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
Presented by Zaia
The second story arc in Kamen Rider Zero-One is the infamous Job Competition arc. Infamous, in that, it's considered the weakest story arc in the series, theoretically because the pace of the series slows down in comparison to the non-stop action of the first arc. That, and because the central antagonist of this arc, ZAIA President Amatsu Gai, was considered one of the weakest villains of all. I however was in the minority, actually enjoying the arc as it is. So in this retrospective, we're going to once again, summarize episodes 17-29, look into the characters, the themes presented, and closing thoughts, as usual. With that said, let's jump right into things, shall we?
SPOILER ALERT FOR EPISODES 17-29 GOING FORWARD!
ZAIA Workplace Competition Saga: Episodes 17-29 Summarized
Shortly after the battle against MetsubouJinrai.Net, Humagears all of the sudden begin turning into Magia, prompting Hiden Intelligence to be in the spotlight once more. Unable to deal with the overwhelming press, Amatsu Gai, head of rival company ZAIA Enterprise, claims that he has a solution to rid the Humagear problem: a Take Over Bid. Aruto now faces the risk of losing his family legacy at the hands of ZAIA. However, Gai suggests a contest of sorts; A five-round Job competition between Hiden's Humagears, and ZAIA's new product ZAIA Specs, (which are basically Google Glass but more advanced). Gai's argument being that Humans are better off on their own abilities over the reliance of Humagears, whereas Aruto feels that Humagears are necessary to bring out the potential of humanity. This then turns into a competition involving: Flower Arranging, Real Estate, Court Trials, Firefighting, and Political Campaigning. Aruto and Izu also learn that Yaiba is supporting Gai, as her duty with A.I.M.S. is now over for the time being.
Meanwhile, with Horobi reactivated and in A.I.M.S. custody, Fuwa spends his time interrogating Horobi, in an attempt to figure out how and why he reactivated, which turns into Fuwa chasing a literal Ghost, to which Horobi refers to as Naki, the final member of MBJR. Said ghost is also approaching each of the human participants in these job competitions and presenting them with Raidrisers, a new pseudo-driver similar to Zetsumerisers which allows humans to transform using Progrise Keys stolen from ZAIA Enterprise. The Raiders, as they're called, serve as the new faction of MOTW, alongside Magia, who also continue to appear, via the Humagear participants of the competition.
Horobi explains to Fuwa that thanks to the Ark being reactivated, the Ark has gained the ability to detect negative singularity points, ie. the moment a Humagear achieves Singularity via negative experiences through Human malice. Rather than have their data corrupted though a Zetsumeriser, these Humagears react to the negativity induced on them by the Humans and willingly become Magia to retaliate. In the first instance this takes place, Aruto attempts to calm down the Humagear, only for Gai to appear before them and reveal the Thousandriver. With it, and the keys he obtained from the Ark, he transforms into Kamen Rider Thouser, stealing the power of Flying Falcon from Aruto and using it to destroy the Magia. Gai uses these moments to continually highlight the flaws that Humagears present, much to Aruto's irritation.
Fuwa and Aruto come together to explore the mysteries between the Raiders and Magia by confronting Horobi, who explains just what the Ark is and what its capable of. On top of that, when Gai appears with a Zetsumeriser and corrupts the lawyer Humagear during the 3rd competition in front of Aruto, not only does this reveal that Gai is cheating his way to victory (which at this point he won the first two rounds fairly and is just rubbing salt in the wound), he provokes the optimistic Aruto into a dark mindset, the latter giving in to his anger and frustration and wanting nothing more than to put Gai six feet under. Gai, using the Ark and stolen data from Aruto's progrise keys, creates Metal Cluster Hopper, a special Progrise key that connects Aruto to the Ark and feeds on his malice and violent intentions, causing him to become a mindless being of pure evil. It also locks the Zero-One Driver so that no other key will authorize, forcing him between a rock and a hard place: Use the key and go berserk, or let Gai cheat his way to victory. However, thanks to Izu and all of the Humagears that Aruto has helped in the episodes prior, they band together to create the Progrise Hopper Blade, a special weapon that rewrites the MCH's data so that it's compatible with Satellite Zea and free of the Ark's influences; the blade also can revert corrupted Magia, so they can return to normal instead of being destroyed.
By Episode 25, a new plot development appears in Professor Bot, an old-gen Humagear who reveals that he used to be part of the team that created the newer gen Humagears. We learn that Horobi was designed as a childcare Humagear before the Ark corrupted him and the other members of MBJR. We also learn that ZAIA was the company that lead the development of the Satellite and Gai, as we know, slipped in the negative data that made what we know today. Soreo Hiden, Aruto's Humagear father, was well underway developing the Rider System to counter the Ark, and with it, he prevented the launch and caused the ensuing daybreak incident. Eight years later, Zea was launched, and it would be another four before MBJR would make their move, and Aruto would take the mantle as president.
All of this information, however, was revealed to come from Jin, who was somehow rebuilt in a new Humagear body (sporting an earring in place of the regular headphones). Jin, discarding his child-like demeanor for a more mature calm demeanor, claims his goal is to liberate Humagears, not particularly taking sides with anyone. He reveals that he's the one who freed Horobi from A.I.M.S., and also hints that he knows about Fuwa's ghost problem, the latter of which sparks a fight between the two.
As the competition presses forward, everyone learns about Gai's true intentions, wanting to turn the Rider Systems into weapons for public use, a defense for berserk Humagears. Things escalate even further when the Panda Raider is revealed to be a ZAIA employee, who spills that ZAIA developed the Raidrisers, which everyone remarks how similar in design they are to the Shotrisers. Gai stands by his tactics and attempts to destroy any evidence of cheating when Jin appears to take Horobi's key back, stating that Humans are so corrupt MBJR doesn't have to be around for them to try and destroy each other. Jin takes back the key, hands it back to Horobi and disappears for the moment afterward. With the score tied, the last round involves selling the idea of Humagears to the public through a political campaign, but between Gai's manipulations and poor circumstances, Aruto loses the final round and thus the company to Gai.
Towards the end of the competition and the aftermath, Fuwa learns that he's the one who has been distributing the Raidrisers, via hacking. Yaiba reveals that they both have AI-based chips in their brains, which allow them to transform, and this realization causes Fuwa to nearly spiral in disbelief. It only gets worse when Fuwa learns that the AI in his brain is Naki, the 4th member of MBJR. Gai taunts him and Yaiba, saying they're his tools with Yaiba finding herself unsettled by the sound of that. Fuwa struggles himself with the realization, finding himself in an impasse between Horobi and Jin, the former following the Ark's will in keeping Fuwa alive, and Jin's desire to get Naki out of Fuwa's head. Fed up with it all, Fuwa decides on his own that he's not going to let anyone dictate how he lives and uses the Rampage Gatling Key to transform into Rampage Vulcan. He single-handedly beats Gai and Yaiba, who retreat for the time being.
With Hiden Intelligence in the hands of Gai, Aruto breaks off from his family legacy, but marches off with a look of determination, not giving up his dream for the sake of Humagears...
Aruto, being established officially as someone who's seemingly capable of running Hiden Intelligence, gets his first major obstacle, not by a terrorist organization, but from a rival company--and a powerful one at that. Aruto learns through Gai the dark side of the business world, where his optimistic outlook struggles to find a place. Aruto learns that honesty, relationships and passion are capable of being stomped out and kicked aside by lying, cheating and manipulation. At the same time though, ironically enough, Aruto learns through Gai, about the aspects of what makes a president realistically. In the Flower Arranging competition, Aruto learns the image of a company is fragile, as Gai is willing to take on legal action against his own competitor for cheating in the competition, and then in the Real Estate competition, Aruto learns there that profit ultimately matters more than the happiness of the employees. Lessons that strip away the "happy go-lucky" attitude he had up to this point and instead makes him realize that the business world is too corrupt for those aspects to have any weight to them. Even so, despite the fact that Gai's competitors are cheating, Aruto sticks by his morals and continues to compete fair and square.
But like anyone else, Aruto is human, and when he learns that Gai was responsible for the Ark and through it, everything up to this point, he lets his anger blind him, growing more intense the further Gai pushes him. This results in Metal Cluster Hopper. Aruto however is reminded that his actions ended up being as beneficial, as Gai's were as corrupt. All the Humagears that he's helped up to this point have developed faith in Aruto and see him as their pillar for a bright future for them and humanity. Aruto holds onto this and uses this as a motivator to become a better president, who doesn't worry about the corporate nuances, but more so on his dreams and his ambitions, wanting to do things his way. And even though, this loses Hiden Intelligence, he departs from his family's legacy with his head held high and eyes full of determination to start things over from zero.
While not hitting Singularity quite yet, Izu in this story arc tends to be more outspoken and independent, gaining with it an assortment of facial expressions, hilarious one-liners, and having her cuteness factor jump up to 11. Aruto even admits that he's influenced her personality more than he realized when she unexpectedly made a pun in Episode 17. With all that said though, she doesn't have any big personal moments as she did in the last arc, outside of supporting Aruto and the Humagears they interact with (going as far as to teach one of them to swear, to which she immediately regrets). What she does though, is in response to the corrupted Metal Cluster Hopper Key, is pioneer a grand scheme to sneak into the abandoned MBJR base, steal the data of the key itself, so that Zea could reformat it and develop a countermeasure to the negative effects, resulting in the Progrise Hopper Blade.
For Izu to do all of that for Aruto's sake shows her developing true affection for her president as well as how much faith she and the other Humagears have developed towards Aruto's selfless actions towards them up to the midway point of the series. Only time will tell will happen as things go forward.
Mister Big Bad himself, Gai is the main antagonist of this story arc and is basically a generic corrupt businessman. Specifically, as I stated in my "In Defense of Amatsu Gai: 'Zero-One Character Analysis" article I called him the "Obidiah Stane to Aruto's Tony Stark". Gai serves as the antithesis to Aruto's upbeat optimism, preaching instead unrealistic perfectionism by any means necessary. He is willing to lie cheat and steal to get what he wants, and that is to make ZAIA Enterprise the pinnacle tech company of the world. His product ZAIA Specs are Bluetooth devices designed to give a person the capability to process information like an AI, pushing the idea that Humagears are not necessary to bring out Humanity's full potential. He's not against AI, like Fuwa, but he views them like Yaiba--as tools that are meant to be just that.
As we learn more about his role in the grand scheme of things, we learn that he plans to weaponize Kamen Riders as a military weapon (like every other sci-fi antagonist in Kamen Rider history). He basically corrupted the Ark to want to kill humanity with Humagears and Magia, while supplying humanity with Raidrisers and other transformation tech to defend themselves, while ZAIA makes a profit through it all, and gaining control of Hiden Intelligence, allows him to cover all his bases.
And while he's in the process of doing that, he's also manipulating situations though Fuwa, who, with Naki in his head, is distributing the "stolen" Keys and Raidrisers to paranoid, anxious, and ultimately corrupt humans, who are terrified that robots are going to replace them, leaving them with no jobs or aspirations. Humans let their fear and biases get the better of them, this triggers a negative singularity point in the Humagears, the Humagears respond and allow the Ark to hack them, Gai swoops in, destroys the Humagear and points the finger at Hiden Intelligence claiming negligence on their part. Also, Aruto also becomes filled with malice which further sullies Hiden's reputation.
Despite valiant attempts on his opponent's part, Gai wins the competition and claims his throne as the new CEO of Hiden Intelligence, feeling as though he's finally surpassed the man who he looked up to, none other than Hiden Korenosuke