Recap: Kouta starts (ab)using his newfound powers for all kinds of tomfoolery, while team Baron attempt to get rid of their competition by challenging team Gaim to an Inves battle.
Aqua’s thoughts: Kamen Rider Gaim continues to build up a solid status quo that, while not excellently original, cleverly provides some of the classic Urobuchi tropes that have been missing from Kamen Rider for a while. It is an episode all about Kouta and Kaito, and how their similarities and differences will play a bigger role in the overall story. Kouta is the innocent hero, whose dedication to disregarding himself in favour of others brings out a very interesting side of him once he starts using his powers for all the wrong purposes. It was a theme previously touched upon in Kamen Rider OOO, but it seems all the more prominent here. For all his flaws, Urobuchi has always been a great with character development, and the distinctly coming-of-age-y Gaim seems to be no exception to this rule.
It helps that Gaku Sano is at his best when he can show off all of Kouta’s enthusiasm with just a slight hint of mischievousness or hubris. The opening credits seem to hint at Gaim’s corruption, and while I don’t doubt Kouta will remain firmly heroic for the rest of the series, this episode did a nice job at making viewers wary of his behaviour, even though he’s not doing anything wrong. Is Kouta really a selfless saint, or does he just assume so much responsibility because it makes him feel like an adult? For starters, he says he wants to protect his sister, but in all honesty, she seems to be the one reeling him in. It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen Urobuchi portray idealistic heroic motives as a fundamentally bad thing. With great power comes great responsibility, and with growing up being a frequent theme of discussion, I don’t think this will be the last we see of Uncle Ben’s famous words.
On the other side of the spectrum, there is Kaito. His scene with the kid in the tree neatly contrast with how Kouta helped the kid out in the last episode, establishing the leader of team Baron as a staunch believer in social Darwinism and expert foil to Kouta. While Kouta wants to help everyone but himself, Kaito cares about no one but himself. What makes this type of character often interesting is that they always have some sort of code of honour: because they believe themselves to be strong, cowardice is a no-go. This adds a likeable edge to Kaito’s character. Sure, he wants to crush the weak and take the city streets for himself, but he will only do so by proving his absolute superiority in a fair fight. This once again makes him Kouta’s polar opposite: whereas Kouta is a nice dude with a dishonourable streak, Kaito is a jerk with a touch of nobility.
With the two so explicitly squaring off in this episode — despite Kaito not yet being a Rider — everything else gets a bit sidetracked. Team Gaim’s rivalry with Team Baron is fun as ever, but the show could put in some more effort to explain what a Player License is and how one obtains it. With Yuya still missing, the mysterious girl having vanished without a trace and the introduction of Takatora
Batta Kureshima, the Armoured Rider in service of the Yggdrasil Corporation, the plot doesn’t seem to be grinding to a halt anytime soon. Nevertheless, I hope we will soon be getting some more info on the Inves, who have been surprisingly absent from any major developments. While it is hard to say for certain if Kamen Rider Gaim is going to be great, it most certainly tries to be — and for this franchise, that is usually what sets the classics apart from the derivative obligations.
- Kaito certainly confirms his status as egocentric jerk by imitating one of anime’s most famous egocentric jerks. Did he just summon a bunch of monsters in one turn? Screw the rules, he has fabulous hair.
- Aesir’s decision to translate Sengoku Driver as Wärring Driver makes a lot of sense when you read their translation notes.
- Team Baron are not the very best dancers, which is especially
Zigg’s thoughts: ‘Hero uses his powers for self-interest before realising that that’s sort of a dick move’ is a classic hero trope, but Gaim plays it well here, mostly because rather than genuine selfishness Kouta seems more motivated by a sort of goofy desire to better his life. Playing these scenes as light hearted comedy rather than character angst is definitely the right choice here, allowing us to appreciate Kouta as just (ironically) a kid with a new toy. There’s plenty of chance for character development to come up, so there’s no need to hammer home a moral here, and refreshingly the show realises that.
Elsewhere you can begin to see the shades of Urobuchi in the ruminations on self-reliance and personal strength, one of ol’ Gen’s favourite recurring themes. This being a Kamen Rider show I fully expect the Power of Friendship to win out but I have to admit while Urobuchi has shown a tendency to over-indulge in some of his work, a blast of nihilistic darkness could add a nice dose of drama.
Otherwise, my biggest issue with this episode continues to be the fact we’re sort of overwhelmed by concepts. There’s still a lot left unexplained about the city, the way the Inves battling works or what exactly is going on with the dance teams, and while it’s good to have mysteries they could probably have been better established. Otherwise this was a strong sophomore effort from Gaim. If it hasn’t quite found its footing yet, it’s not for want of trying.
- I love that Pineapple Arms’ finisher involves turning the opponent into a giant pineapple ring.
- Not fond of Team Gaim’s garage, which looks and feels very much like a set.
- Best bit of the episode – Kouta using his giant orange head to battle the enemy.