“The False Kamen Rider”
Last week’s episode marked a new high watermark for the show, and I was very pleased to see that we’ve got that standard maintained for this week’s outing. Sure, there’s maybe a few more of those goofy non-sequiturs the show seems to love than I’d like, but overall this is a heaping dose of great character work and good plot progression, and both are very welcome.
As before, proceedings are dominated by the newly unfettered Soichi, and that’s a very good thing in this writer’s opinion. It would have been easy to simply reveal him as a purely evil villain, but by blending his previous playful personality with much darker overtones, they’ve created a more interesting character than a simple turn to the dark side would suggest. Indeed, Soichi is fascinatingly ambiguous, something which Kamen Rider, being a kid’s show, tends to largely steer away from if not actively avoid. But the writers nail it just perfectly here, making it clear that he stands resolutely with the bad guys, yet letting just enough slivers of decency and affection through to hint that the man inside may not be entirely lost.
Then of course they double down on the bastard side by revealing his brilliantly evil plan to fake out Misora. Gaslighting your daughter by fake kidnapping her from the evil organization you actually work for is a plot so crazy it shouldn’t work, and yet Build manages to pull off circumstances where it seems not only useful but in fact fiendishly cunning. It’s hard to say though whether his intent truly was entirely evil, or whether it was a front for some altruism left in him. I’m excited to find out which is the case, and perhaps a bit more about what changed him from pioneering astronaut to malevolent arms dealer. I’ve again got to praise the great acting of Yasuyuki Maekawa, who radiates sinister charm and is able to effectively reconcile the friendly, open Soichi character with the aggressive, spiteful Blood Stark.
So good is the Soichi plotline that it overshadows what’s normally a pretty major moment in modern Rider shows, the obtaining of the (first) Super form. That might be because this one doesn’t have too much fizz alas. Yes, the Pepsiman jokes are endless and easy, not helped by the fact that they decided to theme this entire powerup around fizzy drinks. Puns aside, it’s pretty underwhelming – the suit grows a load of spikes and looks messier than ever, and there are no real cool unique gimmicks associated with it. Let’s hope the eventual Ultimate form packs more punch. Oh, let’s also hope it isn’t introduced in an underwhelming blizzard of CGI, that would help also.
With this episode Build cemented its recent run of excellent form, and sets an exciting new stage for the story to come. Now that the crew know Gentoku’s true identity, surely his jig as acting prime minister is up? I’m excited to see where these developments take us.
- For those of you unfamiliar with Pepsiman, the jokes mostly centre around a 1999 videogame starring the titular mascot and his amazing theme song.
- As per toku tradition, turning evil means Soichi immediately starts wearing black clothing, in this case an EVIL leather jacket.
- Poor Ryuga is already clearly into his ‘Worf’ phase – someone for the bad guys to trounce to show how powerful they are.
- There are several attempts at dramatic depth-of-field shots in the fight in the rain. Some are more successful than others but it’s always nice to see some attempts at cool cinematography. The pull focus shot as Sentou arrives is particularly good.
- Soichi mysteriously escapes the scene seemingly without using any of his equipment. We’ve already had hints that he possesses superhuman abilities in his own right, way back in episode 2. Could this be another?