TV-Nihon released the first four episodes of Kamen Rider Ryuki, and me being me I had to check them out, even if there is no guarantee this isn’t just a fluke and there are no more episodes on the way. Now, I’ve seen the first episodes for Kuuga, Agito, 555, Kabuto, Den-O, Kiva, and now Ryuki, and I have to say Ryuki has the creepiest first episode of them all. Sure, Agito has a leopard monster that kills people and then stuffs them into trees, but Ryuki is even better. In the first two minutes a woman looks at herself in the mirror and notices a stringy substance around her neck. She can see it in the mirror but not in real life. She starts frantically scratching at her neck to get rid of it but more just shows up. Suddenly, a giant spider appears in the mirror and extends two giant claws outside to kill her and drag her in. And this is a sunday morning kids show.
Now, Ryuki is famous for being the series where Kamen Rider basically jumped the shark. Before it all the shows were essentially the same: an evil organization is trying to take over the world and it is up to their own cyborg creation with a heart of gold to stop them. Kuuga replaced cyborgs with magic and Agito expanded the roster to include a couple more main Riders, but they’re still basically in line with the old stuff. Ryuki is completely different. There’s not just one Rider, there’s thirteen, and their job isn’t to fight an evil organization but each other. Ryuki is really the point the point where Kamen Rider became the sum of the Rider name and legacy, some influence from the Metal Heroes series of the nineties, and whatever the writers were smoking that year.
Despite the radical changes Ryuki actually starts off pretty well. There’s action, intrigue, and a whole lot of CG. Ryuki is probably also the point where CG became a Rider’s greatest weapon. I really like the way these earlier Hisei series are filmed. Kabuto, Den-O, and Kiva aren’t bad but they have a much greater awareness that they’re a kid’s show, and because of that there’s a lot more cartoonish influences, especially for Den-O and Kiva. Both have a very wacky, almost insane, since of humor, which is almost completely lacking in Ryuki. There’s a couple odd balls, but the direction still feels like it’s trying to be more than a kid’s show. There’s still the merchandising out the wazoo, but that’s just a fact of life.
The only thing I really hate about Ryuki right now, and the reason I was reluctant to watch it, is that the designs are absolutely terrible. Ryuki’s suit sucks so much. It’s main chest piece doesn’t even cover all of the chest, and its shoulder pads don’t even cover the shoulders! The whole thing just looks really shoddily built. Knight is a bit better, probably because it’s a darker color. The weird grated masks are also iffy, but they’re fine compared to the rest. Maybe the designs for the rest of the Riders will fare a bit better. Hopefully TV-Nihon will keep releasing episodes so I’ll be able to find that out.