Recap: On his journey to revive Koyomi, Haruto is sucked into a parallel universe where everyone is a monster.
Aqua’s thoughts: How? How did they manage to screw this up? How did they manage to — after gatting us excited for Kamen Rider Wizard‘s two-part epilogue with the promise of Decade and Gaim — screw even that up? How do you get Masahiro Inoue back to voice Decade… and not have him appear out of costume? How do you get Toshihiki Seki back to voice Den-O… and give him only two lines? What on earth were they thinking? I am truly disappointed, because my mind cannot grasp how they could have thrown so many of the opportunities they had away. It’s almost as if they did not even want to make something worthwhile. Kamen Rider Wizard‘s finale arc is a messy epilogue with poor pacing, a nonsensical plot, horrible direction full of pointless long takes in shakycam, but most of all, criminal abuse of crossover potential.
As Haruto finds himself in an alternate dimension where children turn into monsters when they reach puberty — not even that bad a premise — things quickly go terribly wrong as alternate universe Rinko and Shunpei, who for some reason have not turned into monsters, turn up and the evil mastermind behind it all is revealed to be a campy joke of an evil overlord who blatantly reuses the costumes of two villains from other Rider shows — more specifically Shirou/Kamen Rider Yuuki from Kamen Rider Den-O and Gaara from Kamen Rider OOO. They could not even be bothered to design a new costume for this guy.
“They could not even be bothered” easily applies to pretty much everything in this episode. The villain has no motive, the other Riders are summoned through a blatant toy pitch that is never explained, the ties to the main plot of Wizard are marginal at least, Gaim shows up for all of ten seconds and even Decade — the cameo that should have gotten us all excited for this arc, and the go-to guy for stories involving alternate dimensions — is reduced to a chauffeur for the obligatory kid-who-can’t-act-for-shit character. Beast is sucked into the alternate dimension as well, from a point in the series continuity where he still had his powers, though this also opens up a major plot hole: How come Kousuke never bothered to address this little escapade in the show itself, and why doesn’t Haruto tell past Kousuke what will happen, so he can change the past and save Koyomi?
What baffles me the most, however, is that this crossover was deemed so important, they extended Wizard‘s run simply for the sake of doing it, only for it to result into a farcical debacle without any real tension or originality, let alone any new costumes. I understand that money is always and issue for Toei, and that these Rider rings toys this episode seems to be all about need to be advertised, but in the past they have always been able to cover up their commercial goals and limited budget with whole heaps of creativity and heart. There is none of that dedication to be found here — which seems to imply that pretty much everything Rider-related that has Wizard‘s name on it ends up dragged into its soulless attitude of getting the bills paid and nothing more.
- Apparently, the producer of Kamen Rider Wizard told the writer of this episode, Shou Aikawa, that a cameo by a senior rider would only “matter” if it were either the original Kuuga (Joe Odagiri) or the previous rider, Fourze (Souta Fukushi) returning. Needless to say, that is complete hogwash. Luckily, Aikawa was able to put his foot down and managed to get the ever available Masahiro Inoue back.
Zigg’s Thoughts: The fact that this episode is so utterly slapdash, both in writing and execution, is baffling to me. You’d think if you were going to the effort to extend Wizard‘s run by two episodes and make them into a multi-rider spectacular that you’d up your game considerably. Instead, what we’ve got here is something that feels like it was thrown together in five minutes. It’s not entirely without redeeming features, but it falls so utterly short of what it could be that the disappointment is crushing.
Let’s try and salvage some crumbs of comfort though. The alternate universe setting is absolutely the right way to go and allows you to tell your story without meddling with continuity too much. I do like the idea of Koyomi popping up too, as it provides both a tangible link to the regular show’s story and a powerful motivation for Haruto to interfere to try and ‘fix’ what he considers his greatest failure. Seeing alternate Rinko as an angry, fighty schoolgirl is a good laugh too, and the classic puberty/monster thing always has some decent narrative bite to it.
Narratively however, this is a giant, insane mess. Surely there’s an easier way to integrate the Riders into your narrative than via this ridiculous ring system, making them essentially at the beck and call of someone barely out of short trousers? Then there’s the constant vacillating between moods – the show can’t decide whether it’s serious and attempting a cool, epic mashup story or playing the entire thing for cheap, shonky laughs. So we get dumb scenes like the big bad being a rubbish camp costume reuse juxtaposed against OH NO THE WORLD WILL BE DESTROYED and there’s just not the panache to pull it off. The episode flits between ideas compulsively, unwilling to slow down and give us one good, solid chunk of story, as if scared we’ll notice the shallowness of the premise.
One thing I’ve always said is that while Kamen Rider always is cheap, and often looks cheap, it should never feel cheap. This episode absolutely did, in a multitude of ways. The number of ‘dodged’ special effects shots is noticeable, such as the form changes in the battle, and when special effects shots do pop up, they’re simply awful. The CLOCK UP effects from Kabuto remain one of the most impressive visual flourishes in all of Kamen Rider – here it looks like they smeared vaeline on a lens and asked the cast to move very slowly (watch the manager and assistant as Faiz and Kabuto fight past). The choreography is bad and the crazy tandem of long tracking shots and shakycam produces a set of scenes that are downright uncomfortable to watch.
There’s still hope for part 2, especially given the previews show this will finally be when the entertainingly insouciant Tsukasa Kadoya/Decade will show up, but this first part comprehensively poured cold water over what could have been a great, fun-filled finale for Wizard. For the first time in a while, Aqua and I were excited to watch Wizard. Needless to say that didn’t last long.
- The replacement voice actors are terrible, most notably for Fourze and Double, who actually speak.
- Neither of the two kids can act, which really hurts our ability to care about them. Also, if the boy isn’t parallel universe Haruto I’ll eat my hat.
- We haven’t mentioned Gaim. That probably tells you all you need to know about that bit.