Wait, what? 3D people on my animu blog? Yes indeed, the Glorio Blog has decided to start covering Tokusatsu, aka the ancient Japanese art of men in rubber suits beating up other men in rubber suits while everything behind them explodes. We’ll be starting with one of the longest running and most renowned of all ‘Toku’ series, Kamen Rider. On board for the ride we have Dragonzigg, veteran of many Kamen Rider series, and Aquagaze, a newcomer to the world where punching anything will make it explode. Did I mention there are explosions? Together they’ll attempt to make sense of the madness. It’s showtime!
Summary: As the Phantoms attempt to open a new gate, Haruto finds himself set upon by overgrown manchild Shunpei Nara, who wants nothing more than to be a wizard. Meanwhile, Rinko meets Koyomi again and discovers more about her and Haruto’s shared past.
Aquagaze’s Thoughts: In this delightfully cheesy episode, Haruto unveils his — sadly enough, rather shallow — backstory, meets a guy wearing awesome pants and kicks even more ass than last episode. For now, the Phantoms still stick to literally standing in front of their victims and growling “Give in to despair!” rather than actually trying to ruin their lives, but for a second episode of a kids’ show, I can understand that the writing staff’s priorities lie elsewhere. Shunpei is a nice addition to Team Kamen Rider and a potential candidate for joining Haruto as the second Kamen Rider later on in the season, especially now it has been revealed that he actually knows magic. Given that he is a Gate, could fellow ex-Gates like Rinko or Koyomi discover magic talents as well?
Above all, Kamen Rider Wizard is plain old fun. I am the kind of person who has a lot of troubles with turning off their mind and just enjoying the ride without asking questions, but miraculously, Kamen Rider Wizard manages to pull this off very well. The motorcycle chase looked immensely dorky, but had more charm in its proverbial pinky finger than anything Hollywood churns out. The fight sequences combine bad-ass close quarters combat – it is rather ironic that the wizard uses more martial arts than some more recent incarnations of the Power Rangers, though – with both hilarious and awesome spellcasting. BIG, anyone? Its big heart combined with some actually entertaining gags, makes my blossoming love for this show and tokusatsu in general grow only bigger.
- Koyomi is extremely tiny, especially compared to Rinko. I did some research and it turns out Makoto Okunaka, her actress, is no taller than a mere 5 ft (152 cm). Then again, Yuko Takayama, who plays Rinko is only 5 inches (13 cm) taller, which makes me question whether there are some creative camera tactics at play.
- The donut shop manager is quite obviously a transvestite. Interestingly enough, he is the first canonically gay Kamen Rider character, as well as the first character being played by a gay actor.
- The ring we briefly saw being crafted last episode shows up in this episode, though oddly enough it does not help Haruto one bit in his battle with the monster of the week. Then again, the fact that it puts himself to sleep might have something to do with that.
- Screw the talking belt, tell me where I can buy some of these amazing pants!
Dragonzigg’s Thoughts: Like a second album, a second episode is always tough and this slice of Wizard has the difficult task of both laying down a status quo for the series but also continuing to introduce new elements. Of these, the most immediately obvious is our newest team member (judging by the opening credits) Shunpei. Characters like these tend to be unpopular with the fandom and it’s easy to see why – they’re blatant viewer proxies, made to appeal to the children who, it must be remembered, are still Kamen Rider‘s main and most important fans. It’s not impossible to make them likeable though and Shunpei manages to land just on the right side of obnoxiousness, for now at least. The twist that he really does have magical powers was unexpected and I’m hoping we can perhaps see a genuine student/teacher relationship develop between him and Haruto. It’s probably expecting too much for him to become Rider #2, but that remains a tantalising prospect nonetheless.
Elsewhere, the real narrative meat of this episode lies in Koyomi’s conversation with Rinko and the revelation of the source of her and Haruto’s powers. I’m pretty surprised they decided to put it all out this early, as it seems it’d be a pretty good mystery to string along for a few episodes, but there’s an obvious reason for this – the introduction of a further wrinkle to the origin story in the form of the mysterious ‘White Wizard’ who gives Haruto his ring. I like this move, which gives the suggestion of some sort of larger battle or conspiracy lurking behind the scenes, and no doubt discovering the identity and purpose of their mysterious benefactor will be one of the key plot threads this season. There’s also the bonus of the nicely disturbing ‘sacrifice’ scene and the slightly surreal shoreside confrontation afterwards.
Rinko doesn’t get to do much this episode but her line about wanting to protect people even without magic rings true and cements her credentials as a female character who’ll hopefully get a bit more in on the action than usual. It’s also interesting to note that the government is clearly aware of what Phantoms are and is carrying out a coverup – could we see a high ranking Phantom who’s infiltrated into the government or security forces? In a more disappointing light, it’s sad to see the show fall back on the ‘camp crossdresser’ stereotype for the donut shop manager. Japan, it isn’t OK any more, you’re better than this.
Elsewhere, the action remains excellent, although there’s obviously a bit less fighting than the first episode. I’m still not thrilled by the elemental forms, which seem a little obvious and unimaginative now, but the BIG attack was hilarious and hopefully there’ll be more creative uses of magic like that. The bike fight was probably a little over-ambitious but they’re trying new stuff and that’s cool. I’m still optimistic about Wizard, and excited to see where it goes.