Recap: Team Gaim attempt to trap the Invess that has escaped into their world, but this brings them back into conflict with Zangetsu.
Aqua‘s Thoughts: Gaim comes closer to the monster of the week formula than it has ever been, but the short foray into punching monsters does very little harm to the show’s overall quality. Kouta and Mitchy have a great dynamic going on already, and team Gaim pull out their best Scooby-Doo act in order to catch a single monster is a joy to behold. This more focused effort of an episode sadly enough results in some of the other characters getting sidelined; Kaito gets to be an arsehole in just one scene, The Nuts get to be two arseholes off screen and Pierre doesn’t appear at all. Luckily, this comb through the cast leads to some much needed screen time for Takatora. As the forest of Helheim seems to be creeping through the rips and slowly invading our world, the Melon Man steps in to reveal the true purpose of the Wärring Drivers… which, in all honestly doesn’t seem all too different from how the Beat Riders have been using them.
The two-sided monster busting gives way to some very impressive fighting sequences, with excellent choreography and standout lighting. Especially the underground tag team battle between Kouta, Mitchy and the Invess contains some fantastic cinematography. Rubber suits and late 90’s CGI have never looked this good. The car battle earlier in the episode is equally exciting, with some lovely use of the setting and an especially cool crane-mounted shot as the Invess flies off. Also, giant orange crush!
Anyways, with Takatora hot on the heels of whoever stole his Watermelon Lock Seed, things don’t look so bright for Mitchy and the others. Nevertheless, Takatora refuses to jump to the obvious conclusion, which is a pretty characteristic thing for him to do. His love for his brother is still somewhere in the limbo between genuine and simply there because Mitchy is a part of some big plan of his. In any case, it will be interesting to see what happens once he finds out his beloved little brother is not only a Beat Rider, but an Armoured Rider as well. Given the sweet power-up Ryugen will be getting next week, I think we can safely say this will happen sooner rather than later. Besides, did anyone else notice the yet again extremely obvious gang analogy? Seems Akira isn’t the only sibling who doesn’t approve of Beat Riding.
Zigg’s Thoughts: As I’ve said before, I’m loving how much time Gaim is dedicating to building its characters and relationships before plunging into actual plot. This episode serves as a really effective extension of that, and it’s notable that bar a brief pre-credits appearance from Kaito, there’s basically no interaction between Team Gaim and the baddies this week. Instead, it’s a nice, boys own yarn of the hunt for a monster interspersed with some much more serious dramatic consequences. The humour is broad but decent and again I wish to emphasise how really nice it is to see Kouta and Mitchy working alongside each other without any sort of barely concealed bitching.
Really though, the meat in this episode comes from the two major scenes of Mitch and Takatora interacting, and they’re both great. Their conversation on the stairs is really well written, rife with tension and just ambiguous enough to conceal Takatora’s real intention. Does he know about Mitchy and is acting oblivious in an attempt to wheedle information out of him? Or is he genuinely incapable of believing his little brother is the thief, and a Beat Rider to boot? I like Mitchy’s response too – it’s an interesting philosophical stance to take and perfectly in line with his character’s desire for self expression, plus it allows Takatora to come back and (unintentionally) remind him of how trapped into a particular way of life he already is. It’s always a little risky when what is, after all, a kid’s show about selling toys decides to get preachy, but I felt they pulled this off well.
The other, far more dramatic angle involving these two is of course the climactic scene where Zangetsu joins the sinister looking Yggdrasil ‘cleanup’ team, exposing his true identity to Mitchy. It’s a naturally dramatic scene, and the production crew wisely decide to go all out in playing it up, flames, sinister music and slow motion. Sure, it’s very dumb and over the top, but a show like this paints in broad strokes and going big and operatic here was very much the the right move, aided by some neat cinematography. What’s revealed about the plot here is arguably even more fascinating though, as we get a bunch of stuff dumped on us to further the mysterious Yggdrasil agenda. Not only are the rips not their doing, but it seems that their mission seems to be global salvation rather than domination, at least in their own eyes. Whatever it is, Takatora seems dedicated enough to risk his own wellbeing for the cause. Could Yggdrasil really be out to rescue the world rather than destroy it? It’s a tantalizing direction to muse on.
- The other world is named for the first time as ‘Helheim’. There’s a Norse mythology theme going here, since in that canon Helheim is one of the Nine Worlds that are connected together by the World Tree – Yggdrasil. Helheim is about as close as Norse Mythology gets to a traditional Hell, which has…interesting implications.
- Mitchy pinning his phone on the monster’s back is actually a really clever way to explain how a high school student would have a homing device.
- Even by toku standards the CGI ‘birds’ are simply awful.
- Some great acting here, particularly from Yuki Kubota as Takatora.
- As Aquagaze noted, there’s some excellent direction and lighting in this episode, particularly the climactic fight/scene in the tunnel, and all the use of fire. Zangetsu standing in the flames is one of the more striking visuals any Kamen Rider series has offered.