Well, that settles it. With this episode ending the way it does, leading us into a direct continuation for next time, that means Kamen Rider Build has had ten straight episodes of pure plot with absolutely no narrative pitstops. Skip episodes at your own peril with this show, they’re not taking any breaks. They may, on occasion, break you though. With one leap of development and dramatic revelation after another, no stones are left unturned with this amazing series and my love for it increases with each passing week.

After another amazing recap, where genius amnesiac Kiryuu Sento learns that cafe owner Isurugi Soichi gave him his new name by throwing together the Japanese characters for “tank” (sen) and “rabbit” (to) and combining them with the family name of his barber Kiryuu, our story begins exactly where we left off last time. Interestingly, the video among the files recovered from Katsuragi Takumi’s secret stash are quite reminiscent of the Transformation Course videos that toy company Bandai has been releasing. Suddenly turning a fun little extra that can be found online into something of more substance.

In this, the Devil’s Scientist himself introduces his creation, the Rider System for Kamen Rider Build. Ryuuga’s not taking the news too well. This whole time, they’ve been using Build to fight evil, but it was designed as a weapon of war. Not only that, but the Smash monsters terrorizing the city are basically just a side effect of Faust searching for people whose resistance to the mutative effects of their Nebula Gas is strong enough to evolve to “Hazard Level 3” like Sento, who has the ability to use the Build Driver and become a Kamen Rider. The lives lost in pursuit of this goal were all just collateral damage, and turning them into Smash may have just been an accident on the road toward a wholly different discovery, and no one really cares much about the victims piling up.

Ryuuga is rightly pissed off. This means his girlfriend Kasumi is even less a priority than she seemed to be originally, when Faust kidnapped and forcibly made her a Smash. Which I have to say I’m so glad they brought up again, and continue to elaborate on. One of few criticisms I’ve seen consistently is that the show skated past certain developments too quickly. I was rarely bothered by this but, Build being the awesome show that it is, it’s still going to circle back around and make sure that it takes advantage of every opportunity to make us feel for the characters and their situation. Kasumi was more than just a redshirt nobody. Her death mattered, and Ryuuga’s not going to forget her just because it seemed like the show did for a few weeks.

Surprisingly, Sento almost sticks up for Takumi here, insisting that his discovery was a wonderful achievement. Slow your roll, Bunny. Even if you may kinda-sorta have a point, maybe save the lecture for a time when your partner isn’t clearly grieving about his dead girlfriend whose tragic demise you personally witnessed?

Now, while I do think his insistence about Takumi’s work having positive results could add more to the theory that these two scientists are somehow linked, it also reminds of many real-life situations. In which dangerous sciences are discovered, leading to some pretty horrific results but also making way for other achievements along the way. There’s nothing wrong with trying to turn a frown upside down, just… you know, not when the recently-deceased are mentioned by their loved ones.

Before Ryuuga can completely blow his top, the Full Bottle microwave blows up instead. Misora comes tumbling out of her purification closet thing and drops right off to dreamland, having apparently done something cool again to make more Build accessories. Her timing is wonderful. Perhaps a little too wonderful, as it almost looks as though she purposely finished at that exact moment, both she and Sento having ominous looks as their backs are turned from the inconsolable Ryuuga, still wondering how he got mixed up in this freakshow.

Meanwhile, Himuro Gentoku is chilling in the bathhouse, taking a meeting with Nanba Heavy Industries Chairman Nanba Juusaburou, clearly a big swinging dick in the grand scheme of things, and someone Gentoku speaks to with great respect. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Nanba fondly reminisces about trips to this place with his father. It would seem Gentoku has been missing a personal connection with his own dad for some time.

I love the way this sequence is staged. The two characters are practically sitting right next to each other, but it’s shot in a way that highlights the divide between them, as though there’s a separating wall. Like Gentoku has just sat down in a confessional booth, closed off from the person he speaks with. It’s only after Nanba’s tone becomes threatening that the two characters are shown together in a wide shot.

The very next thing out of Nanba’s mouth is to ask if Gentoku’s convinced Prime Minister Himuro Taizan to move forward with more aggressive action with regard to neighboring territories Hokuto and Seito. Nanba intimates that he’s using a considerable amount of yen to help fund Faust’s operations, and he’s expecting a big return on his investments, threatening to share their findings with the other territories if Gentoku doesn’t whip his father into shape.

A dejected Sento thinks out loud about what kind of person Takumi really was, and he apparently asks the wrong two colleagues about it. Fellow eggheads Shingo and Eita, who have been hanging around the Touto lab scenes without much dialogue since the first few episodes, both essentially agree that Takumi was a great man (or at least great at the science bit). Probably not what Sento needs to be hearing right now, but at least it makes him feel a little better before the big Tetris avalanche of disappointments falls on his head.

In a rare, non-S&M-related scene with Ryuuga and Misora, the former fighter asks if she completed the latest Full Bottle at the perfect time on purpose. She insists that it was a coincidence in a way that we know it was anything but a coincidence, and sips her drink. Which, looking back, you can guess that Sento had already figured that out the moment he picked up the Bottle. In any case, Ryuuga decides, despite her reservations, it’s high time they got the hell out of there and have some fun. So, they won’t be returning to the dungeon, but that doesn’t mean they can’t dress up. In classic tradition, Ryuuga ends up with the most completely random, impossibly wrong “disguise” to keep from being easily identified as a fugitive.

Waltzing straight out of a high school anime, Ryuuga and Misora go shopping in the city, complete with the movie makeover clothes-swapping montage. In some cases, I might frown at such a thing, but since it’s Misora, whose whole existence has been confined to a walled-off cafe with no customers and a noisy lab with one bed (let’s not even ask about that one), it comes off surprisingly sweet. She’s the one girl who doesn’t get to do this, even if she would rarely have wanted to had she been given the opportunity like everyone else to do so whenever she pleased. We learn later that she had actually been asleep for several years after the Sky Wall was erected, mysteriously left comatose when the Pandora Box was first activated. She’s had virtually no chance at an ordinary life, or to even fully develop an idea of what it could be like for herself. If Ryuuga’s upset about being a fugitive for, like, five minutes, imagine the completely numbing life Misora must have endured.

It’s about this point that I wonder where the hell Sawa is. She wasn’t featured in the previous episode, and has yet to appear in this one. My mind races about the possibilities, thinking that maybe we’re about to get some big, much-needed Sawa focus in the next couple weeks as a tradeoff for not having her greatness on screen for this long. Little did I know.

There’s a whole mess of speculation we could have about where Misora’s gold bracelet came from. Is it keeping her from becoming a Smash? Or is she a Martian and the bracelet maintains her human identity? She can’t take it off and it’s seemingly a part of her purifying the Full Bottles Sento uses, but that may only be a means of limiting a natural power that would prove overwhelming without the bracelet, a device she can’t remove.

Answers will have to wait, as their pseudo-date is interrupted by Night Rogue and a troop of Guardians. But they were blending in so well with those disguises, how could anyone ever notice them?! It’s sort of unclear, as Misora runs off, whether Night Rogue somehow causes her to faint or if she simply does so out of fear, but suffice it to say, she’s out like a light. Ryuuga doesn’t have a chance to save her until Blood Stalk once again intervenes. Seriously, this guy’s on our side, right? He’s sick and twisted, but Stalk at least wants these kids to keep living. It’s not unlikely the excuses given for preserving their lives are just that, and there’s more to this.

After Build swiftly defeats the Guardians and spirits the duo away, Gentoku explains his plan to speed things up with his father. They’ll steal the Pandora Box when Taizan and the other Prime Ministers are meeting, forcing his hand and starting a war. Which, of course, works brilliantly as a deception, especially since we’ve already witnessed Gentoku warning his father that the others were plotting against Touto, and he outright accused Hokuto’s Prime Minister of looking for reasons to attack them. The box suddenly going missing feeds perfectly into the false narrative that their neighbors are enemies and that they must be annihilated. For once, a villain’s sinister plan is actually sinister, and not just kind of generic and simple. Of course, we can suspect that their neighbors really are enemies either way, but until we know for sure, it’s still a murderous plot liable to get a bunch of innocents killed for the sake of further empowering greedy monsters.

Having worked the whole night on a Pandora Box report, Sento “coincidentally” discovers Shingo with a tank of knockout gas, putting everyone else to sleep in his attempts to unlock the lab’s security systems and let Faust in. To Sento’s surprise, and mine, Shingo is a member of the organization, and a pretty psychotic one at that. He uses the Bottle to willingly transform himself into a Smash. And unlike most others, he seems to be in full control of his actions, making the conscious choice to fight Kamen Rider Build after flying out of the building to lure him away.

The last time Sento faced this monster-type, he used his ridonculous vacuum power to pull the flying Smash out of the sky and keep it from escaping. There’s something appreciable about the fact that Sento simply does the same thing again, since the situations are so similar. A different school of thought might have had him try something else just for the sake of variety, but if it works, it works, and Sento’s not much of a genius if he doesn’t do what he knows is effective. And anyway, that’s not going to stop him from activating the new LionCleaner form. Which, despite the slightly eye-rolly vacuum component, actually looks pretty okay.

As the battle rages, Ryuuga’s fighting a different sort of battle on the homefront, grappling with thoughts about recent events and the company he’s keeping in Sento, a man who’d rather defend the Devil’s Scientist than condemn him and everything he stands for. Misora sets Ryuuga straight, explaining that Sento’s goal was always to take a bad situation and massage it into something positive. Not satisfied with leaving things as they are, he’s constantly trying to fix the mistakes of the past, even if there was no way he could have done any better. He helped Misora understand that purifying the Bottles would lead to Build protecting more innocents. He made Ryuuga’s CGI dragon toy to help guide and protect his hotheaded ass. He uses the tools of the enemy to try to shut them down, in classic Kamen Rider style.

How many more ways can this show make Sento look like an awesome lead?

So, LionCleaner makes quick work of the Smash, leaving only Shingo behind. It seems as though Sento may have thwarted Faust’s plan, until Eita too reveals that he’s part of the organization, and completes the security shutdown protocol, letting Faust in to storm the building. Not only that, but Nanba is handed a stack of surveillance photos of Build’s activities by none other than freaking Sawa! WHAT?!

… Okay, so I’m not actually that surprised. I had kind of thought from the beginning that she could be working against Sento, at least partially, so this is more of a confirmation than an “OMG what a tweest” moment. But it does retroactively address a lot of things that have been going on from the start. Some complained that Sawa’s entrance into Team Build was too quick and easy, integrating herself into the group with almost no effort, as if she just immediately knew what needed to be done. She also provided them with a lot of helpful information, but at the same time, it seemed like Faust was always well-informed of their activities, to a degree that would have been almost impossible for them unless they were being directly told by a spy. Or if (and I’m still not ready to let go of the possibility just yet) she actually is Blood Stalk.

Now, just because she’s handing Nanba some boring photos of Build’s costumes randomly posing around town, that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s totally loyal to him and all his dark interests. For all we know, Sawa (like Stalk perhaps) is playing both sides, and her path is more complicated than simply being a traitor. There are so many possibilities, but this opens the story up to all kinds of new areas to explore. All of this rushing to the surface as Faust is about to swipe the Pandora Box and start a perilous war.

Cured of the Smash essence, Shingo’s still just as crazy as ever, seemingly killing himself with the Bottle he had used to transform. But not before imparting one last message to bake Sento’s noodle.

“Katsuragi Takumi… is alive!”

Sento is understandably shook. But before our imagination runs wild with the thought of him being physically walking and talking like normal, it could be that Shingo was speaking figuratively. Like, sure, Takumi “lives on” in some way or another, but his body is still in the ground, and he’s not a zombie. Maybe he meant that his spirit (or essence, you could say) is still among them. Maybe even as part of Sento.

Or yes, he actually is walking and talking and this whole spirit thing is just the result of too much time to overthink and not enough Kamen Rider on the screen. How dare you take a week off when it’s getting good?!

Do I even need to say that Kamen Rider Build is amazing, at this point? If you don’t know by now that it’s one of the best things in tokusatsu recently, I can’t help you. I just can’t remember being this consistently locked into a story, with a cast of characters I’ve quickly grown to care about, in a world that I continue to find new reasons to keep jumping into as soon as I’m able. Many shows of this type eventually create a “wait and see” sort of vibe, in which I may not necessarily be racing to get to the next episode right away, but Build simply won’t let me do that.

I have to see what happens next. And I’ve rarely been so glad to be this impatient.

Next: Episode 10


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