scary and then add the whole relaxed feel to how the man carries himself, to me adds more horror to the look. Again Skull has a simple design, but what adds more to the look is how it is carried which I think speaks nicely for the suit acting.
Narumi Sokichi’s actor, Kōji Kikkawa did an amazing job portraying the hard-boiled man. We all know the joke that modern rider has and even before the Neo era. There are many pretty boys playing Kamen Riders. A slight problem I have with that is that I miss more of the manly men from the Showa era. Now there are some actors in the newer series that can actually carry themselves and some shows actually knew how to work around with these younger men. Even some actors did great like Renn Kiriyama for example. Even if I do not like Tendou Souji, I cannot lie and say that Hiro Mizushima did well presenting this man who thought he was the image of perfection. Koji though to me felt like he brought back more of that Showa manliness. Not only in term of age, but along with his emotional conflicts and how he shows his emotions. Hard boiled is the best way to describe it. He is strict and still caring, really reminds me of Ichigo and Nigo, straight to the point and yet hard as nails.
Next would have to be Skull’s story. Narumi Sokichi is the hard-boiled man who Shotaro wanted to be and worked with for years. Shotaro was impressed by the man when he first fought a Dopant even without the Skull memory. The Dopant he faced was the Spider Dopant and for who it was really tested Narumi. He had to fight his own partner who wanted to use the Gaia Memories for simply protecting someone and lost control of himself. There is even a battle scar left on Narumi since Spider had a special ability to harm not only his targets, but the ones close to him. A little spider stays dormant inside Narumi’s body even if he did defeat and kill his partner because the Gaia Memories being handed out like drugs were far more out of control than the ones in the series. Narumi had to stay to defend the windy city not only because he has a job to do to try to stop Gaia Memories from appearing in his city. He also had to stay away from his family since the bomb spider would harm them if he ever returned.
This is a story I want to see more of in Kamen Rider. A hero has to face a challenge of some kind and at times there can be no end to this challenge. Narumi can never reunite with his family and still fights despite of that. Even with scenes prior he had to kill his partner and work with Shroud behind the scenes, so he was pretty much alone until Shotaro came to join. The hardest part about it is the fact that death is right around the corner for Narumi. He killed his partner and who knows if his family will try to see him again. Then we all know his fate in Begins Night and the first episode of Double where he is gunned down. A hero is someone who can die as well, this threat needs to be established because it keeps showing the hero’s determination. Even if he died in the first episode of Double, the impact he left on the entire show is large and the show itself explored that in many episodes. I still would love to see another film around Skull showing the first time Shotaro came to work for Narumi, but at this point I guess this will never happen. Narumi Sokichi, Kamen Rider Skull is clearly the best take on modern Kamen Rider, he is given what seems like a gift and in reality it ruins his life. Narumi never shows that despair though and keeping protecting the city and the people he cares for, truly a hero, a Kamen Rider.
So those are my thoughts about Kamen Rider Skull, a rider that does have limited appearances and carries the image of what Kamen Rider means in the best way. A lone hero that despite everything still fights the good fight. Kamen Riders in the Showa era lost tons of people close to them and even if they feel despair, they try their best to not show it. It is not only for themselves, but for the others that are still alive. I do feel that many modern riders are lacking this element from the franchise though. Things are a little too fluffy and some just make fun of death. To me it really ruins what is clearly the most horrifying aspect of being a hero. The end result is me not caring for the heroes since I know their struggle is not that hard. Even if a show is more comedic, this risk can still be shown and Double can be extremely funny, personally some of the best comedy from the franchise. Even a show like Carranger has me caring for the heroes. Maybe next time I will take a deeper look into where modern rider lost this effect and how did it end up hurting the franchise. For right now though just remember to be a hard-boiled man.