Thursday, April 16, 2015

Thoughts on Farewell FamiKamen Rider

Read after the break

The last Time I talked about Justin.
I've revised this a few times, but this keeps coming off a bit more scatterbrained than I intend.

I continue to feel I am unqualified to truly address the impact Justin Carmical had on the lives of many, many people.  I never had the chance to meet him while he was alive, but I was A fan of his work and he was one of the inspirations for me to start reviewing tokusatsu as I have done the past few years.
But Kaylin and Josh Saucedo’s tribute project, “Farewell Famikamen Rider,” was one I could certainly get behind to memorialize one of the kindest men I’ve ever seen.
Yes, I donated to their project, and I'm glad I did.
While admittedly on the amateur level (as admitted by Kaylin and Josh), what the movie lacks in polish and refinement it holds in heart and enthusiasm to fill in the gaps, delivering a solid story impressing what Justin’s life meant to his friends and family, from those closest to him.

The Plot:
Three years after a crossover battle with the Evil Doctor Holocaust (Conal MacBeth) at Con-G; The FamiKamen Rider, better known to his friends as Jewwario has disappeared. The only traces left behind is the belt and cartridge he used to transform, and following another incident involving some combatmen, the cartridge has been lost.
At a Yardsale, A man named Chris (Chris Gloria) finds it amongst a collection of other games, and upon trying to find out about it, the organization Ages moves to collect it, to harness the powers of the Warion for their own Schemes.
In Comes Marzgurl (Kaylin Saucedo), doing her best to protect the cartridge, as it’s the only thing remaining of her lost friend.  And together, the two head out on a journey to find out just what Ages plan is, and why they’re after the power of the Warion.

This film is steeped in the mythology Justin had been building for his Web series and has a number of in-references to his show “You Can Play This”, showing the familiarity Kaylin and Josh had to his work, but might leave those unfamiliar a bit lost.  They do however endeavor to give the basics to the audience over time so they know enough to give it meaning; helped out by Mark Fujita (Psychotaku) playing  Nintendo Entertainment Analysis and Development head Shigeru Miyamoto in which most of the exposition on the nature of the Warion is given.  It’s really good to establishing all this stuff for those not aware of it, but it’s clear this was more for fans of Justin’s work.  Despite what we all knew what we were getting into and the feels that would be invoked, I was surprised how light-hearted the films started out, with a number of legitimately funny moments that had me laughing out loud, simply from the music used to accent the scenes.

However, what really sold the movie for me was Kaylin breaking down.

The second act of the movie is to find Yanki J, one of Jewwario’s allies (originally played by Justin as well), only to find him with his own Warion Rider gear, having become the SuFamiKamen Rider.
The names, if you’ve not caught it, are homages to the Famicom and superFamicom, the Japanese names for the Nintendo entertainment system and super Nintendo.  Justin was a big import gamer and Loved Nintendo works, and his webseries “You Can Play This” was Focused about reviewing games in a manner that would allow non-japanese speaking gamers to play the games themselves, and A lot of that went into the design of his superhero identity.
As to the design of the SufamiKamen Rider…I Dug it.  It was a good collusion of Yanki J’s style, the badass longcoat whose specific name escapes me, into the superhero design of the famikamen rider.  Divergent enough to be his own entity, but close enough so you clearly recognize the origins of the look.

Plus, I just kept being reminded of Kamen Rider Wizard with how the coat billowed.

But anyways, Yanki J brings up a lot of negativity in this part, showing the bitterness that’s been felt about Justin’s death, Before they are again accosted by ages Comabtmen, and the Robot being Tsunemi. (An homage to Colon from the sentai Liveman, and Hatsune Miku.  Voiced by Samantha Fujita)
And Tsunemi manages to Defeat Yanki J, stealing from him his powers, and losing another piece of The legacy Justin left behind.
And due to her role in-universe at Jewwario’s lost, Marzgurl collapses on the ground, blaming herself once again for being able to do nothing to help a friend.

Honestly, this is among many scenes that made me Cry.

As Kaylin Explained in a Q&A session after the movie was streamed, much of what went into that scene was her real feeling in wake of his death, and it really hit hard, making the movie more…Human, than many others I could name that have come from Professional filmmakers.

Matt Burkett (AKA Apollo Z. Hack) was responsible for much of the stuntwork, choreography, and  special effects, and they were great; as I expected from the man’s previous works.  Admittedly, there was more exaggerated head-bobbing that I expected to indicate people talking, when such has always been more done with western Toku works (power rangers original footage especially) than comparable Japanese ones where the  expression is normally more subtle; but again, on the admitted amateur scale, and didn’t detract from what was being done, or the intents.
And the part where Sufamikamen rider Punched a guy's head off?  Dude.  Wow.

Without getting into spoilers of the final act (seriously, watch the freaking movie, It’s linked above), the Villain of the movie (Josh Saucedo) really did seem like a natural development and culmination for both Justin’s works and the story as presented, making many forms of sense.

And then…he’s back.  And we hear him speak.

It’s obviously stock phrases from his previous videos alongside Chris' voiceover (the borrowed voice bit worked, in my opinion), but the image of him in that suit syncing with the snippets of his voice?  It got the tears rolling again.

For a Moment, Justin was Alive again.

And we were there, cheering him on as he fought, and he fought for his friends, for his beliefs, and it was glorious, ending it with a rider kick that Rivals all rider kicks.
Yes, even Kuuga’s that goes Nuclear.

And then, things wrap.  I honestly expected them to go another route than they did, Immortalizing Him as a wandering hero, riding his comically undersized Motorcyle around the world, righting wrongs as he goes…but instead they decided to go the human route, saying it’s time he left for good.
And once more, I cried, as somehow, some way, they were able to give Him back, his back to the camera.  And I was stunned that they managed to truly pull it off.
And this time, we were able to say Goodbye

Not to be as an afterthought, but Chris's role in the story, of the audience surrogate, did work well; bearing a character similar To Justin's, but without the life experience and weight (no intended puns) of such.  It was really well-crafted, allowing to convey the meaning of a man to the audience without it getting all stuck in one's head.  And the interplay between Him and Marzgurl felt very natural.

But this is clearly Marzgurl's movie from start to finish.  It had to be, as one of his friends and collaborators, acting in place of everyone who's life he'd touched; voicing the anger, frustration, and wish he hadn't taken his life.

I could honestly not have conceived a better tribute To Justin’s life and his dreams than this film, and the wish to honor Him is shown in every scene, by every performer.  Mostly due to my unfamiliarity to the truth of the man beyond his work, but the sentiment seems to be shared among other fans.

And though he may not have left to become a wandering hero, the final moments, I feel, left a greater impact, that I believe embodies a better Ideal in the end, of just the kind of man Justin was, from what has been said by his friends, by how he presented himself, and how it would be best to remember him.  As Someone who cared about people, and in turn was loved.

Goodbye, Justin.  You may have been the FamiKamen Rider, but to me, You were certainly worthy of being a Kamen Rider.

Oh, and I made a cameo in the cheering-on scene.  Not important in the grand scheme of things, but thanks for letting me be a part of it, Kaylin.

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