Recap: Pierre’s entry radically shakes up the Invess game, and it appears there’s no-one who can stop him.
Aqua‘s thoughts: Kamen Rider Gaim delivers another highly entertaining episode, blending its strong characters with fun action scenes, which for the first time made me realize I am still watching a Kamen Rider show. Despite the rather hilarious realization that Gaim already has to retort to recycling the two (!) monster costumes it has featured up to now, the big battle royale at the climax stole the show, finished off by an outstanding chase scene featuring Mitchy getting to be a badass and Kouta stealing the show rolling around in a giant watermelon. I am not even making this up.
Despite all the great action, the plot is still going at a fast rate. While the threat of Kaito and Pierre is toned down a bit — with especially the latter not being the complete psychopath he was set up to be — the both of them remain interesting cogs in a fascinating whole. The big twist, of course, comes once DJ Sagara is revealed to be in cahoots with Sid and Takatora. In other words, the Beat Rider game is nothing more than an elaborate experiment with no doubt less than savoury intentions. I’d be surprised if the bad guys will stick together until the bitter end, though. It will not be long before Takatora finds out his Watermelon Lock Seed somehow ended up with Gaim. He’d only have to put two and two together to discover Sid has given his precious little brother a Driver of his own.
With this reveal, all the main players seem to have been firmly set in place — except for the Nuts, maybe, who once again get their asses kicked and robbed of their Lock Seeds. Despite Pierre being the main powerhouse at the moment, he seems to be exactly the kind of guy who is here to serve as a warm-up boss, to prove that this is more than just a silly game over some dancing stages. To bring up Fate/Zero for once, he’ll probably end up as the Caster of this show. As for who will be the Kotomine, that still remains to be seen. It probably won’t be Kaito, seeing how he’s getting a power-up next week. Villains never get power-ups!
Zigg’s Thoughts: Another great episode, featuring equal parts excellent character work and cool action scenes. While I’m still not a fan of Pierre’s ‘flaming’ character, the show gets points back by going out of its way to show what a colossal badass he is, easily stomping Baron and pretty much dominating anyone who dares oppose him. It’s only through his own arrogance that he eventually loses control of the situation as his misunderstanding of how to handle the Invess takes him out temporarily and allows Gaim and Ryugen to get the big save.
With so many individual Riders in play, Urobuchi and his writing team have done a good job making them distinctive and giving them individual personalities, even at this early stage in proceedings. It’s pretty clear that each Rider is meant to represent a different philosophy towards battle, furthering the overriding ‘warring states’ theme that they’re going for. So Gaim fights to better himself, Baron to prove his strength, Zangetsu as a means to an end, Ryugen to protect his friends and Bravo for the sheer thrill of combat. Knowing Urobuchi I’m pretty sure the Rider’s worldviews will become just as important in this war as their swords and guns. While it’s certainly not the most subtle theme it’s an appreciated layer of depth that goes beyond what you’d expect in a kids show, and I hope they get the chance to expand on it a bit.
There’s some pretty meaningful plot advancement this episode too, what with the revelations that Sagara is in fact a Yggdrasil stooge, and that there’s at least one baddie above Takatora, the mysterious Professor Ryouma. I must admit I was completely thrown by the Sagara revelation – I had him pinned as a lame comic relief character so seeing him suddenly shift into smug, evil dick mode was a tremendously exciting surprise. Tomomitsu Yamaguchi nails the transition between the two faces of the character really well and while it’s somewhat obvious in retrospect, the idea that the entire Invess Game is essentially a rats-in-a-maze public test for Yggdrasil technology brings a level of cool, conspiracy theory sheen to the plot. I’m somewhat surprised that they’ve chosen to tip their hand about Ryouma this early but there’s always the possibility there’s an even bigger bad lurking somewhere high up in the Yggdrasil corporate structure.
All of that and we’ve barely even had time to touch on the excellent action scenes, with Bravo battling Baron in a nicely brutal stomp, then unleashing a battle royale at the end. It’s an example of good characterisation through action as well. Gaim gets the sweet new powerup and the killing move, as he should since he’s the main character, but Ryugen is still made to look powerful, effective and useful, rather than just a tagalong. If this war is going to be believable, it’s important all involved continue to look strong, and that was exactly what happened here. Very excited to see more.
- Taking a closer look at the opening reveals some interesting imagery in the reflections, including Zangetsu pointing a sword at Ryugen and Kouta and Mai being reflected by Kaito and the mystery girl.
- I like the fact Pierre happily gives up the fight to tend to his bakery, as it’s a good indication that he really doesn’t care about the outcome, just the battle. Likewise, him returning Baron’s Lock Seed to him is along similar lines.
- Bravo holding a glass of wine while transformed is just the right tone of knowing stupidity for this show.
- Watermelon Arms looks OK for what it is but I’m never a big fan of excessive CGI on Kamen Rider shows. Hopefully its appearances will be limited.