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Review of Kamen Rider Zi-O (Episodes 34-37)


Review of Kamen Rider Zi-O (Episodes 34-37)

Team TokuNet Writer Malunis reviews the episodes of Kamen Rider Zi-O that aired in May 2019. In reviewing this month’s episodes, the review will also talk about spoilers for HibikiKiva and Kabuto.

Ep34: “2019: Heisei Oni, Reiwa Oni”

With Another Hibiki fleeing, everyone is left to focus on Kiriya, who previously lied about being Hibiki, to them and to the young Tsutomu – Kiriya gives them the silent treatment, but he does seem to feel responsible and wants to figure out how to save him.

Meanwhile, Woz hangs out with Todoroki to figure out how to give Sogo his blessings in a way that matters, since he has lost the meaning of “rejoicing”. He comes to realize that just being there is enough, and rushes to help Sogo out.

In their final encounter, Kiriya tries to reason with Tsutomu, telling him that being a teacher gave him a sense of purpose. Miraculously, the Hibiki RideWatch comes into existence, which Kiriya takes as a sign that the original Hibiki found him worthy of the title. Using it to transform into Hibiki, he joins Zi-O and Geiz to take down Another Hibiki and finally bring Tsutomu back to his senses.

In the end, Kiriya gives Sogo the Hibiki RideWatch, deciding that he walk his own path and just be an Oni LIKE Hibiki. Tsutomu even returns, requesting that Kiriya be his teacher once more. The two happily carry on, with Todoroki now wondering if he should consider being someone’s teacher.

With that, Sogo celebrates his birthday with the others, with only four RideWatches remaining. Next time, a bat Rider in chains…

Considering how I feel about Kiriya, this is actually a really good arc. I felt like they made good use of him here. The idea that he lied about being Hibiki feels oddly… in character to me? I mean, ideally he would’ve grown up after over a decade, but y’know. Can’t fault them for writing him in character.

And despite how I feel about the character, I did find it kind of touching that he was given the title of Hibiki once he showed that he cared about making this right. Their way of implying Hibiki’s presence was interesting, AND they went out of their way to include more music from the original show! I’m also especially okay with the Hibiki situation since it ends with him passing the RideWatch to Sogo so he can form his own identity. I think I would have more shaky opinions on this if it was just a permanent thing.

Anyway, on the subject of characterization, I really enjoyed Todoroki’s role. Woz is basically pushed onto him as a temporary student, and he has reservations about it – which must stem from his own experience with Zanki as his teacher. I really got the sense this was the Todoroki who went through all of that emotional plot with Zanki. So the fact that he himself was considering a student was pretty heartwarming.

I left this arc feeling like it was the least fun of the Blade/Agito/Hibiki trio, but as I’m recounting it here, it’s just as good as those other two.

Side note, I remember now that Hibiki actually had a (retired) Oni named Tsutomu, so it’s a shame this character doesn’t have as original of a name as I thought, but they did still go out of their way to make a name that fits into that series. So there’s that.

Ep35: “2008: First Love, Wake Up!”

Sogo recounts a day spent with a girl during his elementary school years, calling her his first love. A woman, Yuko Kitajima, went on to be charged with murder in 2015 and has now escaped prison as Another Kiva. She proves to be an intimidating candidate, even disobeying the Time Jackers under the reasoning that she is a queen, and is targeting the lawyer and prosecutor who sent her to jail. Despite all that, Sogo seems to believe she is his first love from all those years ago and wants to see some good in her.

As Zi-O and Geiz try to fight her, a meteorite comes crashing down, revealing inside of it a new threat: Kamen Rider Ginga. This ominous and powerful being comes from a far galaxy, and believes that there is one law in the cosmos: All will come to perish.

This is… the start of an interesting and weird arc. It was written by Toshiki Inoue, best known for heading Agito, 555, and Kiva, as well as the second half of Hibiki. With the exception of Agito, I don’t really like how any of those shows were handled. He gets around because he’s a respected writer – but generally he’s also mocked by fans in the English-speaking fandom for his particular writing style and tropes.

I was of two minds with it at the start. Sogo mindlessly fawns for this older woman and it seems a bit unjustified. The Another Rider situation IS pretty cool here, an escaped criminal with an ego and a twisted sense of justice, though I found that some of the imagery and dialogue really rubs in the fact that she’s a woman, which contributes to the strange tone of this one.

Now, Kamen Rider Ginga is a cool one to see, because of the context of the design. It’s another future Rider, I guess, but the circumstances of his debut are much different from the others. He’s also absurdly powerful, giving me this interesting Dragon Ball Super vibe.

Ep36: “2019: First Love, Finaly!”

The heroes and the Time Jackers have a shared foe in the form of Ginga, causing them to ally with Yuko. However, she would rather continue her own form of justice and pretend he doesn’t exist. As Sogo chats with her after being injured by Ginga, the wolfman that allied with her (Jiro) now sees that she’s rotten to the core. Because of this, he has the Kiva RideWatch on him, which he offers to Sogo.

A narrow victory allows the three Riders to defeat Ginga, which causes Swartz to create the Ginga MirideWatch from his power. However, Woz suspected he would do this, so he was ready to snatch it from his hands. Later, as the group takes on Another Kiva for the last time, Woz transforms into WozGinga Finaly – Ora then steps in, delivering a spiteful final shot to Yuko so that she dies in Sogo’s arms.

As Sogo goes on a walk to clear his head, he meets a woman in need of help, and realizes she may have been the real first love all this time, not Yuko. As he watches her leave, a tear runs down his face. As a teaser of what’s to come, we see the Kabuto Zecter fly into the hands of someone at sunset…

As usual, Inoue’s writing leaves me dissatisfied. This definitely felt like a major downgrade from where the show was headed, with nonsensical RideWatch gets and questionable motivations.

As far as Yuko is concerned, it’s honestly more of a confusing twist than a clever twist, learning that she isn’t the first love Sogo was thinking of. Like, I guess the implication, looking at the flashback at the murder scene, is that she’s insane and capable of being completely immersed in lies, to the point she might actually believe she has some connection to Sogo. I dunno, it’s super weird and doesn’t jive well with this show in particular.

Especially since it causes Sogo to really hesitate in ways that feel over-the-top. This is especially frustrating when you learn that the character he was in love with wasn’t actually Yuko – all of that hesitation was a waste of time, basically.

Ginga was interesting, especially the part of him being a solar-powered Rider, but man was his role out of place here, and was gone too quickly with no satisfying characterization. He, like Quiz, will just be a character I remember for having wasted potential. The form for Woz is nice, plays nicely with the space motif, and is probably the best thing to come out of this arc.

This also, honestly, felt like a waste of returning actors. Jiro was fun to see coming back, especially since he didn’t show up for the Hibiki arc as Zanki (he’s dead, so that’s reasonable), but he doesn’t get to do a whole lot despite the cool factor. Yuri’s actress, I was very confused about, since it seemed as though she was going to be reprising a role… but she actually plays the real first love that appears at the end, and is unnamed. In other words, they brought her back to play a no-name character that only shows up at the very end of the arc, a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo. Very unfortunate for her.

So, lemme share a theory. Back when the show started, I’d heard that the head writer (Kento Shimoyama) was kinda known for being able to structure arcs in such self-contained ways that they could theoretically be rearranged without much trouble. We know from those .5 shorts that they specifically planned around returning actors and their availability, so…

My theory is that this arc was supposed to happen pretty early on. The use of the basic “I have no idea who you are but I guess I’ll give you this watch” plot progression feels like something the show has moved on from, and later arcs prove that this Kiva arc was a weird hiccup in that sense. Obviously, there are things that wouldn’t line up for that – like uh, Ginga, who doesn’t fit into this arc at all. I wonder if maybe he was supposed to be in… the next arc?

Ep37: “2006: Next Level Kabuto”

Suddenly, a meteorite hits Japan with an infestation of Worms – aliens that mimic humans, which were previously dealt with by Kamen Rider Kabuto. While investigating a second meteorite site, Zi-O and Geiz fight Worms and encounter Kamen Rider Gatack (Arata Kagami), who helped deal with the Worms previously. It seems he is after a Shun Kageyama, who has been dead for some time, but has recently resurfaced thanks to a Worm impersonating him. Along with him is Soh Yaguruma, who appears to have become Another Kabuto.

While Gatack and Woz deal with these two, a greater threat looms over them – one meteorite after another has been coming down, with a giant one being narrowly broken apart by Zi-O. The next is even bigger, and seemingly impossible for him to deal with.

Okay, yeah, the Kiva arc was a fluke. We are back on track for good story arcs again. Kabuto was my first toku, so it felt so nice seeing what felt like a very in-character story. Kagami was basically the secret protagonist of Kabuto, so it actually feels right that they managed to get him back. Kageyama and Yaguruma were also such an excellent get, I loved them when they became the Hopper bros and they felt very much in character here.

What sort of overshadows it all, however, is the sudden plot twists relevant to Zi-O! The meteorites are one thing, but it seemed as though Kagami’s memories of ZECT, and the memorite that once destroyed a city, don’t seem to fit in… is the show doing something to actually address why these different series are in the same setting when they shouldn’t be?

On that note, Tsukuyomi even brings up how things have changed. Before, Riders would lose their powers when an Another Rider comes into existence, but now things have changed. It seems these are “different” in a way yet to be clarified. I have to wonder if this was a writing decision based on feedback, because it seems unusual as a direction change when they’ve had their rules set in stone for a while. These latest arcs have been more fun because they changed those rules.

And on that note! We get some more implications about Tsukuyomi, as she remembers her… parents? And a man in black that is absolutely Swartz. Tsukasa offers to take her to where she was born, and weirdly, it’s the year 2058… 10 years prior to when she and Geiz decided to go to the past. HMMM. Very interested to see where that goes.

AND ON THAT NOTE! Thank you for reading.

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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