With the Paint Roidmude still on the lose, Shinnosuke and his team look for a way to corner the monster, but run up against Chase. Also SAD CARS IN THE RAIN.
I’ll be fair. Regardless of my actual enjoyment of the show, I hate writing about Kamen Rider Drive. With some funny jokes, brief characterization moments and insanity both astonishing and grating, it remains the exact same show we got on our plate when it was initially served; an enjoyable romp, but also a fleeting one, one that barely warrants the attention we so lovingly gave Gaim. As such, it’s far harder to write anything consistent about Drive than it was about Gaim, simply because Gaim had a lot more complexity, metatextuality, philosophical undercurrents and mysteries to be solved. Drive, on the other hand, is a sitcom. Discussing it mainly comes down to whether you found a joke funny, a fight scene cool or an infantile toy pitch cringeworthy. It’s exactly what it is, without any genius intricacies to praise or frustrating missteps to viciously tear apart.
Heck, even Drive‘s treatment of its female characters is perfectly decent. Kiriko remains the strongest character in the show, aided in part by Rio Uchida’s competent dramatic acting and miraculous ability to play stoicism with the over-the-top hamminess of a Fourze character. Her courageous, witty confrontation of Roidmude 010 in this episode allowed her to skate around a mere damsel in distress role without stealing the spotlight from our hero, and her warming up to Shinnosuke paves way for a highly enjoyable double act, if their interactions in this episode are to be believed. Ryoma Takeuchi, on the other hand, manages to make it out of trying to cheer up a toy car sulking in the rain because it lost its best friend — yes, that is an actual thing that happened in this show — with his credibility as an actor still intact, so it’s hard to complain about any of the main cast members this year around.
Of course, with all the steering wheel swords, detaching, dimension-travelling shoulders and sad toy cars in the rain, there’s still a mystery going on here, though the conclusion isn’t exactly mind-blowing. The idea that Roidmudes can escape persecution by the police due to lack of evidence is a bit silly when Shinnosuke can just defy the law and blow them up anyways, but for now, Drive still manages to make the actual detective work count by placing the stakes somewhere else, such as the location of a hostage. I just hope Shinnosuke jumps in to help that poor painter our monster of the week impersonated to get cleared of all charges… Furthermore, the idea that Roidmudes can pose as people who are still alive and well makes for some interesting prospects and Chase — who totally isn’t a Rider turned evil or anything, no sir — joining their ranks to kick Rider ass ups their threat factor considerably, so I hope Kamen Rider Drive can make good on these promises. If anything, that’s the least I’ll expect from it.
- Drive seems to be making an oddly big deal about the term ‘Kamen Rider’, to the point where Shinnosuke officially declaring himself one when he takes up Proto-Drive’s proverbial sword with Kiriko’s assistance is presented as some sort of epic cathartic climax. I wonder if this means the show will try to play with the broader overall Kamen Rider mythology in a way similar to Fourze.
- Not to riff on Taiko Katono’s acting, but he looks and sounds a bit too youthful to properly convey that impression of a silent, unstoppable Grim Reaper.
- I quite like the cast-of-weirdoes set-up, so I’m really hoping next week’s episode will give the other members of the Special Unit some time to shine.
- The lack of a female commanding Roidmude is rather noticeable, making Drive the first Kamen Rider show since Decade to lack a female villain enforcer.
I think this was another major step forward for Drive. Finally feeling comfortable in its own skin, the show gave us a nice, pacy half hour that mixed action, plot and comedy well and kept me entertained from beginning to end. It’s still lacking in any sort of serious substance, but then most toku shows are only four episodes in so that’s not really a major problem. What’s more important is that it finally feels as if the pieces have fallen into place.
Take the character stuff for example. For the first time Shinnosuke comes across as fully dedicated to his cause, capable, competent and reliable. I think a big part of that is the sudden presence of Chase. With a powerful, menacing villain in the field suddenly the whole affair seems a lot more serious, and the script does a good job of building the Roidmude enforcer as a credible threat. One thing i like is that he’s relatively ‘non-monstrous’, both in appearance and in fighting style, so we get the gravitas of a clash with the enemy with the more fast-paced fighting style that comes form two humanoid combatants. Kiriko also gets more time in the spotlight this week, and that’s very much a good thing. I was impressed by the gravity and sincerity of her speech to the Paint Roidmude, and though they sort of cut the legs out from under her with her subsequent helplessness the reveal it was all part of a plan makes her look brave and willing to scarifice herself. All in all a rather sharp bit of character development.
There’s more intrigue to be found on the Roidmude side too. The idea that the main villains are often at odds with their minions is not entirely new, but it does add a welcome air of unpredictability to our villainous faction and gives ample scope to send stories off in unplanned directions if need be. The agenda of the key three is intriguing too, and it’ll be interesting to see how they can build up a force of evolved Roidmudes in a show which is almost entirely about ‘sploding them good. The bad guys turning on each other is as much a staple of Rider shows as the belt and the bike, so it’ remains to be seen whether Heart, Brain and Chase can stay cosy or if somethign will drive a wedge in them. We need to see more first, because while Chase’s role as the cold terminator is relatively clear cut I haven’t seen enough from the other two to get any real grasp on them yet.
The other thing worth noting here is the welcome return of super duper goofy comedy, which does a lot to add some spark to the proceedings. The absurd visual of moping toy cars in the rain is gold on its own but combined with the utterly insane Dimension Cab ability (which does something surely everyone has wanted to see since the suit design was unveiled) it lead to an episode with a lot of big laughs, which is always good in my book and really helped spark the whole thing to life. It’s an encouraging move onwards from Drive then, and for the first time I’m eager to see more.
- In a franchise with a long history of stupid weapons the Steering Sword is up there, and it’s definitely the laziest piece of design we’ve seen in a while to boot.
- As Aqua notes, bringing up the idea of due process is a good nod to the cop show premise, but it’s a little silly when your hero is a masked vigilante.
- The Overtime release includes a truly glorious commercial for the upcoming Kamen Rider Black blu-ray box.
- There will be no episode broadcast next week, so Drive coverage will resume in a fortnight.