The Hero's Journey (But You're No Hero)

Fandom: Kamen Rider Kabuto, Tokusatsu
Relationship: Yaguruma Sou x Kageyama Shun
Characters: Kageyama Shun
Additional Tags: Character Analysis
Publication Date: 25/06/2020
Kageyama in the rain

The Hero’s Journey, or monomyth, is a standard story template used for centuries across myths and novels alike. Many a famous tale follows this structure. In its complete form, it can be cited as having 17 main steps, but this has typically been abridged;

  1. The Ordinary World
  2. The Call to Adventure
  3. Meeting the Mentor
  4. Crossing the Threshold
  5. Tests, trials, failures, allies, enemies
  6. Growth of skills
  7. The Abyss, Death and Rebirth
  8. Revelation, Reward
  9. Atonement
  10. Achieving the goal and returning to the ordinary world
Changes are made across stories, but you can relate this to many stories of heroism and adventure. In particular, Star Wars was immediately recognised as following this; the same can be said for Lord of the Rings or even stories such as Jane Eyre.

A similar tale can be seen in Kamen Rider Kabuto, but rather than focus on Souji Tendou or Arata Kagami, I would instead focus on someone else. A character who isn’t a traditional hero, who isn’t a title character, and who is often seen by some as a complete waste of space; Shun Kageyama.
Throughout this essay, I will explain how we take the waste of space comedic relief and apply his story to that of a hero.

Shun Kageyama and the Ordinary World

When we meet Kageyama, he’s already a member of Shadow. He’s not anyone special within that ranking; he’s just one of the many in Shadow, all equal and no one to stand out. Except that Kageyama makes himself stand out with his closeness to Yaguruma. He’s loud and defensive of him and entirely sold in Yaguruma’s ideal of Perfect Harmony. At this point, he’s happy. This is his ordinary, following TheBee and working with the Perfect Harmony of the team. Shadow work as a sub-section of ZECT, allowing them to have that kind of bond where they can be happy in that state. They’re all equal; no one is better than anyone, even Yaguruma. There’s no pressure to climb the ladder; there’s no pressure to show off. You work on perfect teamwork, and through that, you all gain.

The Break of Perfect Harmony

The call to adventure for Kageyama doesn’t come in the form of any actual call to adventure, but rather the destruction of the status quo that previously existed in Shadow. During a fight, Yaguruma becomes overwhelmed by his rage at Tendou. This leads to him ignoring his team and the danger they’re in, in effect breaking the harmony and letting Shadow fall into chaos. Kageyama’s world is instantly shattered because this is no longer everyone working together for a common goal. Yaguruma is too focused on Tendou to care about them. In the end, it’s Kagami who saves Kageyama and Shadow, not Yaguruma. This causes TheBee to leave Yaguruma and join Kagami because TheBee values working as a hive.

Meeting the Rider

So, the Perfect Harmony of Kageyama’s life is gone. The person he most believed in turned out to not uphold the ideals he so proudly preached, and he had to try and adapt to the new way of the world. Which means confronting Kagami and Tendou. Kageyama does try to accept Kagami as their new leader, attempting to be welcoming of him as TheBee. However, since Kagami doesn’t believe in Perfect Harmony and therefore doesn’t operate Shadow as a hive, Shadow is quick to fall into chaos. Instantly, Kageyama starts to take charge and start directing them. Kageyama is trained for Shadow, and he understands how to operate them. However, without a proper user of TheBee, they are still struggling to fully harmonise. Kagami is still for himself; he’s not for Shadow, and therefore can’t correctly master TheBee. Kagami wants to be a rider because of his issues with Tendou; him helping was only an act of his own heroics. It was never actually for Shadow, and that is his critical failure as TheBee. When Kagami fails to fulfil the orders given, Kageyama says its Shadow’s role to pick up where TheBee fails, only for Kagami to instead protect Tendou. This is the final act in him breaking his connection with TheBee as he goes against the hive.

This is where Kageyama starts to take over as the leader of Shadow and leads into crossing the threshold into something new.

This part is where Kageyama is singled out in Shadow as the one who will go on. His close relationship with Yaguruma has made him a more outspoken member; he stood up for Yaguruma against Kagami, which brought him closer to the main rider conflict and then was the one to be saved by Kagami. This particular part happens with Kageyama at a vulnerable time. Yaguruma, whom he trusted so much and believed in the ideals of, just betrayed him based on a selfish desire. Kageyama is reacting to being abandoned by what he knew and so wants to be able to cling to the one that takes Yaguruma’s place. This person, however, is closer to Tendou and will only pull him into the conflict of the riders.

He’s also showing his competence as a leader, just wholly on instinct. He’s automatically taking it up because it’s what needs to be done and because he knows what needs to be done.

Through these interactions, Kageyama is drawn closer to wanting to be a leader and getting himself involved in their conflicts with the other riders.

Crossing the Threshold

Kageyama crosses the threshold into this new world for him, a world where he is the leader of Shadow, by returning that feeling of betrayal right back at Yaguruma. A traitor is found to be leaking information on Shadow, and Kageyama takes this opportunity to reason that their first suspect should be the man they just fired from being TheBee. Kageyama sets up this situation so that he can approach Yaguruma, and they can talk about Perfect Harmony, and he’ll beg him to come back. This is ultimately a setup, and when they execute the fake plan, TheBee goes to Kageyama, allowing him to flaunt it in front of Yaguruma. He shows his ease in organising Shadow, his strength as TheBee, and makes himself what Yaguruma was. He shows that not only does he no longer need Yaguruma, but Shadow doesn’t either. To hammer in on returning that feeling of betrayal, Kageyama rubs in that they accused him of having a grudge, scold him for not already knowing who the new TheBee was. When Yaguruma begs to rejoin Shadow, Kageyama tells him he’ll only destroy the team’s harmony.

Kageyama moves from being a small member, following Yaguruma’s command with joy, to being a competent leader that shows no care for Yaguruma. As far as he cares, Yaguruma is a second queen no longer welcome.

Trials and Tribulations

Kageyama is now asserted as the new leader of Shadow, and he’s in charge of finding this traitor in Shadow. Now, given the situation, Kageyama does have this grudge against Kagami for disrupting Shadow’s harmony. He uses this to set him up as bait for the actual traitor, seeing him as someone he doesn’t really care about if he happens to get caught in the crossfire. People who break Shadow’s harmony are written off by Kageyama at this point; his only focus is on his team. At the start of this fight, Shadow is disrupted due to the recent discovery that one of their ranks was a worm, and it kills off the original that is still an active member. Kageyama runs over to give them commands to gain better control of the situation. Rather than attack the lead worm or Kabuto, he immediately starts attacking the worms attacking Shadow members. Kageyama asserts himself as a leader that still follows Shadows message of Perfect Harmony and TheBee’s ideal of the hive.

The next issue comes when he is suddenly removed as leader of Shadow despite being TheBee. This is not something that should be happening with Shadow, but ZECT has to meddle. The result is that Mishima puts Tendou in charge with no regard for Kageyama’s work with Shadow, purely because Tendou is Kabuto. Tendou is powerful, and that’s enough to be the stronger leader. Kageyama doesn’t know that Tendou is Kabuto at this point, but Mishima makes it clear that Tendou is far above him. Then due to Tendou knowing who Kageyama is from previous encounters, Tendou bullies him relentlessly.

This leads to Kageyama starting to break the harmony he held in Shadow. Kageyama tries to frame Tendou, but the truth instantly comes clear because Daisuke just asks Tendou about it. However, the result of this action is that without Shadow, Kageyama can’t use TheBee as efficiently. His separation from the team and dissatisfaction with them leads to him almost losing TheBee because he’s going against its ideals. Luckily, for now, he manages to get it back.

Tendou abandons Shadow, putting Kageyama back in charge. Mishima sends him to kidnap Gon, and as before, we see him struggle as he acts independently instead of when he works with Shadow. During this, however, we see conflict arise in him as when following Hiyori and Gon, they get attacked. Kageyama naturally has a strong sense for justice and to help people despite everything, so he wants to help him, and the only reason he doesn’t is that Kabuto arrives before he can take action.

When working outside of Shadow and, instead, working for ZECT, Kageyama is less in his element. He’s less focused on his own ideals of Perfect Harmony and being a hero, so he starts to struggle with what he’s doing. As this grows and he becomes more under the thumb of Mishima, it leads to him dreaming more of being a hero. He slowly shifts from wanting to focus on the harmony of Shadow to wanting to be a hero to prove himself in ZECT, a highly competitive company.

Kageyama has to straight up face ZECT, sullying Shadow before him. Shadow set up Misaki as a phantom thief under the name “Phantom Shadow” and make Kageyama and Shadow go in to deal with the supposed phantom thief. Kageyama is annoyed that the phantom thief would use Shadow’s name, only to later find out the truth behind it. Despite this, he defeats all the worms and ultimately lets ZECT get away with the act.

ZECT start toying with Kageyama; they put him on a job dealing with a factory full of worms, then Mishima suddenly pulls Shadow from it and says it’s too much for them. He’s made to ask Tsurugi for help, only to get bullied more and then have to argue to keep Shadow on the actual mission. ZECT are making a clear statement of putting him down and keeping him in a place they can control. Mishima constantly puts him as not enough, knowing that Kageyama is now the kind of person who’ll keep reaching to prove himself. The betrayal from Yaguruma hit hard, and he’s terrified of being abandoned again. So, he just keeps reaching to hopefully one day be enough and cement his importance.

Later, Kageyama is sent after Reina, the worm queen, but he gets shut down when he tries to ask Mishima anything about the situation. Trying to deal with Reina on his own is a complete mistake, but ZECT’s nonstop action pushes him away from the comfort of Shadow’s community of equals to push him to compete in the hierarchy of ZECT.

This eventually culminates in Kageyama finally being broken away from Shadow forcefully. Tendou comes back to Shadow as the captain and sets up a course to name his second-in-command for Shadow, ultimately leading to him selecting Renge from the new recruits. Renge can come in from the new recruits, take a position that Kageyama has been doing for ages, and not only that, she takes his position as Mishima’s pet. All his sucking up to Mishima, bending to his every whim, ends in him being discarded for a new, younger girl. Tendou also demands TheBee off of Kageyama, the last semblance of any pride he has. TheBee has been his key in leading Shadow, his only token of rank, and the thing that gave him the power to be a hero. It’s the only remaining attachment he has to Shadow as he’s drifted further away from Perfect Harmony, and he doesn’t want to give it up. However, that desire to be a hero over everything is starting to take him over.

Kageyama gets wrapped up working under ZECTs agreements, forcing him to work with Reina and the worms despite his issues with the situation. His need to cling to working his way up ZECTs hierarchy keeps him from doing anything against them. However, while helping the worms attack Tendou, he receives the cruel reminder of where he came from in the form of Yaguruma.

Kageyama’s instant response to seeing the new Yaguruma is to ask him about what happened to Perfect Harmony, the thing that Yaguruma and Shadow had been the symbol of, but Yaguruma has thrown it away. Kageyama tries to tell him to attack Tendou for being an enemy of ZECT, but Yaguruma doesn’t care. He isn’t focused on climbing ZECT, he isn’t focused on proving himself to Tendou, and he isn’t focused on a team. Yaguruma has become focused on himself; he reacts to how people respond to him. If they laugh at him, he will fight them.

Yaguruma creates the opportunity, and Tendou takes TheBee from Kageyama, turning him into a complete grovelling mess. Yaguruma is seconds from rider kicking Tendou, only for Kageyama to cling onto Tendou, desperate for TheBee back. He’s not showing any care for his life. TheBee zecter was the last thing giving him any sense of self-worth as he drifted from Shadow, and he’s not able to cope without that security. The zecter is a physical manifestation of his achievement, of his worth in society. It’s what he’s achieved; it’s the proof that he has worth, that he can be a leader and a hero.

Yaguruma takes pity on him and stops the attack, telling him he wishes he could cry as Kageyama did, but his tears have long since dried up.

Kageyama goes back to Mishima, and with the loss of TheBee, he no longer has any use in ZECT. He learns that he’s been replaced with Renge and gets thrown out in the rain, no longer a part of ZECT or Shadow. Yaguruma waits for him there and tells him that only by hitting this lowest point will he ever see the light, but leaves laughing.

What Hell Could Be Worse Than This

Kageyama finally hits his lowest point when after being abandoned by ZECT, Reina approaches him to have him kill the native worm that Shadow is currently protecting, telling him that he’ll get TheBee back if he does. Kageyama goes against ZECT in the action, gunning down the Shadow members that try to stop him. When he faces the native worm, Kageyama realises how his focus has shifted from ZECT and Shadow. He isn’t caring about them; this action isn’t about getting anything back from them. He only cares for getting back the only symbol of achievement he had, not having realised till that moment what a hollow pursuit it was.

Mishima pushed Kageyama to constantly try and improve his ranking in ZECT. He separated him from the hive that should have been his support until the members of Shadow no longer felt any connection to him. His constant fakeness to climb the ladder has left people hating him and seeing him as nothing but a coward. ZECT never cared about him and threw him away when he was no longer useful to the company. The pressure to perform for his job lost him all his friends, and ultimately that company gave him nothing in return for all he sacrificed.

Yaguruma saves him from Shadow and the worms, but Kageyama has realised the Hell he created for himself and the mistakes he made. When Yaguruma asks him to join him in Hell, he can’t see any way it could be worse than his current world. The light of Yaguruma’s Hell can pull him in because, if nothing else, at least he’ll have someone who’ll look at him as an equal rather than constantly looking down on him.

As the Hell Brothers, they aren’t focused on being heroes to anyone. They’re not having to impress anyone; they don’t have to climb the corporate ladder or conform to society’s expectations of them. They mainly hang around piles of rubbish and only fight if the notion takes them. Whether that’s worms or other riders.

While Yaguruma protests against searching for the light, his ideal focuses on the self and fulfilment without external validation. When Kageyama pines over wishing people praised him, Yaguruma cuts him off to remind him that that’s not what they seek. At one point, Kageyama picks up a charm a girl threw away and smashed. This is a charm she had to grant her academic success. Taking it and fixing it is a sign of Kageyama’s desire to return to meeting academic, social, and corporate success. Yaguruma tries to tell him not to cling to it, but when Kageyama ignores him, he ends up crushing it. Yaguruma is entirely against looking for fulfilment outside what you can control. You can’t control society or big companies, so don’t let them control you.

At this darkest point, however, Kageyama is, unknowingly, working as the force to pull Yaguruma out of complete depression. Yaguruma hasn’t fully grasped his philosophy of Hell, and Kageyama’s influence pushes him out. He’s starting to accept happiness in the form of friendship. Not grand scales of people, but the people who love him even though he’s not conforming to society. When Kageyama wants mapo tofu, Yaguruma initially resists, treating it as an undeserved pleasure, only to very quickly find an excuse to be able to make it for him. Making a friend happy has far more significant benefits than trying to please everyone.

Escaping Hell

The revelation of the Hell Brothers comes from a catalyst event. During a major battle, ZECT asks them to come back and take over Shadow again. To throw away Hell and return to the world that hurt them. While Yaguruma is strictly against it, Kageyama is still tempted by the opportunity. Kageyama still yearns for the praise and so ends up taking the zecter, only to get beaten and for TheBee to leave him. He begs Yaguruma to avenge him but Yaguruma scolds him for seeking out something he will never get.

However, Yaguruma reaches a change in himself now. He avenges Kageyama and helps the other riders but does so as KickHopper, not TheBee. Kageyama returns to his side again, abandoning his ZECT suit again.

With this action, Kageyama has started to break through the philosophy of Hell. Yaguruma used it to stay in his depression but now has been forced to see that’s not the end of it. There’s something that comes after the darkest point. He is uncertain and physically restrains them from taking action to spontaneously act like heroes. However, when confronted by a lot of worms, Yaguruma has a change of heart. He allows them to shrug off the restraints and to seek the light that they had denied themselves.

While this part primarily focuses on Yaguruma’s change, it’s pushed by Kageyama and is a constant state of his ideals being fluid until this point. The point where he’s no longer struggling between the two ideals because there’s a compromise to be had. They can focus on themselves, only care about each other, and fight for what they believe in on their own terms with no societal reward. They fight now because it’s what they want to do. Kageyama’s change is complete, and together the Hell Brothers have found their ideal.

The White Night

The Hell Brothers detach themselves as the world collapses in battles between humans, worms, and native worms. From the rubbish, Yaguruma finds a photo of the sun in the depths of night. An intense light exists in the darkness. Yaguruma takes it and sets a goal for them to leave together so that they can find such a light in their darkness. To move far from ZECT, from Shadow, and from the riders. No longer will they be drifters or anti-heroes or anti-villains. They’ll take the chance to gain happiness in a new way.

But Then It Went Wrong

Kabuto, however, can’t let this happen. We can’t just let them have their atonement! We can’t allow them just achieve their goal! They can’t return to their original status as being happy and together, even if now it’s without ZECT. That would complete the Hero’s Journey, and we can’t have that.

No, we’re just gonna kill them!

For what gain?

No clue! We can’t let the weird emos who don’t conform to society succeed in having fulfilment! That might, I don’t know, radicalise the children or something.

There’s basically no reason for this outside of they’re just the kind of characters that die. I took one look at them before watching Kabuto and knew instantly, “oh, they have to die at the end” because that’s just how it is.

So, Kageyama dies, and it’s somewhat debatable if Yaguruma was also meant to die here (Zi-O is not evidence, they brought back the dead in that show without saying anything), and then we never mention them again. None of the other characters care or address it. Tendou knew Kageyama was turning into a worm but apparently never thought about bringing that up, probably due to his philosophy of “well if the worm isn’t my sister, they should die”.

Despite hitting all these points on the Hero’s Journey, none of them will recognise Kageyama at all. He’s not one to them.

In a way, he has escaped the ZECT simply by being forgotten. The only person who mattered swears to be with him for eternity, and that’s all he gets.

Kageyama, dead on Yaguruma's shoulder

Shun Kageyama was never a waste of space in Kabuto. He ultimately existed to tell the tragic story of someone who put their entire life into an unfeeling, uncaring company that would never care if he lived or died. A cautionary tale to follow and one of the fulfilment that comes from focusing on what will care about you. Only to ruin it with the need for a tragic end.

Shun Kageyama was a hero for the people who needed it most; himself and Yaguruma.

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