Kamen Rider Fourze is not currently available for streaming on major services in North America.
Scrapped Princess is currently available on Funimation.
I was going to write about Scrapped Princess this week.
It revolves around a very particular idea: an anti-chosen-one. JRPG stories take predestined heroes and let them resist their calling for just long enough to create tension. But ultimately they end up on an adventure anyway, because it’s fun for the audience, and ultimately it ends up being a bit of fun for them, too. Even more tragic examples like Jean Grey, Hellboy, and Madoka Kaname are at least “burdened” with phenomenal power for their trouble.
But hyper-fixating on a single individual is extremely destructive for everyone involved, and Scrapped Princess lays exactly why out on the table.
It lays out… too much of it.
Seriously. I tried to read through the 2003 translation of the original novels last month. With a hand on my heart, I’d swear to you that the main character has two separate monologues within five pages of each other about how she’s clearly better off dead, whether or not some Divine Providence actually had the right of it.
It was exhausting.
And in the interest of full fairness, that’s kind of the point. It’d be exhausting to have a permanent warrant on your head. You’d be justifiably depressed to know that you’re an active burden and a danger to everyone around you. It’s kind of brilliant for the series to, between its admitted bright spots, force that same angst on its audience.
But it was draining me to read it all the same.
So I went and watched a show sell toys to me instead.
Fourze… 3, 2, 1, Liftoff
I was a Space Kid.
Back in elementary school, my heart was set on being an astronaut when I grew up.
Two of my favorite vacations as a kid featured visits to the Johnson Space Center and the Aerospace museum in Pensacola.
In the wake of the Columbia tragedy, my response was to dive nose-deep into the internet to learn every bit of what makes that process work. To know how and why things happened exactly the way they did, and ultimately come out more passionate for it.
So a superhero show themed around space travel feels laser-targeted at the me from nearly two decades ago.
In fact, let my inner eight-year-old write you a quick “Top Five” list of why this show kicks butt eight ways to Sunday:
Oh, and I wrote this list before I remembered something crucially important.
Whenever the hero in this show equips a different power-up, a little voice in his belt announces it appropriately. It does so in a cheeky, sing-song tone that the sound artists have aggressively auto-tuned. The closest I can express to it in text is:
♫ ~ ROCKET ON ~ ♩
It’s very silly and I love it very much.
Which speaks to how Kamen Rider Fourze speaks just as much to me as I exist today, right now.
It’s for the same reason that I imagine Austin and Beej get absolutely energized when they play the goofy, cartoony Dragon Quest games.
Because unironic enthusiasm is still a useful part of an adult diet.
And Fourze is purpose-built to make you swallow that pill whether you like it or not.
The main character here is not the sort of kid you expect behind a superhero helmet.
Not because he’s some mild-mannered Peter Parker type, mind you. Precisely because he’s the opposite.
Gentaro Kisaragi wears his hair in a faux-pompadour, deliberately breaks dress code, and grabs a classmate by the scruff of their collar the first time we see him. In any other show, this is the class hooligan who will eventually, reluctantly, listen to their better judgment and join the supporting cast.
In Fourze, he has the aura of a Norfolk terrier.
His premiere scene, he wields a schoolbag emblazoned with the word “friendship” and insists at the top of his lungs that his peers talk out their feelings. By his second scene, he’s throwing high-fives and extending secret handshakes to everyone in reach.
From the instant he’s handed a Superhero Belt, he skips over the “why me” phase and straight into “let’s punch some bad guys!” territory.
Instead of feeling burdened by the call to action, Gen sprints directly toward it with open arms.
If positive energy is infectious, then this guy is patient zero of a Positivity Pandemic.
And that reflects in how absolutely everybody shares in his upbeat outlook. The female lead, who’s so constantly boiling with energy that I worry she might explode. The diverse supporting cast, who goofily assume Action Poses and shout in earnest support from the sidelines. Even the production crew, who openly use Looney-Tunes-worthy sound effects to embrace the show’s goofy nature.
You know how live-action movies and shows will set action pieces at night to mask digital effects?
Fourze features a fifteen-foot-tall mecha stomping around in broad daylight in episode one.
Fourze believes very confidently – and correctly – in the power of its own Fun Factor.
That level of pure, jump-up-and-down-in-your-seat excitement is usually something we see aimed… well, at kids clutching their action figures.
With more experience under our belts and learning in our heads, we can grapple with more complicated stories. And that’s more than fair; if we’re equipped to think critically about whether “racial traits” are an okay concept in Dungeons & Dragons, then it’d be irresponsible to ignore that question.
But that shouldn’t have to be the only thing we engage with.
Yes, we should always be thinking critically about how our actions affect others. And how we can best avoid having a net negative impact on the world. And if we provide a good example to others, and, and, and.
I arguably should go eat steamed broccoli and a protein powder shake for every meal. Absolutely optimize my health down to the last calorie.
But I’ll be darned if I’m giving up on candy bars.
Ultimately, a hit of sugar does more emotional good than it does physical harm.
And in the end, that improvement to your attitude can make you a better you.
Death to the phrase “guilty pleasures”.
Long Live Unironic Enthusiasm.