There is a sense of finality with Zero-One Others: Kamen Rider Vulcan & Valkyrie (ゼロワン Others 仮面ライダーバルカン&バルキリー). And that feeling is bittersweet. The film, the second of two V-Cinext releases in the Zero-One Others series, wraps up the shocking turn of events in Kamen Rider MetsubouJinrai and serves as a final conclusion to Zero-One, the story.
Be forewarned that if you were left shocked and broken by what happened in the first Zero-One Others, don’t come into this film and expect to suddenly cheer up. Kamen Rider Vulcan & Valkyrie picks up where that first film left off and it’s a heavy and emotional hour.
For some, that may not be what they’re looking for in a post-series film for Zero-One. But the story and the journey our favorite characters have embarked on fit perfectly within the established universe of the series. Characters aren’t suddenly doing things out of their ordinary. Everything that is presented is a believable and logical (even if tragic) next step for their stories.
The shocking events of the first film, where in ZAIA Japan HQ is destroyed by a seemingly reconstituted MetsubouJinrai.net with their original goal of eliminating humanity, reignite anti-Humagear sentiment in Japan. And, in wider focus, a push by the government to eliminate all artificial intelligence. At least, AI that is given human physical features.
Yua Yaiba and Isamu Fuwa come together to try and face off against the rogue Kamen Rider MetsubouJinrai, but are overwhelmed and are forced to retreat. When needing to go their separate ways to avoid capture by vengeful Sold Humagears loyal to the original goal of MetsubouJinrai, Yua and Isamu meet two Solds who have been disconnected from the Massbrain System. Because of that, the two Solds have gained free will though they have different views of what the should do with that freedom; Sold9 wanting to remain loyal to MetsubouJinrai.net. Sold20 wanting to remain loyal to humans and their ZAIA creators.
Both Yua and Isamu, in almost mentor-like capacity, impart their views of justice onto the two Solds. Through that sharing, the two Solds gain an understanding of what justice means. In turn, learning about just what free will and free thinking entails.
The meaning of justice has been the driving force of Yua and Isamu’s characters as members of the system and organization tasked with keeping others in check. And they are able to gain a better understanding of justice through the mutual learning they share with the four titular members of MetsubouJinrai.
This film is also in essence the culmination of the work of MetsubouJinrai’s Horobi, Jin, Naki and Ikazuchi in their quest to understand the meaning of what having a heart really means. Their growth from mere machines adhering to their pre-programming to becoming beings of free thought very much works hand in hand with Yua and Isamu’s enlightenment
Both Yua and Isamu pass through tumultuous paths in the series, having their own worlds thrown upside down by the revelations that rock their very existence. The events of the series and the two post-series films have the two former partners end up questioning who they are, what they believe and where they see themselves in this new, uncertain future. One that may or may not involve the peaceful coexistence of humans and Humagear
The film is very much a showcase for Yua and Isamu. (If it wasn’t obvious by the title.) Giving them an opportunity to reflect on what they’ve experienced and learned as they face a sudden, unexpected tragedy. When previously, they had been hopeful in moving forward from their ordeal alongside people (and Humagears) who had become their friends, they are dealt a punch in the gut by a world that unfortunately isn’t as ready to do so.
If Kamen Rider MetsubouJinrai showcased Jin, Horobi, Naki and Ikazuchi’s heart and their resolve, Kamen Rider Vulcan & Valkyrie do the same for Isamu and Yua. Their sense of justice, rooted in sincerity, drives their decisions and sacrifices. Sacrifices that deliver a striking, but worthy conclusion to these characters’ journeys.
Ryutaro Okada and Hiroe Igeta are just amazing and absolutely carry the film’s emotional weight. They have no problem delivering the performances necessary to effectively convey this final chapter, not only for their characters, but for Zero-One as a whole. The sense of closure, though bittersweet, feels justified and fitting due in large part to their performances.
Kamen Rider Vulcan & Valkyrie does not have a neat ending. It’s not a magical, happy ending. But it is an ending that best exemplifies the season’s bold depth and well-written characters. It is the characters, their personalities and stories that have made these post-series films (and really, the entire season) worthwhile. And most of all, affecting.
None of this would work without a strong foundation to support the characters and the story in this film. But that strong foundation that was established over 45 episodes of the series kicks in and helps to support what is ultimately a full, well-rounded experience. And an enjoyable and exciting one at that.
From Episode 1 all the way to the final scenes of this film, Kamen Rider Zero-One has been able to tell a complete story. One that embarked on an emotional journey that included discussions on real world issues as well as tried and true stories of friendship, family and yes, a heroic fight for justice and freedom. Though I might have been sure in my opinion before, I am much more confident to say this now that it has come to an end: Kamen Rider Zero-One is my favorite Kamen Rider season of all-time.