Kamen Rider Drive.
So, we've come to the end of my longest ongoing yet, and it's certainly not been the smoothest ride. It's occurred to me that were I not reviewing the series, I might have looked upon it slightly more favourably, as one does when they're not mentally cataloging points to put in a blog post as they watch.
But at the end of the day, I'm not sure that holds up: While reviewing it certainly made it more difficult to ignore its gaping flaws, those problems would still have been there.
We've reached the end of the series now, and since my thoughts on the whole shebang might have ended up lost in individual episodes, I thought I'd provide a quick bullet point run down of what I liked and what I didn't like about the series.
- I actually quite liked the suit designs this series, both on the part of the villains and the heroes. None of them particularly blew me away, I'll admit that now, but none of them were distractingly ugly, either. We didn't have any Diends.
- I liked most of the characters! I really liked Shinnosuke and Rinna, I certainly did like Kiriko before the writers essentially reduced her to a prop, Honganji really grew on me as the series went by, and I even liked Gou and Chase. By the end of the show, there was nobody in the cast I disliked, bar maybe Banno, who was never meant to be liked in the first place.
- Speaking of Banno, I thought he was an excellent villain, and a massive breath of fresh air from the kind of villains we've had previously, both in Drive and other Kamen Rider series. He had a glorious pettiness to him, a kind of snide spitefulness and lack of self-awareness that made him truly unpleasant. It's been a while since we've had a villain who was just petty and a little bit pathetic like that, and I've remarked before that I think most of the villains in Neo-Heisei Kamen Rider would find him quite repulsive. He's not the kind of villain I would want to see every series, but it was nice to have him in this one.
- When the show was good, it was often very good. The final arc was a lot of fun, and there were short bursts of brilliance before that, such as with the three episode Nira-and-Brain arc. If that level of quality had been present throughout the series, this would have been a great year.
- It worked in its crossover stuff in the last two episodes in a surprisingly smooth fashion, so well done there.
- Having a Chase vs Shinnosuke fight nearly every episode was exhausting and boring, and almost as soon as we were done with that, we started having Chase vs Gou fights every episode. Something like thirty episodes were filled up with just the same fight scenes over and over again, and it was interminably boring, especially since fight scenes in Drive tend to not be that great. They go on too long, they're slow, they're often quite clumsy, and all those things are just exacerbated when you've already seen the same long, slow, clumsy fight scene a dozen times before.
- The pacing in this series was very often terrible. You'd have episodes - or even entire clumps of episodes - where nearly nothing would happen, and when the pace did pick up, it was very often for plots which came barreling out of nowhere. The plot with Shinnosuke and his father is one great example for this - it came more than twenty episodes in, but there was never much suggestion before that Shinnosuke was particularly preoccupied with his father's death.
- The romance, or what passed for one. I'm not talking about the love triangle between Heart, Brain, and Medic - while that wasn't necessarily entirely to my tastes, it was set up well and all of the characters involved were active agents in that plotline. Worse romantic plots have ended up on screen. No, I'm talking about the Kiriko and Shinnosuke romance, which came very nearly out of nowhere. There's something quite funny about encountering someone trying to defend that romance, because inevitably it's things like 'She looked at him in episode two', which just kind of hammers in how there was nothing there. Worse, Kiriko was barely involved in her own romance subplot - she became an ornament to be passed around amongst the male characters, and that's pretty unacceptable.
- Continuing along a theme, Kiriko's treatment in series is pretty poor. She starts off as important and useful character, and then just gets more and more sidelined, until she functionally may as well not be there. I've seen people try to pass this off as character development, saying that it shows that she was learning to relax, but that's nonsense, and we all know that's nonsense.
- Are the Roimyudes chaotic evil monsters, or delicate cinnamon rolls? The series seemed to change its mind about that two thirds through. Certainly they were more interesting as the latter, but some consistency would have been appreciated.
- The series never seemed certain whether it wanted to be brooding and dark or light and fluffy. There are ways to balance those two extremes, but Drive seems to not avail itself of any of them, instead careening between tones according to the writer's whims.
- Good god, could this series be annoying sometimes.