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Saturday, 6 September 2014

Editorial: Top Nine Neo-Heisei Kaijin Designs.

Top Nine Neo-Heisei Kaijin Designs.

(Warning for Gaim spoilers.)

So a while ago I did this same list for Kamen Riders. It was all very Vogue. One thing I struggled with was that I had kept the span of series so small that if I included ten Riders, I would have had more designs on the list and off it.

While making this list I had the opposite problem. I could have very easily made this a list of twenty five designs. I could have made it a top ten of Zodiart alone. I instead limited myself to nine, because the last list was seven and deviating too far from that seemed to be giving the kaijin an unfair advantage.

First, some runner-ups: Red Nazca Dopant, Altar Zodiart, Weather Dopant, every Horoscope not on this list, Old Dopant.

So, let's roll on with the – monstery fashion show … thing …. then. If there's someone you think should have been on this list, please say in the comments.

Zone Dopant.

Zone's design isn't especially striking at all, save for how it was a nonhumanoid kaijin at a point when we usually only got those as slightly videogame-esque boss battles with giant monsters. Zone was a strange and unusual break from the norm, being a tiny unintimidating looking pyramid thing.

Kamen Rider Double was a series full of interesting (and sometimes very, very silly designs), but Zone's definitely stands out as one that made more than a few people sit up and pay attention – which can only be a good thing, given that she appeared during a plot important arc that also involved the eponymous' rider's ultimate form.

Her gruff, intimidating husband and brawn of their brains-and-brawn duo, the Beast Dopant, almost ended up here, but I think most of his appeal came from the fact that he kind of looked like an evil wild Nazca.

Minotaur Phantom.

A reluctant addition.

I don't much like the designs of the Phantoms, to be honest. They're all right, but they've always seemed a little generic to me, and sometimes a little gawky – fan favourite Phoenix is particularly guilty of this – and that always rather switched me off them, although it never really affected my enjoyment of the show.

But I figured one should probably go on this list, and it's going to be this one, because to be honest, despite having less screen time than any other Phantom, he's the one who stuck in my mind the most. There's nice use of colour here. He looks like what he's meant to be. It's a very simple, very clean design, and that's always nice to see.

It's nice when things are nice.

Nightmare Dopant.

What a charmingly creepy design. The Nightmare Dopant's arc was mostly about comedy, involving the main characters going to sleep in order to play the monster-of-the-fortnight's bizarre games (while also giving Toei a chance to use that Edo Period theme park again), but the actual monster design is actually rather disquieting.

It looks like somebody attached legs and scraps of white fabric to a golden ribcage, and then haphazardly moulded far too many heads onto the top of it. Even though you can see where the actual suit actor's head would go, it almost ends up lost amidst the other three heads, looking instead like some kind of odd, inhuman growth.

Kinda weird, which is always a good thing.

Gemini Zodiart.

It was a bit of a battle between Gemini and Altar for a (very) short while, but Gemini was always going to win. There's something gloriously eerie about harlequin designs, and Gemini, being an evil doppelganger of a beloved main character, slowly stealing the life force and face of her original, was a pretty eerie kind of monsters.

In a darker show – the kind of show I'm glad that Fourze isn't, because we all know exactly why Fourze was so light and fluffy, and if you're still sulking about it not being grimdark then I cordially invite you to do something unpleasantly invasive with a cactus – this would have been a longer arc, in which the doppelganger slowly infiltrates Yuki's life, forcing her out of it until everything seems hopeless. As it was, we got a very condensed version of that same arc, and it was still one of the scarier moments of Fourze.

(Fourze, despite its fluffiness, did remarkably well with scary moments. Makise, a boy who creepily obsessed over female students and decided to take revenge over his perceived rejection by killing all of them, hits rather unnervingly close to home for anybody who is either a woman or just isn't living in a blissful fantasy world in which crazy men don't exist.)

Gemini is charming, colourful, and whimsical looking, with a strong edge of creepy. Also, no face. Nothing that looks like a face. Where – where is her face. Argh.

Shika Inves.

All of the Inves have really interesting designs, actually, which probably goes some of the way to explaining why the Shika Inves is one of the few non-major-villain kaijin on this list ('few', half the list is monsters of the week).

Maybe I'm just biased because I like deer. They're adorable and they destroy their own ecosystems, what's not to love. But I just happen to really like the Shika Inves' design.

Sagittarius Zodiart.

This one is on the list for two reasons. Firstly, it's an excellent design that just screams 'final villain' with its use of colours and shapes: It looks fearsome and intimidating and regal, and all of those other things you'd expect from Gamou's monster form.

Secondly, it's not based on a horse or a centaur: It's instead based on a secretary bird (take a look at that plumage around the waist and hips, and those wings, and even the shape that the skull forms), which is a wonderful visual pun, as the secretary bird is Sagittarius serpentaris.

Someone put thought into that pun knowing that a lot of people weren't going to get it.

Virgo Zodiart.

Some of you may be wondering why the Virgo Zodiart is ahead of the Sagittarius Zodiart on this list, even though Sagittarius is ridiculous awesome and has a skull and looks like a secretary bird which is just a fantastic visual pun.

Well, here's one thing: Virgo is a really pretty design, and almost unique amongst Kamen Rider kaijin designs, let one Zodiart designs. The Zodiart are all incredibly well designed, and this list could have easily just been ten Zodiart, to be honest, but Virgo is especially striking to me – its design brings to mind Venetian masks, dolls, queens, and even the swirly pink tornado Dark Nebula effect the series was so fond of using.

The designs of the original four Zodiart (and by 'original four, I mean the first four we see') all kind of lost their shine a little for me as the series went on, except Virgo, who really only increased in my estimation as time went on.

Otoshibumi Yummy.

It's a weevil made of hands.

A weevil. Made of hands.

If you don't think that's creepy and awesome, you have clearly never encountered either a weevil or hands.

Lord Baron.

“Murphy, you're just saying that because he's shiny and new! You'll fall out of love with his potassium rich goodness!”

Okay, maybe. Probably not, though. Lord Baron – despite his stupid name, a baron is a lord, they even played on that with 'Baron' and 'Duke', since a baron is the lowest type of lord and a duke is the highest – is a beautifully designed suit. Look at those sharp lines. Look at that stark use of red, black and yellow. He looks not only impressive, but downright majestic.

Lord Baron is well-designed in large part because if you took him away from any context, and just showed him to someone, they would immediately recognise that he's an important monster, maybe even a final villain, without even having to think about it. After a moment or two, they'd probably recognise that he's knight-themed, as well.

This design doesn't exist in a vacuum, though, and his design draws inspiration from his context: He looks like Kamen Rider Baron. While far from identical, the use and distribution of colour, the shapes, and the overall frame are all designed to be reminiscent of our banana rider. It's a really well thought out design.

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