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: Giddy with his new power to summon flames, Shunpei attracts the attention of a local TV host, who promises him a shot at the big time with a live appearance. In the meantime, Haruto remembers more about his origins as Wizard. Unbeknownst to either of them however, Hellhound survived and is still plotting to turn Shunpei into a Gate.
Aquagaze’s Thoughts: Last week, I was fully convinced of the fact that Shunpei’s magical powers were here to stay. I even thought other Gate characters would develop theirs as well. Turns out that I was very, very wrong, as giving Shunpei magic powers was all part of the villains’ plan to make him succumb to despair. An interesting and clever plan indeed, especially for a tokusatsu monster-of-the-week. I am looking forward to seeing how ingenuous and dark the bad guys (and the writers) are planning on getting with their despair shtick.
Our hero Haruto himself remains the most boring part of Kamen Rider Wizard. While his theory why Shunpei’s magic could not be real was sound and added a nice dimension to his character — he doesn’t like being a wizard — he is still located somewhere between the cheery, bad-ass and instantly likeable hero archetype and the brooding, traumatized and reluctant hero archetype, which renders him rather unremarkable. Parking his Rider bicycle in front of the antique store where everyone he loves lives is rather dumb as well, but apparently secret identities do not exist in the world of Kamen Rider. If so, though, why does he even bother wearing a mask?
His alter ego Kamen Rider Wizard keeps kicking butt all the more though, pulling new spells and abilities out of his top hat every episode rather than relying on stock sequences. I just wonder if we’ll ever see the convenient-in-no-other-situation-but-the-current-one “Light” spell again. In any case, I’m looking forward to next week, as the newly-established Team Kamen Rider takes on their first mission together. Looks like tiny Koyomi will play a major role.
Dragonzigg’s Thoughts: I think anyone with the mental capacity to read this had long since figured out that Hellhound hadn’t been killed in the last episode (the lack of a dramatic pose before exploding was a bit of a giveaway) but it was still a pleasant twist to see how he went about fulfilling his mission. I was actually completely taken in by the TV man schtick – after all, it seems perfectly reasonable to put a man who could shoot fire on the screen as soon as possible – and so the subsequent reveal was a delightfully dark spin on the ‘inflict despair’ concept. I wonder if this is something we’ll see more of – Kamen Rider series have history with the ‘be careful what you wish for idea’ (Den-O and OOO pretty much used this as their core conceit) and it seems a neat way to change up the basic ‘destroy people’s hopes’ and add a bit more nuance from time to time.
Shunpei is also considerably better in this episode. His glee at being on TV, his frustration at Haruto and ultimately his devastation at his powers being fake are all good solid emotional material for his actor Junki Tozuka to work with, and the result is a much more relatable portrayal. I’m still a little worried about Shunya Shiraishi as Haruto though, who lacks the immediate warmth and likeability that has characterised the best of the past riders. It’s still early days though, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
With the introductions out of the way and the team seemingly assembled, it’s time for Wizard’s real acid test, namely how well it settles into the regular grind of monster-of-the-week episodes. The best series keep feeding us a constant drip of powerups and plot points to spirit us through, the worst fall into predictable and clichéd plots week in, week out. As the ‘new show’ sheen begins to fade, it’s up to Wizard to prove it’ll still be worth watching every week.
- I wonder if we’ll see the full on monster battles every time a victim succumbs? All that CGI can’t be cheap. Well, obviously it is cheap, but you know what I mean. Den-O‘s similar Gigandeath battles appeared only occasionally.
- I love the barbershop quartet style announce for the Water form.
- Haruto’s use of the sleep ring on the guard is both clever and amusing, but at the end of the day he’s still assaulting an officer. Someone think of the children!