Kamen Rider Wizard Episode 22

[Over-Time] Kamen Rider Wizard - 22 [741816EB].mkv_snapshot_18.59_[2013.02.13_11.34.39]

Recap: Determined to once again pit his strength against Wizard, Phoenix kidnaps Rinko to lure him into a trap.

Dragonzigg’s Thoughts:  Once again, Wizard proves that it’s way more interesting when it decides to concentrate on the villains instead of the heroes.  The internal struggle between the various different bad guys forms the core of this episode, and makes it far more entertaining than it might otherwise be.

For a start, it’s nice to see some direct continuity with last week, as Phoenix goes through with his plans to just do whatever the hell he wants. His brutal kidnapping of Rinko further reinforces that villainous Phoenix is here to stay, a welcome relief after it appeared he might be going all bleeding heart on us. His showdown with Medusa also reinforces how great his power gain has beome – both Medusa and even Wiseman are confident she’ll easily defeat him, but in the end she doesn’t even get close. Could Phoenix become a serious rival to Wiseman himself for the title of Big Bad? I think that’s pretty unlikely, but the prospect is tantalising if nothing else.

The other major development on the villain front is further exposure for mysterious hat guy, and we finally get a name to attach to the face – Sora.  His motives though, remain unclear. When he first appeared, I assumed he was another lieutenant of Wiseman, since he delivered a magical stone to Koyomi, and it’s been established by this point that Wiseman is purposely allowing the stones to fall into Wizard’s hands. But here, he’s openly aiding Phoenix, a potential spanner in Wiseman’s works.  So which side is he really on?  There’s also his habit of referring to his fellow Phantoms (and himself) by their human names, which is oddly disconcerting.  Takahisa Maeyama does a fine job playing up the slightly cliched ‘happy, smiley/creepy guy’ style, and a true wild card adds some much needed spice to the plot.

[Over-Time] Kamen Rider Wizard - 22 [741816EB].mkv_snapshot_16.33_[2013.02.13_10.47.55]

The unfortunate side effect of this intense focus on the villainous characters is that sidelining of the supposed leads. Kousuke gets this the worst, as he’s relegated to one semi-comedic scene involving him stealing Haruto and Shunpei’s shopping, and then practically a cameo at the end. Notably, he doesn’t even get to suit up, a rarity.  I’m really very concerned about Beast as a character – he’s received almost no notable screentime since his debut, he continues to be irritating and facile and there’s not been any real attempt to address the relationship between him and Haruto, either as friends or as rivals.  Tasuku Nagase is clearly treying hard, but relentless scenery chewing requires more skill than one might imagine and he just doesn’t have the spark which makes the best toku hams so enjoyable.  The best Rider shows almost invariably revolve around strong interaction between the two heroes – here there’s no real spark whenever they share the screen, a worrying sign.

Speaking of our other lead, Shunya Shiraishi does try and bring a little more emotion to his performance here, and the effort is appreciated, but he’s still a little flat and unexpressive to my eyes. I almost wonder if he’s unconsciously underplaying the role – Toku is similar to theatre in that you can’t act, you have to OVERACT.  A more flamboyant performance might lose some of the subtlety, but I’d trade that for more visible engagement.

[Over-Time] Kamen Rider Wizard - 22 [741816EB].mkv_snapshot_04.52_[2013.02.13_13.26.24]

One thing the episode does have is a great cliffhanger, with the newly resurrected Phoenix shrugging off Haruto’s best attacks and blowing him away, with an ominous smash to black instead of our usual freezeframe.  Given we know he’ll be back and fighting fit next week, the real question here is if this is the end for Phoenix, or if he’ll find a way to rise once again. I do so hope it’s the latter.

Aquagaze‘s Thoughts: Now that was an episode I had little to no gripes with whatsoever. It has been proven in the past that the awesomeness of your average episode of Kamen Rider Wizard is directly proportional to the amounts of Phoenix featured (He kicks cars!) and luckily enough, our favourite firebird once again stole the spotlight this week. Liberated from Wiseman’s calculated pragmatism, Phoenix drags Haruto and Shunpei into a sadistic game of hide-and-seek, which not only establishes how truly despicable he is, but also give lots of side characters their chance to shine. Shunpei and Rinko each play important roles and even the dynamic donut store duo shows up again after weeks of absence. Of course, it is Phoenix who truly steals the spotlight here. I could cite some quote from some obscure movie about some men wanting to watch the world burn or something here, but that would not really enrich this write-up in any considerable way.

As opposed to Shunya “If they aren’t going to bother giving my character any substance then neither am I” Shiraishi, Atsumi’s cocky performance as Phoenix excellently portrays how the only thing stopping him from exploding into a murderous rampage is his own cockiness. Even Medusa – who, by the way, is by far the most like the mythological monster she is named after in terms of abilities – and her petrification powers cannot stop him anymore. The fight between the two lieutenant villains, kick-started by an amazing and seemingly fluent transformation was the absolute pinnacle of an episode full of great fights. With the stakes high and his friends in danger, Haruto pulls out quite literally everything in his arsenal to put Phoenix down for good, but it is all in vain. Looks like a sweet powerup will be the only thing that can save him now… again. What did you say about another Kamen Rider? Strange, I didn’t notice there being any other Riders.

[Over-Time] Kamen Rider Wizard - 22 [741816EB].mkv_snapshot_21.31_[2013.02.13_10.48.39]

With all this fiery fury, I’d almost forget to mention Phoenix’s newfound ally, Gremlin. With his happy-go-lucky demeanour and penchant for horrible engrish, the Phantom formerly known as Sora is a deliciously creepy addition to the cool cast of villains, though I remain extremely bummed that they didn’t name him Troll, just for coincidental hilarity’s sake. Gremlin seems just as trigger-happy as Phoenix, though he also seems to like working with Wiseman just fine as long as he can skip around and creep up on people. What I find especially endearing about our bouncy new friend is how he consistently insists on calling his fellow Phantoms by their former names. Maybe he is the Phantom that drove them to despair?

Sadly enough, it looks as if Phoenix’s flame will die out next week. As scared as I am that his demise will mean bad things for the show as a whole, at least Gremlin looks like a more than worthy replacement. There is a small chance that the two of them will team up against Wiseman and Medusa, but I would not put my money on it. That sweet powerup in the preview is not just there for show. With Haruto unlocking the full potential of the Dragon within him, I am hoping to see some more of their interesting dynamic as well. Oh, and Toei, I have literally no complaints whatsoever about keeping mayo man Kousuke as far away from the plot as humanly possible, but the same cannot be said for Koyomi. How hard can it possibly be to give the poor girl some lines?

Random Observations

  • Though it’s not yet been revealed in the show if I remember correctly, literature has come out identifying Sora’s character as ‘Gremlin’.
  • There’s been some speculation as to whether Sora is actually a Phantom at all, but it’s worth remembering Koyomi identified him as such when they first met.
  • The usual leaks and toy adverts have revealed Wizard’s Ultimate Form. Spoilers –  it’ll be calledInfinity Form‘.  Toy ads also confirm new weapons for both Wizard and Beast.
  • The next episode preview appears to show Wizard utilising a new form that is powered by all his styles together. Could this be an in-series appearance for the previously movie exclusive All Dragon Style?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.