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Review of Kamen Rider Zi-O (Episodes 6-9)


Review of Kamen Rider Zi-O (Episodes 6-9)

Team TokuNet Writer Malunis reviews the episodes of Kamen Rider Zi-O that aired in October. In reviewing this month’s episodes, the review will also talk about spoilers for 555, Wizard, Ex-Aid and OOO.

I figured I would roll right into the review, but some stuff needs to be said about Zi-O’s continuity. Toei producer Shirakura – who is involved with this show – made some English comments on Twitter elaborating on the way Zi-O works, which is relevant to my rambling in the first review I wrote.

I took issue with its lack of explanation on what kind of time travel we had here, because each show really can’t exist in the same setting while still having all its same story. Turns out, they’re not – if you believe Shirakura’s uncertain comments anyway. He believes that they are traveling to alternate timelines, that being the timeline of these shows, which would make sense… if the show didn’t revolve around villains who alter history.

Essentially, the comment makes the show more confusing, and at this point I’m willing to just stop harping on it because I don’t think there’s a way to slice it without making a mess. I should adhere to the Mystery Science Theater 3000 mantra and really just relax.

Also a disclaimer for this review: I wrote this review before episode 10 aired, and at the end I made a prediction on how that episode would go down. Kept it in since I like making predictions and technically still haven’t seen how episode 10 turned out. Also, there are now name spellings available for two of the Time Jackers – Uhr is Heure, and Hora is Ora. These were on the official site and I’ll be using them from now on.

Ep06: 555-913-2003

So where did we leave off? While investigating the disappearance of many 18-year-old Libra girls at the high school, Tsukuyomi follows the latest victim, Karin, to an abandoned building. Here, Kusaka (Kamen Rider Kaixa) seems to have an interest in her, while Takumi (Kamen Rider Faiz) shows up to wrestle Kusaka away from her. Also, Another Fourze turns out to also be Another Faiz. We have now almost entirely dropped Fourze for a 555 episode.

Takumi shows up at Sogo’s place to talk, revealing that Kusaka has an unknown interest in Karin. He decides to help Sogo protect Karin, after seeing the RideWatch display in their room – something’s going on there. While they’re at the school, Tsukuyomi and Geiz figure out that these missing student cases have been going on for several years, and an 18-year-old Karin is present in a lot of these old photos. What’s more, they discover that Karin actually died from a car accident in 2003. They eventually conclude (from a ramble by Sogo’s lovely uncle) that some outside force may be keeping her alive, and Another Fourze may be linked to it all…

Another Fourze goes after a Libra who’s just turned 18, then Karin tries talking him down. Kusaka then slides in to threaten him, and has to be rescued by Takumi – even if he hates Kusaka, Takumi believes him to be his ally, which makes sense if you ignore Over-Time’s decision to translate “Nakama” as “Friend” for the sake of a Fourze connection. After Another Fourze escapes, Takumi reveals to Sogo that he had a Faiz RideWatch for a while, and thinks it belongs to him. Sogo hands it off to Geiz, telling him to stop the Another Rider – in a moment of hesitation, Geiz nods and heads to 2003!

It’s then we see the event that took place to start all this. Karin is hit by a car, and while her friend Sakuma is mourning, Ora appears to offer him the power of Another Faiz in order to save her. We then get a quick glimpse of an episode of 555, where Faiz is rescuing Mari from a large CGI monster, reminding us that 2018 toku CGI isn’t so bad compared to 15 years ago. As Faiz performs a Rider Kick, however, the effect of Another Faiz kicks in and he stops being a Rider. Next, Another Faiz begins his rampage, only to be stopped by Geiz.

Kusaka explains to Sogo and the others that he was going after these two because they went to the Ryusei Private School, just like him – it then clicks with Sogo, this must’ve been the real clue Woz was giving him, as Ryusei can also mean “Shooting star”. In a dark twist, Karin actually WANTED Kusaka to kill her so that they could put an end to this. Sogo wants no more sacrifice, so he has to defeat Sakuma.

Then we get one of the show’s best fights so far, which is a back-and-forth between Geiz in 2003 using FaizArmor, and Zi-O in the current year using FourzeArmor. FaizArmor is pretty rad, making use of several Faiz gadgets, including their own phone they made for this show. As Zi-O and Geiz defeat him at the same time, Sakuma’s finally lost the ability to keep Karin alive… but she’s fine with it. She wants Sakuma to live for himself now, and disappears.

Takumi and Kusaka share a silent glare, then Sogo smiles to Geiz, who feels weirded out by Sogo’s unspoken message about comradery. While they’re settling down, Tsukuyomi questions if Sogo actually gave either Faiz or Fourze some blank watches, to which he runs out of the room in a panic, which is a funny way to say “Yeah we couldn’t get Fourze’s actor”.

Finally, Woz delivers a teaser for the next series – a donut is placed at a table, then a magic portal appears so that a hand can reach over and snatch it. It could be anyone, really.

So that’s the end of the Fourze and Faiz arc. I’m gonna be honest, the first half was misleadingly good. There’s some cool elements to this episode, but I feel like they don’t outweigh the wasted potential. A positive, ironically, is Kusaka – much as I hate him as a character, he’s always written to be unlikable, and they somehow managed to make him a hero in a sick and twisted way, which is commendable writing. Also the Ryusei thing was a clever thing I hadn’t picked up on in the first part. Unfortunately, beyond a couple nice bits like this, the episode felt kind of… lifeless.

Takumi and Kusaka don’t get to do much, and what they do involves a lot of silence and staring. The concept of Zi-O‘s Another Riders, where the heroes lose their identity of being a Rider, felt like it could’ve been okay, but now it feels like it’s starting to just be a nuscanse that prevents your favorite heroes from actually being in character, and even takes away the whole point of a crossover: Seeing the new hero fight alongside the old ones. It’s actually making Decade look a little better in comparison, which is saying a lot since Decade is pretty low on my list.

And after the reveal of the Another Rider using his powers to keep a girl alive, it would have been nice to get an explanation of what those powers even were, especially when you get to see that it involves absorbing them. Fourze and 555 are both series with lore that could’ve offered a solid explanation.

This lifeless feeling I get is also kind of sad because Shirakura, the producer mentioned before, was actually involved with 555 unlike many of the shows they’ve done crossovers with so far. While I definitely felt like Takumi and Kusaka were in character, what little screentime they had, it also felt like they didn’t get used well enough in the plot. Plus, while the overseas fandom has its own opinions of 555, I understand that it’s overall more beloved in Japan. You’d think it’d be a great episode with that in mind.

Ep07: Magic Showtime 2018

In this episode, we focus on a theater in 2012 that’s about to go out of business. A stagehand at the theater is doing his usual work, when Heure appears to let him know that he can change things so that the place stays active. That’s when he becomes an Another Rider!

Fast forward to 2018, it seems he’s made a living as Wizard Hayase, a performer who does some pretty impossible magic tricks. Sogo and the time crew go to the show, and Geiz recalls there being a magic user by the name of Kamen Rider Wizard, so it might be worth investigating.

As Geiz confronts him violently, they confirm that he is Another Wizard. Geiz briefly fights him, but Zi-O interrupts the fight because he hasn’t really done anything wrong yet – it seems there’s a conflict of ethics, because Geiz believes in disposing of these monsters on sight, while Sogo believes they’re innocent until proven guilty.

While Geiz is out investigating, he encounters Swartz and is pushed off a building through the Time Jacker’s powers, but is suddenly rescued by Woz. Swartz finds it unexpected to see them together, then leaves them be. This is where things get interesting…!

We learn that Woz is some kind of old acquaintance, and offers to settle their differences since Sogo seems to want to be friends with him. Geiz, of course, wants to fight him instead. Woz remarks he can’t recall ever losing a fight to him, and unsurprisingly, he quickly blocks Geiz’s attacks and smacks him aside, leaving him all alone.

If you’re familiar with Rider tropes, it’s obvious what they’re setting up with Woz, and I’m definitely interested to learn more about their connection – this could perhaps lead to some context with Geiz and why he has his gear. I would hope. I’m 100% expecting a Geiz spinoff to be included with the blu-ray releases.

Meanwhile, we learn more about the whole situation with Hayase. Kaori, the owner of the theater, was going to close it in 2012 due to lack of business, when Hayase became Another Wizard and started performing magic. Now, while Hayase is hiding in his home, he’s visited by his co-worker Nagayama, who explains that the theater is closing because he and Kaori are getting married. He’s not a happy camper anymore, because she was the reason he kept it alive – he transforms into Another Wizard, then pursues Nagayama.

Geiz spots them, and decides to stop Another Wizard. However, he notices a person hiding behind a tree, watching them, and he has two RideWatches dangling from his backpack! Geiz can’t chase after him right now, so he’ll have to make this quick. Another Wizard starts using more and more of his magic, and noticeably becomes mad with power. As Geiz continues his assault, Zi-O arrives to stop him. A fight starts to break out, but Tsukuyomi stops it from escalating further.

It’s here we get a nice little twist to Sogo’s ongoing mission to make friends: Geiz questions if Sogo would still persist trying to befriend him if this is his way of fighting. Before Sogo can break the silence, Ora appears and gives Another Wizard a recharge so that he can continue his onslaught. Tsukuyomi is put to sleep with one of his magic spells, leaving Sogo and Geiz unsure on what to do…

This was a much more interesting episode than the last one. It follows up on the theme of Sogo wanting friends, and adds that nice twist about how Geiz fights. I saw Zi-O confronting Geiz in the preview and couldn’t really be sure of how that was going to turn out, and it makes sense. At some point, the main Rider and secondary Rider are gonna have some conflict that escalates beyond words.

I haven’t really talked much about the Another Riders, but this is a fun one. The design is great and clever, and it uses a bunch of magic spells Wizard is known for. It’s probably my favorite so far.

Ep08: Beauty & Beast 2012

Oh, what a title.

With Tsukuyomi knocked out, it’s up to the watch Riders to figure out how to deal with Another Wizard. Geiz is still disinterested in Sogo’s way of doing things and decides it’s better to go to 2012, where it started, while Sogo starts investigating what Hayase’s motives are. Another Wizard is influenced by Ora to seek revenge, so he tries attacking Kaori over this matter, only for Zi-O to scare him off.

Meanwhile, as Geiz just kind of stomps around town, he encounters the man who had two RideWatches on his backpack. For convenience, I’ll say now that it’s Nito Kosuke (Kamen Rider Beast) from Wizard! He’s put together that Geiz uses these kind of things to fight, but he isn’t planning on handing them over until he remembers why he has them in the first place.

This is when Sogo gets clever, and pretty manipulative to boot! After asking Woz if he had some connection to Geiz, he gets the two of them to show up in a room together so they can work out a plan. Sogo convinces Geiz to work with them since he technically has admitted he doesn’t want to get involved with personal affairs – so why should he care if Woz, the guy he has a beef with, is involved? And he convinces Woz to tell them more about the RideWatches since he is technically on the side of Zi-O, therefore should definitely follow his orders.

Woz explains that once an Another Rider is created, the original Rider loses their powers, altering the timeline. Removing any trace of the Another Rider will temporarily restore things – they’ll keep respawning until defeated by the associated RideWatch.

Knowing how this works, Sogo gets an idea. Geiz is sent to hang out with the still amnesic Kosuke, while Zi-O tracks down and fights Another Wizard. It’s a fun back and forth – once he manages to temporarily destroy Another Wizard, Kosuke comes to his senses and remembers his Rider status. He then transforms into Kamen Rider Beast, making it clear that Geiz is gonna have to take back those RideWatches by force.

Although a quick fight, it was fun seeing the Beast suit in action again. Geiz overpowers Beast eventually, to which he admits defeat and gives Geiz the Wizard RideWatch – just the one, apparently. He also admits he’s pretty sure Geiz was the one who gave it to him, in the past. Geiz goes to the past, while Zi-O, against Woz’s wishes, stays in the present to continue fighting Another Wizard. Knowing what he knows now about Hayase’s motivations, he tries talking him down from his revenge, reminding him what he was doing it all for in the first place.

We then see once more the events that led to Another Wizard’s existence, followed by a shot of the moment when Wizard lost his powers, fighting the Phoenix Phantom in episode 16, which is the Christmas episode. Definitely couldn’t get Wizard’s actor, and they handle it decently enough with the right camera angles, followed by a transition showing Another Wizard at a similar angle. Clever camera work.

In the past, Geiz takes on Another Wizard using the WizardArmor, and it’s a very cool design, clever too – uses the spell circle motif of Wizard to create an interesting transforming armor, which makes you wonder why the main action figure line skipped it. This was a similar fight to the Faiz/Fourze stuff, where we get Zi-O and Geiz fighting the same monster in different time periods. A repeated idea, sure, but in a different way, as you’ll see.

Once the original Another Wizard is defeated, and the current one is subdued, Sogo gets a FaizPhone X from Woz (suspicious~) and calls Geiz with an idea: Put Hayase on the line. Now, this has implications in most time travel stories, but I’m willing to let it slide since this is actually a solid bit. The now mournful Hayase of 2018 speaks to himself in 2012, begging him to get up the courage to tell Kaori how he feels, instead of abusing this power he received – Sogo lets him go after that, and Geiz returns. Bit of a shame we don’t see a followup, but I guess they handwave it fairly by having him remark that he’ll be better off even if things don’t change much.

With Another Wizard defeated, Tsukuyomi has awaken, and thinks Geiz is responsible for saving her, but he regrets to inform her that he’s spent the whole day taking orders from Sogo – he fears that they’re dealing with someone more dangerous than they thought, which may be directed at Sogo… maybe Woz? Probably Sogo. Classic Geiz move.

And finally, Woz lets us know that even though Zi-O did not receive Wizard’s power, he grows ever stronger, and the next Legend will soon arrive. A man, laughing maniacally, holding a video game gadget. I can’t make the “It could be anybody” joke a second time, y’all know it’s ya boy Dan!

Okay, so after the disappointment of Fourze/Faiz… This was a good pair of episodes! I mean, I feel like this didn’t need to be a two-parter, but the story works, what little they did with Beast was enjoyable and clever, and it feels like they spent more time fleshing out the Zi-O cast. I keep going back and forth with the show, but it’s really becoming apparent that the show is at its strongest when it’s focusing on Zi-O and the gang.

Small aside, one talking point about Kosuke’s actor is the beret he wore in the show. Since he obviously had to dye his hair for the role before, I wonder if he was in the middle of some other gig when he showed up for this show. That or he cut his hair short and they didn’t have a wig handy to make him look the part. The beret oddly fits, since Kosuke was always a little eccentric.

Ep09: Genm Master 2016

Now it’s time for a new arc! The Time Jackers lament their losses, acknowledging that someone like Another Wizard probably wasn’t cut out to be king anyway. Swartz tells them if they want a real candidate, they need someone with ambition.

Now, in 2018, we see where that led them. The Dan Foundation declares independence from Japan, with its owner – Kuroto Dan – deciding he’s now King Kuroto Dan! The people find him unconvincing, so he uses someone as an example by tossing a Cell Medal at them, turning them into a Yummy; the disposable grunts from Kamen Rider OOO. That’s right, one of the major characters/Riders from Kamen Rider Ex-Aid is here, making this another twofer! Hopefully with better results than the last time.

Finding this a tad alarming, Sogo, Geiz and Tsukuyomi investigate. Upon entering the property, they deal with a couple of Yummys, then Kuroto shows up and transforms into Another OOO! He gives the heroes trouble until, mysteriously, a Taka Watchroid (a new gadget) swoops in and attacks, causing a black and purple RideWatch to pop out of Another OOO’s body for some reason. Another OOO chases after it, with Sogo deciding to keep an eye on him. As they run off, Tsukuyomi sees the scarred up number on Another OOO’s back, which looks like it mmmmight be 2016? The last number is hard to make out.

In the TimeMazine, Geiz and Tsukuyomi see the number 2016 on this new RideWatch, and Tsukuyomi remarks that the emblem looks similar to Ex-Aid’s. The two arrive at the Dan Foundation in 2016 and find Another OOO, then Geiz takes him on directly. Bit of an interesting location for a fight too, even if brief.

Meanwhile, in 2018, Kuroto is getting some outfit measurements from a Hina Izumi, which is a supporting character from Kamen Rider OOO – bit of a different situation here since she was part of a restaurant, but it was a themed restaurant with costumes so I’ll call it a clever nod. Hina thinks that what he’s doing is wrong, so… impressed by her bravery I suppose, he decides she’ll be his queen, and slaps her when she shows disgust. Sogo arrives before things can escalate, and– shakes his hand. Just like us, Kuroto is confused but intrigued.

In 2016, Geiz uses his new RideWatch to transform into GenmArmor, because Kuroto Dan doubles as a Legend – Kamen Rider Genm. As you’d expect, it’s Ex-AidArmor, but without the hammer arms. He destroys Another OOO, which seems to have an effect on 2018 Kuroto, but only briefly. As Geiz struggles to understand what’s happening, we see what Sogo was here for: He wants to be king someday, so he wants to learn from Kuroto. While Kuroto lets him know that he can never be king, he is willing to make him a retainer. Then, he orders for Hina to be imprisoned.

Geiz and Tsukuyomi return to 2018 and figure out Another OOO must be from 2010, not 2016, and they’ll need a different RideWatch to beat him. Sogo rejoins them, but curiously has one of Kuroto’s issued uniforms. He’s decided to join Kuroto’s side, which means Geiz has even less of a problem defeating him. Figuring as much, Zi-O takes on Geiz, but something about how he’s presenting himself is unusual and vague – Geiz sees this as Zi-O going down the path of Oma Zi-O, and he seems to be fine with letting Geiz believe that. Once defeated, Geiz and Tsukuyomi hop on the TimeMazine to flee.

Inside, Kuroto gives Zi-O his due praise and appoints him as captain of the royal guard, which he seems perfectly content with. Woz, in his usual narration, suggests that only one ruler can reign supreme, and the solution lies with another Legend. We then see Hina being tossed into prison, where she meets… Eiji Hino – Kamen Rider OOO. In a suit. I’ll get to that.

I gotta say, this episode was fun! I love Kuroto, and considering OOO deals in making victims out of people with greed and ambition, there is actually no smarter choice than the character who thinks of himself as a god among men. It’s interesting to make him into one of the Another Riders as well, especially one that isn’t Another Genm or something.

There’s also some fun bits here and there. Nobunaga is brought up while Sogo is just chilling at home, and not only is he a known ruler, not only is he considered an overlord like Oma Zi-O, but he also has relevance to Kamen Rider OOO. It’s so clever. Also the fact that Sogo comments on how Geiz would totally be the captain of his royal guard when he becomes king… and he himself fills that role for Kuroto. I dunno, lots of little things I thought were fun and clever.

It’s also interesting to see Eiji in a suit. For those who don’t recall, he was actually the son of a politician, and it seems like this non-Rider version of him may have actually gone down the path of politics. If so, that is also clever, and more distinctly different than any of these amnesic depictions have been.

It’s worth noting that a lot of the praise might actually have to do with the fact that the head writer wasn’t involved with this episode – instead, it’s Nobuhiro Mori, one of the additional writers on Kamen Rider OOO. This has me interested to see how the arc wraps up – bit of a shame they skipped a week, but the preview apparently included some interesting action shots.

Since this is another month where we end in the middle of a two-parter, I guess I should speculate on how this wraps up?

Well… In a nutshell: Sogo’s uncle overhears Geiz being miffed about Sogo, then says Sogo’s a good kid deep down. We learn that Sogo was trying to get in Kuroto’s good graces so that he could find out when Kuroto became Another OOO, and along the way he learns that the prisoner is the original Kamen Rider OOO. He talks to Eiji, gets the OOO RideWatch, and takes down Another OOO. The Taka Watchroid is probably from Woz, since that’s the only logical origin I can think of for that thing.

Overall, I gotta say, probably some of the best episodes so far – which isn’t saying much? But I’m glad that I could step away from some of thes episodes with this feeling that the good outweighs the bad. To provide a little transparency, I sometimes write these reviews after I watch an episode, so I wrote my review for episode 6 then was still feeling a lingering saltiness until I watched 7 and 8 together – those really improved my feelings on the show.

This month actually highlights how much the writing improves when they solely focus on the original characters – I think it’ll be interesting to see how the show looks once they stop doing crossovers. Will it suddenly become way more engaging? Will the people who dropped the show suddenly feel good about it by then? Only time will tell.

Copy editor for TokuNet. Creator of a few casual Kamen Rider blogs on Tumblr (FruitRiderNews/GameRiderNews/BuildRiderNews). Collector of Riders, Transformers and generally robotic/cute stuff. I also do a lot of art, so if you're interested in a commission you can check out this link. Thanks for stopping by!

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