Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Miniseries REVIEW: Rider Time: Kamen Rider Zi-O vs Decade -7 of Zi-O!

ider Time: Kamen Rider Zi-O VS Decade -7 of Zi-O!-

If there was one thing certain about Kamen Rider Zi-O, it’s that the ending was never going to last. You can take away the threat of Ohma Zi-O, but there was no way Tokiwa Sougo and co were going to retire to a peaceful highschool life. Slowly but surely the past has chipped away at this new universe, with Zi-O taking up his Ziku Driver once more in both Reiwa The First Generation and NEXT TIME: Geiz, Majesty. Now the Demon King of Time must face off against the Destroyer of Worlds once more, in Rider Time: Kamen Rider Zi-O vs Decade -7 of Zi-O!-. The fourth entry in the Rider Time spin-offs, Zi-O vs Decade was released via the Toei Tokusatsu Fan Club alongside Decade vs Zi-O. Both were written by Toshiki Inoue, and directed by Satoshi Morota.

Another wastelandSougo's high school adventures

Dimensions are merging, transforming the world into one giant wasteland where Inves roam and kill humans on sight. Tokiwa, Geiz and their school friends have been stuck inside the school for over a month, while student president Tsukuyomi has disappeared. Suddenly parallel universe Sougos start appearing at the school - all slightly different but united in their dreams of one day becoming King.

It’s a classic high school popularity contest as each Sougo has their eye on becoming the new president, as well as battling as Kamen Rider Zi-O for survival in this strange new world. Kamen Rider Decade is also here on his own mission to find the “true” Sougo, while Tsukuyomi encounters a mysterious child. The threat of Ohma Zi-O still looms over them all…

Multiple SougosTsukasa on the move

After the sheer insanity that was Decade vs Zi-O it felt like anything could happen in this special, however it seems that this time around Inoue has reeled himself in somewhat and at least created something that fits in with Zi-O’s overall story. That isn’t to say it’s completely devoid or weirdness or that edgy “adult” flavouring that permeates most Kamen Rider specials, but it is considerably more coherent. The links between the two specials are also tenuous at best, so while Zi-O vs Decade may follow on from Decade vs Zi-O there is no proper reference to it whatsoever and any carry over at all (such as Decade possessing the Saber Ridewatch) is the kind of thing that never really needed explaining at all. As disappointing as this seems perhaps it’s for the best, because Zi-O vs Decade actually feels somewhat substantial and could feasibly act as an end cap to Zi-O’s time travelling shenanigans.

Sticking with the weird J-Horror vibe that Inoue has decided to place this pair of specials in, Zi-O vs Decade swaps the Death Game setting for a good old fashioned zombie apocalypse. Only this time the zombies are Inves, which is both a fitting choice and ties in nicely with all the other Kamen Rider Gaim love there was toward the end of 2020. These Inves have a taste for human blood, so it isn't long before we see some unfortunate students die in pools of blood and have their limbs ripped off for good measure. It's a little more graphic than the special needed to be, but thankfully isn't too prevalent outside of that one scene.

Fake blood galoreOhma Zi-O

If you aren't much of a Sougo fan be sure to look away, because in this special you've got him in surround sound. True to it's title, 7 of Zi-O! features seven different versions of Sougo - each with their own unique quirks. While we're not looking at Kamen Rider Den-O levels of character acting here, it's clear that So Okuno is having fun playing each one with a slightly different spin. The minor tweaks they do to their various transformations based on accessories is also a nice touch. But while the seven Sougos themselves aren't necessarily a highlight of this special, the plot itself and how it utilises them is. It's easy to distinguish Zi-O as the time-travelling series and Decade as the parallel dimension one, but opening the former up to the latter's mechanics gives it so much more potential. While we as an audience can feel reassured that "our" Sougo will never become Ohma Zi-O (again that is), there's no guarantee that another one won't. The idea that the Sougos must battle it out to become the superior one is another good idea, one that the special doesn't lean into quite as much as it should but still works well overall. Then of course you also throw in Tsukasa, who's seemingly taking his "Destroyer of Worlds" monicker literally as he drives around in a jeep killing any Sougos he comes across. As is usually the case with anything Decade it's completely silly yet fits perfectly with the character. 

But there's some interesting things going on with the supporting cast as well. Geiz is surprisingly sidelined and Tsukuyomi is off doing her own thing, so it's a good opportunity to give the Time Jackers a bit more fleshing out in this new world. Heure being in love with Sougo is an unexpected development, but despite being played for a few cheap laughs is a lot more wholesome than you'd expect it to be. There's a genuine earnestness to it that makes Heure more engaging than he was as an actual villain. Meanwhile Ora shines in the bitchy popular girl role, which doesn't feel like too far a cry from her original version anyway. It's a little disappointing that the Time Jackers recovering their memories (and powers) doesn't play a bigger part in the story, but hopefully that's something that can come up another time. Woz is around too, but is a cameo at best. But undoubtedly the biggest mystery in all this is Misa Kuon - a new character that shows up in both specials played by Rena Takeda (Mizuki in Kamen Rider Amazons). A brand new named character that feels important to both stories, yet ultimately isn't at all. If there's a reference or deeper Easter egg I'm missing out on with her please let me know, but it just seems so strange that a whole new character was created to do so little. There's a very brief moment where you think that might be the case, but alas it is not.

Love is in the airTsukuyomi's new look

Despite all this convoluted talk of parallel worlds and the one true Sougo, the plot is straightforward and doesn't throw out too many curveballs for the audience. Seeing Zi-O transform into a generic high school setting was surprisingly charming in Geiz, Majesty, making it a relief to see that the story is still able to hold onto a semblance of that as the reset button ending predictably begins to crumble away. It's strange in that despite Sougo being the focus of the whole thing, it's actually everything going on around Sougo that's interesting. The high school popularity contest is fun but so steeped in tropes that there's not a whole lot to get out of it, but elements like Tsukasa's/Tsukuyomi's journeys or the Time Jacker shenanigans have a bit more mystery to them. It goes to show how well Zi-O has evolved to work as an ensemble show. Tsukasa is able to carry Decade by himself (and it's incredibly disappointing not to see any of the other Decade Riders appear, even in suit-only roles), but it's unlikely Sougo would be able to do the same.

Capping it all off is a climactic fight between Decade, Zi-O and Ohma Zi-O, which should hopefully appease anyone who felt shortchanged by the showdown that happened in Decade vs. Zi-O. It’s a rare opportunity where we get to see Ohma Zi-O go all out, and it does a fantastic job at showing just why this evil Rider is something to be feared. Sadly Geiz and Tsukuyomi are kept out of this particular fight, however it’s great to see the gorgeous Another Decade suit back in action as Schwartz briefly joins in to take down some Inves. Of course the big draw here are the brand new forms for both Decade and Zi-O, starting with the glorious mess that is Decade Complete 21. With the power of all 20 Heisei Riders (plus Zero-One) Decade becomes even more gaudy with card adorned chest plate, extended helmet and magenta cape that quite literally has the cards glued onto it. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny that it certainly is a look. Is there any explanation for it? Of course not, this is Decade we’re talking about! But then again, it’s not like the Neo DecaDriver had any explanation either so who can honestly say they were expecting one.

Compared to that nonsense, Zi-O’s Saber form feels rather restrained. There’s an argument to be had about sticking base form Brave Dragon alongside the Decade Armour (which primarily works with the “powered up” forms of Riders) not making a lot of sense, but its the cheaper/easier suit to kitbash and works nicely thematically for a Zi-O vs Decade special. The Decade Armour didn’t get nearly enough love in the series, and only because the Heisaber is one of the best puns the whole franchise has ever come up with. Though admittedly it doesn’t change the Armour a whole lot Saber’s colour scheme definitely gives it some flare, and its face-off with Ohma Zi-O delivers a suitably explosive finale.

Decade Complete 21Zi-O DecadeArmor Saber Form

Rider Time: Kamen Rider Zi-O VS Decade -7 of Zi-O!- is an interesting little special which tries to balance a weird storyline with established Zi-O continuity, and somehow manages to do a decent job of it. While it still doesn’t quite feel like the series has a properly reestablished status quo, it’s unlikely that Zi-O has too many Rider Time specials left in it so if this really is the end (outside any future crossover specials we’re likely to see the gang in again that is), it’s not a bad note to go out on.

4 comments:

M said...

Good review! Also, what's your favorite Zi-O Rider Time, Alex? My favorite is Shinobi. I hope we get at least a Shinobi V-Cinema movie in 2022.

Jinga said...

the series was not as good, lack of fighting and a bad way to send off a likable character such as decade. The final fight was bland and not memorable. The story could have been way better. rating 2 out of 5

Alex said...

He’ll be back one day. I don’t believe for a second that it’s the end.

Rodrigo CD said...

Honestly this special is pretty bad