Kamen Rider Build Episodes 17-20

“The Rider War Outbreak”
“The Golden Soldier”
“The Forbidden Fruit Item”
“Devil Trigger”

War breaks out over Pandora’s Box, and both sides deploy their own Kamen Riders to turn the tide. The scramble to obtain the power to combat the new threat drives a further wedge between Sento and Banjou.

Iro’s Thoughts

These few episodes got hit pretty hard by the “This-New-Hammer“… well, hammer, which means a cavalcade of new bottles with what seems like comparatively little plot. The loop of “the new bad guy is too strong, we need a new power-up!” goes around nearly once a week here, and isn’t helped by the revelation that Pandora’s Box is capable of holding 60 bottles. I’m not sure where I draw the line for too-goddamn-many-power-ups, but that’s definitely past it.

Screen time lately has been weighted towards the newcomers: Kamen Rider Grease and his goofy trio of cronies. They feel way more like plot devices than actual characters; particularly in fights, where they might as well be faceless mooks. Within just these four episodes, they’ve defeated and been defeated by the good guys twice around, showing up every time since it doesn’t seem like Grease could win a 2v1 with Build and Cross-Z. They’re amicable enough as far as antagonists go, but single-minded devotion to Grease and convenient tragic backstory are huge red flags for them to bite the dust within the next, oh, month or so.

Grease himself is clearly being set up to turn on Hokuto, probably when his buds inevitably die. Apart from them he doesn’t have much of a motive, since even after Blood Stalk explains why he signed on to become a Rider, it’s established the Nebula Gas erased his memories. Thus – as with pretty much everything about the war storyline so far – he serves mostly as artificial conflict to shill more toys and create a reason for the good guys to keep fighting dudes in rubber suits. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, but since he’s almost certainly going to be a regular, I wish there was a bit more nuance or depth to his character.

On the other side of the villains is Gentoku, who’s been a bit of weird hanger-on since episode 15. Apparently nobody told anyone he was a bad dude, since he goes right back to being Acting Prime Minister and issuing orders to Build and Cross-Z after Actual Prime Minister gets re-hospitalized. The show tries desperately to frame this as some kind of desperate situation where they have to team up to deal with the horrors of war, but it’s 90% Rider-on-Rider combat anyway, making the entire situation fall flat. It honestly feels like the writers realized they needed a pro-Touto authority figure but had written themselves into a corner. He is consequently written out in Episode 20, though I’m sure he’ll return whenever we inevitably deal with the third country.

Meanwhile, Sento and Banjou butting heads seems to be slowly being built into the overarching conflict of the series, particularly after Blood Stalk’s “nature versus nurture” speech in episode 20. This far in, them being mad at each other for one reason or another is such a regular part of proceedings that it loses some bite (it’s borderline tsundere flirting at this point), but the question of whether they’re really fighting for “good reasons” or just to one-up each other has indeed surfaced, which is an angle I wouldn’t have expected the show to take. Here’s hoping it actually goes somewhere.

Random Observations

  • The Sclash Driver is voiced by one Norio Wakamoto. You may have heard of him.
  • Misora and Sawa actually take initiative and do stuff in Episode 20! Cool!
  • Blood Stalk continues to be the most interesting character, though he’s been showing up less and less these days.
  • The Belts talk so much that they contribute heavily to noise pollution in densely populated areas.
  • It seems like a bit much to introduce a Dangerous Forbidden Power-Up mere episodes after explaining the Sclash Driver is a Dangerous Forbidden Power-Up.

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