Kamen Rider Gaim Episode 18

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Recap

Mai tries to throw a big performance with all the Beat Riding teams, but none of them are willing to take part as long as Team Baron are. Meanwhile, the aforementioned Team Baron goes through some big changes and Pierre and Jonouchi hatch a plan to take out the Beat Riders for good… Sort of.

Aqua’s Thoughts

I have dreaded this episode for a while now. I knew that, at some point, Kamen Rider Gaim would have an incredibly cheesy episode about how dancing and friendship builds bridges and all the Beat Riders team up to cheer the titular Rider on by dancing horribly out of synch. Indeed, the strong focus on dancing solving all problems in the universe in this episode often flares up to Yu-Gi-Oh! levels of smarmy, and it’s certainly not helping Mai win any points with an audience usually out for any female character’s blood — especially not when there are much more interesting things going on. Nevertheless, it’s great to see a female character in Kamen Rider having her own little plot arc and proactively working towards her dreams without being dependent on A Man™ to save her thigh highs whenever she gets into trouble. Mai knows what she wants and what she wants is anything but ridiculous, no matter how corny the show may make it seem.

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While the Beat Riding subplot may on a superficial level have little to do with the main plot anymore, it does, gratuitous cheesiness aside, reveal many important details about these characters. Not only does it show that they’re willing to stand up against Yggdrassil’s totalitarian grip on the city, it also shows that for many of the Riders, no matter how different their motives may be, friendship is an incredibly important aspect of their character. For Kouta, it is his reason to be a hero; for Kaito, it is what’s preventing him from being a villain, and for Mitchy… Well, for Mitchy it might actually be what turns him from a hero into a villain. Speaking of villains, this episode did in fact, bring closure on a very important edge Yggdrassil has had over the Beat Riders since episode one. Ever since the beginning of the show, it’s slowly become obvious that no one but the deadbeat teens of Zawame City take Beat Riding even remotely seriously — a fact that Pierre loves to taunt Kouta and company with. It’s in this episode, however, that they, Mai on top, admit that while that may be true, that shouldn’t prevent them from valuing their dancing. No matter how tacky the delivery may be, that’s a moral I can get behind.

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Yet no matter how firm our heroes’ resolve may be, Yggdrassil is still a ludicrous amount of steps ahead. Mitchy’s chilling line at the end of the episode reminds us that, while he may have kept to himself for most of this episode, his allegiance is still as shaky as DJ Sagara’s. Or Sid’s, for that matter. Aside from that, the appearance of the final Energy Rider, apparently named Kamen Rider Duke, at the end of the episode indicates that the reunion of the Beat Riders and the defeat of Pierre may have been playing into their cards after all. By now, anything the heroes do being either immediately countered by the villains, or actually aiding them is pretty much a given in Kamen Rider Gaim, and given the overall smugness of the Energy Riders about this small victory for the Beat Riders, I don’t expect it to be any different this time. What piques my interest the most right now, however, is what will happen to Pierre. His defeat in this episode may lead to his contract with Yggdrassil being effectively terminated, which makes me wonder whether he’ll actually join up with the heroes, or declare outright war on anything with a Driver around their waist.

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That brings me to another intriguing wildcard in the insanely complex story that is Kamen Rider Gaim: Jonouchi. Reduced to comic relief butt monkey after he heartlessly stabbed Hase in the back, he’s been by far the least deserving of anyone’s attention, which, knowing the author at the helm here, makes my suspicions skyrocket. Wouldn’t Urobuchi have killed him off already if he were not to serve a higher purpose in the long run? From his role in the story, it may not be very obvious, but back when Kamen Rider Gaim was first announced, Ornac was revealed alongside the four ‘main’ Riders and heavily features in promotional material. With the way the newest Rider to join the fray, Kamen Rider Knuckle, looks so much like Ornac, I cannot help but shake the feeling that Zack will bite it sooner rather than later, and his Walnut Lock Seed will be added to Jonouchi’s arsenal. His current employer has been weakened significantly, which may present everyone’s favourite bespectacled bastard with ample opportunity to stab him in the back like he did with Hase. Urobuchi is not one to leave a dangling plot thread unattended, so I’d say you better not get too used to Jonouchi’s the slapstick comic relief.

Speaking of Kamen Rider Knuckle, he sure had one of the most subdued debuts in recent Rider history. I don’t think anyone could have predicted Zack would play such an important role, though sadly enough for him, his first foray into kicking things until they explode is effectively upstaged by Kaito stepping down as leader of Team Baron. Just as the other Beat Riders learn to accept that it’s totally okay to just do something because it’s fun, Kaito decides to repeal this idea and grow up the way he wants to, which, knowing him, will probably involve lots of meandering about strength and power. Where this sudden decision comes from, and where it will lead Kaito further down the line, Kamen Rider Gaim refuses to tell, but as with anything this show does, I have little doubt the answer will be immensely satisfying. This episode may have reminded us that, for all the Shakespearean drama and suffering going on, we’re still very much watching a show about breakdancing fruit addicts playing Pokémon, but if anything, it certainly did not make us feel guilty for it.

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Random Observations

  • Team Pop-Up, the Beat Riding gang consisting entirely of girls in white leather and thigh-high boots are played by the Kamen Rider Girls. Surprise, surprise.
  • Mitchy spends most of the episode wearing green capris and a purple scarf. Nice shout-out to his Rider form there, costuming department.
  • I’ve given up on looking for hints in the sounds made by the different Drivers. Pierre and Zack may get the same cool guitar riff upon transforming, but really don’t see them teaming up any time soon.
  • Kamen Rider Duke is totally Professor Ryouma. Let’s not even speculate about this.
  • Nice little bonus in Aesir’s release of this week’s episode: The new Super Hero Time bumper, featuring Gaim goofing off with the ToQgers. Expect first impressions on these guys sooner than you can say “nation-wide delays”. But not really.

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