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Kamen Rider Zero-One Retrospective 2: Episodes 17-29

A 27-year-old nerd who loves writing, history and just learning as much as possible about the world around him.

Presented by Zaia

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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?

Disclaimer

SPOILER ALERT FOR EPISODES 17-29 GOING FORWARD!

ZAIA Workplace Competition Saga: Episodes 17-29 Summarized

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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 Hiden

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.

Izu

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.

Amatsu Gai

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

Yaiba Yua

Yaiba's character takes a turn, as now that she's back with ZAIA, she's restricted to being Gai's assistant, her once commanding demeanor, being replaced with a submissiveness that both Fuwa and Aruto find odd. As much as she tries to keep up with appearances, its clear that she's reluctant and is forced act like this, as its revealed towards the end of the arc that in order to transform with the Shotrisers, an AI Chip is implanted in the user. When Fuwa learns about this, the audience is able to deduce that Yaiba, despite her working for ZAIA due to her own volition, is conflicted and hesitant to break off out of her fear of Gai, going so far as adopting a Raidriser and becoming the Jackal Raider herself by Episode 28.

Yaiba's relationship with Fuwa in this arc starts off rocky, as Fuwa confronts her about rebuilding Horobi, and towards the end when she learns about Naki, she becomes concerned for his wellbeing and begs him to just be submissive to Gai like she is to avoid hurting himself. When Fuwa berates her for her attitude, asking what future does she expect as a ZAIA Slave she attacks him, but the overwhelming strength of Rampage Vulcan makes quick work of her and Gai. Defeated, Yaiba takes a moment to process her position but follows Gai anyway, Fuwa's words not enough to change her stance quite yet.

Isamu Fuwa

Fuwa gets a lot of character development in this arc, particularly when it comes to the mystery surrounding MBJR. With Horobi awake, Fuwa spends his time interrogating Horobi about every new development that comes up, learning first about the 4th member, the Ark and Raidrisers, before bringing Aruto and Izu to hear about some of the things themselves. His attitude towards Humagears has soften considerably, as he finally admits that even though they ruined his childhood, they also saved his life as well. One pep talk later and his relationship with Aruto and Humagears in general take a positive turn.

During the 3rd round, he helps Aruto and Izu discover the mystery of the ZAIA Spec left by the Lion Raider, forcing him to team up with Bingo, the Lawyer Humagear, much to his initial reluctance. The pair discover the true culprit of the crime and following the 4th round, he reminds Yaiba of her duty as a former A.I.M.S. officer and drags her into a burning building to save Jun, Sanzo and Shesta. Once again, he analyzes another dropped ZAIA Spec and realizes the connection between ZAIA and the Raiders, throwing him into a fight with Gai.

All the while Horobi escapes and after running into the revived Jin, more signs point to ZAIA and Gai reveals that it was in fact Fuwa who helped Horobi's break out as MBJR hacked the chip in his brain, something he didn't know was there. As Gai gains an upper hand in yet another fight, Horobi suddenly appears and saves Fuwa, claiming it was the will of the Ark. Gai exploits this information, following these revelations by revealing that Naki is the AI in Fuwa's chip and with that in mind, he has Fuwa under his control. Gai hands him the Rampage Gatling key, claiming that his plans regarding Fuwa were all so that he could test his greatest invention: Rampage Vulcan, a form encompassing the powers of the Wolf, Shark, Gorilla, Mammoth, Hornet, Falcon, Cheetah, Scorpion Tiger and Bear Progrise Keys, the data that Gai obtained up to this point. Fuwa being Fuwa defies Gai's intention and uses the key against him, gaining the form and delivering a harsh defeat against them.

Horobi

Horobi takes a backseat this story arc mainly serving as a source of information for Fuwa, regarding the events taking place. He's able to go into detail about the Zetsumerisers, Raidrisers, the Ark, the new Magia that keep sprouting about, and how all of this circles back to the influences of Humanity's own malice, that of which ended up creating the Ark and MBJR. He also refers to Naki, the 4th member of MBJR, which starts Fuwa off into his ghost hunt. When he learns that Gai had a Zetsumeriser, he goes crazy, cursing humans for using the Ark for their own means.

Once Horobi is broken out of custody by Jin and "Naki" he returns to his base to pick up where he left off. In a surprising twist, he saves Fuwa from Gai, claiming the Ark ordered him too and saving him once again from Jin, who wanted to forcefully take Naki out of Fuwa's chip, saying that the Ark prefers Fuwa serves as a vessel for Naki for the time being.

Jin

To the shock of many (at least the cast) Jin makes a surprise appearance, rebuilt from the ashes of his death back in Episode 16. With a new human-like appearance, Jin's demeanor is one much more mature than his previous iteration, playing a neutral role going forward. Like he said back in Episode 2, he seeks to be a pioneer for Humagears, seeking to liberate Humagears from their "captivity", so they can live their own lives and make their own choices. He also dons the new Slashriser, as well as the Burning Falcon Progrise Key, allowing him to transform into Kamen Rider Jin Burning Falcon.

Regarding his first order of business, he seeks to retrieve Naki from Fuwa, aiming to kill him if that's what it takes. To his surprise, Horobi steps in the way of this, causing a bit of conflict between the two. The arc ends with them at odds on how to go about handling the 4th member.

Jun Fukuzoe, Sanzo Yamshita and Shesta

I didn't cover them in the first retrospective, mainly because I didn't realize how much of a role they played in the series until I began doing these retrospectives so I'll cover them now. Jun, Sanzo and Shesta are the Vice president, Secretary and VP Assistant respectively at Hiden. In the first arc, they put a lot of pressure on Aruto when it came to his job, hoping for opportunities to prove that he wasn't qualified for his role, this eventually hitting its peak when the situation with the first major conflict with MBJR. When Aruto finally defeated Jin and the organization as a whole, the board members of the company acknowledged Aruto as the CEO and Jun and his posse had to concede and encouraged him to go forward.

In this arc, while they're worried less about trying to replace him, they're all the more worried about how he's going to handle the TOB, criticizing him to take the conflict more seriously at times. When Aruto finally loses the competition 3-2, Fukuzoe admits that Aruto didn't have what it took to be president, and given the corporate definition based on the context, Fukuzoe is saying that Aruto was too soft to handle it. As ZAIA formally takes things over, Fukuzoe and Sanzo opt to stay, the former vowing to stick to Hiden until the very end, proving his loyalty to the company. The pair though, are visibly disappointed that Aruto decided to quit voluntarily, however, solidifying Fukuzoe's disappointment, by how quickly he breaks off when they finally split.

So piggybacking off the last story arc, the Job Competition arc plays on the major theme of Humans vs Machines, specifically the fear of machines replacing human workers in the job industry. Without saying we don't have real-life Humagears running around, but with the advancements of technology, the concept still can be driven home. The Job Competition was designed to prove the point that humans are superior to technology, and technology is strictly an asset and not something to be dependent on. However, as we see things play out, the fear that technology will grow so advanced that Humans are likely to be stripped of their livelihoods and dreams is enough for some to try and stop it by any means necessary. So while we saw in the first arc Man vs Tech in a way where Machines rise against humanity, this time we see the reverse, when humans rise back in retalliation.


With that in mind, the second thing we also see is an expansion of the complexities of being a businessman. Aruto's major challenge, as mentioned, didn't come in the form of a killer robot, but someone who was in the business world much longer than he's been, and knows all the ways to exploit the game. Aruto realizes that good morals and smiles don't do anything in the face of corruption, and while it doesn't stop him, it does cost him the competition. Weird in a way, because normally you don't expect your antagonist to teach you harsh lessons like this.

While we're on the topic of the business world, I LOVE the parallel between Aruto and Gai in this regard. During the 4th round of the competition, the Firefighter Humagear 119nosuke sacrifices himself so that Captain Homura can save Jun and the others, burning alive and deactivating due to the heat. Yaiba questions why Aruto carries him out, and Aruto simply replies that his employee did a good job.

By comparison, Gai sees Yaiba and Fuwa as additional tools to his end goal, something that makes Yaiba visibly distressed. Its a stark contrast (and ironic) to how these two businessmen view their employees, and the consequences of it. Aruto may be naive, but he cares deeply for everyone helping him towards his dream, making him a loveable leader. Gai, as smart and manipulative as he is, treats those underneath him as disposable tools, which makes him equally hated and despised.

Finally, the last theme that's prevalent and will have major implications going forward is: Malice. Hate, spite, hostility, whatever you want to call it, human malice takes center stage in regard to the motivations of both the Magia and Raiders, and even Aruto via Gai's provoking. Horobi explains that the Zetsumerisers weaponize Humagears by turning them into Magia. We've seen that they only targeted Humagears who hit Singularity, which we assume was self-awareness achieved by strong positive emotion through human contact. MBJR would swoop in, and corrupt the gear, changing that positive emotion into malicious intent.

In this arc, with the Ark reactivated, it can detect moments of negative singularity. Human malice directed towards Humagears triggers said singularity, which causes the Humagear to rebel. The Ark emphasizes this by transforming the Humagear into a Magia. Everyone comes to the harsh truth that it's through human malice and corruption, that the Humagears naturally respond to, similar to how a child adapts learned behaviors. Fuwa makes a good point to Aruto, by telling him to just teach the Humagears positive things so they don't go berserk.

But even the cinnamon roll that is Aruto falls victim to malice, due to Gai's corrupt tactics and nonchalant attitude to the chaos that's come through it. Its already bad enough that Shining Assault Hopper uses part of the Ark's tech, its because of this that the Ark is able to tap Aruto when his anger reaches a peak, and Gai using MCH to push him over the edge completely.

Malice is unbiased and contagious. It can build in anyone and in anything, and will leave nothing but destruction in its wake. And in a world where humans debate on the role of advancing technology in society, its only a matter of time before anyone see how emotions, both positive and negative will factor in.

As I stated in the beginning I'm in the minority when it comes to this story arc. Most people of the show consider this the lowest point and some even feel that this marked the end of the series. True that the first story arc was near flawless for a Rider series and there's no denying that, and yes, the pacing was slow, no denying that either. But as if I haven't stated these already, here are the reasons why I enjoyed this arc:

  1. Aruto fighting a fight on two fronts, and growing up through it.
  2. Fuwa's revelation that he was being manipulated and deciding that he's still going to do things his way.
  3. Yaiba getting her role flipped on her and going from this tough female character and being forced into a subservient role not of her own volition as much as she tries to convince herself.
  4. Jin's return and adding a brand new mystery into the storyline.
  5. The concept (and overarching theme) of malice and its effects on anyone and anything.
  6. Horobi. Like seriously this man doesn't need an upgrade because he's a machine that learns how to adapt to situations.
  7. The realism and authenticity (albeit straightforward and digestible) of corruption, bias, mob mentality, conflict of interests, and other sociological aspects I personally enjoy a lot.
  8. Even as generic as Gai is, Gai was the reason why the dynamics between these characters shifted to such a degree. His presence hit our riders in different ways and affected them on a mental level rather than be a physical threat.

I don't know. At first I thought I was just too optimistic with the series and would just be beaming with positivity about every rider series no matter how bad it was, but then I had to retract that when I considered Fourze and Ghost, two shows that I refused to drop, despite my issues with each. Fourze, a cult favorite, ironically was boring to me because of the overuse of the "power of friendship" as well as turning the Horoscopes into MOTW midway instead of the big bad generals they were hyped up as in the beginning. Ghost just had bad writing towards the end.

But, like Fourze focusing less on action and more on character development, The Job Competition arc did the same thing in my opinion. It had plenty of action, but character relationships were pushed and expanded on, Izu carried a lot of the comedy on her shoulders and it was just enjoyable, not for raising the stakes, but expanding on what's already established Arc 1 did the worldbuilding, Arc 2 showed us more ways to explore it and compare it to ours. Because what's more likely to happen: Skynet, or Apple proclaiming world domination?

In any case, thanks for reading, and I hope everyone got something out of it. Next up is the Hiden Manufacturing Arc, which is the shortest arc covering Episodes 30-35.5. I'll touch upon the recap specials as well, although they hold little relevance honestly but who knows after a rewatch. With that said, I'll catch you guys later

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