After defeating Sigma Circular, Shinnosuke and Heart face off in a final battle to determine the ultimate fate of the world.
My big fear leading up to this finale was that they wouldn’t be able to pull together enough of the disparate plot threads to make it satisfying. Actually, that’s not too much of a problem, since most of that stuff was dealt with in previous episodes. Unfortunately, this episode suffers from another important issue – it’s just not very good. Poor writing and terrible staging conspire to make this something of a damp squib, although there are some good ideas that suffer from poor implementation.
I get what they’re trying for in this finale, and in that sense the actual fight matters less than the message that they’re trying to get across. What they’re clearly attempting is the classic Blade Runner finale, where the villain lets go of his ambition and instead realises how much living actually meant to him. But the dialogue here is clunky and ineffective, and while we’ve continually praised Tomoya Warabino for his nuanced performance, he finally loses it here and flies completely off the handle. The relentless crying and mugging only distracts from the actual tragedy of what’s going on, rather than enhancing it.
It feels like a betrayal of Heart’s character, which has been stoic and dignified in the face of adversity up to this point. There are ways to make a dramatic emotional breakdown from a formerly strong character work, but it doesn’t here. The script is also way too on the nose about the moral, with Shinnosuke outright blurting out ‘humanity was the real evil all along!’. Let’s leave aside that it’s a well-worn cliche of a moral to pull out – it can still be very effective if utilised correctly. The problem is that morals feel tired and preachy if you just come out and say them. It’s much more powerful to hint and imply, to (all together now) show rather than tell. It’s very likely this is the young target audience being considered, but I like to think that there was a more elegant solution.
It’s very rare I’ll criticise the production values in Kamen Rider, since they’re pretty much always bad by traditional standards and something that you inherently have to get over and accept before watching. Man though, whoever made the decision that this climatic final battle should take place in what looks like the service road for an office building should be fired post-haste. It’s such an incredibly unfitting location that any sort of drama is immediately sucked out and replaced by ‘this looks cheap as hell’. Same goes for the use of the rain machine, which is slightly more understandable (it both adds drama and hearkens back to the first episode) but still just looks utterly naff, especially since we see many shots of a high, bright sky. Was this staging a last-minute rush reschedule? It’s the only reason I can think of that you’d use somewhere so mundane and unremarkable. They don’t even need to be outside, because there’s no major pyro used. Why not have this showdown in the cool room Sigma Circular was in? So many questions.
There’s also a bunch of questions around Mr Belt’s decision to take his Shift Cars and bury them and himself deep in the earth under a highly accessible hatch which would take five minutes to bust open with the right equipment. Again, it seems the show is trying to ape many other stories, by having a character sacrifice himself for the continued good of the world. Except this literally makes no sense – OK, Krim helped develop the Roidmudes, but the Shift Cars have been used for nothing but good, and the technology is still out there with Professor Harley and Gou. Once more, it’s a noble attempt at an emotional scene which falls apart them moment you look at it with anything more than a glancing eye.
Fortunately, the episode does its best to atone for these sins with a very sweet and charming final third, full of fan pleasing moments. Kiriko and Shinnosuke’s final ride in the car is a delight of subtle character interaction and exactly the kind of ‘less is more’ writing I enjoy heaping praise on. The appearance of not-Chase is delightful, a great way of bringing the story full circle and providing the character a little moment in the finale without undoing his sacrifice. And those final few lines? Sheer perfection. This wasn’t the triumphant climax I’d hoped for but that one moment alone made this feel like a special send-off for our crew.
- This is of course not technically ‘the end’ as like Gaim before it, there will be a special bonus episode after the finale, this time teaming up the Drive crew with the star of the new series, Kamen Rider Ghost.
- Speaking of Ghost, his appearance here is utterly bizarre and totally pointless. Do we really need to set up a one episode promotional crossover?
- Gou doesn’t get much screentime in this episode but he’s good when he appears, amusingly snapping at Gen and Rinna and then setting off on a vision quest to save Chase (in an ending completely wholesale lifted from Kamen Rider OOO). It’s wonderful to see Professor Harley again too.
- I guess the bonus for saving the world is pretty hefty if you can afford to get a GT-R as your new wheels.
- The Animal House style end credits are wonderful, though I’m disappointed we got no confirmation on a Gen/Rinna hookup.