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Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Kamen Rider Drive E24: What Is Making Mach Run?

Kamen Rider Drive
Episode 24
What Is Making Mach Run?

The bingo hasn't changed this week, so let's leave off talking about it and start by talking about the Mach Driver problem, which I feel adequately sums up a lot of my issues with Kamen Rider Drive's plotting and sense of tension.

At the end of last week's episode, Gou's driver is broken. It's a dramatic moment - or it's meant to be, at least, it failed to have much impact on me - and a broken driver is usually a signal of something big coming: An upgrade, usually, but not always. By the start of this week's episode, Gou's driver has been fixed, and while the writers visibly toy with the established tropes by having Gou ask Rinna to make him an upgrade, the entire plot thread is ultimately dropped at the end, where in an almost Wizard of Oz esque turn, Gou decides that he doesn't need an upgrade because he was good enough all along.

Usually, I'm all for playing around with tropes, but in this case, they exist for a very clear reason: A dramatic event like a henshin hero's henshin device being broken requires a suitably dramatic pay-off. Drive doesn't just not give us that, it seems intent to swerve out of the way of anything even remotely resembling drama.

Flashbacks solve all problems.

Anyway, this episode sees the return of Shoot, who narrowly escaped death in the previous episode. Now out of control, Shoot starts targeting its own human host in a deadly game, while Gou struggles with his feelings of inadequacy, and Kiriko continues to tend to an injured Chase.

I'll be honest, none of these plot threads are handled particularly well. Gou's is the one I take the most offence to - partly for the reasons mentioned above, but partly because Gou's feelings of inadequacy appear from thin air at the start of this arc and then vanish at the end, and in a very unsatisfactory manner: The big turning point is Gou realising that he was awesome all along, and that's not really character development, because he's always thought that, and him not thinking that is just a momentary blip on the radar - one apparently prompted by Shinnosuke getting access to Type Formula. 

It just doesn't feel like anything was achieved there. Sentai series do this too, by having a character suffer a sudden exacerbation of their personal issues, requiring an episode to be devoted to dealing with them - but Sentai almost always portrays them as having those issues before that episode, and there's at least some lip service paid to them having changed for the better in the episodes following, whereas I'm pretty sure Drive will never mention these problems of Gou's again. 

Okay, creepy.

The Kiriko and Chase storyline is also pretty unsatisfactory, and boils down to 'Gou's angst means that Rinna creates an entirely new Mach driver from scratch and also Chase has escaped and we can all see where this is going.' Again, I have problems with this, and those problems are mostly due to dramatic tension: Usually, there is a sense of weight behind transformation belts - there aren't many of them, and a new one is a big thing, and in that way the idea of Riders being important and unique and special and all that jazz is preserved. Here, Rinna can just whip a new transformation belt up in a day, which raises the question of why she hasn't before. 

Kiriko not being a rider starts to feel even more suspect when we now know that Rinna could just churn out a belt for her in a day's worth of work.

Grumbled remark about how Kiriko should be transforming with them.

Which leaves us with the bomber storyline, and that's - that's okay. While I wasn't much impressed with Shoot last episode, the new and upgraded Shoot in this episode is definitely one of the more effective Roimyudes-of-the-Fortnight, and I wish we could have spent more time with him, because the idea of a Roimyude taunting and toying with and ultimately trying to kill their human host is a really interesting one, and I think there would've been mileage for a really good two episode arc in that, rather than this rather lacklustre one.

It's sufficient, though. The action scenes were fine, the villain was fine, everything about that plot thread was generally fine, and that's about the best thing I can say about it.

Which is frustrating, because Drive can be good, it's had stretches of good episodes before, but lately it's lapsed back into being the other thing. 

Next week, we have a plot heavy episode by the looks of it, as Shinnosuke's secret identity is revealed to the world, and he comes under attack from a lobster-oid Roimyude.

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