“Where Is Chaser Heading Towards?”
Now that Drive’s secret identity has become public, Shinnosuke is being harassed from all sides. The trouble his superiors are giving the Special Unit, coupled with the mysterious emergence of Roidmude 001 leads him to a shocking revelation. Meanwhile, Kiriko makes a final attempt to bring Chase over to her side, but Heart will not let his comrade leave so easily.
Last week’s episode showed Kamen Rider Drive ditching its most hare-brained story thread and shifted the show into top gear, and this episode succeeded at delivering on all its promises. Rife with Drive‘s strongest pointsand hints to its most interesting storylines — Shinnosuke’s melancholic side, Kiriko kicking butt, Gou’s gradual descent into darkness and Heart’s cameradrie with his species — it managed to juggle several impactful storylines at once. If this is the Drive we’ll be getting from now on, it might be one of those Rider shows worth catching up with in a few years’ time after all.
Obviously, Chase’s grand debut as Kamen Rider Chaser (+500 originality points there, Kiriko) was the main event, and while his face turn was surprisingly quick given the agonizing buildup, Taiko Katono remains an intimidating presence even as a good guy. Suit actor Yasuhiko Imai impeccably translates Katono’s brusque, mechanical mannerisms into Kamen Rider form, resulting in a cinematic, high-octane fight sequence noticeably devoid of the usual levity the main Riders bring to their fights. In a somewhat remarkable callback to his stint as the original Drive, the heroic Chase invokes the classic Rider, the unshakable cool guy who saves the girl and beats the monster to a pulp without a word, rather than the quippy, whimsical everyman the Neo-Heisei era has become known for.
It’s the girl we have to thank for Chase’s glorious re-awakening, however. Though Kiriko gets a somewhat cheesy damsel in distress moment after showing off those sweet power boots she got, she ultimately has no one else but herself to thank for Chase saving her. After all, it’s her everlasting faith in him that brought him over to the good side, and I’m intrigued to see where their relationship goes next. As usual, Rio Uchida puts forward a wonderful performance that elevates a somewhat trite crush on her ‘knight in shining armour’ to something more than merely superficial.
However Shinnosuke will take the rather obvious thing his favourite colleague has for his former archnemesis remains to be seen, but Gou seems to miffed to say the least. Why exactly he despises the Roidmudes far more than his sister, who actually lived through the trauma of their initial assault, is still unknown, but his gradual evolution from slightly dickish clown to spiteful bigot is terrifying to say the least. The one-man intervention he staged for his sister brought to mind the manipulations and guilt trips of a certain backstabbing wannabe with terrible taste in sweaters, and judging form next week’s preview, it’s only getting worse. Team Drive might be losing an ally despite just gaining one.
Heart, on the other hand, is growing ever more sympathetic. As opposed to the delightfully coldhearted Medic and the irresponsibly overachieving Brain, Heart legitimately believes he is fighting for a just cause. The show has never really tapped into the potential of his passionate, charismatic care for the other Roidmudes like it should have, but with the introduction of 001 and Chase’s betrayal of his friendship, the charm of his character is really starting to shine. Heart is not a ruthless megalomaniac like so many other Kamen Rider villains, he is more than willing to wage a fair war against mankind and seems genuinely affected by his friend choosing to take the other side without letting it shake his resolve. It’s a surprisingly human turn to take for a franchise where most conflicts between villains are based around who is a bigger douche than the other, and one I hope the series will continue to explore for all it is worth.
For everything it got right, however, this episode remained underwhelming in the visual department. Drive has been struggling to find a visual style and atmosphere of its own, with various unsuccessful attempts at creative directing in a row. While the action was more than acceptable this time around, the directing during key scenes left a bit to be desired. Especially the climactic confrontation between Shinnosuke, Chase and Heart in the forest looked like an underwhelming stage rehearsal, with characters standing around awkwardly waiting for their turn to say something. It’s a small blight on an otherwise excellent episode, however. With excellent performances and a newfound direction, Drive has never been better. Let’s hope it can keep up with itself.
- Good news is you prefer Zigg’s succinct wit over my pseudo-intellectual rambling, as he’ll be back next week. Unless he’s gotten stabbed in Glasgow.
- Kudos to Ryouma Takeuchi and his bloodcurling screams. Chase breaking Shinnosuke’s arm didn’t look as painful as it should have, but it sure sounded that way.
- Kamen Rider Chaser’s suit looks smart. I appreciate they went for simplistic and functional, rather than bogging a serious character like Chase down with silly gimmicks and toys. The Signal Axe, on the other hand, is just ever so slightly on the right side of tolerable. Really, attributing its… ‘unconventional’ design to Rinna’s whimsey is what saves it from becoming the new AxCalibur. Yeah, remember that thing? Ugh.