Many thanks to Over-Time for their excellent subbing of the first episode, which was rather imperative to, er, me understanding what was going on. That - that is quite important.
Kamen Rider Drive
Episode 1: Why Did My Time Stop?
Kamen Rider Gaim is over, and since there's barely any gap between Kamen Rider series, that means it's time for a new one: Kamen Rider Drive, themed around cars, is taking the place of fruit-themed Gaim, and like a lot of people, I'm … a little apprehensive? I'm not keen on cars as a theme (I wasn't all that keen on fruit, either), and I'm having flashbacks to when at least one person in fandom declared that if the fifth Neo-Heisei Rider (which turned out to be Wizard) wasn't Kamen Rider Go and had a theme song called Go Go Kamen Rider Go, he would leave fandom forever and never watch another Kamen Rider series ever.
I never saw that lad again after Wizard was announced. Which is kind of the best description of tokusatsu fandom I've ever seen.
This'll be an ongoing, meaning that I'll be doing weekly reviews of each episode. It's also the longest ongoing I've ever done, since all the others haven't exceeded twelve episodes. To that end, I'll be trying to put up masterposts every twelve episodes, just so that I don't end up slaving over a forty-eight plus masterpost a year from now.
On with the episode, then!
We open with a grim reminder from the narration that the end of the world could happen at any time, even while you're eating or flambéing something. This should come as a surprise to nobody, as the world already ended about halfway through Gaim. Time stops – or rather, it gets weirdly warped in a way that prevents anyone from moving, but leaves them conscious – for everyone, and a group of monsters attack. Any kind of dramatic tension is lost when a gigantic bowling pin comes looming over the horizon, flipping slowly through the air, before crushing several people.
|Even when flambeing.|
The narration – who it's clear now is our main character – tells us that that day was called the Global Freeze, and we see that these incidents of possibly-bowling-related disasters are happening all over the world. We then switch to our main character and his police partner, Hayase, fighting two wrong'uns. It ends with our main character accidentally shooting fuel tanks behind his partner, flinging him off a walkway to the ground below, shortly before he's crushed by rubble.
Then, toy car hijinks happen. No transition. Just the same scene. They save the day in, er, wacky fashion, and we're shown that they're in the service of a previous Drive. I say 'previous', because obviously the detective with the terrible aiming skills (and that's why you don't arm your police forces, people – okay, it's not, the reason you don't do that is mostly to do with policing by consent and public mandate instead of force of arms, but it's definitely a contributing factor) is going to be the new Drive, so unless there's time travel involved, previous Drive.
The opening rolls, and it's incredibly catchy. Afterwards, we've skipped forward six months later, to a time when people are still kinda unnerved over that whole 'we couldn't move and monsters killed people' thing. They're more freaked out over not being able to move, though, presumably because they live in the world of Kamen Rider, and monsters attacking is just one of those things they've all accepted now.
The detective, who we now know is called Shinnosuke, professes that he feels like his brain is still slowed down, like it's stuck in mud. This worrying remark that sounds like something he should see his GP about is quickly forgotten when his fellow police officer Kiriko shows up. She's very serious and work-oriented. Or a dominatrix. Probably both, judging by how she handcuffs him and drags him back to the station, and how 'Kiriko handcuffs Shinnosuke' seems like it's going to be a theme.
I can think of at least seven people who are going to be quite happy with this development.
|He looks so resigned to it.|
The police station is filled with incredibly weird people, because of course it is, but they do have a mission! Some attempted murders, apparently. Shinnosuke goes out to his car, which apparently talks to him in a smooth jazz voice, urging him to 'start his engine' and 'become a warrior'. Apparently it's been doing this for a while. Also, quite possibly manipulating police resources for its own ends, so, um. Good for you, car.
(Meanwhile, at a park, a group of athletes are attacked by … is that Rook from Kiva? Let me check. Nah, it doesn't look like it is. Just a guy with very similar hair. By which I mean a mullet.)
Shinnosuke discovers that the smooth jazz voice is actually a belt, which fastens itself around his waist. In a display of excellent timing, Kiriko turns up to tell him they're heading out to the site of another attempted murder, and, under the control of smooth jazz voice belt, the car starts driving itself.
At the not-quite-murder scene, there's a guy who's been painted with red facepaint, and the aforementioned Gen, who seems to be Shinnosuke's superior. Gen says that he doesn't believe in any of this 'slowdown' malarkey, as if it didn't happen to the entire world only months ago. Shinnosuke barely has time to find a piece of paper as evidence before a monster attacks, slowing everyone down again, and everyone has to be saved by some more toy car hijinks.
This event apparently kicks Shinnosuke into actually doing stuff, though, as he puts together a composite and starts searching for the culprit. Again, reference is made to the muddy, slowed down sensation on his brain. See a doctor, Shinnosuke. Seriously. He finds that the culprit is Masuda Nobuo, a gym regular, although the belt points out that they have different hair and different body types.
|You are a terrible detective.|
Nobuo shows up, though, stalking another gym member and informing him, when asked, that he's been attacking humans, before transforming into a monster. Shinnosuke – oh, for the love of god, Kamen Rider Gummi Kid, you spent a whole year learning that these weren't just regular gummis, get your bloody act together – is unable to help, first finding himself stopped by slowdown, then by his feeble fleshiness after a toy car helps him escape the slowdown, and then by Nobuo's two monster allies.
Kiriko shows up in the giant red police sports car and urges Shinnosuke to let the belt – who Shinnosuke names Mr. Belt, you're so imaginative – to help. We get a short and actually very atmospheric monologue about how Shinnosuke has lost a part of himself, but the belt and the toy cars will help him save people, before Shinnosuke gives us our first transformation of the series.
|His arms don't look oddly short here like they do in the opening.|
Transformed, Shinnosuke is easily a match for Nobuo's allies, but not for Nobuo himself. It's okay, though, because he has four toy cars to even the playing field. He switches between them during the fight, starting off with Speed, then Flare (the transformation into which involves someone off screen just lobbing a prop tire at Nobuo), then Spike (in which he destroys one ally), then Shadow (in which he destroys the other), before switching back to Speed and using a finisher that basically involves rebounding off his car repeatedly for a lot of kicks. Nobuo's destroyed, but a floating number escapes.
In the aftermath of it all, Kiriko takes Shinnosuke to the underground garage that'll be their base of operations. While Mister Belt thinks they're off to a good start, Shinnosuke isn't sure, as he found a piece of tin foil at the crime scene to go with his piece of paper. Because that's – compelling evidence, but he'll inevitably be right, so never mind.
In an abandoned … somewhere … Floating Number Nobuo is approached by Heart, a man in red who seems to be a leader amongst the Roimyude monsters, who offers him a new body.
And that's the first episode! I actually really enjoyed it, but we'll see if that pans out over the series. The combination of writer and producer has me more than a little concerned, but I do like Shinnosuke and Kiriko, so far, and I think there's an interesting premise here.
Next week, we see the conclusion to this case, and also get a little bit more villain time looking at Heart, Brain, and Chase.