"Cast off! Change: Beetle!"When I got into Kamen Rider as a franchise, I learned a lot about the other previous "legend Riders" from crossovers. And out of all of the fancy older Kamen Riders, the one that has the most style, that catches my attention the most, is this dude with a slick metallic stag beetle outfit, an almost robotic look, constantly switching forms as he uses "Cast Off" lớn shed his metal armour pieces to lớn access a sleeker form, & then "Clock Up" to lớn move super-duper fast. Multiple crossover movies would basically have Kabuto team up with his fellow super-fast rider, Faiz, basically having him move in bullet time while the whole world slows around them, fighting against monsters that also move too fast for the eye khổng lồ see.And from style alone, Kabuto is perhaps one of my favourite-looking riders. No offense khổng lồ any other Riders out there, Kabuto is probably who I point to for the most "classic" looking Kamen Rider design. And that"s without taking into tài khoản just how goddamn cool the whole Cast Off and Clock Up mechanic ended up being.And being intrigued, as I was, I ended up looking at what"s going on with Kabuto"s story. It"s... It"s pretty interesting. A Men in đen style organization called ZECT, who utilizes multiple Kamen Riders khổng lồ hunt down an alien race called the Worm, who has the ability khổng lồ perfectly mimic human beings even down khổng lồ their memories? That honestly sounds like a pretty awesome sci-fi superhero stuff! Sure, it"s kinda basic, but after going through some of the... Weirder series, I was definitely interested lớn give Kabuto a try. Everyone I have met had something good to lớn say about Kabuto as a series. I think it"s one of the series people lượt thích to throw around as a great jumping-on spot khổng lồ the franchise, and is credited as one of the larger causes of influx of non-Japanese fans into the franchise.And... & honestly? I respectfully disagree, because I vì have a couple of bones khổng lồ pick with Kabuto. I still lượt thích the series enough lớn watch it lớn its end in a relatively timely manner, và I very much enjoy the style, but the more I delved into Kabuto as a series, the more I genuinely feel that the reason why Kabuto has so many defenders among the English speaking fandom is that it"s one of the first Rider series to get a timely English-subbed release that didn"t stop halfway through, making it many people"s first complete series. & it"s understandable -- it"s got enough cool things going on, và it"s definitely a relatively solid series (ending notwithstanding), but I definitely think it"s far from being one of the best.

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Overall, Mostly Spoiler-Free Series Review:


*

Now, to lớn be fair... Kabuto isn"t a terrible series. I"ve seen other shows that fare a lot worse than Kabuto. But while it certainly has some of the cleanest looking suits both on the Rider and monster side, và certainly has competent actors... The actual 49-episode show is a genuine drag to lớn go through, and a good chunk of it is thanks lớn how you view Souji Tendou, the protagonist -- the self-styled "man who walks the path of heaven, ruling everything", a gigantic egomaniac who really treads the fine line where his ego is irritating or vaguely funny. & for a good chunk of the series, Tendou"s ego falls into the irritating part. The show"s also hurt pretty badly by poor pacing, with B-plots being stretched way longer than it should, as well as some bizarre disconnect in the tone the show"s trying lớn show. We could have an episode where we get super-serious revelations about the tragic nature of Sasword, và then cut back to some bizarre deadpan humour about Tendou engaging in a cooking contest with cursed knives & a bizarre Jiiya doppelganger living in the mountain. Unlike most Kamen Rider shows, a lot of the humour in Kabuto is always played straight and utterly deadpan, & that honestly tends to lớn lead lớn a lot of the supposedly-comedic moments sort of falling flat on their faces.
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Throw in the fact that a lot of the revelations aren"t sufficiently built up to, and that a lot of the Natives/Worms storyline doesn"t really have much of a payoff, & the second half of the series in particular already feels like a mess. And Kamen Rider shows aren"t known for their tightly-knit storytelling, but a stronger and more likable cast of characters would"ve made ignoring some of the bizarre flaws or unexplained plot holes a lot more bearable. Like, what"s up with all of the bizarre space/time nonsense? It"s brought up in one arc to lớn justify where Dark Kabuto goes to, or where the Hyper Zecter comes from, & then never really mentioned ever again. Where did the Hopper Zecters come from? For that matter, are the Zecters really sentient, & how do they choose the owners? and even then, a lot of the concepts they built up -- the mystery behind the creation of the Zecters, the Shibuya meteorite, the mysterious time-traveling Hyper Kabuto, the specifics of Tendou"s backstory... A lot of them all lead to lớn pretty damn underwhelming reveals.

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The Worms themselves are honestly what I personally feel to be the biggest waste, because after the first handful of arcs showing just how emotionally horrifying it is khổng lồ realize that someone who walks và talks like someone you love might be an alien invader ends up being basically reduced khổng lồ a generic shock-value revelation, & eventually, everything from the true nature of ZECT, the Native tribe, and the three-way war kết thúc up being just so utterly underwhelming and under-explained. We don"t really see the Worms as actual people, và even when some members of the cast are revealed khổng lồ be Worms, the focus is less about how they have been fooling everyone, but how other characters should shut up và appreciate who they are... While still massacring other random Worms. It"s a huge disconnect, especially compared khổng lồ other sympathetic monsters in other Kamen Rider series like the Greeed, the Gamma or the Roidmude.Plus, the plot revelations just sort of randomly stack up without much buildup or payoff starting around the 30"s -- something that Kabuto"s staunchest defenders would admit --making the last 15 to trăng tròn episodes feeling particularly bizarre as the show tries lớn juggle comedy & underwhelming revelations. And unlike some shows (like Decade or Hibiki), Kabuto doesn"t even have the excuse of executive meddling lớn justify any of these. Even a lot of the actual deaths that happen in the final 2-3 episodes felt less lượt thích huge resolutions, and more the show remembering that these characters have backstories that needed lớn be resolved.Which is a shame, because the initial opening episodes ofKabuto arepretty solid. We establish the two main characters -- Arata Kagami và Tendou Souji. Arata"s a typical Kamen Rider protagonist. A go-getter and just a regular dude who wants khổng lồ help people out -- kinda generic, perhaps, and a bit of a wimp, but finds himself basically denied the chance to lớn even vì chưng his job of protecting people from the Worms when the Kabuto Zecter flies khổng lồ Tendou instead. Tendou, meanwhile, is an arrogant ass... Who has that massive, inflated ego for a reason -- he is just that good. He quite literally is perfect, able khổng lồ basically beat up any Worm or Rider in his path, he can cook, he can paint, he can speak French... He quite literally is a perfect manand everyone around him other than Arata and Hiyori acknowledges just how awesome he is.
*
And the thing about making a character with a big ego? You can"t make him too perfect without flaws, và expect him lớn be likable. As problematic as Decade was, that"s what the writing team does right. Tsukasa is kind of a Mary Sue himself, having random skills và having a massive ego, but the show and Decade"s supporting cast constantly berate & tell Tsukasa off when he"s being a dick. Whenever anyone in Kabuto tries to lớn tell Tendou off, they either eventually kowtow lớn Tendou because of reasons -- there are a lot of the early scenes where Hiyori basically ends up finding herself cooking for Tendou because he tells her to, or things of that sort. The universe quite literally revolves around Tendou because he"s so beloved by the writers, và while it"s somewhat amusing for like two or three episodes, by the time I was in episode ten and Tendou just keeps looking more và more perfect while still acting lượt thích a massive dickbag, I just find myself really disliking him. As the series goes on, Tendou tends to pull new power-ups out of thin air, with the Hyper Zecter and the other non-Gatack Zecters quite literally being drawn across space-time to lớn give him a power-up because he"s just that worthy, but Tendou himself goes through very, very minimal character development -- he basically ends up vaguely respecting Arata in the last five or six episodes. Emphasis on the "minimal".There are admittedly some huge revelations that inform us of what his actual plan is, but when we vì get those revelations, Tendou"s attitude in the earlier episodes berating everyone else for being naive for protecting some Worms và being sentimental ends up painting Tendou as a massive, massive hypocrite (Tendou"s reason to lớn wipe out the worms is khổng lồ allow his Worm-sister Hiyori, who is also amnesiac, to lớn live peacefully). The problem is, both the writing và the scripting are so firmly in Tendou"s side that it paints Arata"s questioning of Tendou as Arata being the unreasonable one. The climax even has Tendou go around destroying seeming anti-Worm weaponry without bothering khổng lồ tell anyone else that the anti-Worm weaponry actually is a generic doomsday device that turns humans into Worms, expecting everyone to let him bởi vì what"s best for them, while at the same time not even trying lớn explain himself.
*
The difference between Tendou"s writing with other "me-first" characters like, say, Batman, is that Batman-centric narratives will highlight that Batman"s loner attitude, while pragmatic, is harmful. With Tendou? He quite literally is the best, and even the writing doesn"t acknowledge any of his many flaws. I"m not sure -- maybe if the writing was a bit more hammy, maybe if Tendou"s actor was allowed lớn be a bit more expressive, I wouldn"t be so soured by Souji Tendou? We"ve had assholish protagonists like Takumi và Tsukasa, or egomaniacs like Sento & Sougo, that still over up feeling likable, because their flaws were written as flaws, thus making them relatable. The kết thúc result is a bizarre show where Tendou has the personality of an arrogant "the world revolves around me" rival-type character and Arata"s the typical plucky protagonist, but they never go through any of the expected character development, & Tendou"s specialness continues through the end.
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