Ryuki VS. Gaim: Which Battle Royale Rider Series Is Better?

While watching Kamen Rider as of recent, I thought about two series that did the Battle Royale theme. One was Kamen Rider Ryuki (February 3, 2002 - January 19, 2003) and Kamen Rider Gaim (October 6, 2013 - September 28, 2014). I'll give my few shots on what I thought of them.

The truth is that a Tokusatsu show has these three outcomes. The first outcome is that next series can really get better than the last. That's what I believe happened in between Kamen Rider Kuuga and Kamen Rider Agito. I felt like Agito had a more complex, interesting storyline. THe second is that the series can be just as good as the last. I felt the same happened while I was watching Kamen Rider OOO and Kamen Rider Fourze. Both series were pretty good in their own way though I can't help but still think Kuuga and Agito are better. The third is that the next series can be worse than its predecessor. The successful Kamen Rider Black was replaced by the inferior sequel of Kamen Rider Black RX though I still like both shows. A better example might me how Shinkenger is succeeded by the so-so Goseiger. 

Now it's time to talk about two Battle Royale Riders. Which Kamen Rider Battle Royale did better? I'll share my own personal opinion.

Warning, there are some spoilers ahead so read at your own risk.

Kamen Rider Ryuki

Kamen Rider Ryuki was the first Kamen Rider series written by Yasuko Kobayashi with Toshiki Inoue serving as the secondary writer. It's said that a "Writer War" actually happened between them though the two were also secondary writers for Kamen Rider Decade. Unlike its predecessor Kamen Rider Kuuga and Kamen Rider Agito, the show took Kamen Rider to a whole new level with good and evil Kamen Riders in a deadly game of clash for that "one single wish". 

I didn't embrace the idea immediately but seeing I'm a fan of battle royale themes, I decided to take a watch at this. The show was unbelievably serious, there were a lot of complex characters involved but at the same time, a lot of problem common in the writing of Yasuko Kobayashi and Toshiki Inoue. When they write Tokusatsu, you can always expect a collection of jerks who can be nice guys or douchebags in some of their shows. Inoue introduced his jerks and douchebags like Gai Yuki (Jetman), Hojo Toru (Kamen Rider Agito) or that annoying Masato Kusaka (Kamen Rider Faiz) who I view as a secondary antagonist. Before Ryuki, Kobayashi herself had a fair share of her jerks like Hikaru (Gingaman, but he wasn't a terrible guy) and Naoto Takizawa (Hojo's template anyone?). But in Ryuki, almost everyone is a douchebag which really can annoy me whether it'd be Shinji, Renn or Shuichi (that annoying super lawyer) - I always felt like come on, how heavy is the show with them?

After the success of Kamen Rider Agito, it's said that Inoue soon got cocky. Signs of Inoue's decline were evident in the series like when he introduced the super useless Megumi who hardly did anything useful. While he wrote some good episodes, I thought that Megumi was a freaking big mistake of a character. So I guess that fact he wrote Megumi the way she is might have shown that later, he'd practically undo himself like Frank Miller did. 

I could talk about some of the evil Riders. Masashi Sudo or Kamen Rider Scissors was lame and had an instant write-off. Later, we are introduced to more antagonists no thanks to the main antagonist Shiro Kanzaki (who is not that evil nor wants to take over the world) but he's freaking boring. What made the show interesting later was the addition of Takeshi Asakura who becomes Kamen Rider Ouja. The guy kills a lot of characters. He starts off his killing spree first by killing the fortune teller Mizuki Tezuki/Kamen Rider Raia and the arrogant villain Jun Shibaura/Kamen Rider Gai. I thought that Ouja's arrival was a real pain for most of the characters especially he's like, "What if Saint Sword Bilgenia in Kamen Rider Black received the King Stone." Ouja was freaking like, "Move over Shadow Moon!" because he was an evil Kamen Rider at his own free will. Shadow Moon was just mind-altered but Ouja harassed everyone like Bilgenia would to Kamen Rider Black! But more often than not, either executive meddling or whatever causes some potential plots to miss out.

The problem was how the show eventually concluded making a lot of stuff really irrelevant. I mean, there's been a lot of buildup with characters like Shinji just wants to stop the Rider War (even if he's a real douchebag), Renn showing a softer side while Shuichi struggles with the fact that he could die. A lot of stuff were intense buildup but I'll get to what really annoyed me.

Yes, that SUPER DUPER ANNOYING ending. Need I say more? I could actually keep ranting about how terrible it is. It's obvious in the final two episodes that everyone is meant to die to show us the ill effects of war. Shinji dies, Renn dies and well I mean everyone dies. I don't think neither Kobayashi nor Inoue wanted this ending. If there was any conflict, it was more likely not between Kobayashi and Inoue but between them and the executives. Perhaps Kobayashi and Inoue agreed to kill everyone and not bring anyone back to life but producers say, "No, we want a reset button."

Executive meddling is not all that bad if done right. For instance, Power Rangers Time Force had some executive meddling that kept the show consistent to its not being too serious like how Eric Myers survives in contrast to Naoto Takizawa or maybe, executive meddling had Mr. Collins go out there to search for his son Wesley. Maybe executive meddling prevented Alex Collins from turning into a Masato Kusaka-ish type of villain in contrast to Captain Ryuya Asami. But really, what's really with Ryuki's ending? I thought it was pretty much WTF and I think I'd probably consider it the ending that made all of Kobayashi's and Inoue's so-so finales look much better!

If they wanted a reset button, don't throw character development out of the window. At least, Spielban managed to do the reset button ending better. Screw you executive meddlers!

Kamen Rider Gaim

When Super Sentai started its new problems of what I'd call "innovation gone wrong", Kamen Rider is where I ended up actually catching up with my casual fandom of Tokusatsu. Naomi Takebe tends to berated as she's a hit or miss producer but as said, I did enjoy Kamen Rider Kiva and Kamen Rider OOO. Kamen Rider Gaim on the other hand has its success accredited to Gen Urobuchi as the head writer, not to Takebe. I can't say I hate Takebe considering I like Kiva, OOO and Gobusters but I'm getting mixed on how she's dealing with Ninninger as its producer.

SO what's with Gaim? I felt like Gaim was revisiting the concepts of Ryuki and getting it done right. The characters are far more tolerable while being more human. There's a statement that darker and edgier tends to get overrated. I agree. Ryuki may be darker and edgier but I think it really fell apart. Gaim may be lighter and softer but it managed to improve the concept where Ryuki failed in. Like the light bulb, sometimes the original idea fails so it must get some modifications.

The setting happens in Zawame City where the Invess some race get involved in these Invess Games. The hero Kouta Kazubara tries to become an adult but one day becomes Kamen Rider Gaim which begins another Kamen Rider War. Because there's team Gaim, there's also Team Baron where he's met with opposition by Kaito Kumon who's a milder version of Renn Kiriyama. The show tries to focus on human evolution like Agito and Faiz. Like Agito, the show focuses on supernatural evolution because the Kamen Riders must battle for the Golden Fruit, hence the fruit theme of the show.

The show knew when to be serious when it has to be serious or funny when it has to be funny - something I hope to master soon. The plot involving Yggdrasil (which still had noble intentions) or the Invess is a complex interwoven web. This also leads to some betrayal from within like when Micchy seeks to take over Yggdrasil from his brother Takatora. While Micchy went nuts for some time, his real goal was because he had feelings for Mai which led him to do what he did. In the case of Micchy, he's not much of an a**hole like Captain Ryuya (Timeranger) or Masato Kusaka (Faiz). Even if he does get annoying, part of me can still pity the guy since I have the feeling I want to do what he did plus he's not that bad compared to the characters I just mentioned.

The show's progress goes from Yggdrasil to the fight for the fruit itself. What made the show more amazing for me was how the real plot was not based on a main villain but who gets the final fruit. The show's plot thickens with the battles in the finale. Then it ends up getting reduced to some characters dying but others managed to survive. I thought not killing all the Riders kept the show consistent but one final battle was fought. This time, Kaito who goes from anti-hero to villain becomes the second the last fight. In this one, Kouta wins and defeats Kaito. I thought that even with Kaito going for the worse, I still felt sorry for him. Kaito believes in the survival of the fittest but seeks to help the weak at the same time. It ends with them doing a Black vs. Shadow Moon duel with the hero winning the fight. The death scene still reminds me of Black's mourning over having to defeat Shadow Moon but it's done better than the last one.

Most Riders drop off that chance for power right? If you remembered Black and its sequel Black RX, one can see Kotaro drop that chance. After Black defeats Shadow Moon and is given the chance to become the next Century King, he drops it. Black gets the Satan Sword and uses it to destroy the giant heart known as the Century King. But this ending ends up like atypical, something nice for a change. Kouta takes the Golden Fruit which gives him godhood. Instead of rewriting life on Earth, the now deified Kouta goes to a barren planet to start new life with Mai at his side. He also plays a role in reconciling Takatora and Micchy before the end.

The finale (which takes place seven months after) is where I'm mixed but it's still better than Ryuki's reset button. So it's been some time since Kouta left the world but he returns for one final battle after everything is done. This ending was quite similar to how Kamen Rider W had one last Dopant fight after the villains were defeated. This really made me think of all of the flaws of humanity. Kaito who's now a ghost and probably at peace departs for the afterlife. While not the best finale, it certainly still makes more sense than Ryuki's reset button.

Final verdict

I would say that Gaim is the better Rider Battle Royale series. Ryuki had the potential to better but a lot of executive medding happened. Gaim on the other hand managed to be more consistent than Ryuki. 

Comments

  1. Ryuki had more serious-looking Riders yet the story didn't really deliver that much (as much as I have heard). Gaim, on the other hand, had ridiculous-looking Riders (which I have gotten over with now), yet the story was oh-so intense!

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