Shinnosuke discovers more about the nature of the Roidmudes before AMERICA shows up to save the day.
Actually, we’re covering three episodes at the same time, but who even gives a damn? There’s no point in commenting on Kamen Rider Drive before the introduction of Mach anymore, as episodes 10 and 11 were pretty much the show as we know and mildly appreciate it. Episode 12, on the other hand, shifts gears and kick things into overdrive, finally putting Drive‘s great potential for a Fourze-like ensemble comedy to good use and turning up the wacky dial up to eleven. It’s almost a decidedly different show, with stronger directing, denser jokes and less focus on the show’s somewhat sloppy mysteries in favour of ridiculous shenanigans. This is the Riku Sanjo of Kyoryuger at work, delivering unambitious farce few can match. It’s loud and infantile, yet oh so endearing, and it does a lot more to help us adore its main characters than the somewhat more misguided attempts at humour of a ‘higher class’ in earlier episodes.
Unlikeable main characters was never Drive‘s problem, though. Ryoma Takeuchi and Rio Uchida are in top form as usual, and Yu Inaba makes for an amazing addition to the main cast as the hilarious douchebag daredevil Gou. Drive has shown off some creative battle gimmick before, but Gou’s alter ego Kamen Rider Mach is on a whole different level altogether, combining gun fu, circus stunts and a healthy dose of clowning around into one of the most enjoyable tokusatsu fights in recent memory. At last a director who knows how to hold a camera still helps a lot, too, as the show’s earlier seizure-inducing jitter cam is laid off, hopefully never to return. With the introduction of Mach, Kamen Rider Drive seems to have finally settled on the kind of show it’s aiming to be. It’s far from perfect, but I still hope this shift will be a permanent one.
- I say daredevil, but if we’re talking Marvel heroes, Gou’s much more of a Deadpool. His bursting on the scene through the fourth wall made for a fantastic gag, though as ever, the risk of too much of a good thing is one to keep in mind.
- Attentive viewers might’ve recognized the actor playing the Gunman Roidmude, Bernard Ackah — who also played the Caitsith Phantom in Kamen Rider Wizard — this time in a luckily less racist role. Well, slightly less racist.
- With the revelation that Chase is Roidmude number 000, our firm belief in him being Proto-Drive might be showing some cracks. Suffice to say, Heart and Brain are probably numbers 002 and 003, with 001 obviously being the hitherto unseen big bad of the season. Oddly enough, the new enforcer, Medic, is 009.
- Speaking of Medic, while Fumika Baba’s performance is a bit stiff, I love the crazy, ballet-dancing Ophelia vibe the character has going on.
While we’ve both been enjoying Drive up until this point, it’s clear that the show has lacked a certain spark, a certain je ne sais quoi that would propel it into must see television every week. Well, it appears to have found it with the introduction of Kamen Rider Mach. It’s no secret Aqua and I tend to prefer our toku pushed to the extreme limits of goofy, and Mach certainly fulfills that desire in the most flamboyant way possible. In retrospect it’s kind of amazing we haven’t had an Evel Knievel themed rider before, what with the strong association with bikes. What makes the character work though is marrying this to the classic Japanese stereotype of the dickish, over-the-top American and then presenting it with considerable panache. Making Gou Kiriko’s brother just adds another great element to the mix, and it’s a nice bit of character work to contrast the siblings so strongly. Looking forward to see what’s to come.
Over on the side of the Roidmudes, there are some interesting developments too. With Chase looking increasingly like departing the group some time soon, the introduction of a new baddie was inevitable. I’m not sure what to make of Medic just yet, but there’s always room for a good femme fatale in the show, and her aesthetic is unique to say the least. There’s clearly some chicanery going on with the identity of the Roidmudes as well – we’re clearly meant to think Heart is 001 and Brain 002 but since they take great care to never show their numbers in flashbacks it seems likely they’re 002 and 003 and a bigger bad lurks somewhere in the background.
What this all adds up to is exciting new layers of depth for Drive. Although it’s taken a while, the show finally feels like it’s growing an identity of its own, busting out of its identikit shell to deliver interesting plot arcs. Let’s hope this progress continues.
- Perhaps my favourite part of Mach is the return of the true Kamen Rider trademark, the scarf.
- We also watched both the Episode 0 and Telebi-kun specials, and they’re both decent little romps, if hardly revelatory.
- Apologies for the slight hiccup in coverage – blame the busy Christmas season. Hopefully we’ll be right back on track soon.