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Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Kamen Rider Drive E32: What is Waiting at the End of Evolution?

Hey, guys. I have a few new Let's Play parts up, so if you have the inclination and feel like checking those out, here's Murphy Plays Valkyria Chronicles [P12] Impractical Expenditures and Murphy Plays Knights of the Old Republic [P6] Way Down Under.

Awesome, on with the review.

Kamen Rider Drive
Episode 32
What is Waiting at the End of Evolution?

We're very nearly approaching the end of the third act, and it really shows: Traditionally, Kamen Rider series have an interim villain in their third acts, a character who isn't the final villain - who very often gets introduced much earlier - but who briefly slips into the role of primary antagonist. In Double, it was Weather, who remains one of the more sinister villains in the franchise; in OOOs, Kazari and Lost Ankh filled that role, roughly speaking; in Fourze, it was Kijima and, to a lesser extent, Tatsumori. Wizard is just about the only series which didn't have one.

It seemed that Medic would be taking this role, but instead it's gone to 001, who I don't see lasting beyond the next two episodes - and that's odd to me. Medic was very much being set up for this role, after all, having established herself as the most present threat out of all of the Roimyudes, but she's almost completely faded into the background now. 

It's indicative of a long-running problem with Drive in that it doesn't feel very cohesive - even moreso than Wizard, which suffered from this problem as well, it feels like it's being made up as they go along, by a very whimsical writer. Compare and contrast Gaim, which even though it almost certainly was made up as they went along (most Kamen Rider series are, it's why one of Takebe's great strengths as a producer has always been keeping track of viewer opinions and adjusting plans for the series accordingly), felt like it had at least some sort of coherent plan.


Anyway. In this week's episode, the gang continues its pursuit of 001, attempting to find a way to reverse his memory alteration powers and stop his mysterious experiment before he can achieve the ultimate evolution. Meanwhile, Krim is still fearful of what might happen if they directly confront 001, and Gou, his memories still altered, remains part of 001's evil posse.

I really only have one major complaint about this episode, which is that I'd like this show to stop having Chase exposit major plot details, and then justify it by saying that nobody asked him. It's lazy writing. Stop it.

Apart from that, though, I actually really liked this episode. The action scene (there was only really one, which is just fine by me) was a lot of fun to watch, with 001 (or Freeze, as he's named himself) actually coming off as a fairly intimidating villain in it.

Not to mention that I thought there was some good mystery-solving work in this episode, the Chase-exposition example above notwithstanding. Bringing back the medical records procured by the still-mysterious Mr. X and having them tie in to the 'Shinnosuke's father could resist 001's powers' plotline was a good move, as was having Nira switch sides - something which, oddly, felt very believable.

What a stylish villain posse.

(This episode also provided a little more explanation for the whole resisting-001's-powers thing, by revealing at least twenty other people with that ability, the implication seemingly being that it's a physiological quirk more than anything. It's not the most satisfactory explanation, but it's one I'll happily accept.)

Most of all, it felt like there was actually some form of struggle in this episode: Neither the antidote nor the information necessary to track 001 down necessarily comes easy, and there's a sense, often lacking in Drive, that the protagonists are having to work for what they get.

There was one very bizarre moment where, after Heart and Chase fight in a softly lit park area, the landscape flickers away to reveal an industrial area. I recognise the metaphor: The vanishing of the romantic setting is meant to indicate a realisation Chase isn't the one who will make Heart happy - that honour, if you'll think back to a few episodes ago, actually goes to Gou - but on a literal level, it's very confusing. Was Heart creating some kind of illusion? Was it all in his head? Eh.

Here's a glowing 001 instead.

As for Shinnosuke's 'death', that was very well done, but for all of the drama surrounding it, left me a bit cold. We all know he's not going to remain dead, it's really just a matter of how long he stays dead for (in all likelihood, less than an episode) and in what manner he returns. But the hero dying before unlocking his final form - well, we've seen that before. It happened in Fourze, and that's just the one I remember. 

(In my ideal world, of course, Kiriko would take over as Drive, but that's never going to happen.)

Next episode, it looks like we're going to see Gou being cured of his memory-alteration, and the debut of Type Tridoron, which will almost certainly mean 001's death, thus pushing Heart, Brain, and Medic back into the spotlight as our final villain candidates heading into the fourth act. 

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