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This Week in Anime
Is Fuuto PI Accessible to Kamen Rider Newcomers?
by Christopher Farris & Steve Jones,
Let's say you're interested in Fuuto PI for...reasons but you're not knee-deep in Kamen Rider knowledge? Newcomer Steve teamed up with tokusatsu superfan Chris to check out this anime addition to the long-running superhero franchise to find out if you can jump right in or need tokusatsu water wings.
This series is streaming on Crunchyroll
Disclaimer:The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
Steve, as the resident Kamen Rider fanboy, I've been pretty pleased to be able to cover this season's FUUTO PI in weekly reviews. But something about that doesn't feel quite right. The whole point of this series is a duo of heroes transforming together, so I think I'm gonna need my own partner to help me uncover the mysteries in this windy city. And so, I come to you today with one question:
I've gotta be honest, the only things I know about Kamen Rider are that he transforms into a bug man and there's a motorcycle involved somehow. But everyone's also talking about sin all the time, so I think I can fit the bill.
We can't ever outrun, or out-ride, our sins, and even after thirteen years, it doesn't seem we can fully shake Kamen Rider W off either. The formative tokusatsu series has an anime follow-up after all this time, and perhaps more even surprisingly, it's getting an English simulcast?!
What a time to be alive.
For whatever confluence of reasons, we've arrived at a time and place where anime is a lot more immediately accessible than tokusatsu in the West, so FUUTO PI is in a position to be the Kamen Ambassador for a lot of people. Including me! And while I can't say I was immediately excited about diving into a sequel to a series in a franchise with intimidating longevity, I was charmed pretty darn quickly.
Helps when your protagonist is a giant dork from the get-go.
Kamen Rider is a seemingly-inexhaustible font of Good Boys, and Shotaro is one of the goodest. And goofiest.
So, right off the bat, that appeal to newbies was a point that interested me about reviewing this show, particularly in the context of a column like this. Crunchyroll happily snapped it up for streaming to their mainstream anime audience, and a lot of discussion in the run-up seemed to stress that the series would be accessible to new viewers who hadn't watched the 2010 original (largely because Toei, uh, won't legally allow them to).
So while FUUTO PI seemed to be easing into its story as best I could tell, I was still pretty curious about how it actually went down for those that really didn't know a USB drive from a Driver.
From what I've gathered, I think Kamen Ride W was uniquely suited to facilitate this moment. Like, I assume every Kamen Rider iteration has its own setup, but the detective angle spearheaded by a hopeless noir fanboy is really strong and funny right off the bat. I must have counted at least a dozen distinct fedoras scattered throughout Shotaro's living and working situation.
The detective angle also provides a nice, self-contained structure for stories that can build off familiar tropes and be spun into their own slice of Kamen-infused mayhem. So while the anime might not seem newbie-friendly in abstract, I found I picked up on the gist of things pretty quickly. And more importantly, the show just knows how to have fun with itself.
It's clearly a series put together with appreciation for itself and its source material. You'll be happy to know that the fe-door-a up there and all the other little touches of the detective office are recreating details that were part of the set of the original show. Especially in the opening arc, they're all about peppering in cameos of Toei shooting locations fans are familiar with, or even incidental characters, like the gift of an anime version of Nao Nagasawa.
So it's managing the impressive feat of an approachable story structure for neophytes, and service for the established fans that doesn't interfere too much with said structure.
It also helps, I think, that just starting in media res on an incidental mystery-solving plot is how Kamen Rider W kicked off back in the day, and so FUUTO PI gets to do that too, and introduce the major new cast member of this sequel in doing so.
If we're talking about appealing to old and new fans, then I think Tokime hits the sweet spot of appealing equally to both through the universal language of horny.
Is that a USB stick in your panties or are you just happy to see me?
The sight of a Kamen Rider roleplay toy prop sexily suspended in a woman's underwear really does underscore the generational shift this show was counting on waiting thirteen years for its old audience to grow up.
I was definitely taken aback at first at how violent and horndogged FUUTO PI was, but I think you've got it correct there. Thirteen years is a long time, and it makes sense for a sequel to grow up alongside its audience. Now, most nostalgia-bait sequels/reboots do this with increased edginess, so I'm actually really grateful that FUUTO PI just goes with gratuitous cleavage shots.
Shotaro is a man who was thoroughly unequipped for his series to suddenly start integrating fanservice.
Now, Kamen Rider has gone to more "adult" areas like this before (hell, the grown-up targeted Kamen Rider Amazons was the first of the franchise we actually got officially streaming over here!). However, in FUUTO PI's case it feels like some of the dialed up sex and violence isn't just an appeal to that older audience, but also taking advantage of the medium jump to animation (or a manga, as this story originally was). So beyond seeing people get dismembered, we're able to have bigger, wilder monster designs that don't need to work as rubber suits.
I noticed that! Like how our big bad guy drapes himself in an aurora and has these long flowing flourishes and a hand made of light. Yeah, maybe you could pull that off with special effects, but it just naturally works and looks better animated.
Toei's CGI budget would only carry them so far on something like that, and they've already spent most of it for this year on Donbrothers.
That's also not to say FUUTO PI has forgotten the core appeal of traditional tokusatsu fare, which is, as far as I can tell, watching dudes in silly suits shout corny one liners before they punch the villain really hard.
And to be perfectly clear, it owns so incredibly hard.
One of my biggest worries going into this series was that they would go the Tiger & Bunny route and have the suited-up action for W be portrayed with CGI. Thankfully, that did not turn out to be the case, and we've instead had a generally strongly-animated succession of Rider fights as the show has gone on.
It speaks to that factor of understanding the appeal of itself that we already mentioned. Even with stuff like the fanservice and bloodier monster murders, FUUTO PI never feels embarrassed of its tokusatsu roots. They're happy to meticulously recreate stuff like the transformation sequence or trinket-swapping attack callouts with the classic sound effects to thoroughly activate the sense memories of established fans like me.
Complete with color-coded subtitles! If you know, you know.
It's just so unapologetically fun and goofy in a way that most of our modern superhero fare seems to have forgotten about. Like, it takes courage to play the same clip of Fumihiko Tachiki shouting "JOKER" three times within fifteen seconds, but FUUTO PI is fearlessly sincere about everything it does. It knows it's already cool as hell and doesn't see the need to defend or explain itself. So it can spend its time on more important stuff, like jacking into the literal Matrix.
Ah yes, our other Good Boy of the Dynamic W Duo. Philip is a walking Wikipedia whose look feels like he was always meant to be turned into an anime character.
I was curious how that hair was supposed to work in real life, and it seems like the answer was "debatably."
It's impressive that they restrained themselves to 'only' recreating Masaki Suda's hairdo in animation, with the only embellishment being that he's looking a good bit greener this go-around.
Philip's role, and the duo aspect of Kamen Rider W, does outline that idea of it being uniquely suited to a distinctive adaptation. The way Shotaro and Philip interact and work together in detective-ing it up is as key to the entertainment as watching them stick themselves together to jump-kick monsters. So new viewers come in to the the main heroes already showing off an interesting dynamic, while established fans get to specifically see how the pair and their interactions have come along after all the development in their original show.
Just some life partners in crime-solving.
It's so funny that, for as much as Shotaro salivates over Tokime's low-rise jeans, as soon as she broaches the subject of "transforming" together with him, he's like "ew no what are you talking about, I only do that with my HUSBAND. Idiot."
It's one aspect I know has been contentious with a lot of the returning W fandom coming into this show, that Tokime's presence seems largely in service of portraying Shotaro as no-homo as possible. On the one hand, I can see that, especially since it feels like Tokime hasn't had a ton else to do since her introductory arc. But on the other hand, it turns a bit more subversive when the subject of Philip's first character conflict with her is realizing he is, in fact, in a love triangle here.
And it leads to Philip having the best character arc out of anybody in the anime so far.
Philip: Had all the knowledge from the beginning of Earth's creation loaded into his brain, but still didn't know what being gay was until Akiko mentioned it to him.
Sometimes all you need is a good friend to tell you to google "yaoi." And the rest, as they say, is history.
But seriously, the inherent homoeroticism of the whole W setup is truly sublime. Two guys trusting each other enough to fuse their spirits—and sometimes even their bodies—so they can transform into a multicolored svelte mantis man. It's one of the things that endeared me so quickly to FUUTO PI's special brand of weirdness.
Kamen Rider is, as always when at its best, about heated drama between men.
And this is what I'm talking about when I bring up the subject of getting to see these guys again as a returning fan. Watching Shotaro and Philip's skills and personalities compliment each other gives as much of a sense of 'coming home' as those toyetic sound effects. The best parts of FUUTO PI so far have honed in on that, whether it's seeing them put their heads together in a murder-mystery case, or watching Philip put his own body on the line covering for Shotaro when the other's out of commission for a spell.
Which, of course, comes with another cool-ass super-suit to show off. That appeal of tokusatsu persists.
I like the parts where they bicker while combined, so it looks like the left and right eyes are arguing with each other. Real married couple hours.
Then again I guess odd couples are a recurring thing for this series.
The bickering is so integral they named one of their main weapons after it!
Akiko and Terui seem rather idyllic by comparison, though it's notable that they weren't always that way: Their courtship was something we got to watch happen back in Kamen Rider W.
They must be doing well now though, since Akiko apparently has no problem watching other women ride her husband.
I learned a lot about how the swinging scene works in the Kamen Rider extended universe. For example, step one: rev your dick.
Terui's transformation will never not be funny.
Before you ask, yes, Shotaro/Philip did ride bike-form Terui in the old show, and yes, the fans all referred to it as a threesome.
The realistic motorcycle sound effects after he slapped the handlebars on his crotch and started torqueing it—that, truly, is the moment I knew I picked the right anime to cover this week.
The more esoteric adaptational sensibilities of something like SSSS.Gridman have worked wonders for that kind of tokusatsu take-off. But sometimes all you really need to see is simply them recreating all the bald-faced outrageousness of the medium with the live-action limits removed.
It's so good! A bad guy will attack them with amplified sound waves, so one of the good guys will say "oh, then I simply need to move faster than the speed of sound." And then he fiddles with his belt buckle and does exactly that. How can you hate that?
Speed power-ups are something of a recurring standby in Rider shows, but Accel gets his specifically from a weaponized stopwatch, making it one of my favorite incarnations of that ability.
Alongside that, you've got the monster he's fighting here, and Toei has some incredibly talented suit actors on-hand that can lend great personality to their creatures when they need to, but only in the magic of animation can you easily have the baddie whip out a phone and start posting.
Some of these monsters of the week got me acting unwise, I tell ya...
Outside of these smart capitulations to the strengths of animation, though, I also enjoy that they keep all the chintzy toy accessories around and looking (I assume) exactly the same as they did thirteen years ago.
It's great, because they are rereleasing some of the W toys targeted at the collector audience alongside FUUTO PI, but I don't think the Memory Gadget animals are included in that assortment. They're really just here because their plastic-sheened product placement is part of the look and feel of the series!
They even introduce a new one to the mechanical menagerie as a pal for Tokime, so presumably that's a product they might eventually be rolling out for the big kids in the audience to buy.
That pretty pink beetle-phone is itself a representation of Philip learning to respect Tokime's competing for Shotaro's affections and welcoming her to the team, natch. As always, the toy-adverts come alongside character development.
And what is that if not the best of both worlds? Because we're all collectors of something. For some, it's plastic bug gizmos. For others, it's rare mountain mushrooms. And for the select few, it's wife candidates in his creepy Eyes Wide Shut mansion.
It's kind of amazing it took thirteen years and a spin-off in animation for this detective show to tackle and honest-to-goodness mansion murder-mystery party plot, but I don't know that I would've wanted this one to turn out any other way.
It even centers on what would likely be my GaiaMemory of choice were I to wind up in this universe.
I had fun trying to guess what the twist would be! I had no shot, of course, because I still possess only the faintest clue of how those magic memory modules work. But I did correctly call that the arc would involve someone using the masquerade conceit to disguise themselves.
And yeah, sure, whatever you say bro.
The fact that he insists on explaining this, completely unprovoked, really drives home how extremely secure in this Philip is. You already had one major personal revelation earlier in this series, dude, there are still plenty of other opportunities for self-discovery.
That said, the reveal of this arc was a surprise for me too, since a lot of the mechanics around the Alcohol Memory itself are unique to it, as well as the new lore that FUUTO PI is dropping into the story regarding those malevolent memory sticks. The old show had Memories with multiple users before, but never quite like this, and definitely never in service of evolving their powers into a new breed of kaijin with the most amazing name ever.
Hey had you picked up on the fact that GaiaMemory and Dopants were an allegory for drug use?
It's so funny. The alcohol one at least makes sense from a substance abuse angle. But then you've got the toxic gamer from the second arc who is, I guess, just addicted to becoming a dragonfly and making dragonfly babies.
Just the most insane way you could go about constructing an anti-drug message. So naturally it's perfect for Kamen Rider.
Especially when you realize that, in true Kamen Rider origin fashion, our heroes transform and fight using the same drug-allegory tech as the baddies.
FUUTO PI isn't wholly anti-drug, it's simply advocating responsible recreation.
They are literally Joker-pilled.
It's honestly a wonder I haven't seen more cracks about Shotaro being a fedora-wearing wannabe-ladies-man who specifically calls on the power of 'Joker'.
I think anybody who watches five minutes of this simply realizes he's too good a boy to be dragged through the mud like that. And besides, they apply their Joker energy for noble purposes, i.e. landing only the sickest retorts.
I feel like it can't be overstated that Philip makes this quip mere minutes after realizing he might be gay.
But for real though, I can see that clear likeability of the main characters drawing the audience in and driving things along even as some of the lore stuff might pass them by. There's a real care for the titular city of Fuuto that comes through in someone like Shotaro. His wish for people to appreciate this place can almost come off as an allegory for the people behind this show wanting to sell the inherent delights of Kamen Rider W.
Like I said earlier, it's the show's unfaltering sincerity in everything it does that feels the most refreshing to me. Maybe it doesn't have that tactility a real tokusatsu show can capitalize on, but FUUTO PI basically embodies the rest of the genre's spirit, and it does so with playful aplomb. You wanna make your villain Maximillion Pegasus except he deals designer drugs this time? Hell yeah, I'm on board. FUUTO PI is so generous with its goofiness.
With that in mind, it does beg the question of where this one will end up going. There's a few episodes left in the season, and the manga it's based on is actually still ongoing. I'm curious to see how much they're going to wrap up the story of PCP Pegasus here and his mysterious connection to Tokime by season's end. But given the apparent success of FUUTO PI, I'm equally interested in how that might prompt Toei to treat Rider in the western sphere moving forward. You can't sell people on your cute couple of detectives then leave them with only two English-subbed episodes of their original show uploaded to your YouTube page.
Well, if Toei is notorious for one thing, it's definitely making sound decisions about the IPs they own.
We had to drag them kicking and screaming to bring Precure into the simulcasting era. Who knows what it'll take for shows they can't sell as 'anime.'
But despite that, I am happy to have found that this anime apparently does work as an introduction to the franchise for newbies regardless. I'm not gonna pretend that there isn't an inherent joy in scrolling my timeline and seeing people discussing Kamen Rider W in 2022. I've felt like my closeness to the series, as a fan, has prompted me to be over-critical of it in reviewing it sometimes. So it's neat to come at it in this instance from a lens of appreciating all its excesses it does so right.
Yeah, FUUTO PI is a super fun gateway drug into tokusatsu nonsense. And even though I'm very unfamiliar with the genre overall, I do genuinely hope it somehow leads to more tokusatsu series becoming more available in the West. Now that's what I'd call the ultimate W.
I can only dream. Until then, I can rest easy knowing that the only major sins FUUTO PI had to count up were a few horny crimes.
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