Takatora asks Mitchy to prove his loyalty by stealing Kouta’s Wärring Driver. Torn between the love for his friends and the dedication to his brother’s cause, Mitchy hires Pierre to be his go-between while Professor Ryouma sends in Yoko to assist him.
Oddly enough, one of the most focused episodes Gaim has had in a while might also be one of the most complex. Mitchy constantly wavers between scheming and completely winging it, leaving us with a rather ambiguous vision of whose side he’s even supposed to be on. This is by no means a bad thing, however, as his chaotic, convoluted planning and two-timing loyalties make for a much more realistic development than a sudden full turn would. While Takatora makes good use of Mitchy’s refusal to harm his friend, planting him as a mole amongst Team Gaim’s ranks, I wonder why Mitchy would choose to secretly side with the Professor rather than with his own brother, or rather why Ryouka decided to lie about Mitchy’s showing weakness. What do these two have to offer each other? With everyone in Yggdrasil save Yoko seemingly having their own agenda, I wonder what Mitchy’s role in all this will eventually be, especially now that Takatora is essentially the weakest link in the chain.
Despite Mitchy’s speech about having to prove his talent for cunning to his brother, I do like how his first “evil plan” quickly devolved into a bit of a mess. Having Yoko dress up as Akira, only to reveal the actual Akira enjoying some cake makes little sense, and harms the tension a bit, serving as little more than a set-up for a silly joke courtesy of Pierre and Yoko standing around yelling “What are you gonna do now, huh?” at our hero. Despite these issues, it does perfectly portray Mitchy’s problem: He may have the skills and the resources to be a cunning bastard, in his heart he is too nice to go all out against his friend or have authority over the likes of Yoko and Pierre. If anything, these three steal the show these week. Metal Yoshida has Pierre’s mix of campiness and genuine threat down to a T, Minami Tsukui is positively unsettling as Yoko and especially Mahiro Takasugi shines in this episode, growing ever more ruthless and intimidating in his performance without losing the endearing awkwardness that comes with the character’s ambiguous loyalty.
This loyalty is tested as Kouta and Yoko come to blows in an awesome fight sequence that sees the two jumping around the messiest abandoned warehouse in recent Kamen Rider history and try their hardest not to get locked in a Mexican Standoff. It’s an excitingly physical battle for what is essentially two people trying to shoot each other with tiny bows, aided by strong choreography and excellent directing. Mitchy’s flashback-induced decision not to shoot his friend in the back after all is a bit on the cheesy side compared to the more complex character stuff we’ve grown to love from this series, but it’s a small price to pay. Whether Mitchy can keep up his facade for long remains to be seen, yet if the episode preview is to be believed, he’ll hardly be the focus of next episode. Instead, we check back on Kaito, who didn’t even appear in this episode at all, and– wait, is that another new Rider?
- Minami Tsukui (Yoko) does all her own stunts, both in and out of suit. You might recognize her and her legs from Kamen Rider W, in which she played the equally malicious and kick-happy Grasshopper Dopant.
- In grand Kamen Rider tradition, Mitchy switches out his pink capris and Team Gaim hoodie for an all-black wardrobe upon turning heel.
- Seeing Akira back reminds me she is actually an Yggdrassil employee. I cannot help but think that this throwaway fact will prove very relevant in the near future.
Gaim continues its quest to be a satisfyingly complex show, refusing to just turn Mitchy to the dark side straight up. Instead, he’s visibly conflicted about his new role, and that’s pretty great. It means that we don’t discard all the character work that the show spent so long building up, and it means that we’ve got another interesting, shades-of-grey villain. So often in toku shows when somebody changes sides they go from pure angel to baby eating bastard overnight. Here we’ve got a much more intriguing premise. Mitchy clearly still cares about Kouta and his friends, but at the same time he never contemplates simply jacking the Yggdrasil gig in, which serves to re-affirm the effect Takatora’s revelation had on him.
Having said that, he’s made to look a bit of an idiot here just by how ridiculously convoluted his plan is. Both of the basic ideas are sound, namely 1) Use Bravo to do the dirty work and 2) Kidnap Akira and blackmail Kouta into handing over the belt. You run either one of these on their own, you probably get the belt. Problem is, combining them together serves no purpose other than a series of silly twists and ‘gotcha’ moments and generally make Mitchy look way less competent than he actually should in this situation. The consolation is it leads to some stone-cold badassery from Yoko, who really seems to be what we’ve been hoping for for a while now – a powerful, dangerous and competent female rider.
The ridiculous setup is partially salved by the strong ending too, which sees Mitchy turn his back on Yggdrasil and fight alongside Kouta again…or so it seems. The fact that the Professor willingly covers for Mitchy indicates he’s got his own agenda to pursue (one concerned with Kouta) and gets us to one of my favourite parts of any Rider series – the bit where the villains gradually begin to turn on one another. Mitchy’s now essentially a double double agent – he’s infiltrating Team Gaim, but he’s also only pretending to be bossed around by his brother. I have to wonder how long he’ll be able to keep up this juggling act. It’s bound to be amusing when it all comes tumbling down.