“Subzero Flame” and “To A World of Love and Peace”
Acutely aware that it actually needs to generate some coherent drama, the show starts killing off characters. Fortunately, we don’t care about any of them!
Points for trying at least? I appreciate that Build realises that it needs to add emotional stakes to this final encounter, and as a bonus whittling down the rather bloated cast can’t hurt. The problem is that now is the time that the sins of the show’s past are catching up with it – no matter how many characters you kill, or dramatic last stands they have, it won’t move us if we don’t care about them to begin with. And sorry guys, but that’s the position where a year of sloppy writing and poor characterisation will get you. As a result, while the things which happen here are hugely dramatic in theory, the end result is really more of a damp squib than anything else.
Let’s start with Kazumi’s last stand, which is probably the less effective for the two character deaths here for all sorts of reasons. The main one is simply that…well, Kazumi isn’t really much of a character. Once his initial arc as an antagonist was over he’s basically vacillated between creepy fanboy comic relief, a second obstinate figure for Banjou to bang heads with after Sentou, and a kind of busman who does all the odd jobs and beats up all the excess villains the main characters are too busy for. In that sense I understand why you’d go back to the his relationship with the Three Crows, since it’s the only time his character really had any emotional heft to it at all. Problem is, as I observed in my last post, we have just been going over the Three Crows thing again and again and again and at this point any shred of pathos still left in it has long since been played out. The fight is fine I guess, but it’s mostly just a chance for Kaho Takada to demonstrate again how much better an actor she is than everyone else on the crew. The fact that the show decides it’s worthy of the all-silent mourning sequence afterwards is just tiresome really, and a good signifier of just how far Build’s perception of itself has drifted from the reality of the situation.
Gentoku’s death is better, because unlike Kazumi he’s actually had the barest foundations of a character arc laid, namely his move from being evil back to the good guys, and his guilt over his father’s death. They play the latter to the hilt here, but there’s oddly very little sign of the former, which is irritating because honestly it’s the larger and more important journey which encompasses both his father’s death and pretty much everything which has happened on the show. The issue here is that while Gentoku was interesting and compelling as a villain, he’s been hung out to dry as a hero, mostly reduced to goofy comedy bits, with no forward movement in his quest for redemption. Thus, while his death here makes some sense, it’s more because we know how story arcs are meant to work rather than because the show has put in the legwork to make it a satisfying end to his arc, such as it was. The show also gets serious demerits for whipping out the ol’ THE PEOPLE OF EARTH ARE WITH YOU KAMEN RIDERS schtick, which is barely tolerable when it shows up in the dumb crossover movies and certainly not appropriate in something which professes to being a complex scifi drama like Build (how accurate that is is of course up for debate).
Elsewhere the show continues perhaps its most aggravating habit unabated, that of padding the action with inconsequential battles which don’t actually accomplish anything. Aquagaze made the salient observation that pretty much the entire last third of the show has been the Riders battling Evolt, beating him, and it not really having any effect whatsoever on what’s happening. Unbelievably, that continues to be the case even though we’re literally an episode away from the conclusion of the story. I guess we’re meant to be distracted by the reveal that Utsumi was a mole all along, but it’s yet another in the long series of Build twists which actually make no sense at all if you think about it – he sacrifices himself to save the Lost Bottle but he was already complicit in helping Evolt create a bunch of the Lost Bottles before! In any case, Evolt acquires all the Lost Bottles (again!) half an episode later anyway so both Utsumi and Kazumi’s battles and sacrifices were for nothing. What’s more is that the next episode preview reveals that Banjou’s heroic sacrifice will ALSO fail which means our grand finale is going to be Build vs Evolt for the umpteenth time. I guess the play is they’re both depowered this time, but honestly, having your final showdown be a battle we’ve seen play out god-knows-how many time before is a pretty scathing indictment of Build’s ability to *ahem* build to a coherent climax. I guess we’ll see if they can tie at least some of these loose ends up neatly, but I’m not optimistic.
- It’s worth pointing out of course that since the entire plot is moving towards merging with a parallel world there’s a good chance most of the dead characters will be brought back as alternate-universe versions of themselves
- Grease’s final form is…eh. The metallic blue is neat and I’m always a fan of Toei busting out the dry ice machines, but it’s hard to escape the fact it’s jsut a recoloured suit with what looks suspiciously like a recycled Ex-Aid prop attached.
- I am an absolute sucker for the ‘damaged helmet so we can see the real eye through it’ stuff they do here.
- The white panel/black panel/parallel world stuff continues to be nigh incomprehensible, so it’s lucky the show basically handwaves it away whenever possible.
- Evolt’s ultimate form looked super lame the last time we saw it and the addition of giant gauntlets and stupid shoulder cannons only make it worse.
- Wasn’t Sentou’s trick using Vernage’s power meant to have eliminated all of Evolt’s DNA from Banjou? Also, remember Vernage?
- On that note, remember when Sawa was in this show? No, me neither.