Recap: Kouta and Mitchy try to learn more about Yggdrasil’s involvement in the forest. They challenge the other Riders to a Lock Seed gathering competition in the hope of diverting Takatora, so Kouta can interrogate his henchmen.
Aqua’s thoughts: Kamen Rider Gaim delivers another fast-paced, excellent episode with great acting, superb directing, scheming heroes and villains and the glorious return of Pierre and the Nuts. There’s even a little dollop of parkour at the very beginning. After last year‘s rather bizarre Wizard two-parter, in which Haruto met Santa Claus inside some dude’s Underworld and gained a sweet power-up that made gifts appear out of thin air, Gaim goes for a significantly less yuletide approach to its Christmas episode. If anything, Christmas is just another wacky day in Zawame City, but what better way to celebrate it than to dress Kouta up in a Santa costume and make him kick some ass?
There is some excellent directing going on in this scene, as well as the others, courtesy of Shojiro Nakazawa, the same director also responsible for Wizard‘s more creative battle scenes. Kouta’s parkour dash at the very beginning and the Nuts’ tag-team approach to unmorphed brawling stand out in particular, and the surprisingly solid visual effects only add to the spectacle. Just like Wizard‘s, Gaim‘s transformations are a visual flair, and it seems like like Toei has finally managed to lay the awkward cuts breaking many a suspension of relief — anyone remember the Weather Dopant’s death in Kamen Rider W? — to rest. Thanks to a clever combination of CGI and real models, even Watermelon Arms manages to look pretty cool in its rather brief appearance, though I still wonder why Mitchy didn’t just let Kouta keep the Lock Seed after its first appearance. Could there be some ulterior motive to this? Mitchy, you sneaky devil, you.
Speaking of Mitchy and power-ups, where did he get that sweet Kiwi Lock Seed from? Did he blackmail it out of Sid, steal it from his brother or just randomly pluck it off a tree in Helheim? It’s hardly the most pressing matter, however, as I’m currently much more interested in seeing what’s going on on the other side. While Takatora at least still seems to have good intentions — for whom is a wholly different question, however — Sid is a complete wildcard, who seems to be only in it for fun and unafraid of double-crossing his boss when he has the chance. Yet what would he be after? Besides, if Takatora really doesn’t frighten Sid, how was Mitchy even able to blackmail him? And what does Professor Ryouma have to do with all this?
Anyways, given the fact Takatora is not a bumbling moron — in fact, no one in this show is, nor does it assume anyone watching is — he soon finds out the Beat Riders are wrecking havoc in Helheim forest and decides to step in. Not only does this reveal Yggdrasil are in the possession of a stable portal, located in a giant tree no less, it also shows that Takatora is indeed starting to consider the Beat Riders more than just pests. Next episode promises an all-out battle royale, and I’m eager to see who’ll be the first ones to get taken down by the white Armoured Rider…
… screencap entirely unrelated.
- While Kamen Rider usually works with one primary and two or three secondary, Gen Urobuchi has been tackling Gaim with a very showrunner-like approach. After writing the first seven episodes, all subsequent ones have had him collaborating with a different guest writer. Rather fitting for a show with virtually no filler, though I cannot help but think someone else took the usually rather humourless Butcher’s place for writing some of the show’s delicious gags.
- Speaking of delicious gags, the Nuts look amazing in reindeer costumes.
- Kaito dropping out of the fight to take a head start was a glorious dick move and a great bit of characterization. Of course, the Nuts follow suite, not without being massive idiots in the process, however.
- As usual, we won’t be able to cover the recently released movie, Kamen Rider × Kamen Rider Gaim & Wizard: The Fateful Sengoku Movie Battle, until it comes out on home video. Hopefully, nothing too plot-relevant will happen, but if so, the credits will make sure to spoil all the important bits.
Zigg’s Thoughts: Just a quick one from me this week, but I’d be remiss not to add thoughts on how much I enjoyed this episode. The word I think that most sums up this episode is ‘slick’. It just flowed so beautifully, from scene to scene and line to line. That might not sound like much of an accomplishment, but in my experience toku is often a very bitty experience that requires a certain amount of ‘eh, just go with it’. None of that was necessary here though – everyone had realistic motivations that dovetailed nicely with their actions, and the episode was very pacy and well directed, rocketing along with great lighting, camerawork and some very snappy dialogue. There’s a multitude of great character moments – Kaito simply buggering off to achieve victory, Sid scheming his way around the Beat Riders – and an irrepressible sense of confidence in what’s on screen. Takatora’s transformation is a bravura bit of TV that inspires a proper ‘hell yeah!’ moment, and the entire thing is an irresistible mix of action, comedy and drama. Perhaps the finest episode of any toku show this year.
- Intriguing that Yggdrasil’s stable portal to Helheim is in a tree. Perhaps that’s what they named the corporation after?
- The idea of the villains not being entirely on the same page is one that multiple Rider series have exploited to great effect. Based on the somewhat thorny relationship Sid and Takatora have, and the Professor’s seeming glee at pitting them against each other, that’s likely to be the case here.
- Pierre continues to impress me, bucking against his flamboyant stereotype by radiating just the right amount of steely menace.
- “We don’t know who the Forest of Helheim will choose”. That’s an…interesting line.