Kamen Rider Zi-O Episode 5

“Switch On! 2011”

The crew investigate at series of mysterious disappearances at nearby Amanogawa High School, believing them to be linked to the activities of the Time Jackers. They haven’t reckoned with the interference of a rogue Rider from times past however…

Zigg’s Thoughts

With this episode Zi-O continues its slow climb from awfulness to mere mediocrity, although it’s aided quite a bit by the source material this time round. We’ve never made it a secret that the GLORIO crew unabashedly love Kamen Rider Fourze, and even if this episode only gives us the barest trappings of that experience, those trappings are enough to kindle some warm fuzzy nostalgia. That, combined with a plot which actually makes a decent amount of sense, amounted to an episode which was functionally enjoyable, if not blowing the doors off.

The biggest point of contention is of course that our first two jumps back in time gave us not only titular Riders but their sidekicks as well, whereas here the core Fourze cast is entirely absent, with only the long-suffering club supervisor Ohsugi present from the original run. That’s extremely disappointing obviously, but in a perverse way it kind of helps the episode as well, allowing it to be more about the actual Zi-O characters and not having to worry about tying itself in continuity knots to justify the presence of the older Riders. It’s still fun to see the souvenirs of Fourze kicking about the Rider Clubroom, and Ohsugi is the perfect distance away from the main cast to be nostalgic without obviously raising questions as to where everyone else is. The use of stock footage ensures Fourze himself makes at least a token appearance, and the way they tie the monster of the week into something which actually happened in the show proper gives a good strong sense of continuity.

The absence of Fourze also allows the story to mix things up with the introduction of the 555 Riders. I’m broadly in favour of this – the one story arc, one show thing was always going to wear thin after a while and by having Fourze’s arc ‘invaded’ by another show we get more of the crossover goodness that’s the main draw of the story after all. It helps that Kusaka is one of the more memorably hateable Riders from the history of the franchise, and a definite fan favourite. Having said that, it’s also notable that he died towards the end of his home series, so seeing him alive and kicking here indicated that either Zi-O is set in an alternate universe after all or (more likely) he’s been resurrected by time travel shenanigans. Either way there’s some intrigue here, and it’ll be interesting to see if the writers use this as a chance to inject some of 555‘s infamous darkness into the more modern, child-friendly Zi-O. Unlikely I know, but a tantalizing prospect.

Elsewhere, the introduction of the Time Jackers’ apparent leader Schwarz adds another interesting vector for new stories. He’s a strong complement to Uhr and Hora, being older, more serious, and yet still with a patronising sense of humour. The ensemble is compelling right away, and even though Swartz does relatively little this episode I’m immediately more into the villains with his mere presence. The Jackers are one of the more compelling mysteries that have come up in Zi-O and a few people have suggested that, with their quest to prevent the creation of Oma Zi-O, they could actually be heroes, or at least not as clear-cut villains as they first appear. Any such revelation would be a way off of course, but it’s certainly an intriguing possibility.

The fact that Swartz’s Another Rider and Kusaka appear to be operating somewhat independently of each other also is an important step forward for the show, as it proves it can handle more than one plotline at once. It’s important to stress that Zi-O  is still struggling in some very fundamental ways (the acting remains utterly awful) but it’s nice to see the show step forward a little by abandoning some of the more confusing continuity excesses, and getting down to a story that’s more about character drama.

Random Observations

  • This episode also benefits greatly from sharper, more flamboyant direction, which is no surprise since Fourze series director (and longtime Power Rangers stalwart) Koichi Sakamoto is in the chair for this one. He manages to include one of his trademarks (enormous back explosions) but misses out on the other (loving shots of girls’ thighs).
  • Although Uhr and Hora are meant to be frozen in time themselves by Swartz, they’re very obviously just trying to stand still and it looks….bad.
  • Swartz and Hora were always in the opening, but it’s been updated so that their faces are now no longer hidden.
  • The gang going around asking random female students if they’re 18 seems questionable to say the least.
  • As can be seen in our header, when Kusaka grabs the female student by the neck there’s very obviously a pair of fake hands involved (probably for perspective issues).
  • In a nice bit of continuity, the to KR Club members are Daita Kondou and Chikao Nezu, who were Amanogawa students featured in Kamen Rider × Kamen Rider Wizard & Fourze: Movie War Ultimatum. That movie was set five years in the (then) future, in 2017, so it’s entirely reasonable they could still be at the school.
  • The Clubroom contains far too many references to list, but a particularly good one is the photo of Sarina Sonoda that Ohsugi keeps in the box under the Fourze watch.
  • For those of you unaware, 555 is the actual name of the show, but it’s pronounced and often written as Faiz.

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