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Review of Kamen Rider Zero-One (2nd Quarter)


Review of Kamen Rider Zero-One (2nd Quarter)

Team TokuNet writer Malunis takes a look at episodes 13-24 of Kamen Rider Zero-One, which features the rise of both ZAIA Enterprise and several new power-ups.

It’s been a while, huh? I hope you’ve been doing well, all things considered. Sometimes a show falls away from me for a while, usually not Kamen Rider, but things have been hectic and I’ve had focuses shifting from one thing to another. Now, I’m caught up.

At the end, I’ll be going over the theories I had for where the show would go in our 2nd quarter, and also present what I expect for the 3rd quarter. Keep in mind, when I wrote these theories for the 3rd quarter, I had only watched up to the last episode in this review.

Oh, as an aside! Writing the episode summary is the hardest part of a review for me, because I always struggle with how detailed I get. I’m decidedly going for a looser and more relaxed summary, which tries to get the plot out in (usually) one paragraph. If you watched the show then you probably know what happened, these are just brief reminders. Let’s move on!

Episode 13: “My Job is Being the President’s Secretary”

Shining Hopper is strong, but it isn’t as strong as it should be; Izu believes it requires the combat data from all of Aruto’s Progrise Keys, and attempts to forfeit herself to fill in the missing data. However, Wazu offers himself instead, because he believes no one can cheer on Aruto as well as Izu. Using the form at its best, Zero-One can take down the Dodo Magia.

Right away I can say that this is an interesting conclusion to the power-up reveal. I always like when there’s some kind of lore to the way these forms work. In this case, it’s noticeable that Shining Hopper is not running at peak performance, and Izu determines it needs more combat data from all of Aruto’s Progrise Key.

There’s also a bit of drama involved, as Izu wishes to contribute her own data to compensate for whatever’s lacking, knowing full well that it will shut her down without a chance of recovery. This escalates as Wazu sacrifices his own data in her place – this, I’m sure, will be a stepping stone in Izu’s character development, and I’m looking forward to it.

I had a feeling Wazu would be getting used for something special, though I didn’t anticipate it being so soon. I like the theme it carries, though – as Izu puts it, the hope of the Humagears rests with Shining Hopper now. Alas, it’s the first power-up of the show, so I know how often that’s gonna come back.

Likewise, the show continues to pivot towards new and exciting reveals as we get a hint of Thouser…! No need to be mysterious, that character’s been around for a while now.

Episode 14: “We are the Astronaut Brothers!”

The Humagear astronauts manning the satellite Zea are accused of being the reason that MetsubouJinrai is capable of tracking down Humagears who’ve reached singularity, and it turns out that one of them is indeed a sleeper agent, though he did not know until his true personality was awakened. Transforming into Kamen Rider Ikazuchi, he gives them trouble until a new key falls into Fuwa’s hands; Transforming into his new Assault Wolf form, he manages to defeat Ikazuchi, leaving MetsubouJinrai with a major loss.

Lots of stuff gets dropped on us in this one! For starters, we get a bit of further explanation on the satellite Zea, which is run by a couple of Humagear astronauts – I like that idea a lot, and they have fun personality dynamic with one having clearly reached singularity while the other is still fairly stoic. Also the implication that Zero-One’s motorcycle, quite literally, is teleported from the satellite each time it’s summoned.

Then there’s the notion that they might be connected to MetsubouJinrai since they have the most access to all Humagear data – and it’s true! Raiden, a super obvious name choice – I appreciate the twist that he wasn’t even aware he was a sleeper agent, a nice middle-of-the-road twist considering how obvious the setup was looking. Ikazuchi uses the Dodo Magia key, which is weird since we’d been focusing so much on our assassin pal. The suit is interesting since it is essentially the Blood Stalk undersuit from Kamen Rider Build, but it fits the Forceriser aesthetic.

He uses the power of stolen Progrise Keys to gain access to Zea and create a new Assault Wolf Progrise Key for MetsubouJinrai, but since it’s a wolf motif, Fuwa decides he’s gonna take it for himself – it’s probably a joke, but the fact that Fuwa questions its wolf motif, combined with this expectation that there’ll be some ironic twist to his origins that he doesn’t even realize, makes me wonder if Fuwa plays a bigger role in the plot.

The suit fits the apparent Ark motif, though. No chance of survival.

Episode 15: “Each One’s Ending”

A.I.M.S. hunts down MetsubouJinrai and manages to defeat Horobi, leaving Jin upset, and eventually leading him to fatally injuring Izu. In order to avenge Izu, Zero-One must take on Jin in a final battle, finishing off the threat of MetsubouJinrai. He uses the trigger from Assault Wolf’s key to transform into Shining Assault Hopper.

It seems like we’ve already reached a climax! The episode does play out a lot like something we would see maybe halfway into the show, so kudos for making us feel the heat this soon.

We get treated to a nice fight with all the Riders, and it seems like Horobi is defeated. But when Izu makes some remarks towards Jin that sets him off, he attacks her and leaves her fate uncertain. It offers a nice shared theme between the heroes and villains, which is that the Humagear are more than disposable robots; They’re family.

In the final confrontation with Jin, Aruto also yanks off the trigger from the Assault Wolf Progrise Key and uses it with Shining Hopper, giving us the redundantly named Shining Assault Hopper – it’s an even better form than Shining Hopper, with some deep blue that feels reminiscent of Rider 1.

Episode 16: “This is the Dawn of ZAIA”

With Jin defeated, and the threat of MetsubouJinrai seemingly dealt with, Aruto is recognized among Hiden Intelligence for his heroism. With Izu making a recovery, peace is briefly restored. However, Magia start to show up without the influence of Horobi and Jin, meaning there’s a deeper threat. Not only that, ZAIA Enterprise’s Gai Amatsu plans to take advantage of Hiden Intelligence’s plummeting reputation in light of the continued Magia threat, aiming to buy their company.

Once Jin is taken out, it feels like we’ve reached a finale already! With Christmas coming up, everyone can relax.

… But I know the score, we’re 1/3 of the way through the show by this point, so something bigger is coming. Another Magia appears, which the Riders deal with pretty quickly, but it does leave them concerned. I love the tense vibe from all this.

The Ark is also given a decent explanation here. It was the satellite that was meant to go into space instead of Zea – we got one of those stories where it’s an AI that recognizes how vile humans can be and vows to wipe them out. This is not too out of place for toku villains, so I can’t be surprised or disappointed. Usually it’s an alien who feels this way, but y’know, robot show.

A press conference berates the folks at Hiden since they said that things were back to normal, and who crashes the event but Gai Amatsu of ZAIA Enterprise! Gai decides to announce he’s going to do a take-over bid soon enough, claiming Hiden for himself. It’s one heck of a way to end the year, I tell you what.

The episode also ends with the reveal that, not only is Horobi kept locked up with a straitjacket, he also wakes up – surprise! I guess it’s good to know he won’t go down without a real fight.

Oh, at this point, I should specify. That photo of Jin with the exposed circuitry? Thaaat is what I saw out of context in my 1st quarter review, which led me to conclude he was the most likely candidate for a death – it feels a little cheap, but I stand by the reasoning that he’s the weakest link up to this point, especially since his form is one of Zero-One’s alternates. Sometimes, spoilers happen.

Episode 17: “For I am a President, and a Kamen Rider”

In order to compare the evolution of humanity to the future of AI, Gai proposes 5 competitions between humans using his new ZAIA Spec device, and the Humagear made by Hiden Intelligence. A flower arrangement competition takes place, which features an overzealous human florist that berates the Humagear’s work, causing her to suddenly become a Magia. Gai interrupts the battle, transforming into Kamen Rider Thouser, a Rider who proves to be a greater threat than the Magia, especially since he seems to have some deep-seated anger towards Aruto’s grandfather.

It’s the start of 2020, and the threat of a ZAIA takeover is still looming. Gai initiates the fabled Hiden VS ZAIA arc I heard not-so-great things about, as he pits Hiden’s Humagears against the ZAIA Spec, a not-Google Glass gadget that provides humans with the same kind of intelligence as Humagears.

The first competition is with flower arrangement. Aruto wants to root for a Humagear who he believes has a lot of heart, while a clearly egotistical human florist is using the ZAIA Spec. Things escalate when he starts winning, as he shows her how vile he is and this seems to cause the Ark to turn her into a Magia. I’m summarizing this because going forward, this is the pattern, and I can see why that wasn’t so interesting to viewers.

The big fight for this episode is Gai stepping in to transform into Kamen Rider Thouser, our latest and strongest Rider so far. He uses two Progrise Keys to transform, after all. I’m not 1000% into the design – the helmet gives off intense “Fake photoshop of a new Rider” vibes, as does the belt design, but man does he have style. The finisher straight up includes a copyright in the corner, and I can’t hate that. I can certainly hate the character, though, as you’ll see.

Episode 18: “This is How I Arrange My Flowers”

It turns out that the human florist cheated, so Gai demands a rematch between the two, leaving the florist in a low mood. A mysterious person in a black hood gives him a new belt and Progrise Key, which he later uses to transform into a new enemy type known as a Raider. It seems that the Progrise Key was stolen from Gai’s own collection, so he personally finishes off the new foe. The rematch ends with the human winning, but Aruto is just glad to see that the competitors have peacefully resolved their differences.

This is a cool followup to this setup. While he will go on to show he’s not this kind of guy at all, I have some respect for Gai in this one since he threatens to sue his florist if he doesn’t do a rematch without cheating. We also learn that Gai was once on a project with Aruto’s grandpa, and is apparently in his 40s despite looking “eternally 24” – I would make the joke about J-pop stars, but Aruto did it for me.

Things also get interesting when an unknown person in a cloak giving out belts we later learn are called the Raidriser, a belt that allows humans to transform into Raiders. The Raider designs from this point are all very cool and Rider-like. I didn’t expect there to be this extra enemy type!

Then we also have Yua’s situation, which, just like this string of episodes, I’ve not heard good things about. She is currently at this stage where she’s just silently following Gai’s orders, even if it means being everyone’s enemy. She’s likely responsible for activating Horobi, and before the fight can escalate between her and Vulcan, Thouser steps in to make matters worse to protect his company’s image.

Really, with Thouser, there’s just a lot of plates spinning that I’m looking forward to seeing crash.

Episode 19: “She is a Humagear Who Sells Houses”

The second competition is between a human and Humagear who specialize in real estate. Our human competitor proves to have an ego, and he is given a Raidriser to transform into a Raider. Gai catches onto this and influences the realtor to snuff out his competition, and cause the Humagear to turn into a Magia to further flex his worldview that AI is dangerous.

Another fun opening premise – this is reminding me of the thing I really enjoyed early on, the show delves into unique premises. It’s continuing the theme of “Do Humagears have actual emotions?” as the human realtor believes his Humagear competitor to lack the know-how of why a home is perfect for a family.

Plus we get some welcome clarification on the Ark-based Magia we’ve been seeing; They’re activated by a detest for humans, which is a cool tidbit that tracks with what we know of Ark so far.

Episode 20: “This is the 1000% Best House”

The two realtors now have an important customer, who is willing to spend up to 500 million yen for a new home. While the human is pushing for a home that’s as close to the budget as possible, the Humagear picks a simpler home based on the customer’s desire for a family home. As a Raider, the human realtor attempts to botch their plans by attacking their construction worker, but they ultimately manage to build the perfect home and win the competition. Despite their victory, they did not manage to make enough from the sale to beat the human realtor, meaning Gai has won yet another competition.

This was a nice little arc. It’s got a nice message about competition and priorities. It also continues to really paint an image of what Gai’s own priorities are, as he values money over happiness in this particular subject. I also liked both of the Humagears of this arc – Smile, the realtor, is charming, and the construction worker is delightfully passionate.

That all being said, I can see why this set of episodes weren’t as well received around this time, because we are falling into this pattern with the competitions – the ones with heart don’t match up to the ones who are shallow, but the latter learns to have some heart in the end.

Also, the mysterious hooded figure continues to intrigue, as Fuwa seems to chase them down only to lose the trail due to hallucinations? Also it occurs to me we’ve only seen this with Fuwa so far?

Episode 21: “Objection! That Trial”

The next competition between Hiden and ZAIA is with a trial; A human on prosecution, and a Humagear on defense. A Raider attacks the Humagear outside of the case, and even carries with it the ZAIA Spec used by the prosecution, but he seems to argue that it was taken from him. Demonstrating his views on AI, Gai drives the Humagear lawyer to become a Magia, and even forces a Zetsumeriser onto him. 

We enter another interesting arc, as we deal with a courtroom, which is yet again unique for the franchise. Just as I’m thinking these follow a pattern, things get interesting as we’re led to believe that the lawyer ISN’T the Raider this time.

I’m also gonna say now… this franchise has a tendency to turn evil Riders good… Thouser is gonna be a hard sale after this one. He’s just continuing to display some detestable actions, which should make this entire contest fall apart, and I’m just waiting for the moment where he fails. I’m just gonna have a hard time accepting him as an ally if it comes to that.

Episode 22: “Even So, He Did not Do It”

The plot thickens as Aruto discovers that the Ark was created in a collaboration with Hiden and ZAIA, and that Gai is much closer to the cause of the Humagear rebellion than expected. As the case comes to a conclusion, with a cyber crime detective discovered as a culprit who’s got something to gain from the results of the case, Zero-One and Thouser reach a climax. Thouser forcefully uses a new Progrise Key on Zero-One, MetalCluster Hopper, which he claims is the power of the Ark itself. The form manages to quickly overpower the Raider, as well as Thouser, but he finds absolute joy in its display.

So… this was a surprisingly intense one! The case itself, I liked it – I’m not at all a legal expert, but I did find myself going a couple times “This doesn’t seem quite right,” yet it was a good mystery with a nice conclusion. This also leaves us with a victory for Hiden, with two more competitions that could go in either direction.

But it’s surprising that such a competition can even finish with all that’s happening! The MetalCluster Hopper form seems intense, and boy is it dark since it overpowers Aruto with tons of negative emotions that certainly appear to be directed towards humanity. It would seem as though Gai has been INTENTIONALLY making himself into the villain for such a moment like this.

Episode 23: “I am in Love With Your Intelligence!”

The love interest of the accused person from the trial comes to Aruto for a new lover, which leads her to a Humagear matchmaker. While initially pairing her with Gai, in a bizarre coincidental meetup, she seems to fall for her matchmaker instead. Meanwhile, a Raider seems to be going after the matchmaker, who we soon learn is the childhood friend of the woman involved in all this. As they arrange a false wedding between her and the Humagear, they manage to get the Raider to show up, but only after the matchmaker is turned into a Magia after breaking up with her. Zero-One tries to control the MetalCluster Hopper form, but finds that he can’t help but defeat the two enemies, as well as continuously antagonize Thouser.

This is another fun one, as we do another thing I like seeing from previous arcs; Bringing characters back! Not only do we get the woman from the last couple of episodes, we also get the Humagear actor. Neat. The plot is also, once again, a unique idea with a fun conclusion. It seems she could fall for anyone, and it’s seeing her childhood friend’s devotion to her that causes her to fall for him, wrapping things up nicely for them in all the chaos. Best match.

And the lore of MetalCluster Hopper continues to be interesting as it turns out that Zero-One CAN’T use any other key – likely intentional on Gai’s part – and continues to struggle to control it. Looking forward to where this goes…!

Episode 24: “It is Our Turn”

Zero-One is still going berserk, but ultimately passes out and is hospitalized. The actor Humagear Matsuda Enji seems affected after coming into contact with Zero-One, claiming to Gai that he has been contacted by the Ark – it seems he is willingly helping Gai with his plans. Meanwhile, Izu starts a plan of her own, requesting the help of every Humagear they’ve encountered on their journey. Breaking into the former hideout of MetsubouJinrai, they access the data of the MetalCluster key, and form a new weapon, using their own data as Humagear Progrise Keys.

Gai realizes that Enji was collaborating with whoever got access to the key’s data, which means Aruto is called to action. He puts his trust in Humagears as he transforms into MetalCluster Hopper, and is given the Progrise Hopper Blade which counteracts the form and gives Zero-One full control. The power of the blade thwarts Thouser greatly, and its ability to cure Humagear who’ve been corrupted proves to be of great value to Hiden’s reputation. However, not all is well, as Fuwa comes to interrogate Horobi, only to discover that he is missing…

Man oh man, what a hype episode! This reminds me a lot of Kamen Rider Fourze The Movie, or any major final form development, but it’s only halfway into the show! Side note, I love the new sword – I’m a fan of large swords, and this one has such a good piece of story attached to it.

I also like how the story from the last episode wrapped up, with the matchmaker very intentionally getting himself to turn into a Magia to bring the two together, recognizing that they were a best match. It’s not even something they had to do, but they managed it.

This is what I was waiting for up to this point – comeuppance for Gai as his grand scheme, his chance to taste the power of the Ark, was ruined by Humagears. Despite all the chaos, the competition between Hiden and ZAIA is still on… with 3 out of 5 competitions left to go, where do we go from here?

And that’s… the second quarter of Kamen Rider Zero-One! The show is still really good, and keeps getting better. Sure, Gai is a character I can’t stand, but I know full well that his actor WANTS you to hate him. The stuff they do with the worldbuilding, continuing to use unique premises for episodes, and the last episode on this list… So much to enjoy.

I ended the previous review with predictions on where the plot would go for the second quarter, so let’s address them. If you want my exact quotes, you can see it in the previous review, but I’ll summarize.

Prediction 1. Someone’s gonna die: I had a concern that Yua was bound to die since the odds were stacked against her, in terms of how female Riders are handled – but she’s still here! However, I instead predicted Jin would die before 2019 ended, admittedly because I saw an out-of-context image where it appeared that he was in danger. I hadn’t guessed that Horobi would be nearly killed, but hey, Jin went down so I guess I won that one. And for the entirety of the second quarter, that has remained true. It’s safe to say, since a lot has happened beyond this point, things will change.

Prediction 2. Kamen Rider Ikazuchi: I made the bold(?) claim that Lil Assassin, the Dodo Magia, wouldn’t be the one who transforms into this Dodo-themed Rider – I’m actually not sure what led to my prediction there, but I guess I just saw that the Shining Hopper debut would inevitably be his death, because it follows the pattern of “Power-up debut will defeat a major ongoing threat”. That said, I figured he would use Jin’s belt after Jin hypothetically dies, but instead he served as a one-off enemy. A shame.

Prediction 3. Kamen Rider Thouser: My prediction was that Gai was acting as a third faction of sorts, fighting both Zero-One and the Magia. Since Gai has some strong opinions about Humagear, and has no intention of aligning with either the Riders or MetsubouJinrai, it’s safe to say he is indeed his own faction. His exact involvement here was a lot more than I anticipated – I may still be on track with the prediction that he becomes our final villain, or at least will stick around until the final villain kills him off! I’m cool with his death.

Prediction 4. The Ark: Another successful prediction! At the time, we didn’t know what this Ark was, be it a person or a thing, and my guess was that it was the original AI – something that went berserk when it saw how vile humans can be, and influenced the Magia accordingly. Turns out it was a satellite, and was doing exactly that. Knowing the toku formula has won me another prediction.

I feel like I nailed that pretty well – no prizes, though. Keep in mind that I do at least catch glimpses of goings-on when it comes to Rider/form/enemy reveals, but the exact story context is what I get to guess at. Speaking of, it’s time for another set of predictions, and I am indeed shamelessly guessing at things I’ve seen:

1. The contest results: Currently, the score could go either way – Hiden is at 1, ZAIA is at 2, and Gai promises he will absolutely triumph in the next contest. I think that they will for sure be milking the tension further, giving Hiden another victory and… potentially giving ZAIA the victory in their next competition. As of writing this prediction, I have no knowledge of what happens next, but I know that Gai has shown how good he is at manipulation from the moment he starts interacting with Aruto directly – he’s received a hefty blow to his ego recently, and I think that’s so that he can rise up to become an even greater threat. This could be a major loss for Aruto, and I can’t imagine where it could go if he wins Hiden Intelligence.

2. Jin’s Return: We all know it, Jin is back, and he has a new belt. I’m aware that it’s a ZAIA brand belt going by the Premium Bandai name, which DEFINITELY surprises me now that I’ve seen what Gai’s about. I’m gonna guess that desperate times call for desperate measures – with Zero-One having bested him, Gai’s gonna resort to recruiting a Humagear to help him beat Hiden. However, Jin’s personality is a little unpredictable, considering he’s a Humagear with singularity – I wonder how strong his loyalty could be, considering all that talk of family during the first quarter. If I am right about Gai winning the contest, Jin could either be an excellent bodyguard in the age of Hiden-ZAIA, or a new ally that back stabs him.

3. Yua’s Loyalty: Obviously, I’m no stranger to design reveals – Yua’s gonna become a Raider at some point. Right now she’s in a weird spot where she hasn’t done a whole lot besides watch after Gai, and be surprised by how vile he can be. I suspect that at some point, her trust will waver enough that the hooded person from before will influence her to become a Raider and turn on him. Where that goes, I have no idea. I don’t think it’ll be her death, but I also don’t know that she’d become one of the heroes again. We’ve seen how the Raidriser affects its users.

4. What is Fuwa?: It’s been apparent, as of the Assault Wolf form, that Fuwa must be playing a bigger role than we’re led to believe. From the beginning, people have been guessing that Aruto himself was some kind of Humagear, but I kind of have to wonder if that’s Fuwa’s twist – Rampage Vulcan is a form using all the Progrise Keys up to this point, and I will be surprised if there’s not a major revelation attached to this power-up. The stuff with the hooded figure is also still weirding me out…

I’m really excited to see where these go. Also hey, haha ain’t it funny how I falsely predicted that this review would be posted soon after the last one? Bold of me to assume, I know. Things have been crazy these last couple of months – here’s hoping that the next one comes out before the show ends. There’s a prediction for ya.

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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