The team’s hideout is infiltrated by an intrepid reporter and Ryuga is contacted by a figure from his old life.
If you thought that the first episode of Build was fast paced, then wait til you get a load of this one. It’s no exaggeration to say that this might be the most story that I’ve ever seen packed into a single chunk of toku. In just 20-odd minutes we get love and loss, inquisitive reporters, new powerups, betrayal, mad science and more homosexual tension than you can shake a stick at. It’s a heady blend that takes a while to process.
Let’s kick it off with what’s good first. I’m pleased that Sawa has popped back into the story so soon, and that her (re) introduction basically consists of her getting one over the crew immediately. Good female characters are a rarity in Kamen Rider and I’m not immediately enamoured with the sleepy Misora, so having a second woman around who’s a bit more proactive adds a bit of kick to the group dynamic. Going straight to blackmail is a nice touch and having her help out with the link to Ryuga’s past is a pretty smooth way to integrate her into the flow of the story.
Speaking of Ryuga, the vast majority of this episode centres around him and his tragic backstory, and for the most part it’s pretty effective. It also gives Eiji Akaso a chance to show off his acting range, which he does with some flair. The light comedy banter with Misora is cute and shows a solid aptitude for physical comedy, and the cut which follows is undoubtedly one of the most memorable moments of the episodes and a prime example of how to use mood whiplash to effectively shock an audience. Akaso hams it up well for the big emotional finale, and the interplay between him and Sentou seems decent already, which is an encouraging sign considering how much of modern Kamen Rider consists of the male leads smouldering at each other. They’re not even trying to hide the fact that Ryuga will eventually be Rider #2, it’s just a matter of when they choose to have him step up to the plate.
The big downside to cramming all this action into one episode though is that there’s no room for anything to properly breathe and be developed beyond a superficial level. As such, while the ‘doomed girlfriend’ plot isn’t terrible for what it is, it’s hard to feel any connection to a character who’s introduced and killed of in the space of a quarter of an hour, not to mention how tired and shitty the ‘disposable woman’ trope is. Likewise, it seems a little odd that Sentou and Ryuga’s confrontation with the marvelously named Night Rogue happens so soon and is so curiously underwhelming. Getting the obvious confrontation out of the way isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but only if there’s plenty of story to be unraveled in the wake of the meeting. If not, Build runs the risk of running out of story halfway through and having to play for time in the back half, something which has affected a number of Kamen Rider series in the past. This episode was an exciting sugar rush, but Build is going to have to think a bit more about the long game over the next few installments if it’s going to keep us hooked for 50 episodes.
- As always, we’re indebted to the amazing team at Over-Time for their excellent subbing work
- We get our first chance to see the opening this week. It’s….fine. Going with a more EDM-ish ballad for a second year is an interesting choice, but I prefer my toku openings to be big catch J-Pop or rock.
- I’m still not really very into Build’s powers. Gorilla/Diamond isn’t a particularly inspired ability set, although the dumb Vacuum power is classic toku silliness.
- Yukari Taki, who plays Sawa, was previously seen as Aoi Katsuragi in Kamen Rider W Returns: Kamen Rider Accel. She also popped up as the victim of the week in episode 3 of Kamen Rider Ghost.
- Misora turning his iPad into a back scratcher at the end is a bizarre non-sequitur and probably intended as a hint that he’s not quite human as he seems.
- Please, no more giant shitty CGI monsters. Please.
I never thought I’d have trouble keeping up with a Kamen Rider show, but fie on me I guess. This week feels like the execs had the writers to mash two episodes together because they wanted the Second Rider to show up that much sooner. And the result isn’t bad, but it is a little disjointed.
Kamen Rider (and toku in general, really) has an inherent air of silliness, and that’s fine, but it definitely makes it harder to stomach when they’re trying to be serious. The phone conversation is a good, shocking cut but happens so abruptly after a gag that all I could do was burst out laughing. Ryuuga has an entire heartfelt discussion with his refrigerated girlfriend while Build is standing directly above them holding up a ridiculous spinning monster, and it’s just flat out impossible to give that any sort of gravitas. The rest of the show fares a bit better, with some decent character interactions and action. I haven’t been watching toku long, but this episode had some of the only halfway exciting bike stunts I’ve seen from something that’s supposed to be about people who ride things. The Gorillamond form is fun – I’m partial to pile bunker fists – but the Vacuum->Diamond super move is confusing and too lengthy.
Still, we’re all very early on, and it’s tough to call if Build‘s going to stay any good or not. There are a number of intriguing plot threads going forward, but the next week preview states that we’re already heading to another district even though we’ve hardly had a chance to get to know this one. Here’s hoping the story keeps it steady rather than running itself ragged before we’ve had a chance to settle in.