6 January 2019

SHODO VS Kamen Rider ZO

The year is 1993. The era is Heisei, not that it matters much to a film that won’t debut for 21 years. Kamen Rider has been absent from Television for 4 years, and the only new project were a series of Direct-to-Video movies. The subject of our review today comes from the second of these, and possibly the most overlooked. Maybe that’s why Bandai threw the guy a bone and gave him and his villain a mass release?
Kamen Rider ZO, the modern-day mauve shirt.

I am, of course, talking about Kamen Rider ZO. The star of the self-titled movie, he’s faded into semi-obscurity at this point. The 90’s movies don’t seem to be that well known in the casual fandom as a whole, despite being a solid 7/10 on average and watchable in a weekend. I mean, even I’ve seen them, and for a good couple years, they were the oldest Rider media I’d been exposed to. Of the trio, ZO is probably the least memorable of these movies though, which is a shame, as there’s a lot to love. The Neo-Organism is stop-motion at its creepiest, there’s no backstory you need about Shocker or Veteran Riders to understand, and Doras (the main monster) is so cool they brought him back to fight Decade. At a guess, it’s the lack of a unique selling point. Shin is the horror story, the one with the gruesome henshin, and nudity, and him ripping out a guy’s spine. J has the guy that grows really big. ZO… doesn’t have anything like that. It’s just a simple rider story. But it’s one I really like.

ZO on his bike, about to crash through a wall. He likes doing that.

So, what is its story? Masaru Aso was the subject of a gene splicing experiment, with the ultimate aim to produce some kind of ultimate organism, because that’s never backfired on anyone. Of course, it backfired, with Masaru running out into the wilderness and falling into a coma for 2 years. In those two years, the Doctor didn’t take the hint, and kept going, finally creating his neo-organism… which abducted him, creating Doras to try and hunt down his child for reasons I don’t remember. Sensing a child in danger, Masaru wakes up, the two years having given his body enough time to adopt to the modifications, letting him transform into ZO. What follows is ZO’s attempts to protect the child, defeat the neo-organism and its plot, and get high enough ratings for a TV show. He achieved the first two, so that’s something.

So, into the figure itself. It was released in SHODO VS7, alongside a medley of other Riders, as well as Doras, his villain. Similarly to Super-1, he has two versions available to bulk out the wave – one with his “break toother” open, one with it closed. In real terms, one has a touch of silver armour painted on his mask, the other doesn’t, to replicate a half-second scene where he vents steam after transforming. It’s an odd thing to reference, but someone at Toei must like it, considering the figuart comes with an alternate head to do the exact same thing. I have the one with it closed, fwi. It’s the more natural look of the guy.

"Hey, did you know I'm not Kamen Rider J? It's true!"

Seen here - close to the range of his motion

No gold lines on the back, sadly. No idea if that's accurate or now. I'm gonna say not.

ZO’s design is very distinct from those that came both before and after him, with an all green body detailed with golden lines. The one piece nature of the suit is lost a little on transition to cheap candy toy, but the base design is gorgeous, and the colours translate well, not that it photographed all that well. He’s also one of the very few riders to lack a belt (or transformation device of any form), instead having a simple red jewel – so simple, even the wiki doesn’t have a name for it.

"This is the closest thing I have to a signature pose, alright? I only have 40 minutes of runtime!"

"I'll Rider Kick anyone who says I'm a Showa Rider! And that includes Toei!"

The big problem with ZO, however, lies in his shoulder pads. They’re made of squishy plastic, but they can’t move whatsoever, meaning his arms are limited to a small range of motion. You can get some poses out of him, but not many in the upper body, which is a shame. His legs are a lot freer, and while his hips are a little odd (I swear one leg can move differently to the other, despite both being on ball joints), you can get some good kicking poses out of him. He also has the usual Tamashii-size port on his back, so you can show off Rider Kicks to your hearts content.

The Lego Company's gonna sue, once it takes care of every other toy company out there.

ZO prepares for lightweight boxing against the reigning champion, Hibiki. The guy works out.

Like Super-1, he comes with swappable hands – this time, it is just the hand, rather than the entire forearm. Unlike Super-1, he’s a lot more limited. He has open hands, and fists. Granted, that’s all he really needs, but going from 9 to 4 feels like a downgrade, especially when he has no other accessories. Still, it gives you options for poses. He also has the lego block support thing, so that's nice. Not as nice as an actual stand, but nice.

"I love my new electrified oven gloves!"

Incidentally, his hands are swappable with other SHODO figures, but they can look a little… silly. Unless you want to give him gorilla arms, it's not a great look.

Despite being the older one, Super-1 was always jealous of his younger brother's height.

Size-wise, he’s roughly four inches, but he’s also a little taller than Super-1, weirdly. About half a head. I can only guess the extra plastic was used in his height rather than his five extra hands. Regardless, they do look good together, and it makes me want more. we’ve got the 90’s and the 80’s, so maybe the 70’s… Hmm...

ZO lost his bout of boxing, but is world champion of Rock Paper Scissors

In any case, I like ZO, and I’m glad to have this guy. The only other representation he has is the aforementioned figuart, and while I like ZO, I don’t like him that much. By VS7, SHODO seemed to have the goal of doing the entire “Showa” line up, and I’m glad ZO got to be a part of that. Heck, he even came out with his villain, and before an actual Shows Rider, so someone must like either him, or Masked Rider, where footage from his movie was used. Hopefully not Masked Rider. He does have his flaws, but as a little guy to have on my shelf, he’s cool. Now, if only the other 90’s riders were as easy to pick up. Bloody Premium Bandai.

"That's just what the Neo-Organism said! And I'll do the same to them as I did to it! ZO KICK!"

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