In part 2 of my look of the two anniversary series I’ll be looking at the antagonists of the shows and how they end overall, including decades original ending, the ret-conned ending and the Last story in the Decade/W movie Wars. Part 1 here.
—– THOSE THAT FOLLOW THE PATH OF EVIL
Now we look at the villains of the two respective series, this comes a more complicated matter in Decade where the main villain for each episode switches from world too world with very little overarching villainous presence over all, Gokaiger on the other hand has one major set of villains in the form of the Zangyack Empire that work for a core group of villains but have unlimited resources and generals to call forth to battle the Gokaigers. It’s best to split them up into main villains and part time villains for comparison. So we have Narutaki and Apollo Geist, not to mention each world’s A.U. big bad against the Zangyack and Basco. Let’s see how they compare against each other.
- NARUTAKI/ THE ZANGYACK EMPIRE
Again I’m going to start with Gokaiger first as this is one of the few times that Gokaiger is going to be the lesser of the two shows. The Zangyack Empire is shown in the opening of Gokaiger as the great enemy in the Great War that 199 Sentai fought in, an enemy so strong that all the Sentai teams had to give up their power to fight them off and destroy their army. So they are set up as powerful right from the start, something to which the Gokaigers should find a true challenge to face. However for 4/5 of the series the Earth is only under attack from a portion of the expansive army that they possess, and are led by the Emperor’s Son, whose incompetent at most tasks. This means that with the access to the 34 powers the Gokaigers have at the start of the series they are far too over powered for anything they can through at them to be truly effective, only the chief henchmen to the Son are a true threat yet they rarely take part in the combat themselves. This of course leads to many fights where the Gokaigers walk over them without too much effort, Zangyack goes through action commanders like no tomorrow, rarely do any of them ever get development of any sort, while there is punishment for the ones who survive the Emperor’s Son’s death later on they characters never change in anyway. The bodyguard Barizorg does get some expansion to when he was human but that’s Gokai Blue’s character development more than his, as he’s a robot from the series opening and never shows any recollection of his former organic body of memories.
Narutaki on the other hand is a bit of a mixed bag, (now to make sure that I got this right I re watched the ending to decade and made sure I saw the revised versions of episode 30 and 31 that seem to be the canon ending to the show). The biggest problem with Narutaki is while he may be an antagonist, but he’s not a true villain, further more he’s an antagonist to Decade and not to the world’s and that makes a massive difference. Now that would not be a problem normally but for 75% of the series there is no other villain who operates across the worlds. He’s a prophet of sorts, or at least that what he calls himself to others, in truth he’s more of a Seer, with extra powers on the side. He appears in every world with the intention of stopping Decade, rallying the riders of each world against him, and also the Kajin of that world as well, but to what purpose overall? Unfortunately it’s never really explained and any attempt to is pure conjecture on my part… and I’ll give you my thoughts on him when I talk about the end of each series, but it on occasions; safe to say that his goal is the protection on the A.U. worlds, he knows, like Natsumi that Decade will destroy the worlds and seems to want to save them at any cost, even Decade’s life , and it’s up into the air as weather he’s just in that cause as Tsukasa is revealed to have been evil himself before his memory loss. I suppose taken as a villain he’s actually quite effective, he’s able to convince anyone he talks to that Decade is a treat to the worlds; even his companions believe him but are adamant that the future can be changed. Not to mention his ability to summon riders from anywhere is handy in providing a quick bit of fan service, which is his role for the first couple of worlds before he starts actually take a little but more of a physical role in watching Decade get attacked. He’s powerful and has the ability to summon Riders and Kajin from other worlds, he’s partnered with Kivala who he sends to spy on the Hikari studio and she actually is his last Ace in the hole for killing Decade as revealed in the Last Story movie she has to power to make Natsumi a Rider to stop Decade when all else fails.
So looking at the two series together Decade actually has the stronger villain, the Zangyack Empire is pure cannon fodder for the Gokaigers to rip apart with their various Sentai powers each episode, their value only seems to be in given them a punch bag to hit with fan service each episode, while it’s not in question that they are a valid threat, that threat does not start to appear until close to the series ending as the full armada arrives at earth and sets to have an all-out attack. On the flip side of this we have Narutaki, a man of words not action and works behind the scenes; he’s able to get anyone he needs to help him and is an actual threat to Decade, yet his intentions seem honorable, he knows what is at stake and it prepared to do what is necessary to stop it! That’s a lot more conviction then most of the Villains in Rider series have, and you may spend a lot of time hating Tsukasa so much you’d actually like him to win, effectively if Decade was killed at any time, by anyone; the worlds would be saved, hence the overpowering of him as a character.
- BASCO/ APOLLO GEIST
This is where we have our big role reversal for the two shows as we look at the recurring villains of the show, these two are part time that; while aren’t the main antagonists of the show, cause enough problems for them to still be major threats. Basco is a recurring villain who is introduced at the end of the first act of Gokaiger while Apollo is introduced in the world of Black RX and continues until his death in the series finale… So who’s best? Let’s go over to Decade first for this one.
Apollo Geist isn’t introduced into the story until the Hikari Studio lands in the world of Black RX, which fits in with the theme of the older riders as up until this point you had only seen Riders from the Heisei era. His appearance also brings the Dai-Shocker threat as a whole to the show, a far more physical threat than anything Narutaki had provided; having access to a much larger force and grunts to help take over worlds. In representing Dai-Shockers plans his ambition is to increase the merging of the various worlds into one big world that can be easily conquered by them as there will be limited Rider resistance. Unlike a lot of other villains Apollo is pre-established, at least for people who had seen Kamen Rider X as he was a major villain of that series and as such it means he gets little explanation and back story here. It’s briefly shown that he has revived and that he was the old enemy of X and that really is all we get outside of his method of staying alive which is plot essential to Decade beating him. He’s a mean fighter and is more than enough to handle one Rider in most cases, only coming under pressure from the combined might of Black and RX and later once he becomes half a Fangire it’s only a double attack of Decade and DiEnd that defeats, and that’s after him after fighting back 5 Riders on his own. The trouble is he doesn’t seem like much of a grand scheme kind of person, while representing Dai-Shocker and their plans mostly he seems to have the personal stake of survival, grounding him as a character but not really contributing to the end of the series as the stakes never really feel raised by his presence.
Basco is a straight contrast to Apollo; he’s introduced much earlier in the story and immediately sets himself up a major threat and rival to the Gokaigers. He’s essentially an evolution of DiEnd’s character but follows the evil side, with the power to use the Ranger keys and summon them as physical beings he effectively has a small but powerful army capable of being major threats to the Gokaigers and manages to beat them badly on several occasions. His companion Sally who holds various giant robots in its body proves an effective bodyguard Eventually he resorts to fighting himself and is able to take down all the Gokaigers down on several occasions, becoming more of a threat then the Zangyack Empire ever seems to be. After his initial introduction he is shown in flashbacks to have been part of the Red Pirates, betraying them to the Empire. He acts mostly out of what seems like greed, though it’s eventually revealed that he found out that AkaRed planned to give the Ultimate Treasure to Earth and felt betrayed by him. While he seems to have a soft spot for Marvelous he holds no punches with him or the other Gokaigers. He’s by far the greatest villain in the series and is really the true villain in a lot of respects, its him who they have to face down to get access to the ultimate treasure, not to mention he also captures them several times, takes their ranger keys and summons them against the Gokaigers and steals the ship… the Zangyack Empire can’t claim to have done nearly as much.
It’s obvious that when compared to each other Basco is the clear winner in terms of villainy, he’s far more charismatic then any of the others on either of the two shows, he’s fun and playful while seriously raising the game in terms of threat level against the Gokaigers, he is able to beat them and consistently does, while overpowered that fact that he’s only a recurring villain works well as the episodes he appears in are amongst the best, even out doing some of the returning Sentai. Comparing to Apollo who shows up right at the end of the series, while other Rider villains have done this in the past it generally comes as a game changer when things get real for the main characters but Apollo never adds up to anything major, his defeat adds nothing to the story and really his inclusion adds nothing either. Outside of the movie the presence of Daishocker is unnecessary as a whole as their plans never really have anything to do with the personal issues of Decade of the other characters or the merging of the world’s either, it just adds more complication to a concept that that’s already confusing enough.
—– GOING OUT WITH A BANG
The last major thing to talk about is how each respective story ends, while at this point there’s still episodes of Gokaiger left the main objective of the whole story has been resolved and Basco has met his end, like wise Decades story has been completed in the Decade/W movie as the series ending got ret-conned by changing the last two episodes to follow into the movie better, so I’ll look at these as well as comparing the ret conned ending to how Gokaiger is shaping up to be.
The two endings to Decade are both equally full of plot holes; however if you’re looking at the series and ignoring the movie at least the original episodes that aired actually did propose a possibly ending and those last 5 minutes being actually quite dramatic, while the revised episodes did nothing but set up the film. The main differences between the two endings are the death of Decade by Kaito’s hand, a shot fight in the face no less and Yuusuke dying and being resurrected by Kivala as Ultimate Kuuga, uniting with the other 8 original Riders (Not AU ones) This ending is finite an I suppose actually ends the threat of the world’s colliding by killing Decade, the whole objective of most of the series, why it’s never made clear why this this would save the worlds I’ll take a guess at that in a bit. The other ending is far more of a lead in to the movie, Decade does not die, and effectively managing to kill all non-main riders from the original worlds and Yuusuke is just knocked unconscious and is naturally not revived. The second ending works much better as a lead in to the movie but does little else, its anti-climactic in every way and all it does is end where the series started with the Rider war, of the two the original is the more powerful ending of the two but answers nothing while being a more bitter-sweet ending to the series.
Now if someone was to suggest that Decade had a million plot holes it really would not feel like it was far from the truth, I’ll attempt to explain the ones I don’t think were dealt with that actually affect the story. First off let’s look at the original Riders; while we only see Wateru and Kenzaki in speaking roles are their worlds already destroyed at the start of the series? If the Dai-Shocker is cannon did Tsukasa set their worlds on the path to destruction before he lost the Decade gear? Where did these A.U. worlds come from? Did they appear as shadows of the original worlds and the people inhabiting them explain why worlds share Riders that look exactly the same are similar (we know why from a production perspective). Why does killing the A.U. Riders save the worlds? Wateru implies that destroying the A.U. worlds will save Natsumi’s world, would that also bring back the other ones as well? Either way Decade it seems, was never meant to help the Riders in the A.U. worlds, though his presence still seems to make them begin to merge anyway, the original Riders know about Decade and what his traveling does meaning there setting up the deaths of countless worlds, while trying to save or resurrect their own, it’s a very dark premise and out of character for almost every Rider given we’ve seen them in the preceding series. Both ways nothing that happens seems to change the fact that all the A.U. worlds get destroyed and their Riders disappear, yet Yuusuke never does and he’s an A.U. Rider. It’s also started that two worlds Riders can’t exist in the same universe; again Yuusuke seems UN affected by this, unless it’s his presence that causes the worlds to begin to merge? Lets look at Narutaki for a second, where does he fit into all this? I’d have love to have known his origins as clearly he has much hate for Decade but is that from a past encounter Tsukasa forgot of because of his memory loss? While were on the subject of Narutaki; where did his visions come from and does he have them in dreams like Natsumi or are they more life like to him? Actually seeing those two are the only two we see who can see the future does Narutaki and Natsumi have some sort of relationship with him in some way… you never see Natsumi’s father… just pointing out. Then again he could actually be sending the visions to her in dream form as another form of manipulation, though he sends Kivala to watch the Decade gang and eventually comes to make a Rider of Natsumi so that she could do what no one else could and kill Decade, someone Tsukasa would feel for and be unable to stop. That’s a ton of questions it itself that were never likely to get answers to and I’m sure the readers of this will think up many more. I might as well address the Second movie as its really the ending to the show, it effectively again ret-cons everything by having Natsumi kill Decade, which effectively restores the worlds, original and A.U. As well as the other worlds that may or may not have been destroyed yet (Kaito never disappeared so I assume his world was still OK) but the memories of Decade that all the people he met have of him are enough of bring him back to life, which allows him to go on and begin his own story, Narutaki still seems to have a personal vendetta against him though joining DaiShocker to fight him… though again I’ve read that he was just posing as Colonel Zol… which still makes no sense given his character as he seems to have his main objective of the worlds saved.
Lets now look at Gokaiger, its ending has slowly built up with the focus rightly taken off of the Zangyack Empire and the focus put on the hunt for the treasure,and therefore their fight against Basco who was really the true threat to the Gokaigers. Resorting to a cheap trick on his part to remove Marvelous, the only real person able to fight him, forcing the other 5 to band together and retake the ship, which they do until they are once again forced to fight Basco and once again loose. The end battle between Basco and Marvelous is heavily set up and is epic to watch and would have made a great series end in the first place but with the addition of a great moral choice to the use of the great treasure it adds one last great moment of character development for the team as a whole, use the treasure to re shape the world as they wish it should be, but at the cost of all the powers that were in trusted to them? That concludes the destruction on the Zangyack Empire which now has its full invasion force arrived at Earth and its bigger then that of the great war. Even without knowing how it was going to end its done so much more then Decade has in its set up being able to devote a ton of episodes to it since the Emperor’s Sons death, while Decade go fixed on its 2 episode arcs in each world and confined the end story to a 2 episode arc as well… this could have been built up so much more were one of these arcs been removed to give more time in the Rider War world or even a few more episodes to add more depth?
—– FINAL THOUGHTS
As anniversary series both shows bring all they can to entertain the viewers, while Decade is by far the weaker of the two however its not really a bad show in its self, it has a great idea and excuse to show all the riders and varied stories that the writers could have never made into full series themselves but these stories overtook the main over arching one which mostly got left behind and a lot of the stories them selves seemed poorly executed, Gokaiger however learnt form the mistakes of Decade especially when it came to returning characters, fan service and most of all the plot. That’s not to say its flawless, as both series have flaws with their main villains though Gokaiger goes a lot further to rectify it with one very strong sub villain while Decade suffered from threat less villains in each world that pose no issue for him given his over powered status. Its also worth mentioning that I find Decade to have the better mood music to fit scenes, even if it does become repetitive over the series, while Gokaiger draws from its history of Sentai theme music to fit the Sentai focus of the episode, Decades original music should have also been complemented by old Rider songs instead of relying on original music, even if it is the stronger of the two shows.
It does make a much bigger difference in Decade weather you have seen the previous Rider series or not, a lot of the time having seen an older series will tend to make the A.U. Spin on it more negative while this might always be the case for anniversary series where the whole point is nostalgia it should never be that its better if you’ve never seen a show before, that could easily justify the show as a failure in its own right, never once does Gokaiger do this weather you’ve seen the original sentai series or not it remains faithful to it! So I’m going all out and saying Gokaiger is the better series of the two, but I’m sure most people thought that already, Decade is certainly worth watching, especially when it brings its best but Gokaiger is consistently good and rarely lets you down, I hope the ending is equally satisfying!
[So that's it, I may well do a cover of Gokaiger's ending in a few weeks though as a epilogue to this article, but I hope this was help fun to read and made you think about some of the characters of series as a whole in different ways.]
Until next time
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