Series: Kamen Rider Kuuga
A New Hero. A New Legend.
The 2000-2001 entry in the Kamen Rider
franchise, and first in the Heisei Era.
When a group of archaeologists uncover the tomb of a legendary warrior, they accidentally unleash a race of monsters
called the Grongi. These tribal creatures compete against each other in a "game" of killing humans, with the strongest Grongi winning the right to challenge their leader for domination.
Enter Yuusuke Godai, your typical everyday nice guy
. While in town visiting one of his friends at her archaeology lab, he is caught in the middle of a Grongi attack and sees the Arcle: a mysterious stone artifact recovered from the warrior's tomb. Overwhelmed by his desire to protect everyone, Yuusuke instinctively dons the Arcle and has it absorbed into his body. Thereafter, by summoning the Arcle from within himself, Yuusuke can use its power to transform into the legendary warrior known only as "Kuuga".
While the power of Kuuga is incredibly weak to begin with, Yuusuke learns to use his instincts and desires to unlock additional forms, each with their own strengths and weaknesses
. Yet as the battles against the Grongi intensify, can Yuusuke handle the strain of fighting upon his mind and body? Could he lose himself to the Kuuga power and become a mindless killing machine?Kuuga
is notable for being the first Kamen Rider TV series since the end of Kamen Rider Black RX
in 1989 (following a few stand-alone movies
released during the 90s), and a successful modern reboot of a classic Toei franchise.
Partnered with the Super Sentai
show Mirai Sentai Timeranger
after initially airing alongside the final episodes of Kyukyu Sentai Go Go V
in what would later be known as the Super Hero Time
Provides Examples Of:
- 108: During episode 45, it's revealed that Unidentified Lifeform #46 killed 108 officers.
- All There in the Manual: None of Kuuga's forms are given official names in the show aside from referring to them by color, nor are any of his finishers named. We get to hear them in Kamen Rider Decade, though, because the Decadriver announces the rider and form as he uses other Riders' powers. "Kamen Ride: Kuuga! Form Ride: Kuuga Pegasus!"
- Arc Number: 2000. Not only is it the year in which the series was shown, but it features prominently, among other things, on Kuuga's bikes and Godai's abilities (as his transformation into Kuuga is his 2000th skill).
- Badass Biker: Who else? The titular hero himself. Even better, he's very proficient at Bike Fu.
- Badass Normal: Kaoru Ichijo. He even wears a Badass Longcoat.
- Battle Amongst the Flames: Episode 2; Mighty Form's debut.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Don't mess with kids if there's even a chance Yuusuke will find out. This is your only warning.
- Big Bad: N-Daguva-Zeba
- Big Damn Heroes: Godai pulls this off a lot. The police get their fair share, too.
- Black Speech/Cypher Language: The Grongi language is a cipher of Japanesenote . While no translation was present in the original broadcast, subtitles for some of the dialogue appear on the DVD releases and Toei Channel reruns, and the entire cipher was reverse-engineered by fans. It's not recommended to use them on your first full viewing, as the Grongi turn out to know a lot more than is revealed in Japanese.
- Book Ends: Yusuke Godai, Friend to All Children.
- Buried Alive: The original Kuuga. He buried himself alive - and is in fact still alive when the researchers open his coffin in the present day - just in case the Grongi came back. He only died when Unidentified Lifeform #0 tore off his belt, apparently.
- Butt Monkey: The bat Grongi Zu-Gooma-Gu. Who ironically manages to outlive both the Zu and the Me classes and acquires an upgrade, only to be defeated upon the introduction of the strongest of the Go class.
- Combining Mecha: Sort-of-invoked when the robotic beetle Gouram merges with either of Kuuga's bikes to form TryGouram or BeatGouram.
- Compilation Movie: A "director's cut" of the first two episodes.
- Cool Bike: The TryChaser 2000 and the BeatChaser 2000. They're not just for looks, either - Kuuga uses both for some impressive Bike Fu, and they can combine with the Gouram to gain bike armor which allows them to ram enemies with explosive force. There's also Go-Badaa-Ba's bike, Bagibuson.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Kuuga gets one against Go-Jaraji-Da in episode 35. It is not often you see a Grongi bleed in this series but when Godai gets pissed, look out.
- Also when N-Daguva-Zeba nearly kills Kuuga prior to the Final Battle, just switch the stomper
- Cut-and-Paste Environments: In the PS1 video game, Zu-Gumin-Ba and Me-Garume-Re have movesets similar to those of Spider Man and Grimreaper Chameleon from the first series' PS1 game. Kuuga himself has three forms (Growing, Mighty and Ultimate) that all use exactly the same moveset.
- Darker and Edgier: Especially when compared to some of the older series before or since, it's at least on par with Kamen Rider Black or Kamen Rider X.
- Depleted Phlebotinum Shells: The Nerve-Severing Bullets made from research on the remains of Zu-Gooma-Gu.
- Destructive Saviour: The Rising forms impart enough power that avoiding this is a key plot point of the second half of the series. We never get to see it onscreen for obvious reasons, but if Ultimate Kuuga, let alone Rising Ultimate Kuuga, were to put all his strength into one attack it could supposedly destroy the entire planet.
- Deconstructor Fleet: It's not a full deconstruction but it has a lot of subversive elements, like the monsters from the past not being able to speak Japanese, to the fact that cops are heavily involved. The cops themselves show what would happen if normal people dealing with monster would be like - a lot of dead bodies, though down the line, they're not as useless as they were in the beginning. Most Tokusatsu and Shonen shows gloss over elements like these, and in addition common shonen tropes like Calling Your Attacks are avoided by Kuuga. The motivation of the monster isn't even spelled out to us until a bit down the line. Hell, Kuuga growing in power is treated as a scary thing and causes problems later in the series. The overall theme of the show is that if violence is a necessary tool to fighting violence, how and when will it be enough to stop? There are many other examples if you look at the series, while the show can be viewed as a standard toku, if you compare it to later series and even earlier series, it can be rather jarring.
- In short, the director was apparently going for a "Kamen Rider X-Files" feel.
- Reconstruction: However, the show still showcases inspiring heroism Kuuga embodies, the importance of teamwork and the people around you, becoming stronger is good so long as you can control your power and use it for good, to always keep your hope in the darkest times and at the end, humanity will always win out against an inhuman evil.
- Unbuilt Trope: These tropes wouldn't be a major staple of the Kamen Rider franchise until after this show, with the next show treating its rider growing in power to be a good thing.
- Early Installment Weirdness: While there's always something that gets changed after the first few episodes, this show has an odd one - the physical contact sound effects between Kuuga and the Grongi in the first couple of episodes seem to have been lifted from a Metal Heroes library, and so sound more like robots duking it out.
- Establishing Series Moment: To compliment the above, the first fight Kuuga has is nothing short of a joke, with Kuuga nearly getting himself killed and having to be saved by Ichijou, showing that not only is the hero not your average toku hero who would just pick up his Transformation Trinket and beat up his first monster with ease, but that the muggles have just as much capability of kicking ass as the hero. Also, unlike other shows that feature the police being useless or otherwise ineffective, the police will play a major and effective role in the show.
- Evil Counterpart: Go-Gadoru-Ba seems to have a counterpart of each of Kuuga's standard forms. For that matter, arguably N-Daguva-Zeba serves this purpose for Kuuga himself (both seem to be based on stag beetles).
- Grapple Form = Mighty Form; Shooting Form = Pegasus Form; Herculean Form = Titan Form; Quick Form = Dragon Form; Shocker Form = Rising Mighty Form.
- Eye Scream: Zu-Mebio-Da gets shot in the eye. She survives, though she has to remove the bullet herself. She then decides to take revenge for this and takes out several humans' eyes. Which would've gotten her penalized in the Gegeru, but Kuuga killed her before it started.
- Fashion-Victim Villain: [In Universe] Many of the Grongi dress like they ran through a pile of discarded clothing. Justified to a degree in that they're an ancient society and aren't going to be all that in touch with modern human customs, but then you have relatively sensibly-dressed members like Zu-Gooma-Gu and Ra-Baruba-De...
- Final Battle: Deconstructed, as instead of a typical shonen final battle involving a myriad of explosions and absurdly powerful attacks, Kuuga defeats N-Daguva-Zeba in a brutal fistfight that continues well after they both destroy each other's Transformation Trinkets and revert to human form. The battle ends with Yuusuke, not Kuuga, pummeling Daguva to death in the snow.
- Finishing Move:
- Growing Form: "Growing Kick", a kick with a third of Mighty Kick's power.
- Mighty Form: "Mighty Kick", a powerful kick. Kuuga spins in midair to grant additional power.
- Rising Mighty Form: "Rising Mighty Kick", a more powerful version powered up by the Mighty Anklet. Can level city blocks.
- Amazing Mighty Form: "Amazing Mighty Kick", an even more powerful version powered up by two Mighty Anklets. Creates pillars of flame upon explosion!
- Dragon Form: "Splash Dragon", a strike with the Dragon Rod's tip.
- Rising Dragon Form: "Rising Splash Dragon", a strike with the Rising Dragon Rod's bladed tip.
- Pegasus Form: "Blast Pegasus", an arrow fired from the Pegasus Bowgun.
- Rising Pegasus Form: "Rising Blast Pegasus", three arrows fired from the Rising Pegasus Bowgun.
- Titan Form: "Calamity Titan", Kuuga stabs with the Titan Sword.
- Rising Titan Form: "Rising Calamity Titan", a more powerful version of the Calamity Titan, can be performed with two swords for the Double Rising Calamity Titan attack.
- Ultimate Form: "Ultimate Kick", a Rider Kick said to be so insanely strong, it could cause an Earth-Shattering Kaboom if used at full power! Obviously, this attack is only mentioned, never shown.
- TryGouram Attack: Kuuga on the TryGouram rams a Grongi.
- Rising BeatGouram Attack: "Body Attack", a more powerful version ramming attack, used by BeatGouram powered up with Rising energy.
- Fish Out of Temporal Water: They catch up pretty fast, but start out a little... odd. For example, Zu-Baduu-Ba witnesses some people buying things, and when he picks up a coin, he offers the coin to people, apparently expecting that it would buy him something.
- His dialogue while fighting Kuuga the first time indicates that it hasn't been a particularly long time, subjectively.
- For Happiness: Practically Godai's official job.
- Four Is Death: Subverted. Kuuga's considered "Unidentified Life Form No.4" by the police, but he couldn't be more a of heroic boyscout even if he tried.
- Played straight by Go-Jaraji-Da's killing method; it takes four days for his victims to die after being attacked, which leads to some victims to commit suicide, which forfeits part of his game.
- Friend on the Force: An interesting variant with Ichijo, but otherwise applies - note the number of times Kuuga needs to borrow a gun, for starters.
- Gory Discretion Shot: Happens with some of the more violent Grongi killing sprees; after all, it's still a kid's show.
- Homage: The Go-Bada-Ba is a reference the Showa-era Riders, most likely the first one. In human form, he rides around on a motorcycle while wearing a red scarf. Rather than simply transforming into Grongi form, he performs the classic Rider 1 henshin pose in order to do so (and that Grongi belt that all the Grongis have is emphasized a bit, as if it were his Transformation Trinket) while still wearing the scarf. Oh, and he's also a grasshopper Grongi, and wears Shotaro Ishinomori's infamous afro-like haircut.
- Shinzo is shown in the 19th episode.
- Hot-Blooded: Yuusuke Godai.
- Hour of Power: Kuuga can only maintain Pegasus Form and its Super Sense powers for a short time (50 seconds) before he forcibly transforms to Growing Form and cannot transform again for two hours due to sensory overload.
- Although it's not explicitly mentioned until after it no longer becomes an issue for Yusuke, he could at first only assume the Rising forms for thirty seconds.
- How Do I Shot Web?: Each episode arc introducing Kuuga's new forms involves him getting used to the strengths and weaknesses of each, as well as learning which weapon it uses.
- Humans Are Bastards: The ultimate plan of the Grongi is to cause humanity to embrace brutality and violence as the Grongi do. Unfortunately for them....
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each episode's name consists of exactly two kanji.
- Immune to Bullets: The police try to fight the Grongi with their regular pistols. It doesn't work out well.
- At first, then this is subverted. Japanese police carry .38 revolvers; special permission and training is required for anything stronger, so this isn't very surprising. With some serious upgrades and changes to the rules, by the end of the series regular humans with guns are able to kill high level Grongi with some effort. The problem isn't whether the bullets will pierce - rifle rounds will, even early on - but stopping power. The Grongi are tough enough that simply shooting them has an Annoying Arrows effect, so the police have to upgrade up to 'Nerve-Severing Bullets', and even those only work while they're inside the body.
- They're also not invulnerable to eye shots, as Zu-Mebio-Da, who was shot with a hand gun.
- Kuuga as well. He fights Zu-Mebio-Da while the police are unloading at both of them and later calmly describes the experience as feeling 'prickly'.
- There is one exception to this. Apparently the police got lucky and somehow caused Unidentified Lifeform #12 (Zu-Nezuma-Da, who appeared during the first timeskip) to blow up with normal bullets... But it reformed into #12B.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Pegasus Form.
- Improvised Weapon: Subverted. Kuuga's three auxiliary forms can turn random objects in their hands into their Weapon of Choice.
- Mind, the random object must bear some resemblance to the weapon it transforms into. Not a problem for Dragon (rod - any handy stick) and Titan (sword - the Trychaser's handlebar key will work, something used later in Kamen Rider Faiz), but Pegasus needs an actual gun - usually Ichijo's.
- In a Single Bound: Dragon Form.
- Kiss of Death: The Mushroom Grongi Me-Ginoga-De uses this as his murder method; he manages to deliver this on Kuuga who falls gravely ill. He gets better, but could only assume Growing Form until he fully recovered.
- Kill It with Fire: Godai plays it straight in Episode 20.
- Lethal Joke Character: Yuusuke at one point succeeds at defeating a Grongi (see Kiss of Death) using Growing Form. Granted, he needed to use the considerably feeble Growing Kick three times, but it still ended in Kuuga's favour.
- It must be noted also that Growing Form isn't just "not powerful enough" (like many other Joke Character forms), it has all the weaknesses of the other forms, and none of the advantages: slow like Titan Form, weak like Dragon Form, feeble like Pegasus Form AND it doesn't have any weapon like Mighty Form.
- Light Is Not Good: Daguva is seen in white for both his human and Grongi forms. Which is actually appropriate, considering he's somewhat akin to Satan or the Antichrist.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Kuuga's Amazing Mighty and Ultimate Forms are black with gold, and in the final episodes Yusuke wears a lot of black. He's still as heroic as he ever was, though.
- Likes Older Women: Jean Michel Sorrel and his thing for single-mother lab tech Hikari Enokida.
- Made of Iron: Titan Form.
- Magikarp Power: Growing Form, though it is just barely powerful enough to finish off a Grongi on its own.
- Man in White: Daguva's human form.
- Masquerade: Subverted. The police try to cover up the first few incidents to prevent panic, but once they realize the scale of the problem they don't hesitate to reveal everything in the interest of public safety. From then on it becomes The Unmasqued World, with frequent news reports warning people about the latest Grongi attacks and newspaper articles detailing Kuuga's various battles.
- Meaningful Name: Kuuga's name comes from the Japanese reading for "Clear-self", but it also contains Ku(空), the Japanese symbol for "Sky" or "Void" and the fifth element in Japanese Elements, or Godai.
- Memetic Hand Gesture: Godai is known for his use of the thumbs-up.
- Mid-Season Upgrade: As a result of his resurrection after his supposed death at the hands of a Grongi, Kuuga's basic 4 forms are upgraded - complete with gold-trimmed armor and upgraded weaponry. He also later gains an even further upgraded version of Mighty Form called Amazing Mighty Form.
- Subverted later with the last of the Go class Grongi getting multiple forms like Kuuga and Zu-Gooma-Gu.
- Not to mention Yuusuke/Kuuga acquiring the BeatChaser 2000 after the TryChaser is wrecked in a battle with Go-Bada-Ba.
- Motorcycle Jousting: Kuuga had a bike specifically known for maneuverability, and could joust just about anywhere (roads, beaches and even inside buildings).
- Multi-Part Episode: The show generally used two-parters. What's highly glossed over is that, in 2000, this was not the standard pattern amongst Toku shows. This would later become the standard format to Kamen Rider episodes, only changed up by Kamen Rider Gaim.
- My Horse Is a Motorbike: The Gouram was originally armor for a horse that the original ancient Kuuga would ride. When Kuuga returned in the modern day, it adapted to work with a motorcycle instead.
- Mythology Gag: Not only is there a spider monster in the first episode (a recurring element in Kamen Rider in general), but all Grongi have their own uniform belt buckles, much like the classic Shocker mooks & monsters do.
- Also a bat monster in the second episode, which is also a recurring monster with Kamen Rider in general, though not as much as the Spider.
- On top of that, just as the original series, whose first two monsters were a spider and a bat, was followed by Kamen Rider V3 whose first two monsters were a turtle and a jaguar, Kuuga's successor Agito's first two monster sets are big cats and turtles.
- At one point Yusuke starts wearing a T-shirt with the Kuuga symbol on it, much like Jou Shigeru and his Stronger shirts.
- Ultimate Kuuga and Daguva's face-off somewhat echoes that of Black Sun and Shadow Moon.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: This is actually the explanation given as to how Yuusuke unlocks some of his forms. (e.g, he doesn't unlock the agile Dragon Form until he fights a opponent who he can't reach and thinks, "I need to jump high too!")
- Subverted, actually. The powers were always there, but the belt didn't come with an instruction manual, at least not one in a language a modern human can read. This is backed up by Grongi dialogue indicating that they've seen or are aware of those forms. Zu-Bazuu-Ba, for example, talks like he's personally fought Dragon Form in the past.
- Mook Horror Show: Go-Jaraji-Da towards the end of Kuuga's Roaring Rampage of Revenge is cornered at a lake while Kuuga approaches him with an Unflinching Walk, not even paying heed to any of the Grongi's attacks as they just bounce off his armor. Jaraji, at this point, actually looks terrified, and rightfully so, as when he reaches him Kuuga brutally finishes him off.
- Noodle Incident: The cafe owner's mountaineering exploits in the Himalayas.
- Not So Different: Very literally. The Grongi transform using near-identical means as Kuuga, and are essentially a tribe of human ancestors who didn't win the evolutionary race - modern humans are descendants of the Rint tribe. Kuuga and the transformed Grongi are functionally identical at a biological level.
- One-Man Army: Kuuga still stands unique amongst the other Heisei series as being the only one to feature a single Rider. There are no other secondary, rival, or evil Riders here. ...Depending on how you interpret Not So Different.]
- Police Are Useless: Zig-zagged, they're doubtlessly a Red Shirt Army whenever they confront a Grongi face-to-face, but are extremely competent in every other aspect of their job. They're really at their most effective when serving as Kuuga's Mission Control, using their resources and deductive powers to track the Grongi's movements and warning/evacuating the citizens whenever necessary in order to minimize casualties. That said, this gets mostly subverted when they invent bullets that do work on Grongi.
- Recap Episode: Episode 17. Episode 31.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: Inverted. Black-eyed Ultimate Kuuga is powered by rage, and is thus prone to becoming evil. Godai's good nature negates it and replaces the black eyes with Mighty Form's red eyes.
- Redshirt Army: Almost every episode had policemen getting killed while feebly trying to combat the Grongi.
- Reluctant Warrior: Godai himself actually hates fighting, but has to do so to protect everyone.
- Revival: For Kamen Rider, of course. It's even the title of the first episode! Of course, in-universe the references to revivals just mean that the battle with the Grongi has resumed and Kuuga is here to combat them once again as in ancient days.
- Robot Buddy: The Gouram arguably counts as a Lost Technology variant; it not only serves as barding for Kuuga's bikes but also a flying support mech.
- Rousseau Was Right: Pretty much the theme of the whole series. Also the reason why Godai keeps fighting for everyone and why the Grongi didn't succeed on having humanity embrace brutality and violence like they do.
- Rummage Sale Reject: The Zu class, and the Me class to a lesser extent, dress in outlandish clothing. The Go class manages to blend in human society better.
- Running Gag: No one outside the Unidentified Lifeform case ever knows what Godai means by "Kuuga"note . This always results with people confusing the Kamen Rider with a famous actors, players and even a country (Cuba).
- Sealed Good in a Can: We eventually learn that Riku, the original Kuuga from way back when, sealed himself into the sarcophagus to be this. This was in fact an And I Must Scream situation... that Riku took upon himself anyway, just in case the Grongi ever came back. Unfortunately, N-Daguba got the first hit in, and forced Kuuga back into his human form, whose body was not immune to the passage of time... but since he's the sort of guy that willingly became Kuuga in the first place, he seems to have been getting up to fight anyway before dying.
- Snow Means Death: The final battle occurs on the snowy slopes of Mount Kuro, Where It All Began.
- Sorting Algorithm of Evil: First, we see the Zu class. Then we see the Me class. After the Me, we see the Go class, who are supposed to be the strongest group of the Grongi besides their overlord, N-Daguva-Zeba. (Then again, there are also the Ra class, who aid in keeping score for the Monster of the Week and the Nu class, who build weapons) This is justified by the "league" system that the Grongi have: the victor of the "Zu" class games gets promoted to "Me" class, the winner of the "Me" games is promoted to "Go" class and the winner of the "Go" games fights the sole member of the "N" class for supremacy.
- Stealth Pun: The title of the first episode is "Revival"note . While there are two in-story revivals in that episode, it also indicates the beginning of the Revival of the Kamen Rider franchise.
- Superpowered Evil Side: Ultimate Form, which combines the powers of all of Kuuga's other forms but at the (rather vaguely defined) risk that the user would become evil.
- Super Senses: Pegasus Form. The strain it puts on Godai's nervous system necessitates its Hour of Power - 50 seconds for the normal form, 30 for Rising.
- Super Speed: Dragon Form.
- Theme Naming: Each of the Grongi is named in a certain fashion; the first part refers to their class, the second is a personal name of sortsnote , and the third part refers to their species/type.
- This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: Yuusuke's final battle.
- Those Two Guys: Arguably, Sugita and Sakurai, Ichijo's colleagues in the Science Police. They do manage to defeat Ra-Dorudo-Gu with the Nerve-Breaking Bullets later on.
- Thunderbolt Iron: Expanded Universe materials explain that the material the Grongi and Kuuga use to transform came from this source.
- Time Skip: Quite a few, actually. Kuuga defeats 7 Grongi (the police also blow one up, apparently by luck) between episodes 6 and 7, and then there's another one between 8 and 9. This can be confirmed by the sudden jumps in the Unidentified Lifeform ID numbers.
- Took a Level in Badass: Apart from the obvious hero, special mention goes to the Grongi Zu-Gooma-Gu who, after taking a part of Daguva's power for himself, manages to overcome his photophobia and go toe to toe with the remaining Go-class Grongi.
- Add in the fact that he also was on the verge of killing Kuuga and would have done it had he not sensed Daguva near by and went to challenge him only to be killed off screen
- The police later invent bullets that actually KILL Grongi, allowing them to support Kuuga more directly.
- Tranquil Fury: The version of Ultimate Form Yuusuke takes in the final battle.
- Unfamiliar Ceiling: Used when Ichijou wakes up in the hospital in episode #38.
- Unflinching Walk: Yusuke's solution to defeating the Squid Grongi after obtaining the well-armored Titan form.
- Really, Yusuke's default strategy whenever he uses Titan form.
- Unstoppable Rage: What Ultimate Form would be if Godai entered it out of rage. And by "unstoppable" we mean "until the world is a smoldering wreck".
- Weapon of Choice:
- Where It All Began: Kuuga battles Daguva at the mountain where the Grongi were sealed (and revived in the first episode).
- The Worf Effect: Gooma, after receiving a massive power boost had handed Kuuga's ass on a silver platter and would have finished him off had he not been called away by Daguva... And then Daguva kills him in an instant, showing Yuusuke that Daguva is much more stronger than anticipated.
- Also, want to make the Grongi of the week seem really powerful? Have it leave devastating (sometimes visible) marks on Titan form, which could previously tank anything without even flinching.