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Kamen Rider Zero-One: The Complete Series with REALxTIME Movie review

Save for the 2005 DVD release from Hawaii-based Generation Kikaida, Kamen Rider hasn’t enjoyed a stateside physical media presence. And that’s a shame, since the series’ 51-year legacy demonstrates just how entertaining tokusatsu (live action, special effect-driven programs) can be.

Beyond retina-searing visuals, skillful cinematography and editing, as well as creative costuming, the genre often showcases impressive writing. Often delivering a rapid-fire mix of masterful action, melodramatic intrigue, slapstick humor, and even a bit of poignancy, episodes often feel like a thrill ride.

Shout Factory’s Blu-ray release of Kamen Rider Zero-One reveals the collaboration of Toei Company and TV Asahi boasting almost all of those attributes. Complications emerging from COVID-19 pandemic forced the 46-episode series to reuse previously shot footage into a succession of five flashback installments.

But save for the loss of momentum caused by this constraint, Zero-One is a worthwhile series and a fitting commemoration of the start of the Reiwa period. Largely, the publisher’s 8 disk release is a rousing success. Whether you are a lifelong tokusatsu aficionado or merely intrigued by international television, Zero-One is poised to please.

Before the series began filming in June 2019, producer Takahito Omori visiting several technical institutes and consulted with professors and experts to learn more about the nuances of artificial intelligence. Undoubtedly, the research paid off, with Zero-One eschewing the typical condemning stance on emergent technology.

Recalling the storyline from several prominent science fiction works, the series depicts Hiden Intelligence, the global leader in AI research building androids known as Humagears. With machine-like abilities that outshine the abilities of humans, they quickly become commonplace across multiple industries.

But a shadowy organization called “MetsubouJinrai.net” has other plans, and hack into the Humagear systems, turning them into violent, dangerous monsters referred to as Magias. Expectedly, there’s the typical plot twists and revelations across the four story arcs. But it’s the moral malleability that makes Zero-One so gratifying. The motivations of villains receive justification, making for a wonderfully pulpy plotline. Skillfully, the series works in two ways. On one level, there’s a comedic skewering of things like corporate bureaucracy. But its also possible to overlook all the subtle satirical elements and bask in the action-driven melodrama.

Another successful quality is rooted in the show’s characterization. After inheriting leadership of Hiden Intelligence after his grandfather’s death, protagonist is Aruto Hiden is identifiable. He’s more interested in becoming a comedian rather than CEO, valuing cheerfulness after several childhood traumas.

But when magias attack a theme park, he’s compelled to take action, donning the Zero-One Driver and working with a government taskforce named A.I.M.S. to take down the rogue Humagears. He’s joined by Is, a secretary-type Humagear, who not only helps mentor young Aruto, but also substantiates the intellectual and emotional potential of androids. With the proper guidance, Zero-One infers, we are all capable of achieving our potential. That’s not the only affirmation the series offers, with a recurring refrain about not giving up on your dreams.

Yes, Zero-One has its share of pure mawkish moments, some of which are rooted in the recycling of shots. But fortunately, they are almost all fleeting, with untiringly brisk pacing thwarting vexation. Writers Yuya Takahashi, Masaya Kakehi, Minato Takano (as well as two episodes penned by Riku Sanjo) keep the pacing persistently lively, dexterously balancing exposition and action. While the integration of CG and live action elements can be visually dissonant, the tempo rarely allows viewers to dwell on small details.

Instead, there’s a surplus of creativity in Zero-One. With everything from an episode with manga-style visuals, rider designs that recall previous series while establishing their own identity, and more exhilarating stunts than a half-decade of Hollywood films. Like many Kamen Rider seasons, there’s the insistent urge top rewind and replay a scene just to admire the sheer athleticism of the suited actors.

Preceding Shout Factory’s release of Kamen Rider Zero-One, there’s were a lot of rumors circulating about the quality of the encoding and localization. Happily, the publisher has done a splendid job. Sure, regional pricing means that the subtitles are hardcoded, but that’s often the case when works are brought stateside. But the upside is that the translation is adept, attempting to capture Aruto’s puns, while element like signage and music lyric all receive on-screen translations.

Picture quality is consistently good with the 46 episodes, 5 special episodes, and Kamen Rider Zero-One: REALxTIME movie spread out across eight Blu-rays, ensuring visual fidelity isn’t compromised. Sure, there’s the sporadic moment where encoding lacks sharpness, either in extreme close-ups or moment of fast-moving action. But it’s infrequent and inoffensive enough that you probably won’t notice it unless you are deliberately look for it. Like most tokusatsu, you won’t get the 5.1 Surround sound treatment. But with the lossless DTS HD audio, there’s enough aural aptitude to ensure than explosions and kicks convey energy.

Whether you opt to watch Kamen Rider Zero-One on the $59.99 Blu-ray collection, via the ad-sponsored faux-broadcasting of TokuSHOUTsu, or directly from Shout Factory’s own site, you’re in for an electrifying experience. Elevated by clever writing, plenty of masterfully choreographed action, it’s a delightful inroad to one of Japan’s most beloved tokusatsu. It would be great to see more of the series arrive stateside; as Aruto reminds us, let’s not give up on making that ambition come true.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

5 comments

  1. Really cool that the show is streaming for free. Going to watch it tonight. Hopefully there aren’t that many commercials.

    • That is cool. Could you imagine that maybe in a few years, we could have simulcast streaming seeing it the same time as Japan.

      That is my dream!

  2. Just finished ep1 and WOW. I am on board with this. Better than most of the things that have on Netflix.

  3. Not going to lie, I watch the fansubbed version of this and Izu is hella cute. Pretty good series. But you should be able to remove the subs to take still images so you can add your own text.

  4. Been watching this and I’m really loving it. Heard about Rider over the years but because of availability I wasn’t able to watch it.

    Hopefully the rest of series stays this good!