The Kamen Rider series for 2013 has recently concluded. I ended up not watching it for a substantial amount of time - but recently got back into the spirit of things, and before I knew it I had burned through nearly all 51 episodes. The show is quite engaging and fun - and is a solid Kamen Rider series for anyone new to the franchise.
The series follows a Mage, Soma Haruto, who fights monsters called "Phantoms". The Phantom's stated goal is to find people known as Gates (people with high levels of magic), and bring them to the point of despair - to give birth to a new Phantom. Haruto's whole thing is about being the Final Hope these people have - as he tries to rescue objects or people that support their hearts. When he is unsuccessful, though, Haruto has to drive into that person's Underworld (psychic landscape), and destroy the Phantom growing within them.
The series uses a gimmick, a series of Magic Rings (which look really bulky!) - but it works out as a delivery system for some simple, but effective forms of attack and defense. Haruto is able to transform between Fire (default), water, wind, and land elemental forms - and is able to increase those powers with the dragon which dwells inside him. His ultimate form "Kamen Rider Wizard Infinity", is a diamond themed look.
The accompanying cast of characters are fun and enjoyable. A slight attempt at realism, by bringing in police and government watchdogs, helps to add some tension to early episodes. The group surrounding Haruto, though, eventually boil down to comic relief; which they aren't bad at, but sometimes not being serious enough can be annoying.
The introduction of a new Mage, Beast, is a welcome addition to the show - though he ups the comedy by leaps and bounds.
Watching previous Kamen Rider series, like 555s, and Ryuki - it strikes me how much those shows where horror-based, as the heroes would usually come in (after the fact) and defeat the monsters - with several victims already being good and dead. Haruto is the complete opposite - winning victory in almost every circumstance. I start to view Phantoms as an endangered species - as their attempts to give birth to a new Phantom fail so often, with Phantom-soldiers dying in the attempt.
The thing is - that all boils up the explosive finale. I have to say - I sort of saw some of it coming. I felt like I knew the secret of the villainous Wiseman early on -- and it turned out I was correct. (I'm not saying what I was correct about, though. Spoilers.)
I also appreciated the occasional increased stakes - as more mature topics, like serial killers, are brought up. (Though not gone into detail! STILL - when was the last time you saw a Serial Killer on a children's television program?!)
The music of the series is really fantastic - and prompted me to buy the CD, which can be found here.
Here are images from the series which I have collected over the last year.