Kamen Rider Zero-One Episodes 4 & 5

“The Bus Guide Saw It! The Truth About Anna” & “His Passionate Manga Method”

Isamu, determined to reveal the truth about the mysterious ‘Daybreak’ incident, ventures into the ruined city. Afterwards, Aruto has to contend with the fact his favourite manga author has outsourced all his work to Humagears.

Zigg’s Thoughts

As we get further into the weekly grind of Zero-One episodes, it’s only natural that small niggles are going to emerge. There are very few shows that can keep a high level of quality over the course of a single season, let alone an entire year, so a couple of bumps along the way are nothing to be worried about. I use this as a preface because when I talk in subsequent paragraphs about the things I found lacking in Zero-One over the past two episodes, it’s important to bear in mind these aren’t meant to be devastating critiques of the show’s very purpose. They’re niggles, but the overall foundation is still very solid and I’m having a lot of fun.

With that said, I think the main theme which connects these two episodes is a slight tinge of wasted potential. Both deal with ideas that are interesting and should have major ramifications for the world of the show as a whole. Both also fumble those ideas slightly. There’s always a danger in critiquing what you want a show to be rather than what it actually is, but the sense of wasted potential here is acute and it’s tough not to speculate.

Let’s begin with episode 4, where the issue is not so much with the content as with the framing. Some people might say it’s a bit early for Zero-One to be delving into mysterious backstory, but honestly I’m all for it. It helps that the revelations here are the kind of stuff that most adult watchers would have seen coming pretty easily – of course the destruction of Daybreak Town wasn’t a simple accident, otherwise we wouldn’t have a show to begin with. And we’ve already seen that Metsubojinrai.net can hijack Humagears, so the idea of a mass outbreak is pretty believable also.

No, it’s the way they choose to present this that gives me some pause. Making Isamu our focus character is obvious of course, and it’s nice that for once the wild conspiracy theorist is absolutely 100% correct. But having to frame that discovery through a tiresome child guest actor just smacks of obligation, and it fatally weakens what should be a powerful moment for our second Rider. The kid’s story is so well worn and trite too – did anybody seriously think that the dad wouldn’t have heroically sacrificed himself? Related to that, I’m not really sure the presence of the titular Anna really brings much to the table either. It’d be a shame if the show feels like it has to have a sympathetic Humagear of the week every episode because that strict a format can limit the effectiveness of the stories you can tell. Technically Anna serves a purpose as the vital evidence that Metsubojinrai.net has to erase, but there’s no reason that you couldn’t have made that an inanimate object frankly. As it is, Isamu often feels like a sideshow in his own focus episode, which is disappointing.

Episode 5 is a better all around experience than episode 4 in my opinion, though that’s not to say it’s without problems. Here they’re more thematic than structural however, and speak to the difficulties of telling a story in the setting the writers have chosen. One of the staple issues which comes up in any work about sentient AI is the line between people and property. It’s an overwhelming cliche, but it’s still valid because there are so many ways you can explore it. Zero-One seems to be edging towards that discussion in this episode, what with the lazy author and the team of robots who are ultimately the actual talent behind his work. In the end though, it’s more a story about the fallibility of that single human than the labour of the Humagears he owns. That’s understandable, since it’s a simpler tale which Kamen Rider has told many times before, but it’s also frustrating because there are clear nods to the more complex, potentially more intriguing topics – stuff like the easy ‘warranty replacement’ of the wiped out assistants for example. I will say that there’s nothing here that would prevent the show from digging into these topics at another time, and I do hope it does otherwise it’s probably going to run out of interesting subject matter.

At least episode 5 can fall back on a kickass fight sequence, complete with a brief but delightful dip into manga aesthetics. The action on Zero-One continues to be a strong suite, and though the introduction of Flying Falcon leads to one of my least favourite Rider tropes (bad CGI flying sequences), it also leads to one of my favourites (extremely bad greenscreened stuntmen) so we’ll call it even. As I said in the opening, it probably sounds like I’m being harsher than I really am. Zero-One remains excellent, fun-filled entertainment. It’s just that my hopes for it are a little higher, and I’d like to see it rise up to meet them.

Random Observations

  • The bus driver Humagear has spectacular sideburns.
  • Episode 4 seems to make out that Anna being destroyed is important, since it eliminates the one piece of evidence that Daybreak was destroyed by rogue Humagears. But Aruto tells everyone that and they believe him anyway so…what was the big deal?
  • I didn’t talk about Horobi being a Rider because…come on guys, he’s literally in the opening credits.
  • I suspect Jin is going to turn out not to be Horobi’s actual, biological son, especially since Shuya Sunagawa (who plays Horobi) is actually only 4 years older than Daisuke Nakagawa (Jin).
  • They deserve maximum credit every week, but an extra special shout out to Over-Time for managing to seamlessly sub the extremely tricky manga sequence.
  • Iro’s Note: The manga art in episode 5 is done by Masato Hisa, best known for Glorio Cult Favorite Nobunagun. He has also worked with Toei in the past, notably doing a number of designs for Kyuranger.

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