Kamen Rider Saber Episode 17

“Whether the Ancient Messenger, is Light or Shadow”

WIth the other Riders temporarily beaten back, Touma and Mai attempt to introduce Yuri to modern society, but they’re suddenly confronted by Legiel and the newly transformed Yeti Megid

 Zigg’s Thoughts

This is basically an entire episode about how cool and awesome Yuri is, which to be honest is totally par for the course. Here’s your semi-regular reminder that Kamen Rider as a series primarily exists to sell toys, and therefore the introduction of a new character is also a chance to advertise cool new stuff kids (or more likely long-suffering parents) can go out and purchase. I remarked in the last post about how Yuri felt very much like a Super Sentai sixth ranger and that comparison continues here – he’s overwhelmingly powerful and shows off an array of cool abilities, but suffers a severe character flaw (in this case lack of empathy/respect for human life) that he’ll need to overcome with the help of our main character before he can be fully accepted as a member of the team.

There’s only one problem with all of this, and that’s that Yuri sucks. Seriously, this entire character is godawful and an entire episode of the writers relentlessly shilling him has all the energy of your Dad wearing a hoodie and trying to explain that he’s down with the kids. It’s laughably bemusing at best and cringingly embarrassing at worst. That’s not the fault of Tomohiro Ichikawa, who turns in decent enough performance, but the material; is so, so weak that any chance he has of getting the character over is immediately sunk. The fish-out-of-water comedy is so broad and basic it barely registers, and then there are the fights.

Look, there is absolutely a way to use a talking, floating sword in tokusatsu, and that is to play it for all the dumb, ridiculous laughs that the premise entails. Instead though we’re being asked to take it seriously and it is just so, so lame. It makes Yuri look bad, because the entire credibility of the character is undermined when you’re asked to believe his power is based on rotten special effects. It also undermines the credibility of all of his opponents because they’re losing to a floating fucking sword. I know I’ve already said it many, many times but to reiterate once more, the core strength of tokusatsu is the use of practical effects and costumes, and how they combine to form a coherent aesthetic which, while ‘cheap’, is a unified style all of its own. Saber slathers pretty much every fight scene in enormous chunks of CGI, which just looks bad and is absolutely a crutch to hide uninspired choreography. Yuri is nothing but this, plus a second mode which is even more CGI. I really really hope this isn’t the status quo for the character going forward because even after one episode it’s completely unbearable.

My other major issue with this episode is that it continues to show the writers have no idea of how to make their villains threatening. For a start, Legiel accompanies his Megid into the field and fights alongside it, which is totally pointless since the only possible outcome is him being beaten back by Touma and Yuri. I don’t really think the three boss Megid are going to be our ultimate villains, but they’re still nominally important and powerful characters and the show has been content to show them getting owned again and again, diminishing their perceived threat to near zero.

While we’re on the topic of the bad guys…it’s still not entirely clear what they actually hope to accomplish. In the cold open Storius talks about obtaining all of the Sacred Swords, then Zooous immediately claims they just need a bunch of Alter Books instead. Or as well as? Yuri later claims that with enough Alter Books the ‘Omniscient Book’ will appear by itself. It’s all rather confusing really. There’s also the fact that the sucessful creation of an Alter book will lead to the death of the human used to form it, which is a defensible development but not one I really like. Personally I doubt Saber will really have the balls to kill off innocent bystanders, which means that the result of every monster-of-the-week battle is already a foregone conclusion. OK, it was mostly a foregone conclusion anyway I grant you, but there still have to be some stakes at least. The other option of course is they find a way to cheat it, which is likely going to be unsatisfying for all involved, much like this episode.

Random Observations

  • We finally get to see the Southern Base, which as expected is just a palette swapped Northern Base (I’m fine with this, sets are expensive!)
  • Ren not only continues to be extremely mad, but he also rather bizarrely describes Kento as ‘MY Kento’ (Ore-no Kento-kun). Could that hastily shoehorned plot point about how close they were actually be going somewhere? I’ve asked around if this is just a common Japanese sentence construction but everything seems to point to it being as atypical as it is in English.
  • So Dragonic Knight was strong enough to wipe the floor with Calibur but can’t beat a single monster of the week?
  • Speaking of Calibur, Legiel explains that his involvement ‘was just a means to an end’. In that case, what was the end? Without that we’re forced to conclude that the first third of this show was just pointless padding. Actually…
  • One thing I will say – Touma throwing himself in front of Yuri’s finisher is a very Rider thing to do and probably the most likable he’s been in quite a while.

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