Kamen Rider Agito (2001)
While my initial introduction to Japanese superhero shows was Super Sentai, I soon discovered that the king of Tokusatsu is Kamen Rider. The karate bug-man on a motor cycle who fights for justice is on the same level as Superman when it comes to brand name recognition in Japan. First airing in 1973, Kamen Rider screened on TV in one shape or form until taking a break in 1989. Taking a break in the 90s, Kamen Rider returned with a bang in 2000 with Kamen Rider Kuuga. After the success of Kuuga, producers were left wondering how they were going to follow it up.
The answer was Kamen Rider Agito, a year long saga about an amnesiac hero fighting serial-killing monsters, the danger of emerging psychic powers, and the ultimate battle between good and evil. Only in Japan would you find a show this intense and dark and have it called a kids show.
Shouichi Tsugami has lost his memories after a mysterious event. Who Shouichi is and the nature of the mysterious event will unfold over the course of the series, including why he can transform into the super-powered Agito in times of trouble. That trouble takes the form of the Unknown – animal themed monsters that are killing of people according to some kind of pattern. Bullets are unable to stop the Unknown, so police detective Makoto Hikawa dons the latest in police technology – the G3 armour – and fights alongside Agito. Lastly, there’s Ryo Ashihara, a finds himself transforming into the feral Gills, unsure of how he fits into the events in play.
Kamen Rider Agito is a show built around solving a mystery. It’s a supernatural police drama with superheroes. And there’s more than enough mysteries here (and enough reveals) to justify 50 odd episodes. Which is why Hikawa is my favourite character in this show. He may not be the primary hero, but he is the one actively trying to solve the mysteries. Shouichi is charming and all, but ultimately he doesn’t really do much to advance the plot until it comes time to beat up the bad guys. And those bad guys? I love these designs. The jellyfish Unknown has to be one of the creepiest monsters I’ve seen in Toku so far.
The core of Agito’s mysteries is built on a Manichaeist understanding of the world. There are two gods – one of light and spirit and one of dark and matter. The events of Agito are part of a greater battle between these two gods. We are called to lend our support to the god of light as he struggles to achieve victory over the darkness. This dichotomy – light vs dark, spirit vs body, good vs evil – is firmly rooted in our understanding of the world. We perceive a struggle between them, fearing that light will be overcome, that the fate of the universe is in precarious balance.
But the God of the Bible, the one who has made himself known in his Word, is different. He is one God, who is far more powerful than any other being or force in all of creation. The world was made by him willingly and purposefully. The struggle between good and evil is not in flux – God has conquered evil through the death of Jesus on the cross and evil is only allowed to exist until Jesus returns. At that point he will rid the world of evil and restore creation – a physical, “good” creation.
Of the Kamen Rider shows I’ve completed watching (three so far, with four and five in progress), Agito has been my favourite. Though I’m not sure I’d enjoy it as much on repeat viewings – knowing how the mysteries play out would rob the story of a lot of it’s appeal. And just quietly, I’m glad Ryo got to keep the dog. That guy was due a break. Kamen Rider Agito – we’ll worth checking out.