The Three Dark Sisters are chasing after a mysterious man in order to gain possession of what the man calls a key of hope. As they attack, he is able to use cards to fight back against them and eventually summon SteamLiner on which he hops on to escape to a countryside station.
He takes the Hopper1 and SteamLiner cards and asks them to find the one chosen by destiny.
That “one” appears to be the new friend we meet: Ichinose Houtarou. He helps his mother at their restaurant in the morning trying to come up with a new dish that will get everyone to say “Gotcha!” at its deliciousness. But Mama Ichinose points out the time and he hurries to school. She remarks that Houtarou is a lot like his father, whose face in their family photo is obscured by their restaurant’s calling card.
At school, Houtarou’s teacher Mr. Minato asks him about him leaving his career sheet blank. Houtarou says he hasn’t found his Gotcha! dream yet. As he hurries to class, he bumps into Kudoh Rinne who helps him up, but scolds him for running in the hallway. She says she does not even know who he is, even though they’re in the same class. Mr. Minato asks her to turn in her career sheet, but she asks if that’s even necessary.
As Rinne walks away, Houtarou asks Mr. Minato what she meant by that. He says that her future career has technically been decided already due to family tradition.
During class, Mr. Minato asks “daydreamer” Houtarou to define the Renaissance. After he gives an incorrect answer, Mr. Minato turns to the other “daydreamer” in class, Rinne, who begins to correctly describe the Renaissance period as one that included the study of alchemy. He stops her from going on too long and she quips that she is not like their “poem-loving” dreamer of grandeur friend Houtarou.
After school, Houtarou’s friend Kajiki Ryo tries to tell him about a monster he saw. But Houtarou, offended by the way Rinne talked about him during class, hurries to follow her.
Houtarou is shocked when Rinne somehow makes a pile of garbage push a set of stairs up to a hidden door in a wall. Houtarou tries to follow, but is instead beckoned by a mysterious door nearby.
Houtarou heads inside to see a strange shadow seemingly matching his friend’s description of a monster. But actually it’s a small mechanical-like grasshopper. They head to the nearby park where it screams trying to tell Houtarou something. He feels strangely connected with the grasshopper.
But when Rinne walks by, Houtarou stuffs the grasshopper into his backpack. Before she can fully interrogate him about it, the SteamLiner train from earlier speeds through the subway and into the park.
Rinne says it is a Chemie and she must stop it. Houtarou is surprised to see her activate her ring and change into different clothes. She uses special powers to try and stop the train from moving any further. Houtarou tries to get her out of the way, but she insists that stopping this Chemie is her duty as an alchemist
Houtarou pushes her out of the way and he gets swept up by the train instead. He ends up grabbing onto a footbridge the train passes under.
Rinne asks what he’s trying to do and he says he just can’t run and leave her behind. She asks for his name and the grasshopper hops out to stand in front of the oncoming train. Houtarou loses his grip and falls, but the train safely gobbles him up and whisks him away to the countryside station where the mysterious man approaches him.
Houtarou is amazed to see dozens of cards with many different Chemies including the SteamLiner and Hopper1 whom he just met.
The mysterious man asks if Houtarou can feel the Chemies’ souls and says that SteamLiner and Hopper1 must have approved of him if he’s made it here. Relieved, Houtarou says they should’ve just told him that instead.
The mysterious man entrusts a Driver to Houtarou, saying that it is hope for the future. Just then, the Three Dark Sisters appear and attack the mysterious man who does what he can to hold them off.
The mysterious man tells Houtarou that the world will be in danger if the Driver falls into their hands. The man entrusts Houtarou with the name of “Kamen Rider” as the Driver wraps around his waist.
“I trust you with the future,” the mysterious man says as he is burned to death by the 3DS.
Houtarou returns to the park and tells Rinne that he has just been entrusted with something major.
Suddenly, the Chemies pop out of the sky and fly all over the city. Rinne says the 101 missing Chemies have been unsealed, but is unsure what is happening. The 3DS appear and the little one says this world is simply undergoing a change and Houtarou is not worthy of having a Driver.
One of the 3DS, Clotho, asks the little sister to allow her to take care of this. Clotho hops down into this world and fuses with a Chemie to become Mantis Malgam. Rinne says a Chemie must not come into contact with human malice.
Clotho attacks Houtarou. Rinne tries to help by using her power to drop debris on Clotho, but it’s no use. Clotho vows to slice Houtarou up and take the Driver.
But Houtarou says he will not allow this Gotchardriver to be taken by anyone as it was entrusted to him. He uses Hopper1 and SteamLiner to henshin into Kamen Rider Gotchard.
Houtarou is a bit surprised by his initial form. He tries to counter Clotho’s attacks anyway, but instead gets buried by debris. Something flashes in Houtarou’s mind and it allows him to transform into a much more manageable form.
Rinne provides some backup as Houtarou uses this new power to effectively battle Clotho and defeat Mantis Malgam. When she explodes, Houtarou is able to catch the Kamantis Chemie into a blank card.
Clotho returns to her original form and says this isn’t over and she will show him hell in the future.
Houtarou dehenshins and his friend Ryo comes running up. Ryo wants to show him video of the monster steam train that sped through the subway earlier. But someone nearby waves his hand and their memories seem to be reset.
Ryo runs off and Mr. Minato reveals himself. He says any memories and records of Chemies must be erased in order to protect the natural order.
Turns out, Minato-sensei is a comrade of Rinne’s. He explains that it’s been 120 years since the last fusion of Chemies with humans.
And so we meet some new friends and embark on our next Kamen Rider journey for the next year. This episode was a solid start. I quite enjoyed it and I really like Houtarou so far. It’s definitely a different feeling from last year when you weren’t even sure who the true title character was lol
Of course, I appreciate any attempt at refreshing approaches to the formula. But I very much like this first episode’s more traditional way of introducing us to our title hero.
A word that came to mind was “wholesome” and I think that’s a nice way to describe this first episode.
Houtarou seems like a fun character. Your typical nice guy, boy next door-type. A dreamer, but not necessarily aloof and stuck with his head in the clouds. He seems like a normal high schooler. And is wonderfully close with his mother as he helps her take care of their family restaurant.
Houtarou comes across as a “normal” guy who isn’t too goofy and also not too angsty and serious. Again, him being “normal” and more “traditional” is actually a refreshing thing. And I think him being this way is the biggest reason I really liked and enjoyed this premiere. (Also a great singing voice from Motojima Junsei too)
Houtarou certainly feels more like your traditional (typical?) main Kamen Rider character. And because of the way Geats unfolded last year initially, this really feels refreshing and different, even if you can easily compare it to other seasons in the past.
And it works because I think it really gets you to connect with the title hero almost immediately. You and him are almost in the same position, both just finding out about the journey that is about to take place over the next year.
The rest of the characters, of course, were just 2nd to Houtarou. But solid first impressions so far for Houtarou’s new allies as well as the interesting 3DS who offer a different kind of villain dynamic than I’m used to seeing on Kamen Rider.
As for this season’s gimmick, I think it’s alright. Neither Kamen Rider nor Sentai are strangers to the Pokemon-ish Gotta Catch ‘Em All plot. And those seasons can be hit or miss, many times depending on how well they can fuse that collecting dynamic with an interesting and satisfying plot that can stand on its own. Having a good story to pair with the toy commercial is always the goal of course hehe
Every new season naturally starts out with great hope. But this first episode was definitely very enjoyable and a nice way to kick off Gotchard.