Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Series Review: You Can Play This (The FamiKamen Rider Saga)

On January 26th, 2014, the world lost a very precious life in the form of Justin Carmical, otherwise known online as video game reviewer JewWario. I can still remember, clear as day, when I first learnt about the horrible news from LordKaT, and then heard Radio Dead Air’s Nash Bozard pour his heart out over what had happened, along with some of his other friends and colleagues. It probably didn’t help that the news of Justin’s suicide that occurred so soon after my own brush along the same lines. He is, and shall always, be missed, not just as a reviewer but as a human being who never ceased to bring joy to the world. Now, originally, I planned on reviewing the movie Farewell, FamiKamen Rider… but not just yet. Both out of a respect to honour more than just his passing, and out of a general unfamiliarity with JW’s FamiKamen Rider material outside of a few videos here and there, I am going to look at the 5 main FamiKamen Rider episodes of You Can Play This. That way, I can see how Justin presented his own material and get some better context for when I eventually do cover Farewell, as well as provide it for people unfamiliar with the series. This is the FamiKamen Rider Saga.

The plot: JewWario (Justin Carmical) is a video game reviewer online, specializing in untranslated Japanese imports. One day, his ancestor (Justin Carmical) tells him that he is the 10th Warion, a reincarnation of the warrior that is meant to be fight against the Evil (Justin Carmical).

Let’s start with the initial WA*RI*ON 3-parter and, as you can probably tell already, I hope you like storylines in your reviews. Especially here, since the three games reviewed during these videos almost feel like afterthoughts to the story, which would be a problem if it weren’t for the fact that they usually take up less than half of the whole video each time. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get into the storyline proper. I’ve seen a fair few shows try out a branching story, from the truly dedicated like Linkara’s Atop The Fourth Wall, to the more loose but still effective like Sage’s Anime Abandon. And then there’s the utter dragged-out mess of The Spoony Experiment, but we’ll get to him next time. Honestly, out of all the reviewers I’ve seen, this is probably the one that does it best based purely on these three episodes alone. The struggle between good and evil is written in traditional tokusatsu fashion, in that it is depicted as an endless battle that is always balanced out by the fighters on either side, but it adds in context for the reviews themselves. Yeah, it’s kind of cheesy that JW gains power from his fans, something even he admits in-video, but that’s kind of the truth of all of these shows. No, seriously, these shows are made what they are, given their so-called ‘power’, by their respective fanbases; it only serves to reason that that would eventually be incorporated into the mythos eventually.  Not that the writing is airtight, though; the finale in part 3 is a bit contrived, and there are bits and pieces of discontinuity in places, but between JW doing really well in his multiple roles, Matt Burkett FKA Apollo Z. Hack’s effects work and probably the funniest Luke Mochrie ever was on camera, it’s hard to argue with these.

Now for the Death Of The Warion and… um, hello, fight choreography. In that it actually exists. Okay, yet another thing I can chalk up to JW: He actually got people who could fight in his videos, and while the opening fight in the ‘prototype’ suit goes on for a bit long, but it’s seriously refreshing seeing something this flashy in one of these videos. I will admit that I am glad they didn’t maintain that suit for the FamiKamen Rider though. Psychotaku gives a surprising amount of dignity to what is basically a massive exposition drop, explaining about the suit and how Nintendo crafts tools for the saviours of the world. Okay, I grew up an Microsoft/Sony kid, and yet that statement still makes sense to me. JW continues to impress in his multiple roles, including a new-ish face with Nega-Dub, and while they willingly make fun of his name, the character is far too creepy for me to do the same. Seriously, Justin was always one of the nicest guys ever; he plays this sadistic antagonist with the kind of relish, and yet without going over-the-top, that most actors will sell their drowning livers for. This is made even clearer by how, in part 2 when Nega-Dub tries to take over the show, he actually comes across similar to how Justin did in vlog and his I Like Candy series. Sure, he didn’t interject his lines with quite as many iterations of “worship me”, but the way he plays this character so naturally; it’s kind of awesome, if a bit cringe-worthy when he abjectly fails to review a video game. Maybe he comes as more intimidating because the bruises that we see him give Yanki J? That makeup work is damn good, aided by how it might well be Yanki J’s most badass moment when he just laughs in the face of this skin-crawling presence. The ending fight between the FamiKamen Rider, now in proper form, and Nega-Dub is… okay, fighting wise, it’s nice and energetic like the fight in part 1, but it’d be better JW didn’t flat-out break the fourth wall and admit that it would be difficult to fight himself and that he should change his appearance to distinguish them. Yeah, it’s a bit of tokusatsu in-joking, but that doesn’t make it any less awkward. Then again, all of that doesn’t make the final blow any less awesome either.

All in all… okay, I know that this review was a little short but, then again, so are the videos. And honestly, that’s probably the only real issue I have with the story: There’s not enough of it. Such is the way of the unrealized personal dream. But, like I said, that review will have to wait till later. For now, what about the episodes that we got? Well, the mythology is well thought-out and traverses new areas in terms of Internet Reviewer Storylines while also paying tribute to the tokusatsu series that it took inspiration from, Justin had a handle on every character he portrayed on screen and the cameos he brought in all added their own little touches to the overall product. Oh, and the fight scenes are friggin’ insane; I can only hope to see choreography this… existent in another review series someday, but for now this will be more than enough. If you like good writing, go for the WA*RI*ON trilogy. If you like good action and a creepy as fuck villain, go for Death Of The Warion. And if you just like plain old reviews, there’s always his Rider Reviews that, even after the Blipocalypse (both of them), the fans have managed to preserve on YouTube for us all to enjoy and remember Justin’s legacy. How fitting that a story that puts an emphasis on the fans would end up reaching its completion by the fans, both with the Farewell, FamiKamen Rider movie and the continued availability of JW’s work.

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