As Tsukasa and Team Decade find themselves in the World of Kuuga, so too does this thread. When trying to think of who on these boards could represent Kuuga for TOKUNATION WATCHES KAMEN RIDER DECADE, I was at a loss. Who even cares about Kuuga, the poor man’s Agito? Who can even see past the surface pleasures of timestamps and curry, and find the value deep inside the narrative? Who could contain their seething rage from having to look at Jean’s dumb face? Who could--

It was Fish Sandwich.

It was only ever going to be Fish Sandwich.



FISH SANDWICH: Hey there, Die!

KAMEN RIDER DIE: Thank you for joining me on this Decade project! We'll eventually be turning to some Kuuga-themed episodes (I know it's one you're unfamiliar with, I will walk you through it), but I wanted to kick things off by finding out a little about your toku journey. I have an image of you arriving into the world with an encyclopedic knowledge of tokusatsu, but that's probably inaccurate. How'd you get started in this genre? What was the starting point for you?

FISH SANDWICH: While I can't say I arrived into the world with an encyclopedic knowledge of the genre, like probably a lot of western toku fans, I have been into Power Rangers as long as I can remember, so hero tokusatsu legitimately has just kinda always been in my life.

KAMEN RIDER DIE: Was there a particular series of Power Rangers that really stuck with you, or was it more of, like, the background radiation of your fandom?

FISH SANDWICH: It's more like the sunlight under which the flower of my fandom grew? Or maybe like the bedrock? It's certainly something very foundational for me. I've grown a bit of a distance from the franchise over the years, but, more so than any particular series I could say, the broad concepts of Power Rangers... I mean, I don't even know if I should say they always deeply appealed to me, or that those things appeal to me now BECAUSE I watched so much PR from a really young age. Colorful superheroes, giant robots, and uplifting stories with tons of action and adventure. The whole franchise is practically a checklist of things I love.

KAMEN RIDER DIE: I never feel more like an outsider in this fandom than when people talk about being into Power Rangers at an early age. Power Rangers, just... just never really my thing? Even now, after hundreds of Kamen Rider episodes and a few Sentai episodes about weird train kids, I sort of don't understand the appeal of Power Rangers. Not to put you on the spot or anything, but how does the Power Rangers sensibility differ from Sentai? Is it doing something specific that Sentai doesn't?

FISH SANDWICH: I think that's a question a lot of people will give very different answers to, but for me, at least... I don't think of Power Rangers and Super Sentai as being all that separate? There are absolutely tons of stylistic differences, certain shows that have vastly different counterparts, arguments to be had about tone maybe, that kind of thing. But those broad concepts I just brought up, what I've personally always seen as the core appeal, I don't feel the differences there are that substantial? It's something that can (and almost certainly has) warranted entire separate, more detailed discussions, but for however much people who prefer one franchise over the other can argue their choice, I'd like to think we're all here for very similar reasons at the end of the day.

KAMEN RIDER DIE: I would've also accepted They Both Have Robots, but I appreciate the thoroughness and thoughtfulness of your response. I will also try not to give you such horrifyingly open-ended questions in the future! That was a little mean of me, and I apologize. I just want to understand you Power Rangers people, you know? I want to see what you see.
Luckily, you and I do overlap as Rider fans. Can you talk a little bit about how you discovered Japanese toku? Where did you start with that part of the genre?

FISH SANDWICH: This part should be a little more relatable to you! As I said, giant robots have always been one of my great loves, which means I've also been into Transformers for as long as I can remember. It was sort of a gradual process, so I don't recall everything vividly, but somewhere around 2010-ish, I started seeing YouTube toy reviewers and the like who were also into Kamen Rider, and all that stuff seemed super cool, even though I had no clue what the heck it even was. I was gradually familiarizing myself with all the different shows for a while, just googling around out of curiosity at first (working on that "encyclopedic knowledge", you might say), and eventually, I got a handle on how fansubs and all that worked, which led me to... well, to a few things pretty much all at the same time. OOO was the then-current show, and its premiere was the first Rider thing I ever saw. Ryuki was the first show I ever watched in full. And I believe right in-between the first episode or two of OOO and starting Ryuki, I also saw the first four episodes of a show called Kuuga, which might be most relevant to this discussion.

KAMEN RIDER DIE: See, I need to delay talking about Kuuga with you, because once we start talking about that series, I don't think I can get anything else out of you. So don't try to distract me with random comments about numbered skills and protected smiles! I won't have it!
Yeah, I also came into this hobby sideways through plastic robot toys. Did you find your interest in toku eclipsing your other interests, or did it just slot alongside? For me, it wasn't until a year or so after starting Ex-Aid that I realized I was now primarily a Rider fan. Was that your experience, or were you immediately sure that you'd found a missing piece of your fan-identity?

FISH SANDWICH: Oh, I knew I was in love immediately. If anything, by a year in for me, I think I was more worried that I was into Kamen Rider SO immediately and SO immensely that it would turn out to just be some phase I'd grow out of or something, but look at how that turned out. Me, not caring about Kuuga ten years down the line; now there's a laugh.

KAMEN RIDER DIE: It's the Poor Man's Agito, but I'm glad you can find something in it to praise. Since you dove so deeply into tokusatsu, did you seek out a fan community? Were you looking for a place like TokuNation, or did you find it by accident?

FISH SANDWICH: Again, not too dissimilar to you, I was already lurking around TFW, and that made it pretty natural to stumble upon TokuNation. There were other toku-centric forums I briefly poked around too, but none of those ever became a home for me.

KAMEN RIDER DIE: I know you aren't a merch type of fan, but you make yourself pretty visible around the show discussion threads. Is that where you're most active on the boards? Is that the main... I don't know, vector of your fandom?

FISH SANDWICH: Yeah, I guess so! I don't feel I have much to contribute to merch discussion, and I go in and out of being super invested in rumors and the like, but talking about the shows themselves, it hasn't ever gotten old for me. Really, and I think this is another thing you'll relate to, but I've only gotten more elaborate and long-winded with time. There's just something about these shows, man! They're fun to chat about!

KAMEN RIDER DIE: God, they really are. I feel like I've gotten more exhausting and insufferable as the months go on. I have really started getting weird about how much I want to talk about these shows. I was talking with someone earlier today about Hibiki, and I really had to, like, pump the brakes to keep from spending a lot more hours explaining why Akira's arc is really poignant. You start flexing this critical muscle too much, and it gets hypertrophied. You end up monopolizing an afternoon with someone because you've got Feelings about superheroes. And you don't even regret it!
Speaking of living without regrets... Kuuga. Not many people know this, but you're something of a Kuuga buff. A Kuugaficionado, if I will. (And I will.) You could spend a lifetime telling me everything you love about Kuuga, and I'd probably make that trade. But! To keep it brief, what is the first positive thing you think about when someone mentions Kuuga?

FISH SANDWICH: That's an easy one – a thumbs up. It doesn't get more positive than that!

KAMEN RIDER DIE: It really doesn't. Such an iconic image. Is that the top of the mountain for you and Rider iconography?

FISH SANDWICH: I'd struggle to think of another show that managed to pack so much of itself into a simple hand gesture.


FISH SANDWICH: I mean, that could still be in a top three, maybe! But it won't be number one on that list.

KAMEN RIDER DIE: Maybe not on your list! That shrug from Kai rests in my last firing neuron, alongside Reiko turning cutlery at the end of Ryuki. I think about those two tiny moments, like, daily. I will think about them as I pass on from this life. I'm not sure I'll ever love anything in this world like I love those two things.
What about you and Kuuga? Beyond the iconic Thumbs Up, what's a hidden gem from Kuuga you can't stop revisiting in your memory?

FISH SANDWICH: "A" hidden gem? You seriously want just one? After making that thread, it still feels like the entire series is just on a permanent loop in my brain forever now.

KAMEN RIDER DIE: Sure, but there's the obvious stuff, the things even a dope like me can think back on from Kuuga (Jean's face when Enokida's like I Guess I'm Just A Terrible Mother Forever), and then there's the sort of minutiae that only an enthusiast who translates Twitter reminiscences can conjure. What's a random moment that you don't think other fans are necessarily posting up on their Kuuga mood boards?

FISH SANDWICH: In that case, I'll go with something I know I would've said even prior to becoming as obsessed as I am now, which is Tsubaki on a date giving... just, giving the weirdest compliments. It's a random bit of comic relief that I've always seen as emblematic of how real the supporting cast in Kuuga feels to me. Tsubaki is just living his own life in that scene, and it doesn't add much to the episode, but it also adds everything to the episode at the same time.

KAMEN RIDER DIE: Yeah, it's very nice how lived-in that series is, how it never feels like characters disappear when the hero isn't around. If anything, it's the sort of series where the hero can disappear at the end.
On that note, we've got a couple Kuuga-themed Decade episodes to watch that 1000% will not feature Joe Odagiri, based on my tiny amount of Decade knowledge. FISH SANDWICH! Get ready for A New Hero, and A New Legend, as we watch these episodes of DECADE!



Team Decade arrives in the World of Kuuga! Onodera, a shiny new Kamen Rider Kuuga, battles the Unidentified Lifeforms, but only Tsukasa can help solve the mystery of a string of Grongi attacks on female police officers. Can they work together in time to save the day? No. Can they save the day anyway? Sadly, yes! It’s an aggressively unlikable team-up as Decade and Kuuga grudgingly fight monsters! Monsters like KickHopper and PunchHopper!


The Hell Bros are, in case you forgot, terrible at their jobs, so they are quickly dispatched, along with the Grongi trio our heroes completely did not team up to stop. Unfortunately, the non-Daguva King Grongi attacks anyway, letting loose a plague that turns humans into Grongi. It’s only through the final lesson from Yashiro, his mentor, that Onodera realizes that true heroism comes from protecting smiles, and he joins Decade in defeating the Grongi threat once and for all. Oh, and Tsukasa learns to smile! It’s very uncomfortable to look at!


KAMEN RIDER DIE: Look at him! Look at our shiny new Kuuga (...Newga?) on his classic bike. We've got a lot of ground to cover in these two episodes, as Team Decade try to save the World of Kuuga from absolute destruction, and what better place to start than with Onodera, our definitely-as-good-as-Godai Kuuga. What did you think of our new/old Kamen Rider?

FISH SANDWICH: I think the way I'd answer that question has changed a bit over the years, but there's one constant in my opinion of Newsuke – he's very different, for someone so familiar.

KAMEN RIDER DIE: Yeah, seriously. He's brash and violent and looking for approval and surly. He's as different from Godai as you could possibly get without going Full Faiz, you know? That made for a rough Episode 2 for me. He's about zero percent likable in the first part of this story?

FISH SANDWICH: Oh absolutely. I was a bit shocked going back and realizing just how much of a grump he is in the second episode. Back when I first watched Decade, I basically hated this guy's guts right away for daring to resemble Kuuga, and it's not hard to see why in retrospect. That being said, going back, I sort of appreciate how intentional it clearly is?

KAMEN RIDER DIE: Exactly! The thing that sort of shocked me was that this isn't a continuation of Kuuga through Onodera, it's the origin story of a brand-new Yuusuke. It's two episodes to get you to the point where you're rooting for this dude to protect smiles. It makes for some unfortunate/ill-advised friction in the first three-quarters of this story, but it makes for a worthwhile ending to Chapter Zero in this guy's superhero story.

FISH SANDWICH: He certainly ends the two-parter in a much more heroic place than he begins.

KAMEN RIDER DIE: I mean, the argument could be made that he isn't even a hero until the very end of Episode 3.

FISH SANDWICH: He even tells Natsumi outright that he's not fighting for anyone's sake but his own!

KAMEN RIDER DIE: Yeah, his only motivations (pre-Yashiro hospital scene) are It Rules Being A Superhero and Chicks Dig It. Those are decidedly non-heroic motivations! That is, like, the middle section of Mutsuki's villain turn in Blade!
This is what the show chose to do with the most iconic Kamen Rider in the last ten years!
I don't know if I'd've made that choice, as a writer!

FISH SANDWICH: It's bold to the point of being reckless, but, as I said, I can appreciate what the show was going for in retrospect. This two-parter is establishing a basic formula for the show, and one thing they wanted to make as clear as possible out of the gate is that these new versions of the old Riders are not simply going to be carbon copies of the originals. Mission accomplished there!

KAMEN RIDER DIE: Yeah, and, like... I get that we'll be seeing a lot more Onodera as the show goes on. He's in the Next Episode teaser for 4, he's in the opening credits, I've seen the Double winter film. This isn't just the show screwing around, it's the show building the secondary Rider for the series. He needs this part for his journey to be worth following. It's just, would it have been better to just celebrate Kuuga by literally celebrating Kuuga? To just tell a story that hits those Joe Odagiri beats? Or is the difficulty of trying to reach those heights make anything other than an origin story a fool's errand?

FISH SANDWICH: Honestly, I think it probably would've been way more insulting if Newsuke was just trying to copy the original Yuusuke beat-for-beat? The radical changes in characterization can be tough to get used to (and they very much were for me), but it allows him to establish himself as his own entity rather than confining him to the role of a watered-down imitation of a beloved hero.

KAMEN RIDER DIE: I did warm to this violent, abrasive version of Kuuga (I know, me! What a shock!), but the road to get there was, uh. Not... not the most fun time I've ever spent watching Kamen Rider. There's always a trade-off when you're doing a longer arc for a character, where you've got to weigh how shitty they are versus the audience's patience, and there was a point in Episode 3 where I wasn't sure I wanted to watch this kid's redemption.

FISH SANDWICH: Yeah, it's not exactly smooth sailing getting there, even if the destination ends up being worth it. I think the moment I went from "oh I remember why I didn't like this guy" to "oh I see what they're doing here" was that aforementioned scene with Natsumi from episode 2. He's trying to start his bike up, spouting off all this selfish nonsense that's completely unheroic, and the whole time, his bike won't start. It's as if the TryChaser itself is angry at this punk for not living up to the good name of Kuuga, and I thought that was brilliant. It made me want to see where the show was going with this all over again.

KAMEN RIDER DIE: Good catch! That was a fun/frustrating scene, for sure. Speaking of things that may or may not ruin the good name of Kuuga: thoughts on Mighty Form's shininess? I'm a fan, but I'm also not much of a Kuuga fan, so I may have a bad opinion on this one.

FISH SANDWICH: That is maybe the absolute last thing that's ever concerned me about Newsuke, if I'm being honest? I like shiny things well enough myself, and I've also never had it in my head that Kuuga is supposed to have a duller red than that or anything. If anything, it's the pitched up transformation sound that bugs me about him. That being said, I was also pretty impressed at points by how they went out of their way to stay loyal to the original style in places. The transformation itself still sorta happens in parts just like it used to, and that opening fight scene in episode 2 has notably less flash to it than the fights that involve Decade, capturing the sort of raw vibe so much of Kuuga had.

KAMEN RIDER DIE: Yeah, the warehouse fight in particular used a lot more handheld camera, which later Phase 1 shows (thankfully) moved away from for steadicam and wire-rigs. It's more immersive and almost documentary style, where Kuuga stories usually had a lot of verisimilitude to them. Part of me wishes that scene changes would've had time stamps and stuff. I hated them in Kuuga, but they are undeniably a part of the viewing experience.
But that's Kuuga, and we're talking Decade, and that means grappling with the meat of this two-parter's storytelling.

KAMEN RIDER DIE: I don't know that I cared for this one? It's a thing where two different decisions sort of worked against the writer. They wanted to wave off the mystery/monster plotting, in order to focus on the character arcs, but the characters are insufferable for three-quarters of the story. It's a hangout story with no one you want to hang out with.

FISH SANDWICH: I don't entirely disagree with that assessment.

KAMEN RIDER DIE: Like, the monster/mystery plot is nowhere in this story. People flagged up Tsukasa as being like Tendou, and I can vaguely see where they're coming from after this story, while still objecting to it. Tendou would normally figure out a mystery and keep the solution to himself for maximum showmanship. Here, it's like Tsukasa either read the entire script beforehand, or is playing a New Game+ version of Kamen Rider Decade. There are multiple scenes of Tsukasa explaining a ton of plot points, and none of it is a logical leap from the available information. He just knows everything that's going to happen, and he's happy to ruin the story for the other characters -slash- viewers. It's anti-tension for the first one and a half episodes of this story.
Am I crazy? Am I being unfair to this two-parter?

FISH SANDWICH: It's definitely a whole thing about how Tsukasa is often characterized. The script for these episodes doesn't really let you inside his head the way you'd generally expect from a protagonist, and I can see that making it difficult to find what it is you're meant to be caring about in the story. It can make Tsukasa very entertaining (love him crashing that police meeting!), while also making it hard to truly invest in him and his journey if you aren't willing to read between some lines. Like, is his ability to speak Grongi an interesting hint towards his potential true nature, or is it simply convenient that he can do that? It's all up to the viewer in the end.

KAMEN RIDER DIE: They eventually start to tie up some of those threads with the epilogue, where Tsukasa has now rediscovered his creepy/charming/CREEPY smile, and my inference was that he's absorbing the story of each these worlds, and his reward is some positive aspect of that narrative. Like, he arrived in the World of Kuuga, knew the Story of Kuuga, learned the Lesson of Kuuga, and then got to enjoy the Reward of Kuuga. Thematically, I like how that explored Kuuga as a show, instead of as characters, if that makes any sense. I like the meta-ness of that. I like this show better with Tsukasa as a new fan of the franchise, learning what made these other shows great.

FISH SANDWICH: Yeah, it's a neat angle! I hope you won't consider it a spoiler if I tell you Tsukasa making dramatic speeches like he does in the climax of episode 3 becomes another part of the typical Decade formula. It's literally Tsukasa giving a lecture to someone else, but I've always read it as him summing up what he's learned himself throughout the narrative of a given two-parter. Here, I mean, for all the problems this story could be said to have, I do like him talking about how Newsuke fights for people's smiles, and I really like him following that up by saying he'll protect Newsuke's smile. It's like the episode takes all that bickering and infighting, tosses it in a trash can, and allows these characters to finally support each other, like you'd actually expect from Kuuga.

KAMEN RIDER DIE: Yeah, it... okay, let's talk about my favorite scene in this two-parter, and how it and everything afterwards feel like they're dropped in from a way better version of this story.

KAMEN RIDER DIE: I absolutely loved this Yashiro/Onodera scene, and how it improved the story afterwards.
It's weird and sad, with her feeling like she's manipulated Onodera into becoming Kuuga (which is clever enough to keep this from feeling like a fridging), but it also feels heroic and clean, a way of turning Decade's ambivalence into Kuuga's full-throated humanity.

FISH SANDWICH: I was taken aback by how genuinely poignant this scene felt. Definitely the highlight of the whole two-parter for me as well.

KAMEN RIDER DIE: One of my favorite parts about it was how it ends up grouping a whole bunch of characters, how it talks about a lot of different things. There's the origin story for Onodera's need to protect smiles. There's Tsukasa's internalizing of his mission as one that's more about helping heroes be better, instead of just fighting for no reason. And then there's how the series uses Yashiro's role as motivator/sacrifice to talk about how the supporting cast of a Kamen Rider show might see themselves, and I kind of can't stop thinking about that?
She's so self-aware about how she's the reason why Onodera is willing to fight, and her feeling conflicted about that is 1000% Kuuga. She's the ultimate theme of Kuuga in this story, not Onodera, and that makes me really happy. She's someone who views Kuuga as a necessary evil. She regrets the necessity of Kuuga, while doing everything she can to motivate Onodera. And even as she dies giving him the words he'll live by, she manages to feel like a jerk for inspiring him. The specificity of that, to have a supporting cast member wish that they weren't so good at motivating a hero... man, I'm gonna think about that for a while.

FISH SANDWICH: Yashiro is obviously meant to be a parallel to Ichijou, and that idea of feeling terrible for allowing the hero to be heroic is definitely true to his characterization back in Kuuga. It brings to mind a lot of his best scenes in that show, and yet it also works on its own merits as a scene in these episodes of Decade, which is a great balance to strike.

KAMEN RIDER DIE: As, I'd assume, a big Ichijou fan (the poor man's Hikawa, but you're allowed to have your own favorites), how did you feel about Yashiro as both mentor and crush? Did that wreck the Kuuga dynamic for you?
(Also, I genuinely didn't know she wasn't his sister until way late in the story. Made that "crush" stuff incredibly weird!)

FISH SANDWICH: I've always felt like explicitly having Newsuke's version of Ichijou be a woman he's got a crush on was a bit of a wink and nod towards the infamously strong chemistry Yuusuke and Ichijou shared, but ironically enough, I feel like there's way less chemistry between them now, which is maybe an issue for me? As much as I like how their story together ends, I don't think you get the best feel for what exactly their relationship was like. Newsuke has managed to sort of escape the gravity of his original incarnation for me, but Yashiro in these episodes still feels like Discount Ichijou in most of her scenes, as mean as that feels to say.

KAMEN RIDER DIE: It's that trenchcoat! It's more Ichijou than whoever's inside it.

FISH SANDWICH: Haha! Yeah, you might be right about that one!

KAMEN RIDER DIE: And on the topic of Kuuga iconography!

I don't care what else you change!

FISH SANDWICH: I loved that moment especially because it's the very first thing Newsuke does after finally receiving an actual heroic motivation. It's such a specific way to communicate that he's grown into something resembling the hero fans know, and it shows that the people making Decade really are familiar with those older shows, even as they mess around with them so much.

KAMEN RIDER DIE: The entire ending was such a blast. (Well, I probably could've done without the body-horror of Kuuga turning into the Gouram.) It's almost totally unearned, but I don't care even a little. Kuuga's heroic arrival, Tsukasa's superfan speech, the dual finishers where they meet in the middle... it's all so fun and joyous and reverent that I don't care that I literally couldn't tell you why Tsukasa suddenly waves the flag for Onodera. Don't care, can't care. Bypassed all of my critical faculties and had me cheering for this finale.

FISH SANDWICH: It's so much fun, isn't it? I've said that Decade's whole goal was basically to have every arc feel like you're watching the Decade movie, and the huge stakes of this crazy Grongi apocalypse going down, these two heroes banding together to face the danger, the special effects that go massively beyond anything Kuuga could've done in the year 2000... it's so memorable. That climax is something that truly set a gold standard for every following arc of this show to live up to, and I've always remembered it quite fondly.
Even the gross body-horror! ...Sort of!

KAMEN RIDER DIE: It's so gross.

FISH SANDWICH: I mean, I'd run away if Tsukasa ever told me something was going to tickle, but the Final Form Ride shtick is also one of the most hilariously blatant toy-promotion things Rider has ever done.

KAMEN RIDER DIE: Kuuga's head flips back like a Pez dispenser and I went UGGGHHHH to absolutely no one.

FISH SANDWICH: I love it though! That they had this line of transforming action figures to sell, and some insane person decided to just portray that literally in the show, complete with it being outright stated how uncomfortable it must be! Totally nuts! But that's Decade for you!

KAMEN RIDER DIE: But the Decadeness of the finale aside... I like how much they tried to get this thing to feel like Kuuga, in ways small (the weird 1999 feel of locations, fight camerawork) and large (TRYCHASER, still the best name for a Kamen Rider bike). It's a story that's more about evoking Kuuga's spirit than Telling A Kuuga Story, and that's pretty much what I was hoping for from this show. I don't think they 100% nailed the attempt, but the framework is more or less what I thought would be the way to tell this story. Is that your take? Do you like how this show approaches something like Kuuga as inspiration, rather than a sacred text?

FISH SANDWICH: I think it was probably the smarter move, even if back when I first watched Decade there was admittedly a part of me that was like "why can't this just be Kuuga?" I went looking back at some of the old episode guides for Decade on Toei's website to prepare for you making this thread, and Shirakura himself put the concept in a way I really like. What's being portrayed here is neither a remake or a continuation of Kuuga – it's Kuuga as captured by the lens of Tsukasa's camera. And, to kick in my own thought adding onto that, we all know Tsukasa's photos don't simply show things as they are. Tsukasa's pictures have a unique identity that makes them his own, and Decade's depictions of past Riders are similarly made to fit Decade's style. At the end of the day, a show like this has to walk the tightrope of paying tribute to those earlier works without becoming buried by them, and the more time goes by, the more I appreciate how Decade chose to take the liberties it did. After all, what is Kamen Rider without a little freedom?

KAMEN RIDER DIE: Well said! I've got a couple minor things I want to touch on (like our various non-Kuuga guest stars), but was there anything big you wanted to bring up from this two-parter? I don't want to put you on the spot with praise, but you've always got a couple raves from Kamen Rider that I'd never think to bring up. If that's too daunting, we can also just gush about how good the Decade fight music is. It's like I'm in a Kamen Rider casino, and I just hit the jackpot?

FISH SANDWICH: I do have some nerdy production trivia about the villain I'd like to share, just so you really know I'm talking about Kuuga!


FISH SANDWICH: Decade did this super cool thing where there were new monsters for the old shows, even going so far as to get the original designers to create them, and in the case of the big bad wolf in these episodes, N-Gamio-Zeda, he even comes with his own real-life backstory. The basic idea of using a wolf Grongi as the villain for the Kuuga movie that never ending up coming together was kicking around way back in 2000, with a parchment Ichijou finds in the 48th episode even having his logo sneakily hidden on it. Since that movie didn't end up getting made, they apparently decided to revive the concept for Decade, and even got Kuuga's narrator, Fumihiko Tachiki, to provide his (very cool) voice. It's one of those neat stories where it means literally nothing to anyone but diehard fans, but if you are a diehard fan, it's cool how much more history there is behind this guy.

KAMEN RIDER DIE: I'm not a diehard fan, but that is still very cool. I like the producers scavenging the cupboards of Phase 1 to make these A.R. worlds that much more authentic. Love it.
Speaking of detritus from Phase 1!

KAMEN RIDER DIE: I don't know if anyone else here is a frequent guest star in toku shows, but this dude immediately got my attention.

FISH SANDWICH: Now, see, this is the kind of trivia that I never know about until someone tells me.

KAMEN RIDER DIE: That face is maybe more iconic than the trenchcoat it shares the frame with.
But other than him, there's arguably the biggest legacy character in this story:

KAMEN RIDER DIE: I love that in EPISODE 2 we get the return of maybe the most beloved Kamen Rider in all of Phase 1, and we get it at the location where he first Henshined in Kabuto! This is a love letter to KickHopper fans, and that letter is being read loud and clear.
Any thoughts on the shocking appearance of the Hell Bros?

FISH SANDWICH: Well, first of all, I'd just like to thank these Kuuga-centric episodes of Decade for also giving me the opportunity to talk about Kabuto with you some more. Really getting the best of both worlds here! But yeah, this is another one of those moments that's all about effectively establishing the way this show is going to work. Granted, the first time I watched Decade, I only vaguely knew who the Hoppers were ("popular guys from Kabuto", basically), so they weren't much more than a fun sudden obstacle, but it doesn't detract from the story or anything, and it succeeds as fanservice without a doubt. The thought that Decade can just throw ANY Rider at you out of nowhere is inherently exciting for long-time fans, and they picked a great pair of characters to lead off with. ...Plus, it's great that their appearance ends with them failing in their mission after their horribly flawed personalities cause them to become single-mindedly focused on something completely irrelevant. This is no shallow appearance; they totally nailed the characters!

KAMEN RIDER DIE: Hoppers Can't Close is maybe the most important aspect of Kabuto, no argument there. The only confusing thing to me is that their exit seemed to imply that our new Mystery Fisherman was able to pull villainous Riders to do his bidding (flashes of Delta and Tiger in the curtain), when we all know that Kageyama and Yaguruma were the real heroes of Kabuto. I guess this is just another one of those A.R. changes, though!
But that's a bit headcanon-y, much like either the most headcanon-y thing I'll ever think, or the thing that's going to make me love Decade more than any other Kamen Rider series:

KAMEN RIDER DIE: There's a read on this joke, where the photo studio can only displace cafes that Kamen Riders go to, and that rule makes me unbelievably happy. That is the most Heisei Phase 1 joke ever.

FISH SANDWICH: I'll have you know the proud tradition of Riders going to cafes has its origins all the way back in the Showa era, Mr. I Don't Truck With Showa! ...But yeah, it's a really cute gag. And the meta nature of it is very fitting for the whole anniversary celebration thing.

KAMEN RIDER DIE: Even the home base of our heroes is getting in on the action.
And that action moves to the World of Kiva next! Violins, violence, and very tiny Kivas await TOKUNATION WATCHES KAMEN RIDER DECADE as we continue our Journey through the Decade!