God damn, that is a show that does a lot right in its first story.

What I want out of a first story, the really big thing, is why does this Kamen Rider fight for justice. Specifically, what is this show trying to say about heroism. I'm going to be watching a year-long story about a man (or men, or maybe one woman every ten years or so) dispensing justice through the application of explosive kicking, but the why of it is what keeps me engaged. Every Rider comes at their mission slightly differently, and the shows' themes differ to match them. Like, What The Show Is About to me, it's not that they're doctors, or in high school, or fighting one type of monster or another, it's that they're using monster fights as a metaphor for learning your limitations, or surviving the redefinition that comes with adolescence, or all of the themes that have been applied through Kamen Rider shows. That, like... that's the stuff I wanted to know about Ryuki, not how he gets his powers or what the villains are like.

(That stuff was great, though, and I'll get to it.)

I loved that Ryuki quickly, cleanly, and smartly put forward what the deal is with Shinji's heroism. Best of all, it's from lessons we see him learn in this story. If Shinji just said Here's My Deal in some clunky exposition, I'd've been disappointed. Having Reiko tell him that investigation isn't about solving mysteries, or acclaim, it's about establishing the truth, about dispelling fear with discovery, that allows the world to build the hero. And then you've got a crying child, immediately followed by Yui saying that it's not that she's trying to save her brother, it's that it's impossible to live with the pain of not having an answer to his disappearance. Taking that idea of investigation, and leveraging it as a way to save lives by putting minds at ease, that's a great way to tie everything from the first two episodes together. There's not this day-job Story A and monster-destroying Story B, it's all thematically linked, it's all About the same thing. And, yeah, it's taking that theme and growing Shinji right in front of us.

Shinji's great, by the way. He starts great, and gets better. I love that his first scene is getting decked by a stranger because he's so intent on righting wrongs that he jumps in when he should hang back. I think it's a smart choice, making him a more proactive character, since that separates him from Shouichi in, like, the first second. (I wish, more than anything, that looking at Shinji didn't remind me so much of Spooky Man from Agito. They have the same luxurious head of hair! It's almost all I can see!) Shinji's a goofy, aggressive, leaps-before-he-looks protagonist in the first episode, and I'd've been fine with that if that was where he stayed for a bit. But no, the show's too smart for that, and we just right away get Reiko chastising him for ignoring the human cost of what's going on. He's not a perfect hero, he's not fully-formed, and that's a really nice change from Kuuga and Agito. Those Riders, they were kind-of the thing that didn't change on their shows, the rock that wouldn't move. With Shinji, there's already things he's learning about the world he lives in, the ramifications of actions, the (motif!) ways his choices reflect on himself and others. He's forced to consider new truths, and he's becoming a better hero. I'm excited to see where his journey takes him.

That journey, by the way, is going to look gorgeous. I love the Ryuki suit. I think red is always a great choice for Rider suits. Wizard's maybe my favorite base suits, so a heavy red with neutral accents? On board. The grill to the eyes is a nice touch, giving a more battle-ready, less maybe-monster look to the suit. I don't know that I can get more into why it works for me? It's, I kind-of think suit preferences are largely subjective, something that works for you or it doesn't. Ryuki and Knight, they really work for me. They seem easy enough to move around in, and already have a couple color schemes that work with the basic breastplate-and-grill aesthetic. I can see a bunch more designs spinning off of the Ryuki template.

All the Mirror World stuff, so good. I laughed when I saw that they just flipped the image in post, that's how they create a reversed world. Hilarious, and brilliant. It's one of those cheap ideas Kamen Rider will have that's so dumb it's smart. You don't need a ton of effects, just shoot it and flip it. Honest to god, I love it. It's spooky and corny all at once, and that's maybe where I want Kamen Rider to live.

The only other major thing I wanted to mention, at least of the big stuff from this first story, is that for a franchise that just spent two years intertwining Kamen Riders with the police, sometimes to the degree that it felt like a Kamen Rider was guest-starring in a weekly police procedural, I love that not only is this show about investigative reporters, but that the case they just cracked was about police corruption. I don't know if it was on purpose, but I can totally see a whiteboard from the planning of Ryuki that says NO MORE COP STORIES real big. Still, even if it was by accident, the fact that the first non-cop team we've had in the Heisei era is a group of independent journalists, following the truth without caring what authorities think, that's a statement about where this show wants its storytelling to go.

This was fun, this first story. Super solid, all the way around. (Well, the spider CG was, uh, unpleasant to look at, but complaining about that would be like complaining that they said Henshin. It's a part of the franchise!) I really like Shinji as a lead, and I think the supporting crew of Reiko, Yui, and Ren is pretty intriguing. I've been looking forward to Ryuki for a while, and this start did not let me down. Excited to watch more!