Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Tackle Week Part 5

Tackle Week concludes (over a week after it began) with final thoughts on our heroine's past, present, and possible future...

I started this series off by calling Tackle one of the hardest characters in Kamen Rider to talk about, and even after all this, I still find that to be true. She is simultaneously a very simple concept, and yet she's also surrounded by complexity. She's remembered for being an interesting, strongly-defined character at a time when most female characters in Tokusatsu were in far more limited supporting roles, yet at the same time one can't help but feel like she's almost been overlooked, a mostly-forgotten piece of the franchise's history. She doesn't need to be a Kamen Rider to be a great heroic character, and yet to deny her that distinction is both nonsensical and pointless, especially given how much "Kamen Rider" as a concept has changed since her time. She is surrounded by contradictions, which I think is why fans have long struggled with discussing her. Even die-hard fans of the old-school Riders (i.e. me) always find it a little harder to explain how Tackle works to a newer fan, much harder than someone like Rider 2 or Riderman.

There's never been another character quite like her, and some doubt there ever will be again. I'm slightly more optimistic in that I think a day will come when we'll have a female Rider in a regular supporting role once more, a true Tackle for the 21st century. Maybe not this year, maybe not next year, maybe not five years from now... but someday. Just as Kamen Rider has grown and changed and reinvented itself time and time again, so have the societal attitudes and cultural norms it's surrounded by. I think the day is coming when it will be okay for girls to play Kamen Rider make-believe in the schoolyard again with the boys (though that might happen anyway if there's ever a Kamen Rider Wizard/Smile PreCure! team-up. These days, it's more likely than you think.)

But when it comes to Tackle herself, and her place in the Rider pantheon, the character seems destined to endure in something of a void of uncertainty as far as her creators' stances go. I already mentioned Hirayama, and how he believed it was the woman under the mask that mattered the most. Tackle died as she lived, fighting the good fight, and now she's earned her peace.

Ishinomori on the other hand, I feel like he was more about Tackle herself, and her being a Rider in everything but name. And, an idea well-worth revisiting (if not Tackle directly, then certainly a character closely inspired by her.) I say this because not only was he no stranger to having "equal to the guys/part-of-the-team" heroines (003, Bijinder & Momoranger to name a few) but also when we look at some of his last work prior to his death, i.e. the stuff that would eventually become Kamen Rider Kuuga, well, there's some interesting stuff.

In the earliest preliminary designs for the next Rider, Ishinomori wasn't looking to Metal Heroes or any of the oft-quoted influences of Heisei Rider. He looked to Tackle and the heroines of his Toei Fushigi Comedy works. I swear, once I get a scanner I will be going to town on that stuff (I brought the book with me to Japan), but the fact of the matter is that at one point, history may have taken a very different course from the one we're on now. It's rather fitting to me that we've got a Rider movie coming up soon that not only features a female Rider, but Poitrine. Funny how that worked out.

As for Toei themselves, in all their amorphous, hard-to-define glory, the company's stance on Tackle is the same as their stance on other hot-button fan issues (continuity; who really counts as Rider; who decided it was a good idea to let Inoue write that part of Movie CORE, etc.) That is, they have no stance at all.

The closest you'll get is in the All Riders vs. Daishocker-era net movies, which don't even attempt to offer any kind of real explanation. It's just treated as irreverently self-effacing, i.e. "Tackle's clearly a Rider and aren't we silly for not saying she is, hohoho she's in charge of the naming department lolz!" So it's not much of a stance on anything, really, though at least they brought up the issue. Much like Shin's minisode though, it's done for laughs rather than to make any kind of real statement.

The blasé attitude continues into merchandise, where (especially from 2009 on) Tackle often just gets lumped in with everybody else as a Rider. Omissions are becoming a rarity, which is cool (though on a related note, it sucks to be Kamen Rider G, who I don't think I've ever seen mentioned again since his one night of glory.) I guess the most "definitive" word there is comes from the Official Data Files released through DeAgostini Japan, which were promoted as being the most thorough, detailed information straight from the original sources, with lots of previously-unseen material (naturally, expect a lot of that to turn up on over the next year.) There, Tackle is filed under Riders, between Stronger and Skyrider (for the record, most of the other "are-they-or-aren't-they" characters are in there as well, for simplicity's sake.) So there you go.

Some will argue that this goofs up the numbering, but I think ZX can live with being #10.5 or something, and Minami Kôtarô pretty much deep-sixed all that anyway as soon as he became BLACK RX (so is he the 12th Rider, or still the 11th?) Ultimately, I guess the point I'm trying to make here is that there is no one true take on the issue, but the general consensus is slowly changing from "Well, Tackle isn't a Rider" to more people just accepting that in the greater scheme of things, she's as much a Rider as the next guy/girl, and it's time we just moved on.

Of course, I can't end this retrospective without covering the other Tackle, the one from Kamen Rider x Kamen Rider: W & Decade: Movie War 2010. That was Toei's big chance to really do something special with the character after years and years, but I think the end result is much like the film itself: a very mixed bag.

I actually really like the depiction of Tackle herself. Hirose Alice does good work, capturing the spirit of Okada, despite not getting much screen time. I've read that to prepare for the role, she went out and got some Stronger DVDs. Respect. I also like the new costume. I wouldn't call it a vast improvement so much as an interesting take, like the revamped costumes in THE FIRST & THE NEXT. They're great cover versions, but the originals are the ones that'll really endure forever. It's not a bad redesign though and along with the S.I.C. version, we've got a couple cool spins on Tackle running around out there. Also, if there's one thing I do absolutely love about the movie version, it's the exposed longer hair, a design element I actually would have liked with the original.

Unfortunately, the movie's doing so much other stuff already that Tackle is just one more subplot fighting for attention. Tsukasa barely seems to notice her! Yonemura's not really saying anything about the character's history beyond the "she wants someone to remember her" stuff, which is pretty cool, but isn't given the necessary weight it needs. You could do some awesome things with that. I also think any message the character has is hampered by the fact that Tackle dies in the movie again, so once more it's concentrating on the death itself rather than everything around it (the impact is also lessened by the fact that she doesn't really get to kill her main enemy in the film, which was an essential part of the original.)

In the end it feels like Tackle's just in the movie so that during the final segment, when W thinks back on Sôkichi/Skull and what he meant, Decade gets somebody to think back on too. As with much of the film, I like individual elements, but as a whole it has trouble fitting together since there's so much going on, slugging it out for screen time. The title "Movie War" is more literal than they probably meant! Credit where credit's due, it is interesting to see Tackle without any sign of Stronger, though this was apparently not the case in earlier drafts of the film, and I feel like if you really want to do a good story about Tackle and her place in the greater Riderverse, you need to involve Stronger somehow. Still, Alice is great and it was fun to see Tackle 'back', with a sweet new transformation. Also, she sticks it to those Riotrooper goons!

And that's basically my take on Electro-Wave Human Tackle. I think that by now you can tell where I stand on the character: to me, Tackle was a great heroine, the first female Rider, and while her death was tragic, it was sufficiently built up as a part of her story arc, and played out in such a way as to be one of those unforgettable moments that the series would be poorer without. It's one of the most famous parts of Stronger and of classic Kamen Rider, period. But even putting that aside, Tackle was just as important and interesting to watch in life, a life she lived fighting by Stronger's side.

Should the original character ever come back, Riderman-style? I wouldn't be opposed to it, since much like Riderman, while Tackle's original story had to culminate with a sacrifice, her possible resurrection has been on the table since 1975. Like 'ol Yuuki, there's still a lot more you could do with her, though I think the best place to do it would be on the printed page where characters can literally live forever. To do something on TV or a movie now would be tricky, especially given that we're missing the two best parts: the above couple (ignore Stronger's hand there.) It is a story I've thought about though, and I'll tell my own version some day (though if you want another take, my buddy Chris Elam has his highly enjoyable version.) Whether we'll see anything official or not, time only knows...

But hey, she did kind of come back already. If you watch the All Riders Break scene in Let's Go Kamen Riders, for a few brief seconds when they form the giant 40 'o Doom, you can just make out a yellow bike that would have to be Tackle's Tentorô. So yeah. Tackle made it for the 40th anniversary. You go girl!

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more Rider action in the near future...

"Ei! Yah!! Toh!!"


  1. I think Nadeshiko was in part a reference to Tackle (her name was Misaki wasn't it?), though I suppose she's only that as much as the rest of Fourze's character were references to the legendary 7.

    One thing that's never held much weight for me though is the argument that female riders are doomed to die. Maybe it's because I came into Rider in a time when Natsumi had just killed Decade and Megumi was definitely alive, but I don't think the argument is valid anymore, and since Nadeshiko's coming back I think that compounds it.

    But my point was that in the last 5 years I believe the only female Rider to die has been Yuri (not that we know how she died though)

  2. Thanks for the kind words on my old ROJ story, which was something that had been in my head in one form or another for a long, long time. I guess bringing Tackle back made sense considering all the OTHER things that happen in ROJ.

    She's an intriguing character, and I've really enjoyed your retrospective on her. But I agree - something is always going to be missing without Kyoko Okada. There's a reason I thought she merited a story dedication - she was outstanding and really sold the reality of Yuriko Misaki.