Admittedly, I didn’t care for Tomica Hero Rescue Force when it first started in 2008. I watched the promo video and the first episode and was done. The rescue team theme seemed too gimmicky, and the show seemed to hammer us with promoting the toys (more so than usual). So why did I watch the 2008 Rescue Force movie? Combination of continual praises I’ve heard and a guest role by Hiroshi Fujioka (the original Kamen Rider 1). And how did that go?
Well, I may have to give the series another try.
The movie really has two parts. There’s the main movie, Tomica Hero Rescue Force Explosive Movie: Rescue the Mach Train!, and before that, there’s the comedic 15-minute bit Explosive Run! Tomica Hero Grand Prix. The Rescue Force team competes in a race sanctioned by the United Fire-Defense Force to see who’s the fastest. Along the way, Neo Terror (or Thera. I’ve seen it either way) butts in and joins the race. It’s not quite as wacky as Wacky Races, but it made me chuckle a bit.
Rescue the Mach Train! is about the Rescue Force’s efforts to stop a hijacked global train from colliding at the end of its line, causing a massive explosion in a major town that could kill millions, including those on the train. Along the way, there’s plenty of action as Rescue Force battles Neo Terror minions who try to stop them.
The plot is fairly captivating. While the danger could be enough for the feature film, a couple of Rescue Force team members and a new friend getting caught up in make it somewhat personal for the team and increases the suspense. Neo Terror also sends plenty of opposition along the way, giving Rescue Force a good fight or two. Well, not so much Rescue Force as much as just R1 and R2.
Rei and Juri, R3 and R4 respectively, are two victims of circumstance in this film, and that unfortunately sidelines them from major action. I find it odd that the two female members miss out on all the action other than evacuating civilians and tending wounds. I don’t know if it’s like this in the series, R3 and R4 operating more in a support role to the male R1 and R2, or if R1 and R2 are supposed to fulfill a more combative role, but it just seemed kind of off balance. Especially considering R3 beat all of them in a sparring match at the beginning. Both R3 and R4 seem capable of action. Maybe they just got the short straw this time and I’m just reading too much into it.
Hikaru and Kyousuke, R1 and R2 respectively, handle most of the fighting and foot work, with a little help from R5/team captain Eiji Ishiguro and the new R0. They range from fighting to vehicle driving to train jumping, and all together, they seem pretty up to the challenge.
The new toys, I mean tools, are out in full force. The movie introduces us to the Rescue Diver, which seems to be a flying drill tank (instead of some aquatic vehicle that actually, oh I don’t know, dives). The Rescue Diver combines with Rescue Striker for not one, but two new forms. There’s also the debut of the Zero Fire, R0’s Rescue Vehicle carrier, coming with its own set of Rescue Riser, Shovel, Drill, Turbo and Dozer. R0 also has his own personal Core Striker Fire and new weapon Rescue Zamber, which changes forms between a javelin and a pick ax. Confused? Like I said, Rescue Force is a big toy commercial, which isn’t new. However, it feels like it’s overloading its audience with too many new toys.
And of course, we have the movie’s true star: Hiroshi Fujioka, better known as Kamen Rider 1. In this, however, he’s R0, a previously unknown member of Rescue Force. Might as well be Kamen Rider 1 given how much he shows up the Rescue Force team. He even refers to them as “youngsters.” When out of his R0 gear, Fujioka dresses in style by sporting a nice black suit and hat.
There’s a small subplot with a girl named Miyuki who wants to be a dancer. By small, I mean she’s just there to fill the role of the innocent needing not only help but also inspiration from the heroes to pursue her dream. She’s also a good reason for the dance number at the beginning and end.
To wrap it up, Rescue the Mach Train! is a decent movie. Its strengths come from a suspenseful danger, plenty of action and a well-done new character with Hiroshi Fujioka. Its shortcomings mostly come from shortchanging its female Rescue Force team members and saturating itself with new toys. Even if you never got into the series, you may enjoy the movie. Add to that the amusing Grand Prix short. With both parts together clocking in at just under an hour and 20 minutes, it’s worth your time to check it out.
Little side note: Some characters from Madan Senki Ryukendo make cameo appearances. I’ve only seen one episode of Ryukendo, but if you’ve seen the series and enjoyed it, keep your eyes open.