Getting ensemble casts right is pretty tricky.

It’s about balance, and possibility. You need enough variables so you can tell any type of story you want. Alternately, you need enough variables so you can keep telling the same stories indefinitely. But you also need a core tone to your groupings; some sense that the show itself still has a specific viewpoint, even if the characters involved shift from week to week.

Kamen Rider Zi-O has a pretty solid cast. It started as a trio: Sour Geiz, Sweet Sougo, and Vanilla Tsukuyomi. (I like Tsukuyomi, but her presence post-Episode 1 has mostly been as the Voice of Reason -slash- Time Mom, and that’s a bit of a bummer. She’s still entertaining to watch, though.) The growing addition of Woz as a helpful fan has complicated things, but the core trio has been successful in telling some straight-forward Time Mission stories.

This week, we get a ton of addition by subtraction, though, as the knocked-out Tsukuyomi cedes the stage for more Woz, which was sort of predictable, and a stronger Sougo, which really wasn’t?

The entire tone of the show changes without Tsukuyomi around, starting immediately with Geiz blaming everything on Sougo’s weakness. He’s furious that Sougo’s lack of decisiveness – his tentativeness – has let Tsukuyomi get hurt and Hayase escape. Geiz vows to solve this Time Mission by doing what he does best: wandering around Tokyo until he runs into one of the three people that are related to these unfolding events.

(I do love it, how sort of blockheaded Geiz is when it comes to investigations. It starts as a kind of impatience, which makes sense, but then he just endlessly doubles down on sprinting through alleyways and spinning around at intersections, hoping he’s blundered into a monster or a Rider. It’s just the dumbest strategy, when you’re looking for a magic-powered time monster… but, it works? It always seems to work? Amazing.)

The lack of Tsukuyomi’s peacemaking tendencies should force Geiz and Sougo to collaborate, to put their differences aside and work together, but the show goes a different, stranger, smarter way. It’s not a story about Sougo’s sweetness overcoming Geiz’z sourness, or the two of them becoming the teammates Tsukuyomi hoped for.

It’s a story about the allure of power, and the ways we lose ourselves when we think we can do anything.

Sougo has a really strong outing, from one perspective. He harnesses the knowledge of Woz and the power of Geiz to bring hope to Hayase. Another Wizard is defeated, but Hayase is saved through Sougo’s bravery and empathy. Woz and Geiz are both surprised by Sougo’s inventiveness and knack for leadership. He's confident in his abilities, and willing to argue for his sense of right and wrong. It’s a solid win for our Good Despot.

Except… it’s a win for a Good Despot, not for Sougo. It’s a win where he marshaled forces, where he ran the show. His confidence rattled Geiz, and impressed Woz. It was all in the name of helping someone, but it was Sougo flexing his muscles and strategizing a plan of attack. This wasn’t another adventure for Tsukuyomi, Geiz and Sougo. This was a victory for Zi-O.

The idea that Sougo’s relentless optimism and cheerful empathy isn’t the detour from the road to Oma Zi-O – but the direct route to it – is a fun idea. Hayase was someone who took power to protect the people he cared about, until that turned into rage at being overlooked. He was fine working for others, to bring them hope, until he resented their ingratitude. The Sougo we know in Episode 7 could never become that type of character; could never lose his empathy.

The Sougo I met in Episode 8? Him, I’m not so sure about.


I’m a Beast fan. I wasn’t super thrilled with the middle section of Wizard (too repetitive, even if it was on purpose), but Nitou helped a lot. I think his energy was a great compliment for Haruto’s laid-back charm/”charm”, and his arc of weird redemption and sacrifice was solidly entertaining.

He’s also just a really committed performer, finding ways to create loopy scenes with just about anyone. It was nice to see him show up for a little bit in Episode 8, but it was awesome to see him and Geiz get real weird about time travel rules in Episode 8.5.

Not a ton of substance in this one to talk about (there’s really nothing new here, information-wise), but it’s a really funny scene. Mostly thanks to Beast!