Sequels in new mediums! How best to judge them?

It’s not a new thing for a comics fan. Any number of franchises have found continuations both canonical and non-canonical as a comic book. Generally movies and TV shows that had a rabid audience that was eager to be monetized, but securing the original talent was cost-prohibitive and/or impossible: Buffy, Star Wars, Star Trek, etc. It’s fairly commonplace, and I always found it sort of baffling that it was considered such a natural option for storytelling. The assumption from publishers (and seemingly comic creators) was that the characters mattered in ways the original stories and performances didn’t; Luke Skywalker is more important than whatever Mark Hamill imbued him with. Continuing that character’s journey without the score, the special effects, the cinematography, the acting… it always felt so diminished to me that it could only be judged on the merits of its execution in the new medium, and not as inherently valuable due to the nostalgia of the IP. A Star Wars comic isn’t Star Wars, it’s a comic. It succeeds or fails on its viability in that medium, not with any sort of lowered standard of fan desire making up the difference.

So, Fuuto P.I.

First off, I’m not an anime guy. I watched some stuff in my formative days via A.D. Vision videotapes (I’m old!) and bootlegs from conventions. Evangelion, Cowboy Bebop, Tenchi Muyo, Escaflowne, some DBZ. I haven’t seriously watched an anime property probably this millennium. I will not be judging this by the standards of the industry as it exists today, but I welcome any actual anime fans to chime in with how this show measures up to the expectations of a modern audience.

For me, I thought this thing worked pretty well?

It’s for sure trying to feel like an episode of Kamen Rider W, with all the accouterments and filigree you’d hope for – the Narumi Agency office, Watcherman, Santa, even Lily’s cafe from the Accel film. It’s as close to a continuation to W as you’d dream of, if you were dreaming of an animated continuation of W. The voices are good, if not 100%. Akiko’s is dead on, Philip’s evokes the character well, the various side characters are in the right range, but Shotaro’s misses some of the weird vulnerability and childishness that I’m used to. It’s a good voice, but it’s a little too generic-sounding for me. But that’s minor! The episode absolutely feels like Fuuto, and that’s half the battle of creating Kamen Rider W in a new medium.

The other thing that helps a lot is taking a similar approach to the live-action version and slowly leading the viewer into the world. We get Shotaro, we get Shotaro and Akiko, then we finally get Shotaro and Philip. (As always, Akiko is the ridiculous glue that holds this premise together!) We even kick things off with an incredibly faithful reenactment of Begins Night, for god’s sake. There’s a real If It Ain’t Broke feeling to this premiere episode, where it somehow feels for all the world like it’s the beginning of a new season Kamen Rider W. We’re still focused on helping weird Fuuto citizens with their problems, we’re still following the adventures of a detective that’s frequently distracted by trying to look cool (now with the ability to obsess over selfies!), we’re still hanging out with Team Double. It’s structured like the show never ended, which was always its selling point.

The meat of this episode… it’s good? It’s good. Tokime is a hilariously designed anime girl to this untrained eye (this show is way more LOOK AT HER BOOBS than I’d care for), but she’s a femme fatale in a noir world, and that’s a solid hook for a Shotaro-led opener. Chuuta’s a fun client, with his slightly horny but still well-meaning need to redeem Tokime. The detecting Shotaro does is all about establishing his connection to the city, which is crucial for caring about his character. The bizarre shadow realm that Tokime’s accessing is a neat Only In Anime visual, and that’s really what I want this show to be: not an animated version of the stuff W did, which is comfortable and no small task, but an animated expansion of W’s aesthetic.

I’m very much looking forward to more of that, if possible. It’s nice to see how easily the makers of this show can make it all feel like Kamen Rider W, but I’m actually more excited to see when and where it really becomes Fuuto P.I. They’re off to a good start so far.

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