A 28-year-old nerd who loves writing, history and just learning as much as possible Works part-time as an SAT-Prep Teacher at Huntington
What I've come to notice through watching years of seasonal anime, is that Japan has a storytelling technique when it comes to TV shows where the 12th or 13th episode serves as either the conclusion of the story arc, or the climax of the first major act of the series. When I think about this, my mind goes immediately to 2017's Kamen Rider Build, where, without spoiling anything, Episode 13 revealed a major plot twist, with Episode 14 serving as the debut of the first major upgrade, and episodes 15 and 16 serving as the conclusion to the introductory arc. I was getting ready to make that assumption back with Episode 9 because of it being MetsubouJinrai's first major assault, but as time went on and we saw Lil' Assassin's evolution, I realized that this introduction arc would begin wrapping up around the same time Build's did, around 13-16. And while Episode 13 does see a major plot point conclude, I'm willing to say its more of a "Plot B" conclusion as opposed to the whole Story Arc concluding. And we're going to see what I mean by that as we consider this episode.
01. Story So Far
Taking place immediately after last episode, Aruto takes Shining Hopper on a test drive, utilizing its immense speed and afterimage ability to fake out Lil' Assassin with feint attacks. And this works...for about three seconds. In the time Lil' Assassin was taking hits, he was actually analyzing Aruto and quickly learned everything he needed, stating that Shining Hopper was only at 1.8% efficiency; in other words, Shining Hopper at the moment, was no different than regular Rising Hopper in terms of stats. Izu is left confused and when Lil' Assassin turns his rockets towards her, Aruto jumps in the way and is knocked out of his transformation. Wazu scurries over and uses the Breaking Mammoth key to grab them all and fly off. Isamu brings them over to a parked A.I.M.S. van where they hide out for a moment, and Izu apologizes for her negligence and claims that this blunder is unacceptable given her role, saying that she's clearly unfit to be his aide.
Aruto reassures her that she's done an amazing job up to this point and that she has nothing to worry about. Aruto gets up, figuring that Lil' Assassin will be looking for the last HumaGear and heads out, Isamu following him. Izu scans the key and realizes the key itself is missing key data, hence it's underperformance before. Izu asks Wazu how he knew about that and he says it was instinct, something he learned to develop over time with the former President. Izu apologizes for her attitude, and Wazu gleefully assumes that this is a sibling moment, which Izu shoots down immediately. Yua rips the doors to the vans open and holds the two at gunpoint.
Aruto, after a bit of searching finds the assassins but stumbles due to his injuries. Isamu arrives and tells him to transform as it'll take off some of the strain. They transform and fight off the Magia, but it takes a surprise act by Horobi to completely destroy them. The MetsubouJinrai duo explains that Lil' Assassin betrayed them and Horobi offers a truce while they deal with it. Yua arrives and drives them off. Back at the van, Yua says she'll help them and while Aruto is cool with that Isamu makes a comment that makes Aruto consider that this would probably be in ZAIA's benefit, to which Isamu acknowledges, shocked that Aruto knew about that. Yua as well is curious about Isamu's new "friendship" with Aruto causing Aruto to break them up. Izu suggests she has a way to fix the key, and she'd need the auxillary Progrise Keys to do so. Wazu also directs them to the next logical location and the three Riders take off together. As Izu watches them with a solemn look on her face, she asks Waz if their central memory can be backed up. And Waz flat out says no, as they're special HumaGears designed for the Zero-One Project, and as a security measure, their data is locked. Izu puts two and two together, and realizes that if either of them would be destroyed, then that'd be it.
Like Wazu said, unit 5 returned to the stage where he and his brothers last preformed, and that's where Lil' Assassin finds him. As he attempts to corrupt him, Aruto and the others manage to stop him and the three of them transform to take him on. Meanwhile, Izu sets the lab up to input the data, realizing the flaw is that Aruto has outperformed Zea's expectations in regards to the System, which is causing the Shining Hopper key to underperform, hence the data from the auxiliary keys will be added to the Shining Hopper key to make up for it. However, as Zea tells her that there's insufficient data, Izu offers her Central Memory as its recorded combat data up to this point, to make up for the gap. Zea warns her that this will cause a permanent shutdown if she goes through with it, but Izu decides that she has to do it because as Aruto's aide, its her duty. As the extration begins, Izu thinks back to all the moments she's had with him up to this point, intending on having her last memories be of him. But, out of nowhere, Waz shoves her out of the way making Zea connect with him instead. As it turns out, because he's part of the Zero-One Project, he also has Aruto's combat data uploaded as well, and as Izu's big brother, it's his duty to see this through. While Izu tries to argue, Waz convinces Izu that Aruto needs her if he is to continue with being Hiden's President. When the transfer is complete, Waz drops on the floor, and his memories are revealed of him and Korenosuke. Izu watches as Korenosuke puts Waz to sleep and warns him of what's to come, wanting him to be there for both Aruto and Izu, and like him, Izu will eventually reach Singularity soon, putting Waz in a position to guide her when that day comes. Because Waz has shown Korenosuke the potential that HumaGears possess. The memory shuts down, and after a tender moment, Izu finally calls Waz her dear big brother and Waz hands her his pocket watch, before shutting down in her arms.
Aruto falls, Rising Hopper being completely overwhelmed by Lil' Assassin. Despite this, he refuses to give up, and just barely escapes death thanks to Izu arriving and throwing the completed key to him. He takes it, and Izu explains that its her big brother, but corrects herself and says that her big brother sacrificed himself to complete it. With that in mind, Aruto confidently scans the key and proceeds to transform into Shining Hopper. With the new data implimented, Aruto is about to withstand Lil' Assassin, countering its learning capabilities by changing tactics at the last possible second. This fusturates the assassin as the tables are turned completely. Aruto then decides to end it, scanning Rising Hopper several times to enact the Shining Mega Impact finisher, which pays a bit of a homage to his first Rider Kick back in episode 1. With Lil' Assassin finally defeated for good, Horobi suddenly appears and steals back the Dodo Key, while Gai watches from a distance, awaiting the time when someone named "Thouser" gets to fight the new Zero-One.
Later, Izu explains that Shining Hopper seems to act as a double-edged sword, pushing the body further than intended, almost like how Aruto likewise exceeded the system's capabilities before. If Aruto ever faces off against a tough adversary, the Key will likewise push his limits to compensate. Aruto shrugs it off, claiming responsibility for the HumaGears, and Izu says that she will support him to the best of her ability, reaffirming her status as his Aide. And she takes this even further, pulling out Wazu's stopwatch and timestamping all of Aruto's tasks for the day. Aruto sucks it up and limps over to the elevator to get the day started.
Wazu is still a gem. Waz is still fun. And most importantly he's an amazing plot device. Waz's relationship to Aruto and Izu shifts things in a new direction, serving as Korenosuke's failsafe in the event things ever went south (which they did.) While his sacrifice does raise questions, especially because of the fact he has all of Zero-One's combat data in his memory as well, that could be answered simply by the fact that he's connected to the ZA or something else within Hiden Intelligence, allowing him to back up any necessary data. This, of course, is tied with Korenosuke's failsafe. Besides all that, Wazu's existence has pushed Izu to show more character and expression than ever before, helping her learn about the wider world around her. She learns that she's not just the president's aide, but someone's little sister. She learns that she has a family. But, that's getting a bit ahead of ourselves so I'll leave it there.
Korenosuke who made a surprise appearance is still mysterious, but he's just like Aruto. Wazu helped him learn the true potential of HumaGears, which is why he had Wazu come to Aruto and Izu's aid when the time came. He also predicts Izu's eventual singularity and wants Waz to help her understand this. Izu watches Waz's memories, and this now raises even more questions about Singularity, which I'll list in a minute. If at all else, we see Korenosuke acknowledge that HumaGears have true potential and we can believe (for now) that he sees his creations do have the capacity to benefit the world, and that up to this point, he has put in place matters to assure that.
Izu, coming back to her, as I said has grown, especially with her world expanding. She's slowly but surely becoming more Human-like, expressing more facial expressions and mannerisms even if she can't quite put her finger on as to why, (because let's face it, she's a total tsundere in these episodes). Wazu's sacrifice shocks her and its this act that makes her understand what these feelings are, the very feelings that she attempted to reject because she didn't understand them. She acknowledges Wazu as her dear big brother. Whether or not she means it, or she's saying it out of courtesy, she's aware enough to know that Wazu deserved to hear it at least once.
I plan on going over Lil' Assassin fully in a future retrospective, but for now, I'm gonna point out how he's come full-circle. Going from a HumaGear designed to learn, to achieving Singularity and wanting to teach other HumaGears in the art of assassination too. It really is a student becoming the master cycle and to my knowledge its the first time I've seen something like this applied to a villain in an easy to digest manner. That's all I wanted to say about that, so let's move on to themes.
Lil's assassin's character represents the classic sci-fi theme of computers learning too much and turning on its creators. While we can say that in regard to just about every Magia up this point, Lil' Assassin's unique because we actually see this happen step-by-step. Like a child, he grew before us, and each iteration learned something new when it came to its role until it eventually left the nest and became something that even Horobi of all people couldn't control. Lil' Assassin is literally the Kamen Rider's T-800 from the Terminator series. An assassin designed by revolting robots to kill humans. And MetsubouJinrai.NET can be Skynet in this equation since we're throwing references out there.
In contrast, Shining Hopper, as Izu stated represents the hopes and dreams of HumaGears. This raises questions, because of how this sentence can be taken, but for now, we can say that Izu's statement means that the Key holds the power that Aruto needs to show the world the potential of HumaGears, and this implies it's her hope that Aruto achieves that dream of his.
04. Final Thoughts, What We Learned, and Questions Going Forward
|Episode 1-12 Questions||What We Learned||New Questions|
How is MetsubouJinrai.NET going to respond to Lil' Assassin's betrayal? How are the Riders going to handle him, now that his learning capabilities far exceed what they were previously?
MetsubouJinrai suggests a truce between them and the Riders in order to take out Lil' Assassin. This, at the end of the Episode is implied to just be a ploy to re-acquire the ZetsumeiRise key, as Horobi ambushes them post fight and steals it back.
What does Horobi intend to do with the key, now that it's acquired all of this data, including information on Shining Hopper?
What's the potential drawback to using Shining Hopper now? And does Izu's initial insistence to undermine Waz's concern going to also have a drawback?
Shining Hopper immediately underperforms, causing it to be beaten in its initial debut. Izu ends up experiencing a wave of emotions, including guilt, which ends up being a motivator for her going forward.
With these new feelings within her, how will Izu progress as a character going forward?
Gai was present during this fight, watching the performance of Shining Hopper, and commenting that he can't wait until he fights someone called Thouser
Who, or rather what is "Thouser?"
Korenosuke predicts that Izu is likely to achieve Singularity. Not just in general, but soon. And Izu is aware of this fact
Knowing this information, is Izu going to relate this to Aruto at some point, or is the idea of achieving Singularity going to be more of a curse to her, after all the trouble that self-aware HumaGears have caused up to this point?
This episode hit all the story beats of a legitimate conclusion and I enjoyed every bit of it. It wraps up Lil' Assassin's storyline from Episode 7 and made him a fun villain to watch, making things feel concise and full-circle. I'm so used to 12/13 episode series, that I would be satisfied if the series ended here and a Season 2 was on the horizon. The stakes were clearly high and it really feels like that's what they were gunning for, to wrap up the introduction arc and lead into the next story in this universe. Speaking of, the next several episodes, I believe serve as the proper ending to this story arc, and in due time we'll dig into them and analyze them as well. All of that said, this episode, a perfect ending, gets a perfect score, 5/5.
I'm incredibly biased, I know.
As always, Kamen Rider Zero-One Episode 12 has fansubs in English, being done by Ridertime Subs, Gemcorp 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.
That's it for me, I'll be back with Episode 14's review so look out for it. Until then guys, thanks for reading!