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Monday, 23 March 2015

Kamen Rider Drive E23: Who Can Stop The Mischievous Smile?

It should be noted that since next week's Drive is the Spring Break Special, a forty-something minute crossover with Ninninger that will be replacing both shows that week, there won't be a Drive review up next week.

That's not because I hate specials - I absolutely do, but that isn't a factor in my decision here - but because it's not really part of the series, being more of a film-promoting side story. Also, this is the longest ongoing series of reviews I have ever done (its closest competitor comes in at only thirteen episodes) and I could use the break.

Kamen Rider Drive
Episode 23
Who Can Stop The Mischievous Smile?

Oh, golly, where to even start with this episode. Well, firstly, I apologise for the general tone of frustrated exhaustion in this review. It's due to a lot of things: Real life, a sore throat, and most importantly, being very frustrated and exhausted with Kamen Rider Drive. 

Well, here's the bingo as it stood last week:

I feel it's important to say that, despite everything that's going to follow this statement, all the complaining and suchlike, I actually didn't hate this episode. It was there, it was more or less fine, I got twenty minutes of entertainment out of it. I wasn't wishing the next episode could be here already at the end, nor was I cursing the fact that I had spent a third of an hour watching it when I could have spent that time rhythmically hammering nails into my delicate and dolorous fleshy parts.

I enjoyed it. It was sufficient for purpose.

Now that that's out of the way: Why is the villain this week so toothless?

This sulky teenage boy is more intimidating than the actual monster this week.
The monster who blows things up.

This episode kind of continues the theme from last week of surgically pulling any kind of dramatic potential out of its villains, in which we have a bomber Roimyude, who in the cold open of the episode blows up a piece of modern art in the most lacklustre fashion possible. He doesn't manage to ever really harm anybody, he doesn't really do any kind of concrete damage to anyone or anything, and so I'm not certain why I'm meant to care that he exists. Don't get me wrong, I don't want the Roimyudes to be constantly killing people. I think having them murdering people constantly  would both cheapen what should be a dramatic moment for the protagonists, and show a startling lack of creativity. But I do want them to be consistently presented as genuine threats.

The show can do this. Paint, while he didn't impress me much, did at least seem like he was a genuine danger, if not to the life of his victims then definitely to their freedom and emotional wellbeing. Voice was genuinely sinister, but until the very end he never showed anything approaching a desire or willingness to do bodily harm to his victims at all. Volt's plan had nothing to do with murder, except as a byproduct, but he was one of the most effective villains that I think the show had.

Yet, in this instance, our Roimyude of the week feels utterly unthreatening, and the same is starting to be true of our main villain group. 

This is terrible CGI, I love it.

Speaking of toothless, we should talk about Kiriko's meagre plotline in this episode. She's now taking care of Chase, in secret, in the Sinister Villain Hospital that sometimes shows up in Kamen Rider. The preview made it look like she would consider killing Chase, and while I profess that didn't much interest me, because I'm sick of anything involving Chase, it would at least show some internal conflict. Instead, there's no kind of conflict there, Kiriko is using Mad Doctor to shoot him with healing electricity. It's ridiculous: Kiriko is purportedly at the centre of this plotline, except not only does she never show any kind of self-doubt or conflicted feelings over any of this (that honour is given to Shinnosuke), but she also never argues her corner (again, given to Shinnosuke). It's a waste of her character, and it doesn't help an already struggling subplot.

On another note, though, this episode did make me like Type Formula. I didn't really feel anything in particular about it before, but I quite enjoyed the high speed chasing down of missiles, and the pit crew shift cars are a neat idea. I'm still not keen on the trailer cannon, but I can perfectly happily live with it. More of the forms being used for something other than out-and-out fighting appeals to me, as does more of the tension being ramped up with things that aren't necessarily 'this monster is really strong.'

(This was also a very fanservice-y episode, featuring no less than two shirtless riders and two scenes of Gou working out. Which is - fine. It's there. All told, I was a bit 'meh' at it, but I can appreciate the thought and effort Toei put into it.)

Although Shinnosuke is clearly not getting enough protein in his diet.

All in all, a satisfactory but far from brilliant episode. I have to admit, Drive is starting to exhaust me. I like Shinnosuke and Kiriko, I like Heart and Brain, but gosh, the entire Chase storyline is wearing me down with how dull it is, and gosh, is Gou starting to grate on me again after a string of episodes where I actually quite liked him. Those two factors wouldn't be so bad, but they're everywhere, all the time, constantly. There is no escape from them. 

Let's look at the updated bingo:

As mentioned before, there's a crossover special next week. That will probably be very enjoyable, I'm looking forward to watching it, and then the show will be returning the week after that, with an episode that as of right now is a total unknown for us, as we have no preview for it. 

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