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Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Kamen Rider Drive E33: Who Claimed the Life of Shinnosuke Tomari?

Hey, guys. I have several new Let's Plays up, so if you're so inclined, here's Valkyria Chronicles [P14] Bad to Worse and Spooky's House of Jump Scares, the latter of which was recorded with my new microphone, recording software, and noise gate.

Kamen Rider Drive
Episode 32: 
Who Claimed the Life of Shinnosuke Tomari?

Wow, I actually really enjoyed this episode. It is far and away the best episode of Drive so far, and while it suffered from a few glaring problems, it is by and large a shining example of what Drive could have been had its writers brought their A-game. It's also one of the only episodes that I can directly compare with almost every Kamen Rider series, because the 'things have gone horribly wrong but look here's your final form' episode is one of the fixed points that every series revolves around.

In Drive's iteration of this staple, Shinnosuke has been killed by 001, now reborn as Freeze Gold, and his death has thrown the Special Crimes Unit into disarray. As Chase sets out to cure Gou of 001's memory rewriting, the Unit stumbles across evidence that they may be able to bring Shinnosuke back to life.

Let's first take a look at my few problems with this episode: Firstly, Heart announcing that Shinnosuke is the person who can prompt his own ultimate evolution - as you'll recall, last episode I said it was clearly Gou, and there's a reason for that: While Shinnosuke has always been incidental to Heart, with the two being enemies but not having any special personal stake in their battle, it wasn't all that long ago that we had Heart very openly expressing intrigue and fascination with Gou's ability to maintain control during the dead zone. It was a very clear parallel with Shinnosuke and 001 - just as Shinnosuke had the ability to resist 001's abilities, so did Gou represent a more perfect form of Heart. So to see Heart name Shinnosuke as his rival was bewildering to me.

I've seen fanfic start like this.

Secondly, Gou apparently being immune to 001's powers. Well, that's convenient, isn't it. It also robs us of what could have been the most interesting thing to come out of this plot - seeing how Gou's memories had been changed. It would have been more satisfying, I think, if Gou's memories really had been altered, if he was confronted with that, and if he had to struggle with the conflict between memories that seemed real to him, and the knowledge that they are factually incorrect. This, meanwhile, seems like a lazy way out of a lazy plotline.

But apart from those two things, I loved this episode. I thought the opening was brilliantly cinematic, that the reactions of the Special Crime Unit all felt very real, that the action scenes were strong, and that it wrapped up the third act in a suitably dramatic fashion. It is, in many ways, a riff off one of my favourite 'final upgrade' episodes of all time - Fourze's - and while I don't think it's as good as Fourze's offering (especially since 001 is a much less intimidating villain than Aries), it certainly doesn't suffer from the comparison in my estimations.

(Given that both Fourze and Drive love referencing Showa series, they may well both have been referencing one of those, but guess who has two hands and has never seen a Showa series other than one agonising episode of Super-1? Yep.)

Saviour In The Dark faintly plays in the distance.

In many ways, carrying on the theme of 'it seemed like Medic would be the third act villain' from the last review, I think this episode would have been twenty times more effective if she had been the third act villain - if she was the one with memory alteration powers, the one who learned the ultimate evolution, and the one who killed Shinnosuke and was subsequently defeated. Medic is just a more intimidating villain than 001, and while I never really bought any kind of personal stake in Shinnosuke vs 001, I absolutely would have believed a rivalry between Shinnosuke and Medic. 

I do like the idea of Type Tridoron being able to switch between Shinnosuke and Krim being in control, but I query the point of it somehow - it doesn't seem like they have different abilities or aught like that. I do, at least, like the body language changes, those were very well done.

Type Tridoron is really nicely designed, too.

(I also liked that I was somewhat right about Banno being alive, although it looks very much like he's in a Krim-like state of being a computer program.)

This was far and away the best episode of Drive so far, and if we're really lucky, it'll keep up this quality until the end. I wouldn't stake too much hope on that. Still, the end is very much in sight as we enter the fourth and final act of the show, and a lot of shows do pick up considerably towards the end. Go-Busters did, and I absolutely despised that. 

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