Kamen Rider Gaim Episode 20

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Recap

Takatora and Professor Ryouma reveal the secret behind Helheim

Marlin’s Thoughts

Gaim continues to be a stunning piece of work. The truth behind the Forest of Helheim had been a tantalizing secret for a while, and I’m glad they were able to give it the proper gravitas needed to really show us what the stakes were. I absolutely loved the design of the ancient civilization that had long fallen to Helheim’s influence. The plaster look of every building made it feel like they were walking through Pompeii. While the dining table set seemed a kind of weird juxtaposition of outdoor elements and home furnishings, it did well to show us the devastating quietness that came with their fall.

For a long time it seemed like Kaito and Kouta were going to be teaming up permanently, so this new allegiance change was quite the surprise. It’s a huge credit to the strength of the writing that you can never really tell who’s on who’s side, and what can sway them to defect. It seemed that the Professor has had his eye on Kaito as of late, and now we know why. I’m still not even convinced that power is the real reason the Professor goes against the will of Takatora. It just seems to me that he realizes the potential that comes with Kaito’s strength, and wants to keep him on his good side.

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I think it’s come to the point where I anticipate Gaim more than any other show outside Kill la Kill. The writing and characterization these past few episodes has been fantastic. I assume with Takatora finally getting Kouta to understand who the real enemy is, there must come a point that he learns that Mitchy was playing both sides the entire time. Still, in the beginning we saw Kouta alone against the armies of Kaito and Takatora, so who knows how long this new alliance will last.

Random Observations

  • It looks like I was a little off on the Future Earth hypothesis, but the reveal was pretty much the same concept.
  • How long is Jounouchi just gonna stand there and let Pierre hog all the screentime? He’s gotta transform again eventually right?
  • I’ve been playing a lot of SMT4 lately, and the parallels are uncanny. Granted, Urobuchi has always had themes of rule by strength, but the idea that they are going to let those with the mettle to survive rule is very similar.

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Zigg’s Thoughts

The hits just keep on coming in Gaim, but it’s not just the showstopping plot turns which maintain our interest. Rather than just using the reveals as WHAT A TWEEEST moments, there’s actually, you know, a story reason for them to exist. There’s a huge twist in this episode, but what’s really impressive is how they use this revelation to propel the story onwards, re-position the characters and their allegiances and create several more questions and potential arcs. That’s how the show keeps such intense momentum going, and why it’s such a terrific ride.

Let’s start with that twist first, because it’s a good one. The reveal of the ancient city is a splendid visual to accompany the big moment and provides a suitably creepy backdrop for Takatora’s walk and talk. All the pieces fit together well too, with the fruit itself outed as the main villain here. It plays on nicely creepy ideas of plague and possession and the revelation it’s already destroyed an entire world really adds a weight and substance to the threat. Perhaps even more impressive than the revealtion about the fruit though is the subsequent debate between Kouta and Takatora about what’s to be done. The key here is that Takatora’s actually given a really powerful case. It’s totally feasible to side with his argument that knowledge of what awaits them would tear humanity apart in a deadly combination of fear and lust for power. By contrast, Kouta believes in the basic goodness of humanity, as our hero should, even though it makes him seem a touch naive.

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The really clever thing about this is that while it advances the plot by giving a reason for conflict, it also helps fill in the characters and themes of the world yet further. All along Gaim has been a battle between the more pragmatic philosophy of Takatora (and by extension Mitchy) and the idealism of Team Gaim. This only draws those lines yet further, with Takatora’s ‘necessary evil’ approach a sympathetic and understandable approach to take, yet still one that’s morally wrong in the strictest sense. Yuki Kubota’s calm, nuanced performance gives weight to his character’s argument, and, with alignment still very fluid, Takatora is the closest he’s ever been to a good guy.

The flip side of this is of course the reveal that the Professor may well be more of a villain than we originally took him for. I love the bait and switch here, and while the ‘that was the answer we were looking for’ scene has been done a million times, this is a great example of it. It’s unclear what this little group’s aims truly are at the moment though. I can see the Professor being truly committed to the destruction of Earth by Helheim, mostly because FOR SCIENCE is a pretty believable motivation. But both Yoko and Sid seem to smart and nowhere near nihilistic enough for that to be their true motivation. They’re working an angle (not necessarily the same one), probably centered around the belief they can tame Helheim and claim its power. As for Kaito, it’ll be interesting to see if he really does want to hook up with this gang. The obvious plot arc is for him to gradually realise he’s not as done with living as he thought and return to the side of the angels, but I’m not placing any bets at the moment. Gaim has surprised us enough now for me not to pretend to know where we’re headed next.

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Random Observations

  • We haven’t even mentioned Pierre, who appears to be that rarest of things, a loose cannon who is genuinely a loose cannon and not leaning towards one side or the other. Given the curious mix of comedic and menacing that permeates the character, he could turn towards heroes or villains depending on the story.
  • On what had to be an incredibly limited FX budget the team do a great job of making the lost city look cool and mysterious.
  • Mai has been extremely sidelined, although hints of Mitchy’s romantic feelings for he returned in this episode. Given the prominence of ‘Other Mai’ has also temporarily diminished, I’m hoping that she’ll come back into the picture as the plot thickens through the second half.

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