Kamen Rider Wizard Episode 51

[Over-Time] Kamen Rider Wizard - 51 [D3F2D5E2].mkv_snapshot_22.16_[2013.09.18_15.31.34]

Recap: Hoping to revive Koyomi, Haruto faces Gremlin for a final showdown.

Aqua’s thoughts: In a way, this finale perfectly encapsulated all of Kamen Rider Wizard‘s vices and virtues. It was a bland and draggy ending to a bland and draggy show, if not without some occasional moments of strength, marred by a lack of character involvement on our part. Kousuke once again comes out on top here, being the only character in the show with a somewhat engrossing character arc and a meaningful relationship with another character. Despite having lost his powers two episodes ago, the once most annoying and useless Rider in the show’s history seized another chance to shine, trying his hardest to protect his friends without any magic at his disposal, all while Haruto sits moping in his room. Creepy implications aside, he even gets the best ending of the bunch, taking Yuzuru with him on a camping trip across the world while eating mayonnaise and being bros. Now that’s a hero.

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Haruto, on the other hand, fails to learn anything meaningful, as he has throughout the show’s entire run. This is best exemplified by the scene at the end, where he simply continues to ignore the donut vendor’s efforts and orders his plain sugar donut, as well as a “hope donut” for the dead Koyomi, before riding off to do… something? Haruto’s payoff was much less significant than Kousuke’s because he never had any sort of definable character arc. His relationship with Koyomi was ridiculously underplayed and while Wajima fearing he might trigger another Sabbath in order to bring her back made for an interesting perspective — even highlighting Haruto’s dark side which I, up until this point, always considered to be wholly unintentional — the alternative was plain stupid. Haruto could have been a tragic martyr, an obsessive idealist, or a morally ambiguous hero, but the show never gave him enough to work with. Just like everyone in Kamen Rider Wizard, he was just there because he had to be.

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The same can be said about Gremlin. His focus episode made him a lot more interesting, but his brief stint as the big bad guy lacked any sort of credibility. For starters, his motives were never clear. Why does he want to become human when he clearly loves being a Phantom? Aside from that, his modus operandi is one big, gaping plot hole. If killing Gates turns them into Phantoms, then why did Phoenix get fired for doing exactly that? Then why did Wiseman even go through all this trouble to drive Gates desperate? By the way, if Haruto can simply pull the Philosopher’s Stone out of Gremlin, why couldn’t Gremlin do the same when he abducted Koyomi a few episodes ago? Why did the Philosopher’s Stone turn into a ring without being crafted into one by Wajima? Why is Koyomi’s soul still in the stone when she was just an artificial body created to store the Stone in? Why was Haruto able to retain his Rider form when his ring was destroyed? Why the hell is this show still not over? I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I can’t wait to see Decade back.

[Over-Time] Kamen Rider Wizard - 51 [D3F2D5E2].mkv_snapshot_10.33_[2013.09.18_15.27.14]

Random observations:

  • Kousuke looks insanely handsome with his hair messed up like that.
  • Basically, Haruto just bailed to pursue a love affair with a ring, leaving glorified mook Mayu to deal with any remaining Phantoms. What a dick.
  • By the way, why doesn’t he ever tell any of his friends what he’s planning to do? Because he’s a dick, that’s why.
  • Shunpei’s comedy-fu was inappropriate, but appreciated.
  • The singing belts ruining any sort of tension the show had was inappropriate and unappreciated, though.
  • All Rider special next week! Alongside Tsukasa, Momotaros will show up again and despite a rather off-sounding line in the preview, he will, in fact, be voiced by his original actor, Toshihiki Seki.

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Zigg’s Thoughts: First and foremost, you can tell my 10000000% accurate prediction was as precisely correct as you should have expected really. And in fact, that’s a pretty good place to start, since it’s one of the braver decisions this finale makes. While Rider shows have gotten into a habit of killing off important-but-not-main characters in recent years, I was still expecting a dramatic deus ex machina resurrection for Koyomi. The decision to actually let her death be permanent (or as close to permanent as possible in this comic book-y reality) is a commendable decision and one that could actually have gone decent places if, dare I say it, it had happened a bit earlier. Of the plot threads that spiral out of this I particularly enjoyed the brief suspicion that Haruto has gone crazy and is set to hold his own Sabbat to bring her back. The problem is it’s very fleeting – Wajima basically has to come right and out and voice it – but better developed, and with better acting, it might have been an intriguing way to cast doubt on Haruto’s motives.

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A it is, he plays it relatively straight and still gets some pretty good pop on the big emotional moments. This sort of high stakes matchup is exactly the right territory for ultra-cheesy tokusatsu dialogue and Haruto’s final speech about accepting the past and moving on is pretty good, though it’s hampered by somewhat insipid delivery from Shunya Shirashi. As Gremlin, Takahisa Maeyama rises to the occasion, investing his character again with the slightly mad, sinister edge we saw in his best moments. His point that he was sacrificed already for the cause is actually a pretty good ‘not so different’ moment and one of the most cutting bits of dialogue in the show. Nevertheless, Gremlin remains an odd choice for a final villain and the showdown can’t help but feel a little anticlimatic considering the stakes have been lowered so far, but there’s still some flashes of energy. Going back to a recurring issue with Wizard, this final conflict would have been much stronger if we’d had a genuine desire to see Koyomi come back. The underdevelopment of the characters isn’t a problem that you can do much about at this point, but it still kills a lot of the attachment you should be feeling in such a situation.

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One thing I did like about this finale is that it gives the side characters a chance to shine in their own right. Mayu, Yuzuru and Yamamoto’s return is a nice moment that gives us some decent action to chew on, and even though they’re mostly reduced to ineffectiveness it’s nice to see Rinko and Shunpei get to actually do  something. As he has been for a while now though, Kousuke is the standout, showing up and kicking ass even bereft of his powers, while allowing his hair to fall down and make him look really rather cool.

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And the ending? It is what it is I guess, which I know is the most frustrating non-critique ever. Haruto’s ‘walk the earth searching for answers’ fate is a pretty common way to end stories like this, but it feels unearned here – he has unfinished business in Tokyo and he evidently didn’t care very much about his friends if he’s leaving them behind so casually. Kousuke fares better – he has a more solid reason for leaving, especially considering his wandering ways before, and the final consolidation of his big brother relationship with Yuzuru is a sweet moment. As for the others….eh. It’s nice Mayu gets to be Haruto’s replacement, but it’s difficult to care too much about the others. At least Haruto finally bought a doughnut other than plain sugar. Maybe he’s learning variety is the spice of life.

Final Impressions

…wait, there’s more?

1250746192758Random Observations

  • Not going to lie, Gremlin blowing up the donut truck was my single favourite moment from this episode.
  • The dialogue, at least in Over-Time’s translation, does indeed imply that simply killing people will turn them into Phantoms. I have to assume this is miswritten/mis-translated because as Aqua noted it would basically undermine the entire plot.
  • It’s sort of stupid that Haruto gets knocked out of his Infinity form for the final battle. Also, shouldn’t even a powered up Gremlin be less strong than Fueki?
  • So the setup is – the final two episodes will be special crossover episodes that unite all the Heisei Era Riders (that is, all the Riders since the franchise’s revival in 2000). For those of you unfamiliar with the way these crossovers work, that doesn’t mean we’ll get every single character back – the vast majority of these guys will be silent, suit only appearances. Having said that, we will get Tsukasa Kadoya aka Kamen Rider Decade, whose universe-hopping powers are sure to be at the root of this weird mashup. Toshiki Seki will also return as (the voice of) Kamen Rider Den-O because Den-O is always in these things. The next Rider, Gaim, will also be making his first official appearance since he did not appear in the Wizard movie as expected.
  • We’ll continue to cover these two episodes as part of ‘regular’ Wizard coverage and there will be a separate Final Impressions post once they’ve run.

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