Recap: Despite the warnings of the mysterious girl, Micchy continues to battle on behalf of Team Gaim. This does not go down well with Kaito or the other captains.
Aqua’s thoughts: As Kamen Rider Gaim continues its ever intriguing arc plot, it is getting much harder to judge individual episodes by their own merits. With every episode up until now being written by series writer Urobuchi, Gaim already reveals a strong sense of continuity and some very interesting character work. In five episodes, Kouta has evolved from generic nice dude over cocky jerkass and traumatized Shinji Ikari to pragmatic badass, and all of it feels strikingly realistic and well paced. The other Riders feel just as complex, each having sympathetic and less sympathetic sides. If this devolves into a Game Of Thrones-esque battle royale between a bunch of oddly sympathetic backstabbing psychopaths, I would be surprisingly okay with that.
Even though Kouta has now realized that he and the other Riders will eventually turn out to be mere gears in a larger scheme — with the way he warned Mitchy, you’d almost think he marathoned Puella Magi Madoka Magica during his little fit of PTSD — it seems to be hard to categorize the Riders in actual archetypes. Sure, there are factions, some being distinctly more sympathetic than the others, but most of the conflicts right now still concern some rather trivial matters. Setting the characters’ personalities and motivations apart from one another through smaller, more personal conflicts before heading straight into the whole saving the world thing is a clever move, and one that shows that Urobuchi has come a far way from the rather bloated casts he presented in Fate/Zero and Psycho-Pass — mostly consisting of aloof men in suits tackling complex dilemmas no one seemed to be able to relate to.
Of course, no Kamen Rider without suits, and this episode wonderfully delivered on that. Kouta’s new Strawberry Arms are a spectacle to behold and the leaders of team Invitto and Raid Wild debuting as Kamen Riders Gridon and Kurokage promises even more Rider goodness for the foreseeable future. With Sid apparently having one more belt to hand out left, it is nice to see the show not holding back. The battles are frenetic as ever, and surprisingly visceral at times. Despite Baron being based on a knight, his fighting style is anything but noble, and I can’t help but feel bad for Mitchy. Then again, I know he’ll be fine. If there’s anything Urobuchi has taught us, it is all you need to do to stop the hurting is give in to the madness.
Zigg’s thoughts: Absolutely outstanding episode. It had everything you could possibly want – some decent character development, good moving along of the overall plot, some nice twists and a sweet powerup for the kids. Gaim continues to impress me with the way its handling the ongoing plot development and its potentially unwieldy cast. Despite the size of it, every character is getting some believable development and it’s being done in a way that’s actually moving the story along at the same time.
Given the show is, y’know, named after him, it was obvious Kouta was going to return to the action relatively soon, but I like the way he comes back in. Stepping in to rescue someone is pretty obvious but the writing and action co-ordinate pretty cleverly here. While Kouta has to make the save, he also returns as part of an epiphany bought on by seeing Micchy take up his fight, and while Micchy is soundly beaten about by Kaito, he’s not made to look overly weak and pathetic. Instead, he’s cleanly overcome by a superior foe and still gives as good as he gets once Kouta joins the battle proper. The result is that rarest of things – a teamup moment where the two actually feel on equal terms and helping each other for real. Sure, it’s Kouta who gets the sweet powerup, but at the end of the day he is the title character.
There’s some good stuff here for Micchy too, as he proves he went into this with his eyes open and actually offers a decent rebuttal to Mysterious Waifu’s claims of disaster. This will of course inevitably come back to bite him in the arse, but it’s nice to see an actual reason given for him ignoring these warnings rather than just ‘because the plot says so’. As mentioned above he isn’t put to shame in his battle against Kaito, who gets to show off his strength and further establish himself as a king jerk. He perhaps needs more than one dimension to his character relatively soon, but for now he works well as the antagonist while Taketora
bata lurks in the background.
If all that weren’t enough, the action is great, Strawberry Arms looks appropriately silly and there’s even a cool twist with the arrival of Riders Kurokage and Gridon taking this whole battle to the next level. While there’s still areas Gaim could improve in (rounding out Mai’s character is a pretty obvious one) there’s a ton of exciting, interesting stuff happening and that makes me eager to see what’s going to happen next week. With one Sengoku Driver still at large, the plot could yet thicken further.