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October 25, 2013

Manly Songs: Kamen Rider Birth (Instrumental)

Okay, I know that this is supposed to be a feature shaped by visitors and readers, but I’m going to have to hijack the Repository for a moment.  Just a moment.  Because it’s kind of important.


As noted, I’ve been getting a lot of mileage out of Kamen Rider OOO recently.  I can’t speak for anyone’s preferences besides my own -- especially since I’m a Rider greenhorn -- but for what it’s worth, I think OOO is pretty freakin’ great.  (Then again, I watched the first episode of Fourze recently, so we’ll just have to see which one retains top honors.)  In any case, part of the allure of OOO is the music, and how it weaves into the series at large.  The way it works is that the titular Rider uses a combination of three medals to mix and match parts for his suit’s weapon loadout.  As long as he has one head medal, one body, and one leg, he can freely choose between parts.  But if he puts in three matching medals, he gets an even stronger form…and said form brings with it a swanky tune.  (“Power to Tearer” is as godlike as its title is Engrish-y.)

What I didn’t expect was for there to be a hidden gem on the soundtrack.  Two hidden gems, in fact.  That’s because they were tied to a certain character I didn’t even know existed until I’d gotten knee deep in OOO.  But now I feel ashamed for not getting into the series sooner -- because not only is the music amazing, but the character in question is just as incredible.

Now then.  It’s time for a manly henshin…unless you’re wary of spoilers, which there WILL be.  Then again, the title of the post is a spoiler in its own right, so go nuts.

Song(s): Birth Battle + Birth Henshin
Composer: Kotaro Nakagawa
Year: 2010

All right.  Time to go to work.



Where do I even begin on this one?

Well, I guess a confession is as good a place to start as any.  This post was very nearly called “Akira Date: A Kamen Rider PSA”, wherein I would just gush about how cool I think this character is and explain in grave detail why it’s A-OK to develop an only-slightly-unhealthy man-crush on him.  But I happened to come across his two theme songs on YouTube, and when coupled with the realization that I hadn’t done a Manly Song post in a while, I decided to repurpose my claims.

So now instead of doing a whole lot of gushing, I’m only going to gush a little.  Because part of being manly is being able to admit when another man strikes your fancy.


Now then.  If my understanding of tokusatsu shows is correct, it’s common for the new guy -- a “sixth ranger”, a new Rider, what have you -- to show up, dominate for a few episodes with his bag of tricks (as a means to show off the merchandise, if you’re the cynical sort), and generally prove how awesome he is…that is until the bad guys catch up and he’s knocked down to the same level as the others.  Genta/ShinkenGold from Shinkenger is my notable example, in that he sorts shit out in his first couple of episodes (to the point where he interrupts the other rangers’ roll call), but before the series even hits the halfway point he gets balanced out.  It’s kind of like what happened with Yun and Yang in the arcade edition of Street Fighter 4; they were purposefully made overpowered on release (for whatever reason), and nerfed later so that they’d be in line with the rest of the cast.  First impressions are everything.

The middle section of OOO puts Birth more or less on par with the series’ main Rider; their skill sets are different, but by design -- in-universe and out -- they’re supposed to work together.  That said, when Birth makes his first appearance, he cleans house in a way that leaves our hero Eiji dumbstruck on the sidelines…and he does so in complete silence until the monster of the week has been successfully busted up.  But when the fight’s over, Birth shows his true colors…by showing off the manual for using the suit.  And on top of that, when the suit goes off, we’re introduced to a character never seen before.  Who the hell is this guy?  Find out on the next exciting episode of Kamen Rider OOOJust according to keikaku.


Like I said, first impressions are everything.  And what’s communicated to the audience is that Date’s surprisingly down-to-earth.  He’s got simple tastes (the man loves his oden) and simple desires (he’s using Birth in exchange for earning 100 million yen).  He’s got quite the sense of humor, and when he gets into something, he goes all in (get ready to work if this guy’s playing director).  He comes off as a goof in some scenes, but in others he’s a borderline genius…and then you find out that he’s actually a field doctor who’s travelled the world.  And then he takes off his shirt and --

No!  No!  Focus, Voltech!  Focus!

I guess what I’m getting at here is that when he’s out of his suit, Date’s an inherently simple character by design as well as by composure.  He’s cool by virtue of just doing his own thing, not trying to conform to certain archetypes like “I’m the rival, so I have to be cooler than you.”  In a lot of ways, he’s kind of average…and in a lot of ways, that’s something to be appreciated.  There’s just this natural confidence -- swagger, even -- to the way he does things.  There’s a security about him that allows him to mess around with every character he meets, turning mad scientists audiences could once only see as scheming villains into wellsprings of comedy.  He’s a transformative presence, but he doesn’t have to take a step out of line to do so.  He’s all natural.  Simple, but effective.

And when he puts on the suit…


You know, it really says a lot about a song when its first four notes practically shout at you “HERE I AM, MOTHERFUCKERS!”  If ever you needed confirmation that an ass-kicking was about to ensue, this song should more than suffice.  The rush of roaring guitars.  The heavy beats, accented by percussion that just won’t let up.  The smattering of piano and synth notes, with one highlighting the man behind the machine, and the other highlighting the machine behind the man.  It’s a song bred purely for the purpose of getting its listeners hyped, standing not only as an accompaniment to Birth’s punches, kicks, and gunshots, but as a point of dissention.  It’s a juxtaposition of the soft and pleasant nature of Date with the hard and punishing force of Birth.  The mix of the two, combined with the relentless pressure of the song itself, creates an even stronger effect; the song itself seems to exclaim “That’s as far as you go!  It’s time for me to end this fight!” while Birth himself proves it -- proves his dedication to the task at hand.  It’s a song that’s designed to, and succeeds in, selling this Rider as a true hero. 

But that’s only the half of it.  The faster version -- the battle theme -- gets you hyped.  But the slower version -- the henshin theme -- is crafted specifically to leave its listener in awe.  I can’t listen to these songs without imagining (or wanting to) walk forward in slow motion, with my steps shaking the very earth as I proceed towards my unfortunate target.  Like Date himself, there’s an unmistakable confidence to it; a serenity, and a clarity of thought that only contributes to the song’s power, not subtract from it.  The song -- when listened to back-to-back, as they should be -- arguably has three main stages to it at this point.  The first: a flurry of guitar notes that sees the introduction of choir oohs and ahs, as if preparing for the transition from fight to finishing blow.  (Dare I say it, there’s a sense of cockiness to it -- as if the song says “All right, time for me to wrap this up!”)


The second stage takes us to a slower version of the battle theme’s main melody.  Slowing it down doesn’t take any of the energy away from it, thanks to the force being multiplied four-fold by the hammering beats.  That said, the song seems to take on a more serious affect; the implied resolve from the battle theme is made explicit at this point, daring to shake the hearts of evildoers merely by virtue of existing.  “I’ll show you true power!” the song might as well be singing.  But it’s the third stage that takes it to the next level; the guitars that have been with us for so long get swapped out for strings, magnifying that resolve to sun-hot levels of passion.  There’s a firmness to it that very nearly reminds us that even with the swagger shown in earlier parts of the song, at no point has the passion been lost.  That dedication to a mission -- an ideal -- is still right there, marching alongside us as we face whatever stands in our way.  “For peace and justice, you WILL fall!” it sings. 

And indeed, peace and justice get dished out.  As the song reaches its climax and the guitars crescendo, it all comes to a head with a moment of muteness -- synthesized notes that signal one thing.  The finishing move has been delivered.  The fight is over, and the battle’s been won.  And with that, the Rider -- and the song -- go about their way, returning to that intensity until the song’s untimely end.  “It’s my win,” they both say, just before they saunter off into the sunset.


It should be painfully obvious at this point that this song is tailor-made to have a dramatic, bombastic, heroic feel to it.  And really, what else would you expect?  This is a song from Kamen Rider, which might as well be called Guys in Suits Flamboyantly Fight Other Guys in Suits for Your Satisfaction.  For a franchise like that, I’d expect no less.  And my expectations have not only been met, but exceeded; it’s been a while since I’ve gotten such a kick out of a series, but OOO -- and this song -- have been more than willing to provide.

Speaking of things that haven’t been done in a while, I might as well toss this little nugget of truth out there:


Whew.  Looks like I made it through another post.  And what do you know?  I kept the rosy-eyed gushing to a minimum.  I guess I’m better at self-control than I thought.

…And now to spend the rest of this post gushing about my man-crush on Date-san.

Oh man, how cool is it that Date’s signature outfit includes a bomber jacket!  Bomber jackets are just the best!  And he does his henshin by flipping a coin?  So awesome!  And then you realize that Date is pretty much doing his best impression of Robert Downey Jr. every time the camera cuts to him inside the Birth outfit -- and when you think about it, Birth is supposed to be the embodiment of human effort and ingenuity in the sense that he’s using a man-made Rider uniform and equips machine parts as opposed to OOO and his animal-based weaponry!  I bet he knows that, too!  And he’s a field doctor?  Such an intelligent guy -- with a good sense of humor, too!  Oh man, I can’t believe how much he owns Ankh and Dr. Maki!  Date DGAF about nothin’, man -- monsters, mad scientists, more monsters, s’all good!  And the man’s probably swarmed with fine women; every woman he meets has practically given him the look!  But that’s to be respected from a man that commands respect from everyone around him -- because he’s TOTALLY the “speak softly and carry a big stick” kind of guy (probably in more ways than one)!  Oh, and is it just me, or does Date know some wrestling moves?  He totally did a guillotine leg drop on that one Yummy!  And I swear to God he just up and chucked another Yummy right over his head like it was nothing!  And have you seen that facial hair?  Oh man, if he grows a beard before the end of the show’s run, I’m SO gonna --

*watches through Episode 38*




DATE-SAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!

Do you have a manly song to recommend?  Then you, too, can have your suggestion turned into a full-fledged post!  Just leave a comment naming a song (limit one song per comment), and your song will be analyzed -- and if you have a blog or other net-haven, you’ll be suitably honored.  So get to it; feel the rush of testosterone, and help make THE MANLIEST PLAYLIST IN THE UNIVERSE!

2 comments:

  1. Try R.A's The People's Champ. I think it does a great job at satirzing the genre of 'I am such an awesome hip hop artist I should be my own dad!' the video helps bring that awesome point across too.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5v2ePtIH6w

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  2. It shall be done. This song's going to get the next post...whenever that is.


    Looks like it'll be an interesting one, too. Certainly a lot more ninjas in that video than what I was expecting. Then again, a ninja you're expecting isn't a very good ninja at all.

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