The 2000-2001 entry in the Kamen Rider franchise, and first in the Heisei Era.A group of archaeologists uncover an ancient tomb of a legendary warrior, and discover a mysterious belt-like artifact known as the Arcle. Unfortunately, they also happen to pop the lid off of the Sealed Evil in a Can at the same time, unleashing a race of monsters known as the Grongi. The tribe-like Grongi compete against each other in a "game" of killing humans, with the strongest Grongi winning the right to challenge their leader for domination of their race.Enter Yuusuke Godai, your typical everyday nice guy. While in town visiting one of his archaeologist friends, the building they are in is attacked by one of the Grongi. Seeing the Arcle and feeling an overwhelming urge to protect everyone, Yuusuke instinctively dons the belt, which is then absorbed into his body. From that point on, he can summon the Arcle from within himself to transform into the legendary warrior known only as Kuuga.While Kuuga's power is extremely weak to begin with, Yuusuke learns to use his instincts and burning desire to protect those around him to access new and more powerful forms to battle the Grongi. However, he must also contend with the police who, baffled by the appearance of these "Unidentified Lifeforms", have classed Kuuga as an enemy alongside the Grongi.Kuuga is notable for being the first Kamen Rider TV series since the end of Kamen Rider Black RX in 1989 (following a fewstand-alonemovies released during the 90s), and a successful modern reboot of a classic Toei franchise.
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.
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).
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 as in, the language itself, free of the culture. 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.
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.
Cool Bike: The TryChaser 2000 and the BeatChaser 2000. They're not just for looks, either - the former's introductory episode shows off some impressive stunts with it. 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.
Destructive Saviour: The Rising forms impart enough power that avoiding this is a key plot point of the second half of the series.
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.
Reconstruction: However, the show still showcases inspiring heroism Kuuga embodies, the importance of teamwork and the people around you, to always keep your hope in the darkest times and at the end, humanity will always win out against an inhuman evil.
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, and showing that, 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.
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.
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.
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.
At first, then this is subverted. With some serious upgrades, 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 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'.
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 Memoriam: Before the Heisei Rider era began with Kuuga's premiere, a message says "This project is dedicated to Ishinomori-sensei". Shotaro Ishinomori was the creator of the Kamen Rider series, and Kuuga was an idea he had to revive before his death.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As mentioned above, several late-series Grongi have the ability to perform Form Changes much like Kuuga, with obvious parallels - their Fighting, Quick, Shooting, and Herculean Form correspond to Mighty, Dragon, Pegasus, and Titan Forms respectively. Go-Gadoru-Ba has a full-powered Shocker Form which parallels Rising Mighty or Amazing Mighty, while N-Daguva-Zeba has an Imperfect and a Perfect Form, paralleling Growing and Ultimate Form respectively.
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.
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.
At one point Yusuke starts wearing a T-shirt with the Kuuga symbol on it, much like Jou Shigeru and his Stronger shirts.
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.
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.
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. In the end mostly subverted when they invent bullets that do work on Grongi.
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.
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 Undefined Lifeform case ever knows what Godai means with Kuuga. This always results with people confusing the Kamen Rider with a famous actors, players and even a country (Cuba).
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 Fukkatsu in Japanese, which, like the English term, can mean either a resurrection or a media revival. 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.
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 which typically forms a pun on the Japanese word for what plant/animal they resemble, and the third part refers to their species/type.
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.
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
Tranquil Fury: The version of Ultimate Form Yuusuke takes in the final battle.
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.