Hase is running wild and both Gaim and Yggdrasil are attempting to hunt him down. Meanwhile, Mitchy infiltrates the corporation to discover the truth behind the Helheim fruit. Suffering ensues.
The “Don’t say no, just live more” that opens up every episode of Kamen Rider Gaim is starting to sound like a vast warning. Just live more, and just live fast, as you are destined to die young. Poor Hassy, we hardly knew ye, but yours was a sacrifice that had to be made. Seems you cannot take the butch out of an Urobuchi even if you line him up for a children’s television show, as evidenced with hard scientific facts in last week’s blog post, and this episode delivers the icing on the cake. While Mitchy channels his inner Solid Snake — or rather, Raiden — and hatches a ride in Takatora’s appropriately douchey BMW, he finds out something even more shocking than he could ever have feared in a scene that that once again proves Kamen Rider Gaim‘s affinity for strong directing, intercutting the video footage of Kouta obliviously trashing his friend with the guy in question begging Sid not to do the very same thing to Hassy. It’s the outstanding delivery that changes a twist we could have seen coming into an utterly heartbreaking affair. Zawame City won’t ever be the same again.
With three new Riders on the block, Yggdrassil up the stakes once more, and Sid’s sadistic words prove how on top of our heroes they already are. Even without revealing their objective, Kamen Rider Gaim has gone to extensive lengths to depict its villains as extremely competent and threatening, and now all that effort is finally paying off. Just like how the good guys consist of a rag-tag bunch of different heroic archetypes, the villains encapsulate all sorts of jerkiness from Takatora’s strictly business attitude to Sid’s slimey ambition. Unless the lady in the pink Rider suit is Kouta’s sister, it looks like we’ll have a new baddy joining the ever-expanding roster soon, which will no doubt lead to Kouta, Mitchy and Kaito having to set apart their differences against this common threat. If they don’t get too distracted by any of the dozen other plot threads going on, that is.
- Gotta love Takatora parking his ride in the middle of the garage. He’s the boss, he doesn’t need a parking spot.
- Pretty bummer that, while all the Energy Riders look completely different, they all use the same weapon and finishers.
- About that Driver that Yuuya had and dropped when he transformed into an Invess… Remember where and when Kouta found his?
- Also, remember how Kouta’s first battle was all breezy and funny? Not so quirky now, huh?
- That Showa vs. Heisei Rider movie will probably have the lousiest excuse plot in Super Hero Wars history, but who cares? Shoutaro! Tsukasa! Takeshi flippin’ Hongo!
- No, Haruto, no one is excited to see you back. Go away.
This was the turning point. Before now it was possible Gaim could still have fallen back into being a ‘regular’ Kamen Rider show. A very good one mind you, but still a standard baddies versus goodies romp. But that’s clearly not happening now. Not when our hero unknowingly killed one of his best friends, when one of the riders was euthanised onscreen, and when the primary villains have donned Rider garb themselves. It’s a whole new world.
It’s an exciting one too, no matter how grim it may be. It’s not only in the big ideas that are on show here, but in the execution of them too. We’ve been saying for a while how superbly paced Gaim is and this episode was just another example of that. The slow buildup towards the end is handled brilliantly, with Hase at first seeming redeemable by the POWER OF FRIENDSHIP and then becoming more and more out of control, injuring the Team Gaim members and then ultimately facing down Kouta in a battle which teeters on the edge of melodrama but manages to stay just on the right side. It’s so powerful because although he might not have been an A-lister, Hase was still a named member of the cast with hefty chunks of dialogue and personality, and was even a Rider himself. To kill off such a prominent character, this early in the story, is a gut punch with excellent effect. I love that they flashed back to Kouta’s confrontation with Zangetsu early on too, reminding us that the theme of how to responsibly use power has been running even since the early days of the show.
What makes the Hase arc extra powerful though is how skillfully his dilemma is woven into the overarching plot. It’s here Urobuchi and his writing team really shine, as by running an effective secondary plot with Mitchy, they’re able to feed the audience information unbeknownst to either party, letting them join the dots without showing anything on screen. It’s a classic technique and one that’s employed to devastating effect to illustrate the hollow nature of Kouta’s claim to have not killed anyone. The entire scene is an outstanding example of genuine tragedy, not something you can often say about a show featuring men in fruit themed rubber suits. Urobuchi’s entire career has revolved around the idea of man being corrupted (or very often, corrupting himself) into monstrosities but it’s still pretty surprising to see it pop up here, given how dark the concept is. It raises yet more questions about the nature of Helheim – is the forest some sort of trap? How many people or creatures have been snared in it, given the number of Invess we’ve seen? And why does all of this even exist?
There’s also even more to speculate over regarding Yggdrasil. The arrival of the new Energy Riders is a bravura sequence, literally putting the old guard on the shelf in favour of this year’s newer, sleeker model. Yet for all their flash, the sinister undertones are well established with Sid’s kill shot on Hase. I’m a big fan of getting Sid out in the field – his cold, sneery character is a perfect heel and I suspect he’ll become the main antagonist ‘in the field’ while Takatora and the Professor run the show from back at base. With such an abundance of Riders, this is really beginning to feel like a genuine war, and the fact the Yggdrasil faction seems so superior at this point raises the delicious prospect of our heroes battling back as the underdogs.
Really, this installment of Gaim was superlative entertainment in every way. It proved the show has big plans and deep layered plots, that it can make us care about the characters and that it isn’t afraid to get nasty with them to achieve its ends. Gaim isn’t just a great Kamen Rider show now, or even a great toku show; it’s just great television, period, and a show that everyone should be watching.
- Baron attacking Zangetsu to distract him was a moment of pure badassery.
- Note how similar the designs of the Invess born from Hase and Yuuya are.
- Takatora’s BMW 4×4 is the perfect douche-mobile for him. How does he not notice Mitchy if he’s just lying on the back seat though?
- Plot expediency I know but man, for a top secret superpowered organization Yggdrasil has crappy security.
- None of this episode would work without a great performance from Gaku Sano as Kouta. He does his utmost to sell the part.
- From the belt shots its pretty clear one of the unidentified riders is the Professor. The other seems to be an as yet unintroduced female rider, itself pretty notable.
- Pierre and Jounouchi do not appear at all this episode. That’s great writing, having an entire plotline bubbling under the surface that you can weave back in when you need to inject drama. Big questions: How does the arrival of the Energy Riders affect Pierre’s position as Yggdrasil’s hired hitman, and how will Jounouchi react to the death of his partner-in-crime?