“The Storming Thunder, and the Spreading of Dark Clouds”
Angered and confused by the revelation of Calibur’s true identity, Kento sets out to confront him one-on-one, while the villains plan to ensnare the other Riders in battles of their own.
Last week’s episode of Saber wasn’t exactly great, but it did end with the promise of big things to come for both our villains and our heroes. To its credit, this episode does at least attempt to follow logically on from that, but in typical Saber fashion it boots it pretty thoroughly, and the result is a messy episode which takes much of the sting away from last week’s finale.
The major problem here is a familiar one – asking us to invest emotionally in the dilemma of a character who we barely know beyond the surface level. There’s been basically zero exploration of Kento as a character beyond ‘childhood friend’ and ‘angry at his traitor dad’. Given the second of these has been proven to be in question, you’d expect some strong emotions. Surprise certainly. Anger that so much of his life has been dedicated to a false premise. Relief that his father isn’t the villain that he’s been made out to be. Maybe some hope that Dad is still out there somewhere, perhaps imprisoned or banished?
Instead what we get is 100% pure concentrated brattishness, a series of scenes where Kento throws petulant tantrums to basically no effect. There’s no attempt to invest him with any emotions beyond surface-level anger and consequently any sympathy we have for the character evaporates instantly. This might be interesting if it was a stark contrast to Kento’s established persona, but as I just noted, he basically doesn’t have one.
What’s even more laughable is that the writing sets up Rintaro as his opposite number, the cool, calm and collected one who encourages Kento to restrain himself and think of the bigger picture. That’s all well and good…except wasn’t Rintaro himself on a very similar angry revenge quest juat a few episodes ago? One in which he was a dick to his fellow Riders and recklessly pursued his own agenda? The show cannot even be bothered to keep its characterisation consistent from four episodes ago, and yet we’re somehow meant to buy Rintaro here as the noble, self-sacrificing voice of reason. What’s even the point of serialised television if you’re not going to pay attention to this sort of stuff?
Elsewhere, much of this episode devolves into a series of uninspired fights – Kenzan against the monster of the week in perhaps the most contextless slugfest we’ve yet seen, Buster against Desast (who is suddenly fine, with zero explanation), and, of course, Espada vs Calibur. Given the number of times our heroes have already faced off against the supposed leader of the bad guys, Calibur is in serious danger of falling into Evolt syndrome here. For those of you unfamiliar with Kamen Rider Build, Evolt was the main villain in that story, and pretty much the entire last third of the show was made up of episodes where one or more of the heroic riders battled him, only for the victory or defeat to be rendered totally meaningless by some spurious plot development. The same thing is happening with Calibur – he’s been in combat so much already that it’s hard to feel any of these individual conflicts has much weight, and that diminishes his overall threat. We also get a two-for-one here, since it’s hard to feel much trepidation about his new powerup considering the show hands them out like candy in all directions.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that while production trouble may have been responsible for the sheer incoherence of some of the earlier episodes, it can’t explain away the rotten writing which has always plagued Saber. The show desperately needs to slow down, take a look at its characters, and establish some actual stakes to fight for. Unfortunately, with the reveal that this episode was all part of a cunning plan to destroy the world…or something, it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting much relief. I’m bracing myself already.
- The bad guys are back to being green-screened into their HQ and it’s particularly egregious this week.
- I am mesmerised by Legiel’s frankly astonishing tasselled leather trousers, which look like he stole them from an 80s hair metal band.
- The battle between Calibur and Espada was clearly filmed over a long period of time, as the weather noticeably changes from shot to shot. It’s particularly obvious in the finsher vs finisher sequence.
- As lame as it is thematically, I do think Calibur’s new powered-up form is one of the more coherent and cool looking super modes we’ve seen in the show. The noises on the other hand…
- The people at Tassel’s door better be the police.