Kamen Rider Zi-O Episode 7

“Magic Showtime 2018”

Sougo and Geiz, once again at odds with each other, investigate reports of a small-time theatre that appears to be hosting an actual real magician.

Zigg’s Thoughts

Zi-O‘s last couple of episodes have been, if not good, at least interesting in a way the initial batch were not. Unfortunately, with this installment we’re back to the bottom of the barrel, with some pretty major problems in plotting, performance and just the overall quality of the show. It seems like the story is at least making efforts in the right direction, but they’re so bad and half-hearted that the overall effect is negligible compared to the issues already present.

The one problem I keep coming back to, and the one which affects this episode most badly, is the acting. Look, even at its best Kamen Rider has always been…let’s be charitable and go with schlocky. A lot of its success however, has come from the fact Toei have been surprisingly lucky with the various male models and photobook idols they cast as the main characters. Sure, not every single decisions has been a hit, but when the actors are good, they do a huge amount to take the very simplistic, childish material they’re given and translate it into something more dynamic and enjoyable. It’s tough for the audience to suspend their disbelief if the actors are clearly having trouble with it, but if the actors are having fun, getting in character and bringing some spark to proceedings, everything automatically feels a bit more fun.

The reason I bring this up is because for the first time in a while we’ve got an episode that’s pretty heavy on Geiz content, and that is part of what makes this episode such a drag. I’ve spoken a few times now about how wooden and unconvincing Gaku Oshida’s performance has been, and it’s no different this week as he clearly struggles to emote and react naturally through every scene he’s in. To be fair, he’s not exactly helped by the material he’s given. The show originally set up Geiz as a Terminator-esque assassin seeking to kill Sougo, but it took less than an episode for him to be happily subsumed into the home-and-school status quo. Now all of a sudden he’s back to being antagonistic, seemingly with no prompting. At least Zi-O seems to have belatedly remembered the whole hook behind the character, but the sudden resumption of the rivalry seems totally artificial, since basically nothing touches it off. If you want to portray two characters as rivals and then have them gradually become grudging allies, that’s something you have to do slowly over time, and with notable steps. You can’t just spin a wheel marked ‘How Angry Is Geiz?’ every week and expect that to be a character arc. Kamen Rider has a long, proud history of angry pretty boys who eventually become best buds, but even Build played this trope better, mostly because there was actually a degree of chemistry between Sentou and Banjou. Sougo and Geiz is like mixing two different varieties of wallpaper paste – bland and bland is always going to make bland.

Speaking of bland, the plot itself also seems weirdly unable to go anywhere. The setup in the first half of the episode seems very much like they’re going to play out a classic Heisei-era Rider plot, namely ‘What is the true identity of the monster?’. Except….the cold open showed us exactly who the monster was, so the tease is entirely redundant. The script spends a few minutes setting up our heroes sleuthing around the theatre, but then kind of just shrugs and tells us it’s exactly the guy we already knew it was. It’s just…odd. I tend to try to stick to critiquing what we do get rather than imagining what we didn’t, but the presentation is so at odds with what actually happens here you can’t help but speculate.

I don’t actually think the monster of the week’s motivation this time is that bad, but Zi-O doesn’t really go anywhere with it, and once again the time gap raises the obvious question of what exactly he’s been doing in the six years between Wizard and now. If he’s just been using his powers to put on stage shows, what’s the threat, and why did the Time Jackers bother to make him a monster in the first place? The show’s been very vague on whether becoming an Another Rider automatically makes you crazy, but it seems to be doing so out of a need for plot convenience rather than to stoke any genuine moral ambiguity over what our heroes are doing. You could really say that about the show as a whole actually – things keep happening, and maybe the writers do have some grand plan as to why, but for now it very much feels like they’re going through the motions, and that’s not enough to keep me interested.

Random Observations

  • I get that you want to make Hayase’s magic look better than ‘normal’ sleight-of-hand stuff, but did we really need that to be another excuse for awful CGI?
  • It’s kind of weird that Another Wizard doesn’t use the (very memorable) original belt announcer voice from the show.
  • If you’re wondering where you’ve seen theatre owner Kaori before, her actress Minase Yashiro cut a memorable figure as the Heat Dopant in Kamen Rider W Forever: A to Z/The Gaia Memories of Fate.
  • Toei revealed more details about the Zi-O/Build crossover film, which has the official title Kamen Rider Heisei Generations FOREVER. It looks like the story will be heavily tied into the other time travelling Rider series, Kamen Rider Den-O, as the main villain will be an Imagin (that series’s monster race) and Another Den-O will appear in the film, as will Another Double.
  • Seriously, both of my favourite Riders are going to be movie exclusive???

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