Kamen Rider Wizard Impressions

I meant to wait and do this thing after I watched episode two of the series, but with each passing episode there's a powerful temptation to put it off for the next milestone, until you're talking about doing a complete series review and those never get done.  So here we go:

After Fourze, I was pretty disillusioned with Kamen Rider in general.  With Sentai I've come to expect a pattern of "one on, one off", so usually when one season is somewhat weak the next is pretty amazing.  (Gekiranger, Shinkenger, Gokaiger...)  With Kamen Rider though, there's no real pattern so you just have to wait it out for a season that "clicks".  I gave Fourze a fair shot, even though I thought his costume looked moronic, but even 20+ episodes in, it seemed determined to aim for mediocrity.  I was terminally behind, and a combination of a particularly annoying episode and getting a glimpse of Wizard, made me decide to give it up in favor of (maybe) watching it later to wait for Wizard.  Of course, this put a lot of pressure on Wizard to perform well in my eyes since if it didn't that would mean a SECOND year skipping Kamen Rider and I wasn't too keen on that. 

Fortunately, it looks like I had nothing to worry about.  Wizard, from what little I've seen so far (at the writing of this the second episode is out but I haven't seen it yet) is fantastic for a number of reasons.

1.) Creative introduction: Kamen Rider Wizard chose an interesting way of starting the series off, giving us only a brief synopsis of where these enemies came from and who's capable of fighting them before just jumping right into the action.  It was shockingly close to Samurai Sentai Shinkenger's first episode, with the main character saving some hapless civilians (in Sentai it was a kid because its always kids, in Kamen Rider it was cops) from the villain of the week, demonstrating our hero's battle competence while his theme song plays.  The opening scene establishes several things: information about the world this new story will take place in, what our villains will look like along with their mooks and our hero's fighting style.  Speaking of:

2.) Our Hero's a Badass: Did Souma stomp a hole into everything remotely evil that got in his way this episode or what?  The first episode, as said, always lets us know just how competent the main character is at fighting.  This is important: Do you want to root for the underdog, or do you want a capable, experienced warrior?  Kamen Rider and Sentai alike tend to vary with these--sometimes we get heroes that get smacked around a little bit in every episode (OOO's) and sometimes we get characters who dominate until the story presents them with a challenge that's actually worth them putting in real effort against.  Me?  I tend to prefer the latter, or at least characters who get better over time.  And in Souma's case, he doesn't disappoint, form changing effortlessly to suit his situations and properly beat down our first villain.  Speaking of...

3.) The gimmick works:  The hand thing?  Stupid.  But outside of that?  He's the fifth Rider, he's got five rings.  And the costume doesn't look like shit, which is a lot more than I can say for Fourze, which feels like a 48 episode crash course in how NOT to design superhero costumes sometimes.  Wizard's costume is aesthetically pleasing, if not practical (you fight with as little things on you that can be grabbed as possible) and his gimmick not only makes sense but it looks functional, instead of having things from writers who must've recently discovered LSD, and create shit like SAWS ON LEGS.   >_<

3.) Working with the Cops: No two Kamen Rider series are held in higher regard than the first series that were released at the start of the new millenia heralding the rebirth of Kamen Rider and the start of the "Heisei" era, Kamen Rider Kuuga and Kamen Rider Agito.  And one of the things both series did to try and make things not necessarily realistic but more down to Earth, was to add in characters tied to the setting's police department.  After all, it is a tad strange to have these homocidal creatures of magic or science or from other planets or whatever committing murders all over town and not a single cop ever shows up.  The first episode introduces Rinko Daimon, a female detective who's the focus of episode 1 and is trying her best to fight against the Phantoms, even though she's working for an organization that would rather not deal with them.  It's an interesting set-up that, should it persist in future episodes, will make for some interesting drama.

5.) Proper Plot Compression: Kamen Rider has been doing short two-ep arcs since Kuuga, and with rare exception do they break this formula. So, imagine my surprise when they managed to tell the entire first part of the story in a single episode.  I honestly thought the episode was over when Wizard's dragon fought back against him, and I was floored when I realized they were not only continuing with the story, but finishing it.  And yet, they still managed to establish Souma's character, his assisstant Koyomi, Rinko a member of the main cast, two boss villains, a total of three different Kamen Rider forms, and solved the first "Gate" case all in roughly twenty-five minutes.  If this level of plotting can be expected with future episodes, or they can make me believe that stories have earned the full 50 minutes, then they'll have something truly special.

Over all, the first episode of Wizard was a stunning achievement of costume work, fight choreography, and acting.  Looking forward to the second. 


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