Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Tackle Week Part 1

We kick off our retrospective look at Stronger's comrade-in-arms with a little bit about her pre-show origins. And then some.

Tackle is one of the hardest characters in Kamen Rider to talk about.

There's really no better way to say it. Despite her pretty simple, straightforward concept, she remains one of the most complicated topics in the series' 40+ years of history. You basically can't bring her up without one of the following eventually making its way into the conversation:

-How she isn't a Rider because they said so in some comic.
-How she started the "curse" where all female Riders are destined to eventually die.

Now right away you should see a huge contradiction between those two sentences. I'll be tearing them both down by the end of the week, but keep in mind that 99% of the time, that's what a Tackle conversation boils down to. There's stuff about Toei/Japan/the 70's in general being sexist and usually Shadow Moon, Riotroopers and the Alternatives eventually gets brought up, and maybe somewhere in there someone will make the radical but entirely accurate point that it's all kind of a shame, because when you get down to it, she's probably one of the most interesting and unique characters in the franchise. But first, a tangent:

By 1975, Kamen Rider was no stranger to having more than one Rider per series... but not in the way we've become used to, with the requisite "Secondary Rider", "Movie Rider(s)", "Late-series Other Rider", "Post-Show Movie Rider(s)", and so on. Each series did things a little differently. 

The original series had the Double Riders, but the important thing to remember there is that they aren't just hanging around at the same time simply because that's how things are (okay in Kamen Rider vs. Shocker they kinda are, but still.) Either Rider 1 or Rider 2 are the star, and the other guy shows up as a guest star, with all the weight that brings. Because of that, I tend to consider Rider 1/Rider 2's appearances during the other guy's tenures to be cameos. You don't do that with Ibuki or Knight or whoever because the characters aren't constructed that way. They're more tied into the material as being a part of the main Rider's world. They (usually) don't skedaddle off the South America or wherever, but stay put all series long and post-series, after forever associated with the title Rider.

A couple of them transcend their source material (Diend, Accel) but even then, until they lead the show solo for close to 40 episodes, it's hard for them to shake the "secondary Rider to Kamen Rider Whatsisface" label. Mostly: I will say that Gills and G3 are a unique case in that they're arguably running the ship just as much as Agito is, though given which one the show is named after, I think all this still applies to them. 

Rider 2 though, he came in as the leading man, and that's an aspect that's stuck with him ever since. Even when he's paired up with Rider 1 for almost all his scenes (i.e. the recent movies) he's still got a little something extra that puts him in a different class than the other secondary Riders. It's like the difference between Fourze fighting alongside Meteor, and Fourze fighting alongside OOO or W. To put it another way, if there had been a unique, Hongô-less World of Kamen Rider 2 in Decade, I would totally have understood why.

For V3, there's Riderman, who is often seen as Tackle's visual predecessor, and is another unique case that I'll get into again in a few days. But the important thing is that even when we look back on it now and it's blindingly obvious he's the show's secondary Rider, that's not exactly how the audience was thinking in 1973. So we have a case of in-show context vs. franchise reality, something that will eventually apply to Tackle in a huge way.

And in the case of Kamen Rider X and Amazon, well, the former features all the previous Riders appearing at some point and the latter features none of them. So again, we have two shows which don't quite do the Rider layout we're all used to now, but one showed how you can have a one-Rider show that's still a multi-Rider show, and the other, well, didn't, but remember Amazon for tomorrow. Both are also important to this story; X-Rider's movie is the one with 5 Riders, and the finale of Amazon's show (and Rider's channel switcheroo that resulted) finally gets us back to Stronger and Tackle.

You may remember that back during Ishinomori Week when covering Himitsu Sentai Goranger, I briefly touched on how one of the pre-Goranger ideas included doing a 5-Rider show, and also how network shenanigans resulted in Kamen Rider being booted over to MBS/TBS starting from Stronger.

There's more to the story though: the main reason the original "5 Riders" concept spun off into something else (ultimately, Super Sentai) is because MBS programming  manager Shôno Itaru felt that Kamen Rider should be a one-hero show. It was also believed that multiple heroes might have been appealing at first, but it would soon become difficult to work with. It sounds funny now, but on the other hand, how many times have you seen somebody say one or more of the Riders in a multi-Rider show kinda got shafted by the end? The counter-argument to that however is that Super Sentai got by okay, but this is really a whole 'nother discussion.

Hirayama and the Rider staff were still interested in the idea of having a supporting hero though, who eventually became a supporting heroine. It's worth mentioning that Tackle wasn't initially conceived as being a female, and that wouldn't have changed the character's ultimate fate (although as we'll see in the next day or two, that did slightly change once production was underway.)

Purportedly, the decision to make Tackle a woman came about from Hirayama hearing that girls "wanted to be able to play Kamen Rider make-believe" along with the boys. Ishinomori was also very interested in the idea; keep this in mind for when we reach the end of Tackle Week. In fact, going by his earliest sketches, he was pretty much gung-ho about the character of Kamen Rider Tackle (yes, she's actually called that) complete with a full-face mask. This latter element eventually got dropped, though if you own the S.I.C. figure, now you know where that comes from!

Personally, while I do kinda dig the full-mask Tackle look, there is something about the final version that I really like too, especially since the more see-through bug eyes are a part of the character. In fact, now's as good a time as any to talk about the design and costume.

Tackle's one of those suits that I always felt looked good onscreen, but becomes amazing on paper. To be fair, I think this of a lot of Rider designs including many of the modern ones. Kabuto the TV costume was cool, but I think he especially benefits from being hand-drawn, with the arm and leg armor tightened up to feel like the thin-yet-ultra-durable plating it's meant to be. It's one of the reasons I think it's a shame there aren't more non-SD Heisei Rider comics, because in the few that there are, everybody looks pretty good. Writing-wise, comics as a medium haven't always been kind to Kamen Rider (and then some) but when they work, they're capable of being up there with the very best the onscreen stuff has to offer. Art on the other hand, well, I can think of more well-drawn Rider comics than I can badly-drawn ones, so generally speaking, I think most Rider comics always look nice, if nothing else.

But back to Tackle: I think you need only see her in Spirits to see how spectacular a design it really is. Cute and goofy, but deceptively so, suggesting something powerful, even a little fierce (especially check out how Muraeda draws her mask when... oh alright, I'll post scans when I get to that.) It's a wonderful look overall, working in black and white but also boasting a great color scheme (between Tackle and Riderman, you can understand why from 2000 on they basically forgot yellow was supposed to be an evil Rider color and just gave everybody red!) It's very 70's yes, but I don't think you need to apologize for when you were made. Also, just like with Stronger: compared to what else was coming out in 1975~1976, I think Tackle is one of the more down-to-earth designs!

Admittedly, it's a trickier look to pull off in live action, but on rewatching Stronger, I think it works. There's a charm to it and if you took elements of Femme and Nadeshiko and combined them with Tackle, you'd probably get my ultimate female Rider design, at least the one that I didn't draw. Er, anyway, the big point in its favor, and I mean big, is that it allows Okada herself to do the suit work a lot of the time, which is pretty awesome But I'll get into that tomorrow in Part 2!

1 comment:

  1. Well, this looks like it's going to be exciting. Good luck with the whole retrospective, Iga.