Recap: Without Phantoms to consume, Kousuke begins to rapidly weaken, as Haruto and the others desperately try to find his belt.
Zigg’s Thoughts: What a difference a week makes eh? Whereas we criticised the previous episode for being boring, draggy and uninspired, this time Wizard comes roaring back (pun intended) with an absolute cracker of an episode. It’s funny, it’s heartfelt, there’s some cool plot developments and an awesome powerup to top it all off. What more could you want? It makes me wonder if the regular two-episodes-per-plot structure that has been standard since Kamen Rider Den-O back in 2007 shouldn’t be reconsidered – this was clearly an arc where all the good stuff happened at the end, basically gutting part 1. I understand there’s a budgetary reason for this but a little more flexibility might be nice.
Anyway, on to the episode itself. I think what I appreciated most about this one was that we actually see our heroes thinking ahead and working stuff out for a change, rather than simply accepting everything at face value. They immediately reach the same conclusion as we do – namely that Nakamoto himself stole the artifacts – and then test that line of inquiry out. Repeatedly throughout the episode we see characters acting and reacting as real people would – Haruto’s suggestion that he can feed Kousuke mana like he does Koyomi, or his immediate move to destroy Chimaera when Kousuke’s life is in danger are good examples. It’s important because it makes the characters more believable as actual human beings, taking the most sensible and logical course of action. Too often in Kamen Rider the reactions feel that they’re ‘because the script says so’. By allowing our heroes a measure of intelligence and initiative it helps hide the mechanics of the story and makes everything flow more naturally.
One instance where there’s certainly no use of a sensible or logical course of action is Kousuke’s decision to resist Haruto’s attempts to destroy Phantom, but this still works because it gives us some welcome insight into his character. We’ve criticised Kousuke to the skies for being bland and unfunny, yet on the occasions we’ve seen him have to be serious both Tasuku Nagase and the writers have risen to the occasion. What delighted me most about his segments was the unexpected parallel drawn between him and Nakamoto. Yes, Nakamoto is a thief and has done something bad, but at heart they’ve both been given a huge opportunity to change their lives forever and that’s a motivation everyone can emphasise with. Nagase once again proves he’s a far better serious actor than relentless ham, nicely capturing the balance between vulnerability and cockiness necessary for the moment and the whole thing is very fitting for the character’s ‘Danger is Opportunity’ catchphrase.
The background character work is solid here too. Nakamoto gets redeemed pretty well in the end, although I felt that the backstory where he gets screwed over in the same way he’s about to screw Kousuke over is a little unnecessary. It would have been nicer if he’d just been driven by the weight of a lifetime of inconsequence, but it’s a minor thing and it does serve to make the character more sympathetic, so I can roll with that. Much more intriguing long term however is Gremlin’s continuing machinations. The revelation that it was he who prodded Nakamoto into the theft is a nice reminder of his chessmaster abilities, and the ending stinger where he apparently releases a powerful and dangerous Phantom is pretty tantalising. With Wiseman still remaining in the background (in fact he’s appeared far less since Phoenix left) it seems the bulk of villain plots will fall firmly on Gremlin and Medusa and I’m totally OK with that.
Finally there’s Beast’s Hyper form, and I have no problem saying it looks totally awesome. I’m really digging the Egyptian style mask and the giant Lion’s head breastplate, and the whole blue and gold motif is gaudy and splashy in a very cool way. Yes, the Mirage Magnum is possibly the most obvious toy-as-prop yet, and I’m not too sure about using those massive trailing sleeves as weapons (because goofy CGI) but overall it was pretty great to See Beast finally return to a state of kick-ass. Kick-ass pretty much described this episode actually, a bravura return to form and one which got me suitably hyped for next week, which looks to be the beginning of another big arc.
- Nice to see Rinko actually being a detective again
- After Accel Trial and Meteor Storm, blue seems to be the go-to colour for Second Rider super modes.
- The special effects for Beast running up the wall are pretty broken, but they’re more than compensated for by the awesome transformation sequence, which is one of the most impressive effects I can remember seeing in toku.
- The preview and title for the next episode (‘The Day the Magic Died’) seem to imply Haruto is going to die. Considering [Fourze Spoilers] that they did that exact same plot with Gentaro in Fourze I’d be disappointed if it was that obvious.