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Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Kamen Rider Drive E10: What Is In The Belt's Past?

Apologies for this being on a different day this week. I have my other work until about eleven in the evening and needed something I could dependably write the day before.

Kamen Rider Drive
Episode 10: What Is In The Belt's Past?

So, I have heard the news regarding the secondary rider. I'm going to pretend I haven't so I can react to it fresh when episode twelve rolls around, but I have heard it.

On that note, here's last week's bingo: 

This episode is actually a continuation of last week's, and has Volt returning (albeit in a minor role), but I'm not sure if it qualifies as a two-parter with last week's (although if it were, it'd actually be a three-parter, because the plotline this week is carrying over to next week). After all, the last episode had a complete arc in its own right. I think about these things. Too much, I think.

Anyway, in this episode, Shinnosuke's moping over his twenty-fourth birthday (which falls on Christmas Eve, meaning that he's always getting combination Christmas-and-birthday gifts) is interrupted by a blackout, prompting him to re-open his investigation into Volt. While the investigation digs up several interesting things about the enigmatic Roimyude, it also draws the attention of Heart.

Let's cover the positives first: I do like Shinnosuke's moping over his birthday, brief though it is, and I really liked his interactions with Chase in this episode. They seem to be forming a weird kind of friendship, and that's nice to see. The backstory with Mr. Belt was much appreciated, even if I think it could have been teased out a fair bit more organically than 'Mr. Belt saw Heart and now he's going to spill everything', and before he transformed, Heart made for a pretty intimidating villain in this episode.

Although not as creepy as Volt.

One thing I did really like was the camaraderie between the Roimyude. We don't see that often enough: Villains who like each other, and are friends, and have genuine interpersonal relationships without ulterior motives.

But there is a gaping problem with this episode, and it's one that has been plaguing Drive  - a lack of dramatic tension. I'm not referring to the complaints one or two people have had that the series isn't as sufficiently dark and grim as they expect their programming aimed at small children to be, but rather that every time the writers have an opportunity to create tension dropped into their lap, they seem to skitter away in horror and disgust.

We saw this with Shinnosuke's first fight with Chase, where what had been set up as a dramatic encounter between two potential rivals was squandered when said encounter involved Shinnosuke hiding behind a pair of shields and making snide remarks. 

This episode has it three times. Once with the blackout, which should have been ripe with tension considering what the cast learned just one episode prior, but instead had what can I only describe as happy lift music set over it. Once with the encounter with Chase, who has now been thrown at Shinnosuke so many times that he feels toothless as a villain, and his appearance in a library comes off as more of a 'huh' moment than a tense one.

But worst of all is the battle with Heart. The episode sets it up really well, but when it actually happens, it's not only dull as dishwater, but it doesn't really show Heart as a serious threat. We're told he is, often, but we're not seeing it. Compare and contrast with, say, Wizard's first battle with Phoenix: It's a battle that had been being set up since the start of the series, and that tension is amplified by the battle because Phoenix comes across as an unstoppable juggernaut, on whom Wizard can't even make a dent. They seem to want to go for something similar in the battle against Heart, but they pull back from it, having Shinnosuke able to damage Heart several times, and ending it on a tired 'he's realised that Heart has a weak point in an easily accessible place' note.

Nothing says 'tense' like your hero outsmarting your villain with a simple trick.

There's more tension in a short scene of Kiriko investigating where Volt died than there is in that battle. 

One good thing I can say about both the fight scenes in this episode (and again, it seems to spend more time on fight scenes than other Rider series. Maybe I should do an average and compare them, because it might just be my imagination) is that at least Shinnosuke always remembers that he has other forms. None of this 'use a form once and then forget it' guff, he's using Type Wild and Type Technic constantly. It's a wonder he still uses Type Speed in battles against Chase, since it's so ineffective.

Next week we have the end (or maybe just a continuation?) of this arc, quite possibly the demise of Volt, and the arrival of both a new rider and a new Roimyude commander (Medic, who I get the impression isn't 001, 002 or 003, since her name isn't a body part. Presumably the third of those will be Liver, or maybe Stomach). If we're lucky, this series will pick up a bit with those two introductions.

No squares crossed off on the bingo today, folks, so no updated one for you. I know. It saddens me as well.

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