Third time trying to write this first paragraph, which is sort of unusual for me? There’s almost always some main thing I want to talk about from an episode. Premieres, if anything, have even more stuff I’m aching to discuss. The thing that keeps getting in my way is that there’s one major thing I want to discuss, but I keep thinking it’s too minor, or too personal, to start with. But trying to avoid it is frustrating me, like I’m trying to talk about something other than what I really want to talk about. So, let’s just talk about the thing I cannot stop thinking about.

This first episode is so reminiscent of the premiere of Ex-Aid, and I love that to death.

It really clicks in when the cute lady assistant shows up to deliver a driver to our title character, to better help him defend a group of civilians from a monster attack at a public place. But even beyond that, there’s the way Aruto’s story is so central to this episode; the way the A.I.M.S. team is sketched in without necessarily being drawn into the narrative; the way MetsubouJinrai.Net is clearly Gathering Data, one of the few disappointing hallmarks of early Ex-Aid; the way a young man dedicated to helping people one way, takes a left turn to help people in a different way.

That last aspect was my favorite part, and the emphasis on it was what really elevated this episode for me. Ex-Aid had Emu start as a doctor, and become a Kamen Rider, but still work as a doctor. Zero-One has Aruto pursuing his dream of being a(n objectively terrible) comedian, and then says No to him, somewhat definitively. His dream was to make people happy, and now he’s being asked to run a company while defending humanity from a robot death cult -slash- liberation army. (Tokusatsu is written by the winners!) But in doing so, he can give people the safety to be happy. He’s not actively doing the thing he wants, but he’s providing the conditions for it to be done. I like that message, that we can sometimes mistake the path for the destination, or the process for the result. Aruto wants to make people happy; why does it have to be as a comedian? Why define yourself one way? Why stick to one definition?

And that seems like it could be a big theme for the season, what with robots overcoming their programming and humanity deciding how much of their society they want to leave up to a new lifeform. Exploring the parameters of freedom and self-sufficiency, trying to figure out how to integrate technology into society without abandoning our humanity, using industry with empathy, that all feels like stuff this show wants to touch on, judging from this first episode.

And, like, even beyond thematic reads and fun morals and Ex-Aid structural callbacks, this was just a ton of fun. The action choreography was exceptional, Izu’s got cute chemistry with Aruto, and Aruto’s split-second decision to become Kamen Rider Zero-One (the ferocity of his acceptance was such a great counterpoint to his normal easy-going haplessness) was a glorious Rider debut. You can see the bones of Ex-Aid in there, but the finished product has successes all its own. Fantastic first episode for our first Reiwa Rider!


Fantastic suit, too.

It’s a design I’ve always appreciated, even before I saw it in motion. The fluorescent green is absolutely striking, layered on the black undersuit. The green sells the grasshopper motif, but it also has an industrial Safety Hazard look to it, a warning to civilians to stay away. Like, heroic, but dangerous.

I like the little grasshopper face in the torso armor, and how the red of the eyes comes back in on the boots. There’s always so many interesting touches on Rider suits, and even a fairly straightforward design like this one manages to weave in some fun details.

But the main appeal is in its cleanliness, which is appreciated. Even though I came in through the maximalist VIDEO GAMES design philosophy of Ex-Aid, I tend to lean towards suits like Rising Hopper, where the color choices do a lot of the heavy lifting. Black contrasted with eye-searing yellow/green, punctuated with drops of red and silver.

And it works great in motion, this unmistakable Kamen Rider Zero-One blur. It communicates Agility instead of Strength, which helps his fighting style feel utterly fleshed-out after only one fight. It just… man, it just works as a suit?

This SO-DO got built a couple years ago, and it maybe shows? A little dusty, that’s for sure. I remember it being a fun build, if also a confusing one. (See previous post: I didn’t know these suits at all!) But they really didn’t skimp on this suit’s details: the silver on the arms and torso straps is painted on, as is the red and black of the mask. For a cheap candy toy, they made sure that the hero suit looked heroic!

Anyway, I don’t know if this is making a ton of sense because my internet has been sabotaging this entire writing process, so let me try and sum up this suit and this figure: both great! I like this little guy, and I like his suit on the TV show. What about you? How do you like Rising Hopper?