TokuNet writer Malunis takes a look at the first 12 episodes of Kamen Rider Zero-One, which aired from September to November 2019.
Hello! It’s been a while.
A new series always leads to experimentation in my review format, so I thought I’d try a more quarterly format. And frankly, it gives me more time to work on other things.
But this double-edged sword means that it’s time to dive into a dozen episodes all at once, but what’s helped is that I’ve been writing this up as I watch them. So if anything reads like I’m curious about developments that are resolved in the next episode… oops.
Small aside with name spellings! The robots in this series are Humagear, as shown with the DX Humagear Module. The corrupted ones are Magia, as shown on the Zetsumerise Keys they use. These are decidedly inconsistent ways to romanize them, but I kinda like it for the sake of differentiating them in text form.
Now then, let’s jump to the skies now!
Episode 01: “I’m the President, and a Kamen Rider”
Aruto Hiden is a failing comedian whose grandfather recently passed away. He has been given the family company, Hiden Intelligence, developers of the androids known as Humagear. The will not only provides him with the company, but an ominous warning that the world will be in danger from rogue Humagears, and the only way to combat them is by having the president transform using the Hiden Zero-One Driver and Progrise Keys.
Meanwhile, the terrorist hacker group MetsubouJinrai takes control of a successful comedian Humagear, transforming him into a corrupted robot called a Magia. The special AI defense agency, A.I.M.S., tries to take on the threat of a group of weaker Magia, while Aruto promises to take on the president role so that he can use the Zero-One Driver to transform into Kamen Rider Zero-One. Finishing off the rampaging Magia, he leaves the area with the goal of keeping his superhero identity a secret.
Alright, new show, there’s a lot to unpack here. First off, I’m a big fan of Rider shows with very unique settings, and there’s many ways that Zero-One’s setting mirrors an original story I wanted to do. Because of that, I found myself immediately drawn in.
As for the main characters, I… love Aruto so much. He’s a bad comedian, how can I not love him? I relate so hard. And I think this episode gives him a nice character arc – I like seeing that transition when a Rider realizes that there’s something greater than himself, a thing to protect. I’m immediately endeared to him for reasons other than comedy.
Izu, as well, is a fun contrast to his comedy, aaand boy the opening leads me to think there’s gonna be a lot going on with her. Especially since Aruto’s dad is a Humagear… that’s super weird. There is also an event called Daybreak that gets elaborated on later.
The cast seems fun so far. You have the VP within Hiden that wanted control and is basically denied it because Aruto got the company instead. I’m looking forward to how this guy messes with the plot. Meanwhile there is MetsubouJinrai, which currently consists of Horobi and Jin, who have potential to become interesting villains.
Visually, I also love the aesthetic of everything, from the Riders to the monsters, so this show is just easy on the eyes for sure. It’s stylish and colorful.
Good first episode, let’s move onto some others!
Episode 02: “Are These AIs the Enemy? Or the Ally?”
Following the theme park incident in the previous episode, A.I.M.S. sends two members to investigate Aruto, Fuwa and Yua. While Yua is calm about it, her partner Fuwa believes Hiden is hiding something, and claims that Humagears are just murderous machines. When two Magia run amuck, Zero-One fights one himself, while Fuwa uses his A.I.M.S. Shotriser gun to transform into Kamen Rider Vulcan. With his new power, he makes quick work of the Magia, sticking true to his belief that the Humagear are enemies to mankind.
Later, Aruto approaches the press now that he’s taken the role as Hiden’s president, and reveals what he learned: The corrupted Humagear are caused by the terrorist group MetsubouJinrai. As president, he aims to prove that the Humagear are dream machines. But he’s still going to make puns while doing so.
In true Kamen Rider fashion, it feels like the first two episodes are the introduction, but I appreciate that they’re not a two-parter – each one is a separate yet connected story. We’re also properly introduced to Fuwa, who makes a strong statement up front about how he hates robots, but I’ll still accept him as part of the cast despite that – I see it as a logical choice for the premise and message. I also like that he’s forced his transformation, ripping open his Progrise Key by sheer determination even though Yua didn’t authorize it.
This also had some nice Humagear in it. The second one is a tragic one, a security guard for Hiden who Aruto admires, only to have to defeat him personally once he becomes a Magia.
Episode 03: “That Man, the Sushi Chef”
Aruto and Izu visit a famous sushi restaurant, and find out that the owner is a stubborn old man who doesn’t want to accept the idea of his Humagear chef preparing the sushi machines don’t have heart. Between dealing with a corrupted Humagear, the two help the sushi chef master his owner’s special technique, proving that Humagear are capable of passion.
When the chef is turned into one of the Magia grunts, Yua steps in and takes on the threat as Kamen Rider Valkyrie. Meanwhile, Zero-One must face off against the recurring Magia, using his new Biting Shark form to save the day. Yua reports to a mysterious person after all is said and done. It seems that she’s working with someone with unknown intent…
This was a pretty fun one. I feel like this is a unique one, an episode centered around a sushi chef. I do appreciate episodes where there’s a lot of tasty food on display, so it gets a thumbs up from me.
ESPECIALLY since we’re on episode 3 of a Rider show and already have a female Rider! I have an unfortunate theory about that, but we’ll save that for later. I like Yua here – she’s pretty competent, and it seems like they’ve got something planned for her. I liked her take on things earlier on, where she believes in the convenience of technology, saying that humans can live in harmony with Humagears if they’d just accept them.
The form changes are also pretty rad. I’m a sucker for a Den-O style attachable armor gimmick, and it’s clever how each one incorporates the default Rising Hopper form.
Episode 04: “The Bus Guide Saw It! The Anna Truth”
Aruto and Izu go on a sightseeing tour led by a Humagear bus guide named Anna, which takes them to Daybreak Town, an experimental city that was destroyed in an explosion caused by a Humagear factory. One of the junior high students on the trip, Go Sakurai, is the son of the head of the factory, so everyone blames his father for the tragedy rather than the Humagear. Fuwa and Go come to an agreement to sneak into Daybreak Town to find the truth, while Aruto, Izu and Anna wish to uncover whether Hiden truly is hiding something.
While the Riders fight off Magia, Go finds a Humagear memory card, which Anna uses to project an old recording. It’s revealed that MetsubouJinrai, led by a mysterious purple Rider, caused these Humagear to be corrupted, and Go’s father made an effort to blow up the factory to prevent them from being set free. In an effort to show transparency, Hiden Intelligence reveals to the public that MetsubouJinrai are responsible for Daybreak, and that Go’s father died a hero.
This was a pretty wild ride, with more revealed than expected. We get our pre-introduction to the purple Rider we meet properly later, and get an idea of how right Fuwa was about conspiracies. It goes even further when Anna’s body is destroyed by the purple Rider, who we learn is Horobi, because he didn’t want much more to be leaked about their location.
This was also finally the introduction of Zero-One’s Flying Falcon form, our first form change we learned about since it was in the Zi-O summer movie, and I dig it well enough – it’s got some vibrant colors I can dig, though leaning more into salmon pink territory than I’d like. It was also the debut of Vulcan’s Punching Kong form, which is pretty rad. Just all sorts of good fighting here.
Episode 05: “His Passionate Manga Path”
Aruto and Izu deliver a new Humagear to Choichiro Ishizumi, famed author of Aruto’s favorite manga series, Perfuman Tsurugi. He’s hit with the sober realization that Ishizumi has gone through several Humagear because he makes them do all of the work for his manga now, and just enjoys the profits from it.
After being talked down to for abusing Humagear this way and for letting his passion dwindle, Ishizumi’s life is in danger when one of his Humagear is turned into a Magia. Using a new Flaming Tiger form, Zero-One puts a stop to the Magia in style, which reignites Ishizumi’s artistic passion. He comes out of this a better man, putting more work into his series, and introducing a new character based on the fight: It’s a gorilla based on Vulcan’s Punching Kong form.
This… this was a real treat. You wanna talk about unique premises for episodes, how ’bout a manga author with a whole cast of characters on display? I can’t believe Aruto is a bad comedian AND a furry – scary how relatable he’s becoming.
But yeah, I love worldbuilding stuff like this, when a show introduces its own in-universe series. Only 5 episodes in and this was already becoming my favorite episode of the show so far.
This is also where Jin and Horobi become much more interesting, as he really wants to become a Rider like Zero-One, but Horobi seems reluctant. Until finally, he reveals that Jin is special to him because he is his son. Considering they’re probably about the same age, that’s sure to spark a lot of speculation – luckily, we get some explanation in the next episode.
Episode 06: “I Want to Hear Your Voice”
Aruto and Izu meet Seine Kanazawa, a Humagear who works as a voice actress with a wide range of voices, and is recording for the Perfuman Tsurugi anime. A.I.M.S. reveals that she is in violation of a law that states that Humagear cannot take on the appearance of another person without consent, and she happens to look just like her owner’s deceased daughter. Aruto and Izu investigate and discover this was intentional, and that Seine has a tendency to refer to him as father and recite things that his daughter used to say to him. When Jin starts to get confused and compare Seine’s protective owner/father to his relationship to Horobi, Horobi steps in to clarify something: Jin is a Humagear created by him, and is not a father figure, but instead expects Jin to take commands.
He attaches the Forceriser belt to Jin, seemingly causing him to act like he usually does. He transforms into Kamen Rider Jin using Zero-One’s Flying Falcon Progrise Key, then gives him trouble as he fights the corrupted Seine and Jin at the same time. Valkyrie shows up with a new Lightning Hornet form and manages to overpower the Magia, but Jin escapes. In the end, Seine may be gone, but her owner is given a new AI gadget for his home that has his daughter’s voice and personality, giving him hope and the desire to seek a new profession.
This was another fascinating episode, like the last two rolled into one – lots of intriguing lore, and another unique plot, this time involving voice acting! It’s kind of a chilling and sad tale too, as Seine continues to break down into reciting memories of the deceased daughter.
The stuff with Jin is also great. Jin has this child-like personality and it comes full force here as he has some existential questions about what a parent’s love is supposed to be, before Horobi coldly sets the record straight. Not only that, but the implication that he’s basically reset his personality, since he’s connected to MetsubouJinrai and is acting goofy once more. So many implications about AI.
Gonna just assume that among the many high-tech things in this show, an Alexa-alike that talks in your deceased loved one’s voice doesn’t sound terribly far from a reality.
Oh and hey, another 3 episodes in and Valkyrie’s getting herself a second form – that’s what I like to see in female Riders! He also get a better look at her apparent boss, and he seems young enough that I betcha we’ve got another Rider on our hands.
Episode 07: “I’m a Hot-Blooded Humagear Teacher!”
Aruto is called to see about resetting a Humagear coach who seems to be a little too enthusiastic about making sure the school’s basketball team is in tip-top shape – meanwhile, MetsubouJinrai has made a Humagear ally in the form of Lil Assassin, who transforms into the Dodo Magia.
Aruto recognizes that the coach means no harm, but a strange thing happens when they witness the Humagear gain sentience, as told by Jin, who also remarks that all of their targets so far have been similar cases. After he is turned into a Magia, Zero-One uses a new Freezing Bear form to stop him. In the end, the basketball team has become even bigger after their recent game, and their coach continues to help them improve.
This was an interesting one, giving us some clarity on what MetsubouJinrai’s logic has been so far – it checks out, picking up Humagear that have gained sentience, possibly so that they don’t default to “Protect humans”. Similarly, we meet a recurring baddie in the form of Lil Assassin, who’s been kind of cute so far.
I also liked the Humagear plot in this one, another unique one involving a basketball team. Their coach, Kobe, is also charming in how he analyzes what they need to improve on down to the percentage, how he quotes famous basketball players, just a nice character all ’round. I’m glad things worked out for him.
This is also the introduction for the Freezing Bear form, which is a pretty rad design with translucent ice armor on top of Rising Hopper, and the ice equivalent to the Flaming Tiger form.
Meanwhile, we also have Yua, who is characteristically mysterious in motive as she actually has Lil Assassin wired to a laptop…
Episode 08: “Now the Destruction Begins”
Aruto checks out a Humagear-led hospital, which Lil Assassin attempts to hack into in order to control the Humagear. When that fails, he, along with Jin and Horobi, break into the A.I.M.S. laboratory. There, they not only steal some weaponry, but also take control of an experimental mecha called the Giger.
With this under their control, they’re able to attack the hospital and turn the workers into Magia. As Zero-One, Vulcan and Valkyrie take on MetsubouJinrai, Horobi transforms, revealing he is the Rider responsible for Daybreak. Vulcan is enraged and attempts to fight him, but is taken down with a finisher that leaves him unconscious…
What starts out as just another episode actually escalated greatly! The Giger, to anyone following the merchandise, is a mere tease of what’s to come, and I didn’t expect it would be anything more than a brief teaser for this episode. They’re also much bigger than I anticipated – I was thinking we were in Maximum Gamer territory, not Sentai.
This also finally reveals that Horobi and Jin are basically hiding their lack of Humagear modules, with just circuitry in its place, Horobi’s looking particularly damaged. I knew they were probably having something behind the headgear but that was a nice detail.
As for the cliffhanger… let’s get to that now!
Episode 09: “That Life, I Will Save”
The remaining Humagear in the hospital are tending to casualties, with Fuwa being rushed to a surgery that could mean life or death for him. As a fail safe to protect their company image, the VP of Hiden decides that the Humagear hospital crew should be shut down.
Yua panics when the surgeon, who is supposed to save Fuwa, collapses – she notices that he was seemingly acting normally despite the wound caused by MetsubouJinrai’s hack attempt, so she pleads with Aruto to allow the hospital to go back online and trust these Humagear to overcome their corruption. With her help, a new Giger-like mecha is created for Zero-One to use against the Gigers, called Breaking Mammoth. Their mecha are destroyed and the hospital is safe, so Fuwa makes a recovery with the internal conflict that Humagears have now saved him.
This was a solid two-parter, as it ended up being. This I like the continued twists with the Humagear, once learning that they’re capable of being fully sentient, and also capable of acting independent of the hacking that MetsubouJinrai attempted. We also get some hints that maybe Izu is capable of that sort of growth, but she seems to not be capable of showing it yet…
I also liked the way this ended for Fuwa. He continued to complain about Humagear being trusted to take care of humans, and ultimately was saved from certain death thanks to a Humagear surgeon. Irony! This may just be the start of his turn from antagonist to ally.
And Yua, hm… she’s up to something, eh? She recorded footage of Lil Assassin transforming into a Magia, and leaked it anonymously, but Izu was at the scene and saw her recording. Despite being questioned about it, Yua lies about having done it, but we know.
Episode 10: “I’m the Actor, Shinya Owada”
To up their public image, Hiden is backing a TV drama with the first Humagear lead actor, Enji Matsuda. A.I.M.S. protects the set as MetsubouJinrai attempts to meet the other lead actor, Shinya Owada, who Jin and Lil Assassin seem to think is an actual assassin that can teach Lil Assassin. Owada doesn’t like the Humagear actor because he lacks a certain humanity, causing him to drop out of the production.
This was yet another excellent premise of an episode. It’s fun how they work with the idea of Humagear in this world, not only billing Matsuda as the first Humagear LEAD, but also having special effects in place to digitally remove the Humagear modules. It’s also continuing this theme of old people not being down for a robot society.
I also really liked the bit about Lil Assassin mistakenly treating Owada as someone who can train him to be a better assassin, while Owada thinks he’s just trying to get into acting. It’s all charming and adds a bit of personality to Lil Assassin.
And we have our usual check-in with Yua’s motives, as Izu questions Fuwa about her regarding the Dodo Magia and leaking it to the public. He begins to question her, rightfully so, and learns she’s probably working for the company ZAIA to take down Hiden. He ultimately decides that the two of them are doing what they think is right, and when she says that she may one day betray him – to which he tells her, he will win that fight. Oof, I have a bad feeling about this…
Episode 11: “Don’t Stop the Camera, Stop That Guy!”
When Aruto has a talk with Owada about quitting the TV drama, Horobi turns Matsuda into a Magia. Between the two actors, it seems like the TV drama has to be canceled entirely, but Owada offers to continue production once Matsuda is rebuilt and given proper acting lessons from him personally. Meanwhile, Aruto is arranged to meet with the head of the AI company ZAIA Enterprise, Gai Amatsu, to talk about the possibility of Hiden Intelligence being bought out by him.
Filming for the TV drama seems to go well until Lil Assassin arrives on set with a real gun, injuring Owada – this causes panic as Lil Assassin is known to the public as a Humagear with blue eyes, making it appear as though Humagear are capable of turning on society without corruption from ZetsubouJinrai – Hiden Intelligence is visited by the police to investigate the matter. We then get a flashback to when Gai spoke with Aruto, revealing that he hinted at the possibility of something happening on set, which means that ZAIA has a bit more control over the situation than expected.
This was a pretty wild way to wrap up the filming session – we finally drop all secrecy (technically) as we learn who Yua has been reporting to, as well as how they fit into the picture. I was taken aback by what Lil Assassin did, because I was pretty happy with how the filming was shaping up in the end, and it was just a sudden twist that causes a lot of things to spiral. Exciting stuff!
Episode 12: “That Famous Detective Has Arrived”
The police begin investigating Hiden Intelligence at the worst time, as a new Progrise Key is being made in Aruto’s secret lab, and they’ve been tipped off to the lab’s existence. The famous Humagear detective, Wazu Nazotoku, joins the investigation, but misleads the police in order to aid Aruto since he was once an aid to the former president of Hiden.
While Aruto outruns the police, Wazu looks into identifying Lil Assassin, discovering that he comes from a crime organization that creates entirely new Humagear. Zero-One and Vulcan meet up at the same location to take on the Dodo Magia, who at this point has stopped taking orders from MetsubouJinrai. In order to outwit him, Izu gives Zero-One the new Progrise Key: Shining Hopper.
This was a pretty meaty episode, with plenty of intrigue! I love Wazu, and the interesting tidbit that he is essentially Izu’s older brother by virtue of being an older model (with different modules, to boot), and it seems like he’s a bit too self-aware to not be a future target…
The stuff with Lil Assassin has also been interesting to watch unfold, both in how there’s a shady group of individuals refurbishing new Humagear, and that he’s learned so much that he’s become a mutual threat. I’ve been observing vague spoilers for a while as my backlog built up, so I was interested to see what the Dodo Magia was about – it’s been a fun journey watching him basically grow up. You wouldn’t think that the Dodo Magia design would work for it, but they make it work by changing the design along the way.
But… we end on a cliffhanger! It’s hard to really gauge how to space these reviews out, but since Kamen Rider basically runs a full 12 months, doing them 3 months at a time seems fair. It may not seem like it since I had been out of the loop for a bit, but Zero-One has been super interesting – it’s doing a lot of plots that are unique for Rider, and doing them well. Plus I love the premise and the intrigue.
It’s been a while since I did this, but I’d like to use my quarterly format to bring something back to my Rider reviews: Predictions for the next quarter! I’ve seen what suits have been introduced, I imagine y’all have too, but I don’t know anything too specific about plot, just that we may or may not be killing off– we’ll get to it. Right now.
1. Someone’s gonna die: It’s been a fear for a while that Valkyrie would be the first to die, seeing as she’s our first female Rider to appear at the start of the show, who also gets a lot of development and a form change, is also a minor enemy, AND will have to fight the guy who’s getting a power-up soon. I hope not, but she’s got a lot stacked against her. That said, I am… aware that Jin doesn’t look so good in one image, I don’t know the context, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a potential victim since his form is just one of Zero-One’s Progrise Keys. Either way, we’re probably not leaving 2019 with all 5 Riders intact. This head writer also wrote Ex-Aid, so…
2. Kamen Rider Ikazuchi: Our dodo Rider probably isn’t gonna be Lil Assassin, but I’m not 100% on that. I think there’s a possibility he steals a belt, maybe even Jin’s if he ends up dying. But unless he’s acting as an alternate threat, he seems unlikely. Rather, I think Horobi would use whatever data from the Dodo Zetsumerise Key and give it to another user.
3. Kamen Rider Thouser: I mean, it’s Gai, I called it when we saw a clear look at him, and I didn’t even remember we were getting a 6th Rider at the time. But yeah, actual prediction is that Thouser will act as an enemy to both the heroes and MetsubouJinrai, maybe even go so far as to battle the heroes so that he can get that sweet sweet data from the Zetsumerise Keys before Horobi can. We are still pretty early into the show but I could easily see this being our main villain until the end, based on what we know so far.
4. The Ark: This Ark thing is getting namedropped just enough I’m sure we’re gonna get some explaination in the next quarter, even if we don’t fully know who/what it is. My guess is it’s a root of the AI, the original. Maybe something that saw an evil within humans and now wants their extinction. It’s very toku to have an alien or robot entity that sees humans as inferior because of our tendency to be selfish and start wars and junk. We’ve been here with Build.
That seems like a solid bunch of predictions. Maybe at least one of these is confirmed in the last month and I just missed it, but I like going into these blind regardless.
And that’s all for now! We’re in a new year, and it looks like I’ll probably be doing 4 reviews of this show with this format… but one of them is probably gonna be sooner since I already have a month’s worth of episodes to watch. Til then!