Here on Toku Toy Store, I recently recapped all of Machine Sentai Kiramager in anticipation of its return as part of the Super Hero Time broadcasting slot, giving a ‘sparkling’ summary and brief thoughts on the show. In light of the recent ‘presidential’ recap specials and the imminent return of the show, it only makes sense to revisit the currently airing Kamen Rider show in a similar way! So here’s an arc-by-arc look at Kamen Rider Zero-One so far, which approaches its endgame when it returns this weekend!
The Metsuboujinrai.net Arc
The story in Zero-One begins with a lot of information right out of the gate. Zero-One takes place in a world where A.I. is a predominant technological force, where ‘Humagears’ – synthetic human androids – produced by the A.I Company Hiden Intelligence, have integrated into a variety of working roles throughout society. We are introduced to our lead character, Aruto Hiden, who is struggling to entertain crowds as an amateur comedian. We see him fail to win the favour of a crowd against a Humagear comedian who gets a lot of laughs, much to his disappointment. The Humagear comedian replaces Aruto’s job, but Aruto isn’t down on his luck for very long, as he’s soon approached by Izu, Hiden Intelligence’s presidential secretary, who informs Aruto of his grandfather Korenosuke Hiden’s demise and invites him to attend his will reading at the Hiden Intelligence corporation. Much to the shock of everyone at Hiden Intelligence, the will states that Aruto is the new company president! Not only that, but the position of president also shoulders him with the responsibility of defending the world from rogue Humagears using the ‘Zero-One Driver’ – a belt that transforms him into a Kamen Rider using advanced satellite technology!
We’re also introduced to our secondary characters within this first episode – A.I.M.S agents Isamu Fuwa and Yua Yaiba. A.I.M.S are typically dispatched to deal with Humagear threats. Fuwa is hot-headed whilst Yua has a bit more of a calculating temperament. They make a pretty fun duo to begin with.
After learning that the Humagear comedian at Aruto’s former workplace has gone rogue after being hacked by a shadowy figure, Aruto returns to enact justice. Activating the Zero-One driver gives Aruto an advanced tutorial on the suit’s systems, and he is able to quickly stop the threat of the rogue humagear. He accepts his new role as both president of Hiden Intelligence and a Kamen Rider, and resolves to achieve his dream of ‘making the world laugh’ through this new vocation. What a nice dream to have.
Much of the Metsuboujinrai arc can be characterised by Aruto juggling the responsibilities of being president of Hiden Intelligence with his responsibilities as a ‘Kamen Rider’. A variety of episodes show Aruto taking a hands-on approach to the presidency, delivering new Humagear units to businesses that could use them. Aruto believes steadfastly in the ability of Humagears to express humanity despite not being human. This is shown pretty effectively in episode 3, which has Aruto bring a Humagear to an acclaimed sushi chef Uozomi, who dismisses the possibility of buying a Humagear assistant chef, citing the Humagear’s lack of a ‘heart’ as a reason they can’t make quality sushi to his standards. Whilst the Humagear chef eventually finds acceptance with the master chef Uozomi after he is rebuilt from scratch, Aruto would advocate for his ability to make sushi as well as a human from the beginning.
Aruto’s attitude towards humagears seems to be because of a pivotal event in his childhood, which we see glimpses of throughout the show. Aruto was raised by a Humagear made in the image of his father, Soreo Hiden. Aruto’s humagear father was destroyed during a tragic event known as the ‘daybreak incident’, a large scale explosion that wiped out the ‘Humagear test city’ known as Daybreak Town. The show itself doesn’t do the best job of pointing it out, but I think it’s pretty interesting that characters express different perspectives on Humagears as a result of the daybreak incident, despite experiencing the event in only slightly different ways – Aruto and Fuwa both experience a form of trauma as a result of the daybreak incident, but develop very opposite perspectives on Humagears as a result.
The core of this first arc, however, involves a lot of encounters with our first antagonist group, Metsuboujinrai.net, an organisation that believes in the inherent evil of humanity and the desire to ‘liberate’ Humagears. Aruto’s initial confrontations with the group reveal two members: Horobi & Jin, who have a kind of familial relationship – Jin is childish and silly whilst Horobi is more stern and cryptic , and both make repeated reference to ‘the will of the ark’ which seems to guide their motivations. Throughout the first arc, we see Horobi & Jin attempt to ‘hijack’ Humagears on both a small and large scale, operating out of daybreak town – ground zero for the aforementioned ‘daybreak incident’, where a rogue satellite known as Ark, lies dormant. In addition, several other members of Metsuoboujinrai.net are working covertly to upend Hiden Intelligence and Humagear society as a whole to carry out ‘the will of the Ark’. It’s eventually explained that the ‘Ark’ is the antithesis to Hiden intelligence’s own satellite Zea, which was taught the value of humanity, whilst the Ark learned about the evils of humanity.
At most points, Aruto, Fuwa and Yua are able to subvert the plans of Metsouboujinrai.net, but rarely as a cohesive unit, and often at the cost of Hiden Intelligence’s reputation, which takes plenty of knocks from the repeated hacking of Humagears (This will be important later on!).
The A.I.M.S operative Fuwa also goes through a number of changes throughout this arc, initially presented as our secondary rider. Whilst Aruto must learn to wield his new powers responsibly, Fuwa is on a journey of learning to reject responsibility and authority in favour of doing what (he believes) is right, routinely ignoring the constraints of his position to take aggressive action. This is externalised by his transformation sequence, which initially shows him breaking open the wolf Progrise Key with sheer aggression to activate his ‘Shotriser’ which he is not authorised to use. Fuwa’s aggression is frequently targeted against Humagears, whom he despises due to a personal trauma from the daybreak incident, something he blames solely on Humagears. Fuwa is forced to confront his internal bias against Humagears several time, but most critically when he is severely injured during a massive Humagear hacking inciden at a hospital, and the only doctor who can give him life-saving surgery is a Humagear. Having his life saved by a Humagear begins to change his perspective, chipping away just a bit at the intense hatred he holds.
After many skirmishes with Metsuboujinrai.net and their corrupted Humagears, including the decisive defeat of other members of Metsuboujinrai.net such as the astronaut engineer Izakuchi, this arc draws to a close with a dramatic set of ‘final’ encounters against Horobi and Jin using the Shining Hopper upgrade to Zero-One’s basic form, and then soon after, Shining Assault Hopper, which is synthesised by combining Fuwa’s Assault Wolf key with Aruto’s Shining Hopper key, granting Zero one a new form that allows them to strike the decisive blows to Jin and metsuboujinrai.net. Jin is ‘destroyed’, and Horobi is taken into A.I.M.S custody, bringing an end to the threat of Metsuboujinrai.net… for now.
The Workplace Competition Arc
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where Zero-One transitions into its second arc, but soon after the threat of Metsuboujinrai appears to be quelled, Gai Amatsu, CEO of ZAIA Japan, begins to appear to the audience as an emerging new villain. It’s revealed that Yua Yaiba has an allegiance to ZAIA Japan rather than A.I.M.S, and is an assistant to Gai, who appears to have been manipulating the events of the first arc to meet his own needs. Preying on the fact that Humagears are still being corrupted despite the supposed resolution to the threat of Mesuboujinrai.net in order to suggest that Hiden Intelligence has failed to protect civilisation from the natural threat of the Humagears. This is declared in a public press conference, followed up with the assertion that ZAIA Japan intends to acquire Hiden Intelligence in order to stop production of Humagears and invest into A.I. enhanced ‘ZAIA Spec’ glasses. Aruto attempts to defend his company, so Gai suggests in order to settle the issue, they have a multi-part competition to determine the fate of Hiden Intelligence.
The first challenge of the competition takes the form of a floristry contest, where the two competitors of each company’s choosing get judged on who can create the most pleasing arrangement by a panel of experts. Aruto chooses the Humagear florist Sakuyo Ichirin, whilst Gai chooses human florist Rentaro Tachibana (enhanced with ZAIA Spec). The competition appears to end in a swift defeat for Hiden when the judges prefer Rentaro’s arrangement, but it becomes clear pretty quickly that Sakuyo’s arrangement was tampered with, an act of cheating that Gai won’t stand for as a victory, which does a great job of highlighting his personal pride, and sets the tone for the rest of the competitions.
The introduction of Gai also sees the introduction of Thouser, who has a strange but eccentric suit which is activated by his ‘thousandriver’, which utilises advanced keys of 5 horned creatures to create an immensely powerful Kamen Rider suit, which both Aruto and Fuwa struggle to defeat. The workplace competition arc features many battles with Thouser, many of which end the same way (Aruto getting owned) until Aruto is forced into and eventually able to control an immensely powerful brand new form – Metal Cluster Hopper.
Several more challenges in the competition come to pass, including a real estate challenge to see if Humagars or humans are better at selling houses, a legal trial to see if a Humagear is capable of providing a sufficient legal defence, and a firefighting challenge to see if Humagears can save lives. By the end of the challenges, Aruto and Gai are on two points each, leaving the final round to decide a winner.
The final challenge of the job competition involves allowing the public to decide on if a new ‘humagear’ city should be built atop the ruins of Daybreak Town – a memorial that can also act as a place where humans and Humagear can live in harmony. Aruto puts together an ‘impressive’ campaign with the help of M.C. Check-it-Out, who writes a song to attempt to garner support, whilst Gai runs a more deceptive campaign focused on discrediting Aruto, Hiden Intelligence and appealing to the masses by promising the public distribution of the ‘raidriser’ belt as means of defense against rogue Humagears. Gai really has become entwined with a bitter corporate greed.
The end of this arc also shows us the debut of Yua’s new ‘raidriser’ Jackal form, which looks highly intimidating with a scythe weapon and a harsh red visor. We’re also introduced to the idea that both Fuwa are Yua are being indirectly controlled by an A.I. Chip which Gai has been using to manipulate their actions to a substantial degree using the intermediary Humagear Naki, a member of Metsuboujinrai.net. Horobi is freed from A.I.M.S custody by Fuwa under the influence of Naki, which is a pretty big deal, given that he was the one meant to be keeping him in custody. Oops.
Fuwa isn’t bothered by this for too long, however, as he is such an emotionally charged figure that he can just kind of, ‘force-of-will’ his way out of his brainwashing/programming situation, impressively synthesising a new suit upgrade in the form of Rampage Vulcan using the Rampage Gatling Vulcan progrise key.
Getting back to the point of this arc, though (and the ‘point’ of this arc certainly is quite ambiguous in the show itself at times) Gai wins the vote, and as a result the whole job competition, allowing him to acquire Hiden Intelligence. The company is made a subsidiary of ZAIA Japan, decomissions production of new Humagears and literally begins replacing existing ones with ZAIA Spec glasses. If Aruto and Gai are playing chess, then at this stage, Gai holds all of the pieces.
Hiden Manufacturing Arc
That is until Aruto steals some of the pieces back. Firstly in the form of the data of all of the essential Humagear characters we’ve come to know and love from previous episodes, and secondly in the form of keeping the ability to transform into Zero-One, regardless of Gai’s misguided assumption that this power would now be transferred to him as the new president of Hiden Intelligence.
We’re only a few episodes into the Hiden Manufacturing Arc so far as this is pretty much where we left off before the hiatus – but it seems that Kamen Rider Zero-One is issuing all the threads that the show will be continuing to follow until the end. Jin is back in a new, more cynical form, Aruto has left Hiden Intelligence to start his own company, Hiden Manufacturing, and Horobi is up to his old tricks. While Gai has complete control over Hiden intelligence, Aruto sets out to continue to aid the Humagears by restoring Humagear characters from previous episodes using the backup data he was able to retrieve. Gai continues to attempt to thwart Aruto’s efforts.
A few pretty interesting things have happened so far in this arc, including the reveal of Fuwa’s tragic memories as a fabrication by Gai, which calls all of Fuwa’s previously established backstory into question, but also allows him to realise the truth behind the Humagear Naki that is controlling him and create further independence for both himself and Naki. Yua’s also had a big character moment in her active rebellion against Gai, (finally) choosing to leave ZAIA Japan and vowing to destroy it in a dramatic reconciliation. The remaining members of Metsuboujinrai.net are similarly aiming their sights against Gai, as a reformed Jin seems to be beginning to understand the way in which Aruto values the Humagears, mutually acknowledging the need for Humagears to have a dream.
That’s pretty much everything that’s happened in Zero-One so far! The stage is set for Gai to have a pretty bad time in the final stretch of episodes, but there are still things to uncover as the recap episodes have shown the first glimpses at another mysterious villain. I’ve mostly enjoyed the show so far, and whilst I do have some criticisms with how it’s been paced during the middle stretch and how some of the characters have been handled, the show appears to be course correcting for something that looks quite satisfying in the end. I’m looking forward to its return!
Have you been enjoying Kamen Rider Zero-One? Where do you think the story goes from here? Sound off on our social media pages or drop us a comment below!