Kamen Rider Zero-One Episode 16 Review: This Is the Dawn of Zaia
And so we come to the final battle! Disclaimer: between being sick twice, job-hunting and working on other side projects, this month-long 85% done article sat on the back burner longer than necessary, especially since I've been well backed up (series is currently up to Episode 20). At this point, I've just about given up on trying to keep up. At long as I'm consistent enough it shouldn't be too big of a deal, and besides if I actually take time to sit down and analyze each episode and not rush through them in an effort to be on par with what's going on, the articles can be more informative.
But that's enough of that, Episode 16 is relatively the cut-off point for the opening story Arc of a Kamen Rider series in recent years. I personally want to say this trend started back in Kamen Rider Build and was present in Kamen Rider Zi-O as well, Ex-Aid did it with Episode 13's infamous "Christmas Episode" and Gaim did it at Episode 11. Basically Kamen Rider takes a week off for New Years and series use it to wrap up the initial story arc in their series, using the second story arc shift tones, introduce new characters, deepen the plot and obviously, debut new Riders, be it secondary, tertiary and so on, as well as designating them as an anti-hero, anti-villain, secondary hero, story arc big bad, whatever pushes the story arc really. But, naturally, before we get into any of that we need to wrap up this arc, don't we? So let's jump right into it, with Episode 16.
01. Story So FarClick thumbnail to view full-size
The episode opens up with Izu interacting with Zea’s Mainframe as she’s being repaired. She asks the Satellite to help her understand what happened to her, and she views footage of Jin stabbing her. She then asks the Satellite what she missed and Zea reveals Aruto transforming into the new Shining Assault Hopper form. Izu deduces that this is going to be the final battle against MetsubouJinrai and that Aruto might need further help to assure victory. Back on the ground, Yua and Isamu manage to watch from a distance as Jin is being pushed back by Aruto’s new form. Yua asks how Aruto is able to use the grip and realizes that the Zea satellite is responsible, seemingly predicting that something like this was going to happen. Also, this scene implies that Isamu becomes aware of it, although ironically back in Ep 14, not only did he hear the explanation, but he was butting heads with the very HumaGear made to maintain it. In retrospect, this could just be that he knew that the Satellite maintained the HumaGears, but didn’t realize just how it's able to do so, to which Yua explains that Zea is Hiden Intelligence’s highly advanced AI cortex.
Aruto continues to push Jin back until Jin summons a pair of Gigers to distract Aruto long enough to load Horobi’s Progrise Key into his AttacheShotgun and unleashing the Sting Dispatch Shot finisher on Aruto. Blown back and knocked down, the Gigers surround him. But at that moment, Aruto is also beamed into Satellite Zea, where Izu appears, noticeably without a hole in her stomach this time. She walks Aruto through the Shine System, an optimized support system built within the Shining Assault Hopper form (AKA the moment’s Deus Ex Machina). Aruto makes a joke and he and Izu do the catchphrase. Aruto pinky promises Izu that he’s gonna win the fight and wants her to promise to get better, and with a smile, Izu pinky promises to do just that.
Aruto activates the system and it completely tilts the fight in Aruto’s favor. The System makes little to no work of the Gigers, and a frustrated Jin launches himself into Aruto, only to be completely pushed back and decimated in the process. Jin, regardless of this massive beatdown still stands, adamant to destroy Humanity. When Aruto asks why Jin wants to so badly, he answers that he’s just doing what Horobi taught him. He doesn’t know what Humanity has done wrong to warrant destruction. Aruto relaxes, realizing that Jin is doing this because he doesn’t know better. He even goes to admit that if Jin’s learning was anything else, then they wouldn’t have to fight. This causes Aruto to admit to Jin that he wishes for the day when they can co-exist. Jin rejects such a notion and activates his Flying Utopia finisher, causing Aruto to respond justly with his Shining Storm Impact finisher. The two collide, and as pink feathers scatter and fall to the ground, Jin’s forced out of his transformation and drops to his knees, scarred and bloodied. With one last statement for humanity’s destruction per the Ark’s will, he reaches skyward and shuts down. And with his body igniting, it marks the end of the war with MetsubouJinrai.NET…
Or is it? For we see, back in the base, the Ark in response to Jin’s destruction constructs two new keys. And Gai walks in to collect them, saying that now things will move at 1000% pace.
In a sort of epilogue, later that morning, Izu finally wakes up, with Aruto being the first thing she sees. She gives herself a “mobility test” which is a quick dance and curtsey, and the pair warmly greet one another. Izu thanks Aruto for repairing her, and Aruto thanks Izu for being supportive up until this point. But this happy ending takes a sudden shift when Aruto tells Izu about the emergency board meeting that’s about to happen. Shesta leads the vote in this, but it’s a quick vote as Fukuzoe is the only one who raises his hand. He tries to play it off as him scratching the back of his head but Sheesta gets on his case for doing so. Yamashita quickly turns coats and praises Aruto for one-manning the terrorist threat and even calls him a hero, earning applause by the board members. He even gets Fukuzoe to praise Aruto to save face. The move is rejected, and Izu smiles as a result.
Back at A.I.M.S. Yua watches a news report of the events and with the takedown of MetsubouJinrai, Hiden issued a statement claiming that HumaGears should no longer have any reasons to go berserk. Isamu enters the room, acknowledging the news that Yua is heading back to ZAIA now that her work here is done. She makes a joke about how she doesn’t have to babysit Isamu anymore, and the latter asks about Horobi, who Yua was messing with after they brought him in, as he lays not only repaired but in a straight jacket. Yua tells him that it's up to him what they do with it, and Isamu ends up reflecting on all the fighting he’s done. Being so hellbent towards MetsubouJinrai only to see that at the end of it all was just heaps of metal and parts. Yua doesn’t answer and just leaves him staring at Horobi.
Aruto and Izu go to a shopping center as it’s the height of the Christmas season and after Izu notices the smiling faces all around, Aruto is motivated to have Humans and HumaGears smiling together all the time, with the pair smiling at the thought. In contrast, Yua reports to Gai about the fact that HumaGears should be fine going forward now that MetsubouJinrai isn’t around to hack them any longer. Gai however disagrees and drops a bombshell through this: He created the Ark 12 years ago. When creating it, he taught it criminal psychology as well as Human’s lust for war, which caused the Ark to develop hatred for Humanity. It created MetsubouJinrai as a result. And being that its alive, as long as HumaGears exists, MetsubouJinrai will continue to live on. And on top of all of that, through ZAIA, Gai wants to capitalize on this fact and push the usage of ZAIA’s Technology, until the world is under his control. Yua quickly realizes that Hiden, MetsubouJinrai, and A.I.M.S. were nothing put pawns on Gai’s chessboard this whole time. Gai, however, explains to Yua that the real battle is only beginning and that he’s hoping that she’ll continue to be his right hand, which she reluctantly agrees to.
Both the Berotha and Dodo Magia attack civilians in the area, both not wearing ZetsumeiRisers (something that both Aruto and Isamu don’t notice.) and the two arrive on the scene to transform. Isamu takes his Grip back, and they transform into Shining Hopper and Assault Wolf to combat them. They make relatively quick work of them, Isamu finishing off the Dodo Magia with his Magnetic Shine Blast finisher, and Aruto with the Buster Dust finisher via Freezing Bear Key. Isamu can’t help but feel off about this situation and Aruto too, especially afterward when he’s forced to hold a press conference after the statement made earlier. Not knowing how to explain just what set off the Magia attacks, he eventually blurts out an answer about improving the security of the HumaGears, which is shot down by the sudden appearance of Gai of all people. He puts Aruto on the spot and in front of reporters deliberately highlights Hiden’s follies and poses a solution: A TOB. Fukuzoe and Yamashita naturally jump out of their seats, but Aruto runs to the HumaGear pair off to the side to quickly give him the SparkNotes version of it. Take-Over-Bids, are when a company buys enough stock to overtake current management; IRL, its like Disney buying out Marvel Studios and Lucasfilms. (ZAIA=Disney). Gai’s goal is to absorb Hiden Intelligence into its infrastructure, which if we remember is what he proposed to Aruto back in Episode 11. And with the statement “we shall see which president is fit to lead humanity” this sets the tone of what this upcoming story arc is going to be. And with that, the episode closes out with Horobi waking up, leading to untold possibilities in the narrative, as well as Gai pulling out a mysterious Driver and claiming that this is the beginning of his new Era…
02. CharactersClick thumbnail to view full-size
Aruto and Izu in this episode end up reflecting on how they’ve benefited one another and Aruto’s statement about them being like family is only emphasized by their interactions with one another. Izu because she indicates that Aruto went through all the trouble to repair her, despite the fact he could’ve easily replaced her. Aruto likewise is grateful for Izu for pushing him throughout these episodes to become a remarkable President as per the board members. Back in Episode 1, he didn’t want anything to do with this, but it was thanks to her that he grew up, in a kind of way. The two in this first story arc have grown into close friends and they’re practically attached. Izu also has been smiling quite a bit, and the camera sometimes focuses on her for a second longer to make the audience aware of this. I’ll look more into this on the theme section as I think this carries the theme of this whole first arc, as well as something I mentioned back in my OP analysis way back when.
Yua and Isamu also have their bittersweet break up, with Yua being called back to ZAIA, now that her work with A.I.M.S. is effectively over with for the time being. Isamu gets a moment to reflect and possibly think about how much his anger has carried him to a moment where it ends up just being anti-climactic. He defeated Horobi, the leader of MetsubouJinrai, yet his victory seems sort of robbed when in retrospect all it amounted to was a busted machine. Years of PTSD and anger and Horobi’s “lifeless” body is all it amounted to. Yua, in contrast, has her world shaken by the bombshell that ZAIA, the company that she’s affiliated with were the masterminds behind everything. And the shock on her face when she pieces together the several times that they all nearly died because of it. The puppet master was in her face the entire time and she didn’t pick up on it once. And now that she realizes this, she also realizes that she’s trapped in this Spider’s web. Both characters have their world’s shaken, with Isamu contemplating his overestimation of the situation overall, and Yua’s underestimation of everything that’s happened, and what’s about to happen.
That being said, Gai being the cynical, hammy puppet master that he is, is brimming with overconfidence. He had everyone running in circles and that being said, it brings quite a question to light, those of which I’ll cover in a moment.
I covered Jin quite a bit in the last review so I’ll keep it brief. His Arc pauses now, as Jin’s a character that has more of a story to tell. Aruto asks Jin why he’s doing this and he admits that he doesn’t know. Like I said before, Jin is blindly following like an immature child. After losing Horobi, he’s only going off of what he knows. He’s a lost child, clinging on to the only thing that he knows. He explained to Isamu and Yua about why he’s attacking, putting up a strong, threatening front, but then admits to Aruto that he doesn’t understand why and that Horobi taught him. This is because Jin leaves himself vulnerable to Aruto. Aruto is the only human Jin as encountered one-on-one that shows how much he’s willing to fight for HumaGears and the only human who keeps berating him for doing the opposite of what he claims to do.
This leaves Jin confused because the more he learns and studies about Humans, the more it contradicts what Horobi and the Ark push onto him. When Aruto tells him that if things were different then they wouldn’t have to fight, Jin panics and unleashes his Finisher to shut Aruto up. Jin refuses to accept that Aruto is right and wants his voice to leave him be. When Jin finally begins to shut down, he utters that he doing the will of the Ark, but reaches skyward. In his head, he pledges to the Ark, but in his heart, he wants to be free from the confusion.
And for the time being, he can be…
03. ThemesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Looking over my OP Analysis, I said way back in September 2019, that each of the five riders represented an ideology. Aruto for Optimism, Isamu for Pessimism, Yua for Realism, Horobi for Idealism, and Jin for Sadism.
Isamu’s pessimistic outlook for HumaGears due to his PTSD, influenced racist tendencies in his heart as well as a reckless streak, which were thrown about when he was saved by a HumaGear Doctor after nearly getting himself killed when he followed Wazu and Izu and had to admit that Wazu was good at his job and the realization that Horobi’s broken body was in reality just a machine. Wires and gears. This scene when he asks himself what he was fighting all this time, I’d argue is him asking himself whether or not it was worth the stressing and anger, had he’d known things were going to end up like this?
Yua’s realism was that she believed that she was playing everyone. And up until we knew more about ZAIA and their existence, we knew she had ulterior motives and her views of technology, established in Episode 3, was that tools have a specific job and are designed like that and nothing more. And realistically that is true. So imagine the scene where Gai drops the bomb on her that she was being used as a tool all this time for his benefit. And it cuts deeper because now that she’s self-aware of this, she can’t do anything about it. It’s so very ironic in retrospect.
Horobi’s idealism for a world ruled by HumaGears goes from making him a threatening villain to nothing but a cult follower. His idealism comes from the fact that his perfect world is through the Ark’s influences. And this is even hinted at with the Forceriser’s 2nd finisher: “blank” Utopia. Everything is per the will of the Ark. Including sacrificing yourself to help Jin reach Singularity because your God wills it. No ifs ands or buts. In short, Horobi’s Idealism led to his downfall in the end.
Jin’s sadism, which we can figure out from his immaturity, his delight of creating Magia, and causing havoc wherever he goes, is shot down when he continues to learn about Humans. He learns what a parent is, causing him to for a moment, realize his mistake when corrupting Seine back in Episode 6. And Horobi realizing that Jin was leaning towards this way of thinking, apart from his idealistic goals mind you, made him have to corrupt Jin via Forceriser. Despite that later on Jin becomes increasingly emotional and childlike as time goes on, and as stated before, whenever Aruto calls him out on it, Jin clearly, by his reactions shows some sort of guilt. Jin’s Sadism grows increasingly weaker and weaker as he learns more and more about the Humans he’s told are a detriment to his existence.
And then we get Aruto’s Optimism. The one constant out of all five. Aruto’s Optimism correlates to his dream for a world where Humans and HumaGear can co-exist with one another. It's his motivating factor in accepting the presidency of Hiden Intelligence because he firmly believes that HumaGears can bring smiles to Humanity. And we see through the various people and HumaGears he has the opportunity to associate with, he’s doing just that. Even with the controversy of the HumaGears safety, he gets the full backing of the board members, who were summoned by Fukuzoe to have Aruto removed. Going into it, Aruto was optimistic about the situation, as whatever happened, happened. Thankfully, Aruto inadvertently gained a backing with the members. Despite the setbacks, Aruto put his life and the company’s reputation on the line time and again to assure that things would work out in the end. His terrible jokes help break tensions and keep himself smiling. And as I said before, comparing it to the OP Analysis, in the opening, Aruto is left lying in the wreckage of the carnage as he fights for his dream, and it’s Izu whose warm smile can get him up on his feet to continue to fight.
Of all of the ideologies, our main riders have, it's Aruto’s Optimism that is the only driving force that manages to stick it out while the rest of the riders have their worlds turned on their heads thanks to their own ideologies.
04. Final Thoughts, What We Learned, and Questions Going Forward
Episode 1-15 Questions
Potential Answers/What We Learned
New Questions Going Forward
Being that Amatsu is noticeably intriguied by percentages, why does he state that its only going to accelerate to 999% instead of a full 1000%? What is this missing 1%? (Episode 15)
It turns out that the 1% was Jin's death and Ark's response to the matter. The moment Jin was killed, the Ark created the two new keys which Gai arrives and retrieves.
With the two keys and the mysterious new Driver, what can we expect of Gai's presence in the story? What is Aruto expected to face given this new addition to the plot
Is it the Ark's will to create this mythology of the Kamen Riders, or is this a part of Gai's plans? (Episode 14)
ZAIA is responsible for the creation of the Ark and subsequently MetsubouJinrai.NET. Therefore its clear that the mythology is part of Gai's plans. To what extent, we have yet to see
What will ZAIA's endgame ultimately look like? What will this mythology end up resulting in?
Does the BS-Zea Satellite have the same functionality as the Ark? This raises questions of the relationship between the two and what they really are. Are they just satellites or is there an AI within each of them that act as parallels in terms of governing the HumaGears? Could it be that ZA and Ark are the original programs that opened the door for HumaGears themselves, sort of like deity-like figures? (Episode 9, continued from Episode 14)
Part 2 to the initial answer, not only was the Ark the initial satellite, but ZAIA was the ones who designed it, and Gai was the one who programmed it with knowledge of criminal psychology and human's lust for war, making it such a threat and what lead into the establishment of the series main antagonists. As for why it crashed that's still remains unknown. Thanks to Yua, just like Zea is Hiden's most advanced AI Cortex, we can justly assume that the Ark is likewise the same, only the polar opposite. This does in a way put a cybernetic deity spin on them in a way as well
What can we expect from both Zea and Ark as time goes on? Being two central figures in of themselves how their influences shape the overall narrative? And with that being said, can we say that Zea and the Ark are "truly" on opposite ends of the moral spectrum? or are they just neutral parties operating on what they were programmed to do, like "tools" (as Yua puts it)
How will this brief interaction affect Yua's judgement in regards to both sides? Her character development is showing her to be someone who is facing a conflict of interest, between her duty, doing the right thing, and doing what she also feels is necessary to receive justice. What is motivating her feelings towards Hiden Intelligence, and could her affiliation to ZAIA be related to the events of Daybreak? (Episode 12)
This answer will also be split as time goes on. Just briefly we can see with the new revelations, Yua in a way is relieved to be free from A.I.M.S. and back under ZAIA, but now that she realizes that ZAIA was the direct cause for all of the events prior, her will is shaken further. We still don't know why she's doing what she's doing, but we can see that her conflict of interests have gotten significantly more complicated
Korenosuke was highly specific in his will, almost the point of it being a prophecy. Would there be a chance that there is someone with Hiden Intelligence with connections to MetsubouJinrai.NET? Or did Korenosuke discover something that lead to his eventual death? Does this secret relate to the explosion Aruto experienced as a child? Or Isamu's comment about "History repeating itself?" (Episode 1, continued from Episode 4))
At first suspicions lied with the Daybreak Incident and Horobi's actions related to it, but wth Gai's ultimate bombshell, this becomes a potential Red Herring. We can at this point, see that things extended even further and that Korenosuke's initial warning in his will was in effect related to Gai and ZAIA Enterprise to some extent.
What is Hiden and ZAIA's relationship that Korenosuke highlighted such a specific forewarning of the near future? Did he know that the Ark's
And with that, we have a final epic conclusion that doesn't tie everything together per se, it does succeed in wrapping up things together in a neat bow, coming full circle in the first half, while setting the stage for the new story arc going forward, which with Gai's persona present and some key plot points introduced should prove to be fun and engagin going forward. Now with MetsubouJinrai's fall, what threat will ZAIA impose on Hiden, especially with the impending TOB? How will the new story arc play out with the War of the Presidents, as opposed to Man vs Technology? All of which serves as an exciting arc going forward. That said, this episode gets a 5/5, for its wrap-up, epic opening fight, and its revelations in the latter half.
As always, Kamen Rider Zero-One Episode 16 has fansubs in English, being done by Ridertime Subs, Over-Time Subs and TVNihon throughout the week of its airing (Between Sunday-Thursday depending on the group). Meanwhile, Kamen Rider Zero-One airs every Sunday at 9AM JST/ Saturday 7PM EST, so look out for those as well.
And that'll about do it. I heavily apologize for the extremely late review but with real life being a hinderance, there's not much you can do. Before jumping into Episode 17's review, next up will be a retrospective covering the series thus far and will take special focus on the story, themes and characters in an objective POV, and I'll also average the scores I've given (despite most of them being perfect, there were a couple of slow ones). This has been something I've wanted to do for a while, but as I said, IRL circumstances. So anway, thanks all for reading and I'll see you later with the retrospective!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Nolan Johnson