The 15th Heisei era Kamen Rider is here! Introducing Kamen Rider Gaim!
We caught a little bit of what the fruit samurai Rider could do in the last couple episodes of Kamen Rider Wizard, but now that his show has already aired its first episode, it’s time to post our Initial Impressions of this bad boy.
Kamen Rider Gaim and friends
Our hero for this next year is Kamen Rider Gaim. His motif, as with those of the Riders teased to make appearances in the show, is inspired by fruits and armored warriors. In Gaim’s base form, Orange Arms, it’s an orange mixed with samurai. His gear includes his belt, the Sengoku Driver, and Lockseeds. Gaim transforms by inserting his a Lockseed into the driver, and flips the sword-shaped lever, which cuts the Lockseed like a slice of fruit.
The concept seem bizarre at first, as this is the first time in Kamen Rider history fruit has been introduced as a motif for a Rider. However, because it’s so different, it makes it the more intriguing. As of right now, Gaim’s different forms include his base one, Orange Arms, and Pineapple Arms. Having yet to make their official appearances, the other Riders are also being teased along with their base fruit. Baron is banana, Ryugen is grapes, Zangetsu is melon, and Griton is coconut.
Kamen Rider Gaim’s alter ego is Kazuraba Kota (played by Sano Gaku). Kota’s character is a youngster who put his dreams on hold in order to become an adult and help his older sister, with whom together were both orphaned when their parents died. His character seems to be a child trying to figure out how to fit in the adult world.
The leading lady this year is Takatsukasa Mai (played by Shida Yuumi). She is a member of the Team Gaim, one of the dance teams of Zawame city (more on this later) and has a strong and sassy personality, showing a lot of passion towards her crew. Shida doubles up her roles as she portrays a character identified only as the Mysterious Girl – a girl in a white dress who relays puzzling messages to Gaim.
There are a ton of other characters introduced, including Team Gaim’s leader Sumii Yuya (Sakimoto Hiromi), who goes missing in the first episode, and Kumon Kaito (Kobayashi Yutaka), the leader of Team Baron and the one teased to be Kamen Rider Baron. One of the members of Team Gaim is Kureshima Mitsuzane (Takasugi Mahiro), who is teased to be Kamen Rider Ryugen. There are a number of other members in either crew, many of whom will probably be phased to very minor roles throughout the story.
It’s still really early in the story to establish a crew of supporting characters, similar to what previous series have done (nothing could top Fourze‘s). But as of right now, I have high hopes for the central two.
As of this writing, not much is known about the overall story, but it seems in the world of Gaim, youngsters settle disputes by each other using Inves – monsters summoned by Lockseeds from another dimension – in a Pokemon-like battle. Nobody knows how Lockseeds started circulation, but there are a few Lock Dealers distributing them around town. If people aren’t too careful, an Inves could go on a rampage, free from the control of the person who brought them into the world.
The fruit and armored warrior motifs are reflected pretty creatively throughout the world, as one would expect from a Kamen Rider show. Fruits can be seen at the heroes’ hangout spot, Drupers, which is a cafe that specializes in fruits. The armored warrior motif is reflected in the story, which is designed to be similar to Japan’s Sengoku Period, or the Warring States Period, when many factions fought against each other for control over the country. Gaim does this with street dance crews, who battle each other. The two main teams currently featured in the story are named Gaim and Baron, from which each Rider from each group takes their name.
There seems to be an evil corporation looming in the background called Yggdrasill, which has their hands in many businesses in the city of Zawame, in which the story takes place. They have already set up a giant monument called Ygdrassil Tower, and it’s presence makes the city look like a castle town.
It’s hinted in the prelude that Gaim and Baron’s teams will clash, but there are other Riders watching and waiting for their chance to strike. As of right now, Zangetsu and Ryugen were shown in the distance, watching, seated as if they were rulers of the land. This could hint that Zengetsu and Ryugen have some relation to Yggdrasill, the ruler of the castle town that Zawame is slowly becoming. We just have to wait and see, and also anticipate how Griton will come in and fit in this whole mess.
The one thing that seems missing is a villainous force created by the story’s monsters: the Inves. Gone are the ways of the previous four series, in which the monsters were either humans transformed or humans in disguise. Instead, the Inves are more of a faceless force. While I did enjoy that story element in the previous shows, this move might be a better decision, seeing as there are so many characters to devote time to and explore. Also, it might prove to be an interesting set up with the Warring States theme, in which the Inves are the foot soldiers of the warring Riders, as hinted by the prelude and the Inves battles fights people have.
The Inves designs, as of right now, are not all that impressive. As usual, keeping with the theme of the Neo-Heisei shows, there are two different classes of monsters – a class consisting of what are basically Putty Patrollers, and the big bad monster of the week. The minor class, called Elementary Inves, look really similar to the Worms of Kamen Rider Kabuto, but the prelude of the first episode hints at a variety of them existing. But without an actual squad of villainous monsters, it’s really early to even have an idea of the kind of baddies to expect. It was a bit more doable in the past few shows, as they teased the audience by introducing the generals early.
First episode in and I already like it better than how Wizard started. However, there seems to be a lot of stuff going on in the world that the show will need to take time to address and flesh out, including the sheer number of characters that have already been introduced (both minor and major). With the Rider Warring States Period slogan being blasted repeatedly in advertisements, we can expect to see a lot of quarreling between dance crews, the corporation, and whatever other group that may join in.
It will also be interesting to see what unifies each of the Riders into one fighting force, assuming they will be written to be united at all.
I am personally excited to have a Kamen Rider show that features more than two Riders. With a total of five, it feels similar to how some of the Heisei era shows did, with. With just the viewing of the intro and seeing how everything is getting set up, Gaim feels a lot like Kamen Rider Blade. It even has an ultra-hot theme song: “Just Live More” by Gaim no Kaze (really Shonan no Kaze getting into the spirit of things). I’m excited to see how this unique fusion of motifs will turn out as the show’s story progresses.
We get a chance to see Gaim/Kota grow from the beginning. He’s still figuring out how to use his new found power, with only hints and intuition to lead him. I can imagine kids all across Japan jumping up and down getting excited at how Kota discovers new things each stop of the way. And the fact that Kazuraba Kota has more facial expressions than Souma Haruto already makes him a winner.
Here’s to looking forward to another fun year of Kamen Rider!