Kamen Rider Wizard Episode 9

Summary: With Haruto unable to stop Phoenix’s rampage, he’s forced to rely on an untested new ring. But can even that prevent the malevolent Phantom from inflicting total despair on wee liddle Hiroki?

Aquagaze’s Thoughts: This week on Kamen Rider Wizard, we find out that Haruto is actually… Naruto? … Demon sealed within, hero gets to tap into its power when desperate, but it will slowly consume him? Seriously, where have I heard that before? Nevertheless, it is a very interesting idea, and the revelation that the Dragon is Haruto’s Phantom, still lingering within and waiting to be unleashed, is a very clever one. The parallel between what happened to Haruto’s parents and what is happening to Hiroki’s is a bit cheesy and the “all just a dream” sequence was downright lame, but I actually enjoyed Haruto being the focus of an episode for once. His newfound determination unlocked his superpowered Flame Dragon Style, which I do think to look pretty spiffy. Especially the dual wielding is cool, because dual wielding makes everything better. Well, except for Sword Art Online, that is.

Rinko, Koyomi and Shunpei feature a lot less in this episode, though we do get a rare moment of responsibility from Shunpei, who becomes a kind of big brother for Hiroki. Phoenix was amazing as ever, with his cocky rage, no-nonsense fighting and tendency to kick cars. I’m glad to see he has not yet been reduced to ashes, and we can make sure he will return in a blaze of rage to have his revenge on the ringed wizard. At least, I hope so. Kamen Rider Wizard has been foreshadowing many interesting plot lines – such as Koyomi’s Phantom still being alive somewhere, or Flame Dragon Style pushing Haruto closer to despair with every use -, I hope the resolution will be satisfying. At least we can be sure that one mysterious bit from an earlier episode will get cleared up, as the enigmatic Section Zero will be the main focus of next episode.

Dragonzigg’s Thoughts: There’s plenty of both good and bad stuff with this episode, so let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first. I think the major thing which drags my enjoyment of this episode down is that the kid playing Hiroki simply cannot act. Bad child acting is not uncommon of course, but since Wizard runs on a premise that involves the victims showing emotion, it’s a pretty big problem here, and Hiroki’s Keanu Reeves levels of reaction take me out of the moment pretty abruptly. It’s not like Shunya Shiraishi exactly covers himself as glory as Haruto either, especially given how powerful his scenes with the Dragon should be. I’m not asking for Academy Award stuff here, but the best Rider actors (Renn Kiriyama as Shotaro Hidari for example) are able to express a broad range of emotions and inject just enough subtlety into their performances to indicate there might actually be a real person behind that script. Shirashi isn’t disastrous but too often he falls back into Haruto’s default cocky, lazy drawl, and that’s an ongoing concern.

Having said all that, this is a pleasing resolution to last week and again unveils some promising tidbits of story. I’m not sure if we’ve been told the Dragon is Haruto’s Phantom before, but it’s a cool idea that makes a lot of sense and the scene where he confronts it and it tries to probe his weaknesses is probably the episode’s best. The idea of an enemy within is a very compelling one (used to great effect in Kamen Rider OOO) and I hope that we see more of this internal conflict in later stories. It’s also good that there’s a solid buildup, with the failure of the transformation the first time genuinely taking me by surprise. It makes the eventual upgrade that much more satisfying. Manwhile, Phoenix retains his entertaining dickishness, kicking cars and bursting into hospitals with glee and I’m very pleased that he wasn’t offed at the close of this episode, as he brings a punkish, anarchic energy that the show needs. The White Wizard makes a brief cameo as well, his first outside of flashback, but it’s clearly going to be a while until his mystery comes to the forefront.

The big news of course is Wizard’s first (if you’re new to this, there will be a lot more) super mode in the form of Flame Dragon Style. I must confess, I’m not a big fan – Wizard’s standard outfit is so sleek and coherent that the standard super mode boltons just look even more out of place. I think the red coat looks very tacky and while the new mask is pretty cool the shoulders are just a bit much really. Being able to use COPY on the WizarSwordGun to unlock dual wielding is fun though, and there’s some great two bladed fight choreography. Not sure how I feel about that finisher – it’s cool in concept but sort of dumb to look at, and not in the good way either.

This episode seems a pretty apropos cap to Wizard‘s opening act. Next episode (which will be in a fortnight as the show takes a break next week) it looks as though the government agent plot thread which was left hanging in the early episodes will be picked up. I’ll be interested to see where this goes – will Haruto and co. be co-opted into a larger fight, or will they find a way to stay in their little bubble a while longer?

Random Observations

  • In the preview we see shots of Wajima working on a green stone, suggesting that it’ll be Hurricane Dragon Style next.
  • It’s been bugging me for a while that I’d seen Rinko’s actor Yuko Takayama in something before, but I couldn’t work out where. Well, I finally figured it – she’s the troubled girl Miku Uehara in (deep breath) Kamen Rider x Kamen Rider x Kamen Rider The Movie: Cho-Den-O Trilogy: Episode Blue: The Dispatched Imagin is NEWtral.
  • One thing I do like about Flame Dragon Style is how the chestpiece looks like the Dragon’s snout.
  • Koyomi has really sort of vanished after her spotlight episodes. Hopefully she’s pulled back into the main plot a bit more soon.
  • As mentioned above, there will be no recap next week because the show is on hiatus. There may be something else to fill the gap though…

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