Thursday, 6 May 2021

Movie REVIEW: Zero-One Others: Kamen Rider MetsubouJinrai

Zero-One Others: Kamen Rider MetsuboJinrai

Both the series itself and its epilogue "summer" movie might have now passed, but it isn't quite the end for Kamen Rider Zero-One just yet. Now it's time for the true epilogue in the form of its direct to Blu-Ray V-Cinema releases, which in typical fashion focus on the various other Kamen Riders of the series. The first of these films is Zero-One Others: Kamen Rider MetsubouJinrai - thrusting the formerly villainous members of Humagear terrorist group Metsuboujinrai.net into the spotlight. The film was written by Zero-One head writer Yuya Takahashi, and directed by the the show's secondary writer Masaya Kakehi.

Lyon ArklandKamen Rider ZAIA

Following the defeat of both the Ark and Kamen Rider Eden, ZAIA Enterprise CEO Lyon Arkland arrives in Japan determined to bring his "Project Sold" to fruition. Allying himself with Azu, Arkland's plan is to develop an army of expendable Humangear soldiers to be sold as weapons across the world and render Kamen Riders obsolete. But the next step in his plan requires clashing with MetsubouJinrai.net, taking the Thousandriver to become Kamen Rider ZAIA.

As Jin learns his own involvement in Project Sold, the former Humagear terrorist group are forced to face a new enemy that's more than just another Ark. In order to defeat this threat, Kamen Rider MetsubouJinrai must rise - and the group may have to throw away everything that they've come to value.

Project SoldKamen Rider MetsubouJinrai

In the past Kamen Rider V-Cinema releases have always had an element of superfluity to them. The main story is over and done with, the focus is on the secondary characters (with the titular Rider barely appearing, if at all) and if anything they’re an opportunity to tell some fun side stories in the post-series landscape. However with Takahashi having previously expanded this format into something more significant with Ex-Aid’s Another Ending trilogy, he’s at it again here with Zero-One Others. With MetsoubouJinrai.net having moved into protector roles by the end of the series (Horobi and Jin as vigilantes, and Naki through A.I.M.S.), Kamen Rider MetsubouJinrai offers a chance to properly see out their character development right to the very end - more so than the glimpses we got to see in REALxTIME. Horobi and Jin quickly established themselves as two of Zero-One’s most engaging characters, and the duo continue to excel here.

The aforementioned superfluity of previous V-cinemas can also come from the villains of these pieces, who often fail to leave a mark thanks to either being too detached from the main storyline or simply not having enough time to develop properly. But while it’s true that we don’t spend very much time with ZAIA CEO Lyon Arkland at all, he’s certainly leaves a huge impression on both the film itself and the events that are yet to come. Arkland offers a new perspective on Zero-One’s ongoing debate about the value of artificial intelligence, viewing them as tools for profit. Whereas Gai sought to prove the superiority of his own inventions, Arkland is simply concerned with making the most profit. Though the two barely interact in many ways he’s the Cronus to Gai’s Genm, minus all the parental strife and varying degrees of insanity. Arkland is just cold and calculating, with the real-life relatability of his schemes making his type of villainy all the more effective.

Jin & HorobiMetsubouJinrai.net

With the struggles that both Jin and Horobi had to endure to attain and accept their own free will, a war-profiteering businessman seeking to tear that all down is the perfect opposition for them. The pair (along with Naki and Ikazuchi) fight to defend the Humagear rights they so firmly believe in, but struggle with the fact that this new enemy isn’t just another Ark - it’s one that exists within society. Immediately after being able to finally let go of their terrorist ways, MetsubouJinrai.net are confronted with the need to take them up yet again. This presents a great bit of turmoil for the characters - in particular Horobi, who is only able to strengthen his resolve after speaking with Fuwa. For Jin we get some insight into his how and why he was rebuilt following his initial destruction in the series, tying previous events neatly together with the new characters introduced here.

The chance to see Naki and Ikazuchi take up a more prominent role is another reason why Kamen Rider MetsubouJinrai shouldn’t be missed, especially since neither character is being used here to further another’s story. While the characterisation isn’t quite as in-depth as it is with Jin and Horobi, these are two characters that proved notably popular during Zero-One’s run despite arguably having minimal impact on the main story. With the pair going off to do their own things at the end of the series it’s good to see them brought back into the MetsubouJinrai fold, and have the four Riders act as a proper unit. There’s a definite effort to make it their story, with very little of the rest of the Zero-One cast appearing at all. Fuwa, Yua and Gai are all cameo roles at best, while Aruto and Izu have been written out entirely for the time being.

Azu's latest allegianceMetsubouJinrai transformed

Another plus is how the film acts as a proper end cap to Azu’s story, who has been a clear presence in Zero-One for sometime despite not really getting much explanation or focus. Truthfully the same can be said here, but at the very least it properly solidifies her little more than the Ark’s herald before Zero-One outgrows the need for the Ark as its main villain. Though the character could have easily been so much more, her appearance here is a driving force for both Arkland and Metsuboujinrai.net so the film is all the stronger for it. It’s also great to see Noa Tsurushima able to appear even in Aruto’s absence, and while Azu may not be quite as endearing to the audience as Izu the little differences she imbues into the two characters are always fun to watch.

Action-wise there’s an interesting change up to match the darker tone of the story, adding a particular rawness to Zero-One’s slick visuals. While there are still plenty of flashy graphics and special attacks, the fights feel as though they have far more weight to them - brutal beatdowns between opposing forces rather than flashy displays of technological ability. This also goes well with V-Cinemas’ usual penchant for graphic violence, so that all the added blood doesn’t feel too out of place.

Fuwa confronts HorobiYua takes charge

The new Riders for this movie include Kamen Rider ZAIA, the all-black repaint of Thouser wielded by Arkland. Recolours of existing suits isn’t new territory for Rider V-Cinemas but rarely has it felt this right, with ZAIA giving off a similar “tech upgrade” vibe to Zero-One and Zero-Two. Though perhaps not quite as poignant, it’s fitting that Arkland would take Thouser and modify it into something even stronger - going as far as to make the transformation cries that little bit more arrogant with its “I am the president” proclamation. The changes are small but all incredibly effective in giving ZAIA its own identity that stands apart from Thouser, which just goes to show how good a simple recolour can be when its been properly tied into the story.

Then finally comes the arrival of Kamen Rider MetsubouJinrai, a new Rider housing the consciousness of all four members of the group. One might expect the arrival of this new Rider to be a moment of glory - the team uniting their strength against a common enemy, with each of their voices speaking in unison to symbolise their shared wills. But this is not a traditional Kamen Rider story, and the arrival of its titular character in fact brings about the biggest twists of the entire story. Shattering any notion of a conventional ending for the film, Kamen Rider MetsubouJinrai is a character steeped in both horror and tragedy - setting in motion a shocking chain of events that will carry on into Zero-One Others: Kamen Rider Vulcan & Valkyrie. To dissect it too much in a review would be to spoil the impact, and it’s going to feel like a long few months until we receive answers and resolution to just what happened here. The Kamen Rider MetsubouJinari suit itself is marvellous - sadly not combining its four components into something new but instead streamlining Horobi’s suit into something far more rounded, “complete” and ultimately dangerous looking. 

The Sold MagiaKamen Rider MetsubouJinrai awakens

Proving that there’s plenty of life in Zero-One yet, Zero-One Others: Kamen Rider MetsubouJinari is a triumph. Not only does it continue Jin and Horobi (as well as Naki and Ikazuchi)’s stories in a satisfying way, but delivers an interesting story that continues to build on Zero-One’s core themes and ideology. While Zero-One might have faced trouble during the final stretch of the main series, this post-series material is continuing to deliver to an extremely high standard. Whereas most of this material could easily be shrugged off as forgettable with previous shows, here it’s proving to be unmissable.

3 comments:

M said...

Alex, what's your favorite recolours of existing suits? Zaia is one of mine now.

Jinga said...

One of the best spin-offs from kamen rider franchise. The story was great, the villain was good. The true villain was a beast. Metsuboujinrai was absolutely awesome. Can't wait for the next one Vulcan and Valkyrie. I rate this movie 5 out of 5.

Alex said...

Onscreen Id probably say ZAIA as well, that one just works so well. However I really like the Kamen Rider Dark Decade that appears in Climax Heroes. The colours on that are gorgeous.