Kamen Rider Build Episodes 34-38

“The Best Match, Separated”, “Tower of Destruction”, “Evol Hunts Planets”, “The Ultimate Phase”, and “Mad World”

Phew, I’ve been gone a while huh? I really hope that nothing too major happened while I was awa….oh. Well, I guess we’ve got a lot to talk about?

Zigg’s Thoughts

Firstly, my apologies for my extended absence – as much as we like to pretend this blog is our one and only mission in life, occasionally other things do get in the way. Let’s hope it’s an easier ride from here to the finish huh?

All joking aside, an awful lot of stuff does happen across the course of these five episodes, and a lot of it is goofy, exciting and crazy. yet despite this, I kind of felt like the show was also treading water a lot of the time. What’s up with that? The problem, as we’ve been saying for some time now, lies in the way Build has structured its drama, and the increasingly off-the-rails, car crash approach to storytelling it’s embracing. There’s so many things happening, with so little time between them, that it’s hard for any one plot beat to have much weight. The show doesn’t give us time to consider the ramifications or consequences of any of its major twists because it’s too busy trying to wow you with the next one. The overall result is something which feel so eager to please it’s wildly firing in all directions without ever hitting the target.

The primary plotline through these episodes, the continuing evolution of Evolt, is the perfect example of this. We start with Evolt, having regained his true form, effortlessly beating the crap out of our heroes and poisoning Sento. OK, that’s good storytelling, make your villain look like a real threat and put the good guys in a tight spot. But then we move on to the ‘Banjou is actually another part of me!’ stuff which isn’t awful per se but has come pretty much out of the blue and arguably didn’t need to be resolved as fast as it actually is. Then all of a sudden Evolt *is* Banjou (with a new form), then he’s Sento (with a new form), then he’s Soichi again (with another new form). Except he actually isn’t, he just looks like Soichi because casting new actors is hard.

Each of these plot points should in theory be a huge deal, a monumental setback for the forces of good and a moment of unashamed triumph for Evolt and his crew. But because they come so fast and so frequently it’s impossible to assign any weight to them at all. What’s the point in being shocked by this sudden twist when you know there’ll be another, even barmier one along in the space of an episode, or perhaps even less than that? By refusing to give these ostensibly huge story beats context or exploring them beyond surface level shock value, the show is selling itself short, allowing what should be the culmination of its plot fizzle away into a bunch of superficially fun but ultimately forgettable bits and pieces. Rather than telling a coherent story the writers seem much more focused on creating ‘moments’ that will stick in the memory. Memorable moments are no substitute for an actual narrative which ebbs and flows however, and the show clearly suffers for this ‘100% at all times’ approach.

It doesn’t help Build‘s cause that its supporting stories are often flimsy or just plain don’t make sense. Let’s look at Gentoku for example, who through most of our story has been characterised as first an ambitious, amoral backstabber and then as a relentlessly nihilistic psychopath. Yet in the space of a few episodes he’s on Build’s team, fighting for redemption and the chance to atone for his sins. Now to the show’s minor credit it’s not depicted as a completely smooth transition, but it’s still almost a total personality and goals 180 in the space of a few short scenes. We get almost no insight into the reason for this abrupt shift other than ‘my Dad is dead so I had a think about things’. I’m not sure I even need to point out that Gentoku threatened to kill his own father on multiple occasions, or that he’s consistently been shown to be totally indifferent to the pain and suffering he’s been going through. I feel like the writer’s desperately wanted him to have a big redemptive arc, but either ran out of time or couldn’t figure out how to bring him back, so they just want for the laziest, most half-assed set of tropes they could in order to bring him into the fold. We even get the groan-worthy ‘it was the box that did it to him!’ excuse, thus negating any sort of actual character development or insight that could come from this sequence of events.

Speaking of the box – it’s weird how they opened it and nothing really happened right? The show has spent so long building up the idea that opening the box is the ultimate act and will mean total global destruction that having it be opened and it containing ‘just’ a sweet powerup is something of an inevitable letdown. It doesn’t help that the aforementioned repeated spamming of powered-up forms as mentioned above means even the impact that would have is severely diminished. What’s frustrating is that tying the Box to Evolt’s power is not necessarily a bad idea, but the show defies its own internal logic by continuing to make the box important even after he has ostensibly recovered his power from it – it recharges all of Sento’s bottles for example. The Box was always a McGuffin at heart, but it’s a good indication of how Build often feels like it can just cut through basic storytelling to get where it wants to go, regardless of how much sense it makes. Just because it’s a kids show doesn’t mean basic sloppy writing should be excused.

I guess I don’t really want you all to leave this piece feeling like I hated my time with these episodes, because i absolutely didn’t. in fact, they were an awful lot of fun. Increasingly though it’s the kind of ‘rubbernecking at an accident’ fun, the kind of slow-motion car crash that you can’t look away from. Build remains fine entertainment but it’s mostly despite, rather than because of, the story it’s trying to tell. We’re in the home stretch now so I guess we’ll have to see if the writers can pull it all together in time for a big finish.

Random Observations

  • These episodes look pretty good. There are a TON of crazy effects and some neat directing, such as the intercuts between Sento and Katsuragi’s faces.
  • Nanba is so mind-bogglingly dumb here for not seeing Evolt’s inevitable betrayal that it’s hard to feel anything at all when he inevitably gets bumped off. Overall I really don’t feel he’s added anything to the story whatsoever – a little smart editing could easily have delegated all his plot functions to other characters.
  • It’s incredibly odd that the show decides to give us the big emotional sendoff treatment for the Engine/Remote Control Bros. I get Evolt has to kill someone to make himself threatening, but did anyone honestly give a damn about these two?
  • Evolt’s base form is a little busy, but generally neat looking. His final form on the other hand is laughable, and looks exactly like what it is – a tacked-on shell atop the regular suit. If you’d painted it all white you might have gotten away with it but as it is it’s just unbearably cheap and ugly.
  • This run of episode features the obligatory ‘revert back to earlier forms for no reason, because we still have to sell those toys’ scene.
  • Giving Banjou a new form and then immediately going back to Magma is one of the many odd decisions regarding power progression in these episodes.
  • Kazumi’s weird Mii-tan asides are kind of funny but increasingly completely disruptive to the overall tone of the episode.
  • News came out that Toei filed a trademark for Kamen Rider ZI-O in early April. Unless something weird happens, that’s probably our upcoming series for 2018-2019.

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