The team investigate the sudden disappearance of multiple women. Suspicion falls upon a local artist, whom they set out to confront.
We were told Kamen Rider Drive would be a mostly episodic affair, similar to its sister franchise Super Sentai, though for now, it mostly seems to have settled back into the two-episode arc structure first established by Kamen Rider Den-O a few years ago. Drive is pretty much a combination of both that show and Riku Sanjo’s earlier Kamen Rider W, teaming up the latter’s detective antics and whodunit twists and turns with the somewhat confusing monster gimmick — for lack of a better term — of the former. I’m still grasping at straws at what exactly the Roidmudes are, where they come from, what they want and especially how they work, but for now all the show wants us to know seems to be that they need to fulfil a certain quota of victims in order to evolve into a more powerful form. It’s a bit rare for a Kamen Rider show to keep its exact mechanics in the dark for that long, and this is evident of Drive‘s overall larger problem of being kind of a mess. While the chaotic toy pitching of the first two episodes has been toned down somewhat, Drive continues to be somewhat at a loss with what to do with its side characters, its mechanics and especially its villains.
Luckily, this episode permits itself to focus on its main characters a bit more, with a bit more fleshing out of fan-favourite Kiriko as a particular standout. Rio Uchida’s been doing a great job at portraying her in all her deadpan, badass glory and having her get a backstory this early in, the show at least shows its dedication to make Kiriko more than the token female cheerleader. A genuinely creative twist the likes of which W was known for tops off a pretty original twist, delivering a neat cocktail of madcap humour, enjoyable action and one creepy villain. Nevertheless, there is still a spark missing from Drive that its closest cousins in the franchise did have. It doesn’t have the atmosphere of W, the strong characters of OOO or the immediate joy of Fourze, but drifts somewhere in between; enjoyable but ultimately still grasping for an identity to all its own. Kamen Rider Drive tumbles trough the motions with more than enough entertainment value to keep me watching, but I doubt newcomers whose gateway into the franchise was the far more focused, epic Gaim will want to do the same. Drive lacks a distinctive feature to call its own, and it remains to be seen if, as a part of a highly gimmick-centered franchise, it will manage to survive without one.
- They’re being very generous with the theme song power-ups this season. Where are the Kamen Rider Girls when you need them?
- I, for one, wonder how Kiriko made her way up (or down) from humble traffic cop to elite special unit detective, but I’m afraid we’ll never find out.
Now that we’ve got our basic premise sorted, it’s gratifying to see Drive take a step forward into some solid storytelling and character development. There’s some smart writing on display here, particularly in the way that the identity of the villain is concealed. For those of you who only started watching with Gaim, one of the key building blocks of most series is misdirection over the true identity of the monster. The standard swerve is to make one guy look super suspicious and then reveal that the monster is actually another character who has been nothing but saintly at this point. So when the EXTREMELY SHADY artist and his nervous assistant showed up, Aqua and I of course immediately suspected the assistant. That they were able to subvert our expectations and pull off a double twist was fun and satisfying to see.
Elsewhere, there’s some good moving forward on key bits of exposition, with a little more explanation about the Roidmudes, some basic but worthwhile backstory about Kiriko and the reveal of a mysterious predecessor to the current Drive. The last is a favourite trope of recent shows, but it does inject some nice intrigue and I’ll be disappointed if we get the predictable reveal that Mr Belt used to be Drive himself. I’m a little frustrated that there’s no meaningful progression for Shinnosuke, who even appears to have regressed back to the slacker he was in the first episode. Let’s hope the epiphany he has here will be the last time that particular plotline is used. Otherwise this was an enjoyable potboiler of an episode, with a good twist and some funny jokes. Not earth-shattering, but there’s time yet.
- The relationship between the two chief Roidmudes and Chase seems intriguing. I like the idea of the bad guys having/needing their own enforcer.
- With that being said, Chase is super obviously a corrupted Kamen Rider and I’d be astonished if he doesn’t eventually become a good guy.
- For some reason sound effects have been added to the beginning and end of the credits.
- The Dream Vegas finishing attack is super dumb enough to be funny, and the misfiring finisher always brings a chuckle..