Time to finish up the Kamen Rider fest I seem to have created on the blog lately. This time, I’ll be talking about the last Kamen Rider henshin belt I intend to buy for the time being. Why am I only interested in the three I talked about here? Well, there are a couple things I’m looking for in a henshin belt. First, I like a nice mechanical action. Something to do with your hands, and that preferably makes a solid mechanical sound when you do it. Setting the Faiz Phone into the Faiz Driver, Kabuto Zecter’s lever, and DecaDriver’s open/close action. Secondly, I like voice feedback. I like it when the belt speaks as you do things. “Exceed Charge”, etc. Not sure why, I just think that’s cool. Lastly, I like it when the belt has multiple functions. Preferably a henshin, a final attack, and something else. As a caveat to that, I generally don’t like card-based systems because it’s a pain in the ass to get the cards. DecaDriver was an exception because of finding that barcode card PDF.

So, that brings us to the Deluxe Kabuto Zecter, which satisfies all three requirements. In the series, an alien species known as Worms appeared on Earth aboard a meteorite that crashed into Shibuya. One of the Worms’ key abilities is the ability to molt out of their pupal form, gaining super speed. In order to combat them, a secret organization called ZECT was formed, which developed the Kamen Rider System. The system consists of an intelligent insect robot that can attach to a belt, brace or weapon, turning their chosen bearer into a Kamen Rider. The Riders had two forms, their initial heavily armored Masked Form, and a Rider Form achieved by shedding the heavy armor. The Rider Form could “Clock Up” in order to match the Worms’ speed.

The main hero of the series was Tendou Souji, played by the wonderful Mizushima Hiro. Tendou bore the Kabuto Zecter, a Japanese kabuto beetle which attached to a belt. Above you can see the belt, which as always with the DX Henshin Series toys, is beautifully detailed. The belt looks great even just like this. The mod I made so I could wear the belt is identical to what I did with the Faiz Driver. A nylon strap with a buckle in the middle is just stitched to each side of the belt.

The Kabuto Zecter itself is a red robotic beetle. There are three buttons along one side where the legs should be. Pressing them will make the Zecter produce one of three random effects. It will say either “Here I am” or “Danger”, or make a flying sound effect. To henshin into Kabuto’s Masked Form, slide the Zecter onto the belt, and it will speak “Henshin” while making a sound effect and light pattern. In this mode, pressing the buttons will just make an effect similar to a train rumbling down a track. I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be.

To change to Rider Form, rotate the Zecter’s horn forward a bit, and it will start to pulse, building faster and faster. Pull the horn all the way to the right, and it will say “Cast Off… Change Beetle!” with lights and sound effects. Pulling this lever is very satisfying, and it makes a nice solid “chunk” sound as the cover expands out. Just as in the show, you can initiate Kabuto’s Rider Kick finisher. Press the buttons in order and it will say “1-2-3” while illuminating one light each time. Close the cover and rotate the horn back, then pull it open again and it will say “Rider Kick!” along with the accompanying effects. Again, very satisfying, and accurate to the show. However, that brings me to my one complaint about this belt — it’s missing a major feature. Remember, the whole point of the Riders in this show was the Clock Up ability… which is completely missing from the various toys (with one exception I’ll get to in a second). The pads on the sides of the belt used to initiate it are just pieces of plastic, there for show. Physically, there’s no real way for them to have electronics unless they each had their own batteries, but then maybe the belt should have been designed differently to incorporate it. You can also close the Zecter and rotate the horn back to its starting position (without doing the 1-2-3), and it will say “Put On” to switch back to Masked Form. Press the release buttons and remove the Zecter from the belt to get a henshin cancel effect, a rare case of such an effect being included.

Though primarily a hand-to-hand fighter, Kabuto also had a hand weapon. This took the form of the Kabuto Kunai Gun, which in Masked Form resembles a hand axe with a pistol built in. This form has a firing sound effect, and the barrel lights up. The light up barrel is a really obvious feature I wish had been included on the DX Ride Booker. The size is a bit of a problem, as it’s much smaller than the show, but that’s generally the case with toy weapons. Still, its a little tight getting my big hand around the grip. The Kunai Gun also comes with a holster that attaches to the right Clock Up pad on the belt.

There are two small buttons you can press, then pull the gun’s barrel out to reveal the Kunai mode, making a nice sound effect in the process. Kabuto wielded this knife in a reverse grip while in Rider Form. The toy actually has a motion sensor that will make blade clashing effects as you swing it around. Like the gun, it’s a little tough getting my hand around the grip. but manageable. If you put the kunai back into the rest of the body, it’ll make yet another sound effect.

The final piece I have for Kabuto is his Hyper Zecter. This was actually first seen in the movie “God Speed Love” where it was initially wielded by Kamen Rider Caucasus. In both the movie and TV series, it falls into the hands of Kabuto who uses it to become Hyper Kabuto, and access the time and space manipulating Hyper Clock Up. It attaches to the left side of the belt using its own special replacement for the left Clock Up pad. This attachment point is similar to those used in many other Rider belts, but actually locks with a button release, which is nice. The horn is swung back toward the body of the Hyper Zecter to initiate “Hyper Cast Off… Change Hyper Beetle” along with appropriate effects. Press the large red button to trigger Hyper Clock Up for a whopping 20 seconds. That’s twice what the Faiz Accel gives you! This is also the only Clock Up feature in any of the Kabuto role play toys. While in Hyper Clock Up, you can swing the horn down again to trigger “Maximum Rider Power” to upgrade your kick, or to work in conjunction with the Perfect Zecter weapon.

Overall, the Kabuto henshin series toys are great fun. Very solidly built, detailed, and aside from the lack of Clock Up, accurate to the show. They’re a great set to have for any Kamen Rider fan, and still decently available due to having been released to the Asian market just last year.

Kamen Rider Black

May 19, 2009

I recently finished up 1987/88’s Kamen Rider Black. Black and its direct sequel Black RX almost exist as their own “era” of Kamen Rider. The last full TV series had been Super-1 in 1980, and there wouldn’t be another full TV series after RX until Kuuga in 2000. What Black does is introduce a lot of elements that would become hallmarks of the later shows.

The story begins with Minami Kotaro and Akizuki Nobuhiko. Kotaro was adopted by Nobuhiko’s father and raised as family along with Nobuhiko’s sister Kyoko. On their 19th birthday, both young men are kidnapped by an organization of evil cultists called Gorgom. The boys are each modified into cyborgs and implanted with a Kingstone. Being given the names “Black Sun” and “Shadow Moon”, they are to fight to the death, with the victor becoming Gorgom’s next Creation King. However, Kotaro is able to escape before his brainwashing is complete. When he’s attacked by Gorgom’s three high priests, he undergoes a transformation into his Black Sun form. Kotaro decides to use his powers to fight back against Gorgom, taking the name Kamen Rider Black.

Black’s premise and tone were considered generally dark at the time. The Gorgom organization is presented as extremely creepy and even disgusting at times. It may seem a bit funny now with its obvious rubber suits, but in 1987 I can see how this was unlike what people had seen before in this kind of show. It also introduces a lot of the tension and drama that would become standard in the later movie-era and Heisei-era riders.

The most important addition is an antagonist Rider. A little after halfway through, Nobuhiko awakens as Shadow Moon. This puts a lot of strain on Kotaro, Kyoko and Katsumi (Nobuhiko’s girlfriend), and creates a conflict of loyalties for Kotaro. Can he fight his best friend and brother? Shadow Moon of course is brainwashed by Gorgom, but sometimes shows unexpected compassion and restraint, especially when confronted by Katsumi. This all culminates toward the end of the series when the Creation King pushes the two to finally duel it out, and things don’t initially go as you’d expect…

Despite all that, most of the show is typical mid-80’s tokusatsu. Gorgom comes up with some wacky plan, Kotaro stumbles onto it, kicks the monster’s ass. The formula is broken up a bit during the first half by the introduction of Birugenia, a former Creation King candidate who was considered too out of control and sealed away. Birugenia would sometimes appear to challenge Black, spicing up the fight scenes until he was finally taken out and replaced by Shadow Moon.

The effects are decent for the time. The regular monsters are a bit cheesy, but the more major characters look great. Black has some nice organic muscley stuff in his joints, and Shadow Moon is just badass all over. The priests look really good too, both before and after their mid-series upgrade. I love the grip tightening sound effect when Kotaro clenches his fists before transforming. The biggest problem I had is that the strobe effect during Rider Punch and Rider Kick really hurts my eyes. I can only imagine the seizures this show caused.

Overall, I liked it. The regular episodes could drag on sometimes, but it’s made up for whenever the story kicks in with the Priests, Birugenia or Shadow Moon getting involved. Shadow Moon especially was a cool character, setting the stage for later Riders like Ouja, Kaixa, the Hoppers, Saga, etc. It’s certainly a lot cooler than the 70’s stuff I’ve seen (not to hate on that or anything), and much more satisfying as a full series than the one-off “movie” Riders. I’ve started into Black RX, which isn’t as dark but I still like it. Best part of RX, no Furbus.

Century Kings, a fansub group consisting of I think just one guy, has Black done through episode 38. The rest I got as raws from this thread on Henshin Justice Unlimited.

This year’s Kamen Rider series is a big what if story. Specifically, it’s like “What if there was a giant Marty Stu crossover fanfic, but it was done by the show’s actual studio, and it didn’t suck?” That essentially describes Kamen Rider Decade, a celebration of the past 10 years of “Heisei” era Kamen Rider shows.

In the series, a man named Kadoya Tsukasa is Kamen Rider Decade. In order to save his world from collapsing, he must travel to the worlds of the past 9 Riders to completely restore his powers. Decade’s powers are unique in that aside from a few specific attacks of his own, his powers are… everyone else’s powers. Decade can transform into any of the past 9 main Riders and access their weapons, powers, forms and final attacks. If he’s with that Rider, he can also transform them into a weapon for a special combo attack.

Decade’s powers are accessed through Kamen Rider Cards. With the DecaDriver belt in its open position as in the above photo, cards are inserted through the top. The logo of the Rider the card draws from will be visible in the circle at the center of the buckle. At this point, the DecaDriver will speak the class of the card, which is one of the following:

Kamen Ride — Transforms Decade into another Rider. Also used for his initial henshin into Decade.
Attack Ride — Accesses weapons, powers and even vehicles
Form Ride — Switch to one of the Rider’s power up forms. Note, “ultimate” forms are accessed separately with a device to come later.
Final Form Ride — Transforms another Rider into a weapon to perform a combo attack
Final Attack Ride — Use a Rider’s own finishing move, or initiate the combo attack with Final Form Ride

When closed, the DecaDriver will light up in the center, speak the name of the card, and play a sound effect. Unlike in the show, where the specific name of Attack Ride and Form Ride cards is spoken, the toy will only say the name of the Rider to whom the card belongs. “Faiz”, “Agito”, etc. There are specific henshin sound effects that play in conjunction with each main Heisei-era Rider’s Kamen Ride card. Other Kamen Ride cards just get a generic effect.

As with the Faiz Driver, the DecaDriver needs modification to fit an adult. Since the DecaDriver closes at the side of the buckle, and the back separation is just for adjustment, I could do things a little differrently. Most importantly, there’s no need to incorporate a buckle at the back. On one side, I just stitched the strap into place the same way I did on the Faiz Driver. On the other side, I passed it through the adjustment slot, and put the adjustment piece from the backpack back on. The adjustment piece keeps the strap from sliding back through, and also does its intended job of allowing you to adjust the belt’s size.

Decade’s other main piece of equipment is the Ride Booker. Normally hanging at his left side, its primary purpose is as a card holder.

Within, there are two areas to hold cards. The area at the left has space for 3 cards comfortably. You could maybe jam more in, but I’m worried about messing them up. When you pull a card up from this area, it will bump a little switch causing a “vrooom” card drawing sound directly out of the show. The area on the right is much deeper, holding most of your cards, but has no special function.

The Ride Booker also serves as Decade’s personal weapon. The first mode is a pistol. This looks very nice, and very accurate to the show. When the trigger his held down, you get a machine gun sound effect. The Ride Booker’s gun mode can be powered up with the Decade Blast card, though for the toy this has no effect.

The Ride Booker’s second form is a sword. Unfortunately, and likely due to toy safety regulations, the blade is embarassingly short. This comes of worse than most toy swords, since the card holder section is taking up a lot of the sword’s overall length, leaving just a pathetic tip of a blade. I can’t say this looks remotely as good as the gun. Tapping the trigger will make a sword slashing sound effect. The Ride Booker’s sword mode is powered up by the Decade Slash card (though, as with the gun, this does not affect the toy).

Here’s a quick look at the Kamen Rider cards I have at the moment. The 10 Kamen Ride cards all come with the DecaDriver. The Decade Slash card comes with the Ride Booker (but not the Decade Blast, frustratingly). Decade’s Final Attack Ride comes with the Final Form Ride series Kamen Rider Decade action figure. These cards, in addition to being usable in the DecaDriver, are also used for the Kamen Rider Battle: Ganbaride arcade game. In fact, other than the ones that come with toys, those machines are the only way to get the cards. There is a function in them to buy cards from Kivat the 3rd. Unfortunately, there are no boosters, so it’s fairly impossible to get them outside Japan. There is hope for gaijin looking to get the most out of their DecaDriver. Somebody in Japan figured out the encoding on the barcodes and made a PDF with barcode cards you can cut out. There’s also some promo card effects as well as unintended and Easter Egg effects. Pretty nice!

DecaDriver cards complete set — PDF

I love the DecaDriver. It only really has one thing that it does, read barcodes, however that one function is really fun. It’s also very solidly made, and makes a very satisfying sound when opened and shut. Details are abound, even in places you can’t normally see. Since this allows you to role play as every main Rider from the past 10 years, how could any Kamen Rider fan not want this?

I recently got one of my personal holy grails. This is a toy that I had thought I’d missed the opportunity to own, which would’ve been unfortunate since it’s the best damn Kamen Rider toy ever. Of course, if you know Kamen Rider, you know I must be talking about the DX Faiz Driver.

In the series, Kamen Rider 555, the Rider Gears were belts and weapons originally designed by the Smart Brain organization to protect the Orphnoch King. Instead, the former CEO of Smart Brain decided to repurpose them a bit. They were sent to members of a group of kids the former CEO had raised years before, with the purpose of using them to defeat Orphnochs. The only catch — they only work for people with Orphnoch DNA.

The center of the Faiz Gear is the Faiz Phone, its power source and control device. Outwardly, it looks like a normal cell phone. On the toy, pressing any random combination of numbers followed by the Call button will make the phone say “Connectioning…” and make a ringing noise and light pattern.

The really fun stuff starts from here. There are a series of codes printed on the screen. Let’s start with the ones that let you use the phone as a gun. Where’s that iPhone app at, huh? On the Faiz Phone, key in 1-0-3-Enter, and the phone will say “Single Mode”, indicating you are in single shot mode. Key in 1-0-6-Enter and it will say “Burst Mode”, indicating that it will now fire in 3-shot bursts. In either case, fold the screen straight back and cock it to the left to turn the phone into the nifty Faiz Phone Blaster. There’s a firing sound and lights moving along the “barrel” when the trigger is pulled. After 12 shots in either mode, it will make an empty sound. Key 2-7-9-Enter and the phone will say “Charge” followed by an effect indicating it has reloaded.

Of course, the main attraction with any Kamen Rider belt is “How do I henshin?” On the Faiz Phone, key 5-5-5-Enter, and the phone will say “Standing By…” and begin making loud, pulsing standby sound effect. Set it into the cradle on the Faiz Driver belt and lock it down, and the phone will say “Complete” and play the henshin sound effect. Dramatic posing is optional, but encouraged. In this mode, you can remove the Mission Memory (the Faiz face logo on the front) and insert it into one of Faiz’s weapons to ready it for battle. Open the phone and press Enter to trigger your “Exceed Charge” finishing moves!

One concern for old fans, especially those of us who are American where everything (especially guts) is bigger, is that the belts are made for kids. There’s very little chance a full grown adult is going to fit into one as-is, unless they are very petite. Luckily, it’s not that hard to work around. For my Faiz Driver, I attached a nylon strap I cut off an old backpack. This strap had one of those plastic clips in the middle as you can see in the previous photo. This was critical for the Faiz Driver as it closed in the back and has no other separation. I simply took a good old fashioned needle and thread, and stitched through some of the pre-existing holes in the belt. On the back side, the thread forms an X pattern. This was extremely simple to do, and holds very well. Also, since it’s just thread, it’s completely reversible if I decide to undo the mod later. I even preserved the adjustment piece in the strap so I can resize the belt at will.

Also on the recent acquisitions list was the Faiz Axel. This item was given to Faiz about halfway through the series, and allows him to access his Axel Form, gaining super speed for 10 seconds. The toy is styled somewhat after a sports watch, but mated to a typical Sentai type wrist changer. Like the belt, it’s made for kids and the watch strap absolutely does not fit around my wrist. The second velcro strap, meant to be farther up the arm, will fit around my wrist. This makes the Axel awkwardly overlap my hand, but it does stay on.

To use, you remove the special “Axel Memory” and insert it into the Faiz Phone in place of the standard Mission Memory. The Axel will say “Reformation” when it’s removed, though this is somewhat inaccurate. In the show, it would say “Reformation” when the Axel Memory was put back, after the Axel’s time was expended. Anyway, press the red start button to begin your 10 second countdown along with a powerful pulsing sound effect. A voice will count down at the very end “3…2…1…Time Out.” You can also use the black button to switch the behavior of the “screen saver” while the Axel is idle, or to play a simple game.

Overall, the Faiz Driver just kicks ass. Yeah, role play toys are pretty high on the geek-o-meter, but this is just one of the most fun toys in my whole collection. It does a number of things, and has fun voice feedback, sound effects and lights. It also was the personal equipment of my favorite Rider, which helps. The Faiz Driver is a worthy buy for any Kamen Rider fan, though it’s heavily sought after and finding a good price on one is tough. I had to buy mine used to avoid selling a kidney for it. Still, I regret nothing.