The Story…on Paper
On paper, the story and plot are pretty decent. Rogue rider betrays the guild, a new rider takes his place, a bunch of monsters seek dominance, and our lives were already predetermined in a book so everything we do doesn’t matter. Standard affair. I love thinking about how nothing matters. The Avalon arc is easily the best due to the fact that the main character actually has urgency in it. It also shows us a preview of the weirdest character in the show who, unfortunately, I can’t talk about. Daichi’s story is also well-developed, especially with how connected it is to the best character in the show…I mean Kento. Finally, the actual reveal that this world is essentially a book feels so Kamen Rider. Leave comments below if other shows have done this…and better. Either way, I never thought more about this reveal under the screaming agony at the computer screen. It actually made me understand Wonder World better by a little margin. The best way to ellaborate is that Wonder World is the real world, and that Earth is nothing but a story within a story. It’s meta how the characters in the show are characters in a book. It’s a theme of changing fate as the characters are trying to change the last chapter of their story; one that ends in destruction.
This moment was what made me appreciate Saber for what it tried to do. Kamen Rider, to me, has some of my favorite storytelling moments because of how daring they can be. Some notable examples are the final battle results between Blade and Chalice from Kamen Rider Blade and the several reveals and twists, such as how Takatora (aka Zangestu) changes from a villain to an Anti-Hero, throughout Kamen Rider Gaim. These moments have weight and impact to them that I always reflect upon them in the shower no matter how long it’s been. They don’t just feel like a typical twist; they feel groundbreaking because of how well-executed they are. Realizing Saber takes place in a book brought that feeling back. I have to give praise where it’s due, the fact that this piece of garbage made me feel the same way as when I saw Kenzaki make the ultimate sacrifice or when Kouta found out who the first monster he killed surprised me in a good way.
Unfortunately, I gotta a lot to say when the cons section comes up because, my god, do I have a lot of things to say about this plot.
Played by Takaya Yamaguchi. Unlike the secondary riders before him, Rintaro isn’t antagonistic towards the main protagonist at the beginning. Rather than be hot-headed, he’s calm and by the books. He’s a bit of a fish out of water, since he’s lived within the SOL base for several years, which works well with his romantic subplot with Mei. He’s caring about his teammates because their the family he’s never had, so he’ll go out of his way to make sure they’re at their best. He’s not without faults, however. While he isn’t reckless, he can get emotional when it comes to Zoous, the Megid who murdered his master/father figure. He demands Mei to not call for backup as he fights Zoous on his own, which ends up getting his ass handed to him. He turns this into strength as, like a badass, he trains himself to the fullest in order to obtain Fantastic Lion in one of the more satisfying moments of the show. His loyalty to the guild causes a clash with Kento. Though he cares for Kento, he reprimands him for taking things personal with Calibur. But this loyalty feeds into his caring side, doing everything he can to protect them.
The only complaint I have is how out of nowhere his rivalry with Zoous feels, and how “quick” it ends for the time being. There should have been more build up to it, maybe the Salamander Megid makes him more agitated than normal. The fight with Zoous felt rushed, so much so they apparently cut it to later have it in a special episode after ep 15. The premier of Fantastic Lion was well done, but it also felt rushed because of how crammed it was with the Avalon story arc. This subplot doesn’t come up much afterwards as well. It’s a good character arc but, like the show, it felt congested with everything else and wasn’t given proper time to breathe.
Kento: Kamen Rider Espada
Played by Ryo Aoki, the character that kept me going during my original viewing and one of the best characters to come out of this show. Kento is the real main character. A boy scarred by the actions of his father, carrying the burden of their betrayal, the loss of Luna, and the amnesia of his best friend. A man trying to right every wrong but ends up being reckless about it. That’s what I love about Kento unlike Touma; he has real, legitimate flaws. Whenever Calibur appears, Kento just guts towards him much to the ire of Ryo. No matter what anyone says, Kento can’t help but do things on his own, which ends up getting him “killed.” This leads into his second flaw, how he sees Touma. One of Kento’s best qualities is how much he cares for Touma. They really have good chemistry together, especially during the Huckleberry Finn skit. But that care ends up causing Kento to look down on Touma like a baby who needs protection. Kento thinks it’s better for Touma to forget instead of remembering, causing him to try and keep him out of his vendetta against his father and later Daichi. Again, this secrecy is what causes his “death.”
Kento also has two great character relationships in this show, both of which, honestly, don’t get expanded upon later. His relationship with Ryo in this arc is the emotional core of the series, as Ryo essentially becomes his surrogate father. Ryo has his own urgency to find Calibur, but he knows Kento’s stubbornness will get him killed. So, he tries to tell him to forget the whole thing and let him handle it. Of course, this doesn’t last, so the two butt heads. Despite that, Ryo genuinely cares. The pseudo-father moment they have in episode 4 is genuinely one of the best scenes in the show. Kento’s acting shines in this moment, as it looks like he’s stopping himself from crying as he’s laughing. This was the first time in 15 years he’s ever had anything close to a father moment, so he must have almost burst into tears. We know this since we see a recurring memory of him and his father, where he mimics the way his father brushes against his ear like it was a mental tick. The whole moment has this mixture of emotions, both happy and sad, because both are trying to have a good time despite how badly scarred they are.
Then, there’s Rintaro and Kento. It comes about the last few episodes of Kento’s screentime, but it’s good nonetheless. Kento tries to push him away but Rintaro doesn’t give up on trying to help him. I love how raw their arguments were, where you agree yet disagree with both of them at the same time.
When Kento sees Sophia with Daichi and starts accusing the guild of staging all of this against his father, Rintaro’s the one who tries to takes the blow for him. This inevitably leads to Kento dueling Daichi to both learn the truth and get revenge for Rintaro. Since Rintaro overheard this on his rest bed, it’s him that rides into battle to tell Touma.
When Kento “dies,” Rintaro’s the one who really takes it hard. This is based on ep 15.5, the swordsman special, since that special shows how much Kento’s “death” affects him. Kento’s “death” wasn’t just a catalyst for Draconic Knight but for King Lion Daisenki as well, when Rintaro has had enough of losing people he loves. Despite the chemistry he has with Touma, Kento’s friendship with Rintaro in these last few episodes felt much more real and organic than the contrived ones in the show.
If there was one issue I had with Kento’s character arc, besides one minor inconsistency where he goes after Calibur in ep 8 despite making a promise to stop minutes earlier, it’s his “death.” The scene where he’s in Touma’s arms was heartbreaking, but it’s ruined by the next episode. The whole “Kurayami seals people” thing came out of nowhere, robbing any emotional weight. The second “death” was much more heartbreaking than the first, but the fact that there was two felt jarring. If the second one was planned from the start, then the first shouldn’t have had so much screentime. Also, and this is gonna get into the next arc, but this “death” ends up going nowhere anyway.
All in all, Kento is one of the best characters in this chapter. Rewatching his journey reminded me how much of a stubborn trooper he was and how much of a tragedy his story arc was. I genuinely love this character, even if things get muddy later on.
Daichi: The Second Kamen Rider Calibur
Okay, I know I just called Kento my favorite character, but here’s the real best character in this chapter. Daichi became one of my favorite riders (that isn’t a main rider) in the franchise after this rewatch, under Zack from Gaim and Hajime from Blade. While the reveal was predictable and terribly executed, the character on his own doesn’t suffer. A rogue swordsman who left the organization he couldn’t trust anymore in order to find the traitor who turned his friend into a monster. A man who doesn’t necessarily see himself as a traitor, as his main goal will inevitably restore the organization, but that doesn’t mean he won’t take any tactic to achieve this end. While I would have liked more surrounding Daichi, what he’s left behind such as family or his social life, I think what we got was a spectacular character. For the first 8 episodes, Calibur’s actions scream your standard typical evil character. Since we didn’t know much of his motivations, and based on the main cast’s interpretations, Calibur seemed like he was a character that was basically, “I want power to do evil things for evil reasonings.” The mystery aspect, though rough, and his relationship with Storious still had me guessing on what exactly he was after. Once the reveal that it was Daichi, who’s motivation was actually of good-will through bad actions, the character ends up becoming a really interesting anti-hero.
Daichi becomes one of those “the villain is the hero of their own story” archetype, which works since he was the previous Saber. On a repeat viewing, his arc’s progression resembles that of the main rider’s progression of each rider season. His powers come from an evil source; this time much more literal since it’s from Jaaku Dragon. His goal is a noble one, find and defeat the real villain, but is misguided. Daichi seeks more power in order to defeat this villain: first with Avalon, then with Jaou Dragon, and finally with the Almighty Book. From his perspective, the riders of the Sword of Logos are the “generals” since, from what I gathered, he can’t trust any of them to not be allied with the traitor. Daichi even obtains his own version of a final form since Calibur receives no other upgrade after Jaou. Daichi not only works as a dark version of Touma, both in rider design and in philosophy about friendship, he also works as a dark version of the main rider’s typical journey. Had the show been executed better, this would have made for an outstanding plot, having both the main hero and villain go through the same tropes for similar noble intentions that clash at the end. Saber may get a lot wrong, but I found Daichi to be the best of this chapter.
Storious: The Megid of Stories
Storious doesn’t shine in this arc, and I wouldn’t say he’s the most interesting, but he’s the best out of the 3 due to his secrecy throughout. We know he’s up to something, with the way he helps Calibur behind the other’s backs, but he hasn’t revealed his cards yet. I was interested in his schemes in my initial viewing because I didn’t know what to expect. If his real plan isn’t to rewrite the world through the book, then what is? Strangely, I liked that he wasn’t a big threat in this arc because it makes the payoff of when he does become more effective. I’ll get into this later, but the most surprising thing during the rewatch was how much foreshadowing there was of his real plan. If you’re rewatching the show or watching it the first time, really pay attention to what is said and shown in the Salamander Megid episodes. On their own, they aren’t good episodes. But, if you have knowledge of the last arc, the Salamander Megid seems to know more than what he lets on. I especially implore you to focus on Touma’s explanation of the Salamander’s origins, because the parallels to Storious are not that subtle. Really remember that for later. Storious may seem like nothing much in this arc, but the seeds planted easily make up for it.