Are we 100% sure that Agito isn't just the subtitle of the second season of Kuuga? Like, is that settled case law by this point? Because, you guys. You guys. This show... it's just more Kuuga, for better or worse.

Let's start with the better, since (and maybe you'll be as surprised by this as I am) there's more of it than the bad parts: holy shit this show looks great. If you'd've asked me to guess how many years passed, production-wise, between Agito and Kuuga, I'd've said five or six. It all looks so much better to me than Kuuga did. The action's shot better, sure, but this one's just so much more stylish to me than I found a lot of Kuuga. There's so many cool shots in the premiere alone, with Ryou's pool workout, Shouichi and Ryou passing each other on the stairs (crazy foreshadowing energy for days), the G3 introduction, the Unknown murder scenes, it all looks more accomplished and assured than I thought Kuuga frequently came off. It's like they found a way to tell the Kuuga story with more energy, more drama, a tighter pace, a better plan each episode to move the story wherever it made the most sense. It's Kuuga scenes, but done with more flair.

And that was the overall feeling I got from the first three episodes. It was Kuuga, but I was into it. Kuuga has this reputation of being realistic, of being gritty, of being serious. But, the flipside is, it could often play as dull, as grim, as self-serious. Agito so far is Kuuga without the parts of Kuuga that bothered me. There's no constant reminder of what time of day a scene is happening in, or exactly what prefecture a character is in. The body count is rising, indicating a need for a rapid response, but not skyrocketing, indicating that the heroes are doing a terrible job. Scenes get in and get out, instead of lingering on inconsequential movements and blank looks. The monsters get a group name immediately, even if it's just The Unknowns. Agito's full Agito from the first episode. There's a reason why the monsters are killing who they kill, rather than just slaughtering whoever is closest to them. New Ichijou (Nijou, I think that was his name) gets to have a Kamen Rider suit to be a part of the action, rather than the action having to warp around his presence and skill-set. There's a bunch more things (I don't hate the new Nana even a little bit!), more than I could've hoped for. It really felt to me like an improvement over Kuuga in basically every way.

But, it's just an improvement over Kuuga. I wanted a new show, and I got Better Kuuga. I mentioned in a different thread (probably the Rewatches Ex-Aid Movies one) that one of my favorite things about Kamen Rider as a franchise is the ways stories are allowed to end. That a cast leaves the stage, to make room for a new cast, a new set of stories. And, yeah, this series may lack Godai and Ichijou and Enokida and Sakurako and Nana, but it does not lack Handsome Hero Who Wants To Make People Safe And Happy, Action Cop, Scientist Cop Lady, Academic Who Knows About The History Of Magic Powers, and Teenager Who Has A Crush. Like, those are a pretty specific batch of character types! They sound real familiar. (Nijou looks disturbingly like a younger Ichijou. They even gave him the same goddamn haircut! They are making these comparisons way too easy for me!)

I'm sure Agito will differentiate itself from Kuuga, but, Jesus, I couldn't believe how much this felt like a recast second season of Kuuga. It's better in every way, to me, but so familiar that it's distracting.