Ramble Review: Keitai Sousakan 7
Author’s Note: These are my opinions. My opinions are vastly different than most of the fandom 90% of the time. I also wrote this late at night where my mind was certainly in an incredibly satirical mood. If you disagree with what I’m saying below, hurray! Let me know your thoughts on the show in the comments.
There WILL BE SPOILERS. I sum up the show, reveal the fates of characters, and several other things. If you don’t wish to be spoiled, close the review, go watch the show, and come back when you’re ready. I REPEAT: THERE ARE SPOILERS HERE.
Anyway, spoiler warning completed. Enjoy the review, and look forward to more reviews as I watch new Toku in 2013. This is really fun to do.
Special Keitai Note Version: I wrote this with a spoiler free mindset, but those extra paranoid might still want to skip. I bolded the section where I talk about the ending, because that is obviously spoilers. Just wanted to make note of that.
Buddy. Never in a million years would I have thought such a simple word carry so much meaning and emotion behind it. I also would have never thought that a show about talking robotic cellphones would make me cry in its finale, as well as multiple times throughout the actual show. Finally, I never would have thought, entering the tokusatsu genre, that my favorite show would end up being something completely outside the realm of Kamen Rider or Super Sentai. This is Keitai Sousakan (Cell Phone Investigator) Seven, and this is possibly my favorite show of all time.
At its core, Keitai is a show outside of the realm of tokusatsu. It isn’t a show that heavily relies on its special effects, nor does it rely on flashy fight scenes. Inside this show is essentially a J-Drama based around the bond between a high-school student and his cell phone. The main character, Amishima Keita attempts to runaway from home to meet up with his friend when he’s stopped by a rampaging steam shovel. Yeah, that sounds kinda crazy, but bare with me. In comes Takimoto who arrives on the scene throwing a silver cellphone that suddenly sprouts arms and legs. Ultimately, the little phone links with a controlling device and stops the rampaging steam shovel, but not before Takimoto is seriously injured protecting Keita. Later, he tells Keita that he is not only amazing, but he is kind. With that, Keita rushes to help in his first case, as Takimoto wounds prove too much. Witnessing Takimoto’s passing, Keita stays with Under Anchor as Seven’s new buddy.
I’ll admit, the show ultimately does start slow, and carries a pretty heavy “of the day” feel. Each episode (sans the occasional two-parter) stars Keita and Seven solving some crime or stopping a net terrorist. The internet is a big deal in the world of Keitai. The entire world is connected in some form of another through the Net, and it is treated like some sort of alternate world that can be used to bring great good to society, or lead it to its ultimate destruction. A bunch of individual terrorists (often assisted by the rogue Phone Braver Zero-One) do something or another to damage the Net, kill people, take over a company, etc. Under Anchor, an organization under the Anchor Cell Phone company detects these acts of terrorism and a team of Agent and Buddy are dispatched to take care of it, all under the public’s nose. This is Keitai in a nutshell.
There are seven Phone Bravers in all, with only two (Seven and Third) currently in Under Anchor’s ranks. Another Braver, Zero-One escaped Under Anchor after the death of multiple buddies, after causing a mass amount of havoc and ultimately destroying Second, the under-production Fifth, and inserting a massive virus into Fourth. Roku, the sixth Braver, is another rogue Braver, but isn’t seen in the show outside of Seven’s thoughts. Now the Bravers don’t appear to be anything special, they are simple modern day flip phones with a highly advanced AI that allows them to function like a human. Their main purpose is to assist Agents by hacking and connecting into anything connected to the internet to stop Net Terrorists. They’re also really awesome.
Before I discuss the story, I feel it is important to touch upon the characters of the show, as ultimately, they ARE the story. The cast of Keitai is huge, yet incredibly tight knit. A majority of the characters who are relevant to the plot revolve around Under Anchor. Sure, there are plenty of side characters like Police stand-ins, Keita’s family, some high school students, and various other characters.
- Amishima Keita and Seven – Keitai is your typical high school student. He gets by, doesn’t want to be there, and doesn’t particularly get along with anyone. While his school life doesn’t change, his life takes a turn after he becomes an Under Anchor Agent. Keita…Keita is a massively dynamic character. From beginning to end, Keita is always under a constant change. Like most high school students, Keita lacks anything in the way of confidence. He’s frightened, a bit bumbling, and certainly not agent material, despite learning the ropes quickly. Episodes 19 and 20 is a two-episode arc that puts Keita away from Seven, and away from everyone actually. He meets this strange woman, and wacky hijinks ensues. By the end of the arc, Keita sees a massive character growth in terms of not only self-reliance, but a moment where he is forced to come to terms with the fact that things change, people leave, and he has to accept that. When you watch the show, keep this episode in mind come finale time. He continues to grow a few episodes later in the hour long episode 23, a mid-season climax episode that shows growth in not only Keita, but Seven and Zero-One as well. Their bonds continue grow as the series progresses. Seven features a similar growth in an opposite direction. Seven starts as a very stoic personality. With Takimoto, he was very mission driven. Takimoto was ultimately a very mature adult, and this shaped Seven into the personality he is at the start of the show. Seven doesn’t really trust Keita, nor does he want him as his buddy, but he keeps his word to Takimoto and sticks with him. As he continues to be Keita’s buddy, Seven shifts into a more laid back personality that accepts Keita completely. Their bond becomes inseparable (something the main villain actually wanted) and it’s actually incredibly touching to see the change in their relationship from episode 1 to episode 45. Between Keita and Seven, more character development and growth is seen in their relationship than anything I’ve seen in a tokusatsu genre show. It’s something you have to witness to fully grasp and appreciate.
- Kirihara Daiki and Third – They act as a secondary set of characters and are essentially foils to Keita and Seven. While Keita and Seven ultimately have huge character changes, Kirihara and Third don’t actually change all that much throughout the course of the show. That’s not to say they don’t have character development. Throughout the show we learn a ton about Kirihara’s past and his relationship with Third. In this aspect, I think they’re both superb characters. They aren’t massively dynamic, which keeps the spotlight on Keita and Seven, while still having many story elements and serve a huge role in the plot of the show, unlike a lot of side characters in the tokusatsu genre. Kirihara is an ace agent. He has experience, he remains calm, and is this show’s version of a badass. I think one of the most brilliant things is that he is that archetype of character, yet still has moments where he breaks down, or ultimately fails and admits to his mistakes. They really are fantastic characters.
- Zero-One – He’s the rogue Braver and ultimately acts as the villain for the first portion of the show. As I mentioned earlier, he abandoned Under Anchor after the death of his third buddy. He views himself as a buddy killer, wrecks a bunch of stuff, and leaves. He assists Net Terrorists and criminals with their innermost wishes. His goal here is basically to try and find the answer to his question of why he exists. In episode 23, he undergoes a massive character change at the end of the episode. From here on out, he acts as a sort of rogue agent. Zero-One, for being a simple AI cell phone, is a fantastic character to witness. The “villain turned hero” has been done a billion times in fiction, but it’s rare to see a development quite like Zero-One. At the beginning of the show, you almost despite him for constantly putting Keita and Seven in danger. By episode 23, you might even want Zero-One dead. By the end of the show, most watchers have a huge connection to Zero-One, that creates for one of the most memorable scenes of the show. Zero-One also acts as a pivot for multiple other characters in terms of growth. It takes a lot for the Commander and other Anchor Members a while to forgive him for what he did. Keita ultimately forgives him quickly, which also causes Seven to forgive him. The dynamic he shares with the other characters in the show is really interesting to witness. When I started the show I wasn’t expecting Zero-One to top my list of characters, but he certainly earned his way up there.
These three characters (five characters technically) create a triangle of different characteristics and stories. Keita: the boy who lacks self-confidence who ultimately saves the world, Kirihara: the determined soldier who ultimately takes it too far, and Zero-One: the villain with a change of heart. The trifecta of main characters in this show hardly have any similar characteristics at the start of the show. Keita is a bit of a nub, Kirihara is a hardass, and Zero-One is a jackass. By the end of the show, all three characters start to blur a bit, each one having changed the other in some fashion or another. The way these characters act as foils to one another, but also act as ambition of change is truly fantastic. If there’s one thing Keitai excels at, it’s character writing.
There are several other characters in the show, but obviously they don’t measure up to the others. For fear of rambling, I won’t touch upon them that much, but no character in this show feels absolutely worthless. While a lot of the side characters don’t really go through character arcs or development, we learn a lot about them in certain individual stories, and they all contribute to the story, or Under Anchor, in their own way. Asano in particular (the bubbly Under Anchor Agent) is an interesting character, as we learn she actually has a rather tragic event happen to hear that sort of shapes her into the way she is. Morishita (the other high school aged Under Anchor employee that works on the technical stuff) is another character we actually get an episode or two of focus on that turned out to be more interesting than I initially thought.
Villains are kind of a difficult thing to touch upon. Throughout the first portion of the show, the villain appears to be Zero-One. He’s quickly (around episode 9) bumped around for this mysterious character called Magira. We don’t learn much about him at first other than he works with Zero-One and has one hell of a huge ulterior motive. Spoiler warning, we eventually learn that Magira’s plan is to use the Braver’s ability to link with one another (a huge plot point of the show) to create a singular AI that can basically kill all of humanity. I’ll pretty much just leave it at that. Honestly the villains aren’t a huge driving force in this show, as they’re not really villains. Zero-One is a Braver on a mission to figure out who he is and why he was made. Magira is pretty much a crazed lunatic that’s a bit beat up over a tragic event relating to Fifth and Zero-One and humanity and all that. Their motivation is human. They don’t just want to take over to take over, or anything like that. They’re simply motivated by their own desires and their own wishes. While Magira’s ultimate plan is certainly very ambitions and very crazy, it’s believable for a genius like him to create something of this scale.
While most of this is bleed over from the character portion, and I don’t really want to get into heavy spoiler territory, so I’ll try to keep it brief. Ketai takes what could best be described as an “in the life tokusatsu drama” and turns it into an incredibly developed show with a cast of characters that can rival any mainstream tokusatsu production and then some. Keitai could easily be lumped into a J-Drama category over tokusatsu, and it really takes that bit to heart. At the beginning of the show, the plot is moving relatively small and it sort of feels like it is going nowhere until about ten episodes in, where we’re introduced to Magira’s relation to Zero-One, and things start to pick up pretty hardcore around episode 23 when Keita’s relationship with Zero-One takes a shift. At 45 episodes long, it shares a pace similar to a Rider or Sentai series, but with a lot more thought behind it. Every episode, no matter how filler, adds something to either the plot or a character, and no moment in the show feels like a waste of time. It’s a story that truly needs to be experienced first hand.
Thoughts on the Ending
This bit is for those that have seen the show in its entirety. The ending of the show is probably one of the most well thought out, concrete endings to a show of this caliber of production I’ve witnessed. Zero-One’s story ends having saved Keita from Magira’s army of suicide bombing Genes. Keita and Seven, with the help of Kirihara and Third eventually “defeat” Magira, but not without sacrifice, as both of the Phone Bravers have perished. That final scene, as Seven sacrifices himself to save the world, as Keita yells for his buddy to survive. Now I’ve watched a lot of shit in my time, and nothing has impacted me as much as Keita’s relationship with his stupid cell phone. Drama in fiction hardly ever hits me, but for some reason this does. I’ve spent 45 episodes watching Keita and Seven develop this relationship and become true buddies. Throughout most of this show, we’ve seen Zero-One go from a confused rogue to some rogue protector of Keita, completely intrigued in the amount of love and friendship that ties Keita and Seven together. Crazy episodes like “Out of Range Woman” that shows how Keita learns how to move on from pain. I’m not sure how close the writers were foreshadowing the future, but given the amount of pain Keita goes through after losing both Seven and Zero-One, it makes those random groups of episodes that SEEM pointless have a whole lot of meaning. This show in general just wraps every storyline up in a completely fabulous way. One of the reasons I love this show so much is that single fact. From my memory, no plot point is completely dropped, and every ounce of character development matters. Easily one of the best finales I’ve seen.
The opening theme song is probably the greatest song ever. The three ending themes are all pretty awesome too. Finally “Keitaihen” is hilarious.
Keitai is a show that MUST be experienced by Japanese tokusatsu fans at least once. It’s NOT your usual tokusatsu. In fact, it’s hardly a tokusatsu at all. It’s a drama built around a kid, his robotic cell phone, and the fate of humanity. The way the writers of this show was able to spin a simple concept into a tightly woven story with excellent pacing, excellent characters, and an incredibly impressive story. Honestly, any group of writers that makes me care so much about a kid and a cell phone is pretty ace in my book. Between the excellent music, story, and character writing, Keitai is a show that simply can’t be skipped.