Having learned the true purpose of Yggdrasil, Kouta struggles to find the correct course of action
Unfortunately, with all the big reveals that happened last week, it would appear this one was more of a bridge towards the next development. Still, there are some choice bits of information we get. Any story about the end of the world always has arks, so no surprise there, but what was really interesting was the reveal of that weird floating ring orbiting Yggdrasil HQ. It’s a classic “The ends justify the means” weapon, but it works well to pit our hero’s naive idealism against the cold rationalization of Takatora. If the consumption of Zawame City by Helheim is truly inevitable, would destroying the entire city not be the best option to give humanity more time? Still, it seems strange to have Kouta fall away from Yggdrasil so quickly after it seemed like Takatora gained his trust.
The best part of this episode by far was how Mitchy once again shows himself to be a master manipulator. Watching him play Kouta’s own fears on him to keep him quiet was a brilliant move. My favorite part was him distracting Kouta with the Inves, only to defeat it himself. He seems to know all the ways to make sure Kouta keeps faith in him, while also simultaneously helping Yggdrasil’s cause. Still, Kouta isn’t completely stupid, and it seems his contemplation at the Fruit Bar may have started to plant a seed of doubt about his friend.
Beneath all of that, Kaito’s quest is a strange x factor in the whole affair. Is he hunting a Helheim Rider? What importance could one really have on fulfilling his quest for true power? Obviously I can see why the Professor wants it, seeing as a new rider type must use its own initiation device. Still, I doubt Kaito would just let himself be played, so there must be more to it. After Sid’s defeat, I doubt our hero will be able to keep silent for long. If he even told anyone of the things he’s learned, would they even believe him?
- I never really thought about this, but where do the Riders keep their extra locks anyway? Wouldn’t they get covered up by the suit?
- Yggdrasil sure knows how to make a stylish death ray.
- I keep thinking of Coffee House Hippie from Tamako Market whenever Fruit Bar Guy gets a scene.
It’s a great sign that after pulling off a big twist, Gaim is willing to give itself time to breath and dedicate an episode entirely to the emotional and moral quandry that Kouta is in. Oh sure, there’s a few fights, but they’re really only here as capping off points to the arguments that are presented. Instead, Gaim is once more a show about big concepts and character development, and that continues to be unusual and refreshing in the genre.
I’m not going to claim Kouta’s moral anguish is the most original or well executed internal conflict story ever. We’ve seen it done before, and arguably better, but crucially it’s still done well here. As we mentioned last week, there’s enough shades of grey in Yggdrasil’s argument that you could make a valid moral decision either way. That’s why it’s important we have Sid doing his best slimy villain acting here. He really sells the underhanded nature and immorality of the corporation’s way of doing things, and just by associating with him they’re made to look more evil. Scenes like Kouta’s dinner conversation with his sister aren’t subtle, but they do the necessary job of reminding us this is a battle about what ordinary people think, and that’s a level of thematic richness I can appreciate in a goofy kid’s show.
The flipside to Sid doing his best heelin’ is that we’re allowed a slightly more human side of Takatora. His revelation that he hopes Kouta fails because he doesn’t want to be proved he though wrong is a very revealing moment, and makes a thematic connnection between the two. Is Takatora a fallen hero, a parallel to Kouta who took the wrong path? It’s too early to say that’s precisely what they’re going for, but it’s a tantalising option should they choose to take it. Softening Takatora also works well as a contrast against Mitchy, who’s becoming increasingly hard-edged in his approach. Firstly he tries to emotionally manipulate Kouta, then at the end of the episode resorts to physically attacking him before playing the hero. It’s a deliciously two-faced approach and it’s making me question who really is the ‘evil’ brother here. Takatora’s nominally in charge of the bad guys sure, but pretty much every one of his supposed underlings is busy cooking up schemes that are far worse than what he’s planning.
Speaking of those underlings, Kaito’s hunt through the ruins is a very brief but very interesting subplot that pops up a few times here. While it seems obvious he’s hunting a monster, I wonder if it could be another Rider. We’re not given a clear enough view to see, but the Professor and Yoko are clearly interested. The big question here is do these three get built into another faction altogether, or will they continue to operate inside Yggdrasil for now? Even as we get some sort of conclusion on Kouta’s internal conflict, another possible plot is building. Never a dull moment, that’s for sure.
- I like that one of the secret projects Takatora speaks of is revealed almost immediately. Nice bit of expectation subversion.
- On the other hand ‘Project Ark’ remains a mystery. Let’s put it this way though, arks are normally used to rescue a select few from an oncoming apocalypse. The only real question is: spaceship, vault or inter-dimensional escape craft?
- The bank robbers are clearly intended to be Yakuza, but they come off more like Matrix cosplayers or gay porn stars.
- The shot of Mitchy and Kouta by the water’s edge feature some really very pretty photography.
- Great acting from Kazuki Namioka as Sid. Great trollfaces from Tsunenori Aoki as the Professor.