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Thursday, 18 June 2015

Kamen Rider Drive E34: Who Claimed The Life of Eisuke Tomari?

Kamen Rider Drive
Episode 34
Who Claimed The Life of Eisuke Tomari?

You know, I am fascinated by the process behind Kamen Rider production. We've seen before that series can often be malleable, changing to give fan favourites more prominence (such as Date in OOOs and Hayami in Fourze, both of whom were purportedly supposed to die at the close of their series' second acts, and both of whom went on to become regulars), to retool elements that aren't going over so well (see Hibiki and Blade), or even just to account for unexpected problems (such as the health problems of Hana's actress in Den-O). 

Sometimes those changes can work well, and sometimes they lead to what feels like incoherence, and I think the entire Eisuke Tomari plotline is the latter. Only introduced in Act III, with Shinnosuke's father barely being mentioned beforehand, it felt like a clumsy addition meant to up the personal stakes - something which doesn't really work, because Shinnosuke has never been the 'tragic backstory' kind of character. It would be like suddenly revealing halfway through Double that Shotaro's parents were actually the creators of the Gaia Memories or something.

Nevertheless, the show is pushing on with this storyline, as this week the Special Crimes Unit encounters the Thief Roimyude, a hybrid who has stolen evidence related to Eisuke's murder, and kidnapped a forensic scientist who had worked on the case. As they investigate, it becomes increasingly obvious to Shinnosuke and the gang that while Makage was involved in the murder, he was not the culprit. Meanwhile, Brain acts as Thief's ally, determined to get some use out of him.

Shinnosuke, why are you just rolling with this rivalry? Why aren't you as confused as I am?

As much as I hate this storyline, I did actually quite like this episode. It's not very well-paced, I'll say that - despite the relative simplicity of the storyline it feels like it's spread too thin, not least because so much time seems to be taken up with the comic relief forensic scientist, who really has two jokes: She eats things (which is ... funny? Because food is comedic? I don't know) and she wants to commit unspeakable sins upon Shinnosuke's body. 

When the episode gets into its stride though - during the confrontation between Honganji, Thief, Brain, Shinnosuke, and Kiriko - it's surprisingly good. There is a dramatic weight to the reveal that Thief, and thus Eisuke's murderer, is actually Nira, and it comes as a surprise because Nira's storyline seemed to be done and dusted. His was a fairly archetypal character arc: He was an incompetent, sneering villain, he came over to the good guys just in time for the climactic end of the third act, and in most Kamen Rider shows, that would be that. He'd either become a recurring character, or he'd never be seen again.

Here, that whole character arc is, essentially, a trick meant to cover for the fact that Nira is actually a surprisingly sinister and oddly competent villain, who was a willing and enthused ally of Makage rather than an unsuspecting dupe. I like that as a twist, and I think it plays with audience expectations of the medium in interesting ways.

Good god, Honganji has ears.

But it would be better if it was present from the start - if Nira had been a recurring character from the beginning of the series, instead of being introduced in the third act, then this reveal would not just be clever but also much more weighty, and the same is true for if this whole murder plotline had been woven in from the start of the series. Instead, they are both hasty and recent additions, and that diminishes from the impact of this episode. 

In many ways, though, this is a real return to form for Drive, even moreso than the last episode was. The action scenes are good, and though there are three of them, which I think is too much, they're all kept fairly short. Brain and Nira both make excellent villains, and on the good guys' side, it's always nice to see Honganji's quiet badass side. There are parallels to be drawn between him and Nira both masking their true natures behind exaggerated clowning, if one is so inclined. 

Brain, in Joker-style lighting.

I'm surprised, as well, that they had Brain achieve his shiny golden form so soon, and I wonder if that means he's going to be killed off in the next episode, or if this is going to lead to him ousting Medic or something like that. That'll be interesting to see, and while the show hasn't always handled him well, Brain is a great character. Either way, next episode we will almost certainly see an end to the whole Eisuke Tomari arc, and that'll be nice.

It's nice when things are nice.

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