REVIEW: Kamen Rider Zi-O the Movie: Over Quartzer

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Starring

So Okuno (Watashi Ga Motete Dosunda)
Gaku Oshida (Make a Bow and Kiss)
Shieri Ohata (Daytime Shooting Star)
Keisuke Watanabe (Semiotoko)
Katsuhisa Namase (Mixed Doubles)
ISSA (Kamen Rider: The First)
Syuusuke Saito (Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger)
Tomoya Maeno (Prison 13)
Jiei Wakabayashi (Lock-On Love)
Noritake Kinashi (Kamen Norider)
Fumiya Takahashi (Kamen Rider Zero-One)
Yu Inaba (Kamen Rider Drive)
Chris Peppler (Super Hero Taisen GP: Kamen Rider 3)

Kamen-Rider-Zi-O-Over-Quartzer-QuartzersKamen Rider Summer movies have always marched to their own beat. Though there’s been a more consolidated effort to bring them into series canon since Kamen Rider Double, throughout the Heisei era they’ve ranged from side stories, true endings and even alternate universes. When the 20th anniversary and finale of the era has to top all of that, it better have some pretty big plans in store. Following on from Be the One’s strange new idea of being named after the show’s opening theme, Kamen Rider Zi-O the Movie: Over Quartzer is another cinematic opportunity for Kamen Rider Zi-O to round out the Heisei era in style. But whereas Heisei Generations FOREVER was most definitely a 20 Kamen Rider Kicks celebration of the main 20 Heisei series, this particular film is a little more interesting in its approach…Kamen-Rider-Zi-O-Over-Quartzer-BarickxsAfter experiencing a strange dream where a mysterious new Rider ushers in the Reiwa era, Tokiwa Sougo receives a call for help from Krim Steinbelt. Teaming up with Go Shijima, Zi-O and his friends travel back to 1575 in order to protect Steinbelt’s ancestor from an unknown assailant. Their travels take them back to the Battle of Nagashino, and the group learn that the ruthless Nobunaga isn’t quite like the history books suggest. Presented with the Drive Ridewatch upon his return, Sougo now has all the powers of the 20 Heisei Riders. But as the Ridewatches suddenly disappear, a traitor reveals himself amongst them. The Quartzers have arrived to rebuild the Heisei era – their leader none other than…Tokiwa SOUGO?Kamen-Rider-Zi-O-Over-Quartzer-WozMuch like the way the story develops in the series itself, nothing ever really comes easily in Kamen Rider Zi-O and Over Quartzer is certainly no different. Producer Shinichiro Shirakura has publicly remarked that the film is canon and takes place before the series end, while director Ryuta Tasaki places the film in an alternate timeline. While the existence of alternate timelines in Zi-O doesn’t mean these two things cancel each other out, it does make placing it something of a headache since there are some big moments and reveals that don’t really get mentioned in the show. However that same show didn’t start getting good until it broke free of all its self-imposed rules, and much like other Rider Summer movies ultimately it doesn’t really matter where it takes place. Usually these things are their own beast, and given Over Quartzer’s surreal construction it is very much that.Kamen-Rider-Zi-O-Over-Quartzer-Kamen-Rider-GOver Quartzer is a film of two very different halves. The first half of the film acts as the Kamen Rider Drive portion of Zi-O as a whole, since its focus was absent from both the show and Heisei Generations FOREVER. But other than featuring appearances from both Gou and Krim, in reality it actually has very little to do with Drive itself. Instead it takes Zi-O back in time to get more mileage out of another staple piece of Heisei Rider – Toei’s Edo period set. The comical romp through Nobunaga and the Battle of Nagashino is a lot of fun, but in the grand scheme of things doesn’t seem to serve any more purpose than that. Seeds are sown about how history is written and Geiz’s serious demeanour is always fun in a comical setting, but it certainly isn’t the Drive tribute many were hoping for even if it is great to see Mach again.UntitledThe second half of the film is where things get a lot more interesting, but also where the little semblance of internal consistency Zi-O had is effectively thrown out of the window. We get some much needed backstory on Woz, however it’s completely unlike anything fans could have possibly expected and just raises further mysteries about the character and ultimately his relation to Ohma Zi-O. Likewise Tokiwa SOUGO and the Quartzers are interesting villains, but feel quite far removed from what we learn in the series and how the real Sougo is set up to become a king. And despite the reveals concerning Woz, the issue of his allegiances still remains very shaky and ultimately not that bigger part of the film itself. All the emphasis is placed on these strange reveals, and as a result the story becomes so fractured that it’s difficult to process it all in the grander scheme of things. Even stranger is that Gou continues to be included in the story, partnered up with Gyuzo – Nobunaga’s bodyguard from the past who takes a strong liking to Geiz. Perhaps it was that the writers just felt Gou would be wasted only appearing in half a film, and along with everything else going on in Over Quartzer it’s to just sit back and accept it’s bizarre story beats as they come.Kamen-Rider-Zi-O-Over-Quartzer-Barickxs-Zonjis-ZamonasBut look past all of the story inconsistencies and plot holes and it turns out, whether intentionally or otherwise, that Over Quartzer is actually kind of brilliant. Over its 20 years the Heisei era has become an entangled mess of alternate worlds and shallow continuity between series, turning it into a far more complicated web than the Showa era ever was. Not only is Over Quartzer fully aware of this, but uses it to create an utterly ridiculous plot that has far more value in a meta sense than it does in-story. But the Quartzers plan to effectively “reboot” the Heisei era and erase all the complicated legacy of the Heisei Riders is only half of its genius – the rest of it comes when you take a closer look at the villains themselves. Amongst the Quartzers are three new Riders – SOUGO himself is Kamen Rider Barickxs, and he is flanked by Kamen Rider Zonjis and Kamen Rider Zamonas. Each of these three Riders’ names and designs are loosely based upon existing ones – Barickxs is a cross of Black and Black RX, Zonjis a mix of Shin, ZO and J and finally Zamonas Alpha, Omega and Neo from Kamen Rider Amazons. What do all of these Riders have in common? They’re all technically part of the Heisei era but usually discounted from the 20 main ones. Black, RX, Shin, ZO and J have all been instead grouped with the Showa Riders (due to both the closer involvement of Shotaro Ishinomori and to better emphasise the “new beginning” Kuuga started), while Amazons is a spin-off series that completely stands on its own. This means that the plot of Over Quartzer sees the excluded Heisei Riders fighting back against the main ones in an attempt to be recognised. Zi-O may have a loose grasp on continuity at times, but that concept is pure genius.Kamen-Rider-Zi-O-Over-Quartzer-ZI-O-OhmaOver Quartzer’s love for the more specific and less recognised parts of Heisei era doesn’t stop there either. While in terms of actor cameos this film may be a very loose Drive tribute, but the suit cameos are something really special. Naturally it includes appearances from all 19 previous Heisei Riders, but the true cheer out loud moments are the appearance of faces you’d never expect to see here. Hot on the tails of the Kamen Rider Zangetsu stage play we get to see Zangetsu Kachidoki Arms in all its glory, with the character magically bursting from a flyer for the play itself no less. And while fans continue to lament at the sad lack of a proper Kuuga cameo, the appearance of the 2015 manga version version is both beautifully realised on screen and acts as a reminder that not all Rider’s origins are as much on paper as they are the silver screen. Even the Goriders get in on the action, fondly remembered as one of the more successful creations of the Super Hero Taisen film series. But perhaps the biggest surprises of them all are the even deeper cuts, the ones that almost certainly placed here for the older fan to enjoy. Honestly who ever thought we’d see Kamen Rider G again, and in a “proper” piece of Kamen Rider fiction no less? Finally, the appearance of Takeshi Kinashi/Kamen Norider is something that will probably be lost on most fans outside of Japan but just shows the impression Kamen Rider has had throughout the Heisei era. Anyone can pick their favourites from the standard 20, but celebrating those finer aspects of the era is just as important and in this respect Over Quartzer shines in ways Heisei Generations FOREVER didn’t.rewrewrwerwerewrThe birth of the Reiwa era is also marked in proper fashion too, and not just through the appearance of Kamen Rider Brain, the era’s real first Rider. Zero-One’s cameo at the beginning of the film is so strangely timed yet works so well with Woz’s character, and the behind the scenes knowledge that during filming he was replaced with Kikaider 01 to avoid spoilers just makes me love the scene even more. Zero-One is of course back again at the end of the film for the more conventional kind of new Rider cameo, and much like Zi-O’s own in Be in the One is does a great job of getting the powers and personality of the character across in a few short minutes. Finally if there’s one thing you can always rely a Kamen Rider Summer movie to be its eye-candy. Between the well-staged crowd sequences, escalating action sequences and barrage of suit actors Over Quartzer’s second never lets up on the spectacle. The ever increasing gaudiness of Zi-O’s forms scales back for the far more refined Kamen Rider Zi-O Ohma Form (NOT to be confused with Ohma Zi-O himself), which along with the three Quartzer Riders makes up a winning streak of movie-exclusive suits. The final attack as dumb and it is beautiful, harnessing not only the Riders’ final forms but also their series logos and the larger 20 Kamen Rider Kicks anniversary logo into another piece of meta brilliance. Through all its flaws this film never stops having fun, and the audience will be having fun right alongside it.unnamedKamen Rider Zi-O the Movie: Over Quartzer is a mess, but it is absolutely the best kind of mess. Much like watching Godzilla do a silly dance in Invasion of the Astro Monster or fly around using his atomic breath in Godzilla vs. Hedorah, there comes a point where you have to abandon looking for logic in tokusatsu and just accept it for the ridiculous fun it often is. Every explanation Over Quartzer has just raises further questions, but it’s completely sincere in its celebration of the Heisei era. It’s both a continuity nightmare and a meta masterpiece, and never ever stops being fun. If a big screen summer movie of kid’s superhero show celebrating its 20th anniversary is doing that, then it’s hard to see it as a bad thing.