Kamen Rider W is a story about a city.

It’s a thing that very few Kamen Rider shows are about, honestly. There’re shows about companies, and schools, and all of Japan. There are shows about families, both biological and found. But this one… like, Fuuto is the main character, in a way that feels completely fresh.

There’s an identity to Fuuto that separates it from the generic Tokyo I Guess of previous Heisei shows. There’re wind turbines everywhere. The clothing comes from WindScale. The defining monument of the city is a gigantic windmill. It’s the most fun way to enter a new series, because it feels new. It’s not just adjacent to the last show, some neighborhood that looks slightly different; it’s a complete identity for its cast to define themselves against.

The concept of protecting a definable city helps add quick and fascinating shades to our two main characters – Akiko and Shotaro.

That’s my favorite thing about this premiere, how much it foregrounds the dynamic of Akiko and Shotaro. While the series as a whole is memorable for our two-in-one Kamen Rider, I found myself endlessly delighted by the way Akiko’s snarky self-regard ran up against Shotaro’s performative cool. She’s new in town, and just wants to avoid Encyclopedia Brown But A Junon Superboy Contestant as much as she can. Shotaro’s attempts to be suave and sophisticated just bounce right off her disinterest, while still creating a sense that she’s sort of intrigued by his dedication to helping the people of Fuuto. It’s… like, it could easily come off as grating – generally no fun when someone shows up to shit all over the star of the show! – but Akiko’s insults land pretty well on a doofus who could not be less manly or cool if he tried.

Shotaro… he’s so great, in how performative all of his noir detective shit is. He’s a child’s conception of a world-weary gumshoe. His office is littered with toys and trinkets. (There’s a wagon full of junk in a corner! He looks like he has his office in a day care!) He’s a kid acting like his idol, to distract from how massively unprepared he is to be a man. It’s charmingly vulnerable, even as it lends immediate credence to Akiko’s frustration with him. Like, he sort of sucks at making a case for himself, while constantly demonstrating both his dedication to helping the people of Fuuto, and his analytical prowess. He’s a great detective in the body of a child that wants to come off like a great detective.

And, hey, speaking of Actual Children, it’s Philip! (Of all the cast, I would actually believe he’s in middle school. Shotaro’s insulting the wrong cast member!) He’s a fun source of mystery here, but not exactly a fleshed-out character. For what little time is spent on him, though, he’s a fun third part of the equation. He’s the exact opposite of Shotaro – all id, no ego. He pursues his passions without caring what anyone thinks of them. It makes for a fun balance with Akiko’s audience-surrogate curiosity and Shotaro’s generally-embarrassing Dashiell Hammett cosplay. Collectively they’re all kind of a formidable team? Sort of?

But it’s really Philip and Shotaro who have to combat the forces of evil, leading to the debut of Kamen Rider W. It’s one of my all-time favorite designs – the split vertical shape, the green/black/gold/purple motif, the scarf, THE SCARF – and the debut makes it suitably memorable. (I mean, the modern-day debut, I guess. The prologue sequence almost feels like a tease, for how hilariously EXPLOSIVE it is.) It’s that killer catchphrase, wedded to a sense of investigative justice, all wrapped up in form changes and a (clunkily-animated) Rider Kick. It’s a little showy, you know? The show makes it feel like W arriving isn’t just a savior to innocents or a thrilling climax, but the successful solution to a mystery. It’s W as AHA moment, and that feels nicely unique to this show.

Still, it’s Fuuto that makes this thing feel the most like itself. There’s a moment, during W’s Henshin to take on the Magma Dopant, where the wind flares and the turbines spin and it’s all very powerful. I think we’re meant to read it as W’s power exploding onto the scene, ready to defeat the monster and save the day. For me, though… I like to think of it as Fuuto itself applauding the arrival of its superhero. It’s the city saying that it wants this team to succeed.

I get where it’s coming from.


Hey, how about a little section to talk in a more spoilery way about my experience coming back to this show after watching a dozen other Kamen Riders over the last few years?

-They are all such skinny children!!! Especially after watching Girls Remix last year, it is insane to see how young our main trio was once. And this show does not do them any favors in the Please See Them As Functional Adults department – those shortpants they put Shotaro in for the prologue! Jesus! He might as well have been wearing a diaper!

-I really love how Akiko comes off in this episode, which couldn’t have been a bigger shock to me than if I'd somehow hated the theme song. (Nope! Still a classic!) Akiko’s someone that I kind of always thought was annoying and too cartoony, but she’s far and away my favorite character in this episode. I love how badly she treats Shotaro!

-The Sonozaki family… definitely appears in this episode!