Actually, it’s about ethics in Kamen Rider journalism.
Kamen Rider Drive somewhat miraculously managed to make it through the entire episode without feeling artificially padded out, which given last week’s abrupt cliffhanger when all the mysteries had already been solved, is at least a point in its favour. Through flashbacks, the story of our two journalists is fleshed out a bit further, yet the new footage mostly rethreads old ground: Journalist finds major scoop, gets turned down, decides to fake sensational news stories to get revenge, yadda yadda yadda, actually it’s about ethics in journalism. To further drive home this ham-fisted analogy, our brave ethical journalist even ends up stabbed in the back by the literal monster he chose to align himself with. You’d think people in the Kamen Rider universe would know by now that working together with shady monsters in rubber suits will inevitably lead to your outliving your usefulness, but I can appreciate a noble sacrifice made in the name of journalistic ethics. After all, he made sure not to kill anyone, so in theory, Kusaka didn’t do anything wrong? Right?
Joking aside, our man Chase crept back into the spotlight while the guest stars spent the lion’s part of the episode beating around the bush, and while most of his screen time was still spent dramatically standing in the way of Shinnosuke trying to get anywhere, he at least got to be more than an excuse for more fight scenes. With his cheesy existential angst and sudden fondness for Kiriko, it’s hard not to see the inevitable revelation that he’s Proto-Drive coming from a million miles away. That’s hardly the most worrying problem with Chase’s character, though. For a merciless monster hyped up as the ‘Grim Reaper’, Chase just isn’t very threatening anymore. He shows up and fights Drive far too often, always has the same tricks up his sleeve and his ongoing battle with the heroes seems more like a tug-of-war he loses just as often as he wins. Luckily, the depth to his character arrives right when his role as glorified punching bag is starting to get annoying.
It’s not that the many, many fights Chase engages in aren’t interesting, at least. Drive packs a delightfully quirky arsenal of abilities and spectacular finishers, though with his enemies often seriously lacking in this department, the fight scenes often seem even more one-sided and advertisement-focused than usual. When the camera is not focused on Shinnosuke’s new toys, it jitters all over the place, adding alienating cuts, irritating slow motion effects and even sequences of still frames, like a low-budget anime, to fight scenes and stealing away virtually all of the attention and craftsmanship put into the stunts, practical effects and action choreography, which are certainly up to the franchise standards. Yet the strangest thing of it all is that even though, week after week, I catch myself struggling to find anything that strikes me as particularly good about Kamen Rider Drive, I have little desire to get it out of my life. Call it optimism, Stockholm syndrome, or simply my inability to spend more than a few words on praise, but I still consider it to, at the very least, be a show I want to keep watching. The overall message of these reviews has always been the same: Kamen Rider Drive is a jack of all trades, and a master of none. Yet I hope it can find something to be exceptional at, the way OOO was at crafting villains or Fourze at the sheer joys of life. Because of the precedents set by its ancestors, I’m willing to stay with Drive until it finds that one thing. Or until it goes down the path Wizard went, and simply gives up trying entirely.
- Apparently Mr. Belt can move on his own, leading to some rather hilarious results and very obvious cuts to mask the fact that a stagehand is just sort of shaking him around a bit off-screen.
- Kiriko without her police uniform scares me.
- The Door Gun is one of the silliest Kamen Rider weapons in a long time, and having to reload also makes it one of the least useful. Oh well, at least it continues the long-standing tradition of Riders using their ranged weapons like swords. And you though Kaito using his spear as one was silly.
I was once again pleasantly surprised by Drive, this time by it’s ability to take what I thought was a dead plot and string it along long enough to make this quite a fulfilling episode. Sure, there’s probably a little bit too much of the drama between the photographers, but at least they build on a well-established character dynamic and pepper in some nice believable backstory. It’s bits of effort like this that can keep the silliness of the series grounded and prevent from flying completely off into the realm of the insane and the inane. Likewise, the miniature bit of tension between Kiriko and Shinnosuke over his old partner adds a neat wrinkle to their previously somewhat one speed relationship and gives us a satisfying payoff to round out the episode. Also uniformless Kiriko is cute and sort of weird to see.
If there’s a casualty in the character development department though, it’s Chase. This is a recurring problem with Kamen Rider villains and especially this sub-boss type of character. They need to have their ass whuipped by the main Rider every week, which sort of negates their potential to be scary. It can normally only be made up for by good acting and while at first Chase was able to effortlessly project menace, the more human he becomes the less effective he becomes as a villain. Taiko Katono is skilled at portraying the cold, efficient Terminator side of Chase, but he visibly struggles with the scenes which require emoting, and this leads to the wrong type of scenery chewing, the type which distracts from the content. That combined with the ridiculously ham-fisted hints that Chase is in fact Proto-Drive mean there’s an alarming shallowness to the whole character which his cool factor can’t quite overcome. If we’re to be engaged in the next few weeks of plot they’re going to have to step it up fast.
- While Kamen Rider is no stranger to flimsy premises. the idea that no-one can work out Shonnnosuke is Drive even though he wears the bracelet, belt, and drives the car veers dangerously close to farce.
- Since when does anything in the Kamen Rider universe need reloading? And even by the genre’s standards the Door Gun looks cheap and toyish.