The hits just keep on coming for the new Kamen Rider Build, as Sento flies higher, the story goes deeper, and one character may find out just how much chains and guns excite them.
After trolling Ryuuga through another flawless recap, Sento kicks us off by holding Kamen Rider 101 with his star pupil (doubtlessly because he’s the only one there), Ryuuga himself. He goes over the chain of events that have lead us to this point, searching for Nabeshima, the man who knocked out Ryuuga before Faust could haul him off to the monster farm. This scene is so ridiculous. I don’t even know how it’s possible that Ryuuga doesn’t understand his own backstory, which he lived through and remembers perfectly well now, and yet he needs Sento to go over it all again, complete with a marker board and visual aids, so that he’s caught up to speed with everyone else. It’s so stupid, but I can’t help but find it lovable that he sits there, cross-legged and patient, slowly coming to the realization we probably all assumed he had already arrived at last week, and then stands up with this triumphant smile like he’s just won the lottery.
Sadly, it looks like most of the info Sawa gathered on Nabeshima was false, so Misora offers to pick up her slack and get the real deets. For a price. Ryuuga questions how some random hermit chick can track down Nabeshima, which apparently sets off some kind of daddy-sense for Soichi, who practically teleports into the room to correct his hapless houseguest. What follows is a truly surreal moment in which Misora tosses off her clothes like they’re attached to rockets, changes into a colorful new outfit, hops onto the internet, and becomes Miitan, the web sensation taking the otaku of the world by storm!
The tired and unimpressed quiet girl is replaced with a joyfully shouty, hyperactive pop star. I can’t help but find a bit of irony in this somehow. Misora isn’t actually this person- she’s just putting on an act for a fanbase that relies upon her to be loud and super-energetic, the opposite of who she presents as in everyday life. Compare her to the female lead of the previous series Kamen Rider Ex-Aid, and you realize that Poppy’s actual personality is the fake one Misora just makes up. To be fair, Poppy too has an alternate personality, but it’s almost like she and Misora have switched roles. The dominant personality is now the relatable human one, versus the wacky color-vomit screen idol of yesteryear, who is now just a special skill to fill out this mysterious genius girl’s CV. I’m not mad at that.
Shortly after, we’re introduced to the Prime Ministers that lead the three sections of the divided country. I love the way this plays out, with the large compass symbol on the floor denoting which region the three leaders preside over as they discuss recent political events through remote holographic transmission. Aside from the usual toku dramatics, this actually reads as sort of real, with the three discussing how important it is to stay connected to the outside world while also keeping the motherland strong and maintaining readiness for the gathering crises. And maybe it’s just because this is Kamen Rider and you’re sort of trained to expect it, but I don’t get the sense that these three are exactly big fans of each other. Or individual people in general. They might preserve a basic civility but the divisions that gave each of them power could see them selling each other out at the earliest opportunity.
I haven’t said up to this point, but it seems more relevant now to mention my hopes that the Touto Minister’s son, Gentoku maybe isn’t the black-hearted villain he seems to be. I don’t expect him to be a teddy bear, but it may be that he genuinely believes tracking down “Kamen Rider” (no “Build” just yet – classic!) will help the nation he’s struggling to keep ordered. It also seems clear that his loveless father doesn’t take crap from anyone, and any infraction from his people could be met with swift penalties that Gentoku knows far too well to incite. Rock, meet hard place. My only question is, if that really is the case, how far is Gentoku willing to go when faced with the unfiltered reality of what his government is doing?
As a sidenote, all three of the current Prime Ministers were present when the Pandora Box was first activated and the Skywall erected. Meaning they could all be affected by whatever mind-screwy energies the thing put out that day. How much or how little their personalities were affected by the box remains to be seen.
After Taizan instructs his son to take out Kamen Rider to restore their territory to peace, we naturally cut straight to a child in peril, attacked by his own mother in monster form, and guess who has to save him. Sento arrives in the nick of time, first using his terrible vacuum cleaner form, then switching to his superior diamond form, in which he pulls a Neo and stops the enemy’s bullets before they can touch him. He transmutes them into a huge diamond shield and punches it back at the monster, surprisingly defeating it right then and there. The mother beneath the Smash face is revealed and her child runs into her arms, but passersby get the wrong idea, further signifying the negative view Touto’s people have of Kamen Rider Build.
Poor Sento’s not having the best day. First he’s hounded by random civilians he’s trying to protect, then his whole brilliant scientist persona is called into question when Ryuuga immediately figures out the next Best Match from a random combination of Full Bottles, two seconds after the whole “complicated” process is explained to him. I’m running out of ways to describe how perfect these two are together. Ryuuga undercuts Sento’s arrogance while Sento tempers and focuses Ryuuga’s impulsivity.
This, however, does not stop Ryuuga from finding himself back in Mistress Misora’s bondage dungeon, once again chained to a pole to beg for release while she gets her beauty sleep. Only, this time, Ryuuga takes us to the gun show, breaking out of the chains and giving the surly minx a taste of her own medicine. Sento finds her tied up after Ryuuga runs off, drawn out by another manipulation from Night Rogue, to get answers. It seems Nabeshima isn’t much less a victim than Ryuuga, forced to do Faust’s bidding under threat of losing his family, and then he gets turned into a Smash for his trouble.
I love this. The guest stars aren’t just boring randos with nothing to worry about except some unrelated problem that needs a Kamen Rider to solve, for some awful reason. They’re directly connected to the plot, and strongly affect the themes of the show in a very real way. Like with the mother we met earlier in the episode, walking out of the shadows in leather like an absolute boss, showing her gratitude for Build’s help by allowing them to ride her husband’s boat to Seito. What would normally have been just a momentary yarn where the hero saves someone and gets a cool power-up becomes an example of the rewards that may sometimes present themselves when you’re not actually seeking them. A power-up for the heart, if you will.
After the awesome trio of Sento, Sawa, and Ryuuga are attacked by Guardians, their discussion gets deep, where our title hero reveals a more sensitive side than what we’ve been shown so far. While Ryuuga saw protecting Nabeshima’s family only as a way to get answers for himself, Sento would see people in need, and it wouldn’t have mattered whether their rescue lead to some special advantage. That was beside the point. If he sought only to help himself then the considerable power he has, and all the smarts he loves boasting about, would be a waste. Ryuuga’s narrow mind is blown.
And we reach all of these emotional epiphanies while Ryuuga is still half-dressed in drag, a hopeless disguise to conceal his fugitive status. Never change, Build.
So, after Ryuuga’s idiot savant breakthrough from earlier, Sento whips out the best-looking weapon the show has invented so far. With the HawkGatlinger, Sento’s gun kata game is on point, and with the best weapon comes his best form change. The gun muzzle on the helmet face resembles an eyepatch, putting an unexpectedly great final touch on an already dope costume. The winged HawkGatling spins and slides across the battlefield in a kickass night fight where he faces his second Smash of the episode. I can’t imagine this is the last we’ll see of these monsters, as modern Kamen Rider simply doesn’t produce monster suits for a one-time use on the regular. I’ll enjoy the variety while it lasts though, as Build finishes the Smash in an epic aerial sphere of explosions. Green flame never looked cooler than when set against the backdrop of a night sky.
Before Sento has time to register that the Smash he just annihilated was, in fact, Nabeshima, the unfortunate family man is swallowed whole by a big honkin’ snake-thing! WHAT?
Sento goes down, struck with what appears to be some kind of poison, barely catching a glimpse of the enemy clad in cobra-themed armor. Is it Night Rogue? The tacky smokestack on his head would suggest the answer is yes, but we’ll have to tune in next week to find out for sure. Unless it’s already ruined for you by previews. Or ads. Or toys. Or video games. Or…
This episode continues the trend set by the first two in the series, slowly constructing a universe for us to explore, setting up new mysteries as others are knocked down, and developing characters with a tireless pace. The moment we were told in the premiere that there were three segregated territories to Build’s country, I couldn’t wait to visit each one and learn what awaits beyond the ominous, glowing walls that separate them. It’s nice to see that little time was wasted in taking us on that journey with Sawa and Ryuuga, and I’m sure Sento will be along sooner than later. I’ll be curious to see if there are cultural differences, and if people respond uniquely to Build and what he’s doing.
Let the experiment continue!