Drive returns with Heart and Medic putting their plans for Ultimate Evolution into motion, while two new Roidmude enforcers make their debut. Meanwhile, Chase applies for a driver’s license and Gou’s collusion with Banno is starting to pose a problem.
Aqua’s thoughts on episodes 37-38
No worries, the Drive is still alive at The Glorio Blog; Zigg and I have simply had some more important matters to attend to (What could be more important than men in rubber suits beating up other men in rubber suits while everything behind them explodes, though?). As a result, we’re dividing this post into two: I’ll be covering episode 37 and 38, while Zigg gets to talk about 39 and 40. After the dramatic rollercoaster of rewrites and retcons, Drive finally slowed down a bit upon Nira’s arrest with a good old monster of the week two-parter mystery reminiscent of the early days of W. There’s the wacky setting (a fancy restaurant that looks just like Pierre’s patisserie from Gaim, probably because it is Pierre’s patisserie from Gaim), the unlikely suspects, the euphemistic drug undercurrents and the clever twist, though anyone expecting unadulterated filler will be surprised. As the best Kamen Rider stories do, this arc departs from a fairly ridiculous premise (Roidmudes explode when they eat a certain sauce at a certain restaurant) only to twist and mold it into a genuinely clever twist. With a silly story about Medic’s attempts to make the most delicious sauce ever, Riku Sanjo actually manages to wonderfully sum up what the relationship between Heart and Medic is like, and what makes them such engaging villains. Being as hopelessly far away from anything resembling reality as always, Medic thinks she can make her beloved Heart reach his ultimate joy by getting him to eat the world’s greatest food, and finds no better way of doing this than by testing it on random Roidmudes, with disastrous results. Sure, I’d have preferred if earlier episodes had hinted at Heart’s gourmet tastes — let alone the fact that Roidmudes can eat — but it was a brilliant way to drive home Medic’s almost adorable pettiness. Most villains would have punished such shenanigans on the spot, but then again, most villains aren’t Heart. Forgiving Medic for her irredeemable crimes is an admirable ultimate joy to experience, and it catapults the ever more human Heart all the way back to the very top of the threat list. What makes Heart so threatening isn’t necessarily his heroic traits, but that feeling deep down that — if you think about it — he may be right. When you think about it, Heart only regards humans the same way humans regard animals. If you’d have to kill an animal in order to save a human, would you even stop to weigh the animal’s life against that if a fellow human? It’s frightening to think of, so if Kamen Rider Drive has any worrying problem at the moment, it is definitely the fact that Heart might be too sympathetic for the show’s own good. Tomoya Warabino steals every scene he’s in, and as a result, the Roidmude of the week gets a bit sidelined. That is a bit of a bummer. There is a nice subplot to be found in the tensions going on at the restaurant, and the reveal that both the chef and Miho are the Roidmude was too clever a twist to waste on a mere side story. With Medic’s scheme and Heart’s Ultimate Evolution at the centre stage of the episode, a lot of the stuff going on on the sidelines — particularly Gou and Chase’s scenes — feels a bit insubstantial. It’s a bit of a jarring shift after the brilliant, climactic arc we’ve just had, but as Zigg will tell you, Drive will pick up the pace again very soon.
- In case anyone’s still keeping up with the Roidmude numbers, the appearance of 004 in the latest episode means we have now seen all of the first ten Roidmudes: Chase, Heart, Brain and Medic are 000, 002, 003 and 009 respectively; Freeze was 001, Tornado was 008, and 006 is the mafia-looking guy. Lastly, 005 appeared as the villain of the Telebi-kun special and 007 was the Sword Roidmude, who appeared in the episode where Shinnosuke’s secret identity is revealed.
- Given the current situation, it seems fairly obvious that Chase and Medic will be the final two members of the Promised Number. Then again, Kamen Rider does have a long-standing tradition of giving complete randos major roles near the end. Just think of the Horoscopes from Fourze, or the Mages from Wizard.
- There’s some symbolism in the Roidmudes’ numbering we’ve never mentioned before, somehow. The number of Roidmudes, 108, recurs in Buddhism, most noticeably as the number of times a bell is chimed at the end of every year in Japan — one time for each earthly sin a mortal must overcome in order to reach nirvana. Likewise, the promised number, 4, may refer to various aspects of Buddhism, but is mostly known as symbolic of death, because the characters for ‘four’ and ‘death’ are pronounced the same (shi).
We’ve been joking for a while now about how Drive seems to be setting up possible finales and then throwing them away prematurely, but these two episodes really do feel like the show entering the final stretch. We’ve finally got a clear idea of who our big bad is, backstories are getting filled in and the lines are being drawn between the sides more definitively. In many ways these two episodes encapsulate the entire Drive experience thus far – they’re sloppy as hell and brimming with loose ends, but also with some really fantastic scenes and character beats that make it difficult to be too harsh on the stuff that doesn’t work. Though it’s nominally themed around 008 and his lady-kidnapping antics (a thread which pops up in every Kamen Rider show but that Drive feels especially guilty of) the real story of these two episodes is the rise to prominence of Banno and his escape from iDad™ form into something more tangibly dangerous to our heroes. The fact that that more dangerous form is a floating belt is a reminder that we’re dealing in degrees of absurdity here, but nevertheless it’s a welcome progression. I’ve always thought Banno’s entry into the story was far too insubstantial (it seems like a lot of his backstory will be told in home video exclusive bonus episodes) and it’s great that we finally get some meaty villain credentials to back him up here. Perhaps the most effective of these is Krim’s vehement hatred of him. It’s surprising to see anyone in Kamen Rider react so viciously – anger is normally much more melodramatic – and it’s a welcome edge to the Krim character, who also appears in a rare human-form flashback here. In fact, this entire pair of episodes is extremely heavy on character development for all concerned. Not that that’s a bad thing, since it’s all great stuff that moves multiple protagonists forward in different ways. Heart continues to become ever more sympathetic with the reveal of his tragic backstory, and while the retcon that he is the ‘real’ first Roidmude is clumsy, it does help in showing why he has an unusual degree of empathy. Tomoya Warabino continues to own the screen, switching effortlessly from cool and collected to passionate anger. His confrontation with Gou and Shinnosuke is arguably one of the best scenes in the entire series yet as he burns with righteous fury yet displays genuine empathy as well. With Banno’s emergence as the main villain Heart is free to stay as a more ambiguous figure, and I’m intrigued to see what his final fate will be (almost certainly heroic sacrifice). There’s character devlopment all over though, and it’s Gou who really gets put through the wringer once again. He’s danced back and forth on the line between genuinely good and misguidedly evil for quite a while now, and this is the episode he finally wipes the slate and unreservedly rejoins the team. Though we’re unlikely to ever return to the fun-loving Gou of old, his breakdown and rebuild is a genuinely excellent bit of drama, and his cathartic conversation with Shinnosuke does wonders for the latter too, revealing him as a genuine older brother figure to the hot-headed second Rider. Let’s not forget Chase, taking a major step forward in becoming more human by obtaining his driving licence. Oh and learning more about love and family too I guess. Regardless, we end with an awesome fight and a punch-the-air triple Rider takedown, so it’s all good and we fulfil our quota for cool explosions as well as nuanced character writing. In slightly more brief terms, what I’m trying to say is that in these two episodes Drive was as good as it’s ever been, and it appears to be peaking at just the right time for the final stretch. Packed with humour, pathos, action, and mystery, it’s earning its place among the great series of the past. Let’s see if they can bring it all home.
- The brief appearances of ‘future Krim’ throughout these episodes appear to be hinting at a tie-in to the movie, but the idea never goes further than these limited cameos. Since tie-in episodes tend to be garbage a lot of the time, I’m grateful.
- The horn sound effect playing when Gou bats away Chase’s licence application is a fantastic touch.
- The entire ‘Chase applies for a driving licence’ subplot is not only hilarious but also seems an obvious homage to Dragon Ball Z.
- A rare chance to see most of the cast dressed casually confirms they are all stunningly pretty as you’d expect, but especially cool shades Shinnosuke and wedding dress Kiriko.
- Another great little subplot is Kou feeling threatened by Banno declaring himself an ‘Internet God’ and subsequently having to foray into the real world to prove his worth.
- The building where 008 tries to marry Kiriko is cool as hell.
- Still waiting on that Triple Rider Kick.
- My personal apologies for the delay in coverage recently – some stuff ‘IRL’ as Kou would say has been getting on top of us. Hopefully we’ll resume a normal schedule for the run-in to the end of the show.